Freshmen Who Could Make an Impact
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — All of Ohio State’s freshmen have been on campus now for over a month, but the intensity is about to ratchet up a dozen notches with the start of fall practice.
The new Buckeyes officially report to camp this afternoon, checking into the team hotel one day ahead of their veteran teammates, but a number of them could contribute as rookies this fall.
We take a look at the members of the 2011 freshman class who are most likely to make an impact in their first season at Ohio State.
QB Braxton Miller (6-3, 210, Wayne) — All eyes will be on Ohio State’s freshman quarterback when he hits the practice field this fall and that includes those of his teammates. Everyone—and that means everyone—is anxious to see what the youngster can do with 15 spring practices and a summer of workouts under his belt. Exactly how good the Buckeyes will be in 2011 could depend on Braxton’s ability to get on the field this season.
WR Devin Smith (6-3, 190, Massillon) — He hasn’t even been on campus long enough to really get into the playbook, but there is plenty of opportunity for Smith at the receiver position this fall. With DeVier Posey suspended, Smith has the size and hands to contribute as a true freshman. More importantly, he seems to have a toughness about him that could eventually separate him from others in the pack.
WR Evan Spencer (6-1, 190, Ill.) — It’s unlikely that both Smith and Spencer will be on the field this fall, but they both have plenty of talent. Spencer was impressive in his meeting with the media and he has excellent size, which is something the current receiving corps lacks outside of T.Y. Williams.
TE Jeff Heuerman (6-5, 240, Fla.) — The Buckeyes return their top two tight ends from last season but with the possibility of Jake Stoneburner playing more receiver and Reid Fragel coming off an infection, the door is open for Heuerman. He came in with Miller back in January and has put on 30 pounds of solid muscle in the last seven months.
DL Joel Hale (6-4, 305, Ind.) — Another early enrollee from the winter, Hale was impressive during the spring and could factor in to the defensive line rotation this fall. He started out wanting to play strongside defensive end, but probably factors more in the middle now that he is up to 305 pounds.
DE Steve Miller/Kenny Hayes — It’s too early to say whether Miller or Hayes will be a factor on the defensive line this season, but they certainly have enough talent. Among the top-ranked players at their position in the class of 2011, one or both could crack their way into the mix this fall, especially with Solomon Thomas being suspended for the first five games.
LB Ryan Shazier (6-2, 210, Fla.) — It will be interesting to see how Ohio State handles the Sam linebacker spot this fall with Tyler Moeller being back. With Jonathan Newsome leaving and Dorian Bell suspended, it seems like Moeller will be glued to the field, but Shazier showed great promise at the Sam spot in the spring. If he can add some strength, he could be perfect for the position down the line.
LB Curtis Grant (6-3, 225, Va.) — From a physical standpoint, there might not be any player in the class more ready to be on the field than Grant. The top-rated linebacker in the class of 2011 is up to 247 pounds and could play any of the three linebacker spots if he can pick up the defense quickly enough. He said he prefers to play inside at the Mike position, but Will could be his most natural position.
CB Doran Grant (5-11, 180, SVSM) — With Travis Howard all but locked in at one corner spot, it looks like Dominic Clarke and Bradley Roby are battling for the other spot but don’t count Grant out. He comes in with all kinds of talent and a rare ability to find the football. He is one of the few kids on this list with a possible chance to crack the starting lineup with an exceptional fall camp.
DB Jeremy Cash (6-2, 190, Fla.) — If the Buckeyes weren’t so deep at the back end of their defense Cash might also be on that short list. He was very impressive in the spring and seems to have a knack for making plays. It will be very interesting to watch what type of player he develops into.
LS Bryce Haynes (6-4, 195, Ga.) — He has only been on campus since June, but already there is a feeling that Haynes will be Ohio State’s long-snapper in 2011. At 6-4, 185, Haynes is still a bit wiry for a snapper, but he is a solid all-around athlete and his unique ability to spin the football should help separate him from the walk-on snappers.
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