2014 Season Preview: Projecting Freshmen Impact

By John Brandon on August 13, 2014 at 3:30p
Expect freshman Curtis Samuel to see the field early and often.
67 Comments
Eleven Warriors' 2014 Ohio State Football Season Preview

At a school like Ohio State, it's rare for freshmen to play right away, let alone make make an impact on the football field. Even Heisman winners Troy Smith and Eddie George did little to nothing in their first year at Ohio State.

As recruiting coverage has grown, though, so have the expectations for freshmen to immediately be playmakers. This past offseason, a friend asked me if I thought Gareon Conley was a bust after taking a redshirt in his first season at Ohio State. I pointed out that almost the entire 2013 recruiting class was redshirted and to call him a bust so early in his career was unfair. I don't know if Conley will be a playmaker, but after watching Conley at practice this spring I think he'll be a real contributor.

For every Maurice Clarett, dozens of players labor on the scout team and special teams before seeing real action. Even so, in a culture fascinated by "who's next" speculation, it's fun to guess who the next freshman phenom will be.

The recruiting services give us a good idea of who should be good at some point, but as fall camp kicks into gear we grasp at tidbits that could point to the next breakout guy. So, what exactly should we expect from one of the most highly-touted recruiting classes in recent Buckeye history?

The early-enrollees

The players best-equipped to see the field this fall are those who enrolled at Ohio State the earliest. With spring ball and most of an off-season under their belts, these players have bulked up, studied the playbook and acclimated to life on campus. This year's group of early-enrollees arguably includes the class's most highly-touted prospects.

Raekwon McMillan and Curtis Samuel were headliners of the 2014 class, and they were the first two to lose their black stripes. These two are the obvious choices to make an instant impact; both had great springs and play at positions with questionable depth. I expect both to start the season in the two-deep and see major time in non-conference games, maybe earning starting roles at some point this year.

Johnnie Dixon and Sean Nuernberger are the other obvious impact players in this group. Dixon showed that he was prepared for the physicality of college football this spring, and like Samuel he joins a group of largely unproven backup receivers. Dixon has a strong shot at making the two-deep and earning snaps early in the season. Likewise, Nuernberger showed off a strong leg in the spring game. He's the only scholarship kicker, and likely to start from day one.

The two offensive linemen who enrolled early, Kyle Trout and Marcelys Jones have both been praised by Ed Warinner at different times this off-season. They have a shot at the two-deep, but it's hard to see either of them playing a significant amount of time this year.

Last is Stephen Collier, the lone quarterback in the class. Collier may be very good down the road, but he won't see the field this year. He will almost certainly redshirt.

Other likely impact players

While it's much harder for summer enrollees to get playing time, a few of these guys have a shot. Dante Booker enters a position with almost no proven depth and is a big, fast athlete who could at least be an impact special teams player. I would expect something like Trey Johnson's freshman season last year.

Sam Hubbard is someone else who could get on the field. Hubbs has been working at tight end and linebacker this summer as the staff tries to determine the best position for him. He probably won't see time at either position this season, but he's too good as an athlete to be left off the field entirely. He's an early candidate for "special teams beast."

Marshon Lattimore is my other top candidate, helped by his potential to be a multi-faceted playmaker. 10 years ago, the Buckeyes brought in a freshman cornerback from Glenville who led the nation in punt return yardage. With Philly Brown out the door and the punt returner job up for grabs, could Ohio State turn to another Tarblooder?

Dark horses

Darius Slade jumped to the top of this list when he became the third Buckeye to lose his black stripe. The defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid fits the "viper" mold well and could model the impact Jamal Marcus made at the end of last season.

Other dark horses include Parris Campbell and Malik Hooker. Due to his young age, it's always been assumed that Campbell would redshirt, but he could impress some folks this fall and earn special teams work. Hooker hasn't been talked about much, but he's a versatile athlete and a good tackler, necessary traits for coverage teams.

