Ohio State's Freshman Class Should Have Immediate Impact At Several Positions

By Derrick Webb on August 15, 2018 at 10:10 am
Multiple freshmen could see a great deal of playing time this season, including tight end Jeremy Ruckert.

Jeremy Ruckert

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It's no secret that last year's freshman class was one of the (if not the) most talented in Ohio State football history. 

With the likes of running back J.K. Dobbins, offensive tackle Thayer Munford and defensive end Chase Young — plus multiple others — leading the charge, the Buckeyes are reaping the benefits of drinking from the proverbial fountain of youth.

The only downside for the group was that it inherited an exceptionally veteran-laden roster, meaning many position groups on the depth chart already boasted of bona fide starters from Day 1.

This year's freshman class — which was rated as the second-most talented ever, even though that has yet to be seen on the field — could have more opportunities to see the field.

That's especially true on the defensive side of the ball.

With that being said, here's four position groups where freshmen could see an abundance of playing time.

Tight End

Not too long ago, it was almost a consensus opinion that junior Rashod Berry would be Marcus Baugh's successor at this position. But that was before Urban Meyer named Luke Farrell the starter heading into the summer.

Now, with freshman Jeremy Ruckert in the mix, all three could see significant playing time.

Ruckert, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound product out of Lindenhurst, N.Y., was considered the nation's No. 2 tight end, according to 247Sports. While in high school, he was a Gatorade Player of the Year and caught 61 passes for 1,094 yards with 13 touchdowns as a senior.

In short, he's really good.

As he develops, Ruckert could very well be the best pass-catching tight end on the Buckeyes' roster. The last thing opponents want to see is another weapon for quarterback Dwayne Haskins to take advantage of.

Defensive End

Chase Young is likely to start alongside junior Nick Bosa. But don't be surprised if a pair of freshmen find their way into the rotation alongside Jashon Cornell and Jonathon Cooper.

Both Tyreke Smith, out of Cleveland Heights, and Tyler Friday, from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., have the ability to earn quality playing time in defensive line coach Larry Johnson's unit.

Smith has peak athleticism on the edge with a mix of speed and strength. During his senior year in high school, he amassed 70 tackles, 23 for loss and 11 sacks.

Friday was rated as a four-star prospect coming out of high school and has a knack for disrupting the backfield. He has the potential to play both end and tackle. But in either form, he's going to cause problems.

Linebacker

On the outside, the Buckeyes will try and replace two starters from last season.

Juniors Malik Harrison and Keandre Jones are the projected starters for now, but both Dallas Gant and K'Vaughan Pope could see reps at some point.

At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Gant was ranked as fifth-best player in the state of Ohio by 247Sports, coming out of Toledo St. John's Jesuit. He doubled as both a linebacker and tight end in his senior campaign and totaled 96 tackles and seven sacks.

He lost his black stripe following this past Wednesday's practice, making him a notable contender for playing time.

Pope, who comes to Columbus via Dinwiddie, Va., is no regular linebacker. He was also a running back in high school, where he rushed for 1,043 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior. He was ranked as the nation's No. 9 inside linebacker, by 247Sports.

It's also not out of the question that freshman Teradja Mitchell, who also lost his black stripe last week, to contribute in the middle. Mitchell was one of five finalists for the high school Butkus Award — awarded to the nation's top linebacker.

Mitchell led Bishop Sullivan High School (Virginia Beach, Va.) with 106 tackles in his senior year alongside three sacks and three fumble recoveries.

Safety

Junior Jordan Fuller has one safety spot on lockdown, but the other is more up in the air.

While sophomore Isaiah Pryor is a candidate to be a breakout star on the other side, the same could be said of freshmen Marcus Hooker and Josh Proctor.

Hooker, the younger brother of former Buckeye Malik, has long arms and big hands and cat-like instincts when defending the pass. He's suspended for the Buckeyes' first game of the season, however, after a DUI charge this summer.

Out of Owasso, Okla., Proctor was rated as the No. 2 player in the state by 247Sports. He has a nose for the football, packs a punch with his 6-foot-2, 198-pound frame and shows the ability to be trusted in man-to-man coverage sets.

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