Five Freshmen Most Likely to Play for the Buckeyes in 2017

By Kevin Harrish on July 29, 2017 at 2:30 pm
J.K. Dobbins will play meaningful minutes for the Buckeyes in 2017.

It seems like every season, Urban Meyer claims that he doesn't redshirt players at Ohio State, and it seems like every season, that turns out to be quite a bit hyperbolic, as much of the class ends up taking a redshirt their first season.

This year, we're at a curious situation on that front. On one hand, Ohio State just signed arguably its best recruiting class ever and a number of those players are ready to play immediately. On the other hand though, the Buckeyes already had the nation's youngest team last season, and there aren't a lot of spots available for the freshmen to take.

Buckeye fans are justifiably excited to see what the members of this vaunted recruiting class can do, and though they'll have to wait to see most of them play in any meaningful capacity, a few will surely 

Here are the top-five players most likely to play meaningful minutes during the 2017 season.

Honorable Mention: Josh Myers/Wyatt Davis/Thayer Munford – OG

These three are really hard to place on this list because they will really either play enormous, meaningful snaps or very sparingly, if at all. It all depends on the position battle at right guard, which is wide open at the moment.

Meyer did mention all three freshmen when he spoke with the media during Big Ten Media Days, but the reason I'm making them all an honorable mention on this list is because I believe Malcolm Pridgeon, Demetrius Knox and Matthew Burrell and possibly even Brandon Bowen are ahead of any freshmen, at least at the moment. With that much competition, I can't really say any freshman lineman is "likely" to play right now.

5. Trevon Grimes — WR

If he weren't coming off a torn ACL during his senior season, Trevon Grimes might top this list. It's no secret that the Buckeyes desperately need help at the wide receiver position after struggling mightily last season and losing their top-three performing receivers to the NFL Draft and graduation.

When he was healthy, Grimes was the most game-ready of the three receivers in the Ohio State's 2017 class. The No. 5 receiver in the nation, Grimes played at St. Thomas Aquinas where he faced elite competition nearly every game. He's a polished route runner already, runs a speedy 4.43 second 40-yard dash, and at 6-3, 202 is big target.

Still, knee injuries like a torn ACL are difficult to overcome, especially for a receiver that relies on his speed and ability to change direction. And even if he is 100 percent by the start of the season, he's missed out on months of training and development. I expect Grimes to play for the Buckeyes in 2017, but I don't think he'll be a starter or even play meaningful minutes right a way.

4. Shaun Wade/Jeffrey Okudah — CB

When you sign the nation's top-two cornerbacks, you play them right away.

I don't think there's any question that both Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah will see the field in 2017. The five-stars cornerbacks are game-ready and look to be Ohio State's next generation of elite cornerbacks.

That's an important note: the next generation of elite cornerbacks.

Okudah and Wade will both play in 2017, but barring an injury to another cornerback, it likely won't be in a terribly meaningful capacity. The Buckeyes return Denzel Ward, who was essentially a starter last season, playing the same number of snaps as first-round picks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, as well as Damon Arnette who played the nickel last season. They also add Kendall Sheffield, the nation's top junior college cornerback and a former five-star recruit, who has two years of college experience under his belt.

Both Wade and Okudah enrolled early and have been working with the team since December, so they could find themselves worked into the rotation in some meaningful capacity, but you should expect to see this pair on the field primarily for special teams and late-game mop-up duty this season.

3. Chase Young — DE

The fact that Chase Young is so low on this list speaks volumes to how talented and deep Ohio State's defensive line will be in 2017, because Young is arguably the most talented player in the Buckeyes' entire class and would likely push for a starting spot at many schools around the nation.

At Ohio State though, it will be hard for him to even crack the rotation. Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes, Nick Bosa and likely Jonathan Cooper will all be ahead of him on the depth chart in 2017, making the No. 2 defensive end in the 2017 class the sixth best option for the Buckeye defensive line.

Despite the loaded arsenal at the position, it's unlikely Urban Meyer keeps Young off the field in 2017 if only for one simple reason – he'll be lucky to even have him for four years. A redshirt really would be ineffective in this case. A guy with Young's talent typically enters the NFL Draft as soon as he's eligible after three years. A redshirt is essentially just wasting one of those three years.

Plus, we know how Larry Johnson loves to rotate defensive linemen. Even with five guys ahead of him, Young could play some meaningful snaps for the Buckeyes in 2017.

2. Baron Browning — ILB

If there's one position where the Buckeyes lack depth, it's the interior defensive line. Behind Chris Worley, who played outside linebacker his first three seasons at Ohio State and is starting at the MIKE for the first time this season, there isn't a player with really any game experience — meaningful or not.

Justin Hilliard and Nick Conner are two former top-10 linebackers coming out of high school, but both have been hampered by injuries throughout their Ohio State careers and even if they are healthy, they have little-to-no experience at the position.

That paves the way for freshman Baron Browning. The five-star from Kennedale, Texas is the top interior linebacker coming out of high school and figures to be high on the depth chart at the MIKE linebacker position in 2017, if not right behind Worley.

The most challenging thing for a young middle linebacker is the mental aspect of playing the position. The MIKE linebacker is essentially the quarterback of the defense, responsible for everything that happens before the play from calling shifts on the defensive line to making sure everyone is in the right position. Though Browning enrolled early and already has a jump on that mental aspect, much of it comes with repetition, which is all the more reason to get Browning involved in meaningful ways during the season.

I expect Browning's role to be similar to Raekwon McMillan's during his freshman season, when he was behind the starter Curtis Grant but also played meaningful minutes. The Buckeyes will want to get Browning experience, as he's likely the future at the position after Worley graduates.

1. J.K. Dobbins — RB

Of all the players in the 2017 class, the one most likely to see meaningful minutes this coming season is the class' lone running back, J.K. Dobbins.

Dobbins enrolled early, arriving on campus back in December, and since then he has already climbed the depth chart and is likely the No. 2 option at running back already, behind starter Mike Weber.

The freshman from La Grange, Texas is arguably the most athletic player in the entire 2017 class. At last season's The Opening Finals, Dobbins was named the Nike+ Football Ratings Champion after posting a 4.45 second 40-yard dash, 43.1-inch vertical leap, 4.09 second 20-yard shuttle and a powerball toss of 42 feet.

Though Weber is the definite starter and Demario McCall has proven himself quite an electric player, Dobbins may be the most complete running back of the group with his combination of speed and strength and will surely get plenty of looks this coming season.

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