Surefire Redshirts

Kyle Berger will receive a redshirt after tearing his ACL again. It's a tough break for a great kid, but he'll be back and better than ever next year. Dylan Thompson is likely to join him; after breaking his kneecap, Thompson is expected to miss 2-3 months.

Other surefire redshirts include the offensive linemen who did not enroll early: Jamarco Jones, Demetrius Knox and Brady Taylor.

What about the redshirt freshmen?

15 members of last year's recruiting class redshirted in 2013, and most hope to see some action this fall. Eli Apple and Gareon Conley will push Armani Reeves for the starting corner spot opposite Doran Grant.

Meanwhile, Billy Price is in the mix for playing time at offensive guard, and he could even earn the starting left guard job.

Finally, Jalin Marshall will have one of the most highly-anticipated debuts this fall. After reports of a great series of bowl practices and a strong off-season, he could be one of Miller's top passing targets this fall.

67 Comments

Comments

InTressITrust's picture

I really though Knox and Jones were pushing for time currently the surefire redshirt shocks me for them.

"I'm not going to lie. We're anxious to be a part of a matchup like that. It's two states that love the game of football." -Jim Tressel

+19 HS
sharks's picture

I recall reading something about them challenging for spots in the rotation too.

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

+2 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

I know, I was stunned by that too. I mean I understand they might not get much PT throughout the year but a "surefire" redshirt sounds odd.

I actually assumed both would be in the category above that, might see PT. Especially Knox who I thought would almost be in the group above that as a back up. Even Urban had quite the gush over Knox about a week ago.

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

+2 HS
Oakland Buckeye's picture

In other words we are all saying that John has been drinking to think Knox is a surefire" redshirt. 

+3 HS
SOF_Buckeye's picture

Concur. Do not agree with the assessment on Knox and J. Jones, possibly Taylor. If Knox and JJones are surefire redshirts, here's betting all the 2014 OL are surefire redshirts. 

Also, I wouldn't sleep on Erick Smith being a contributor. He has a Ronnie Lott type of playing attitude.

"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender." Woody Hayes

+1 HS
Killer nuts's picture

I seem to recall Urban saying those guys were expected to come in and provide depth and they wouldn't redshirt

mtrotb's picture

I agree with you.  Only problem I have with Urban says that everyone is going to play and soon coaches from other schools will be telling recruits that Urban says that to every player.  I bet 4 of the 5 frosh lineman redshirt unless there is a big rash of injuries.

mtrotb

pmille32's picture

If Knox and Jones both redshirt, then we better fire Fickell.

rkylet83's picture

Just a quick thought but how lethal would Jalin Marshall be in the wildcat?  He ran the option to near perfection in high school, and there isn't too much film on him at Ohio State yet.  

+3 HS
RedStorm45's picture

If your current starting QB wasn't already the top playmaker/athlete on the team...then it might make sense.
 

+17 HS
sivaDavis's picture

I think what he was thinking was yes Braxton is the top playmaker on the team but also is the most important. So being able to throw Marshall in a wildcat set allows for another guy with a skillset running wise like Brax to run zone reads, options and QB draws with. Minimizing wear and tear on a guy with injury problems. I like it, just another wrinkle Defenses have to worry about.

"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

+7 HS
osu07asu10's picture

I like it, just another wrinkle Defenses have to worry about.

Unless there would be specifically designed plays for Marshall in the wildcat (that we don't run with Miller) it really wouldn't add a wrinkle for defenses to prepare.

Maybe if Boeckman was still QB, but we already run so many zone reads and read options that defenses prepare for it all the time. I think the only thing it would really do is let defenses know we intend to run the football while putting a less polished passer back there to potentially throw the ball.

I'd rather have Cardale in there with his massive frame for read options if we are worried about Braxton's use and injuries.

