There is not a time that this site really captures its own name like it does right now when it comes to Ohio sports. If you are wondering, yes, I am completely aware of how cliche that sounds but look at this: the Browns are holding 15 rookies on their 53-man roster, the Cavs are the third-youngest team in the NBA and the Indians continue to be the farm system that every MLB organization has grown to love.
The same is true for the Ohio State Buckeye football team…partially for different reasons. Of course, ESPN did a great job of finding a way to constantly remind the nation of the sanctions that came down on the university, so we are all aware of how that affects the program this year. Now, not only are we all looking forward to next season for bowl eligibility reasons, but because of the promising young talent that is currently being sculpted for when it counts. To reinforce that point, 14 true freshman saw playing time on Saturday afternoon. I get that it was a blowout win over a disheveled Miami team, but take a look at the depth chart and you will quickly see how many underclassmen either start, or see significant playing time.
That said, I think it would be a great idea to not only point out a few key guys that are worth keeping an eye on, but hear differing thoughts on this topic from you guys as well (Adolphus Washington and Bri’onte Dunn excluded as obvious 5-star recruit choices).
Starting with a lesser known and talked about player – David Perkins, a 4-star OLB recruit from South Bend, IN. Perkins will be stepping into a role that has had a healthy rotation of greatness, as well as injuries. Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier will unquestionably see the bulk of the time here, but Perkins is someone to keep an eye on as well. Sabino, who is now a senior with a lot of experience is someone that I expect to have a really big season, but in all fairness I have expected that each year he has stepped onto the field. I know my expectations for each may seem contradictory, so let me elaborate. Sabino has been a big part of this defense whether he has been on the field or not. His leadership and understanding of the game is nothing short of impressive and will undoubtedly be a huge piece in Perkins’ development process. As with many freshman, the ceiling is very high and I cannot wait to see what he brings to the table in the upcoming seasons.
I understand that Buckeye Nation could not be happier with the hiring of Urban Meyer (after some whiskey to help wash down my pride), myself included. Depending on what you expose yourself to, expectations are out of this world right now and I would like to help temper them a bit, or just keep it in perspective.
Yes, Braxton Miller is a very gifted athlete with raw talent that can seemingly always keep plays alive, but this is still largely the same group of offensive group this team had last year. In fact, the losses of play-makers such as Dan “Boom” Herron and DeVier Posey (after his suspension) are huge losses that will take time to replace. Factor in an offensive line that struggled even with the likes of Mike Adams and Mr. False Start himself, J.B. Shugarts, all of which have since moved onto the NFL. What am I getting at with this random tangent? Really, it could be anything but specifically it is our own homegrown talent from Westerville and the next Ohio State star, Nick Vannett.
Standing as tall as Alonzo Gee at 6-feet-6-inches with a 248-pound frame, I believe that Vannett will provide that much needed safety net that Braxton Miller will need against faster defenses, much like Terrelle Pryor needed Jake Ballard for the same reason. Vannett is not only a large receiving target for Braxton, but regarded very highly for his blocking as well. He has earned all-Ohio recognition, all-metro, all-OCC and all district honors for both his blocking and his 47 reception, 606 yard senior season that included 8 touchdowns. Ohio State has traditionally been a big fan of the use of tight ends – yes, that was under Jim “WalrusBall” Bollman, but Nick Vannett not only adds another target (and a monster one at that) in an evolving wide receiving corp, but can be a huge value-add in blocking schemes.
Depending on how how closely you follow the Buckeyes, none of these names will be foreign to you and the same goes for the 5-star recruit, Noah Spence. As Rick had written in his Buckeye Six Pack on Monday, Spence earned some solid playing time on Saturday which will only increase in the upcoming season. As you can see from the picture, I would imagine that a bulk of his time will be spent with John Simon on the field, which can only mean great things considering how Urban gushes over Simon’s football acumen. There is absolutely no question that he is a freak talent on the field, but he is incredibly knowledgeable about the game as well. Spence already gets very high marks on the tangibles such as his quickness off the ball and pass rushing ability, so having a mentor like Simon can only mean that this kid will have every opportunity to become a beast. Ohio State’s linebackers have some positions up for grabs which means that as Spence grows into the LEO position, it will help take pressure off of that group tremendously.
I am definitely in the minority on this, but I enjoy watching college football over the NFL for exactly these kind of scenarios. The step from high school to college may not be the equivalent as college to the NFL, but these guys certainly have more time to develop with a team that is truly invested in making each other better. Couple that with the decorated and incredible coaching staff, these young players’ ceiling is a complete unknown. The only thing guarantee on this team is that this coaching staff will get every ounce of talent and commitment out of every one of these players which will translate to some very, very exciting football.
Image of David Perkins via ScarletBuckeye.com