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Last updated: 02/08/2013 10:59 AM
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Around The-Ozone Water Cooler: Which Incoming Freshman Will Make the Biggest Immediate Impact?
By The-Ozone Staff

If there's one thing that we excel at doing around the Water Cooler, it's making guesses about stuff that has yet to happen. In fact, that's pretty much all we ever do. We stand around our dispenser of delicious distilled beverage and begin debating things that may never actually happen.

It's amazing that we can even get anything done around here.

The talk this week was recruiting, 24/7. We tried to change the subject at one point by giving star ratings to super models, but the topic eventually turned back to recruiting when we started wondering which supermodel most resembled Ohio State's recruiting class.

Eventually, we got to the topic that you see before you. As always, feel free to include your own choices (players, not models) below.

Brandon Castel: This question would have been so much easier a few weeks ago. Then Urban had to go and land a whole truckload of kids like Trey Johnson, Mike Mitchell, Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson, James Clark and Vonn Bell.
Any one of those guys could have a good case for being the most impactful player from this freshman class for the Buckeyes in 2013. Literally any of them. The Buckeyes are so inexperienced at linebacker, it wouldn’t be outrageous to think both Johnson and Mitchell could come in and compete for playing time right away at the two open spots next to Ryan Shazier.
Meyer has never been shy about the lack of playmakers this team had at the wide receiver position a year ago. Smith seems to be a kid who could come in, after two years of junior college, and jump right into the mix with guys like Corey Brown, Devin Smith, Michael Thomas and Evan Spencer.
Dontre Wilson and James Clark are obvious choices because the Buckeyes didn’t have guys like them on the offense last year and Vonn Bell might just make the most sense because, well, he’s Vonn Bell. The kid has all the tools to be an elite safety at the next level.
So which one am I going with? How about none of them. My first thought was actually Wilson but then I started thinking about Clark, which ultimately led me to Jalin Marshall. It’s crazy to think about it now, but any one of those guys could be the key impact rookie from this class on offense.
The guy who makes the most sense, to me, however, is defensive end Joey Bosa. Talk about a kid who is ready to come in and contribute from day one, at least from a physical standpoint. The Buckeyes are losing all four starters on their defensive line from last season.
No more John Simon. No more Big Hank. No more Garrett Goebel or Nathan Williams. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the pieces they have coming back. Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington are future stars, but Bosa just has the look of a kid who is going to come in and wow Mike Vrabel from his first practice.
He is strong enough to hold up the edge as a strongside end against the run, but explosive enough to get to the quarterback. That’s something Meyer wants to see more from his defense in 2012. I’m not saying Bosa is going to walk in and claim a starting spot, but he’s going to show enough that he will end up being a mainstay in that rotation for Fickell and Vrabel on the defensive front.

Patrick Murphy: While there may have been more publicly-discussed recruits on National Signing Day, one of the guys that may have a big impact soon could be defensive lineman Joey Bosa.

Some of the players that chose to make their announcements on signing day, such as Vonn Bell and James Clark, took much of the coverage due to their decision, yet Bosa may be the one to see the field and have a quick impact.

In his press conference after the hectic day was concluded, Urban Meyer brought up Bosa as a player who was one of the best high school players in the country. Meyer is quite right, as he is listed as the number-four player at his position and top 50 nationally by Rivals.

Meyer has made it an emphasis from day one to make sure the defensive line is one of the strongest position groups on the team. This was a key to his success in winning two National
Championships at Florida and he is trying to bring that same domination to Columbus.

The 6-foot-4, 260 pound specimen comes from a successful background. Not only was his father – John – a former defensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, but he comes from a football rich high school program in St. Thomas Aquinas, who has produced the likes of Michael Irvin and former Buckeye Nate Salley.

In his senior year, Bosa recorded 79 tackles – 27 for a loss – to go along with 10 sacks on his way to winning the State Championship in Florida. He has a combination of speed and power that Meyer desires in the trenches defensively. While he still has room to develop into an elite college player, Meyer has shown no hesitancy to let his young defensive linemen gain experience by fire.

Last year’s stellar defensive line recruits all saw time, rotating in during their freshman campaign at Ohio State. Noah Spence, the nation’s number one defensive end, played in 11 games last season, recording 12 tackles and one sack. Tommy Schutt – who played more in the interior of the line – appeared in 10 games for the Buckeyes, with four tackles. Their fellow freshman lineman, Adolphus Washington, saw action in ten  games in his first year on campus and managed three sacks.

While none of them set the world alight as freshman, they all got the opportunity to play and that is all a player needs. Like those before him, Bosa will have to put in the work before the season to earn some time come fall.

With four key players from the last year’s defensive line all gone, there will be openings for everyone to get time. While Bosa may not be a starter, Meyer believes in depth at the position in order to keep everyone fresh. If the incoming freshman can develop as the coaching staff expects, the hoopla that other 2013 recruits have received may begin to shift towards him.

Tony Gerdeman: This was one of the more difficult Water Coolers that I've had to answer, but only because there are several options to choose from. My first inclination is Dontre Wilson, but then I go back to the fact that Ezekiel Elliott can do the same things.

I think of the various Buckeye coaches' reactions to Wilson, but then have to remember that they couldn't talk about Elliott because his Letter of Intent wasn't in yet. For all I know, they could have been even more effusive in their praise of Elliott.

Then there's the little matter of James Clark and his ridiculous highlight film. That guy can't help but make an impact. Then I started thinking of the defense, and especially about what Meyer said of Billy Price and how he is physically ready to play right now. To me, that sounds like he's going to be number two on the depth chart at nose tackle behind Tommy Schutt. As much as the defensive line rotates, Price could be in line of a ton of snaps.

