Ohio State Football: Players Under the Most Pressure to Perform Well in Opener

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 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 second quarter at Beaver Stadium on October 27, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ohio State might have a relatively easy matchup against Buffalo to start the year, but there are a number of individuals who are under a lot of pressure to do well right away.

After finishing with an undefeated record a year ago, the Buckeyes come into 2013 with incredibly high expectations. Anything less than a national championship will be considered a disappointment.

For this reason, the squad must send a message in its first game and show that it is truly one of the top teams in the country. For that to happen, a few specific players must have good showings to carry the team and instill confidence for the rest of the season.


Ryan Shazier, LB

Ohio State might feel confident offensively heading into the year, but there are tons of question marks on the defensive side of the ball. Only one player on the front seven will return as a starter this year, and the rest of the guys will have to grow up fast.

The good news, however, is that the one guy is as consistent of a performer as there is on the team. 

Ryan Shazier led the team with 115 tackles last year, including 17 for a loss and five sacks. His ability to get to the ball while either blitzing or just reading and reacting makes him one of the best in the country at his position.

The junior must now repeat this type of performance on a weekly basis to help a squad that could be lost without him. If he struggles, the inexperienced defense could crumble.

Ohio State will only be as good as its top player running all over the field, and this must start with a strong performance in Week 1.


Jordan Hall, RB

While the plan was not to see Jordan Hall on top of the depth chart to start the year, that is where we ended up after an adventurous offseason.

Rod Smith is suspended due to a violation of team rules, while presumable starter Carlos Hyde is suspended for three games due to off-the-field actions.

As a result, Hall becomes the go-to running back for the first week. The good news is that he has the support of his coach. According to Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, Urban Meyer recently said:

Jordan Hall is the best running back on our team right now. And so he'll have to lose that spot. I'm talking next week, the week after, whenever. He's a tailback at Ohio State. He's earned that right.

Of course, this could only end up lasting a few weeks if he does not live up to expectations. Hall did have a couple of good performances last season, but it is much different trying to do that for 12-14 games.

He needs to get out to a strong start against Buffalo and make fans forget all about Hyde.


Braxton Miller, QB

No matter what happens this season, it all comes down to Braxton Miller. The Heisman candidate was incredible last year, passing for over 2,000 yards and rushing for over 1,000 while totaling 28 touchdowns.

A big season this year would give him plenty of individual accolades to go with what is certain to be a lot of wins for the Buckeyes.

However, the young player still has room to improve, especially as a passer. After completing only 58.3 percent of his passes and throwing six interceptions, he only had an efficiency rating of 140.5. This ranked him 44th in the nation among qualified players.

If he can increase this efficiency through the air, it would make the offense nearly impossible to stop.

Additionally, the coaching staff has been pushing for Miller to be more of a vocal leader, according to ESPN's Austin Ward. If he is truly going to be one of the top players in the nation, he needs to be someone who makes everyone else on the field better.

While the junior will certainly be able to rush for a lot of yards in his first game, having a complete performance will be much more encouraging for the rest of the season.


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