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

+10 HS
sivaDavis's picture

I agree. I've always thought having a bigger bruiser type QB would be ideal for the offense. Imagine Pryor in an Urban Meyer offense... My God. Anyway I was just trying to justify the OP's post. And the wrinkle I meant was the wildcat. Not what we already run with Braxton. The sweeps, reverses, counters, etc. Usually in the wildcat Braxton would split out wide, with Jalin's QB experience, whose to say Herman wouldn't go all MENSA and do a screen to Braxton and let him air it out. (We did that play in 6th grade and it seemed to work well, who says it won't work at the highest level of CFB?)

"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

osu07asu10's picture

Usually in the wildcat Braxton would split out wide, with Jalin's QB experience, whose to say Herman wouldn't go all MENSA and do a screen to Braxton and let him air it out. (We did that play in 6th grade and it seemed to work well, who says it won't work at the highest level of CFB?)

Come on back up SIva...

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

sivaDavis's picture

Seems like just yesterday I was throwin on the shoulder pads man... seems like just yesterday... :'(

"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

oregonianbuckeye's picture

I wouldn't be surprised to see Erick Smith contribute on special teams. That guy has a ton of talent, and I think he'll force his way onto the field. 

+5 HS
InHartWeTrust's picture

RB is an area of questionable depth?  Last year we had a "stable" and an "embarrassment of riches" at the RB position; now we lose Hyde and it's an area with questionable depth?

+11 HS
osu07asu10's picture

play at positions with questionable depth. 

Hah, I thought the same thing IHWT. Elliot, Dunn, Ball, Smith,...

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

+1 HS
cdub4's picture

I would consider it questionable depth. I do not believe any have the guys have run for more than 250 yards in a season. It's not like OSU has guys returning like Bama, Wisky or Georgia who were all conference.

+2 HS
InHartWeTrust's picture

EzE and Dontre got to 250 last year, but barely.

+1 HS
Oh8ch's picture

EzE had 262 yards on 30 carries and Wilson 250 yards on 31.  Do the math on YPC.

+2 HS
ibuck's picture

Good math outcomes, but wasn't a lot of it in mop-up action?

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

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

+2 HS
osu07asu10's picture

All of the players in the backfield (sans Samuel) have been in the program at least 1 year.

Last year we did use terms like, "embarrassment of riches" to describe the backfield...so they've all regressed? Just because they may lack game experience, I wouldn't call the depth questionable, maybe unproven.

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

+8 HS
Groveport Heisman's picture

Erick Smith will not be denied the field. I'd say special teams minimum with a shot at the 2-deep and significant playing time.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

+6 HS
shadybuck's picture

I was scrolling down the comments to see if anyone had mentioned him yet,I was going to say I think he'll crack the 2-deep this season and get some special teams duties too

...but you beat me to it, solid work groveport

+1 HS
captain obvious's picture

I agree. I think Smith might turn out to be the gem of the class.

I'm a friend of thunder is it any wonder lightning strikes me

+1 HS
IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

Meechy and Jamarco could redshirt? I hope it is because we have insane depth at OL.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

+2 HS
Urban Nation Army's picture

Other surefire redshirts include the offensive linemen who did not enroll early: Jamarco Jones, Demetrius Knox and Brady Taylor.

Ummmm..... Urban has publicly disagreed on all counts 

“I saw Jamarco Jones, Demetrius Knox and Brady Taylor,” Meyer said, naming off the three offensive linemen. “I looked them right in the eye and said, ‘You’re not reshirting. You’re playing.’” 

http://www.news-herald.com/sports/20140412/ohio-state-football-notes-urban-meyer-not-impressed-with-offensive-line%C2%A0 

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

+9 HS
CPDenn's picture

That article was from 4 months ago. A lot can change. 

+1 HS
Dayton Buckeye's picture

I agree with Smith.  He is a beast.  He was the best DB in the Army game.

+4 HS
Ahh Saturday's picture

If the Buckeyes are to make the playoff this season, at least one of the guys from the rs freshmen group will have to be a major contributor.

BuckeyeGrownFloridaLiving's picture

Isn't Darron Lee a RS Freshman and expected to start?

