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Current Buckeyes Expecting Another Youth Movement in 2015
By Tony Gerdeman
Raekwon McMillan should be one of the young Buckeyes taking off in 2015.
Photo by Jim Davidson

COLUMBUS — Urban Meyer said on more than one occasion last season that his Buckeyes were a year ahead of schedule, and he was obviously wrong.

Meyer's mistake was not expecting a class of second-year players and redshirt sophomores to step up in almost every area, plugging holes that had been left by the departed veterans of 2013.

Ezekiel Elliott topped his freshman rushing total by over 1,600 yards; J.T. Barrett increased his production by, like, infinity; and Joey Bosa...well, he kept doing what Joey Bosa does.

Then you had Darron Lee helping to replace Ryan Shazier's ridiculous production in the backfield, and Vonn Bell stepping in with Tyvis Powell to replace a pair of three-year starters at safety.

Despite the losses, there was essentially an upgrade at every position, and it was a tremendous culmination of development, recruiting and coaching.

This is the goal every year — to fit the new puzzle pieces where the old ones used to be, and somehow make the picture look even better.

So can the Buckeyes do it again?

Who will be the players that clear up the Ohio State picture this coming season?

Which Buckeyes will come out of left field like Lee did last year, or players who excel when given the opportunity like Elliott, Barrett and essentially everybody else?

"It’ll be interesting to watch, I think we’ve got so many talented guys," said linebacker Joshua Perry, last year's leading tackler for the Buckeyes. "Some of those guys in the wide receiver room on offense, the young players a couple guys who redshirted last year are really special. Those guys are just really fast, strong players. Parris [Campbell] and Johnnie [Dixon], Terry McLaurin can be a special player for us."

All three of those receivers redshirted last season, and after seeing the production last season from redshirt freshmen like Lee, Barrett, Eli Apple, Billy Price and Jalin Marshall, expectations are at an 11 for these young receivers.

Even those Buckeyes who are leaving will still have an eye on the youngsters.

Folks are already talking about Terry McLaurin.
Photo by Jim Davidson

"I think Terry McLaurin out of the receivers group is gonna be a good one," said departing right tackle Darryl Baldwin last week.

McLaurin (6-1 200) is bigger and stronger than he was when he arrived, but he still has the same 4.40 speed to go along with it. The same can be said for Campbell as well. There are high hopes for both players, but how soon those hopes can be met is still a question.

"Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell are two guys that can really run," receivers coach Zach Smith said back in February. "We've got four young guys that haven't done much around here that can flat fly. So it's going to be fun to watch and fun to develop and interesting to see how it plays out."

Considering the number of established offensive skill players that return for the Buckeyes, it will be difficult for these younger players to emerge, but that hasn't stopped their teammates and coaches from expecting it to happen.

There is a similar pattern emerging on the defensive side of the ball as well. Ohio State returns seven starters on defense from last year. The 2014 defense was one that got better as the season went on, and by the time they met up with Oregon, they showed that they had grown into one of the best defenses in the nation.

So is there room for a few young players to emerge and make an impact this season? It sure sounds like it.

"On defense, we’ve got that whole young D-line, so Jalyn Holmes and Sam Hubbard," Perry said. "Then you have Mike Hill and Donovan Munger. Tommy Schutt’s an older guy who’s been really good in the past in flashes so we’re hoping for consistency with him.

"In terms of my room, we’ve got a lot of great guys. You see that Raekwon [McMillan] is definitely stepping up and embracing his role being more consistent. Dante Booker is a freak of nature and I don’t know if he even realizes it yet so we’ve got to keep bringing him along.

"Those young corners with Dame [Webb] and Gareon [Conley], who is so talented. Then you’ve got Erick Smith who I think is going to be a special player, too, so across the board we’ve got a lot of guys we want to develop to have some depth."

It will be nearly impossible for Ohio State to get the same kind of contributions from second-year players that they got a season ago, but it should have been nearly impossible a year ago as well.

Strong safety Tyvis Powell has said that he thinks the 2014 class "has the same type of ability" as the 2013 class, they're just behind some very good players right now.

Some of those players will begin to emerge in 2015, and a few of them will need to be key contributors if Ohio State wants to repeat, which they do.

Is it possible for the Buckeyes to be a year ahead of schedule for a second-consecutive season?

Urban Meyer certainly hopes so.

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