Ohio State Football: 5 Dark Horses Who Could Earn Playing Time This Spring

Cory McCuneContributor IIIFebruary 14, 2013

Ohio State Football: 5 Dark Horses Who Could Earn Playing Time This Spring

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    Ohio State will return many starters from the 2012 team that went undefeated. But there will still be playing time up for grabs in the spring.

    There are players like Noah Spence and Taylor Decker that are near locks to step into open spots; defensive end and right tackle, respectively.

    Then there's openings like the two linebacker spots that are wide open to all candidates going into spring practice. 

    But it's not only starting roles that are open. If Ohio State wants to compete for a national championship, then they are going to need depth and options at every position.

    Many fans have spots figured out due to past recruiting rankings, but there are five players that haven't had much hype that could earn playing time during spring practice.  

Warren Ball

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    The running back position may be the deepest on the Ohio State roster in 2013. But this spring will be Warren Ball's chance to earn playing time.

    Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith and Bri'onte Dunn will start the spring above the redshirt freshman Ball. Jordan Hall could also see some time at running back. 

    Nonetheless, Ball, a big, fast runner who had a 4-star rating coming out of high school, has the talent to earn some carries in the crowded backfield. But he'll have to make up for missing his first year due to injury.

    However, if he is going to earn playing time, then he'd better do it during spring practice because the backfield is only going to get more crowded when Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson get to Columbus.

Chase Farris

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    Chase Farris was a top-150 recruit in the 2011 high school class as a defensive end. So clearly athleticism won't be an issue now that Farris has moved to the offensive line.

    Early in the 2012 season Urban Meyer was hard on his backup offensive lineman, but later in the season Meyer changed his tune and gave Farris some praise.

    However, he didn't see many snaps because Ohio State's five starters on the offensive line stayed healthy and started all of the team's 12 games.

    With the graduation of Reid Fragel, there is one spot open on that offensive line. Farris could play his way into that spot.

    Although Taylor Decker will be the favorite to play right tackle with the four returning starters, Farris could prove himself to be one of the Buckeyes' top five offensive linemen during the spring.

    That could be enough for Ohio State to move former tackle Andrew Norwell back to tackle and slide Farris in at guard.

Joel Hale

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    Unlike the offensive line, which returns four starters, the defensive line loses all four starters. 

    That opens the door for all of the younger players to battle for time. Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence and Tommy Schutt figure to be the starters. Steve Miller, Se'Von Pittman and the members of the 2013 freshman class will add depth to the rotation.

    But Joel Hale is the only true nose guard. With a former Buckeye nose guard as the defensive coordinator in Luke Fickell, expect Hale to get every opportunity to earn playing time.

    Hale is a similar player to Garrett Goebel, who started every game for Ohio State last season, which could end up paying dividends for Hale in 2013. 

Tyquan Lewis

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    Eli Apple and Cameron Burrows are expected by many to earn playing time in the spring since they are two of the five members of the 2013 class to enroll early.

    But Tyquan Lewis, another of the early enrollees, might be able to find a role in the reconstructed defensive line due to his unique ability.

    Without John Simon, Nathan Williams and Johnathan Hankins Ohio State will have to find new guys to get to the opponents' QBs.

    Noah Spence should be the starter as the weak-side defensive end. And if he lives up to his rankings, he will be a star.

    But Lewis could not only earn a spot as Spence's backup, but also earn the chance to play in obvious passing situations when the Buckeyes need more of a pass rush.

Armani Reeves

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    Unlike the previous four players on this list, Armani Reeves will have 2013 early enrollees to compete with at his position.

    Eli Apple and Cameron Burrows are two of the highest-rated cornerbacks in their class and came to Columbus a semester early to earn playing time.

    But Reeves was a highly regarded prospect as well and has a year of experience at the college level that Apple and Burrows do not. 

    Bradley Roby will return at one cornerback spot and Doran Grant, who played extensively when Roby and Travis Howard battled injuries, will likely take over at the other cornerback spot.

    Ohio State doesn't play a third cornerback in their nickle defense, but depth is still important, as evidenced by Grant's impact in 2013.