Baldwin, Miller, Schutt, Smith & Vannett: Five Underrated Upperclassmen

By Mike Young on August 18, 2014 at 10:45a
Tommy Schutt is poised to have a huge year for Ohio State.
17 Comments

For a championship contender, a freshman can often be the difference in winning a title.

Ohio State might not have been undefeated in the 2013 regular season without their dominant defensive front. At the same time, the line wouldn't have been the force it was without freshman Joey Bosa. Yet, with the major exception being Bosa, no incoming four or five-star recruits have made the kind of impact Urban Meyer expected in his first two years at Ohio State.

"I'm actually a little disappointed," Meyer said, in a press conference, Saturday. "Last year's class, we should've had more impacts. This year, I'm seeing a little more chance for that. But it’s not the players’ faults, I think we had to push them actually a little faster."

The lack of quality underclassmen force juniors and seniors into roles they weren't able to secure when they were younger. It proves how players progress at different rates and, while Ohio State's head coach may want more freshmen playmakers, the program is in solid shape when it comes to developing players.

Five Buckeyes, all of which Meyer mentioned by name, are finally ready to assume greater responsibilities on this team:

Darryl Baldwin

The fifth-year senior is another member of the offensive line who made the transition from another position. Now, much like Reid Fragel before him, Baldwin will be counted on to produce at a high level in his senior season. 

"Darryl Baldwin is the starter at right tackle," Meyer said. "[He] is one of the most improved players on the team."

He's not entirely inexperienced at the position, having practiced with the offensive line since the spring of 2012. Baldwin also took 140 snaps from scrimmage in the 2013 season. For someone still so relatively new to the position, it takes a tremendous amount of rapid development to command a starting spot.

Although Meyer was referring to left tackle Taylor Decker, the cohesion on the line can also be attributed to Baldwin's improved play.

"I really give credit to Jack Mewhort and [Corey] Linsley, those guys in that room and Coach [Ed] Warinner," Meyer said. "It's a product of a culture and very obvious when you go spend time around those linemen."

Steve Miller

Jamal Marcus' transfer and the remaining two games of Noah Spence's suspension give Steve Miller an opportunity to rise above "The Joker" quips.

"Miller and Rashad Frazier are the two that will fill [Spence's] spot, at this point," Meyer said. "Jalyn Holmes is really making a push." 

When Spence returns, expect Miller to still be a part of the rotation. As defensive line coach Larry Johnson maintains, he wants to have 10 players capable of playing meaningful snaps. That might not be realistic once the season starts, but Miller has a chance to prove he should play in more than nine games in his senior year.

Rod Smith

Ohio State fans might roll their eyes when hearing his name again, but, according to Meyer, Smith is finally putting in the work in practice. It might, finally, lead to more consistent carries.

"Both Bri'onte [Dunn] and Rod Smith have made every practice and done really well," Meyer said. "I give credit to Bri'onte and Rod Smith, every day they've showed up and worked their tails off. They're in the mix."

Smith has never drawn such effusive praise from anyone on the Ohio State staff, let alone the head coach. That's largely because, within the last year, Smith was suspended for a game and missed spring practices due to academic issues.

While he has more yards, carries and rushing touchdowns than any other back on the roster, Ezekiel Elliott and, to a certain extent, Curtis Samuel have higher expectations for this season. With Elliott missing a week of practice due to a wrist injury, it sounds as if Smith is taking advantage. Unfortunately for the fifth-year senior, he has little time left to do so.

Tommy Schutt

No one on this list has more starting experience than Schutt, but that doesn't mean his development is idle.

"Tommy Schutt's the most improved player at Ohio State right now," Meyer said. "He's done a really, really good job."

In two seasons as a Buckeye, he's played in 17 games and has two starts – as a freshman against Central Florida and, last year, at Illinois. The staff expected more from him heading into last season, but Schutt missed a portion of fall camp and the first six games of 2013 due to a foot injury.

Once again, he's battling, arguably, more talented players in Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett. Because of that, Schutt won't see a starter's share of snaps, but he's proving he can be a valuable reserve.

