DraftBrowns.com Staff Writer: Justin Higdon
In their first year under Head Coach Urban Meyer, the Ohio State Buckeyes defeated archrival Michigan, and closed out the 2012 season a perfect 12-0. Alas, sins of the departed had earned the school a postseason ban, and turned the OSU players into spectators last bowl season. Longtime Buckeyes John Simon, Reid Fragel, and Jake Stoneburner have graduated; and Johnathan Hankins left for the professional ranks after his junior season. Still, Ohio State returns a number of 2014 NFL draft eligible players, led by three star-caliber juniors and a veteran offensive line. (Asterisk denotes underclassman)
Braxton Miller QB* 6’2” 215 – Miller entered college as the top rated dual-threat quarterback in the country according to Rivals, and he will begin his junior season with 22 career starts already under his belt. A dangerous scrambler and open-field runner, Miller finished his sophomore season with 1271 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Though not as smooth of an athlete as his predecessor Terrelle Pryor, Miller displays terrific running instincts and elusiveness. His presence in the backfield forces opposing coordinators to account for the threat of a breakaway run. Meanwhile, Miller showed significant improvement as a passer last season. He threw for 2039 yards, with 15 touchdowns and only six interceptions, while averaging eight yards per pass attempt. Arm strength was never a question, and in 2012 he improved his overall accuracy and his touch on deep passes. Miller still tends to hold the ball too long and take sacks, and his height and running style leave him vulnerable to big hits. After watching the young quarterback leave the field a few times last season, Meyer likely had Miller studying the art of self-preservation this offseason. With two seasons of eligibility remaining, Miller is still a work in progress, but his big arm and athleticism make him an early Heisman trophy favorite. If he continues to develop as a passer, this could be his final season in Columbus.
Bradley Roby CB* 5’11” 192 – After originally committing to Vanderbilt, Roby enrolled at Ohio State in 2010 and took a redshirt his first year on campus. As a freshman in 2011, he picked off three passes and broke up six. Last season, both of Roby’s interceptions came against Nebraska, including one he ran back 41 yards for a touchdown. Roby is an aggressive cover man who broke up 17 total passes during his sophomore season. His tremendous speed allows him to close quickly on receivers in front of him, and to help recover from occasional overzealousness. Like many young defensive backs, Roby could use work on wrapping up ball carriers, but he is not averse to assisting in run defense or special teams. Roby recovered a botched punt for a touchdown against Miami (OH), returned a blocked punt for a score against Indiana, and blocked a punt of his own against Michigan State. He may have been a first round draft pick if he had left school after the 2012 season, but opted to return for his junior year and polish up his résumé. Roby enters the season as the top cornerback on many early draft boards, and a potential top 15 draft pick.
Ryan Shazier OLB* 6’2” 222 – A four star recruit out of high school in Plantation, Florida, Shazier made his first career start as a true freshman versus Penn State in 2011. He finished the game with 15 tackles and by season’s end had totaled 56 tackles and three sacks. As a sophomore last season, Shazier tallied 114 total tackles, with five sacks among his 17 tackles for loss. Once again, he punished the Nittany Lions with seven tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception return for a touchdown. Shazier always seems to be flowing toward the action, rarely allowing himself to be fooled by play fakes and misdirection. He displays excellent vision and reaction time, closing quickly on his target once he locates the ball. Shazier is also comfortable in coverage, whether staying close to the line of scrimmage to cover an outlet pass to the running back, or dropping back into the middle part of the field. Last season he broke up ten passes, including five in one game against Indiana. Shazier isn’t a traditional pass rusher, but he is effective on blitzes up the middle and his speed makes him difficult to account for. After playing at around 220 pounds last season – and looking noticeably thin on tape – Shazier has reportedly bulked up to 230 pounds. He does not shy away from contact, so the added bulk should help him take on opposing linemen more effectively this season. Like other current Buckeyes, missing out on a bowl appearance after an undefeated regular season left Shazier hungry to compete for a National Championship. On top of that, the junior linebacker displays a refreshing level of self-awareness. In a recent interview with Ohio State legend Chris Spielman, Shazier was asked what he could do to get better. He answered the question bluntly, “Well, I know for a fact I really need to improve on my tackling and my fundamentals because I don’t wrap up on some of my tackles and I take a lot of wrong steps.” With clear goals in mind and a reputation as a hard worker, Shazier is likely to hear his name in first round draft pick discussions at the conclusion of the season.
