Redshirts from Last Season Hope to Become Factors This Fall

By Chris Lauderback on May 2, 2014 at 1:00p
2013 redshirts Eli Apple and Michael Thomas look to contribute this fall
41 Comments

For all of Urban Meyer's bluster damning the practice of redshirting players, it has been a fairly common practice thus far in Columbus. 

Last year's freshman class saw names like Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Dontre Wilson and Vonn Bell earn playing time, among others, but more than half the class took redshirts. Notably, even a few second-year players in Michael Thomas and Bri'onte Dunn were redshirted giving the Buckeyes a host of players who sat out last year that could be primed to be solid contributors this fall. 

Along with the pair of redshirt sophomores in Dunn and Thomas, redshirt freshmen vying for time include Eli Apple, James Clark, Gareon Conley, Darron Lee, Tyquan Lewis, Jalin Marshall, Billy Price, Corey Smith and Chris Worley. 

The question remains, which of these players will take advantage of an extra year of seasoning and make a name for themselves in 2014? Here's a sampling of the most likely candidates: 

BRI'ONTE DUNN

Though Ezekiel Elliott looks to be the odds on favorite as the starting tailback, Bri'onte Dunn could very likely be the guy with the third-most carries on the team behind Elliott and Braxton Miller. 

Dunn played in 11 games as a true freshman in 2012, averaging 5.3 yards per tote with two touchdowns on only 25 carrries but rode the pine last year as Carlos Hyde stole the show. 

Having responded to Stan Drayton's challenge to get stronger and gain better command of the offense, Dunn could have the edge on Curtis Samuel, Rod Smith and Warren Ball in Ohio State's crowded backfield. Yes, Samuel is all the rage but as Dontre Wilson showed us last year, it's tough to live up to the hype over the course of a long season. 

I've been on Dunn's bandwagon all along and fully expect him to deliver this season especially later in the regular season when running the ball between the tackles becomes more of a necessity in declining weather. 

MICHAEL THOMAS

The annual spring game sensation, Michael Thomas, could finally be ready to breakout in what is now his third year in the program. 

After blowing up with 12 catches for 131 yards in the 2012 spring game, Thomas registered just three catches that fall for a meager 22 yards. In last year's spring game, Thomas caught seven balls for 79 yards but Meyer was all about Chris Fields complementing Philly Brown and Devin Smith afterward. The comments served as a bit of foreshadowing as Thomas never saw the field during the regular season. 

Frustrated by it all, Thomas took to twitter after the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, clowning on Ohio State's sad passing attack down the stretch. 

Finally serious about preparation, Thomas has an opportunity to force himself into the rotation. Smith and Dontre Wilson figure to be Braxton's main targets but Thomas could find himself as the third or fourth leading pass catcher among wideouts which should mean no less than 20 grabs this fall. 

darron lee

Redshirt freshman Darron Lee has seemingly come out of nowhere, emerging in late November and the subsequent bowl practices as a guy on the move to being touted by Urban Meyer as his starting walkout linebacker following spring drills. 

The newly defined linebacker spot complements the Mike and Will positions currently held down by Curtis Grant and Josh Perry. 

Lee's combo of size (6'2", 225) and speed (4.5 40) combined with a high football IQ has Meyer and company excited about his ability to both tackle in space and cover slot receivers. 

The New Albany product by way of Chattanooga still has plenty to prove but you have to love the chatter coming out of the Woody about Lee's prospects as a legit contributor this season. 

ELI APPLE

I've been on Eli's bandwagon ever since last year's spring game. The kid showed great poise in response to on-field mistakes and by all accounts, he's a class act off the field. 

Though his efforts as true freshman last year weren't enough to yield playing time, Apple is in the mix this season at corner though it appears Armani Reeves is most likely the starter opposite Doran Grant. That said, I see no reason why Apple won't gradually see snaps and eventually take over as the starter. 

Apple starred during the student appreciation day scrimmage and I love his 6'1", 195 lb. frame as a cover corner. 

