The top 10 Ohio State football players you need to know for 2016. Get acquainted with the key Buckeye stars to watch out for.
1. QB J.T. Barrett, Jr.
Drama over, no question this time around, the quarterback situation is settled – Barrett is the unquestioned starter who won’t have to look over his shoulder or battle for the job this time around. But can he regain the form he showed in 2014 before suffering a leg injury late in the national championship season?
The 6-2, 225-pound veteran wasn’t bad when he finally was able to shove out Cardale Jones from the gig – completing 63% of his throws for 992 yards and 11 touchdowns with four picks, while running for 682 yards and 11 scores – but he wasn’t quite as on as he was in 2014 when he threw for 2,834 yards and 34 touchdown passes.
Now that he knows what he’s doing and has the experience, he should be fantastic if the receivers can come around. Very quick and with a great arm and great presence, he fits what the Ohio State offense needs, even if he’s not the runner Braxton Miller was or the power passer Jones was – he’s a great mix of the two. The talent is there to not only be the best player in the Big Ten, but also be in the Heisman hunt, too.
2. C/OG Pat Elflein, Sr.
A next-level blocker somewhere in someone’s interior, he was an all-star, tough guy guard for Ezekiel Elliott and the running game, and now he’s working at center in place of Jacoby Boren. He might not be massive, but he crushes the man in front of him and can get on the move a bit and destroy at the second level when needed. Arguably the team’s most consistent and reliable player, he’s smart, nasty and very, very good. His game isn’t sexy, but he’s the lineman every coach dreams of working with.
3. LB Raekwon McMillan, Jr.
The tremendous recruit with the terrific name to go along with the game, he’s 6-2, 240 pounds and can hit like a ton of bricks. He’s the right size with the right range and the right abilities, he appears to be born to play middle linebacker, and after taking over the full-time gig last year, he appears ready for the NFL, too.
The team’s leading tackler made 54 stops as a freshman, and followed it up with 119 tackles with 1.5 sacks and four tackles for loss. He’s not going to get into the backfield, and he’s not going to do too much in pass coverage, but that’s not really his job. He came up with 30 tackles over a two-game span against Western Michigan and Indiana, and cranked up 14 against Illinois – he’ll put up well over 100 stops again and be in the mix for the Butkus.
4. DE Tyquan Lewis, Jr.
Joey Bosa might have been the brand-name star on the line, but Lewis was the more dangerous pass rusher last season. Of course, he wasn’t keyed on and focused on like Bosa was, but even so, the 6-4, 260-pounder really is that good as a rising NFL prospect on his own. He came up with eight sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 54 tackles in a very consistent, very strong all-star season. The spotlight is on, though, and now he’ll have to get used to being the one everyone is paying attention to – for good and bad.
5. OG Billy Price, Jr.
Wherever he plays, he’ll be among the best interior blockers in the nation. The 6-4, 315-pounder spent last year at left guard, but he’s got the frame to move to tackle if needed and can play just about anywhere in the interior. A future NFL starter who doesn’t make mistakes and is among the strongest, most consistent run blockers in the nation, he’ll crank it up for the hard yards for the ground game. He can pass protect, too.
6. DE Sam Hubbard, Soph.
Part linebacker, part defensive end, the 6-5, 265-pound pass rusher fits the Ohio State mold as a hybrid all-around defender who looks the part. After beefing up a bit and playing a few different spots, he’s a true defensive end who’ll work on the other side of Tyquan Lewis in what should be a huge year. As part of the rotation last season, he came up with 28 tackles with 6.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss – his numbers might double.
7. RB/WR Curtis Samuel, Jr.
The do-it-all playmaker who’ll get the ball in his hands in a variety of ways, he’s built like a running back at 5-11 and 200 pounds, and he has the deep speed to be a devastating downfield target. The jack-of-all-trades caught 22 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns – averaging over 13 yards per catch – ran for 132 yards and a score averaging close to eight yards per carry, and returned kicks, too. He’ll be more of a receiver this year, but he’ll do a little of everything.
8. P Cameron Johnston, Sr.
While he doesn’t quite look like the modern day tall, athletic punter, he blasts away like one averaging 44 yards per kick as a freshman and over 45 yards per boot as a key part of the 2014 national champion. Last year the Australian was a godsend at times for the sputtering offense averaging almost 44 yards per kick putting 26 inside the 20. An All-American and top Ray Guy candidate, he’s a special kicker.
9. LB Chris Worley, Jr.
Is it going to be Worley or Jerome Baker who becomes the next star outside linebacker? It might be both, but Worley has the skills and experience as a backup after working behind Darron Lee on the strongside. The 6-2, 225-pounder can move with defensive back athleticism while bulking up enough to handle himself up front. While he only has 38 tackles in his first two years, he’s about to become a major factor.
10. RB Mike Weber, RFr.
With Bri’onte Dunn gone, Weber is the star of the near future. The 5-10, 215-pounder had a strong spring game coming off an excellent offseason. Now, with his quickness to go along with the power for the hard yards, he’s looking like the next big thing Ohio State back – or at least he’ll be a fantastic part of the rotation.