First-Year Players Set to Make Impact for Buckeyes

By Kyle Rowland on May 2, 2014 at 8:30a
57 Comments

Dontre Wilson. Mike Mitchell. Vonn Bell. All three names were mentioned last season in any conversation about impact freshmen for Ohio State. Only one – Wilson – played regularly, and his influence was minimal.

Instead, defensive end Joey Bosa grabbed headlines with one of the most successful freshman campaigns ever for a Buckeye defender. It ended with freshman All-American honors. But his performance wasn’t the norm in 2013 for first-year players. In all, 15 members of the 23-man recruiting class redshirted.

Urban Meyer doesn’t want a repeat in 2014. On National Signing Day, he all but nixed the possibility of heavy redshirt numbers.

“If things work out, we’ll redshirt a minimal amount of this class,” Meyer said. “We wanted to play more last year. We’re counting on these guys to go play.”

This season’s class addressed serious needs – linebacker, offensive line, secondary, kicking – which makes it more likely for freshmen to contribute immediately. Raekwon McMillan, the nation’s highest-rated middle linebacker, was the spring’s most-talked about newcomer, and the hype machine should only intensify as the season approaches.

Sam Hubbard, Kyle Berger and Dante Booker round out the quartet of linebackers signed by the Buckeyes to rid them of their nightmares. The class is heavy on athleticism, power and speed.

“The emphasis is on linebacker,” Meyer said. “There are some obvious strengths and weaknesses, but the linebacker position is one that’s going through an overall. Far too many mistakes have been made in either lack of development or [recruiting], and it’s just not where we need to be. 

“There are four linebackers we recruited, four guys I’m putting pressure on, along with Coach Fickell and myself, to get ready for next year. They have to play for us, in addition to the players we have on our roster already. Everybody knows there’s no redshirt plans for those players at all.”

Names such as Johnnie Dixon, Curtis Samuel, Erick Smith and even Sean Nuernberger also will be talked about. 


Raekwon McMillan

He might not start the season opener or a single game in 2014, but Raekwon McMillan solidified his position on the depth chart with a strong showing in spring practice. The possibility of not playing this season is nearly zero percent. A five-tackle performance in the spring game provided a snapshot of the production McMillan can deliver.

At 6-foot-2 and 242 pounds, he already possesses the size and power of a college linebacker. But it might be speed and lateral quickness that separates him from other linebackers on the team. McMillan accumulated outlandish stats his senior season – 159 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, leading to the high school Butkus Award. 

ESPN national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said McMillan is the most physically and mentally ready freshman on the team.

“That’s going to bode well for this defensive unit that sorely needs an upgrade in talent and certainly needs some bodies [at linebacker],” he said. “That’s one that stands out to me without question.”

There’s been no backing away from expectations and pressure for McMillan. He’s embraced everything that comes with college football in a bubble. Columbus, Ohio presents special circumstances for football players. Recognition comes with pitfalls.

So does being anointed without earning credit. From the day McMillan arrived on campus, he’s taken a blue-collar approach, vowing to not be outworked.

“Coach Meyer told me if I come here nothing was going to be given to me,” McMillan said. “I had to compete just like everybody else. Yes, I have a good chance to start, but it’s all going to go to waste if I don’t put in the work right now.”

Johnnie Dixon

Dixon was another early enrollee, and it wasn’t a waste of time for the wide receiver from South Florida. He will enter fall camp on the two-deep roster and be firmly entrenched into the offensive rotation. Dixon displayed big-play ability even with a 5-foot-11 frame.

If there are any drawbacks to his size, he more than makes up for it with speed and sure-hands. Dixon has been clocked at sub-4.4 in the 40. His skills are a nice complement to Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Michael Thomas and other wideouts.   

“I like electric guys that are going to take the football and put it across the endline,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said. “That’s it, I want it in the end zone. I don’t care how big you are. It doesn’t matter, just get it in the end zone. It’s nice to have size, but I like playmakers.”