Gareon Conley is also in the mix so this pick might be a bit of a reach but I still see Apple emerging into a star before his time in Columbus is done. 

CHRIS WORLEY

He might be behind Lee on the depth chart at walkout linebacker but Chris Worley, one of many Glenville kids to suit up for the Buckeyes, has ideal size (6'2", 218) for a position responsible for defending the pass as much as the run. 

Though the special teams guys haven't been fully vetted, it's a solid bet Worley will be a guy Meyer leans on to cause havoc on kick returns thanks to his combo of size and speed. It feels like it's been awhile since the Buckeyes had a stone cold killer on kick coverage (remember young Brian Rolle?) and Worley might be ready to fill the void. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Jalin Marshall could never catch up last year following a concussion in fall camp, forcing a redshirt. This spring, Marshall appeared to be coming on before a knee injury required surgery. Marshall will be 100% when the pads start popping in August so he could still make a name for himself come fall but considering he injuries and the depth in the slot, seeing will be believing. 

Others redshirts looking to seize snaps include wideouts James Clark and Corey Smith, defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis , corner Gareon Conley and center Billy Price. 

41 Comments

Comments

BucksFan2000's picture

Probably rooting for Apple and Marshall the most, but everyone listed is a potential play-maker.  Can't wait for this season to get here.  Summer is apparently never going to start so we might as well skip ahead to fall anyway.

+2 HS
BGSUBucksFan's picture

This waiting game is torture.  It's not like NCAA Football (R.I.P.) where you get to watch your new toys become NFL prospects over a couple of weeks (full season).

+2 HS
Hovenaut's picture

Fine with any one (or all) of them busting through, have a feeling Apple and Thomas could make their respective post black stripe and spring game splashes come fall.
 

"Success...it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

+1 HS
BoFuquel's picture

Good luck to all, we will need everyone to contribute if we wuz to be chuggin' Dr. Pepper at Jerry World. Nothing else matters. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

+1 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

Tyquan Lewis will become a beast on a stacked DL. I think he works his way into significant playing time and it won't take long.

+4 HS
osu407's picture

I love that this list could have been twice as long without any listed being overly unlikely to break out.

+1 HS
osubuck57's picture

Love the list but I would also add Jeff Greene into the mix at WR. Agree about Tyquan Lewis as well.

SCOTTC.

+3 HS
avail31678's picture

Very excited about Greene, but technically the title implies (says) "redshirts" last year that might now make an impact this year.  As a transfer, I don't think Greene qualifies.

+1 HS
jaxbuckeye's picture

I understand the logic behind Dunn having an edge on Wilson and Samuel, but not Rod Smith.  How exactly do you figure other than the fact that Rod hasn't gotten much playing time (but either has Dunn)?

d5k's picture

Rod missed the spring and coaches liked Dunn this spring.

+1 HS
jaxbuckeye's picture

Forgot about that. But with Rod being a senior I would them equal. Obviously urban can view it quite differently. Good call out though. 

tdible2132's picture

I'm still a hopeful that Corey Smith will breakout and become the go to receiver we've been coveting for the past few years

chirobuck's picture

That would be great but even if its not him there are just too many talented young guys... someone is going to emerge, I think its gonna be Dixon and Wilson that emerge by the end of the year but any number of guys could step up

 
^ best post ever ^

d5k's picture

Several of these guys are in intense competition for playing time.  Hopefully the cream rises.

+1 HS
sivaDavis's picture

Sometimes I'm in awe of how many playmakers we have on this young team. The defensive line might be the best I've seen at Ohio State in many years. The depth is insane. Tyquan is my pick to bust out this year when he rotates in. 
 

