Looking at the Biggest Second-Year Leaps of Recent Ohio State Football Players

By David Regimbal on May 11, 2020 at 3:25 pm
Ohio State defensive end Chase Young

With Chase Young, Jeff Okudah and J.K. Dobbins leaving early for the NFL and the graduations of several players at wide receiver and along the defensive line, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day needs some of his younger players to step up this fall.

Fittingly, the six highest-rated prospects from the Buckeyes 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes are either sophomores or redshirt sophomores who are projected to start or be in heavy rotation this season.

Those six are offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, defensive tackle Taron Vincent, defensive end Zach Harrison, offensive guard Harry Miller and wideouts Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams.

All but Williams (a 4-star prospect rated No. 82 in his class nationally) were rated 5-star prospects, and they're on the verge of fulfilling the immense potential they came into the program with.

But how big of a splash can they make in their sophomore seasons?

Day and the coaching staff are hoping they make a big one, because the Buckeyes are looking for replacements after losing 12 starters from last year's team that stormed through the regular season and into the college football playoff.

There's a blueprint for that. These former Buckeyes dominated in their sophomore seasons at Ohio State, and Ohio State's second-year players should aim to emulate them this fall.

Joey Bosa

Of the players on this list, Joey Bosa's leap is probably the least dramatic because he had such a strong freshman season.

In his first year in 2013, Bosa registered an extremely impressive 42 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. But the leap he made in his sophomore season was enormous for the Buckeyes.

Anchoring a defense that would go on to win a national title, Bosa tallied 55 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He was named a consensus first-team All American for his efforts and won both the Big Ten Defensive Linemen of the Year and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards.

Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott's second-year leap is probably one of the most dramatic in school history.

Elliott didn't play much as a freshman. He backed up workhorse Carlos Hyde and largely saw time in mop-up duty, getting 30 total carries on the season for 262 yards (8.7 yards per carry / insert eyes emoji here / ) and two touchdowns.

But he earned the starting role in the offseason leading up to his sophomore season and put together a historic year for the Buckeyes. Elliott took his 273 carries and ran for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2014.

His numbers likely would've been better if he had started the season healthy. Offseason surgery to repair a fractured wrist kept his workload low in Ohio State's first three games, when he averaged just nine carries a game.

But he finished strong, running for 220, 230 and 246 yards in Ohio State's postseason matchups against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.

Chase Young

Chase Young's first season with the Buckeyes looked a lot like Zach Harrison's in 2019.

Young registered 18 tackles, five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2017 while Harrison notched 24 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks last year.

But if Harrison can make a similar leap into his sophomore season as Young did in 2018, Buckeye fans could get excited.

Young was supposed to complement Nick Bosa as a sophomore, but he became the lead pass-rusher on the team when Nick's season came to an end in Ohio State's Week 3 showdown against TCU.

Young thrived regardless, piling up 14.5 tackles for loss (highlighted by the game-clinching tackle on the road against Penn State) and 10.5 sacks.

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