Ohio State Football: 5 Buckeyes Who Will Strongly Push for More Playing Time
After months of anticipation and waiting, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes finally hit the practice field in preparation for the 2012 season.
With ESPN getting a special in-depth look at the fall practices—imagine hearing that a year ago—all eyes will be on Meyer and his team as they prepare for a season with no postseason.
Most of the starting spots are already filled, but there are always those players who will push for some playing time and challenge the veterans.
Those challenges can come from all over the place, on both sides of the ball.
Here are five players who will challenge for playing time all season long.
WR Michael Thomas
It's no secret that Ohio State has a huge void at wide receiver with no proven playmakers at the position.
One of the guys who should be able to step in is Michael Thomas, who had a fantastic first act in April's spring game.
He was a favorite target of Braxton Miller, catching 12 passes—two short of the season high of any OSU receiver all last year—for 131 yards.
He already is a part of the two-deep and should see some time on the field, especially if he can make the type of plays he did in the spring game.
TE Jeff Heuerman
It's no secret that Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman both love incorporating the tight ends in their passing game frequently; just ask Aaron Hernandez and James Casey.
Jake Stoneburner will obviously be a go-to guy in the passing game but look for a player like Jeff Heuerman to get some action as well.
Heuerman had a chance to see the field last season and to get some reps.
He is more of a natural tight end than Stoneburner who converted from WR to TE, so it's likely that Stoneburner could be flexed out wide, and Heuerman will line up tight to the line.
DB Doran Grant
Sandra Dukes-US PRESSWIRE
The emergence of Bradley Roby last year as Ohio State's No. 1 corner gives the Buckeyes quite a strong piece toward building a strong secondary.
One player who is expected to help fortify the secondary and push Roby and Travis Howard for playing time and possibly a starting job is sophomore corner Doran Grant.
Grant is a prototypical corner, built to be physical and be able to run as well.
He got some time to play a year ago but will be called upon in nickel situations frequently.
LB Jamal Marcus
Of all of Urban Meyer's first crop of freshmen, the one whom not too many had highly rated and was a bit of a surprise addition at the end was LB Jamal Marcus.
According to Cameron Smith of Yahoo Sports, Marcus was a guy who Meyer said had remarkable highlight film that fans had to see to believe.
Those evaluations sound quite a lot like sophomore Ryan Shazier, who had a spectacular freshman year and will start at OLB.
If Marcus can be as good as Shazier, it will be tough for Meyer to keep Marcus pinned to the sideline.
DE Noah Spence
The gem of Urban Meyer's first recruiting class at Ohio State is blue-chip DE Noah Spence, the reigning Maxwell Club High School National Player of the Year.
Spence is an absolute terror off the edge with a nose for the quarterback and the athleticism to match his aggression.
Spence joins Adolphus Washington, Se'Von Pittman and Tommy Schutt as arguably the most talented group of freshmen defensive linemen this year.
So far, he has not disappointed in the eyes of those who have been able to observe the early practices, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors.
Meyer's biggest challenge with Spence will not be finding a way to get him on the field, but making sure he is in a position to develop properly on the field with the right amount of playing time in specific situations. In other words, Meyer might want to make sure Spence grows into a balanced DE instead of a one-trick pony like Seattle Seahawks DE Bruce Irvin.
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