Ohio State Football: Pre-Summer Forecasting the 2013 Freshmen's Roles
Meyer did redshirt players in 2012; he just doesn't recruit players with the intent of redshirting them. He wants players who will be at Ohio State for three or four years and then head to the NFL. But if they aren't going to play a role, he won't burn a year of eligibility.
That's why, despite having one of the most talented classes in the country, Meyer will redshirt some of his players.
Others will earn playing time on the special teams or as backups used when a game's outcome is no longer in doubt.
But there will also be some of the 2013 freshmen called upon to step into important roles.
If the Buckeyes are going to be able to build on the success of Meyer's first season at the helm, they need to fill in two big holes. Overall depth and a lack of playmakers gave Ohio State some problems last season.
That said, there is a handful of incoming players who can provide both depth and play-making ability, and here are my predictions for their playing time.
Here are the players I expect to see redshirt in the 2013 season,
J.T. Barrett, Quarterback
Gareon Conley, Wide Receiver/Cornerback
Timothy Gardner, Guard
Timothy Gardner was the lowest-rated member of the 2013 recruiting class, and with four returning starters on the offensive line, he's unlikely to see any time.
Donovan Munger, Defensive Tackle
Donovan Munger was a 3-star recruit, the third-highest among the 2013 class' defensive tackles. Those two, along with the other Buckeye defensive linemen, could keep Munger off the field in his first season.
Tyquan Lewis, Defensive End
Tyquan Lewis was an early enrollee, which could help him earn playing time, but the weak-side defensive end spot is pretty loaded in front of him.
Every year there are a handful of recruits who can't work their way into the two-deep but earn their playing time on special teams. Players who fit this mold are generally defensive backs or linebackers.
Ohio State has a handful of incoming freshmen that fans will learn to love as they fly down the field looking for opposing kick returners.
Darron Lee, Safety/Linebacker
Darron Lee is a big, athletic player, but with Ohio State stacked at the safety and star position, I expect him to help on special teams.
Christopher Worley, Safety/Linebacker
Christopher Worley is in a similar situation to Lee, but he is more physical and could be more than just a contributor—he could be a special teams star.
Jayme Thompson, Safety
Jayme Thompson isn't as big and will be a safety, not a star in the future. However, he is still fast and physical enough to add depth to the special teams.
Cameron Burrows, Cornerback
Cameron Burrows is a big, physical cornerback. Even though the Buckeyes have depth there, Burrows will be able to contribute on special teams.
Mop-Up Duty/Small Role
These are players who likely won't play on special teams. But instead they earn the opportunity to add depth and will get a chance to show their talents when the outcome of the game has been decided.
Marcus Baugh, Tight End
Marcus Baugh is an athletic 4-star tight end. The coaching staff loves Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman, but Baugh is more like the tight ends Urban Meyer coached at Florida. That could give him a chance to play.
James Clark, Wide Receiver
James Clark has elite speed, which should keep him from being redshirted. However, Ohio State's receiving core is back and has been improving. It's unclear how many targets will be left for the newcomers.
Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back
I expect Ezekiel Elliott to get a few chances to shine early in the season. But with a deep stable of running backs already on campus and a running QB, I just don't see Elliott getting a large role.
Evan Lisle, Offensive Tackle
Ohio State doesn't have much depth on the offensive line. Evan Lisle likely won't earn a starting spot, but he will have a great chance to play his way onto the second group.
Mop-Up/Limited Role Continued
There will be more positions up for grabs on the defensive side, but I expect most of those spots to be grabbed by players already on campus. Still, there will still be several fresh faces to appear on defense in 2013.
Michael Hill, Defensive Tackle
Michael Hill is a 4-star recruit who could take advantage of Ohio State losing all four starters on the defensive line and earn some playing time. He likely won't start but could work his way into the back end of the rotation.
Billy Price, Defensive Tackle
Billy Price is in a similar spot as Hill. Price will try to earn a spot in the defensive tackle rotation as well.
Trey Johnson, Linebacker
I expect to see Trey Johnson on special teams for sure. He also has a great chance to earn some end-of-the-game playing time at the linebacker spot.
Tracy Sprinkle, Defensive End
Tracy Sprinkle was a 3-star, but his combination of size and speed will give him the chance to play in his freshman year.
Eli Apple, Cornerback
Eli Apple was one of the highest-rated recruits in the 2013 class, but because he committed so early, he is a little under the radar.
That will change in 2013 when he earns solid playing time as a member of the second-team defense.
Apple will still be behind Bradley Roby and Doran Grant while battling Armani Reeves and Adam Griffin to be the third cornerback on the field.
Apple was solid in the spring game and showed an ability to tackle. That talent will allow him the chance to play on special teams as well.
Vonn Bell, Safety
Vonn Bell was the icing on the cake for the Buckeyes' secondary.
Many expected Bell to stay in the South and play in the SEC, but he committed to Ohio State because he thinks Urban Meyer is building an SEC-type team in Columbus.
Bell was a 5-star and will likely get a chance to show why early in his Buckeye career. The only problem is that Ohio State will have two third-year starters at safety in Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett.
The star position will give Bell a chance to earn a starting spot, but even if he can't unseat Tyvis Powell there, Bell could earn solid playing time.
Joey Bosa, Defensive End
Fans who like to see guys like John Simon—a high-motor, workout-warrior defensive lineman—will love Joey Bosa.
Bosa is cut from the same cloth as Simon. Like Simon, Bosa will likely step onto campus and directly into the rotation on the defensive line.
Bosa is big enough to play inside and quick enough to play outside. His versatility will give him an even better chance of breaking into the lineup early.
Mike Mitchell, Linebacker
The Buckeyes only have one proven linebacker, so Mitchell could have a chance to earn a starting spot. However, I don't see that happening because I am optimistic Curtis Grant will hold onto his starting spot this season.
Nevertheless, an athlete like Mitchell will be hard to keep off the field completely. He will almost assuredly play on special teams and could step right into the two-deep on defense.
Corey Smith, Wide Receiver
Corey Smith is the only junior college recruit in the 2013 class.
Smith is a fast and gifted wide receiver who has big-time talent.
Even so, it could be his experience that gives him the chance to break through in his first year in Columbus and earn playing time as a receiver.
How many touches Smith gets could depend more on how Devin Smith, Corey Brown and Evan Spencer perform than Smith's ability. If those players open the door, then Smith could become a star.
Jalin Marshall/Dontre Wilson Running Backs/Slot Receivers/Returnmen
The return of Jordan Hall could cut into the amount of touches Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson get in their freshman year. But considering how much Urban Meyer talked about not having elite playmakers, it is hard to believe he won't use Marshall and Wilson.
The word playmaker was created for speedsters like Marshall and Wilson. Marshall is a thicker, shifty runner who played QB in high school. Wilson is a speedster who is used to having the ball in his hands.
Along with Hall, Marshall and Wilson will give Meyer's offense that extra boost due to their ability to play the Percy Harvin hybrid role.