Ohio State Football: Looking for Leaders in 2014

By Jeff Beck on January 13, 2014 at 1:00p
Spence Leader

Defense wins championships. That’s how the saying goes. But it’s deeper than that. Leadership wins championships. Without leaders a team can have talent for days but no one to focus that ability. In any year Ohio State has seen success, one can quickly recall the leaders on the field that made it all possible. In 2012 it was John Simon, Zach Boren and Nathan Williams. 

In 2013 things become a little less transparent. Who were the leaders? Who were those players keeping everyone centered? I don’t doubt they existed to some extent in the locker-room, but at times it didn’t manifest itself on the field. To be clear, players like Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, Christian Bryant and Ryan Shazier played admirable roles on the 2013 team, but were they the individuals everyone looked to when the going got tough? I suppose only the players can answer that, but I guess that’s my point. In 2012 you could see it happening on the field. Did you see it happening this past season?

2014 will have to be different. Particularly because there’s a youth movement on both sides of the ball. Gone is the entire senior offensive line and the defense will likely feature 4-5 underclassmen starters. These players are talented and will perform, but they’re also green. Who will these young pups look to on the road at East Lansing, or in Happy Valley? Here are the players I feel need to step up and play that role in 2014.

Braxton Miller

This just makes sense. He’s the senior QB. He’s been in the system for 4 years, he’s seen just about everything there is to see in college football, from terrible seasons, to undefeated seasons to verge of National Championship seasons. The only problem? Braxton needs to become more vocal. Last offseason reports indicated Miller was doing exactly that, even going so far as to get in the face of Noah Spence during an April practice.

I’m not saying yelling at a teammate is leadership, but it’s a step in the right direction for Miller. Whether he wants the role or not, the offense will be his in 2014. There wont be a Carlos Hyde in the backfield with him come August, so Braxton needs to be the leader players look to in crunch time. I believe he has it in him. Hopefully he does too.

Devin Smith

With the departure of Philly Brown, the WR corps will be thirsty for a steadying hand. Smith could play that role quite nicely (we already know he’s got a great set of hands). The confident Michael Thomas coupled with a sterling group of playmakers from the 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes should have loads of talent, but someone will need to keep them focused and guide them both on and off the field.

D-Smith we need yaThe young Buckeyes will need you in 2014 Devin.

Much like Miller, Smith has been there, he’s made big plays, and he’s kept himself out of trouble off the field. Smith can and should impart that wisdom on a young group of impressionable playmakers.

Noah Spence

Given the nature of his suspension to start the 2014 season, some might cringe at Spence’s inclusion on this list. I’m not one of them. It’s hard to believe Noah will be an upperclassmen next season, but he’ll be a junior in 2014. Spence led the team with 8.5 sacks, and ranked second on the squad in tackles for loss with 14.5. He’s got a motor that doesn’t quit and has clearly done all of the work on the fundamentals side of the ball to emerge as one of the biggest headaches in the conference for opposing offensive linemen.

His suspension remains unresolved as reports state his family will sue the B1G. If that route does not bear any fruit, Spence will have to sit out for the first two games of the 2014 season. If it does occur, Spence should position the experience as a teachable moment for his teammates while filling the position of sideline leader; much like Christian Bryant did for most of the 2013 campaign.

Suspension or not, the kind of production Spence has generated earns you respect in the locker room. What Noah does with that respect is up to him.

Curtis Grant

Grant will almost NEED to step up and be a leader in 2014. Gone is All-Everything LB Ryan Shazier. Replacing him will undoubtedly be an underclassmen. When Grant looks around the meeting room next year, he’ll realize he and Josh Perry are the only veterans with in-game experience at the table. Young talent like Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell are in the system and more help is on the way in the form of 5-star Raekwon McMillan, and 4-stars Dante Booker and Kyle Berger, but they’ll need an upperclassmen presence to act as a beacon. We’re looking at you Curtis.

Doran Grant

Last but certainly not least is Doran Grant. It’s no secret the Buckeye backfield was the most maligned unit in 2013, and they’re only getting younger next season. With the departure of Bradley Roby, C.J. Barnett, Christian Bryant and Corey Brown, there will only be one other upperclassmen with starting experience on the squad (Armani Reeves).

The picture isn’t as bleak as it initially sounds. Young players like Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell saw meaningful snaps in 2013, but much like the LB corps, there will be a ton of new blood in the meeting room. I believe Grant will have to assert himself as a leader next season if the backfield hopes to get better in 2014.

Leaders define a team. They’re the coaches on the field when it’s all going down. If the 2014 team is to find success, it will be due to on and off-the-field leadership. The players listed above are primed and positioned to become the next great Buckeye leaders. Will they answer the bell? That’s up to them.