Said Dixon: “I wanted to be a great receiver and under Coach Meyer and Coach Smith, I can make that happen and they can make that happen. I feel like if I work hard enough, I can hit the field and I can make an impact.” 

Curtis Samuel

Remember all that chatter last summer about defensive players missing tackles because a blur – Wilson – passed them by? Samuel could create the same talk. He’s a smallish running back that, like Wilson and Dixon, relies on his speed to make his presence felt.

Just ask Michael Bennett, Curtis Grant and the like about his ability to be dynamic. No introduction was needed in spring practice, when jukes and long runs were an every-day occurrence. Samuel is part of a deep group running backs, but he’s going to see plenty of playing time.

One of Meyer’s favorite words to describe the Brooklyn native is “electric.”

“The guy that really, really excites me is No. 4, Curtis Samuel,” Meyer said. “We just have to figure out if he’s got enough size and strength to take the pounding running back’s take. He’s legitimate running the ball. Unless there’s something up, he’ll play.”

Samuel uses a skill set Meyer’s coveted since he had Cole Magner at Bowling Green – someone who can run behind the offensive line and catch balls in space, making defenders miss all the way down the field with game-changing speed and elusiveness.

Said Luginbill: “Urban Meyer wants to have guys that can create that Percy Harvin effect, where every time the offense breaks, the defense has to know where everybody is lined up because you’re worried about a mismatch or a disadvantage.”

Erick Smith

It’s difficult to earn significant playing time if you don’t participate in spring practice. Yet, there was Meyer mentioning Erick Smith on multiple occasions. The Glenville product, a safety, plays a position that’s screaming for depth.

The most likely landing spot is in the nickel or dime defense. He’s versatile and plays an aggressive style, which should endear him to Chris Ash and Kerry Coombs. Meyer’s already the adoring coach.

“Erick Smith, he’s a guy I’m really excited to get here,” Meyer said. “He played corner in the all-star game, but we plan on putting him at safety. And, once again, immediately on the depth chart.”

Sean Nuernberger

For 14 practices, it looked and sounded like Sean Nuernberger and senior walk-on Kyle Clinton could take their competition into the fall. But then practice No. 15 took place, with Nuernberger slamming the door shut on any mystery surrounding the place-kicking position.

Nuernberger only missed one kick in the spring game and drilled a 52-yarder, while Clinton missed badly on both long-range attempts. Kickers are some of the most underappreciated members of a football team. Then they miss a critical kick.

57 Comments

Comments

Barnsey69's picture

Play em all! I truly want to see the best players-play philosophy manifest itself on the field this year. Meyer cannot afford to lose good recruits (and future commitments) because some average upperclassman gets reps over an uber-talented frosh.

Go Bucks!

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!

+3 HS
BoFuquel's picture

Wanna bet? GO BUCKS!

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

gumtape's picture

Who thought Bosa would be our best Freshman last year? Not many I recall.

just another psycho, irrational, delusional Ohio St fan

+3 HS
osu07asu10's picture

I'll eat my crow. I certainly thought he would contribute but I made more than a few posts saying he would post similar freshman numbers to Spence and Washington, which would not be something to scoff at.

Damn was I wrong. Bosa is a beast. Above that though, the heart and desire he played with in the Orange Bowl were phenomenal and he really endeared himself to me and I'm sure many in buckeye nation.

 

"They don't know what they don't know." - Coach Mick

+4 HS
cinserious's picture

I wrote an article last Spring stating that Bosa was the perfect out of state recruit. http://www.elevenwarriors.com/blogs/cinserious/joey-bosa-perfect-oos-recruit

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

+4 HS
dubjayfootball90's picture

its gonna be a good couple of years, tater...

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

Waltbuck's picture

I sure hope that Dixon makes a big impact.  Our receivers were not impressive last year.

+3 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

Dixon sounds like a great fit as a return guy...am I wrong? That way, Wilson could be saved to focus exclusively on his role(s) in the offense.

"I can accept failure, but I cannot accept not trying." - W.W. Hayes

+2 HS
GVerrilli92's picture

I want Corey Smith or Mike Thomas returning. 

