With just over three weeks until National Signing Day, most of the recruiting classes for the 2013 season are taking shape. One team doing very well, unsurprisingly, is the Ohio State Buckeyes. This is a huge year for the program, so an influx of talent is just what they need.
However, going over their recruiting class and needs entering next season, there are a few names on the Buckeyes' list of recruits, either already committed or still considering, who will determine how high this team climbs.
Based on the national rankings, it is hard to argue with what Urban Meyer and his staff are doing. Ohio State has the No. 2 recruiting class in the country, behind two-time defending champion Alabama, according to 247Sports.com.
Here are the key players who will make the 2013 Ohio State recruiting class one to remember.
Defensive tackle Billy Price
Ohio State's defense is the biggest reason it went 12-0 last year. The offense had moments of brilliance, but there was not enough consistency from that unit to think it will be elite next season.
One area of the defense that needs to be shored up is defensive tackle. All-Conference player Johnathan Hankins declared for the NFL draft, leaving a void up front that will not be easy to fill.
Price could, and should, get the first crack at taking over defensive tackle duties next season. He is already built like a college lineman, standing at 6'4" and 300 pounds (via 247Sports.com). Trusting such an important defensive position to a freshman can be a risky proposition, though.
But most incoming freshman aren't already fully developed. Price could stand to add a little more bulk to his big frame, though it is not necessary. Given his combination of speed and power, he is going to be an impact talent.
Cornerback Eli Apple
The return of Bradley Roby (via Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch) next season immediately gives Ohio State one of the best secondaries in the Big Ten. The incoming crop of cornerbacks, which includes Apple and Cameron Burrows, could make this one of the best groups in the country.
Cornerback Bradley Roby just told me by phone he is RETURNING to play for Ohio State in what will be his junior season this year.— Tim May (@TIM_MAYsports) January 6, 2013
Apple and Burrows are very close in talent, but Apple gets a slight edge on this particular list because of the way he developed in his senior year of high school. He went from being an athletic cornerback to one of the most physical and imposing secondary players in the country.
Apple is a little smaller than Burrows in terms of muscle mass. He makes up for that with great technique, footwork and speed. His best quality is his ability to read cornerbacks, as well as play off his instincts.
While a lot of young cornerbacks tend to get caught with their hands in their pockets, Apple is the kind of player who can recover on a play where he appears to be beaten and get his hand up to break up a pass. His brain and raw talent will make him an instant impact player for the Buckeyes.
Outside linebacker Mike Mitchell
Like Billy Price, Mike Mitchell has the unenviable task of taking over for a star who played a critical role in the success of the team in 2012. Senior linebacker John Simon led the Big Ten with nine sacks and was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.
Simon was more of a defensive lineman/edge-rusher than Mitchell, who is built more like a prototypical linebacker. He may not get the chance to start in 2013 because he still has a lot of work to do in order to get his body to a point where it can handle the college game.
Right now Mitchell is listed at just 222 pounds (via 247Sports.com), so there is still plenty of room for him to grow. Even if it does take him longer than usual to make an impact, he plays the game with a relentless style and is a great open-field tackler.
Ohio State's defensive scheme, as well as Mitchell's own physical development, will determine his ultimate role. As things stand right now, he has the potential to be an impact linebacker sooner rather than later.