+1 HS
Oh8ch's picture

Lee is a Soph.

-2 HS
UrbzRenewal's picture

Listed as a sophomore, his mom confirmed his RS-F status: https://twitter.com/candicenbc4/status/496486796877103104

Not embedding because it is out of context without the replies.

+2 HS
osu07asu10's picture

He is actually listed as a sophomore. Even at a RS Freshman, I think that the article is addressing new members to the buckeyes.

Somewhat curious he is not considered a redshirt. He only played 6 plays in 2 games (SDSU and Florida A&M) prior to injury. I am sure that this is by design from the coaches where they can apply for a medical redshirt retroactively if Lee stays more than 4 years without burning a true redshirt on him.

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

Squirrel Master's picture

Well there is the section titled "What about the Redshirt Freshmen".

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

+3 HS
osu07asu10's picture
+1

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

+3 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

I couldn't find a VV dodgeball reply so I'm gonna...

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

+1 HS
DC-town's picture

Yep, I think word on Kyle trout is he's already been told he's redshirting, jam jones and big meechy are the least likely to redshirt...

rb depth...dead horse is already tappin out.

And anyone asking if a first year guy is a bust b/c he's redshirting...public ridicule and removing of their speaking privileges is the only answer there

'Piss excellence' -RB

+1 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

So I assume the players not named, Damon Webb, are somewhere in the middle of possibly playing to redshirting?

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

+1 HS
Oakland Buckeye's picture

Agreed-   seems he & Smith seem to be forgotten.

+1 HS
Vinsaniti's picture

I'm not so sure about this he lost his black stripe yesterday

Nappy's picture

What players are being looked at at kick return and punt return?

Fan of bacon since 1981

whiskeyjuice's picture

Urban has been stated recently that Dontre will take majority of the returns but that some others will get some opportunities as well.

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

+1 HS
Tom57's picture

I think you missed an obvious candidate in Donovan Munger. The DL will rotate a lot of players and he could emerge and the best 1 technique DT on the team.

+1 HS
teakwood's picture

Man I'm just holding my breath hoping i get to see Jalin marshall.  You just never know during training camp!!  but my brother in law and I go back and forth over Jalin and Dontre.  So far he's not a believer, but If dude hits the field he's gonna see.  #winwin

+1 HS
TURD_BUCKET's picture
  • There are lots of college players who redshirted and made it to the NFL after their redshirt sophomore ( third ) year.
  • Its easier to play as a freshman on offense than it is on defense
  • Very few freshmen make a BIG impact on either side of the ball
  • Coach 'em up and make them ALL AMERICANS
  • Don't forget about the "3 stars", etc...Remember these?: Tyvis Powell, Bradley Robey, Jonathon Hankins, James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins, Santonio Holmes, AJ Hawk, etc... Young Turks will step up...

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.” John Wooden

dubjayfootball90's picture

Was powell a 3 or A 2 star? Either way, this man was severely underrated and i think he will show that even more this year

Edit: 3 star according to 247, my bad

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

awlinBrutus's picture

don't forget this will be his 3rd year in the program. you can develop guys like him with time ala MSU. they had several 5th year seniors contributing last year. Wisconsin usually is full of 5th years also, especially on the OL.

MICHIGAN STILL SUCKS

johnblairgobucks's picture

Past 2 Heisman winners were red-shirted.

+2 HS
dubjayfootball90's picture

Very excited to see Marshall. He bulked up big time, and with his highlight tape out of HS (albeit against HS competition) makes me very excited to follow him throughout the next few years. He has the making of a beastly offensive threat.

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

+1 HS
apack614's picture

I'm thinking Kwon has the best year out of all the freshmen...

