After a 2018 Season in Which Senior Production Was Limited, the 2019 Squad Should Feature Nearly a Dozen Such Contributors

By Chris Lauderback on February 21, 2019 at 11:05 am
Seniors K.J. Hill and Malik Harrison will play huge roles in 2019.

Joseph Maiorana & James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

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A season removed from just six seniors playing a major role in what became a 12-1 record capped by a blowout of Michigan and a defeat of Washington in the Rose Bowl, the 2019 Buckeyes are poised to be loaded with senior contributors. 

Last year, Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin, Isaiah Prince, Demetrius Knox and Malcolm Pridgeon were key cogs in the machine while fellow seniors Dante Booker and Sean Nuernberger played lesser roles. 

Despite the low number of big timers, Campbell did post over 1,000 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns, McLaurin went for over 700 yards receiving with 11 touchdowns while starring on special teams and Dixon tallied 669 receiving yards with eight touchdowns. 

In the trenches, Prince earned first team All-B1G honors at right tackle, Knox held down the right guard spot until injury ended his season and Pridgeon served as the left guard with both earning honorable mention All-B1G honors from the coaches and Knox picking up a third team selection from the media. 

Turning the page to 2019, Ryan Day's first squad will boast no less than 18 seniors, with an incredible 13 embarking on their fifth year in the program after taking a redshirt during their journey in Columbus. 

Not only will Day's roster be loaded with seniors but at least two-thirds of them are projected to be prominent figures on a team capable of making a run at the College Football Playoff. 

At the head of the class on offense is K.J. Hill. It was a bit of a surprise Hill opted to return for his senior season fresh off a 2018 campaign in which he ranked second on the team in both catches (70) and receiving yards (885) with six touchdowns taboot. 

2019 SENIOR CLASS
PLAYER POSITION
K.J. HILL WR
AUSTIN MACK WR
BEN VICTOR WR
RASHOD BERRY TE
C.J. SAUNDERS WR
BRANDON BOWEN OL
JOSHUA ALABI OL
JONATHON COOPER DE
JASHON CORNELL DE
DAVON HAMILTON DT
ROBERT LANDERS DT
MALIK HARRISON LB
JUSTIN HILLIARD LB/ST
DAMON ARNETTE CB
JORDAN FULLER S
LIAM MCCULLOUGH LS
CHRIS CHUGUNOV QB
KEVIN WOIDKE OL

With Ohio State breaking in a new starting quarterback in Justin Fields (or even Matthew Baldwin), Hill's return is a huge security blanket for Day's offense. 

Hill's return also ensures the receiving corps has a proven senior leader after losing the direction Campbell, Dixon and McLaurin provided. 

The receiver room will also receive senior guidance and production from Austin Mack (26 rec, 331 yds in 2018) and Ben Victor (21 rec, 354 yds) although both have yet to carve out substantial legacies in Columbus. C.J. Saunders also returns for one final hurrah though his opportunities don't figure to be as plentiful. 

Similarly, tight end Rashod Berry brings plenty of talent and will certainly be a factor but will do so as part of a two-headed or even three-headed monster at the position. 

In the trenches, Branden Bowen looks to return from a serious leg injury to possibly challenge fellow senior Joshua Alabi for the starting right tackle gig. No matter who wins that battle or even if Bowen is deployed elsewhere along the line, Day will need both of these guys healthy and productive if this season is going to be a special. 

On the defensive side of the ball, at least six seniors figure to start and play major roles headlined by outside linebacker Malik Harrison and safety Jordan Fuller. 

The pair tied for the team lead in tackles a season ago and could have chosen to take their chances in this year's NFL Draft. Instead, Day should benefit greatly from another year of their services. 

Harrison was by far the best and most versatile linebacker on last year's squad and could blossom into a bonafide star this fall. 

Fuller expected more from himself than he achieved last fall which was a key factor in his decision to return and anchor the secondary. I'd argue part of the reason he failed to reach his goals last year was because the defensive staff couldn't locate or develop a reasonable solution alongside him at the other safety spot until Brendon White's emergence in game nine. 

Joining Fuller in the secondary, Damon Arnette also passed up a shot at the NFL to the surprise of many, giving the Buckeyes another returning starter in the back four. No doubt he's had his share of ups and downs but depth at corner is something that shouldn't be dismissed. 

Defensive tackles Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton should do plenty of heavy lifting in the middle of Larry Johnson's rotations. Landers still has the quickest get-off you've ever seen and turned in 5.0 TFL last year while Hamilton was an underrated performer in spot duty. 

On the outside of the defensive line, former five-star Jonathon Cooper returns to his starting role after 6.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks last year and reserve Jashon Cornell provides some senior depth at a position loaded with younger talent. 

Rounding out the seniors that should contribute on some level, Justin Hilliard will return to his special teams and reserve linebacker duties while Liam McCullough holds down long snapping duties. 

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