I'm looking forward to seeing if Devin Smith gets that push to become more than just a fly route ball catcher. With Corey Smith, Johnnie Dixon, Dontre, Jalin Marshall, Mike Thomas and the rest of the crew vying for some PT, it's gonna be tough to keep them all off the field, I don't wanna see Devin get lost in the fold. Same with Spencer. Fall camp will be huge for our wideouts. Think of a rotation of Mike Thomas, Devin Smith, Dontre Wilson, Corey Smith, Evan Spencer, Johnnie Dixon, Jeff Greene, James Clark... I remember two years ago I was afraid for our team to throw the ball. Now all I wanna do is see Braxton swing it around to everyone.

"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

+2 HS
BuckeyeJ's picture

Plus one for u. Hope they all get touches! No more one trick ponys

GVerrilli92's picture

There's kind of a weird aligning of the stars going on, and I may have my scarlet shades on. But this is a playoff team.

We legitimately run 10 deep on the DL, the rest of the B1G is gonna be real pissed. I expect Mungar, Lewis, and Frazier to contribute behind the 6 or 7 we already know about.

The offense can be whatever it wants to be, and I hope that lack of identity doesn't hurt us moving forward. We need to establish a rotation quickly because we can't have 4 RBs and 3 HBs and 6 WRs all getting touches. Not one would establish rhythm. If MSU taught us anything last year, it's that there's no need to get fancy when pounding the rock is getting it done. And that's why I hope one of Ball, Dunn and Smith will break out as the battering ram. My bet is that it's Rod. Even though he won't get that many touches with Zeek being the proven starter and Curtis Samuel being the new project.

We finally have Ohio State depth again. 

And it feels fantastic.

How many cheeseburgers are you gunna drive into that dirty old cheeseburger locker Brady Hoke?

BroJim's picture

Every one is comparing Samuel's hype to Dontre's hype and I dont think that is the case. While Samuel has gained some praise (Rightfuly so) I dont think you will hear Meyer at Big Ten media day saying, "cool it with the Samuel talk"

I season my simple food with hunger

+2 HS
BrooklynBuckeye's picture

I think Samuel being at OSU for spring ball will make a big difference. Hopefully be can block too. Those two things are what really limited Dontre last year.

+1 HS
cinserious's picture

I love Dontre but he was all speed and not much jukes. I expect that to change as he said he will get back to 'doing Dontre'. Curtis Samuel however, showed us in the spring game he can juke the shit outta people and still turn on the afterburners.

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

+1 HS
Nutinpa's picture

We need for these kids to step up.....the team to run the table......and get all the free crab legs we can steal and eat!!!!

 

 

+1 HS
ChristopherBarnhouse's picture

Hopefully some of the highly touted corners will step up. I'm no fan of Armani Reeves - watching him get beat for a long TD by an Iowa TE ( a TE!! ) was pretty bad. He always seems to be chasing guys and never catching up. Guess I'm spoiled by Roby's closing speed. It worries me he seems to be the first stringer.

+2 HS
chirobuck's picture

You can't argue that there have been red flags but a couple things to keep in mind first who knows how much of that's the miscommunication between corners and safeties and just general lack of secondary game planning and second.....he was a true sophomore last season, I dont think its unreasonable to think he could get better and develop

 
^ best post ever ^

+2 HS
Crimson's picture

Ross et. al. have documented a play where (other players signal that) Reeves played man when it was a zone call, giving up a touchdown.  It's things like that, among others, that make people think Reeves is not the best alternative.  I was big on Burrows, so hopefully he gets some time at safety/nickel in the future.

ChristopherBarnhouse's picture

Yea, the entire secondary was a big disappointment last season for a variety of reasons. My biggest concern with Reeves is his speed, he just doesn't seem to have that extra gear. Once a receiver gets behind him, it's over. Always chasing, never catching.

+1 HS
BuckeyeJ's picture

IMO doran grant was turrible! 

-1 HS
sivaDavis's picture

Doran Grant was better than Roby at times. 

"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

+2 HS
jonping67's picture

You can bet your ass we will see the best players on the defensive side of the ball this year. Last years defensive schemes were to complex for a freshman to grasp in a short period of time. However, it appears Ash is simplifying the back 7's schemes, so talent should override experience.

