COLUMBUS, Ohio — There isn’t room for too many fresh faces to emerge on an Ohio State roster so loaded with veterans.
But even if there aren’t many starting jobs up for grabs with the Buckeyes, that doesn’t mean there won’t be some newcomers or late bloomers emerging as key contributors thanks in part to a productive training camp. Now two weeks into practice, a few of those players are starting to assert themselves — and maybe contending for more than a role off the bench.
Who have been the biggest breakout performers so far in August? Our Land of 10 Ohio State reporter Austin Ward and Ryan Ginn make their picks as the countdown to kickoff rolls along.
Austin Ward: J.K. Dobbins, RB
The Buckeyes are expecting to have a healthy Mike Weber by the time they open up the season later this month at Indiana. But the returning starter’s hamstring injury during the early stages of camp opened up some valuable reps for the young guys behind him on the depth chart. Perhaps nobody has made better use of that opportunity to showcase his skills than J.K. Dobbins, true freshman from Texas.
At times in the spring Dobbins appeared to be dealing with some growing pains on the practice field. But enrolling early gave him a chance to work through those in March and April instead of in August, which has allowed him to shine at a time when the Buckeyes are at least considering what a game plan without Weber might look like.
Even when Weber is fully cleared and ready to reclaim the first-team reps, Dobbins appears more than capable of helping to shoulder that load this fall.
“He graded a champion in the scrimmage [ on Saturday ],” Meyer said. “He has his black stripe off. It’s still early to anoint anybody, but he’s one of the freshmen who will play this year.”
Ryan Ginn: Chase Young, DE
Dobbins is a great choice, but I’m going with the other player who wears No. 2 — freshman defensive end Chase Young.
Just listen to fellow defensive end Tyquan Lewis, who heaped praise on Young at Big Ten Media Days. “That’s a different type of specimen right there,” Lewis said. “Big dude. I think he’s like 255 [pounds], 260, something like that. I couldn’t tell you. Like 6-6. He looks the part.”
I visited Young this spring as a part of our Next Generation series, and it was incredible watching how effortlessly he moved on the track. (He was competing as a 260-pound sprinter for his high school track team.) The two Ohio State preseason practices open to media confirmed Lewis’ words. You’d never know he’s a freshman who just arrived on a college campus.
The defensive ends were working right in front of the media during practice Saturday, and he appears to very much be the real deal.
Now you can watch Chase Young move pic.twitter.com/yCtGbDcCjJ
— Ari Wasserman (@AriWasserman) August 5, 2017
We’ll learn more about where he stands when Larry Johnson speaks to the media Aug. 21, but becoming the third freshman to lose his black stripe makes pretty clear what type of impact Young is already having. Despite Young being in the deepest position group on the team, expect to see him on the field Aug. 31 when the Buckeyes take on Indiana.
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