Look, I’m not rooting for these players to see a drop off in production; I am simply projecting what could happen. Whether because they are part of a crowded position group or because their 2014 numbers were so spectacular that they seem unsustainable, statistical declines can be expected for some Buckeyes in 2015. For better or worse, my bet is on the following players. I’m sure at least one of them will prove me very wrong.
No. 5 Joey Bosa
- 2014 Stats: 13.5 sacks, 21 TFL
Bosa is unquestionably a defensive monster and he could be the first pick in the 2016 NFL draft. He may have been the first pick this year if he was eligible. This is not a prediction that Bosa’s skills will decline in his junior season so much as it is a bet on his unreal 2014 numbers proving to be unsustainable.
Bosa was in the top five in the country in both sacks and tackles for loss last season and it will be hard to replicate that performance. While the Buckeye defensive line remains talented, the loss of two starters will allow teams to put an even greater focus on stopping Bosa and forcing others to beat them. Considering the Buckeyes light schedule, Bosa’s importance in anchoring the defense and defensive line coach Larry Johnson’s desire to have a deep rotation it seems likely the junior will have fewer opportunities to hit the quarterback next season.
Sacks can be a bit unpredictable and don’t fully measure a player’s ability to pressure the quarterback. Bosa’s inclusion on this list doesn’t mean I think his impact will diminish next season, just that his numbers will. They just seem unsustainable, though if anyone can sustain them it’s probably Bosa.
No. 4 Ezekiel Elliott
- 2014 Stats: 273 rushes for 1,878 yards and 18 TDs
Yes, I know that Elliott will enter the 2015 season as the favorite to win the Heisman and I know that he litters preseason All-American lists. I don’t think he will win the Heisman because of how difficult it is for running backs to win the award, but I do believe he can be an All-American even with a decrease in production.
Basically, my bet on Elliott’s production slipping is similar to the argument I made for Bosa to fall off. The second-best rushing total in Ohio State history just seems unsustainable especially if the staff wants to ensure he remains healthy for a stretch run. Factor in the desire for Curtis Samuel to get touches and a relatively week schedule and it seems that Elliott’s 2015 numbers won’t be able to match his 2014 output.
No. 3 Joshua Perry
- 2014 Stats: 124 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks
Yet another 2014 star finds himself on this list. Perry was great last year, leading the Buckeyes in tackles over the full season, but a number of circumstances combine to suggest some decline is coming in 2015. I’m very high on what middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan will bring to the table next season and I think the sophomore takes some tackles that otherwise would have gone to Perry. I also think Perry sits out a decent chunk of plays next season as the team wants to get Dante Booker reps to prepare for Perry’s graduation. The combination of those factors makes me think Perry won’t be able to be in the top 20 in nation in tackles next season.
No. 2 Vonn Bell/Tyvis Powell
- 2014 Stats: 6 interceptions/4 interceptions
I cheated a bit here by combining both safeties into one spot, but it’s my list. Notice the only stats I included were the interceptions that Powell and Bell hauled in last season and that is because it’s the only area that I see a decline in production. The Buckeye safeties were ball hawks last season, and have proven to have a knack for finding the football in their time at Ohio State. Still, given the fluky nature of interceptions I do not think that the back line of Ohio State’s defense will be as prolific at taking the ball away next season.
No. 1 Dontre Wilson
- 2014 Stats: 1,064 all-purpose yards
Wilson has shown flashes of talent over his first two years in Columbus, but I simply feel that the players around him are better suited to the Buckeyes’ scheme and will take touches away from the Texan next season. The junior will certainly be one of the fastest players on the roster in 2015, but that speed hasn’t translated to the field at the level that fans hoped for. His cutting ability does not match his straight-line speed and he seems to go down easier than most of the other Ohio State playmakers. Wilson is a good player, but there is a reason that the H-back position saw more production when Jalin Marshall replaced him in the starting lineup last season. My bet is on that trend to continue in 2015 and for Wilson to have far fewer all-purpose yards next season.