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Hoody Wayes's picture


Killer nuts's picture

I might add Michael Bennet

d1145fresh's picture

I think Braxton will take a giant leap forward this year. As much as I love Kenny G (and I really do) I think everyone heaping a ton of praise on the backup can hurt the starter some. It often makes them press and try to do too much. This is something I saw with Braxton a lot IMO. Hopefully the offense continues to move forward and the defense can make some more plays.

Barnsey69's picture

Braxton is the key, team has to rally behind him and he has to back it up on the field again. It will be helpful if the defense gives him more opportunities as well...thought i would go out on a limb with that one.

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

t-hane's picture

Braxton is the Key obviously but the coaches need to do a better job of helping him succeed.  I know the offense set records this year but it seems that the last 3-4 games it was run/quickscreen, run, throw the ball deep. We definitely need to work on our intermediate passing game

CC's picture

I could see Joey Bosa becoming a leader this year.  I've played on teams through college where a young guy dominates.  When he walks in the locker room in year 2 people look at him differently.  I guarantee that will happen with Bosa, where he takes it is up to him.

carence's picture

Joey Bosa was my pick as will. For the simple fact that after the Clemson game he tweeted that he was sorry and he really tried. We all knew he tried because he came back out and made plays. That's heart and that is a leadership quality.

osu07asu10's picture

Couldn't agree more. I think he can and will be more vocal. His performance against Clemson was one for the ages though.  I can't imagine there isn't a guy in that locker room who doesn't look at Bosa as a leader right now.

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Nutinpa's picture

I agree.  Bosa was one of the few (maybe only) players on the Defense against Clemson who played all four quarters.  He played dinged up...which is more than can be said for some people. You listening, B Roby?  Even Shazier mailed in the first half.  I see Bosa being a leader. 
Curtis Grant and Josh Perry can only be leaders if they deserve to be on the field and make some plays.  Then they will have earned some credibility. Doran Grant will have to be taught to turn around and look for the ball when he is defending long passes.  Then he can lead. 

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Love that picture of Spence and Shazier.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

osu07asu10's picture

I actually didn't see anyone on that list who I think is going to be a leader for the buckeyes next season.
I understand the want to put your senior signal caller as a leader but I think after 3 seasons we've seen the leadership of Braxton. Braxton isn't going to be an emotional ("rah-rah") leader and he isn't the guy to grab a teammate by the fask mask and yell at him. Braxton leads by example with his tough play on the field but I wouldn't expect an expanded leadership role from him next season.
The two names that come to mind for me are:
- Tyvis Powell: Going to be a RS Sophomore who committed to Luke Fickell during the darkest of times for the program. He has already demonstrated his leadership ability, penning letters to buckeye nation and always representing the university to his best ability. Look for him to expand on his already strong leadership ability.
- Jeff Heuerman: Also another guy who committed to Tressel, stayed on with Fickell, and has generally seen the darkest days at tOSU. Urban loves Heuerman and Vannett and with 4 new faces on the o-line, we're going to need some big time play from the TEs. Heuerman has always represented himself well and is going to bring some much needed senior leadership to the offense.
EDIT: Like the posters above me, Joey Bosa will definitely lead next season. How can you not follow someone to the gates of hell when they put everything they have on the line risking further injury to give their all for their team.  

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

PittBuckeye's picture

I'm just under whelmed by Grant, I think there's somebody who's going to step up and make it hard for him to keep his spot. Just so much talent at the lb that someone must be a star waiting to shine, and I don't think Grant has that ceiling.

stcburn's picture

Definitely Braxton has to be the man, he's got to make the offense gel, along with Taylor Decker. Defensively it's got be some young guys step up, not sure if any of the upper classmen will contribute that much. The winning streak is over nothing to worry about there, get the young talent in there and get them mature. Maybe Perry and most assuredly Bosa, what an animal.

HSBDAWG's picture

Not just Decker but what Elflein showed when he stepped in for Hall those to games I think the line will lock in be for the rest does.

Buckeyeflip's picture

I could see Boren step up and be a leader if he wins the starting center. He's cut from the same cloth his brothers are from. I can see a huge year for the Buckeyes if he and others step up and be Leaders!!!

DeepSouthBuckeye's picture

Tyvis Powell has to step up. He plays safety, which puts him in the middle of the field on most snaps. Just due to positioning, he has to become a vocal leader on the field, even more so than Doran.

Loving all things Buckeye from SEC country in Alabama.

