Ohio State is gearing up to replace key starters on their defense for the second straight seasons and players like Curtis Samuel will be a tough task to replace as well. Ohio State has the depth and recruiting to make a splash in 2017 once again but with a young roster predictions this early are as predictable as pulling out of a hat. Take a look at five way too early predictions that may have the Buckeyes back on track for this coming season.
Ohio State’s Defensive Signal Caller
Replacing: Raekwon McMillan, ILB, #5
102 Tot. Tackles, 7 TFL, 2.0 Sacks, 2 FF
For the second straight year Ohio State will be losing key components on their defense, none bigger than losing their signal caller Raekwon McMillan. He has been a near every play starter for the last two years on the Buckeye defense and was one of the clear leaders in the locker room as well. Expect defensive coordinators Greg Schiano and newly appointed Bill Davis to shift backers into new positions for the 2017 campaign. Look for strong side linebacker Chris Worley to slide into McMillan’s old spot at the mike. With Worley’ spot vacant, weak side replacement Jerome Baker will move to the strong side of the field and season-opening starter Dante Booker will have his rightful spot back on the weak side. It is hard to say that the linebacking but the Buckeyes’ have the potential to fly to the ball and add even more speed in the middle with all three playmakers in the lineup.
Second Year Replacing Secondary
Replacing: Gareon Conley (26 Tot. Tackles, 4 Int., 8 PD), Malik Hooker (74 Tot. Tackles, 5.5 TFL, .5 Sacks, 7 Int., 4 PD, 3 TDs), Marshon Lattimore?? (41 Tot. Tackles, 1 TFL, 4 Int., 9 PD, 1 TD)
Ohio State burdened the loss of Eli Apple, Tyvus Powell and Vonn Bell beautifully last year and it appears that they will have to repeat the process this year. With the guaranteed loss of Malik Hooker and Gareon Conley, it looks as if the Buckeyes will have to rely on new faces in the secondary this upcoming season. Expect Denzel Ward to step into a starting role after coming off the bench and giving Ohio State much needed depth in five defensive back sets. What may be unexpected is seeing a true freshman in scarlet in grey giving valuable minutes to a depleted secondary. Commit, Jeffrey Okudah, looks like the real deal and will have the opportunity to work into the lineup as early as training camp. Standing at 6’2” 190 lbs., he will have the versatility and footwork to be a great player for the Buckeyes in 2017.
Trevon Grimes/Austin Mack Will Shoulder Samuel’s Loss
Replacing: Curtis Samuel
771 Rush Yards, 865 Rec. Yards, 9.6 Yards per Touch, 15 Tot. TDs
Curtis Samuel was one of the few “X-factors” Ohio State had on offense and will have to be replaced in the lineup by more than one guy. Austin Mack will be a true sophomore next season and was elite all over the field in high school. Mack has the quick cutting ability that Samuel had last season and can is big enough to stretch defenses in the slot and backfield as well as being a versatile player on special teams. True freshman Trevon Grimes stands at a whopping 6’4” and used his long legs to make plays down field before tearing his ACL senior year. If Grimes’ recovery goes as well as Bosa’s did a year ago, he will be used as a Samuel-like receiver in the slot to stretch defenders down field. Both players are still raw but if Barrett plans on bouncing back in 2017, he will need his young receivers to make big time plays.
Weber Rushes for 1,500+ on 200+ carries
In 2014 Ohio State happened to have one of the best, well-rounded running backs in the FBS and handed the ball off nearly thirty times a game. With Mike Weber in the lineup, Meyer shied away from feeding the ball to his backs and it clearly hurt Barrett’s play in 2016. Ohio State must get back to Big 10 style football to set up the pass and ease the burden off of Barrett’s shoulders. Weber has the potential to be the next elite runner in Ohio State’s backfield, being one of three freshmen (Maurice Clarett, Robert Smith) to ever eclipse 1,000 yards in their first year at OSU. Meyer’s trust in his young back will only grow in his sophomore season and with trust comes carries. Expect Meyer to get back to the basics with a new offensive coordinator and a senior quarterback that protects the ball very well.
Nick Bosa Does… Bosa Things
Earlier this week junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis announced that he would be returning for senior while sophomore Sam Hubbard did the same after the bowl loss to Clemson two weeks ago. Both players will take snaps away from Bosa but with a full year of preparation there is no reason that Bosa cannot be the best rusher that Ohio State has. Nick finished second on the team with 8 sacks this season and did not even start in a contest this season. The name on the back of his jersey tells it all, he is a Bosa and is expected to be the best player on the field in 2017. Even without starting, Bosa has the ability to lead the team in tackles for loss and sacks just like his older brother Joey. Meyer and Schiano will have the tough task of splitting snaps between the three pass rushers but the best will play, regardless of their age or year.