Ohio State Football: 7 Players Who Will Need to Step Up for Arrested Starters
As it was widely reported last weekend, Buckeyes Jack Mewhort and Jake Stoneburner were both arrested for obstructing official business (via KSEE24.com) Mewhort had emerged as the starting left tackle out of camp and as the starting tight end, Stoneburner will be a main target in this year's new offense.
As a result of the arrest, Urban Meyer has suspended Mewhort and Stoneburner indefinitely, and while this is the right move, it certainly leaves holes on the depth chart.
Of course, when there are holes in the depth chart, others either need to step or watch their team fail.
There's no way to know when these two players will return, and while I don't expect them to miss any games, it is officially "next man up" time at OSU—a mode we have become all too familiar with in the recent past.
OT Taylor Decker
Taylor Decker was among the numerous recruits to flip teams late in the 2012 recruiting period due to the hiring of Urban Meyer. The gigantic freshman was an excellent land for Meyer and his staff, and he may come in handy sooner than we all expected.
The product out of Vandalia, Ohio has the perfect size and skill set to play left tackle in Meyer's system and has apparently picked up the offense very well.
Before the suspension of starting left tackle Jack Mewhort, Decker was on the heels of Reid Fragel for the starting right tackle spot.
As of now, it appears that Decker will fill in for Mewhort at the left tackle position. It's an extremely tall order, but if the Buckeyes are going to see a lot of success with Mewhort sidelined, Decker must pick up the offense quickly and play beyond his years.
OT Reid Fragel
Formerly a tight end, Fragel has done a decent job so far of adjusting to his new position at right tackle. The senior bulked up tremendously throughout the winter workouts, but despite always being a solid blocking tight end, his transition to the offensive line hasn't been as smooth as the coaches would have liked.
The product out of Grosse Pointe, Michigan is an excellent run blocker but has struggled greatly in the pass-blocking department this spring. This slower transition put Fragel and Decker in a "dogfight" for the starting right tackle position, but with the indefinite suspension of Mewhort, Fragel must improve at a quicker rate.
Decker will be asked to fill in for Mewhort which leaves the tackle position even shallower on the depth chart than before. If Fragel isn't able to adjust to his position at a better pace and take the field on Week 1 as a solid starter, this offense could be in some serious trouble.
OT Kyle Dodson
The depth at the tackle position was already pathetic, but with the suspension of Mewhort, it is basically nonexistent. Without Mewhort, Decker and Fragel will start and their backups will include incoming freshman, Kyle Dodson, and converted defensive end, Darryl Baldwin.
While Baldwin has excellent size and solid athleticism to become a viable option, I expect Dodson to be a little more prepared to contribute early, if necessary.
Before the suspension of Mewhort, Dodson wasn't expected to play much at all in 2012 but now he must be ready to fill in and add depth to the tackle position. The product out of Cleveland was yet another recruit who flipped his commitment after the hiring of Meyer and was a major focal point of Meyer's recruiting efforts.
Dodson has loads of potential but as for now, the Buckeyes just need him to be ready to fill in for an injured starter. In such a physical game like football, depth is key and Dodson must be prepared come opening kickoff.
TE Jeff Heuerman
It's no secret that Urban Meyer and Tom Herman love their tight ends. Both coaches constantly look to utilize their tight ends size and athleticism to create mismatches and pick up tough third downs.
Jake Stoneburner was a perfect fit for this system, and if he indeed does miss games, his fellow tight end teammates must pick up the slack. Jeff Heuerman has shown some potential since he came to Columbus and it is now time for him to turn that potential into results.
Many expected Heuerman to make a decent impact in 2012 in double tight end sets, but now the brunt of the work is placed on his shoulders.
At 6'6" 250 lbs, Heuerman has excellent size for a tight end. Pair this size with his solid athleticism and the sophomore could be a solid target in 2012.
For this offense's sake, they better hope Heuerman is prepared to be a viable option in this offense because with so many young wide receivers, the tight end,—whoever that may be—must produce.
TE Nick Vannett
Nick Vannett had a solid spring game this year and shows the potential to be a viable option in the passing game in the next few years to come. The red-shirt freshman has excellent size and wasn't expected to have to contribute so early, but he may have to with the suspension of Stoneburner.
Many were expecting Meyer to use Stoneburner and Heuerman in a double tight end set that could create mismatches across the field. While this set will certainly not be the base formation of the offense, it is still a major formation that could help cover for the Buckeyes lack of experienced and big-time wideouts.
If Stoneburner is suspended, Vannett must be able to contribute decently in these double tight end sets. It's no secret that this offense lacks a lot of experienced pass catchers, especially without Stoneburner in the lineup, so any contribution would be big.
WR Michael Thomas
Every successful offense needs a solid possession receiver to move the chains and pick up the tough third downs. Initially, Stoneburner looked to be this reliable pass catcher due to his size and style of play.
In order for this offense to be successful, there must be a bigger target to pick up third and longs and set up third and shorts by picking up small yardage on first and second.
Michael Thomas had a phenomenal spring game and racked up loads of receptions throughout the scrimmage. At 6'4" and nearly 200 lbs, Thomas has the size to be a solid possession receiver. Add a pair of reliable hands to this frame and Thomas may be able to pick up the short and tough catches in the absence of Stoneburner.
Whoever it is, someone in the wide receiver corps must step up and be Miller's go-to-guy. This offense needs a reliable possession receiver and due to his size and hands, Thomas is the guy I expect to rack up receptions while Stoneburner is sidelined.
QB Braxton Miller
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No matter who is absent, this offense will go as far as Braxton Miller can take it. He is the key component of this unit and has already proved that he can make the best of nothing with his performance last season.
Miller is one of the best running quarterbacks in the nation. The star QB must use his mobility to cover up the holes that the suspension of Stoneburner and Mewhort leave. If the Mewhort-less offensive line is struggling in pass protection, Miller must use his legs to escape trouble and turn a broken play into a positive gain. If Stoneburner is sidelined and the receivers struggle to get open, the sophomore field general must buy time with his mobility and make pass plays against a broken down secondary.
Don't get me wrong—if Mewhort and Stoneburner do miss games, it will severely hurt the production of this offense. However, if this unit is really going to move the ball without them, Miller will be forced to raise his game to an even higher level.