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otrain2416's picture

Add Doran Grant to that list. I think he'll have a big year next year

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

d5k's picture

Since he's the only returning starter and probably moves to the lynchpin position on the left side I would hope Taylor Decker shows some leadership of a young and vital unit.  And agree with the mention of Michael Bennett in the comments.  I think he already has been a leader on the defense.

BuckeyeLuv's picture

I think that KWON will surprise many and become the leader of the defense!

Always BuckeyeLuv!

sivaDavis's picture

His Soph or JR year? I agree 100%. Not this year. He is going to come in and learn and study and learn and study. Kind of hard to be a leader as a freshman. Especially with a Senior in front of you at your position.

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes

BuckeyeLuv's picture

I hear u Siva....it's just my surprise pick!  Gotta feeling he absorbs the system and Grant won't stay healthy.  I hope Grant does stay healthy, but he has been getting injured quite a bit.  Also, I think that Urban won't let the defensive coaches harness Kwon like they did Vonn.  We will see!  

Always BuckeyeLuv!

Run_Fido_Run's picture

A few others not mentioned above: Michael Bennett, Tommy Schutt, and Joel Hale.

Nutinpa's picture

Fine.  But those guys have to dominate the D line and eat up blockers to deserve kudos. 
Not a single one of those guys earns a double-team.  They're not leaders yet.  Not even in the dictionary.  C'mon folks...we'er reaching here.

Buckeye5000's picture

Michael Bennett did show some leadership skills this past season (not my words but Coach Meyers and his teammates words). He needs to be even better next year, but he has the potential to be one of the leaders on defense next year. His injury issues have set him back the last 2 years but if he can stay healthy, he could assume a leadership roll next year.

2014 Undisputed National Champions!

kcbrez's picture

I agree with those who mention Michael Bennett and Joel Hale. Also, the defense will depend heavily on Meyer recruits next season. That time has come sooner than expected.

TheNorthernBuckeye's picture

Outside of Braxton being the obvious one for me I would like to the team as a whole take more responsibility for themselves and their play/actions. Would also like to see some growth out of Fickell as well.  

Stay the course 

OSUFlash's picture

Mike Mitchell, Trey Johnson and McMillian need to seize this opportunity and step into the starting line up and leadership role during spring ball.


Buckeye5000's picture

That's asking an awful lot from young players who have either barely played or have not played at all (McMillian just enrolled in school), for them to assume leadership roles. 

2014 Undisputed National Champions!

Crumb's picture

Miller and Smith are my obvious picks. But I'd like to see Decker, Boren, and Elflein lead as a unit the way our O-line did in 2013. Defense, I see Michael Bennett could be a captain and Vonn Bell and Joey Bosa could be leaders if they seize the chance.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

2002osubuck's picture

I think Mike Thomas is going to step up and be a very vocal leader. He's going to push the other WRs and make everyone better.  Hes also a big target for miller at 6'3" and that's something we need at WR.

Balkestud's picture

I have noticed that there are quite a few people on these boards that are big Josh Perry fans. I don't want to come off as a jerk, but I just don't see it. His instincts and reading of the game need ALOT of improvement if he is to contribute from here on out. All year I've watched him totally sell out on play action thus leaving his short outside zone exposed. In my opinion he was as culpable as anyone for Clemson's screen game success. Maybe if they put him in the middle on run downs where he doesn't have as many coverage responsibilities, that would help. Unfortunately for him Kwon is coming in and with his instincts being one of his best attributes I don't see it happening. I think he should concentrate on becoming a special teams missile to be feared by our opponents...sorry off topic

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another-navy-buckeye's picture

I absolutely agree with the sentiment of Bosa being a leader next year.  Leadership does not always have to be with the most senior person; often times if that leadership hasn't shown through before hand, rarely will it later on.  Of course we can all hope that our upper classmen step up and take that leadership role.  Oftentimes in the absence of leadership, a leader will be made...  I think it takes excelling in all aspects of the game; making the big play yet being solid the rest of the time is important.  As was said by OSU07 earlier, Bosa led by being on the field even when he was injured, who would've blamed him for sitting it out. In my opinion it could be any one of these freshman or redshirts that step up to be the leaders our team, and I'm good with that.


ibuck's picture

Are your loyalties going to be divided at OSU's next game: vs Navy in Baltimore?

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

Urban Ohio's picture

I hope we're looking to yit can those Riverly Uniforms.  How about wearing the Pro Combat '61 replica once a year. Now there is one bad ass helmet.

Newcomerstown Trojans between Woody and Beaver.

JacksonHoleBuckeye's picture

Crazy to think that arguably one of the best leaders on this '13 squad wasn't even a starter in Kenny G.