Strangers In Paradise: 2013 Impact Freshmen

By Chris Lauderback on August 13, 2013 at 2:00p
Dontre Wilson has become a media darling in just a few short weeks.Eleven Warriors 2013 Ohio State Football Season Preview

Though the hype associated with virtually every incoming freshmen class at the truly elite football factories across the college football landscape often reaches seismic levels, it's incredibly rare for a high volume of true freshmen – or even redshirt freshmen for that matter – to establish themselves as big time contributors right out of the gate.  

That's not to say a handful of freshmen can't immediately add some depth or make a marginal impact on special teams but to come in and be a big-time impact player from day one is the exception, not the rule. 

With Urban Meyer's 2013 class ranking in the top two nationally and generating a buzz thanks largely to the collective speed of the group, we recently looked at the top freshman seasons in Buckeye history and even glanced at the last five freshman classes to come through Columbus in an effort to gain some perspective. 

Both exercises showed that while it's certainly plausible to catch lightning in a bottle as Ohio State recently did with guys like Braxton Miller and Terrelle Pryor, it's more realistic that the vast majority of the young kids must learn to crawl before they run. 

Of course, that's never been Urban Meyer's way. He recruits kids to play and play early, provided they are good enough. With that notion against the backdrop of his much heralded 2013 class, we take a look at which true freshmen could carve out big roles on a squad coming into the season with national championship aspirations. 


Not even midway through fall camp, it's impossible to know exactly what the future holds for all the members of the 2013 class but the safest bets to be legitimate, big-time factors in year one are ATH Dontre Wilson and punter Cameron Johnston. 

Wilson has had the attention of Buckeye fans ever since he flipped from Oregon to Ohio State following Chip Kelly's departure for the Philadelphia Eagles. The speedster from Texas has only seen his stock rise since Braxton Miller, among others, heaped praise on the burner during B1G media days back in July. 

Meyer himself tried to quiet the talk in Chicago but after the first week of practice, even he couldn't hide his excitement for what the kid will bring to this year's offense. Running backs coach Stan Drayton is certainly expecting things recently offering, "His ability to explode, to make people miss, is exciting. He brings surprising maturity. He’s an unbelievable addition to this team."

Captain Kangaroo has leg for daysJohnston's overall athletic ability has wowed the staff

Expected to see time at both running back and at the pivot, Wilson could also find himself back deep on kickoff returns as Ohio State looks to exploit his blazing speed and shifty moves in the open field. 

For his part Wilson seems to be handling the hype pretty well. During Sunday's OSU media day, Wilson discussed the recruiting process and his goals for year one saying, "I’m glad I landed here. I chose the right place. I want to get on the field and play. The ultimate goal is to play for a national championship team."

With Jim Tressel no longer at the helm, it's a bit shocking that a freshman punter could generate much buzz but that's exactly what has happened thanks to Johnston's bionic leg. 

A former Australian rules football player and a student at the renowned Prokick Australia, an academy that puts kids through a year-long program prepping them for American football, Johnston fell into Meyer's lap months after Johnny Townsend left the Buckeyes at the signing day altar. 

Upon arrival, Johnston has wowed both Meyer and Kerry Coombs with both his leg and his stellar athletic ability. Coombs could barely cobble together a coherent sentence as he gushed about the 21-year old kid with four years of eligibility during media day saying, "He's gifted. He's special. He can do all the kicks right now," just days after Meyer tabbed Johnston the starting punter summarizing his first day in practice as "ridiculous". 

Bottom line, both Wilson and Johnston appear to be the two "can't miss" recruits in their class that will undoubtedly have significant roles this season. 


With Wilson and Johnston most likely to be major factors this year, the next level of contributors is potentially comprised of defensive linemen Joey Bosa and Michael Hill and WR Jalin Marshall. 

Meyer endorsed Bosa as a likely 1st year contributor

Bosa, a four-star defensive end according to Scout, received a vote of confidence recently as Meyer noted, "I imagine he'll play this year. We're playing with him inside and outside."

