May 5, 2016
Ohio State will field a very young team when it kicks off its 2016 campaign against Bowling Green this September, and with so many holes in the current depth chart, true freshmen Austin Mack, Michael Jordan and Nick Bosa have a big opportunity to make an impact this fall.
The Buckeyes, who are replacing eight starters on each side of the ball, wrapped up spring practice last month and are bracing for summer conditioning and fall camp. That’s when head coach Urban Meyer and the coaching staff will cement their depth chart and determine who will see the field for a potential Big Ten title and playoff run.
Those championship aspirations will be easier to achieve if these three players acclimate to the collegiate level right out of the gate.
Austin Mack, Wide Receiver
Ohio State lost the players responsible for over 80 percent of its receiving yards in 2016 with the graduations and early departures of wide receivers Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller and Jalin Marshall, running back Ezekiel Elliott and tight end Nick Vannett.
In desperate need of perimeter playmaking ability, Austin Mack could provide a huge boost to a depleted wide receiver corps in 2016.
The former 4-star wideout graduated high school early to take part in winter conditioning and spring practice, and that extra time paid off for both him and Ohio State. Mack showed an exceptional tenacity and work ethic during workouts, and that extended to the field when spring camp opened.
He was so impressive that he had Meyer envisioning big things in the fall.
“Austin Mack is going to play next year,” Meyer said, according to Bleacher Report’s Ben Axelrod. “It’s two days and I know it’s too early to say that, which I have a tendency to over-evaluate guys and get too excited about them, but he’s doing fantastic.”
The wide receiver room will get a bit crowded when Noah Brown, Corey Smith and Curtis Samuel work their way back into full speed, but Mack did enough to prove he has what it takes to compete at this level.
Michael Jordan, Offensive Guard
It takes a special kind of talent for a true freshman to win a starting job before the season starts. The intricacies of the pass- and run-blocking schemes, paired with the increased physicality from the high school level, make for a very difficult transition.
It usually takes a year for young linemen to adjust, but Michael Jordan, the 4-star standout from Canton, Michigan, has made quick work of getting up to speed.
Like Mack, Jordan enrolled early to participate in spring drills, and that’s where he made his surprising surge up the depth chart. After lining up at tackle in high school, Jordan transitioned to the interior as a potential backup for Demetrius Knox at right guard.
But instead of settling in as a reserve, he created a position battle and got the best of Knox by the end of spring.
New Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa talked about Jordan’s unexpected rise, according to Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com.
I don’t know how to put that in words, because I wouldn’t have expected that. We knew he was a talented young man, but until you get out here and the speed of the game, and how he adjusts to the speed of the game, he’s adjusted really quickly.
For a freshman who should still be in high school, who graduated early to be here at this level of football, doing the things he’s doing? I’m surprised and impressed at that.
Dwayne Haskins, Quarterback
This time last week, Dwayne Haskins wouldn’t have appeared on this list, but one stroke of bad luck shows how important he is to Ohio State in 2016.
News broke on Wednesday that third-string quarterback Stephen Collier tore his ACL and would miss the 2016 season. That injury will likely thrust Dwayne Haskins into the third spot on the depth chart behind J.T. Barrett and Joe Burrow.
Meyer heaped high praise on the 4-star quarterback on national signing day, who’s more in the mold of Cardale Jones as a pocket passer than a dual threat like J.T. Barrett.
But Ohio State fans are well aware of how important it is to have depth at the quarterback position. In 2014, the Buckeyes were down to their third quarterback in Jones when they hit the postseason, and all he did was beat Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon on the way to the program’s first national title since 2002.
Unless disaster strikes, Ohio State won’t need to call Haskins’ number this fall, unless it’s at the tail end of a blowout. But the Buckeyes know better than any team in the country that having three game-ready quarterbacks can be the difference between a championship run and a late-season collapse.
All recruiting information via 247 Sports.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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