Ohio State has been an NFL factory for decades.
Long before Urban Meyer showed up and kicked Ohio State's national recruiting into overdrive (and in turn, converted those collegiate players into pro prospects), Columbus was a hotspot for churning out NFL talent.
This year, nine former Buckeyes heard their names called in Nashville, Tennessee for the draft, which was second-most nationally. Two of those names were announced in the first round when Nick Bosa was selected No. 2 overall by San Francisco and Dwayne Haskins was taken 15th by Washington. That gave Ohio State another benchmark, as it tied USC for the most first-round selections all-time by a single school.
Even with Meyer's departure, things don't look like they'll slow down under new head coach Ryan Day. Early 2020 mock drafts are kind toward current Buckeyes, particularly with defensive end Chase Young, who some believe could be a top-two selection next April.
There are obvious pros on Ohio State's roster. Young is one of them. Guys like J.K. Dobbins, Damon Arnette and K.J. Hill (among a host of others) will join him, likely all in the 2020 NFL draft.
But who are some of the players who have yet to make an impact at the collegiate level who could emerge as potential first-round talents in the years to come?
Ohio State's linebackers were woefully misused and picked on a season ago. With defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and linebackers coach Bill Davis at the helm, the Buckeye 'backers were consistently put in bad situations, which produced even worse results.
All three starters from last year's unit—Tuf Borland, Malik Harrison and Pete Werner—return in 2019. But with an overhauled defensive coaching staff and simplified scheme, there could be a shakeup for Ohio State's linebackers this year.
Enter Teradja Mitchell, the hard-hitting bulldozer out of Virginia Beach who was rated the No. 2 overall inside linebacker for the 2018 recruiting class. He made an impact on special teams during his freshman season, but he surged throughout winter conditioning and spring practice.
With an injury to Borland, Mitchell took a lot of first-team reps at middle linebacker and really impressed his coaches.
“We’re excited about Teradja,” Day said this spring.
That excitement is reciprocated, because the true sophomore feels at home in Ohio State's new defense and senses an opportunity for playing time this fall.
"With a new coaching staff that didn't really know us well, don't how we play, so everybody's just starting at ground zero, and we're all here to show what we can do and improve ourselves," Mitchell said this spring. "Like I said, the best plays."
The last four starting centers at Ohio State have heard their names called on draft day, and that shouldn't stop with the sudden emergence of Josh Myers.
Myers came to Columbus as one of the most dominant interior offensive linemen in the country in 2017, but with a loaded depth chart, he wasn't able to crack the rotation his first two seasons.
When it was announced that Jonah Jackson was transferring from Rutgers to Ohio State, it seemed like Myers time in the spotlight would have to wait another season. But he came into spring camp motivated to earn his spot as a starter, and it looks like he did just that with an impressive push for the starting center position.
If he puts together a solid pair of seasons at the center of Ohio State's offensive line, he'll be a sought-after commodity.
The Bosa brothers gave Ohio State a consistent pass-rush dating back to 2013, but with Nick's departure, it looks like Young's line to lead in 2019.
As previously mentioned, Young is primed to prove he's ready for the next level this season, but don't sleep on his backup. Tyreke Smith came to Ohio State from Cleveland, Ohio as the nation's No. 34 overall prospect and the fourth-best weak-side defensive end in the country.
He appeared in seven games as a true freshman last year and registered just nine tackles, but Young is certain that Smith will help the Buckeyes in pressure situations this fall.
"Tyreke Smith, he's definitely going to help us pass-rush. He's definitely getting a lot better. He's definitely shown flashes of being a real great player," Young said.
That's an assessment Smith agrees with, and he's eager to show what he can offer the Ohio State defense in 2019.
"This year it's something different coming," Smith said this spring.