There is a reason Ohio State has been able to maintain its level of success over the last 20-plus years. Its recruiting, starting with the John Cooper era, has been at an elite level.
Yes, Woody Hayes and Earle Bruce pulled in some of the greatest players in Ohio State history during their time as head coach, but since Cooper arrived, the recruiting has been at a different level.
Cooper could never get over the hump in the 1990's despite having arguably the best team in the country on more than one occasion, while Jim Tressel won a national title with a roster primarily made up of Cooper recruits. Tressel got to two more national title games with his own players and despite losing them both, kept Ohio State near the top of college football.
Fast forward to 2018, the Buckeyes once again have one of the top recruiting classes in the nation stepping onto campus. While rookies don't normally play early in their careers at Ohio State, there are a few that have stood out.
We have made these predictions earlier this season, but after watching practice on Tuesday, we give you our top three freshmen most likely to get early playing time as Buckeyes.
Jaelen Gill, H-Back
While the majority of freshmen get their early reps in covering both kicks and punts, Jaelen Gill was spotted returning them at practice on Tuesday with the likes of Demario McCall and C.J. Saunders.
Gill is one of the most dynamic athletes Ohio State has landed since Urban Meyer arrived in Columbus, and has both the hands of a true wide receiver and the vision and quickness of a running back. He is tailor-made for the H-back position in Ohio State's offense, but will likely see his first reps as a Buckeye as a return man, perhaps in the kicking game.
After Parris Campbell suffered head injuries last year on kick returns, Ohio State has an opening to fill, and Gill could very well be the answer. He is sure-handed and is as dangerous as any freshman in the country with the ball in his hands. Pair him with McCall as the deep men on kick return, and the Buckeyes might even take one back for a touchdown this year.
Jeremy Ruckert, Tight End
Before Ohio State launched an investigation into him following accusations he knew about alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, Meyer spoke at Big Ten Media Days about how tight end Jeremy Ruckert will play for the Buckeyes as a freshman.
Meyer: "Unless something happens, Jeremy (Ruckert) will play."
— James Grega Jr. (@JGrega11) July 24, 2018
Ruckert has the potential to be the best receiving tight end Ohio State has ever had, but will also need to block in the Buckeye offense, an area he still needs to improve in. However, we have seen the Buckeyes use multiple two-tight end sets in recent years, and Ruckert could easily slide in next to Luke Farrell and make an impact in the passing game over the middle.
At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, he gives either Dwayne Haskins or Tate Martell a big target to throw to and at that size, can take the hits from linebackers and safeties. Ruckert is a player who can split out wide or line up in a three-point stance as a traditional tight end and be a weapon, and that alone should get him on the field early at Ohio State.
Josh Proctor, Safety
With Damon Webb gone to the NFL, Ohio State has an opening at safety next to Jordan Fuller, and Josh Proctor could be a dark horse candidate to fill the position.
Isaiah Pryor appeared to be the early favorite to win the position, but has had an entire spring and summer to win the job and even at Big Ten Media Days, Meyer wasn't sure who was going to win the role. Last season, Fuller and Erick Smith split reps before eventually Fuller took the job full-time, so we could see a similar battle this season, with Proctor being the young player who could snag the spot.
At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Proctor is only seven pounds lighter than Pryor and has the potential to be a longtime starter in Columbus. If Pryor can't separate himself from the pack early, look for Proctor to be the next man up at that spot.
Honorable Mention: Tommy Togiai
Togiai was the first freshman to lose his black stripe, and for good reason. He has all the potential in the world to be a big time contributor as a freshman.
However, he is behind the likes of Dre'Mont Jones and Robert Landers, a pair of veterans who will likely get most of the reps on the interior this season. Jones specifically figures to be an every-down player, leaving less reps for a player like Togiai in the middle.
Togiai will get reps this season, just maybe not as much as the guys listed above.