His chance to play early is only strengthened by Ohio State's need to replace all four starters from the 2012 defensive front and the fact the defensive staff prefers to employ a rotation to keep players fresh, provided the talent is there. 

The Florida product's versatility has clearly caught the staff's eye and though it appears Noah Spence, Joel Hale, Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett have virtually locked up starting spots, there will undoubtedly be reps for the taking. 

Hill, a lifelong Buckeye fan out of South Carolina, has also made noise in camp drawing raves from Meyer and BTN's Tom Dienhart also came away impressed during a recent visit.

It's possible Hill is slightly bigger reach to contribute consistently as a freshman since he might not be quite as versatile but early returns combined with the notion the staff would probably love to have 7+ guys they are comfortable using up front put Hill in the conversation. 

Marshall has plenty of competition but he's a playmaker

Marshall, a high-school quarterback out of Middletown, has shown flashes of being great according to WR coach Zach Smith.

It will be interesting to see if a concussion reportedly suffered last Thursday has any negative impact on his development in camp because the kid has impressive upper body size to go along with even more impressive wheels. 

The five-star was Ohio State's 2nd commit in this class and has shown excellent hands and no fear in going over the middle in traffic.

The problem for Marshall is that so many other guys at the skill positions are stepping up.

Wilson and Jordan Hall seem to have a firm grip on the bulk of snaps coming from the pivot, allowing Philly Brown to move back to the outside, where the Buckeyes already feature names like Devin Smith and the fast-improving Evan Spencer, among others (Michael Thomas?!). As such, it might be tough for Marshall to be much more than a rotation wide receiver in year one. 

That said, Marshall could find himself in the mix on kickoff returns and he appears up to the task after taking one to the house in Ohio State's fourth practice tough Meyer didn't mention him when rattling off possible return men when he addressed the media this past Sunday. 


A slew of other freshmen could absolutely contribute to this season's bottom line though their chances to do so appear much more cloudy for a myriad of reasons, most notably the insane amount of talented depth that Meyer and staff are attracting and developing. 

Defensive true freshmen Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, Gareon Conley and Mike Mitchell could all find their way onto the playing field – outside of contributions on special teams – should their talents and ability to grasp the schemes collide just right with opportunity while big hitter Chris Worley and fellow defensive back Cam Burrows might find their only chance to contribute come as members of the coverage teams. 

Apple enrolled early and shined during spring drills but with Roby relegated to 2nd team reps as a form of punishment, Conley was the man the defensive staff inserted opposite Doran Grant and he's drawn nothing but positive reviews. That's not to say things won't change but for now, it appears as if Conley has earned first dibs on Roby's reps during the duration of an expected few-game suspension. I personally believe Apple is the one most likely to emerge as a star player over the long haul in comparison to Conley or Burrows but time and change will surely show. 

Bell is a stud but the secondary is all kinds of crowded

When it comes to Bell, I share the same view as Tony Gerdeman who recently opined that the fact Bell has been working mostly at Star is a good indication the coaches would love to find room for him in the defensive backfield this fall. Bell is a born safety but with Christian Bryant and C.J Barnett firmly entrenched as starters, only injury and blowouts will create reps on the along the back line. Of course, redshirt freshman Tyvis Powell has done nothing to lose hold of his Star spot thus far and man, is it easy to root for that guy

Mitchell has reportedly shown a solid football IQ plus an ability to blitz the passer and with Curtis Grant still a bit of a wildcard at the Mike, maybe it's a bit premature to think the five-star freak from Texas couldn't emerge as a fixture in the middle over the course of the season. 

Billy Price has gained some mention from the coaches on occasion thanks to his early work on the defensive line but with Hill and Bosa seemingly coming on, he likely needs to step up his production to make a bid for meaningful rotation play, as does early enrollee Tyquan Lewis. 

