The Impact Freshmen

By Kyle Rowland on June 13, 2013 at 9:30a
Dontre Wilson could be a household name by September.

For many, it’s a time of rest and relaxation. Mid-June signals trips to the pool and ice cream sundaes. Not so for the Ohio State Buckeyes. On June 10, a bulk of the freshmen enrolled for the summer semester. But schooling isn’t the only item on their agenda. They were quickly introduced to strength coach Mickey Marotti and became accustomed to his no-nonsense, demanding workouts.

When Maurice Clarett enrolled in 2002, allowing him to partake in spring drills, it created a new phenomenon of high school seniors graduating early so they could get a jumpstart on college football. Now it is becoming normal for a handful of recruits each year to enroll for spring practice. Eli Apple, JT Barrett, Cam Burrows, Williams Houston, Tyquan Lewis and Tracy Sprinkle made up that group in 2013 for the Buckeyes.

The idea is to get a leg up on schoolwork and become entrenched in the inner workings of the football program. The same goal can be accomplished from bypassing your final summer at home. Getting in football shape and becoming acclimated with teammates goes a long way in forming the nucleus for a championship team.

Excellence in recruiting has been Meyer’s M.O. since he was in charge at Bowling Green, where he signed Cole Magner out of Alaska. All he did was become the school’s career leader in receptions. Utah, undefeated. Florida, two national championships. The success stories go on for pages.

But it all starts with recruiting. When Meyer arrived in Columbus, a 6-6 regular season gave way to a lackluster recruiting class. By February, though, Ohio State had climbed all the way to the top five. With an entire year to develop relationships, Meyer signed what some considered the best class in the country in 2013.

Redshirting is not part of the equation. For some teams, letting young players mature and slowly become familiar with the offense or defense is the model. But that isn’t how Meyer operates. If you’re good enough to play at Ohio State, you can contribute as a freshman.

“There’s no redshirting,” Meyer said last year. “Now, there will be some guys that will redshirt, but that's just because they weren't good enough to play, not because we're holding them back.

Apple flashed his skills in the spring. Eli Apple enrolled at OSU in January.

“Every freshman in the way we recruit, and the way we develop, the way we work these guys, we’re developing them to get ready to play right now because who knows what’s down the road.”

With that in mind, and the caliber of the Buckeyes’ incoming freshman class, several freshmen are certain to make an impact. The question is: who?

There’s a plethora of dynamic offensive skill players venturing to Ohio State. The most anticipated debut is that of Texas athlete Dontre Wilson. The one-time Oregon commit was a late addition after Chip Kelly bolted for the NFL, and Meyer was more than happy to bring in the talented playmaker.

Wilson picked up large chunks of yardage on the ground and through the air last season, compiling more than 1,800 rushing yards, 750 yards receiving and an astounding 48 touchdowns. His role at Ohio State will be similar.

While Jordan Hall received praise from Meyer last season before injuries derailed his year, keeping Wilson off the field will likely be difficult for someone who covets versatile offensive players. The Percy Harvin talk has grown old in Columbus, but, in truth, the Buckeyes could use that type of player in their up-tempo offense.

“Honestly, the great athlete sticks out like a sore thumb,” said running backs coach Stan Drayton, who’s coached Harvin, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. “The intangibles are what makes it tough. Does he quite have the maturity that we’re looking for to do what we’re going to ask him to do? Is he ready to do that? Does he have the football IQ or the physical capabilities? The intangibles may force a kid on the field early, but the skill set of that elite athlete sticks out like a sore thumb.”

At the hybrid position, Wilson gives Ohio State someone who can turn a short gain into a gamechanger. His skills can stretch defenses to the point where wide receivers and running backs can benefit.

Wilson’s presence should also mean a more wide-open playbook. Ohio State didn’t come close to showing its full hand of cards last year. To win a national title, it will need to showcase the entire set.

Jalin Marshall could add another dimension. He starred at quarterback in high school, but was recruited as an athlete. Like Wilson, Marshall has the ability to make would-be tacklers hit nothing but air. He can stop, change direction and accelerate at a pace that will leave Big Ten defensive coordinators fretting. 

Wide receiver is the biggest area of need on offense, and the addition of Corey Smith could provide immediate returns. His inclusion should come with an asterisk since he isn’t technically a freshman. Still, he’s a first-year Buckeye, and he brings experience.

Smith is the total package – a speedster who can run crisp routes. Ohio State’s receivers have lacked in the area of speed and elusiveness. They’ve been able to catch the ball, but with diminishing results on big gainers, Meyer and wide receivers coach Zach Smith were left frustrated.

The hope – and expectation – is Smith can fill that void.

The punisher.LB Mike Mitchell can help in a thin area.

