A large portion of the hype leading into the first few days of Ohio State's fall football camp has been about the outstanding freshman class, and rightfully so with a heavy injection of speed and skill at the running back and wide receiver positions.
But as important as this year's freshmen will be to getting the offense to the next level is how much last year's freshmen need to step up, especially on defense.
The freshman class of 2012 was highly touted in its own right, and several players made an immediate impact. As sophomores, however, they will be counted upon to be big-time players on both sides of the ball.
Leading the way on the defensive line will likely be sophomores Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, both of whom saw plenty of reps in their freshmen seasons and are high-impact linemen. They will be expected to generate a heavy pass rush to help take pressure off a thin group of linebackers.
Sophomore LBs Josh Perry and Camren Williams are each looking for extended playing time.
Perry may line up on the outside in a base 4-3 where Williams is more of an inside linebacker. They each saw some snaps last season, although Perry was much more active toward the end of the year.
It's very likely that both linebackers will be worked into the rotation heavily, especially because there are only six linebackers on scholarship.
In the secondary, DBs Armani Reeves and Devan Bogard should provide some depth to a unit which has plenty of proven veteran talent in nearly all the spots.
The 2012 recruiting class didn't have many big names on the offensive side of the football. But T Taylor Decker appears to be emerging as the heavy favorite to start at RT this fall, according to a report Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors.
The suspension of RB Carlos Hyde for the first three games could open the door for Bri'Onte Dunn to possibly get a few carries in significant situations.
But other than those two, most of this year's contributions from the sophomore class will come from the defense.
And that's what this team needs to have with all of the question marks on that side of the football.
This class was loaded with big-name prospects all across the defensive side of the ball, and most of them saw the field as true freshmen.
As sophomores, they will be counted on to have huge impacts and become forces.
Spence and Washington will have the most pressure because they will be asked to be the guys on the Ohio State defensive line after combining for four sacks as true freshmen—three by Washington.
But after combining for seven in last April's spring game, the duo could be ready to emerge as the next superstars at Ohio State.
If they can do that, it will go a long way to validating the 2012 class' high expectations and the hype that it came in with.
It says a lot about these players that so many found their way onto the field as true freshmen a year ago. With a year under their belts, now is their time to truly shine.
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