While many magazines are debating the merits of Ohio State earning its third straight trip to the BCS Title Game, and others are discussing Chris Wells as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate, I started thinking about players on the team that are not necessarily well-known by the national media who may make sizable contributions to Ohio State this coming season.
Two years ago, a linebacker by the name of James Laurinaitis emerged at the beginning of the 2006 season. Laurinaitis had earned playing time as a freshman in 2005, primarily in the Michigan game when starter Bobby Carpenter suffered a broken foot.
Laurinaitis won the starting job in 2006 at the Mike LB spot and became a household name with his performance against Texas in the second game of the 2006 season.
1. #3, Brandon Saine, RB: I truly debated putting Saine on this list for the simple reason that Saine had some notable moments (end of Washington game, first few series of the BCS Title Game versus LSU) in his freshman year. Saine has exceptional speed (Ohio high school record holder in the 100), and could be used by the coaching staff in a variety of ways (RB, slot WR, kick returner).
Considering he did not play in a few midseason games last season due to an injury, Saine earns my vote as the probable Ohio State breakout player of 2008.
2. #1, Daniel "Boom" Herron, RB: This may be a surprise to some people. Herron redshirted last season but earned accolades from both the coaching staff and his teammates for his performances on the scout team. While Chris Wells will get the bulk of the carries for Ohio State, it would not surprise me if Herron gets a substantial number of carries to offset Wells' workload.
3. #90, Thaddeus Gibson, DE: Another possible surprise on the "emerging" list. Gibson redshirted in 2006 and played primarily as a pass rusher in 2007, having a big game versus Wisconsin late in the season. Gibson moved from linebacker to defensive end this spring and was the top selection in the Ohio State spring game by his teammates.
Gibson had a very good spring conditioning season and could play a lot in obvious passing downs this season.
4. #14, Joe Bauserman, QB: While Todd Boeckman is the starter, and Terrelle Pryor has been recruited for the future, Joe Bauserman will probably be the primary backup this coming season at quarterback. Originally recruited years ago, Bauserman chose to play minor league baseball for Pittsburgh before returning to Ohio State as a walk-on. Bauserman had a very solid spring and impressive spring game, and he should get playing time this fall.
5. #51, Ross Homan, LB: Homan was one of the top recruits in 2006, along with Chris Wells. Homan played as a true freshman but suffered a foot injury last season that limited his effectiveness. Considering how James Laurinaitis, Marcus Freeman, and Curtis Terry are all seniors, Homan will get chances to increase playing time this season and beyond.
6. #26, Tyler Moeller, LB: After redshirting in 2006 and moving to safety as a freshman in 2007, Moeller has returned to his natural linebacker spot and was impressive in spring practice. Moeller is not as big as most linebackers on the OSU roster, but he has earned a reputation for being in the right place at the right time and is a good hitter.
7. #36, Brian Rolle, LB: Similar to Tyler Moeller, there was concern about Rolle's lack of size. As a freshman last season, Rolle made a big impact on special teams with some hard hits. I predict he will again be a big factor on special teams this coming season.
8. #70, Bryant Browning, OL: Browning is slated to compete for Kirk Barton's vacant right offensive tackle position. While Browning held the spot during spring practice, he will need to continue to work hard to hold the job as Ohio State recruited several highly-touted linemen this winter.
9. #5, Taurian Washington, WR: While teammates Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline are the primary receivers, Washington enters 2008 with opportunities to earn more playing time. Washington played some as a true freshman, scoring against Youngstown State, and had a good spring game.
10. #7, Jermale Hines, LB: Hines played some as a freshman last season, despite not being in fall camp due to issues regarding his test scores and GPA. Hines suffered a knee injury during the 2008 spring game, but it was not believed to be so serious that he would miss time during the 2008 season.