"You start seeing people like [Schutt] that step up, along with Darryl Baldwin," Meyer said. "They were non-factors a year ago and, now, they'll be deep into the mix, offensively and defensively. Those are the little things you need to see in camp and you are seeing."

Nick Vannett

Nagging injuries, such as the one that befell Schutt last season, can disrupt a player's progress and, potentially, derail their college career. On the other hand, they can open up an opportunity for someone else. 

"That's when you know you have a decent program," Meyer said. "When someone, we say, 'drops the rifle,' someone's got to go. That's the positive about all of this."

In Vannett's case, he's stepping in for Jeff Heuerman. The incumbent starter at tight end had surgery on his left foot and missed most of spring practice. Heuerman is participating in fall practice and will be ready by the Navy game, but Vannett is impressing the Buckeye staff.

He only has 17 career receptions, but, if this mythical tight end position at Ohio State finally lives up to expectations, Vannett will see a few more passes thrown his way.

"It's one of the best parts of coaching to see Nick Vannett, right now," Meyer said. "Jeff is still dealing with his foot injury and has been in a limited role, so we're seeing [Vannett] step up and take it. He's going to play this year.

17 Comments

Comments

apack614's picture

I have high hopes for Vannett, always have. Ever since I played against him back in high school (Central vs CW) you could tell how high his potential was. Great kid, great player, and dumb injuries. I really hope he can shine this year, good luck Nick!

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

+5 HS
beamga's picture

Fun fact: when I started playing football in 5th grade, I played QB and my starting TE was a then 6th grader Nick Vannett.  If he has a breakout season I will gladly take credit for preparing him for playing with Braxton Miller.  In all seriousness though he's a solid guy with great physical gifts.  Hoping for a great season out of him!

Young_Turk's picture

As defensive line coach Larry Johnson maintains, he wants to have 10 players capable of playing meaningful snaps. That might not be realistic once the season starts, but Miller has a chance to prove he should play in more than nine games in his senior year.

As I get older, the years begin to blur together.  I'm guessing it was around 2006 where Tressel had enough depth on O-line that he would regularly alternate series with the "2nd string" O-line. 

+3 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

the game at texas, they played their 2nd string O-line on the 2nd drive of the game i think, with very little drop off

+2 HS
awlinBrutus's picture

against Texas the game plan was to use the 2nd oline starting in the 2nd qtr to give the starters a breather because of the humidity in Austin. the center was a walk on Tank Whaley 6 1 270, great nickname.

MICHIGAN STILL SUCKS

+3 HS
Firmthyfriendship's picture

Steve Miller better get it going this year because time keeps on slippin'...

+14 HS
GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

I really think he will get meaningful PT. With Marcus gone we lack a bunch of depth at DE. Between him, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes, we should see those 3 on the field a lot. I like Steve Miller...... he's a joker...

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

+2 HS
Tater_Schroeder's picture

After I read your post, "slippin'" echoed in my head a couple times. "...into the future..." 

How Firm Thy Friendship

+5 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Get it going is right - it's time for him to Fly Like An Eagle

+7 HS
sox33osu's picture

That song is by Seal, guys...

+3 HS
potts.125's picture

Down vote for Sox33osu (unless my sarcasm meter is broken).  

+1 HS
awlinBrutus's picture

You should get dv'd for  not adding anything to the discussion, just sayin'.

MICHIGAN STILL SUCKS

-3 HS
SafetyGuy's picture

The 2014 super upside version of Steve Miller is Rock n Me so hard that he will end up taking a Jet Airliner to NYC for the NFL Draft and Take the Money and Run

O-H-

+2 HS
HoopHal's picture

The only good thing Seal ever did was marry Heidi Klum. Steve Miller recorded   "Fly Like An Eagle"  and received millions when the USPS used it for its theme.

-1 HS
gumtape's picture

Articles like this make 11w the best college football site. Writing about guys that have one last chance to make an impact before their college playing days are over.

just another psycho, irrational, delusional Ohio St fan

+1 HS
HotSauceCommittee's picture

I hope Tommy Schutt can stay healthy and stay on the field. Injuries have plagued his career.

+1 HS
TURD_BUCKET's picture

I hope all five have GREAT years!!!

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