Ohio State had a good football season, with some real NFL talent shining through. Unfortunately for Buckeye fans, a majority of that talent is leaving for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Most of the impact will be felt on the defensive side of the ball, as long-time OSU cornerback Gareon Conley and stud safety Malik Hooker both decided to chase the dream of playing on Sundays. With half of the secondary gone, and Buckeyes across the country waiting patiently to hear what upcoming redshirt junior cornerback Marshon Lattimore decides, the Scarlet and Gray have more than one incoming option who can step up in a big way on defense.
On offense, OSU will be without its best playmaker on offense with the loss of Curtis Samuel. On top of that, Noah Brown surprised some with his decision to leave early after essentially just one year of play.
OSU has more than enough incoming talent to help fill roles, but the expectations on the freshman are going to be steep.
On the top of OSU’s 2017 recruiting haul are cornerbacks Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade. Respectively, the duo is the No. 1 and No. 4 cornerbacks in the nation according to 247Sports.com.
Barring Lattimore’s decision, either one or both of the young cornerbacks could be thrust into a contributing or starting role. Okudah has one interception and one fumble recovery in his career, but has the size and talent to step up at the next level.
Wade, on the other hand, who has been committed to OSU for nearly two years, is a bit undersized compared to Conley and Lattimore. He has the speed to stay with nearly any receiver, but will need an increase in his physicality in order to play at a level comparative to his veteran counterparts.
Raekwon McMillan has been making plays since his first year with the Buckeyes, but there is still real promise in the linebacker unit even with his departure. Although now redshirt senior Chris Worley and now junior Jerome Baker had stellar years, the name Baron Browning might be the next big name in the middle for OSU.
Browning, the No. 9 prospect according to 247Sports.com, recording 189 tackles, four sacks and eight forced fumbles during his time in high school. Standing at 6-foot-2 and 229 pounds, he is a near carbon-copy size wise of McMillan.
Size aside, Browning will potentially be replacing a linebacker who had over 200 tackles in his time in Columbus, and was a field general pre-snap for OSU. Although he has the resume behind him, it’ll take big time play to fill the shoes of McMillan if Browning gets the chance.
Offensively, OSU has a potential replacement at H-back for Samuel in now sophomore Demario McCall. As for the loss of Brown, the Buckeyes have a plethora of receivers, but a potential replacement in either freshman Trevon Grimes or Tyjon Lindsey.
Grimes and Lindsey are the No. 5 and No. 6 wide receivers in the nation according to 247Sports.com. Although both sustained season-ending injuries, each can make an impact in their own way.
Grimes has a size similar to Brown, while Lindsey has speed similar to Dontre Wilson. Even though there are more experienced options, the group brings in a combined 2,780 yards and 40 receiving touchdowns.
Although each position could see an upperclassmen take over, there are more than a few freshmen who could steal the spotlight.