I miss Teddy Football Ginn Jr. as much as anyone, but the thought of Corey Brown muffing that punt in the Orange Bowl makes me want to punch holes in my wall.

Simply, we need a guy with great hands back there. 

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

+4 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Corey Smith... and Curtis Samuel that could be a chance for him to shine early.... lest we forget; Wilson as well.

+2 HS
GVerrilli92's picture

Is it 100 helmet stickers before you can upvote? 

If so I'm three away from giving you one haha.

But I completely agree that Curtis Samuel needs a try as the return man. Let's see if he has consistent hands, because the videos of his HS returns are nuts. He's got that stride that gets you a little excited when he has space.

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

+12 HS
Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Where do guys like Dame Webb and Marshon Lattimore come into play?  I know we are heavy on young talent in the secondary.  Will these guys see time or are they headed for a RS?

+1 HS
sivaDavis's picture

With only 4 Cornerbacks that I can think of off the top of my head that will play and rotate right now, I'd say they need all the depth they can get. So with that being said, if Lattimore or Webb redshirt, it'll be solely because they weren't good enough yet.

"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

+1 HS
Kyle Rowland's picture

One of them will play some in the secondary and special teams. Both could play special teams. While Meyer is big on having guys get in there right away, he also doesn't want to completely blow a year of eligibility for no reason. I'd say Webb is the more likely of the two to get early playing time. 

chirobuck's picture

I agree100% ill be honest in my opinions...if I had to pick a bust in this class I would pick lattimore, I hope he proves me wrong but on the opposite side of the spectrum I think Webb ends up the best overall player in this class....bar none

 
^ best post ever ^

BiElEmAsDoUbLeChIn's picture

Great write up Kyle...Just looking at the depth should make fans realize why Urban and company are being selective in recruiting this year! So much talent not many positions open...Go get 16 STUDS coach!!

Hovenaut's picture

Nice updates on some of the youngsters who very well could be key contributors the next few years.

A welcome off-season read.

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

Unky Buck's picture

But I thought the sky was falling!!!!

...

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

A gray box will drop sooner than that sky some keep talkin' 'bout.

I could use some crab legs...
 

 

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

+6 HS
osu07asu10's picture

Careful Hove...

 

"They don't know what they don't know." - Coach Mick

+4 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

I keep thinking about it, yes we did lose the top WR and top RB from a record breaking offense...but, we just replaced them with 4 guys who can run sub 4.4 (Samuel, Dixon, Campbell and McLaurin).

yes we lost an all american corner and linebacker....but, we replace them with McMillan and Webb. There might not be much of a dropoff after a year or so.

yes we lost a kicker but we brought in a German howitzer!

yes we lost 4 offensive linemen from the best Oline in the league...but, we brought in 5 guys for the best Oline coach to replace them.

yes we lost Kenny G....but......uh........I like Stephen Collier but its F'in Kenny G!

 

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

+9 HS
Shangheyed's picture

I am with you we have lost a lot of talent, and more so EXPERIENCE... the OLine together or 2-3 yrs, lost of 2 number one draft picks on D-fense, and a second rounder at RB.  Potential is nice but proven experience take it every time... we are lucky to get Lindsay will help in that regard.  Should be interesting off-season seeing who steps up.

 

 

 

 

+1 HS
Tyler Durden's picture

Gotta love the obscure cole manger reference. That guy/BGSU team was awful fun to watch as a youngster. 

+1 HS
Kyle Rowland's picture

He's one of Urban's favorite players ever. We talked about him last year, with Meyer reciting stories about the recruiting process.

Tyler Durden's picture

As he is mine. He was refered to as the Alaskan assassin around BGSU

sharks's picture

Magner almost singlehandedly ruined the 2003 season.  He worked the Buckeyes secondary all day long.  Tressel probably still wakes up in cold sweats thinking of that dude.

The postgame show is brought to you by... Christ, I can't find it. The hell with it...

GVerrilli92's picture

I definitely think Meyer is trying to build Johnny Dixon's confidence this year, even if he doesn't return kicks/punts. 

