Ohio State had one of the best recruiting classes in 2012 with talent all over the field. Now that talent needs to make an impact on the playing field if the Buckeyes want to play for the national championship in 2013.
The Buckeyes had quite a few freshmen on the field throughout the season, especially on the defensive line where Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington got significant playing time.
Washington and Spence are all but penned into starting spots after OSU graduated all four of its starting defensive linemen from 2012.
Spence only had one sack in his freshman season, but saw significant playing time rotating on the edge. With a year of experience under his belt and a full spring to get stronger and refine his technique, he may become a very dangerous pass-rusher.
Washington had very dominant performances rotating in at defensive tackle, including a great game against Michigan. Like Spence, he will be better after the spring as he continues to grow into his position.
OSU needs to have some of its second-year linebackers to have big years because only junior Ryan Shazier returns as a starter.
Josh Perry, a native of nearby Lewis Center, is expected to start at outside linebacker after seeing significant time in the base 4-3 while Etienne Sabino missed time due to injury.
Perry had the size to step in at times and got some great experience after enrolling at Ohio State early. That experience should benefit him going into 2013.
For the middle linebacker spot, Camren Williams and David Perkins will have a chance to compete after showing strong potential in kick coverage.
Defensive backs Armani Reeves and Najee Murray may have a chance to compete for the starting corner job opposite of Bradley Roby, although junior Doran Grant seems to have the inside track.
On offense, there really is only one attainable starting job for a sophomore, and that is the right tackle spot.
Taylor Decker got a chance to work in with the offensive line early last year, but dropped out and didn't get on the field much at the end of the season.
With Reid Fragel graduating, Decker is the favorite to step in and will have the chance to slide into that spot early in the spring and develop much-needed chemistry with OSU's four returning starters on the line.
Running back Bri'onte Dunn and wide receiver Michael Thomas will be called upon in case of injury, but may not be needed for big roles just yet.
It's up to these second-year players to really dictate where this Ohio State team goes next season.
If they want to play for a national championship, not only do the veteran players with experience need to step up, but so do the young depth players behind them.
OSU's strength is in its youth, with 51 players either in their first or second year—counting the current 22 verbal commits in the 2013 recruiting class.
Now those youngsters will need to grow and develop to take the Buckeyes to the next level, back to being a national power like they had been not too long ago.
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