The Buckeyes need to fill some pretty big holes on offense this year thanks to graduations and compounded by suspensions. Luckily, Ohio State always has ultra talented players waiting in the wings to show what they’ve got.
As a fan, you can only hope that one or more of these players can make a name for themselves and become the next great Buckeye at whatever position they happen to play. The spring game is a great chance to see what some of the young players can do.
Here are the players to watch on offense in the spring game on Saturday.
12. T.Y. Williams, James Louis, Verlon Reed
Is it cheating to have three players listed under one number in a countdown? Probably, but this is my list and my rules. I lumped all of these players together as a catch-all for the young wide receivers on the roster.
With the suspension of Posey and the graduation of Sanzenbacher and Washington, the Buckeyes will be looking to fill plenty of spots on the receiver depth chart. It would be fantastic if one the young guys broke through and made an impact this season. A note of caution, however, is that receivers have a history of looking great in the spring game only to fade into the background during the season (see: Bam Childress, Taurian Washington).
It will be worth watching to see what they can do in the spring game, but an outstanding performance is far from a guarantee of success in the fall.
11. Carlos Hyde
Whether or not it still holds true (newsflash ESPN, not so much anymore), Ohio State will always be associated with ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’ on offense. No matter how annoying it is that talking heads continue to call Ohio State slow and boring, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for knocking someone on their ass (even though running over someone instead of around them makes you slow, apparently).
Before I get even more off topic, watch Carlos Hyde in the spring game because it will be fun to see him run people over in classic bruising Ohio State style.
10. Joe Bauserman
Like it or not, watching Bauserman on Saturday may give us a glimpse of the quarterback for the first five games in the fall.
9. Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell
A redshirt sophomore and true sophomore, Hall and Norwell are young and also happen to be two of the most talented linemen on the roster. Youth plus talent equals exciting, even if they are offensive linemen.
They are competing for the starting LT spot during Adams’ five game suspension, so that by itself makes the two worth watching. Extra bonus points will be the glimpse of the future this spring, as these two will be the anchors of the line in 2012 and beyond.
8. Jake Stoneburner
With so much youth and inexperience at receiver, the Buckeyes will be looking for different ways to get the passing attack rolling. Tight ends, being a classic safety valve for the quarterback, may see their role in Ohio State’s offense explode early in the season. Stoneburner had the most productive season for a TE in years in 2010, and it is not hard to imagine his production going up even more in 2011 given the circumstances.
As a converted WR, he has a better understanding of route running than your typical TE. While Stoneburner’s blocking at the line of scrimmage has been a work in progress, he presents some serious match up problems for defenses when he gets to the second level.
Throwing to the TE was a running joke each spring. That bubble was partially burst with his 21 catches for 222 yard and 2 TDs. Now let’s watch to see if he can take it to the next level this spring.
7. Jordan Hall
I believe that Jordan Hall is one of the most overlooked weapons on offense this spring. Last season the carries were hard to come by for Hall, but he proved a more than capable playmaker returning kicks on special teams. The backfield will be crowded and carries hard to come by again this year, but there has been talk of utilizing Hall (and some of the other backs) in the passing game.
With his superior quickness, balance, and vision, Hall is dynamite in the open field as he proved time and time again returning kicks. If the Buckeyes can find creative ways to throw him the ball in space, it should provide a nice boost to the passing game and the entire offense. It will be worth watching to see if the offense adds any wrinkles for Hall (for instance, much has been written about quick screen drills in practice) in the spring game.
6. Chris Fields
Not quite young enough to fit with the other young receivers previously mentioned, as a redshirt sophomore, Fields will be one of the most experienced players on the perimeter in the absence of Posey. As arguably the best route runner on the team, Fields will be looked at to partially fill the huge void left by Sanzenbacher’s graduation. As Sanzenbacher proved, being consistent is just as important as being fast, so we will see if Fields can put the two together and become a go-to receiver for the offense.
5. Jaamal Berry
In the few opportunities Berry received last season, he showed explosive speed running the ball that Ohio State hasn’t seen since Jonathan Wells was dashing through the Michigan defense in 2001. The backfield is crowded this spring, but Berry’s elite speed will be hard to keep off the field.
4. Ken Guiton
If you don’t want to see Bauserman as the starter in the fall, your best bet is to root for Guiton in the spring game. He turned in a strong performance last spring, and a repeat performance will be a great way to cap off a strong few weeks of practice.
3. Corey Brown
With a passing game in need of playmakers, Corey Brown is the primary receiver that will be relied on to pick up the slack during Posey’s suspension. Brown is one of the fastest players on the team, but there have been reports that he is dropping passes this spring. The best case scenario will be a Ted Ginn-like impact player on the offense, the worst case will be an anemic passing game that allows defenses to stack the box against the run.
Will Corey Brown be enough of a threat to keep defenses honest? The spring game could give us our first indication one way or the other.
2. Braxton Miller
The big question for Miller this offseason will be if he can work his way up the depth chart to become the starter. Regardless of the outcome of the QB competition, Braxton Miller is one of the most exciting and talented quarterbacks the Buckeyes have ever had in a spring game. The obvious comparison is with Pryor, but Miller is already a more polished QB and better passer than Pryor was when he was a freshman.
1. Roderick Smith
Roderick Smith is receiving more hype than any other player this offseason. He passes the look test with flying colors, and if practice reports are any indication, he is a strong candidate to be the featured back in the offense. The spring game will be the first chance most fans will get to see Smith live, and if he lives up to the hype, it will be something to see.