Chris Holtmann's Second Season at Ohio State Will Feature Fresh Faces, New-Look Lineup

By James Grega on March 20, 2018 at 8:35 am
Chris Holtmann, Kyle Young

The first year under Chris Holtmann at Ohio State has come and gone and with it, some of the Buckeyes' most productive players. 

Jae'Sean Tate, Kam Williams and Andrew Dakich are all gone, along with the likely departure of Keita Bates-Diop to the NBA. That leaves three starting spots open, along with a major void at the backup point guard spot. 

Luckily for Ohio State, Holtmann was able to piece together a solid 2018 recruiting class that ranks 24th in the nation, led by four-star guard Luther Muhammad. All four freshmen will likely play significant roles next year for the Buckeyes, but how much remains to be seen. 

What follows is a projected starting lineup for the 2018-19 Buckeyes, including a brief breakdown of the role each player could potentially play next season. 

Center: Kaleb Wesson

An All-Big Ten Freshman team selection this year, Kaleb Wesson proved that he is made for the physicality of the conference. He averaged 10.2 points per game as a rookie, pulled down 4.9 rebounds per contest and was a model of consistency in the middle for most of his freshman campaign. 

As a sophomore, Wesson will likely need to be more aggressive on offense in terms of his scoring. Assuming Bates-Diop leaves for the NBA, Ohio State will need to replace his offensive production, and a lot of that responsibility will fall on Wesson. 

His ability to play with his back to the basket and also face up and hit the occasional jumper makes him a premier threat for next season, especially if he is able to drop a few more pounds, add strength and get a step faster. Ohio State can play through him as well, as Wesson has shown an advanced ability to make passes into tight windows in the post. Wesson needs to have a big offseason in the gym, but if he does, he could be an All-Big Ten first-team selection next year. 

Power Forward: Kyle Young

Young sat behind both Tate and Bates-Diop this season, but with the two veterans off to the professional ranks, Young will have an opportunity to shine as a sophomore. 

The Massillon, Ohio native is one of, if not the, most athletic players on Ohio State's roster, and has the ability to stretch the floor with his jumper, although he attempted just 10 all year in limited action. 

His role will be much like Tate's was in his earlier years at Ohio State. Dominate and score in the paint, make effort plays on both ends and knock down the occasional outside jumper to keep opposing defenses honest. If Young can do that, he is a player who can put up 12 points and six rebounds a game like Tate did throughout his career. 

Small Forward: Andre Wesson

The older Wesson showed flashes of brilliance as a sophomore, scoring 13 critical points in an upset win over No. 3 Purdue in February. His perimeter shooting (28.6 percent on the year) was inconsistent, but he hit on just enough shots to keep defenses honest. 

What Wesson really brings to the table is his defensive ability. He can guard multiple positions on the floor and isn't afraid to play physical, which can sometimes get him in foul trouble. However, when he is on his game, there might not be a better defender on Ohio State's roster. 

While Wesson is at times a liability on offense, his defensive prowess will likely earn him a starting role to begin the 2018-19 season. With a talented freshmen class coming in, however, he will have to hit some open shots to stay on the floor in critical minutes. 

Shooting Guard: Luther Muhammad

The top-rated recruit in Ohio State's class, Muhammad has all the makings of a future star in Columbus, and potentially a future NBA first-round pick. 

His playmaking ability and capability to create off the dribble and get into the lane is something Ohio State did not have last season, and should create more opportunities for both him and others on the offensive end. 

Where Muhammad might struggle early on is on the defensive end, which is where he will be pushed by sophomore Musa Jallow for a starting job. Jallow's athleticism will make him hard to take off the floor in late-game situations defensively, so Muhammad will have to commit to improving defensively in order to start right from the jump in Columbus. 

Point Guard: C.J. Jackson

Jackson is still very much a shooting guard with his skill-set, but a solid 2017-18 season as Ohio State's primary point guard still makes him the top candidate to return in that role next year. 

Jackson struggles to create off the bounce, but his consistent jumper and floaters when he does get into the lane have improved each year he has been with the Buckeyes. He will also be the veteran of the group next season, as the only senior with significant playing experience. 

Should Ohio State land a graduate transfer point guard, Jackson could be pushed for playing time, or bumped to shooting guard in 2017-18, but his experience and success from his junior season will make him tough to keep off the floor next season. 

Bench Contributors: Musa Jallow, Micah Potter, Jaedon LeDee, Justin Ahrens, Duane Washington

As mentioned earlier, Jallow has the best opportunity of this group to compete for a starting job next season because of his athleticism. He and Young are Ohio State's most athletic returning players from a season ago, and athleticism on an inexperienced team will be tough to keep off the floor. 

Potter fell into a slump at the end of the season, and struggled to find his way out of it, routinely getting beat for rebounds on the defensive end and being out-physicalled in the paint. He has the ability to stretch the floor and has a reliable jumper, but his play in the post will need to improve. 

LeDee will push Potter for minutes immediately in 2018-19 at the power forward position. An athletic 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, LeDee can hit a step-back jumper while also protecting the paint with his long wingspan. With some coaching and training, he could also potentially play some minutes at the small forward if the Buckeyes need to play big, but the 'four' seems to fit into his wheelhouse. 

The lone Ohio recruit in his class, Ahrens brings a solid shooting ability to the Ohio State roster, and if he can hit consistently, could replace the production that Kam Williams left from long range. He likely won't crack the starting lineup as a rookie, but will compete for minutes off the bench. 

Washington has a chance to serve as Ohio State's backup point guard if the Buckeyes can't land a grad transfer, but if Holtmann does bring someone else in, Washington might be in a role similar to that of Jallow or Young this past season. He will contribute some, but much of his first year will be learning and getting ready for big minutes as a sophomore in 2019-20. 

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