The linebacker corps includes Ryan Shazier, one of the nation’s finest at his position. But the rest of the group is green, which should give Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell an opportunity get on the field. The duo gives the Buckeyes a handle on a must-need position for the future. Combined, they provide the defense with speed and superb open field tackling.

In front is defensive end Joey Bosa. One of the crown jewels of the class, Bosa was a pass-rushing machine in high school. Going up against college offensive linemen will be far more difficult, but Bosa’s speed off the edge could prove problematic.

The defensive line was a major point of concern entering the spring. When Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington turned in dominating performances the coaches anxiety calmed. Now the issue is depth, which gives Bosa hope for cracking the rotation. One injury could derail an otherwise stout defense.

One of the most competitive recruiting battles in recent memory ended with Ohio State as the victor. The target was safety Vonn Bell. Meyer said securing Bell pushed the meter from good day to great day. Co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Everett Withers garnered the praise for snagging Bell.

Before the summer even began, Bell added more than 15 pounds of muscle to lessen the shock when he got on the field. And he plans on playing. With Ohio State implementing a nickel package, Bell could be an extra defensive back.

He indicated learning the playbook quickly was a goal, while Withers hopes Bell can be deliver depth and production.

Apple and Chris Worley are other members of the secondary who could play in front of 105,000 come Aug. 31. During spring practice, Apple showed glimpses of being the next great lockdown corner and at the same time had the usual lapses that newcomers display. Worley, a safety from the Glenville pipeline, is a brute who could play linebacker if needed. His size, speed and versatility lend him to being a contributor on the freak show.

The Buckeyes might be coming off an undefeated season. And they might welcome back 13 starters. It doesn’t mean freshmen and other first-year players won’t get experience if they perform well in practice.

In 1968 it was the ‘Super Sophs’ who spurred Ohio State’s journey to college football’s mountaintop. Could it be the ‘Fantastic Frosh’ in 2013?


Comments Show All Comments

Oldschoolbuck's picture

My oh my, what a difference a year of amazing coaching and recruiting makes!
We've gone from "a clown show" to "the freak show"!
Please, please, PLEASE hurry up, August!!

EazyElmo's picture

How about the "Frosh Freaks" instead

LILBUCKEYE's picture

If we even get a glimpse of what they are capable of, it's going to be a great season!

The Ohio State University '17

Buckeye06's picture

To me it's all hype til the field.  Every kid who gets a scholarship to OSU is a great high school player.  Some of those guys go on to be great, while others never get there.  A kid like Apple seems to have his head on his shoulders, so I feel more comfortable seeing him excel sooner rather than later.  Most of the others I know nothing about, personality or otherwise (aside from the getting to know you series). 
Racking up yards in high school is one thing, racking them up in college, and then of course the NFL if it's in the cards, is another. 
Good luck freshman, keep your heads down, lose those black stripes, and contribute to help the team however you can

Breakawayspeed's picture

Sure it is all hype.  However, if you combine great talent with great conditioning and great coaching, its near impossible not to have a great players and therefore a great team!  What will become of these players is anyones guess but its hard not to be stoked about them seeing early PT. 

OSUs12-OH's picture

I tend to agree with it being hype until they play.  However, this class and this years class I tend to think won't be entirely hype.  Some will, it happens everywhere at any college.  Just look at the Bama guys that got in trouble and one or two of the three were the best at their positions for the 2012 class.  It's true, until they play it is all hype.  But like I said, I have faith these guys who were mentioned above will perform well when given the chance.

"I want a hungry team. I want a team that can't wait to get out there. I want an angry team! You're the Ohio State Buckeyes. You're an angry football team. You're a hungry football team and I'm proud to be your coach." UFM

Oldschoolbuck's picture

Good point, but let us have some fun until pads start poppin for real!!

RunEddieRun1983's picture

Would have been nice to highlight some of the other guys like Burrows, Thompson, Munger, and Lisle.  I feel like sometimes those are the guys that are the back bone of this class, but are unsung.  They're all going to have an oppurtunity to be great players at tOSU.

I don't always downvote, but I do always downvote a Michigan fan trolling the Buckeye boards.

Charlotte Buckeye Chip's picture

Think we can put up 70 vs Buffalo?  I miss those days

~Charlotte Buckeye Chip

OSUStu's picture

...and an astounding 48 touchdowns. His role at Ohio State will be similar.

Yeah, I hope Dontre's role is extremely similar.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

nickma71's picture

Mid June signals weekly trips to Cedar Point. Of course, I am too old for that shit now. But back then, my season pass was only $75. Thanks for daily Buckeye news stories.

