May 25, 2011

Predicting the redshirts



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The Ohio State football team has made a habit of bringing in spectacular recruiting classes under head coach Jim Tressel, but that doesn't mean all the incoming freshmen will see the field in their first year with the Buckeyes.



Though the majority of the class has yet to show up in Columbus, the summer time is about thinking about what the next season could potentially hold. Having been able to watch a some spring practice, there is enough information to make an educated guess on how things could turn out.



While nothing is set in stone, BuckeyeGrove.com gives a look into the regular season by telling you we think could contribute in their first year and who can be expected to take a redshirt this season.



Those who will play



Braxton Miller - Though the Buckeyes have three options at quarterback that have been with the program for a year or longer, Miller comes into his freshman season as someone many expect to compete for the starting nod with Terrelle Pryor missing the first five games of next season. One of the most coveted players in last year's recruiting class, Miller's spring arrival will help immensely in his quest to finding the field early in his freshman year. Given what we've seen and what's expected, don't expect Miller to sit on the bench his entire freshman year.



Bryce Haynes - This wasn't the recruit that made the 2011 class, but he could have the best chance of having an instant impact. Some questioned handing out a scholarship for a long snapper, but the coaching staff is quite pleased with what Haynes brings in terms of accuracy and speed. With Jake McQuaide gone to graduation, expect Haynes to find work on the field immediately as a freshman.



Devin Smith - Given the uncertainty at wide receiver it is hard to imagine that Smith doesn't have a real shot to earn some early playing time. Smith sees himself as an underdog in this class, but given his great speed and even better athleticism, he could make plays for the Buckeyes in his freshman season. Every time he has the chance to compete Smith is coming out on top, which could be huge for him when looking to prove to everyone that he is a playmaker.



Evan Spencer - With DeVier Posey missing the first five games alongside Pryor and three other prominent players, there's a ton Ohio State has to learn about the wide receiver position. Two freshman receivers likely wouldn't have had a chance to crack the rotation right away in the past, but that seems like it could be the case given the fact none of the other younger receivers made a statement in spring practice. Both Spencer and Smith come in with the credentials of making plays and that could earn both time on the field early.



Joel Hale - Freshmen who enroll early increase their chances of playing, but when they storm onto the scene the way Hale did it is hard to imagine them off the field. Hale stepped up from the first workouts the media were permitted to watch in strength drills that revealed him out-dueling establish defensive line stud John Simon. That aggressiveness translated into the fall. With the way Jim Heacock enjoys rotating the defensive front, a guy like Hale should come in and make an instant impact.



Michael Bennett - Ohio State already has a lot of depth on the defensive front, but it is hard to imagine Bennett off the field if he is healthy and ready to go. Ohio State has shown it doesn't keep stud defensive linemen on the bench - think Johnathan Hankins last year - and Bennett seems to fit the bill of instant impact. With all the defensive linemen coming in some will certainly have to redshirt, but Bennett could be the most ready to get on the field as a freshman.



Jeff Heuerman - The Buckeyes have two viable options at tight end this year that will play a lot of time between Jake Stoneburner and Reid Fragel, but the depth stops there. With two incoming freshmen coming in at tight end, one will most likely play in their first year. Though it is a tossup between Heuerman and Nick Vannett, Heuerman gets the leg up because he participated in spring football. It doesn't hurt that he turned some heads in the process, either.



Brian Bobek - Things got a little too uncomfortable for Ohio State in the spring when it comes to lack of depth on the offensive line, so it is only natural that Bobek would be on the list of people that should play. Bobek comes into fall as the most college-ready lineman of the group. Though Bobek will be the No. 2 center behind all-Big Ten player Michael Brewster, who initial placement in the two-deep should lend to early playing time. Heck, he could be one injury away from the starting lineup.



On the fence



Doran Grant - When dealing with a talent like Grant it is hard to completely rule them out for playing time as a freshman. The thing that makes it so difficult is Ohio State's depth at the position, as the team has four viable options for both cornerback spots. Travis Howard stepped up in the spring and asserted himself as the shut-down corner for next season and there are three other players hoping to climb into the opposite spot. Though Grant could come in and make a case for playing time, it seems to likely that he'll travel with the team but redshirt in the process.



