Ohio State Football: Listing Possible X-Factors for the Buckeyes in 2012

Luke Pashke@@luke_pashkeCorrespondent IJune 22, 2012

Ohio State Football: Listing Possible X-Factors for the Buckeyes in 2012

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    Star players can't do it all. As good as John Simon and Braxton Miller will be this year, they will need production from their fellow teammates in order to really see success in 2012. 

    Now, of course, there are several players we all expect to produce and won't be surprised in the least bit when they make a major contribution this season. Guys like Jake Stoneburner, Jordan Hall, Jonathan Hankins and Ryan Shazier will have solid years and produce, no doubt.

    However, the most successful teams receive contributions from unexpected players. These type of players are not included in the pregame predictions or preseason polls, but they are so vital to the great success of a program.

    These type of players are called X-factors, and luckily for Buckeye Nation, there are a few unsung heroes on this roster that could make a solid impact in 2012.

WR Michael Thomas

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    Michael Thomas made himself the star and the X-factor of this year's spring game when he pulled in an exceptional 12 catches for 131 yards. To put this performance into perspective, think about this: The leading receiver for OSU last season had 14 catches all year. Yes, all year.

    The wide receiver position is easily one of the weakest positions for this team, and they desperately need a wideout to step up and produce week in and week out.

    With Thomas' reliable hands and solid size, the young wideout could make an unexpected but major contribution in 2012.

WR Devin Smith

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    Very early on it was obvious that Devin Smith and Braxton Miller had an excellent connection. The two freshmen seemed very comfortable hooking up on big pass plays, and as long as Smith was running a solid route, Miller was looking his way often.

    The only problem with this is that Smith struggled greatly in his route running and in terms of getting off the ball. With a whole year under his belt and plenty of time in the weight room, Smith should see much more success getting off the line and running solid routes.

    If the freshman improves on these two areas, he could be a solid target for Miller and a pleasant surprise for Buckeye Nation.

DE/DT Michael Bennett

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    It's no secret that the Buckeyes will be fielding two stud defensive linemen in Hankins and Simon. Both of these players will drive opposing offenses crazy and force plenty of double teams in the process.

    While this may be bad news for Simon and Hankins, it's great news for other Buckeyes defensive linemen.

    Probably the most talented D-lineman next to Simon and Hankins is Michael Bennett. The sophomore had an excellent spring and really looks primed to make a solid impact in 2012.

    With so much attention being paid to Simon and Hankins, don't be surprised if Bennett becomes a household name by season's end.

S Christian Bryant

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    Although Christian Bryant can drive you crazy with his reckless play, he can also drive opposing offenses crazy with his playmaking ability. The sophomore is a dynamic defensive player and brings this defense a much needed spark.

    Last season, Bryant was forced to primarily play at safety while Tyler Moeller started at the "star" position, and Bryant experienced some serious growing pains in the process. In 2012, Bryant will be cleared to play at his more natural position at "star," which will open him up to roam and make more plays.

    Bryant often got burned in 2011, and his gambling style became a hindrance rather than a strength. Now that he is at his natural position, look for Bryant to make big plays all over the field and become a major part of this defense.