The Ohio State Buckeyes have a lot of talent on the roster, including a lot of players who don't see a lot of playing time. Many of these guys could start at most schools outside of the major conferences but chose to be a part of a national title contending team.
These sacrifices will eventually pay off for the team and the players themselves if they are willing to stay the course. The Buckeyes have faced a lot of adversity lately so these players are tested more than most teams in this regard.
2012 will be a year the Buckeyes will be expected to contend for at least the Big Ten championship, as they have in 2011 despite all of the young players and suspensions. This has been as close to a rebuilding year as you can get at Ohio State, who is used to competing for BCS bowls every season.
Storm Klein is a player who will be given a larger role in 2012, and there are four others who you should be familiar with.
Their names will be called a lot next season.
Junior linebacker Storm Klein hasn’t had a lot of playing time in his first three seasons as an Ohio State Buckeye. As a freshman he only had 10 tackles, and as a sophomore he had 17. So far in 2011 he has 27 tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and an interception in limited action.
He has seen the field a bit more as a junior but couldn't beat out senior Andrew Sweat and the current starters. I expect him to earn a starting spot going into the 2012 season. Look for him to be a leader on defense with a lot of young talent around him.
He comes into the game cold and flies around making plays when called upon. It takes a guy with a lot of pride in the team concept to come in occasionally as a junior, rather than be a star at a smaller school. This is why he is such an important part of what Ohio State will do next season.
Klein puts the team first and will be rewarded for it next season. The Buckeyes will benefit from his attitude and leadership on and off the field.
Freshman wide receiver Evan Spencer has a lot of potential that most people have yet to see. He is on team full of young receivers so there isn’t much room for him on game day.
This is especially true since the Ohio State Buckeyes are a running team. At least until freshman quarterback Braxton Miller improves reading defenses.
Spencer made an important catch today against the Purdue Boilermakers, a 12-yard gain for a huge first down. This catch showed his great hands and he ran a nice route that allowed Braxton to find him under pressure. This is difficult for veteran players, let alone freshman.
He will emerge as a go to receiver for Braxton Miller with the loss of senior wide receiver DeVier Posey. While there are several young receivers on the roster, Spencer will see a lot more playing time and play a vital role in the passing game.
Rod Smith is yet another freshman who will have an impact in 2012.
He has only seen limited action because Ohio State has what seems to be an unlimited supply of talented running backs on the roster. Smith has carried the ball 29 times for 116 yards, an average of four yards per carry.
With senior Dan “Boom” Herron graduating, most people expect junior Jordan Hall to start next season. My bold prediction is that Ohio State will rotate three running backs in 2012, keeping everyone fresh.
I think Rod will sneak ahead of Jaamal Berry, who will be used more in the return game and as a receiver. As much as I like Carlos Hyde, the coaching staff has taken a lot of carries away from him recently. This could all change depending on who is coaching the Buckeyes next year, but Rod Smith is going to get an opportunity to contribute.
At 6’3” 240 pounds, Rod Smith is a load. He will be the type of back who gets a lot of opportunities in third-and-short and goal-line situations.
Devin Smith is another freshman wide receiver who I think will explode next season.
He’s getting some playing time this season and is a big target at 6’3” 190 pounds. He runs clean routes and is quick out of his break. He can come back and get the ball if quarterback Braxton Miller gets into trouble, as he has shown as a freshman this season.
Smith has 10 receptions for 227 yards and four touchdowns this season, numbers he will more than double in 2012. When he and Braxton Miller get another offseason of conditioning and working together under their belts, this is going to be a dangerous duo.
This game is all about developing a rapport with teammates, which has already started in 2011.
Ryan Shazier has shown a lot of explosiveness in his limited action as a freshman. He is a linebacker who seems to have great athleticism and a knack for getting pressure on the quarterback.
He has 16 tackles and two sacks on the season and has hurried the quarterback several times to disrupt the play. He should see a lot of action as a sophomore and could very well develop into one of the best pass rushers on the Ohio State defense.
He seems willing to listen as I watched him on the sidelines with the coaching staff. If his work ethic is as good as his motor and athletic ability he will make a name for himself. It is a tough way to learn going up against Big Ten offenses, but big time players like him can handle it.