With just five returning starters on an offense that lost its stud RB and both leading receivers there's still plenty of optimism that the Buckeyes will be able to score points thanks mostly to the fan base's collective confidence in one LiC.
Considering the '08 offense was OSU's worst since '04 when it came to points per game and total offense, the question is whether or not the optimism is justified or simply extreme faith that one man can put the whole offense on his (probably) capable shoulders.
So, assuming there's validity to the belief that this team will score points, who will be the most surprising offensive player? Now, this is obviously a very subjective exercise in which you could go in various directions to justify your pick. Still, it's a chance for you to weigh in with who and why and if you are right you'll always be able to refer back to this post and impress your friends. If you are wrong, well then, welcome to our world.
You could say Boom Herron but probably only if you predict a 1,000 yard season since it's expected he'll get plenty of carries. Maybe you think Saine and explain he'll take Herron's starting job early in the season, stay healthy, and prove to be a threat both on the ground and through the air to the tune of 1,000 combined yards rushing and receiving.
More than likely, however, you will choose either a freshman you expect to emerge such as Jamal Berry or a young receiver who's yet to make a huge impact since we all know Pryor's going to need some help if he's going to improve his passing yards per game and make this team a true vertical big play threat.
Or, maybe you played offensive line in high school and want to show your smarts by touting someone like Jack Mewhort for his ability to get around the center and lead block as a pulling guard or maybe Marcus Hall tickles your fancy. You could even go in the direction of Mike Adams should you think he'll live up the "next Pace" hype. Of course, if you do that, you'll be subject to the random drug testing policy freshly instituted here at 11W HQ since that label should never be unfairly placed on another human being from now until armageddon.
The leading candidates in no particular order could be:
- Jamaal Berry: Fresh off the law smiling favorably on the diminutive RB from Florida, Berry has impressed Tressel with his burst after wowing his teammates in the weeks leading up to camp. He's got some wiggle and with Saine's injury issues over the years, Berry could find himself seeing the field at any point this season. The saying "a pair and a spare" isn't just a saying because it rhymes.
- Duron Carter: Another freshman, L'il Cris has flashed the hands of his pappy grabbing all the leather in his zip code as well as the attention of Tressel and the entire secondary. Reading Anderson Russell's comment about Carter giving Jenkins and Washington trouble this summer is music to my ears. Throw in the fact Ray Small could do any thing at any time to find himself in the Vest's doghouse combined with the rest of the young, unproven talent at WR and Carter could easily work his way into the regular rotation.
- Jake Stoneburner: We've heard the hype since before he signed on the dotted line thanks to freakish athleticism for a tight end and after a redshirt 2008 many experts are calling for big things. Still, I see him as the longest of long shots to be a surprise player if for no other reason than OSU is allergic to using tight ends. If nothing else, at least he's probably not hurting for college tail considering he says in the media guide people tell him he looks like Brad Pitt.
- Taurian Washington: Another of the young wide receivers high on potential but low on production, Washington has starred in spring games past and is looking for a chance to prove himself on Saturdays. That chance will undoubtedly come this fall - will he make the most of it?
- Lamaar Thomas: yet another hightly touted young wideout, Thomas had just four catches last season though he did get a taste of regular game action as a kick returner. With speed good enough to earn a spot on OSU's conference champion 4x100 relay team, he could be the guy Pryor targets to help stretch the field.
- DeVier Posey: Sure he's penciled in as a starter and showed glimpses last season so he can't be considered a surprise unless he blows up to become one of the top receivers in the conference but it's not far fetched to think it might happen. The Army All-American had 11 catches last year and is a sure starter who has formed a solid bond with LiC. With the history of NFL-caliber WR's emerging at OSU, it could be Posey's turn.
So who do you take and why? As for me, I'm torn between Boom going for over 1,000 and Duron Carter working his way into the rotation and making some big plays down the stretch. Then again, I can see Posey stepping up and becoming a force if the passing game has truly improved. For the team's sake, I'll be thrilled if any two of those three come to fruition.