Jack Mewhort OT 6’7” 308 – Mewhort was a four star recruit out of Toledo, Ohio in 2009 and took a redshirt during his first year on campus. By 2011 he was entrenched as a starter, spending his first five games at left guard before closing out the season at right guard. He was slated to move to left tackle before the 2012 campaign when a well-publicized public urination rap landed him in hot water with his new head coach. Meyer briefly suspended Mewhort (along with Stoneburner) but reinstated him in time for the regular season. Mewhort started all 12 games at left tackle and has a current streak of 25 consecutive starts. Like most of his line mates, the junior tackle responded positively to the new coaching staff, showing improvements in strength and technique as the season wore on. And what a difference a year makes. Once disappointed by his young lineman’s foolish behavior, Meyer has become impressed enough with Mewhort’s leadership to name him a team captain for the upcoming season.
Corey Linsley C 6’3” 297 – Linsley played guard at Boardman high school in Youngstown, Ohio, where he became a four star recruit. Like Mewhort, Linsley spent his first year as a redshirt before seeing action as a reserve the following year. Linsley was suspended for two games at the outset of the 2011 season due to a violation of team rules, and spent the remainder of the year backing up at various spots along the offensive line. After moving to center in the offseason, he started all 12 games in 2012. Linsley is known as one of the strongest players on the team with a bench press of over 500 pounds (no doubt aided by a pair of noticeably short arms), and his toughness is unquestioned. He played much of last season with a foot injury that later required surgery and forced him out of spring drills. Still, Linsley’s role in the starting lineup is secure, and his continued improvement will be key to the success of Ohio State’s running game.
Carlos Hyde RB 6’0” 242 – After high school, Hyde spend the 2009 season at Fork Union Military Academy before enrolling at Ohio State. He saw limited action as a true freshman rushing for 141 yards in seven games. As a junior last season, Hyde ran for 970 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns despite missing two games early in the year with an ankle injury. He finished strong with 812 yards and 14 TDs in his final seven games, including 146 yards and a score on 26 carries in the win over Michigan. As a junior, Hyde seemed to finally embrace his potential as a power runner, eschewing some of the finesse/speed back tendencies he’d shown during earlier seasons. It will be interesting to see if Hyde becomes more involved in the passing game. Hyde has only 18 receptions as a collegian and has been part of a rotation, so he may be viewed as somewhat of a one-trick pony. Still, Hyde figures to see the bulk of the carries as a senior, and will have plenty of opportunities to improve his stock.
C.J. Barnett S 6’1” 203 – Barnett was a highly touted high school cornerback, and played special teams as a true freshman at Ohio State in 2009. He was granted an extra season of eligibility after missing most of 2010 with a knee injury. Barnett returned strong for 2011 and led the team with 75 tackles, while intercepting two passes and breaking up six. Last season, Barnett finished with 56 tackles, two picks and six pass breakups, but missed three games with an ankle injury. Despite good tackling numbers on the surface, many come with help from at least one more defender. Barnett can occasionally be seen being dragged by ball carriers and washed away by blocking receivers on running plays. Barnett plays the ball fairly well, but he does not possess the instincts in coverage that one would expect from a former corner. He’s a solid, yet unspectacular prospect who has had some trouble staying healthy. He is probably destined for the later rounds at this point. Still, Meyer said of his safety last summer, “C.J. Barnett is a guy who just does not accept to be average.” He ultimately may not have a choice but to accept it.
Corey Brown WR 6’0” 187 – The entire Ohio State offense had to be thrilled to play in a new offense last season, but no player saw a bigger spike in production than “Philly” Brown. After catching 11 passes for 144 yards as a sophomore in 2011, Brown hauled in 60 passes for 669 yards, added 96 yards rushing, and scored four offensive touchdowns. The speedy receiver also chipped in punt return TDs against Nebraska and Wisconsin. Brown filled in last season as Meyer’s hybrid receiver/running back position, but with Jordan Hall returning from an injury, he may take on more of a downfield role. Either way, Brown figures heavily in the offensive game plan for 2013.
Also Keep and Eye on: Christian Bryant S 5’10” 192, Andrew Norwell G 6’6” 319, Marcus Hall G 6’6” 315, Jordan Hall RB 5’8” 197, Chris Fields WR 6’0″ 200