Curtis Grant - It is somewhat the same story with C. Grant, as he brings in an incredible talent into a position that has quite the stable of players ready to make their mark. This Grant could have a better chance at cracking some playing time as a freshman particularly because Dorian Bell was recently suspended for violating team rules. Both Grants were highlights of this recruiting class but they are currently on the fence because of players already on the roster. But don't forget - Ohio State is looking for someone to step up at SAM linebacker.



Ryan Shazier - One of the freshman linebackers seems like they could get on the field, but it is hard to decide which one. Right now it doesn't look like the Buckeyes have an option for SAM linebacker and C. Grant doesn't seem to be the natural selection for that spot. Shazier played a ton of snaps this spring at that position because Ohio State didn't have other options, which could be big for his case for playing time this fall.



Tommy Brown - The one weakness Ohio State had during spring football was depth at offensive line. With only eight scholarship offensive linemen in the spring, Brown found himself getting a ton of meaningful reps at right tackle. Though many felt he was certainly one that would need a year of development, the experience he gained during his early enrollment could potentially thrust him into a role as a freshman.



Steve Miller - Another coveted recruit, Miller comes in at a position that not only has a ton of depth on the team, but numerous guys alongside him in the recruiting class. Miller has been one of the gems of the class since committing to Ohio State early in the process and his body size is that of a player that has been in the program for a year, but right now he is still on the fence for early playing time.



Those who won't



Ron Tanner - I guess it would be fair to put Tanner (and later Cash) into the "on the fence" category since they're one injury away from being on the field. Tanner specifically has the talent to be on special teams, which could have him off this list pretty quickly come the fall. However, for the sake of the piece we are going to assume all the safeties stay healthy, which would give Tanner the opportunity to take advantage of a developmental year.



Jeremy Cash - Just like Tanner, Cash spent a lot of time on the field during spring football because of all the injuries Ohio State had to face. However, assuming all the guys return to normal roles in the fall, the need for both of them could fade a fade initially. There's still the potential that the experienced gained in the spring could translate into special teams roles, but for now we will count them in as redshirts. One injury or aggravation could change that in the snap of the fingers.



Chase Farris - Anyone taking a look at Farris on the high school all-star circuit knows he has big talent on the defensive front. And though he is on this list, it is nothing against his ability. He said he has a "see ball get ball" mentaility and thus far that has been effective for him. Unfortunately Ohio State has more than they can handle at the position depth-wise, so it looks like Farris will get the redshirt year.



Kenny Hayes - The same thing goes for Hayes. Despite the fact he brings in a Big Ten body and a beastly mentality, who sits and who plays? Ohio State is more than set on the defensive front with returning players and ones coming in with Hayes in this recruiting class. He has what it takes to be a success at this level, but Hayes may just have to wait to get on the field. It could be a different order depending on how guys adjust to college football, but for now this is what seems to make sense.



Connor Crowell - The linebacker position is a lot like the defensive line position. Not only does Ohio State have a ton of stockpiled talent already on the roster, but the Buckeyes welcome in multiple faces at the position in fall camp. Right now Crowell seems to be on the outside looking in behind guys like Curtis Grant and Ryan Shazier, but never say never for playing time.



E'Juan Price - Just like Crowell, Price could change his luck in fall camp by coming in and adjusting quickly. However, with Curtis Grant coming as a highly touted recruit and Shazier getting ample experience in spring football, it will be an uphill battle to find the field in his freshman season.



DeJuan Gambrell - Perhaps the most detrimental player to Gambrell's cause is Dionte Allen, who transferred from Florida State to play his senior season for the Buckeyes. Allen looks to be in competition with Dominic Clarke to win the opposite corner to Howard, so there's plenty of talent ahead of Gambrell. Its possible both freshman corners will redshirt, but Gambrell looks like a shoe-in.



Antonio Underwood - Despite the fact Ohio State has perhaps the least amount of depth on the offensive front, there are seven guys that could make a case to be a starter. Underwood has been considered a developmental project from the beginning and it doesn't look like Ohio State is in a situation where they need to rush things.



Chris Carter - Same thing goes with Carter - Ohio State took some guys along the offensive front that need some time to develop. Despite the low numbers up front, Ohio State isn't in an position where they need these guys on the field as freshmen. If Ohio State can avoid a big rash of injuries, they should be all set come the fall without Underwood and Carter.






Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.








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