Haybucks's picture

Cole Magner sure looked godly (well, in Harbaugh's world) against us back in 2003.
Receiving             No.  Yds   TD  Long
Magner, Cole        13  168     1     29
I remember wondering what rock this kid crawled out from.  Meyer somehow knew it was gold.
Reference -

If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later. -  Mark Twain


Young_Turk's picture

So what you're saying is we need some Young Turks to step up and contribute to achieving our goals this year?  Amen, brother!
I don't think Woody played too many freshman, but he was very open to the idea of a young player stepping up and making surprising contributions to the season.  I remember reading that Woody would term these players Young Turks.

Young Turk
a member of a Turkish reformist and nationalist party that was founded in the latter part of the 19th century and was the dominant political party in Turkey in the period 1908–18.
an insurgent in a political party, especially one belonging to a group or faction that supports liberal or progressive policies: The leadership of the party passed from the cautious old-line conservatives to the zealous Young Turks.
Also, young Turk, young turk. any person aggressively or impatiently advocating reform within an organization.

Rise up Young Turks!  
Rumble, Young Man, Rumble!  Ahhhh!  Ahhhh!  Ahhhh!


Earle's picture

Rod Stewart approves this message:

Snarkies gonna snark. 

Young_Turk's picture

Learn something new every day.  I had no idea he had titled this song as such.


buckguyfan1's picture

Just stay clear of the Turkish Prison System

...I apologize for getting a little off topic

JLBNYC's picture

I don't think Woody played too many freshman, but he was very open to the idea of a young player stepping up and making surprising contributions to the season.  I remember reading that Woody would term these players Young Turks. 

Woody didnt have much of a chance to test any view on freshman because they couldnt play varsity football until 1972, when Archie was able to make an impact as a freshman. And the next year, Pete Johnson made a huge impact. Art Schlichter started as a freshman at QB during Woody's last year, which was a rough one, but set the stage for a break-out year for Art the following year. So it was only the last six seasons of his tenure.

Hovenaut's picture

Don't think there's enough that can be said about this frosh class, without even having played a down yet.

Just a serious upgrade in both skill and talent in nearly every position group. I'll always be amazed at what Urban and company brings to the sidelines every Saturday, but he's carved out a pretty good legacy on the recruiting trail as well.

Buckle up boys and girls, its going to be a helluva ride the next few years.

Meechy77's picture

Dontre is the truth!!

Angry staff, Angry team. The Ohio State

JYBUCKEYE's picture

I can see it now.  Dontre catches a bubble screen and some big road grader of an o-lineman blows up a linebacker for an OSU score.  Sure hope that o-lineman's jersey says Knox on the back of it!!! 

SilverBulletNYC's picture

Meechy, I'm trying my best to get you those 500 helmet stickers!!!

The South will NOT rise again!

11thAveBuckeye's picture

Once I get 17 more helmet stickers you best believe you are getting my first upvote meechy!  Love that you are on here.

GeorgiaBuckeye2114's picture

The one downvote was a TSUN fan

Remington2323's picture

Ya no doubt. scUM blows.

gobucks96's picture

focus on one player and another will reach up and smack you..

Chief B1G Dump's picture

With Mitchell's speed and size...
I would like urban to line him up and RB, WR, TE and kick returner to guarantee his Heisman.
But for real, that class has so much potential.  If even just a few of those guys live up to their hype we're going to steamroll some folks.  Really looking forward to EzE and Wilson on O and love our 2 LB's in Trey and MM.  One could easily make an argument for any of these guys...HOT DANG IS IT GO TIME YET!?!?!

German Buckeye's picture

So we go out against Buffalo and win on a last second field goal....JUST KIDDING.  I'm as pumped as any Buckeye fan, but I just hate feeding into the frenzy and drinking cool aide.  Will we be good - almost assuredly yes.  Will we win the BIG - high percentage.  Will we go undefeated - very good chance.  Will we play in the last BCS Championship - good chance.  Will we be National Champs - always potential.  Nowhere are there guarantees.  Let's take it one game at a time!  We are on The Chase....

dubjayfootball90's picture

Man I am so pumped for these frosh to get it going. The next several years should hold some very positive results, man.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

gbm's picture

I love reading your comments man. You're always so positive, and not in an ignorant hommerism way but rather an honest and excited way. Reminds me of a kid on Christmas. Not that anyone else doesn't, but more so you just seem to love the Bucks in a pure form and appreciate it for what it is. Cheers.

dubjayfootball90's picture

Haha, well thank you. You hit the nail on the head with that assessment. 

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

harleymanjax's picture



"Because I couldn't go for 3"

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Just a whole group of freshmen who can seriously contribute this year!  This class is just loaded with talent!!  Even if someone does redshirt they could still be starters on many other teams!  I'm so ready for some football!!
Go Buckeyes!

BME_Buckeye's picture

The Percy Harvin talk has grown old in Columbus...

Yes, and if I never hear this saying it won't be too soon.

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.