The Ohio State Buckeyes may have closed the season with two straight losses, but head coach Urban Meyer and his staff are bringing plenty of talent to Columbus in their 2014 class.
According to 247Sports.com's current rankings, only the Alabama Crimson Tide have a more impressive crop of incoming prospects. That means the Bucks are built to contend next season and will have the depth to develop in the meantime for sustainable prowess.
But some of the current commits have designs of playing right away for Meyer at Ohio State, thanks to the circumstances surrounding the Buckeyes and their respective abilities.
Let's take a look at the impact some of the best players in this 2014 class should have as the program strides on into a promising future.
Note: Player ratings, statistics and measurements are courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise indicated.
Raekwon McMillan, ILB
As the only surefire 5-star member of the bunch, McMillan stands out as the best candidate to aid Ohio State in 2014.
The Liberty County High School (Hinesville, Ga.) product doesn't have amazing speed, evident in his 4.79 40-yard dash time, but he has a thick build at 6'2", 242 pounds. That enhances his chance of seeing the field in a prominent role sooner rather than later.
Perhaps McMillan's biggest strength is stuffing the run—something the Buckeyes struggled with down the stretch, particularly in the Big Ten title loss to Michigan State.
With dynamic linebacker Ryan Shazier declaring for the NFL draft, the front seven is ripe with opportunities for newcomers—whether they be freshmen or previous backups—to make their marks.
Bleacher Report expert Michael Felder compares McMillan to a former linebacker-turned-pro that Meyer coached at Florida: Brandon Spikes. Given their similarities in lacking top-end speed but possessing uncanny football instincts, the analogy makes sense.
The way that McMillan can engage blockers, shed them and then lay punishing hits is also extremely impressive. That makes him an effective blitzer and a player who won't often take bad pursuit angles.
Also working in McMillan's favor is that he isn't a total liability in coverage. As long as he can develop those skills and work on his agility, he has the potential to stay on the field for all three downs early in his career.
Fellow forthcoming freshman linebacker Dante Booker has more speed and upside, but he'll have a harder time finding the gridiron with incumbent starters Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry in the fold and McMillan being more college-ready.
Curtis Samuel, ATH
Opposing defensive coordinators should already be dreading Samuel's arrival from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, because he has all the tools to be both a special teams force and a playmaker on offense.
Samuel is 6'0" and 185 pounds—not quite as diminutive as a similar all-purpose weapon in rising sophomore Dontre Wilson, whose ejection from the epic rivalry win over Michigan this season makes him a bit of a wild card moving forward.
Whether he lines up in the backfield or in the slot, Samuel figures to give the Buckeyes at least a glimpse of his potential as a true freshman. Redshirting him may not be the best course of action, because now that top receiver Corey Brown is gone, OSU needs all the help it can get at the skill positions.
Plus, powerful running back Carlos Hyde is moving on to the NFL after an excellent career, and Jordan Hall is no longer on the team, either.
Quarterback Braxton Miller could use a reliable player to either hand it off to or get the ball to in space. That's precisely what Samuel brings to the table.
Damon Webb and Marshon Lattimore, CBs
Which player will make the biggest impact in 2014?
That's something the Buckeyes will need to lean on, but there is still room for the two best cornerbacks in this year's class to fill in. ESPN.com's Austin Ward points out how Ohio State has to replace three starters in the secondary, with current nickel corner Tyvis Powell likely set to move to safety.
Webb is 5'11" and 180 pounds with a physical style and a competitive streak. Over the past two seasons at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, he's logged a whopping 15 interceptions—a testament to his excellent ball skills.
Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher, although perhaps a bit biased, believes Webb has a great chance to contribute from the beginning, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Ari Wasserman:
He is a great player. He is one of the top players that has been here at Cass Tech. There’s a lot of great players at Ohio State, but he has great height and great size and he’ll have the opportunity to do something special there. There’s room for him to try and get onto the football field right away
ESPN.com's scouting report (subscription required) outlines how Webb is "ahead of the curve" with regard to understanding schemes, making him capable of playing both zone and man.
Bleacher Report experts compare Lattimore's precociousness to that of Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves, who had an amazing freshman season in being named an AP third-team All-American.
At 6'0" and 175 pounds, Lattimore isn't as big as Webb but he has played against excellent competition and has the swagger, sound technique and natural feel for the game to be a big-time player.