Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer spent all spring answering questions about the talent drain in Columbus, but that narrative might sell short just how much talent the Buckeyes have on the roster.
The Buckeyes will enter the 2016 season without a dozen players who were drafted within the first four rounds of the NFL draft in addition to underclassman starters like Tyvis Powell and Jalin Marshall who were ultimately undrafted. And while it’s fair to note that Meyer will probably miss stars like defensive end Joey Bosa, running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Taylor Decker, an examination of the roster would indicate the cupboard in Columbus is far from bare.
Only six players on the current roster have made double-digit starts, led by offensive linemen Pat Elflein (29) and Billy Price (28). Quarterback J.T. Barrett has made 17 starts, while cornerback Gareon Conley has 14 starts to his record and defensive end Tyquan Lewis and linebacker Raekwon McMillan have each started 13 games.
But that inexperience doesn’t equate to a lack of talent. Of the 54 scholarship players who have been on the team since at least 2015 and made fewer than five starts, a whopping 37 of them were rated as four- or five-star prospects. Furthermore, an additional 18 prospects with that designation arrived with the class of 2016, a handful of whom will have a chance to start or make an impact.
Perhaps no position represents those untapped possibilities more than wide receiver. That position group has no shortage of top-end talent, none of whom have made more than three starts. The group of four-star prospects at that position includes James Clark, Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson, Johnnie Dixon, Noah Brown, Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, Curtis Samuel, K.J. Hill, Torrance Gibson, Alex Stump, Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack and Demario McCall. That list, by the way, includes every scholarship wide receiver on the roster.
“Around here four stars are a dime-a-dozen,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said this spring. “To be honest, somebody said in pre-practice stretch one day that we only had four and five-star receivers. I didn't even know that. I don't think anyone notices. They probably know. We've signed a number of back-to-back great classes. Talented kids, great kids. Once they get here, (stars) don't really matter anymore. You have a bunch of guys that aren't that that can still perform at a high level.”
In the coming days BSB will take a position-by-position look at the players who have yet to see significant action but who could end up making a difference on the field this season.