He was really, blatantly trying to design plays around him during the spring game and forced the ball his way on offense. I'm excited to see more of him and #4 considering how highly UFM has spoken of them.

Ezekiel Elliot and Curtis Samuel in the backfield at the same time with Dontre Wilson/Johnny Dixon in the slot and Mike Thomas/Smith/Spencer at X. 

Are you shitting me. 

And that's still only 1/7362396 different All-B1G receiving combos that we have.

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

+4 HS
Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Around here we refer to him as UFM... Not so much of a fan of UM....

+5 HS
GVerrilli92's picture

Good catch. Fixed it. 

Although I'm open to the idea of calling him that to deny the existence of the other one...

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

cinserious's picture

Plus Braxton's always a threat to run.

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

+1 HS
BroJim's picture

Now we have to develop.

I season my simple food with hunger

+1 HS
buckeyeotaku's picture

Ask Alabama if the kicker position is still  underappreciated to them.

We don't give a damn for the whole state of Bichigan

+5 HS
dvalentine7's picture

I wanna get to the season right now smh 

buckeyedexter's picture

I'm really excited about this year!  We are going to score a lot of points and have a top 10 defense.

-1 HS
cinserious's picture

FantAsztic article! All these guys are shaping up to have great freshmen years at OSU. My pick is Curtis Samuel. He's going to do what Dontre was meant to do last year: get the ball in space, juke the hell out of somebody, and turn on the afterburners. After years of searching, it appears Urban has finally found that coveted 'Cole Magner' position in Samuel. It just might be legit this time.

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

DBell8's picture

Samuel uses a skill set Meyer’s coveted since he had Cole Magner at Bowling Green – someone who can run behind the offensive line and catch balls in space, making defenders miss all the way down the field with game-changing speed and elusiveness.

Love the comparison as a BGSU Falcon fan. Magner was more of a receiver mold from the start but both seem to be extremely shifty and, as mentioned, catch balls in space. Magner had some of the best hands I've ever seen while catching passes from Josh Harris! 

+1 HS
ChazBuckeye's picture

This article gave me that warm fuzzy feeling in the cockles of my heart.  It's that those feelings we get in the bottom of our hearts.  May be it's in the sub-cockle area,...we just don't know;-)

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.

+2 HS
Hovenaut's picture

I wore that CD out on some road trips past...with whale skin hubcaps and all leather cow interior.

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

+1 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

With the talent we have on the defensive line, IF the LBs can do what is expected of them, I wonder if our defensive coaching staff would experiment with a 3-4 defense and a 3-3-5 for some passing downs.  I mean, our D-line can get to the QB and will require some double-teams just to slow them down.  With the speed at the LB position and the pleasant surprises from them at the Spring Game, and the talent we have at corner, I mean, why not tinker with the idea?

 

I wouldn't go exclusively 3-4 - no way - but to be able to add more wrinkles to the defense makes it tough for an offense to counter.  Just saying...

 

Marc Pocock (a.k.a NuttyBuckeye)

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

-1 HS
gumtape's picture

It would be tough since we don't have a 350lb Gilbert Brown type to clog up the middle. They occasionally will drop spence into coverage and have him cover in a zone-blitz thing since he is the most athletic D- Lineman that we have, the year before they use Nathan Williams in a similar role.

When your D-line is your deepest position by far, why would you take one off the field for a not as good linebacker?

just another psycho, irrational, delusional Ohio St fan

+1 HS
Rjpfish2's picture

Chris Carter Jr. = 342lbs

IGotAWoody's picture

You nailed it, Gum, I was thinking the same thing. Which D linemen would you take off the field? Tho, I'm sure there could be some situations where it might work to throw a 3-4 look out there, I don't see it being advantageous when you look at the 4 studs that will be starting and the 6 other talented guys in the rotation.

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

+1 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

Hey Gum, this idea is predicated on IF the LBs can be where UFM, Ash, and Fick want them to be.  I totally agree with the scheme from last year where we had an athletic DE drop into coverage.  If we were to employ a 3-4, I would still expect to see an aggressive style, blitz a LB or two, and drop a DE into coverage.

