Football

Now Is the Time for the 2018 Class of Buckeyes to Emerge

Chris Olave Ohio State Football Buckeyes Michigan

If you think back to Ohio State’s national championship in 2014, that roster featured a litany of second-year players.

Names like JT Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott, Jalin Marshall, Billy Price, Joey Bosa, Darron Lee, Eli Apple, and Vonn Bell were absolutely critical to the Buckeyes’ success that season, and all were second-year players.

This season, Ohio State may not need that same kind of contribution from the 2018 signing class, but it is time for them to make their respective marks on this Buckeye football program.

“The thing I said to them the other day, they’re not freshmen anymore,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said this spring. “You’re not freshmen. It’s time to go.”

Throughout the spring, and continuing into the fall, sophomores and redshirt freshmen will be competing for starting jobs at every level.

Quarterback Justin Fields may not have signed with OSU in 2018, but there is no denying the need for him to step up this season.

Two of Ohio State’s most explosive receivers this season could be second-year guys Chris Olave and Jaelen Gill. Sophomore tight end Jeremy Ruckert is loaded with possibilities. Right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere was Ohio State’s top signee in 2018.

They all need to become primary players for the Buckeyes, and that’s just on offense.

Defensively, the front four is loaded with 2018 signees, and while none of them may start, the majority of them are expected to play.

“They have to play,” Day said of the 2018 signing class. “If we’re going to be good, those guys all have to step up and need to become starters or be in the two-deep. If they’re not, then there’s something not right.”

Cracking some spots on that two-deep is going to be difficult because of the veterans already there, but Day wants them to be able to be called upon if the need arises.

Some positions don’t lend themselves to contributing early, but on the whole, the 2018 class has to make an impact that leaves a lasting impression on this team.

“So not everybody develops at the same pace, but you need to start feeling that class,” Day said. “The 2018 class needs to be felt this spring and into the preseason.”

They can be felt in a number of ways, and it may not just be in the starting lineup.

It could be middle linebacker Teradja Mitchell pushing Tuf Borland and Baron Browning to be better than they were last year. It could be sophomore nose tackle Tommy Togiai pushing Davon Hamilton and Robert Landers, allowing defensive line coach Larry Johnson to get the absolute best out of his fifth-year seniors.

There is also simple mathematics involved. If players aren’t serious contributors by year two, then half of their career has essentially passed them by. Which also means the OSU football program hasn’t gotten what they expected in the timeframe they were expecting.

It’s okay to have late bloomers. Every program has them. But when the majority of a class is blooming late, this causes problems.

Day doesn’t expect those problems this season because Ohio State has recruited well. But the need for young contributors is even greater at places like OSU, where players keep leaving early for the NFL.

The reloading process is never ending, and by year two of a class, they need to start pulling their own weight.

“If we’re going to make a push at this thing, that class has to really step up,” Day said.

And he knows if they don’t, it’s going to be difficult for Ohio State to meet their own lofty expectations this year.

3 Responses

  1. Maybe in similar analogy but for a different class:

    2017 recruiting ranking > 2013 recruiting ranking
    In fact 2017 recruiting class was hyped to be one of the best classes we had.

    Is it safe to say that 2017 recruiting class has been a bit slow to develop or not meeting expectations as fast as it should ?

    I am not talking about winning a national championship like 2013 class did in the second year (even if it’s a valid question) but mostly from the number of impact players contributing to the team.
    jk dobbins and Chase Young (maybe Okudah )are the impact players from that class, many are playing but not quite as big of an impact.
    Compare that to 2013 where we had Zeke, Bosa , JT, apple, von bell , billy price , Jalin Marshall ..etc

    It just feels that 2017 class so far did not have the same feel as the 2013 class, just going by the same math that Tony did in the article, these guys are already 2 years in and might half way in their careers now.
    Hopefully we see a lot of late bloomers from that class with the same impact as the 2013 class

    1. I was thinking about the same thing when writing this and how high Urban was on this class. It was also the first class where Real Life Wednesdays was a significant draw.

  2. To me this spotlights one of the key intangibles that separates playoff teams from those just on the outside. Clemson, Bama, Georgia – no matter how much depth and experience these schools have, they annually have first and second year guys stepping up and over-achieving.
    In 2014, we had strong veteran leadership from guys like Smith, Spencer, Decker, Josh Perry, Curtis Grant, Washington, Bennett. But we had freshmen and sophomores like Zeke and Powell and Mike Thomas and Darron Lee and Vonn Bell and Apple and Billy Price and Jalin Marshall.

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