Five for Friday: Buckeyes Who Are Due for Expanded Roles in 2014
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State football team will be replacing 10 starters in 2014, which means that there will be quite a few reserves who will have to become "former reserves" if the Buckeyes are going to contend for a Big Ten crown.
Losing players like Carlos Hyde, Ryan Shazier and Philly Brown means that new players will have to step up and take on larger roles. Each of those three players had to do the same thing when they were young players, and now the torches they left behind are waiting to be picked up.
The great thing about college sports is the constant turnover and the birth of new stars every year. This next season will be no different, and there will undoubtedly be new Buckeyes to fawn over this coming season.
We have already looked at some redshirt freshmen who are expected to have much larger roles in 2014, so this week we'll take a look at the rest of the team and see who stands the best chance of thriving under new duties.
1. S - Vonn Bell
Vonn Bell finally got his first start of the season against Clemson, and came away with one of the game's most spectacular plays with a one-handed interception of Tajh Boyd. For the fans who had been clamoring for Bell to see more playing time, that single play only fueled their desire to see more from him. They'll get that opportunity next season as Bell will almost certainly be one of the Buckeyes' starting safeties, as well as one of their playmakers on a defense that is desperate for them.
Photo by Jim Davidson
2. C - Jacoby Boren
The Buckeyes will be replacing four starters on the offensive line, and none of the positions may be as important as what happens at center. That job will likely go to Jacoby Boren, who played well this past season when starter Corey Linsley was working his way back from foot surgery. Having sat behind Linsley for the past two seasons, Boren has seen what the Buckeyes need at the position, and having actually played it a bit, he has first-hand experience of what is expected of him moving forward.
3. RB - Ezekiel Elliott
Buckeye fans got a glimpse of what Ezekiel Elliott is capable of this past season, but in 2014 they will likely get the full-spectrum view of his abilities. As fast as you could hope for, Elliott will be a threat from any distance. However, nearing 220 pounds, he'll also be able to fight for the yardage that is required in Urban Meyer's offense. I said back when he signed that he might be the perfect running back for Meyer's system, and we should get to see how right or wrong I was this coming season.
4. WR - Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas hasn't been shy about his frustration with redshirting this past season and being unable to help his team. Freed from the chains of a redshirt season, Thomas should be tearing down any wall that is put in front of him right now. Asked which receiver he was most looking forward to throwing to next season, quarterback Braxton Miller said Thomas, which is always a good sign for a receiver. Thomas has the size and strength to fight for the ball, which is something this team will need.
5. HB - Dontre Wilson
Dontre Wilson started two games this past season, but was rarely more than a spot player for most of the year. Despite that, he still put up 460 yards of total offense, averaging 8.7 yards per touch in the process. He was also extremely effective as a decoy, as the simple act of faking the ball to him led to more than one touchdown downfield to a wide open receiver. Expect Wilson to be on the field almost constantly in 2014, and those fakes will become even more effective as he becomes a full-time player.
Bonus: DB - Tyvis Powell
Normally OSU's nickel back, Tyvis Powell got the start at safety against Clemson in the Orange Bowl, and it would be a surprise if that is the last time we see him there. At 6-foot-3, Powell is a tall defender who should be much better suited to produce this coming season as he enters his third year in the program.
Bonus: DB - Cameron Burrows
Floating between safety (dime) and cornerback as a true freshman last season, expect Cameron Burrows to find a larger and more defined role in 2014. Known as a hitter, Burrows also displayed very solid cover skills in his limited time last season. It will be interesting to see where he starts out in the spring.
Bonus: WR - Corey Smith
Corey Smith redshirted last season as a junior college transfer, so like Michael Thomas, he'll be itching to show that he deserves to be on the field. With the loss of Philly Brown, and a likely (if just slightly) increase in the number of passes thrown next season, there will be a significant need for productive receivers in 2014.
Bonus: OG - Pat Elflein
After the way he played in 2013, there shouldn't be much of a concern for how well Pat Elflein will play next season. That being said, he is still going to be needed much more than he was last year. Not only will he be expected to help anchor the interior of the offensive line, he will need to be one of the team's leaders.
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