Last year, the Buckeyes had a star emerge at quarterback as Dwayne Haskins set all kinds of Ohio State passing records. The year before, it was freshman running back JK Dobbins.
In 2016, you saw Malik Hooker, Curtis Samuel, Marshon Lattimore, Nick Bosa and I can’t even remember who else become stars.
It happens every year. New stars take over and become household names in the college football world.
This year will be no different. There is no shortage of possible new stars for Ohio State in 2019, but for our purposes we’ll keep it to just six or so names.
Justin Fields – Quarterback, Soph.
With Justin Fields’ skill set, Ryan Day’s offense, and the skill players surrounding him, it is almost a given that Ohio State’s new starting quarterback is going to be a star. No, he has never started a game, but that didn’t stop Braxton Miller, JT Barrett, Cardale Jones, or Dwayne Haskins. Talent and preparation are in place, but it will still come down to execution. It’s not unreasonable to expect 3,500 yards of total offense for Fields, as well as some truly spectacular moments.
Austin Mack – Wide Receiver, Sr.
Austin Mack is beginning his third year as a starter, but now is the time for him to emerge as the all-around receiver he started to become before his injury last season. Mack can move the chains on third-and-eight just fine, but there is also a deep game that should come through this season, especially if he is playing Z. This is his contract year. Expect it to be very good, even while splitting reps.
Nicholas Petit-Frere – Right Tackle, rFr.
As talented as any offensive lineman Ohio State has recruited in years, Nicholas Petit-Frere is a craftsman. Blessed with physical abilities that few players his size possess, his focus is on technique and perfection. Petit-Frere understands the process that needs to take place and works every day to make that process come to fruition. He was a consistent presence this spring on an offensive line that had many moving parts. Petit-Frere may not yet be great this year, but he should still be very good.
Shaun Wade – Defensive Back, rSoph.
Greg Schiano had Shaun Wade spinning a lot of plates last year as a redshirt freshman. He was a cornerback, but practiced at safety, and was also the team’s top nickel back. Wherever they needed him in the secondary, he went. It wasn’t perfect — there was the 93-yard touchdown given up to Penn State’s KJ Hamler — but much of it was still very, very good. If Wade is Ohio State’s starting strong safety this season, he could be in for a big year. Even if he is “just” the nickel back, he will still make plenty of plays. If he is on the field as much as I think he should be, then expect an All-B1G season in 2019.
Brendon White – Bullet, Jr.
Brendon White is being put at a position that is asked to make a lot of plays at all three levels of the defense. He will get to blitz, he’ll get to cover, he’ll defend the run, and from down-to-down his duties will change. White showed that he was an effective tackler last season. Now at Bullet, we’ll get to see him put into even more of a playmaker role. He was always going to be the first guy to get a look at Bullet. Expect him to have some big games in 2019 with some big, big plays.
Chris Olave – Wide Receiver, Soph.
Last year was only scratching the surface for Chris Olave. As a true freshman in 2018, Olave impressed in camp and practice, but didn’t start getting involved in the on-field offense until Austin Mack went down. He was put into the rotation at that point and is now an experienced receiver who is no longer getting his footing. Late in the season, Olave showed glimpses of what he can do, but this season we will begin to see the entire picture.
Bonus: Teradja Mitchell – Middle Linebacker, Soph.
No matter how often I look at the depth chart and see two middle linebackers ahead of Teradja Mitchell, I keep going back to the Ohio State coaches clinic this past spring and seeing linebacker coach Al Washington showing clip after clip of Mitchell making plays in practice. He wasn’t always doing it the right way, but he was quickly overcoming his mistakes and making his coach happy.
Bonus: Jaelen Gill – H-Back, rFr.
Jaelen Gill will be Ohio State’s most explosive slot receiver, so that is going to count for something. He will be splitting reps with KJ Hill and CJ Saunders, so he won’t have 90 catches last year like Parris Campbell, but enough plays will be made to get his name out there. Gill may be a year away, but he has the potential to bypass the waiting room.