On the offensive side of the ball, guys like Ezekiel Elliott and James Clark ooze potential but could be on the outside looking in when it comes to serious playing time thanks to the aforementioned depth Meyer is stockpiling.

Projected as a running back, Elliott lost his black stripe Monday and looks like he's the real deal but with names like Hyde, Hall, Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball also vying for carries, he's got his hands full. I absolutely expect great things over the long haul from Elliott but being a factor in year one might be a tough chore. His best chance to contribute this year will most likely be in the kickoff return game and it's not hard to envision him cranking out a few big plays in such a role.

Clark also looks to be a long term contributor to the team but will have his hands full this year thanks to the plethora of receivers and return men bidding for time. 


Comments Show All Comments

DannyBeane's picture

Just think. Out there somewhere, sitting in his den, listening to Hall and Oates while drinking a cup of Earl Grey (decaffeinated), is Jim Tressel, pontificating on what could have been with Cameron Johnston.

Earle's picture

I can't go for that image...

Snarkies gonna snark. 

DannyBeane's picture

So you're telling me that if Jim Tressell successfully recruited Cameron Johnston he wouldn't be listening to "You make my dreams come true" ?

droessl's picture

I dunno, Tressel might be a little out of touch.

Earle's picture

No, I just object to the choice of tea, or at least the spelling.  Earle Gray would be preferable.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

Chris Lauderback's picture

Let me just proudly interject that Hall and Oates' Abandoned Luncheonette album is one my most guilty pleasures ever. There, I said it.

osu07asu10's picture

Tressel has actually be known to drink a glass of wine or two...I've been in his presence for a Coors Light.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

iamcbs's picture

Obviously you can see that with your "Private Eyes"

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep, I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion~Alexander the Great

Buckeye_TilIdie's picture

+1 Just for the simple fact im drinking a warm cup of Earl Grey with a lemon slice as i type this.

Punks jump up to get beat down.

Riggins's picture

It's kind of unreal how much depth Urban has brought in this quickly.

InHartWeTrust's picture

Wait until a year or two, we will know what it feels like to have a second-team that can beat most D1 first-teams (like Bama).

osubuck57's picture

Field position and speed, we'll have plenty of both this season.


Gametime's picture

Marshall, Clark, & EzE should all rotate returning kicks/punts. Save Dontre, Philly, & Roby for the O and the D.

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

FROMTHE18's picture

I think Bell, Bosa, Mitchell, Johnson, Jalin, Clark, Smith will all see PT this year, no doubt.

Hovenaut's picture

Honestly didn't give it much thought at the time, but man am I glad Johnny Townsend decided to stay close to home.


IBleedSandG's picture

True dat. I doubt Johnny runs a 4.45 40. I can not wait until Urb calls some sort of fake punt with Johnston. He might just house it!


droessl's picture

it's certainly plausible to catch lightening in a bottle as Ohio State recently did with guys like Braxton Miller and Terrelle Pryor

should be "lightning"

Chris Lauderback's picture

Oops. My bad. Thanks!

ChazBuckeye's picture

No, actually, it's his bad Chris.  Leave that up to your editor...isn't that his or her job?  ;-)

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

droessl's picture

Please explain how it's my bad. 

Earle's picture

I thought lightening in a bottle is what Braxton used to make his mohawk blonde.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

TMac's picture

too much Depth & Speed* = #Buckeyeproblems
* can we please have that at LB too

ONE Not Done!

ChazBuckeye's picture

I love the fact that Wilson, Marshall and Bell will all possibly be contributors as many of us wanted to potentially happen when they signed (I'd even through Clark and EzE in there too).  
However my all time fav from this class defensively is Bosa.  How many times can you say an OSU Dlineman can do back flips, squat 500 lbs near ten Xs and run a 4.6 (supposedly) forty as a freaking freshman?  If you look at athletes who've been drafted lately, he reminds me of a guy that terrorized many in tB1G. Namely JJ Watt (you can watch his 55+ inch high jump on that link).  I know, he played for Wiscy, but Joey reminds me of him based on shear athleticism. Can't wait to see him in action and please ohhhh please let him get some time against TTUN. Namely against a guy named Kyle Kalis;-)  

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

avail31678's picture

(I'd even through Clark and EzE in there too).

