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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.