Ohio State Football: Key Players for Buckeyes' Title Hopes in 2013

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent IFebruary 19, 2013

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 27: Quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions in the third quarter at Beaver Stadium on October 27, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. The Ohio State Buckeyes won, 35-23. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Braxton Miller must dominate for Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2013 if the team is ready to make a return to a title game after sanctions kept them out of the postseason in 2012. 

The team went undefeated last year and would have certainly been in the BCS title game if not for those sanctions, but by no means does that portend a national championship is on the horizon in 2013. 

There's no doubt the Buckeyes have an excellent chance to contend for the championship, though. Here are the players that must lead by example for Ohio State to realize its title hopes in 2013.


Braxton Miller, Quarterback

We all know that Miller is one of the most impressive athletes in college football, but this young man must develop into a more efficient passer this upcoming season than he's been in the past for the Buckeyes to win a championship.

Miller is incredibly dangerous on the perimeter as a runner. He led the entire team in rushing yards a year ago, running for 1,271 yards with 13 touchdowns. 

Miller struggled as a pocket passer, though, completing just 58.3 percent of his passes while throwing 15 touchdowns and six interceptions—a 2.5:1 ratio, which isn't great.

Miller needs to improve his completion percentage to the point where he's completing at least 60 percent of his passes, and he needs to take better care of the football. 

If he can do these two things and can continue dominating on the ground, Ohio State's offense will flourish, and the team will put up more points than it did a year ago.


Ryan Shazier, Weak-side Linebacker

As one of the most talented players on Ohio State's roster at any position, Shazier is primed to break out with a monster year in his junior campaign—one that should propel him into the NFL after the season is finished.

With Curtis Grant making his return to the starting lineup (we assume) after getting supplanted by Zach Boren last year, it'll be imperative for Shazier to play at the top of his game to keep the linebacking corps in line.

Shazier has been phenomenal since bursting onto the scene as a true freshman two years ago. He essentially doubled up his efforts from his freshman year to his sophomore campaign, tallying 70 solo tackles, 45 assisted tackles, five sacks, 19 tackles for a loss and three forced fumbles last year.

If Shazier can manage to continue improving, he may well end up becoming one of the nation's top weak-side linebackers. Blessed with elite speed and athleticism, Shazier is a sideline-to-sideline defender who can pretty much do it all on the field.


Bradley Roby, Cornerback

It remains to be seen whether or not the Buckeyes will generate much pressure from their base defense in 2013. John Simon was the team's leading pass-rusher last year, and now that he's gone, it will be interesting to see if anyone steps up in his place.

In the absence of a dominant pass rush, Ohio State's secondary will surely be tested.

Roby is the team's best pure cover corner, and he may well be the best cornerback on any team in the Big Ten. Entering the 2013 season, Roby will need to step up in a major way to take a leadership role in the team's secondary, and his play must be exemplary.

Last season, Roby was phenomenal, intercepting two passes—one of which he returned for a touchdown—defending 19 passes and scoring another touchdown on a fumble recovery.

If he can continue making big plays like that for Ohio State in 2013, the team will have an excellent chance at making a national title run.


Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78