Is fall here yet???  GO BUCKS!
 

+1 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

Good stuff, as always, Chris.

Fair warning, though: when you highlight five of the redshirts and simply list five others under the "but don't forget about" category, you're pretty much begging for a few of the "other guys" to make bigger impacts than the highlighted guys. It's Murphy's Law.

chemicalwaste's picture

That's a good thing. Says a lot about the talent available on this team.

countrybuckeye's picture

Will all of the receivers work with Braxton and Cardale and JT this summer?  If so, then a healthy competition showing superb route-running and catching technique on camcorder-recorded self practices would be great.  And if the cover corners could work with them, to practice their skills, --- well, that would be just plain super.  ;-)

Summer time is sharpen time.

GO Bucks!

+1 HS
Tampabuckeye85's picture

I am excited about them all but honestly I am rooting for Jalin the most. I was born and raised in Middletown and even though I went to high school in Florida, I am still a Middie at heart. I have been watching his film and games since his freshman year and he really is a play maker and I feel he can do some damage at WR if he can just get things healed up. I think since him and Brax played against each other that they could really get a bond going quickly if both are healthy.

-1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

With the recuits buckeyes have landed there should be a lot of potential, let's see who steps up.

cinserious's picture

At this point I could care less if a guy like Rod Smith, Mike Thomas, or Warren Ball, or Curtis Grant ever see the field again. Not to hate on them but either put up during the season or basically become a walk-on at best. If you're hitting on all cylinders from preparation to practice to in-game to knowledge of the schemes, you play! You play alot! The so-called talent we keep hearing about being wasted, I'm done hearing that roll call.

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

chemicalwaste's picture

While I understandwhere you're coming from I disagree with it entirely. Completeky giving up on anybody does no good for anyone. Take Philly Brown for instance. He might not have been on the all tine receivers liat, but a solid performer save for one punt return, and was one of those people that could have been left to fall through the cracks. (You dont have to hear it if you dont want to. There's plenty of porn on the Internet too. Isnt that all its for: football and porn? Kidding. No sarcasm font on mobile.)

+1 HS
cinserious's picture

Philly definitely made it and I'm glad he did. He made it because he bought in, worked hard, and played to the best of his talents. Had he not done that, another (possibly younger) player would have stepped in and done the same. The good thing about OSU is the high level of talent recruited here. Another thing is the competition level is high and the best players produce/ best producers play.

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

chemicalwaste's picture

Possibly, or a bad attitude could become contagious and just trash the entire program. It's happened at places I've worked where someone is disgruntled for not being recognized for what they do, they say, "screw it, I'm not doing it (whatever "it"may be) any more" and the next guy gets in line and says, "if he's not, I'm not," and so on until nobody would recommend anybody even try to get a job there because it supposedly just sucks to be there.

PS: I didn't down vote you. Obviously you were just stating you're opinion. I'm not opposed to that. I evened it out.

cinserious's picture

Speaking of work, its a sad realization that so much of the workforce nowadays looks down on and chastises workers who actually work hard go above and beyond what is necessary to get the job done promptly and efficiently (which helps both the company and ALL the individuals). The average lowlife gets pissy about it because they think it makes them look like slackers. HELLO! if you don't pull our own weight, you ARE a slacker! I understand the school-age mentality that attacks the kiss-ups/suck-ups/ teacher's-pets/brown-nosers (I was an attacker), but when your in your 20's/30's you should begin to take pride in your actual job. If not, don't expect everyone else to stoop to your level. It's no wonder China is kicking our asses in industry and education these days.

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

+2 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

I think this needs a couple more upvotes.

hetuck's picture

Billy Price at guard. In his one moment in the spotlight, the circle drill before the spring game, he won against Michael Bennett. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

+1 HS
Eph97's picture

I'd like to see our Mensa offensive coordinator actually use all these toys at his disposal instead of having Braxton just scramble after a play breaks down. The offensive play calling was very vanilla and it failed against the best defense it faced last year.

+2 HS