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Which freshman play meaningful minutes this year
— The Buckeye Blitz (@TheBuckeyeBlitz) June 4, 2018
Even for a program with so many talented veterans returning this season, there are opportunities for the newcomers from Ohio State’s historic 2018 signing class to contribute right away. Some paths to playing time are more clear than others, but at a minimum, Urban Meyer now has more freedom to see what he has in the youngsters thanks to the NCAA finally relaxing its rules on redshirt years. Barring injury, it’s hard to imagine that the Buckeyes wouldn’t at least let all of those guys get some experience within the four-game window the rules now allow.
But what about going beyond that and playing a role of significance for the reigning Big Ten champions? There are a few relatively safe bets, and any preseason projection is going to include Jeremy Ruckert factoring into the passing attack at tight end. Ohio State needs to replace Marcus Baugh in the starting lineup and Ruckert arrived on campus as the nation’s top-ranked recruit at the position, which is just about the perfect formula for making an immediate impact. If he’s able to adjust to the speed of the game and learn the playbook quickly, Ruckert is the obvious choice to lead this heralded class of freshmen in playing time this season.
Outside of tight end, the chances to play meaningful minutes are hard to see anywhere else offensively. Master Teague has certainly impressed after enrolling early, but he has J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber ahead of him at running back. There’s not any question that a guy like Kamryn Babb can be a difference-making wide receiver, but Zone 6 is pretty loaded at the moment thanks to all the draft-eligible targets electing to return for another season. That’s a good problem for Ohio State to have on that side of the ball, because it can afford to take things a bit slower in terms of development.
There might be a greater sense of urgency with a defensive tackle like Tommy Togiai, who already has his black stripe off after turning heads during spring practice. Ohio State has more depth on the interior of the line than might have been anticipated, but Togiai and 5-star signee Taron Vincent both could factor into making that unit even more dangerous.
Maybe most intriguing of all? Josh Proctor has now arrived, and the 4-star safety from Oklahoma is also jumping into a position battle that’s open after Ohio State lost a senior starter after last season. Isaiah Pryor is plenty talented and has a year of experience under his belt, and he’s the odds-on favorite to win the starting job. But Proctor’s athleticism, football intelligence and willingness to come down into the box and help stop the run all point to him potentially emerging as an option for more work this fall.
That list could grow once the season arrives, particularly now with this new trial period available to Meyer. But for now, count on that group getting ready to make a splash.
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