"If we worked half as hard as our band, we'd be champions." - Woody Hayes

chirobuck's picture

I actually disagree with the first line, its really not rare for a freshmen to make an impact, in fact it happens almost every year, you can't count on any one freshman to come in and be an impact guy right away but you can count on almost every freshman class to produce at least one kid that does

 
^ best post ever ^

+2 HS
TURD_BUCKET's picture

I agree with your comment that  "you can't count on any one freshman to come in and be an impact guy right away." But your thought that "you can count on 'almost' every freshman class to produce at least one kid that does" actually makes his point. An average class of 20 players that produces one impact player as a freshman is 5% of that class and that is pretty rare to me.

Playing a lot and or starting is one thing but making an impact is another. I suppose the definition of "impact" might vary a great deal from one fan to another. Impact to me is what  Archie Griffin, Chris Spielman, Andy Katzenmoyer, Maurice Clarett, and Joey Bosa did.

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.” John Wooden

chirobuck's picture

I understand that its a small percentage but he said its rare for a freshman to make an impact.....and its not......if you look at every class for the past decade or better I bet you will find at least one guy who made a substantial impact right away, you named a few and I could very easily add to that list without looking back through the classes

 
^ best post ever ^

GreatLakesMike's picture

With all the redshirts the past two seasons, I get a "release the hounds" vibe about this team. I'm more worried about the preseason than the Big 10. I know MSU, Minnesota, and Michigan are not slouches, but I think the Bucks are a notch above talent-wise. If the young pups can get through the preseason... watch out IMO. 

joebuckeye's picture

Barring injury, Jalyn Holmes will not redshirt.

Humbuck's picture

The word on J. Jones is that he will probably RS this year because he needs to hit the weight room.  Great technique, just not strong enough yet.  The staff was pleased with Marcelys Jones because he came in early and worked his butt off.  Lost a lot of baby fat and really bought into the strength and conditioning program.  They think he will make a push for the depth charts.  8 months ago no one would have guessed he was the Jones who would be in the mix. Heck, some fans had him on transfer watch earlier in the month. 

Urban told J. Jones and D. Knox  to be in the mix and ready to play because we don't redshirt.  I think people misconstrue coach-speak for god's honest truth sometimes.  Clearly he wanted to light a fire under their butts so they would show up to fall camp ready to compete.  Knox is in a better position to make the depth chart, J. Jones is just not as strong as some of the other guys who have been in the program longer. 

Munger is going to be in the heavy rotation this year, might even pass Tommy Schutt right by.  LJ wants to go deep on the DL, rotate a lot of guys through.  Donovan is going to be a force on the DL.  Holmes is in the mix.  Darius Slade is working very hard (3rd guy to lose his stripe) but will probably still get the RS but it has more to do with depth than anything else. 

+1 HS
gobucks96's picture

I also think they need to ready but if not needed on the field they need to save a year of eligibility... If all things play out like the staff wants.

Ultrabuckeyehomer's picture

I don't care who RS or not. It's a crapshoot, as always. Let it play out folks. The best will play. That's a distinct difference between the current regime and the last. Seniority doesn't matter. The best will see the field. I'm in favor of this attitude. 

+1 HS
CPDenn's picture

I think Kwon is a given, but everything that's come out of camp about Dixon seems to be stellar. I can't wait to watch this kid play. I highly doubt the numbers will be as good, but I'd love to see him have the type of impact Amari Cooper had for Alabama his freshman year.

Seattle Linga's picture

I really like Webb and his determination to come from Michigan and plow forward focused all the way while recruiting for us and helping the pipeline from Cass Tech open up. 

+1 HS
Poison nuts's picture

Yeah, I like him a lot, love what he did with the 2014 class & hope he'll see the field this year for sure.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

+2 HS
IH8UOFM's picture

So Marshon Lattimore could fill our Jabril Peppers role?

+1 HS
gobucks96's picture

We don't have a role of overhyped freshman who has yet to prove himself on the team...

+1 HS
Jsgobucks's picture

Not to get off topic, but wasn't Sam Hubbards number/position changed?? He is still listed as a TE on the ohio state website

Vinsaniti's picture

Sean Nuernberger the next Nugent. That dude has a cannon for a leg!