However, after saying all of that, I have to go with receiver Jalin Marshall. This offense needs to be able to throw quick screens for easy yards, and that's one area where Marshall's speed and agility will excel. He has also shown an ability to get downfield, which is also a need moving forward.

Basically, everything Urban Meyer is looking for in a receiver is found in Jalin Marshall, including his ability to carry the ball. There are just too many different things that they can do with him for Marshall not to make an impact in 2013.

Michael Chung: We all know by now that Urban Meyer uses Percy Harvin’s name as a recruiting pitch. It turned off Alabama’s Cyrus Jones, but for the most part has worked, giving playmakers a tangible idea of how their careers will look. 

Dontre Wilson appears to be the avatar of Percy Harvin. Meyer said in his press conference that if Dontre “is what we think he is” Buckeye fans would enjoy watching him play. Meyer will personally work with Wilson just like he did at Florida with Percy Harvin.

How good is Wilson? He “ not only one of the premiere playmakers in the state, but he is one of the best in the country,” Greg Powers of writes.

“He is a speed demon, who can score in an instant and in a number of different ways. He played primarily out of the backfield in high school, but would make an excellent slot receiver in college. His speed is a real asset on special teams. The biggest problem will be finding out how to get him enough touches. He runs a legit 4.4.”

“Wilson has incredible acceleration and top end speed,” Scott Kennedy of wrote in his analysis.

“He is a threat to score every time he touches the ball whether it be as a return man, running back, or receiver. He has good vision and balance and is lethal in space, not so much because he's going to make a man miss as opposed to just running away from him.”

Upon his visit to Columbus, Meyer recruited Wilson as if he was Percy Harvin II. Corbett Smith of the Dallas Morning News writes, “Wilson said that when Meyer took him to the film room – he didn’t show him any Ohio State plays from last year. ‘It was all Florida highlights,’ Wilson said. Not just any Florida highlights, either, but those from former Gator and current Minnesota Viking Percy Harvin. Wilson said that Meyer told him he would be utilized in the same fashion as Harvin.”

Which first year player will make the most impact? With Meyer personally coaching Dontre Wilson, I would be surprised if he was not an immediate contributor.

Ken Pryor: This could be the toughest water cooler question I’ve participated in, and that’s a good thing. The incoming Ohio State freshman class is rated the number one class in the country because the players Urban Meyer and the rest of the coaching staff have brought in are downright studs at their respective positions.

As I pored over the list of players headed to Columbus I became increasingly hard-pressed to reduce the answer to the question down to one individual, so I came up with an elimination process.

Defensive linemen and offensive linemen were stricken from my process because I just don’t think any of them are quite strong enough or knowledgeable enough to claim a position in a manner that would allow them to have immediate and sustained impact.

Yes, there are openings for jobs on the offensive line and defensive line, but none of these incoming players is an Orlando Pace or Dan Wilkinson caliber player. The idea of an incoming player having that kind of impact is even more unfathomable under the scrutiny of Urban Meyer. Yes he wants underclassmen to contribute right away, but he also wants that player to be big enough, fast enough, strong enough, instinctive enough and knowledgeable enough. I don’t see that on the offensive line or defensive line.

I eliminated Ezekiel Elliott as well. The depth at running back is just too steep. Carlos Hyde will get the lion’s share of carries while the remainder will be divvied up amongst Bri'onte Dunn, Rod Smith, and Warren Ball…all high quality backs themselves.

The middle linebacker position is up for grabs and a guy like Trey Johnson could come in and get it right away. But we’ve already read that Curtis Grant will have every opportunity afforded him to win the job as he is penciled in through spring. Don’t count out Mike Mitchell at an outside backer though.

That brings us to defensive back. Certainly some real opportunities for Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Cameron Burrows, Jayme Thompson, Vonn Bell or Chris Worley to step in and grab a couple of these openings at safety and cornerback. The idea that any of them could actually grab a spot as a starter and hold his own is a very real possibility. But which one of them will it be? Hard to say without the benefit of seeing what they do once they arrive on the big stage. And they still have to compete with the likes of Devan Bogard and Doran Grant.

Now we arrive to the receiver position, a position Urban Meyer has complained, grumbled and groaned about since the day he arrived on campus and he never really let up on his feelings about the position. He openly sought a guy who could be a Percy Harvin, and openly lamented not having that guy on campus.

Now he has three possibles in Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and James Clark. Not only could any of these guys do business in the Harvin role on the offense, any of them could lend immediate explosion on the return team, which was lackluster all of last season save for a couple nice returns by Corey Brown.

So the guy I am singling out as the one who could make the most immediate and greatest impact…drum roll please…COREY SMITH! This kid is a favorite of mine since I saw him play in a playoff game in Fawcett Stadium a couple years ago. He entered junior college as a fairly polished receiver straight out of high school.

With two years of juco under his belt and performing at an All-American caliber level, I believe he will enter the 2013 season ready to go…just add water.

Smith comes in having run routes at the collegiate level, caught passes at the collegiate level, been hit at the collegiate level and he has scored plenty of touchdowns at the collegiate level. 

His 51 receptions for 733 yards and 9 touchdowns were better than what Devin Smith gave Ohio State in all three categories this year (33 catches, 618 yards  and 6 touchdowns), and it was better than Philly Brown in two categories (60 catches, 669 yards and 3 touchdowns). We are talking about a player who had as many touchdowns as both of Ohio State’s top two receivers COMBINED last season!

Make no mistake Corey Smith is coming to Columbus ready to produce. The question is whose job will he be taking? Because he only as 3 years to play two, Urban Meyer and Tom Herman will be looking for every reason to get him on the field sooner rather than later.

Again, this was a really difficult decision for me, but my spidey senses tell me the man of the hour next year will be the Akron Buchtel product Corey Smith.

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