Who Are the Buckeyes' 10 Best Offensive Playmakers?
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman have talked in the past about how they sit down before and during the season to decide who their team's 10 best playmakers are, and then they devise ways in which to get those players the ball.
With three recruiting classes now under their belts, this has become a bit of a tough list to pare down, which is exactly the type of problem they wanted to have.
The number of possibilities have grown each year, and the same is true of 2014. Despite the losses of Carlos Hyde and Philly Brown, the numbers are still strong when it comes to playmaking candidates.
So which Buckeyes would crack the top 10 list at the moment? Let's see what we can come up with.
(Note: I am not including Braxton Miller in this list because even though he is the team's best player, he is also the conduit to the rest of the playmakers on offense. Plus, it makes a list a little easier to come up with having an extra slot.)
This spring H-back Dontre Wilson said that he is basically the number three option on offense behind the quarterback and running back, which gives us the first two players on the list.
Ezekiel Elliott (1) should end up with the starting tailback job, and nobody else on offense (other than Miller) will be touching the ball 15-20 times per game. I fully expect the production that comes from those touches to keep Elliott at the top of the list.
Photo by Jim Davidson
That puts Dontre Wilson (2) in the second slot. Replacing Philly Brown has its advantages, and Wilson's skill set should lead to 1,000 yards from scrimmage one way or another.
The Buckeyes need more production on the outside, and that's where Devin Smith (3) comes in. Everybody knows that he is dangerous running down the sideline, but more has to be done with him, and being a senior, I expect him to handle what comes his way.
My next choice might be a surprise, but given his ability to stretch the middle of the field and present matchup problems, I'm going with tight end Jeff Heuerman (4). If he can be around 40-45 reception this season, that would be a pretty good indicator of the passing game's evolution and advancement.
We'll go to the JUCO ranks for the next playmaker, as receiver Corey Smith (5) should be able to carry his strong spring into an even stronger preseason. I believe this is a little high for Smith, which is more of an indicator of the unproven nature of much of this Ohio State offense.
If I didn't go with Smith there, I would have gone with receiver Michael Thomas (6), and I don't think there would be too much guff given. Thomas is itching to show what he can do, and he will finally get his chance in 2014. If patience makes playmakers, then Thomas might put himself in the top three.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The first freshman on the list is running back Curtis Samuel (7), and based on his performance in the spring, he's on this list because Meyer and Herman are absolutely going to find ways to get him the football. Not unlike they did with Dontre Wilson a year ago.
Before you scoff about Wilson as a freshman, keep in mind that only Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, Jordan Hall and Philly Brown touched the ball more than he did.
If Ohio State is truly going to use the tight end more than we have seen in the past, then it would make sense that backup Nick Vannett (8) would be on this list. He is nearly a carbon copy of Heuerman, and there will be plenty of snaps where both tight ends are on the field together.
Considering how much the staff plans on using the H-back, then it would also follow that they'd be looking to use the backup as well. That puts redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall (9) on the list, and the staff is extremely excited about what he has to offer. As long as he can stay healthy, his impact should at least mirror that of Chris Fields a season ago, and probably better it.
Wrapping up the list is running back Bri'onte Dunn (10). After redshirting a season ago like Michael Thomas, Dunn is ready to fight for every available snap. The problem, however, is that there may not be a whole lot of snaps available. Still, there will always be a role for a running back who can pick up tough yards right up the middle in an Urban Meyer offense, and Dunn can certainly do that.
So there you have it. That's my 10 as of this exact moment. It could change once fall camp starts and the freshmen start showing more.
Names like Johnnie Dixon and Evan Spencer and James Clark and Rod Smith are missing, as are incoming freshmen Parris Campbell, Noah Brown and Terry McLaurin. There will be plenty of time to add them, however.
Perhaps a "Power Ranking" of Buckeye playmakers would be an interesting weekly feature during the season. We can go ahead and consider this the "preseason" version of that.
What does your 10 look like?
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