Instant Impact: Seven Players Who Should See Time on Defense
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer hauled in one of the best – if not the best – recruiting classes in the country for 2013. It was no surprise given Meyer’s past success on the recruiting trail, but few people expected the Buckeyes to close as strong as they did.
The biggest name in the class might very well be Vonn Bell, a 5-star safety out of Georgia who picked Ohio State over Alabama and Tennessee. But is Bell the biggest instant impact player in the class?
We break down seven players who could fit that description.
DE Joey Bosa (6-5, 270, Florida)
If Bosa is half the player Ohio State believes he is, it’s hard to imagine he won’t at least crack the defensive line rotation in 2013. Normally that would be a longshot for any freshman not named Cam Heyward or Noah Spence, but the Buckeyes lose all four starters on the defensive line from last season. They have a solid group of youngsters coming back, including Spence and Adolphus Washington, but there will be plenty of opportunity for Bosa when he gets to Columbus. The 5-star out of Florida probably plays strongside end at OSU. He had 51 tackles-for-loss and 19 sacks over the last two seasons while helping St. Thomas Aquinas to the Florida Class 7A state championship in 2012.
LB Mike Mitchell (6-4, 225, Texas)
Much like the defensive line, things are wide open for Mitchell at the linebacker position when he gets to Ohio State. The Buckeyes lost both Zach Boren and Etienne Sabino, but unlike the defensive line, there aren’t obvious replacements waiting to take over. Camren Williams and Curtis Grant will both get a look at middle linebacker, along with Luke Roberts, but Mitchell is a dynamic linebacker coming off an incredible senior year down in Texas. He had 186 tackles this past season to go with 32 tackles-for-loss, 11 sacks and seven forced fumbles and could end up playing either outside or inside at OSU.
LB Trey Johnson (6-1, 22, Georgia)
Johnson could be in a similar position at outside linebacker, although he could also get a look in the middle. He doesn’t have Mitchell’s prototypical size, but defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said Johnson has an excellent understanding of the position. Those are typically the guys who play early for Fickell at the linebacker position. The 4 star prospect had 456 tackles in his high school career, which explains why Meyer and his staff had to hold on for dear life as just about everyone in the SEC made a run at him before signing day. Look for Johnson to get a shot at the Mike linebacker spot if Grant or Camren Williams can’t solidify things in the middle of the defense.
DB Vonn Bell (6-1, 190, Georgia)
Bell appears to have the athleticism to play corner at the college level, but he is almost certainly going to play safety for the Buckeyes. While most of the front seven has to be replaced from last season, Ohio State does return both starting safeties in Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett. They also return a senior backup in Corey Brown, but Bell just seems like the kind of kid who is going to find a way to get on the field as a rookie. With what the Buckeyes will have coming back in 2014, this would be a good year for them to groom him as a replacement for one of those two guys on the back end, so maybe he gets a shot to compete for some playing time at the Star position. Bell had nearly 270 tackles over the last two seasons, but he also had eight interceptions. He had also racked up 1,700 all-purpose yards and scored 21 touchdowns to lead Ridgeland to the Georgia Class AAAA state championship
CB Cam Burrows (6-0, 200, Trotwood-Madison)
In many ways, Burrows is one of the forgotten pieces to the 2013 class, but also one of the most talented. He was rated as a 4-star prospect by every major recruiting service and was considered to be one of the top 2-3 players in the state of Ohio. He’s coming to Ohio State as a corner but Burrows could also play some safety. The Buckeyes don’t have as big a need at safety now that they landed Bell, but Burrows has the advantage of being on camps already. He is a two-time state track finalist in the sprint relays and an ultimate competitor. He helped lead Trotwood Madison to three consecutive Division II state championship games, including an unbeaten, 15-0 state-title winning season in 2011 and could come in and compete for a spot in the two-deep at either corner or safety from day one.
CB Eli Apple (6-0, 185, New Jersey)
Apple is similar to Burrows in the sense he is a highly-rated corner out of New Jersey who enrolled early at Ohio State back in January. He’s not as big Burrows, but he’s probably more of a true corner. He was rated as the No. 6 cornerback prospect in the country by 247 Sports and ESPN had him as the No. 11 prospect in the country overall. Apple had 17 pass break-ups, two interceptions, 45 tackles, three forced fumbles and a blocked kick in 2012. He also caught 39 passes on offense and he too could be in the mix for a spot in the two-deep this spring.
DT Billy Price (6-4, 280, Austintown Fitch)
Even with the loss of four starters on the defensive line, the Buckeyes are already pretty stacked at the defensive tackle position. Joel Hale and Tommy Schutt are both natural tackles, while both Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington have the ability to play inside. That still may not be enough to keep Price from working his way onto the field as a freshman. The one thing he has going against him is the fact he isn’t enrolled early, but Price already has the physical attributes Fickell and Vrabel are looking for. He was the Division I co-defensive player of the year in the state of Ohio this past year and first-team all-state pick the last two years.
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