I miss the days of Pug and Heacock, where we blitzed on damn-near every down.

Marc Pocock (a.k.a NuttyBuckeye)

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

SnooBucki's picture

I don't know about anyone else but I am anxious to see what Jalin Marshall is going to do. I thought he was going to be a beast in this offense and there hasn't been any talk about him like he's the forgotten man.

+3 HS
THEOSUfan's picture

It's always exciting to see all the new toys Urban Meyer and Tom Herman have to play with.  The anticipation was great last year, but the actual reality was "meh".  So I have to take a wait and see approach as to whether we will see many or any of these guys used.  I don't mind waiting to see them for a year if it's because they have better players in front of them.

I wanted to see Vonn Bell on the field around the time Cal scorched our secondary.  I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  He finally got to play a lot in the bowl game, and we discovered that he can make plays.  Could he have made plays in Sept through Nov?  Maybe not, but I suspect he could have.  Why he was not used earlier in that season has to be one of the deep mysteries of the universe.

+2 HS
ibuck's picture

IF the ___s can do what is expected of them...

Aye, that's the rub. Expectations are sometimes out of line with reality, and "can't miss" guys sometimes do when they start playing against guys who are way more talented than the ones faced in high school.

Many of us were expecting hoping that Braxton would be passing like Pryor did by now. Maybe in 2014 he will see the open—or about to be open—receivers, deliver a catchable ball...and the receivers will hang on.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

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

buckeye4life050233's picture

Thing wasn't him not seeing them open.  I'm sure through film study he could see where to look and was seeing open guys he just doesn't have the intermediate touch throw to go over a player and drop it in before the safety or corner can react.  He throws bullet passes all the time and then the occasional deep bomb when teams overload close to the line of scrimmage

chirobuck's picture

The about to be open receiver is the key there....if Braxton can figure out how anticipate a guy running into the hole in a zone or throw before a guy makes his cut he will be a whole lot better qb

 
^ best post ever ^

johnny11's picture

I would love to see Lattimore get on the field. So much athleticism with that kid. I have to believe if he gets stuck on the depth chart at corner they can switch him to offense and get some use out of him there. I thought that is where he had more potential anyways. Kick returner would be good for him too.

OSU_1992_UFM's picture

I'm saying Bell,Lee for the D

Give me Mike Thomas and Curtis Samuel

Bell is just too good not to have a great season, as shown in the Orange Bowl. Lee just has the perfect frame IMO for an OLB, high football IQ will allow him to play much faster...not to mention the beast D line thats going to harass every O lineman.

As far as Thomas and Samuel go, Thomas has the athletic ability to start anywhere, but what sets him apart for me is his attitude. Some people view it as arrogance or ego centric...but I want my receivers to fully believe they'll beat that corner every damn time. Samuel I think is going to get his dues with sweeps and screens (take some pressure off of Braxton) also the return game. Samuel is just stupid good with kickoff return, looks like a bigger, stronger Wilson

UFM_Renewal

Urban Nation Army's picture

While Bell and Thomas will hopefully break out this year, they are not first year players which this article is discussing.

Bet you can't say "Bert Bielma is a bumbling buffoon" five times fast.

OSU_1992_UFM's picture

Didn't Thomas and Bell both get redshirts? I know Thomas isn't a first year technically, but this would be his first "eligible" year

UFM_Renewal

sivaDavis's picture

2012 was his first "eligible" year. Then this past year he redshirted. He's a redshirt Sophomore.

"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

Urban Nation Army's picture

Thomas did, Bell did not.

Bet you can't say "Bert Bielma is a bumbling buffoon" five times fast.

woodcocklives@osu's picture

A monumental circle jerk of fanboy recruiting nerds.....ugh.

-6 HS
jpbuckeye's picture

Just waiting until I can down vote silly posts like this that add nothing (but something to argue about).

+1 HS
cw823's picture

Pretty sure the linebacker group needed an overhaul, not an overall.

-2 HS