Next in Line: Ohio State's Breakout Candidates for the 2019 Season

By Andrew Ellis on January 13, 2019 at 7:05 am
Tyreke Smith should have an expanded role in 2019.
Tyreke Smith

It's been a month filled with coaching changes and NFL Draft declarations, and the latter has helped to add a bit of clarity to Ohio State's positional breakdown for the 2019 campaign.

Will it be unfair to have a "national title or bust" attitude in Ryan Day's first year at the helm? Perhaps. But the expectations are bound to be sky high once again. 

The departures of players like Dwayne Haskins and Michael Jordan will give opportunity to some younger, less-experienced faces. And while we're still over seven months away from Ohio State hosting Lane Kiffin and the Florida Atlantic Owls, it's never too early to speculate on who may break out next for the Buckeyes.

Justin Fields • Quarterback • Sophomore • Kennesaw, Georgia

Perhaps you've heard a thing or two about this by now, but Ohio State landed a ultra-talented transfer when Georgia's Justin Fields made the decision to head to the Big Ten. Dwayne Haskins' Draft declaration and Tathan Martell's subsequent decision to enter the transfer portal means there is darn good chance that the sophomore signal caller is leading the Buckeyes in 2019. 

We'll have to wait a bit longer before the NCAA rules on Fields' hardship waiver and request for immediate playing time, but most expect him to be eligible right away. At 6-foot-3 and about 230 pounds, he's an electric runner who could be an absolute nightmare under Ryan Day's tutelage. Fields also has a cannon for an arm but does still need to improve on his reads and progressions. 

As a true freshman in Athens, he connected on 27 of 39 attempts for 328 yard with four scores and no interceptions. He added another 266 yards rushing and four touchdowns with his legs. The former five-star made the decision to head to Georgia despite Jake Fromm's success as a true freshman in 2017. Now he'll look to continue the strong quarterback play in Columbus.

Josh Myers • Offensive Line • Sophomore (RS) • Miamisburg, Ohio

Michael Jordan's decision to test the NFL waters is going to lead to a bit of a shakeup on the Buckeyes' offensive line. I think many expected Jordan to slide back over to guard anyway, so his move should have more of an impact on guys like Wyatt Davis and Branden Bowen than it will on Josh Myers. 

Still, Myers looks to be in line for one of the starting spots along the offensive line and he's probably the favorite to be the man at center. Ohio State's history at center has been stellar of late even though Jordan seemed more natural at left guard. First-round pick Billy Price is the Bengals' starting center and Pat Elflein – a third-rounder – is doing the same in Minnesota.

We heard a lot about Myers leading up to 2018 before Jordan ultimately moved over. It's likely going to get his turn this time around.

Jaelen Gill • H-Back • Freshman (RS) • Westerville, Ohio

I was hesitant to include Jaelen Gill on this list for a number of reasons, but this is a case where the talent may make it impossible to keep him off the field. Gill saw action in just two games in 2018 and wasn't a factor on special teams either. When you factor in the K.J. Hill return, it could make things even more difficult for him to see the field this year. 

Gill has always been expected to play a Curtis Samuel-like role for the Buckeyes, and perhaps the departure of Parris Campbell will allow that to happen; even if it's not as an immediate starter as a redshirt freshman. Demario McCall is back and the two have a similar skill set. I can see a scenario where Gill is also able to make an impact on special teams even if he's not getting a ton of offensive touches in 2019.

Tyreke Smith • Defensive End • Sophomore • Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Tyreke Smith saw action in each of Ohio State's games last season as the true freshman played on the edge and occasionally moved inside in the "rushmen" package. Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper are both back this year, but the departure of Dre'Mont Jones may allow the talented young defender to see some more time on the interior part of the line.

The 2018 class included three edge rushers in Smith, Tyler Friday, and Javontae Jean-Baptiste. Smith saw the most playing time while Friday also appeared in nine games. Jean-Baptiste took a redshirt and will likely take some time to develop before seeing the field.

Sevyn Banks • Cornerback • Sophomore • Orlando, Florida

Sevyn Banks is in a similar spot as Tyreke Smith as the second-year corner should have two or three guys ahead of him on the depth chart. Damon Arnette's return makes for an even more crowded cornerback room with Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah also being locks for significant playing time. 

Banks looked like a redshirt candidate thanks to a hand injury that caused him to miss the first two months of the season, but he made his presence felt on special teams upon his return. We heard some glowing reports on the freshman during bowl practice and he could be on a similar trajectory as some great cornerbacks of yesteryear. Even with the depth in the secondary, he's a guy who should see the field often as a sophomore.

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