In Pursuit of a National Championship, Ohio State's 2013 Class Might Be as Important Now as It Was Two Years Ago

By Tim Shoemaker on December 29, 2016 at 2:14 pm
Ohio State's Billy Price and J.T. Barrett

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When it comes to the great class debate, J.T. Barrett and Raekwon McMillan don’t exactly see eye-to-eye.

Each has their own opinion about whose is better — Barrett’s 2013 group or McMillan’s 2014 one — and neither side gives an inch when the topic gets discussed.

“I don’t think he really wants to go there,” Barrett says.

Recruiting services had them ranked similarly — the 2013 group as the No. 2 class nationally and the 2014 one as No. 3 — but in Barrett’s mind, the two aren’t all that comparable.

“Me and Raekwon get in little fuss fights about it,” Barrett joked. “He tries to compare his class, the 2014 class, against the 2013 class, and I said, ‘Brother, it’s really not comparable.’"

"He always talks about this year and says, ‘Where’s your class at?’ I’m like, ‘Man, if you really want to talk about it, a lot of my classmates are in the NFL.’”

That’s certainly true as many members of Ohio State’s 2013 class are making plays on Sundays now after leaving Columbus after three years and a national championship to their credit. Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Eli Apple and Darron Lee were all first-round NFL Draft picks from that group. Vonn Bell was selected in the second round. Jalin Marshall went undrafted but impressed so much during training camp he earned a spot on the New York Jets’ 53-man roster and has been there all season.

All six of those players were essential to the Buckeyes’ national championship run in 2014. And as Ohio State prepares to face Clemson on Dec. 31 with a title game berth on the line, the second wave of players from that 2013 class are going to be just as important.

“I think the big thing is the leadership aspect behind it,” offensive lineman Billy Price said. “We were all there in 2014, but I think the leadership holds a lot more value and that’s why I think we’re doing really well.”

Barrett, Price, defensive end Tyquan Lewis, cornerback Gareon Conley, linebacker Chris Worley, defensive tackle Michael Hill, tight end Marcus Baugh and punter Cameron Johnston are all members of that 2013 class that are current starters for the Buckeyes. H-back Dontre Wilson has been one of Ohio State’s biggest weapons on third down and defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle was a starter to open the year before he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1.

Barrett, Johnston and Price were really the only ones who contributed during that 2014 run — and Barrett didn’t even get to play in the final three games of the season after his injury against Michigan.

The others are more than making up for lost time now.

“There were some guys who weren’t in a position to come in and dominate right away,” Lewis said. “But now after years of experience, it shows that we’ve gotten better and better.”

Added Conley: “Those guys had a better opportunity to play and they seized their opportunity and we’re obviously happy for them. Now, we’re out here in this moment and we’re trying to seize our opportunity.”

If the Buckeyes can get past the Tigers on Saturday, they’ll be one step closer to their ultimate goal: a national title. For the 2013 class, it’d be the second one where they had major contributors.

“We always talked about winning national championships,” Hill said. “I remember when we first got here that we were telling ourselves that the next year we were going to win a national championship and we actually did it our sophomore year. We just have a great class and we’re trying to get another.”

If that happens, the debates between Barrett and McMillan might become a bit more one-sided than the Buckeyes' quarterback already thinks they are.

“It took some time and there were some rough times, rough conversations,” Barrett said. “But if you’re one of the best teams in the country, you don’t want it easy. You want it hard and that makes you better.”

“We came to Ohio State as a class just to try to make a name for ourselves and I think a lot of that 2013 class is doing that.”

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