Five for Friday: Saturday's Likeliest Breakout Buckeyes
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Saturday night will be the Buckeyes' third game of the season, and it will be their first in front of a national prime-time audience. Because of that, as well as the whole “first road game” thing, this is a very big game for Ohio State.
This is the type of game where new names emerge and become familiar names. It's the perfect stage for a breakout performance by a player or two who has yet to truly break out. And it won't hurt that Gus Johnson will be on the call to make each play even bigger than it looks.
Here are my candidates to have the first breakout performance of their careers.
Photo by Jim Davidson
1. Joey Bosa
Currently, starting defensive end Adolphus Washington is questionable to play Saturday with a groin injury. As we saw last year with Michael Bennett, groin injuries can linger for weeks. If he is not able to go, and at this point we should probably expect him to either be held out or limited, then true freshman Joey Bosa would take his place. On Thursday, Urban Meyer said that Bosa may just be one of their top four defensive linemen right now. He has already shown himself to be a strong pass rusher, but he's also tall and long, which could lead to quite a few passes being batted down at the line of scrimmage on Saturday. He may not log any sacks, but he should find his way into the backfield a time or four in this one.
Photo by Dan Harker
2. Dontre Wilson
Freshman H-back Dontre Wilson scored the first touchdown of his career last week against San Diego State. He touched the ball nine times, and I'm betting that that's on the low end of how many times they'd like to have the ball in Wilson's hands each game moving forward. He is currently averaging 11.6 yards per touch, which is all the more reason to find him at least a dozen times per game. His role will be expanded more in this game, and his touches should rise as well. He rushed for 51 yards last week on five carries, and I'm expecting both of those numbers to be larger come Saturday night. If Kenny Guiton gets the bulk of the snaps, he should have a great deal of success with the speed option to Wilson. In each game this season Wilson has been one man away from taking a kickoff return for a touchdown. If California scores as many times as some think they will, Wilson could get a few extra shots at busting one.
3. Tyvis Powell
With California's hyper and hectic passing attack, the Buckeyes will be in nickel and dime defenses for most of the game. While the defense's aim will be to keep the ball in front of them and not give up any big plays, there will be plenty of opportunities for defenders to react aggressively to various pass plays. With so many passes thrown near the line of scrimmage, don't be surprised if Tyvis Powell plays closer to the line of scrimmage this week and has a mind to jump on a couple of routes. The Buckeyes should be getting a pick six this week, and given where Powell will be lined up, he's a pretty good candidate to find the endzone Saturday night.
Photo by Jim Davidson
4. Kenny Guiton
I know everybody already knows Kenny Guiton, but if he gets the start on Saturday, I'm expecting 250 yards passing in the first half, and perhaps the first 300-yard passing day for the Buckeyes since 2010. Last week was nice, but he only put up 235 yards of total offense. He can do much, much better. Saturday night will be a national prime-time audience with the only other competition being some regional SEC games, and Notre Dame and Purdue battling for a state championship, which means that every little thing becomes just a bit bigger. Buckeye Nation is already plenty familiar with Guiton, and I'm thinking this could be the game where the rest of the nation becomes more familiar with him as well.
5. Corey Linsley
Urban Meyer said on Wednesday that the plan is for Corey Linsley to play the entire game at center this weekend. They have brought him back slowly from his foot surgery, but when he's been in the game, the middle of the defensive line has been almost non-existent. If he is out there for the entire game, expect a healthy dose of Jordan Hall and Rod Smith up the middle, and expect it to be very successful. Linsley is a difference maker on this offense, and when he's in the game, the inside run is just as likely to be a home run as the outside run.
Bonus: Vonn Bell
The Buckeyes are expecting to play more than one nickel in this game, which means we'll probably see more of Vonn Bell than we have all year. He is too naturally-talented not to have some nice moments, and with Gus Johnson on the call, something extraordinary is bound to happen.
Bonus: Doran Grant
This is as much of a vote for Bradley Roby as it is for Doran Grant. Roby could have a huge game this week, and if you don't think he has four or five routes that he is waiting to jump on, you'd be wrong. However, I'm not sure how much Cal will actually go after him. After all, they'll have four other receivers to look for. With that in mind, I think Doran Grant could be pretty busy this weekend. He has been fantastic this season, but this will be a different test all together. If he handles it as well as he's handled the first two tests, the Buckeyes could have something pretty special at cornerback this season.
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