Where's YOUR editor? 
Just playing - all good fun, man.  I even upvoted ya.

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

Bash the NFL and Goodell all you want, but what more can you say about its success than the fact that there is a school in Australia that prepares kickers (kickers!) for a full year to enter the league. Impressive and disturbing at the same time

Larryp713's picture

What might we expect from Wilson as a true frosh? De'Anthony Thomas split time as a receiver, RB, returned punts and kicks as a frosh, amassed 2235 all purpose yards and scored 18 TDs. I personally think Wilson could beat this, but will probably be sharing with all the other ridiculous playmakers we have this year. One sad thing is that Brax for Heisman might be tripped up because he will share the spotlight this year. I will accept that if we are playing for the crystal ball in January.



OldColumbusTown's picture

And the great thing about Braxton Miller, is he would easily accept that too.

vitaminB's picture

He also single handedly cost his team a victory in their opening game against LSU with his ball control issues.  Freshman gonna be freshmen.

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

Can't wait to see these guys get on the field.

chirobuck's picture

I have to say I'm really surprised by the Conley over Apple thing, I thought after watching them both in the All American games that Apple looked a lot smoother and more comfortable....but if Conley really is playing that well then great


^ best post ever ^

Buckeyes2014's picture

I am so excited.


DannyBeane's picture

I just can't Hyde it.

nfischer's picture

Beautiful timing, that's all I can say. Made me chuckle out loud!

ODEEZ330's picture

Meyer mentioned on espn today eze will play this yr. Lumped him with dontre.

stark county football

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Reading between the lines, Jalin Marshall might over the long run be another in the great lineage of tOSU WR's.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

iamcbs's picture

Why is it we aren't  hearing anything about JUCO transfer Corey Smith?

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep, I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion~Alexander the Great

kareemabduljacobb's picture

After watching that Meyer interview on ESPN, I'd say Elliott is going to get some quality PT as Urban singled out both he and Wilson being game changers out of the backfield.

unholy bucknut's picture

I hope miller stays for his senior year can you imagine what 2014 is going to be like with all these super frosh having a year in our system coupled with Braxton in his senior year. You think we have expectations this year.

Oldschoolbuck's picture

It was said of the Roman Legions that their training sessions were "bloodless wars" and the wars they fought in were "bloody training" (paraphrasing)...
The toughest competition the Buckeyes may be facing all year is against each other in practice; the games could be something of a day off after the high octane training sessions (at least we can hope)!

Sobo3612's picture

The future is too bright in Columbus. Besides the fumble how is Baugh doing. If (aka when) gesicki commits to osu, I can see a gronk/Hernandez type pairing in the shoe. Is there any update at all on Corey smith. 

Go bucks!

buckeyedude's picture

With our depth problems at LB, don't you think the immensely talented Mike Mitchell will see decent PT?



pjtobin's picture

Yes, yes I do. He has been called the best athlete on the team. I cannot wait to see him explode on opposing teams. This is going to be a great year. I've never been this excited about TOSU football before. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

Edincostarica's picture

Absolutely he is going to see playing time.  Like I've said from day one this guy is going to be special for the Buckeyes and he is proving it already in practice.  He already has the physique and football I.Q. of a Junior. Wait and watch. 


Stinson's picture

Don-tre Wil-son.

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

buckskin's picture

The futures so bright, I gotta wear shades.

Larryp713's picture

I think Lewis and Price, and several younger D-Line folks, will get early playing time. Particularly if our offense is as quick strike as it seems to be, coaches will be looking to keep fresh legs in the trenches. Excited to see Washington and Spence getting after QBs.