Five for Friday: Freshmen Who Will Be in the Ohio State Two-Deep
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — While traversing the country in search of future Buckeyes, the intention for Urban Meyer is to find and sign players who can contribute immediately. The sooner they can see the field, the sooner Meyer's teams can realize their full potential.
This intention is not always met, however, as evidenced by the dozen or so true freshmen who never saw the field last season. Meyer has again repeated the company line that freshmen need to play. In fact, he has told each of the incoming freshman offensive linemen to get ready to play this season.
He has said the same thing every other season as well, and we've seen the results. The intention, however, remains the same as it has always been -- get these players on the field as soon as possible.
Seeing the field is just one aspect of what Meyer wants from his freshmen, as the Buckeyes will need more than just "seeing the field" from some of them. More than a few will need to step right into the two-deep in order to strengthen the depth chart.
The spring showed us that there are already a few rookies on the roster who are good enough to contribute immediately. It also showed us which areas still need help from the freshmen who have yet to arrive.
So which true freshmen will find their way into the two-deep immediately? Let's take a look.
Photo by Dan Harker
1. LB Raekwon McMillan
Not only is Raekwon McMillan already in the two-deep according to Urban Meyer, but he's also fighting for a starting spot at one of the most storied positions in Ohio State football history. The Buckeyes have been looking for a middle linebacker to step up since Brian Rolle graduated, and there's a possibility that that could happen this coming season with McMillan. Even if he doesn't win the starting job, he'll be on the field throughout each game.
2. S Erick Smith
Erick Smith is not yet enrolled, but Urban Meyer has spoken of him on several occasions, every time unprovoked. Meyer wants Smith in the two-deep at nickel or dime immediately, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's eventually in the mix at safety as well. Given Smith's ability to play an aggressive type of defense at both corner and safety, he could find himself as the team's #1 dime, and he also fits the type of coverage player that they are looking for at nickel.
3. WR Johnnie Dixon
Johnnie Dixon is already in the two-deep at receiver, which is a group that should have a three-deep that actually sees the field. Dixon will have plenty of competition to make it into the top four receivers, which signifies the ACTUAL two-deep. If we are to believe Urban Meyer, then there are some open jobs at receiver, and Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Michael Thomas, Corey Smith and Johnnie Dixon will each have an opportunity to not only fill out the two-deep, but to start as well.
4. OG Demetrius Knox
Urban Meyer isn't thrilled right now with his offensive line depth, but his demeanor should improve a bit when the rest of the freshmen arrive. Demetrius Knox should be competing for a spot in the two-deep at guard immediately. With only one sure starter among the group right now (Pat Elflein), there will be four or five candidates competing for the other job, as well as vying to fill out the rest of the depth chart. It's asking a bit much for Knox to make a move as a starter, but he should certainly be in the two-deep and get action in nearly every game this season.
5. K Sean Nuernberger
There was certainly a competition at placekicker this spring between Kyle Clinton and Sean Nuernberger. For much of spring, that competition was going Clinton's way, but Nuernberger closed very well. He owns the stronger leg, which is nice to have, but a consistent leg will be the one that wins the job. Regardless, since there are only two kickers in the mix, Nuernberger is automatically in the two-deep.
Bonus: OT Jamarco Jones
There have been issues with the backup tackles this spring. Jamarco Jones will get a very long look at shoring up those issues. He could find himself at either tackle spot, and if he's good enough, he could end up the first tackle in off the bench.
Bonus: RB Curtis Samuel
Curtis Samuel has already been named -- or implied as much by Urban Meyer -- the #2 tailback. The reason he is only a "bonus" pick here is because he will have to work extremely hard to keep his position, which may or may not be entirely definite. Regardless of where he is on the fall depth chart, however, they will find snaps for him because of his speed.
Bonus: CB Damon Webb
Ohio State's four cornerbacks each had fantastic springs, and they look like a pretty good two-deep right now. That being said, Damon Webb's style of defense would seem to fit perfectly with what the Buckeyes want to do. He will compete for a spot in the cornerback depth chart for sure, but could also find himself at nickel or dime, like Vonn Bell and Cameron Burrows did a season ago as true freshmen themselves.
Bonus: LB Dante Booker / LB Kyle Berger
The two-deep situation at linebacker looks pretty good, but there will be a competition to be Joshua Perry's backup at Will. Currently, that position is held by sophomore Trey Johnson, but each of Dante Booker and Kyle Berger could involve themselves as well. I don't think either fits what the Buckeyes are doing at the Sam linebacker spot, so that leaves the Will and the Mike as the two linebacker spots where freshmen could get some run. Urban Meyer likes his freshman linebacker haul, and we could see a couple of those youngsters very early on this season.
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