Players like Devin Smith, Doran Grant, Joshua Perry and Curtis Grant delivered by far their most productive seasons to help Ohio State win a title and the Buckeyes will need certain players to make similar leaps in production next season in order to repeat as champs.
So let’s take a stab at predicting the five Ohio State players who will make the biggest jump in production next season.
No. 5 Adolphus Washington
- 2014 Stats: 48 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks
Washington had a solid year last season and his move to nose tackle midway through the season was a big reason that fellow defensive linemen Michael Bennett was able to shine for the Buckeyes down the stretch in 2014. Now a senior, Washington will resume the three-technique tackle spot that Bennett manned during the championship run and my expectation is that the 6-4, 290-pounder will be a force to be reckoned with next season.
Washington has found himself on his share of preseason All-American lists and for good reason. Expect the tackle to have his best year as a senior and to mirror the 14 TFL, 7 sack performance that Bennett put together last season.
No. 4 Noah Brown
- 2014 Stats: 1 reception for 9 yards
Projecting a big leap in production from Brown is hardly a bold prediction given his one catch and one rush last season combined to yield five yards, but given the immense praise lauded on him by the coaching staff this spring it would be impossible to leave him off this list.
Brown, a four-star prospect in the class of 2014, has slimmed down but maintained his big-bodied frame and should provide a unique weapon in a receiver room full of them next season. The New Jersey native has the versatility to both play outside and bring unlikely size to the slot.
There will be room for Brown to produce at wide receiver with the departure of Devin Smith and Evan Spencer and Urban Meyer has indicated that No. 80 will start for the Buckeyes this season so expect his production to sky rocket.
No. 3 Jalin Marshall
- 2014 Stats: 38 catches for 499 yards and 6 touchdowns; 25 rushes for 145 yards and 1 TD; 24 punt returns for 283 yards and 1 TD
Marshall had an enormous impact for the Buckeyes last season, mostly vacillating between good and great on the way to a championship but even more should be expected from the redshirt sophomore in 2015. The Middletown product wasn’t fully utilized until he was forced into more playing time after the injury to Dontre Wilson, and though Wilson should be healthy at the start of the season I expect Marshall’s role to continue to grow.
The 5-11, 205-pound receiver spent the spring learning every wide receiver position and his skill set will allow him to see the field in all of them next season. Marshall was instrumental in the Buckeyes run to the 2014 title but I expect him to be even better next season, an improvement that the statistics will bear out.
No. 2 Raekwon McMillan
- 2014 Stats: 54 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks
Entering last season there were many Buckeye fans who were calling for McMillan to start, but the star freshman’s ascension was partially delayed because of the best play of Curtis Grant’s career. With Grant departed the middle linebacker position will be McMillan’s alone next season and expect the former five-star to shine as he anchors the Buckeyes defense in 2015.
McMillan’s introduction to college football came under ideal circumstances. Because Grant performed at a career-best level the Ohio State coaching staff was able to bring the freshman along slowly. He showed flashes of brilliance last season and a year of learning to play the run should do wonders for his development. Don’t be surprised if he nearly doubles his 2014 total of 54 tackles in 2015.
No. 1 Curtis Samuel
- 2014 Stats: 58 rushes for 383 yards and 6 TDs
Samuel had a modestly productive freshman season behind star running back Ezekiel Elliott, but considering Urban Meyer is adamant that “the days of Curtis Samuel playing 10 players are over,” a major leap in production should be expected for the Ney York native this year.
The speedy running back took snaps at the H-back position this spring while also working in at wide receiver. His combination of speed, cutting ability and balance will demand the ball next season and Samuel will certainly be higher than seventh on the team in all-purpose yards in 2015.