COLUMBUS — The transition from freshman year to sophomore year is huge at Ohio State.
An offseason of familiar workouts, weightlifting sessions and practices allow former four- and five-star recruits to make the leap from backups and redshirt recipients to playmakers and future stars.
Ohio State had one of the lower-rated classes in 2019 by the program’s high standard, but that wasn’t due to lack of talent. The Buckeyes only signed 17 players, meaning the No. 14 ranking in the class rankings was skewed. That doesn’t illustrate how much talent is in the group of up-and-coming second-year players the Buckeyes have on their roster.
Some can develop into important role players for the Buckeyes over the next three seasons. Others are budding stars that could only have two more years before an NFL Draft opportunity arrises.
The time to make the leap is now for the second-year players, and Lettermen Row is breaking down five Buckeyes who could make huge strides this offseason to help the Buckeyes on another national title chase.
OL Harry Miller
When Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis decided to stay at Ohio State and wait another year to enter the NFL Draft, the offensive line for Justin Fields immediately got a better outlook for next season. But only three of the starting five that consistently mauled defenders last year will be returning, meaning the Buckeyes need to find a new left guard and right tackle. The left guard spot could be Harry Miller’s for the taking. The second-year offensive lineman from Georgia drew praise from coaches as early as last fall, just months after arriving in Columbus. With an open slot on the offensive line, Miller could slide from the backup center role into that guard spot and make the interior with Myers and Davis one of the best in the country.
DE Zach Harrison
Simply put, Zach Harrison is expected to be the next Chase Young. That won’t be easy in Harrison’s second season at Ohio State, but his progression toward being a dominant edge rusher will be a huge development for the program moving forward. Harrison posted five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks for the Buckeyes during last season’s College Football Playoff run. He likely won’t challenge Young’s single-season sack record, but Harrison will be a force on the Larry Johnson’s defensive line that breeds NFL Draft prospects. Jonathon Cooper, Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday will all split snaps on the edge with Harrison, but the second-year pass rusher might just have a monster second season for the Silver Bullets defense.
RB Marcus Crowley
Replacing J.K. Dobbins won’t be the easiest task for the Ohio State offense. But the Buckeyes feel like they are prepared for it with Master Teague and either Marcus Crowley or Steele Chambers — or maybe both. Crowley saw limited action for the Buckeyes last season before suffering a season-ending injury in mop-up duty during the blowout win over Maryland. Crowley had 25 attempts for 237 yards and a touchdown last season, but that won’t be good enough next year. He’ll likely get a crack at real playing time alongside Justin Fields because of his running style. And he might just fit perfectly into next year’s offensive plans.
WR Garrett Wilson
The glimpses of stardom were easy to see, and they happened often. But after a dazzling freshman season, Garrett Wilson will certainly be counted on as a star wide receiver alongside Chris Olave. Wilson can become an All-American if he continues to trend upward, but it won’t be nearly as easy now that he has caught the attention of Big Ten defenses. Last season, he was behind a trio of seniors and Olave for much of the year. Next year, he’s going to be a huge part of what the Buckeyes want to do on offense, and Justin Fields will look to Wilson for big plays down the field. Can Wilson step up and make another leap in Year Two? His 30 catches for 432 yards and five touchdowns in his freshman campaign shows he can. Now the offseason will be the next indicator.
WR Jameson Williams
Wilson and Olave are going to be the stars of the wide receiver room, but Jameson Williams could be next in line. The two proven guys will be the only Buckeyes back, and Williams can be the next speedster to have an impact with Justin Fields. He flashed some potential with a breakaway 61-yard touchdown catch and run last season, and more of that could be on the way. All the attention from the 2019 recruiting class falls on Wilson, but Williams can be a lethal weapon for the Buckeyes moving forward if he does a better job of catching the ball before showing off his speed. This will be a huge offseason for Williams.