Five Freshmen Who Are Stepping Up

Another class of first-year players has arrived at Ohio State, and some have already started to stand out to observers. BuckeyeSports.com takes a look at five who have caught our eyes and could make an impact during the 2012 season.

It's hard to draw conclusions from just a few glimpses of practice, but it is possible to see which Ohio State freshmen pass the look test in the early days of the fall.

Head coach Urban Meyer has also said a number of freshmen will get the chance to see the field in 2012. With that in mind, BuckeyeSports.com takes a look at five freshmen who have already looked good during The Opening days of camp. There's no guarantee those players will make the biggest impact in the 2012 class, but if we had to guess, they're the ones Buckeye fans will be most excited about both this year and going forward.

TB Brionte Dunn: The small legal issue Dunn had just before camp hasn't seemed to dull his enthusiasm as he has looked every bit as good as he did in high school at Canton GlenOak on the way to earning five-star status. After bulling his way to 5,479 rushing yards in his high school career, Dunn has come to Ohio State and impressed.

His name was on the lips of the coaching staff, including Meyer, for a hot start in spring, one that was slightly dulled when he picked up a minor injury. Now healthy, Dunn has showcased fantastic burst during fall camp. With senior Jordan Hall out, he's been the No. 3 back in the rotation behind Carlos Hyde and Roderick Smith, but the free rotation means he's been working with the top unit at times and hasn't disappointed.

He has plenty of strength at 214 pounds and looks smooth with the ball in his hands. OSU has some talented backs, but Dunn might have the best combination of physical skills of all of them.

OT Taylor Decker: The Vandalia (Ohio) Butler lineman was a huge pickup, something Meyer stressed on National Signing Day. But even Meyer has to be surprised at the way Decker, a four-star prospect, has slid into the college game.

Decker was impressive during the spring, so much so that line coach Ed Warinner said he was as smart as any lineman on the team when it came to football savvy. He also boasts excellent physical tools at 6-7, 310 pounds with good knee bend and flexibility.

Decker is currently battling senior Reid Fragel for the right tackle spot. He still has a lot to learn, but it's hard to imagine him not seeing playing time at some point this year. He's a natural pass blocker who simply needs to pick up a few tricks of the trade to become entrenched for years to come.

DE Noah Spence: Ohio State's defensive coaches were left to rue their lack of a true pass-rushing defensive end last season when Nathan Williams was hurt, but finding Spence on the recruiting trail seems to have filled that need.

Spence was a five-star prospect coming out of high school in Harrisburg, Pa., and has lived up to that billing physically. He's checked in at 6-3, 240 pounds, with good thickness in his base, solid power and the quickness to duck under tackles on the edge.

He has still been with the third unit in the practices media members have been able to see, but there's no denying Spence brings a great physical package to the table when it comes to rushing the passer. When Williams is healthy, Spence will have to find a way to see the field along with Johnny Simon, Williams and Steve Miller, but he might be in the mix.

OLB Jamal Marcus: It's easy to see that the Ohio State coaching staff loves what the Durham (N.C.) Hillside product brings to the table even though he was only a three-star prospect.

First, Meyer gushed over Marcus' high school tapes on National Signing Day. Then, Monday, Meyer lauded Marcus' compete level and how he goes at 100 mph even when he doesn't know exactly what he's doing (think of Ryan Shazier a season ago). Add in a 6-2, 225-pound frame that looks to be all muscle and it's easy to see how Marcus might make an impact – either at a thin linebacker position or on special teams.

Not bad for a guy who didn't commit until signing day.

OLB Luke Roberts: A few players could have taken the fifth spot, including highly regarded defensive linemen Adolphus Washington and Se'Von Pittman, but I'm giving the nod to Roberts simply because he's at a position of need and is already working with the second unit.

Enrolling early helped the three-star prospect get his footing, and that work has allowed him to start the fall at an advanced level. Like previous players from Lancaster including fellow linebacker Bobby Carpenter, Roberts has toughness – he wrestled in high school – and boasts good size (6-1, 226) for the position.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see him work in a reserve role this season while also being a solid part of the team's kick coverage units.

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