COLUMBUS — The sample size to evaluate at Ohio State could hardly be any smaller.
But even just a couple open periods of training camp on Tuesday were enough to glean some new information about the Buckeyes. And since that’s all anybody has had since April, Lettermen Row is going to make the most of that viewing opportunity.
So, after going through some initial observations as soon as that practice wrapped up, now we’re shifting to the focus to a few more players that jumped out for Ohio State. These are guys that haven’t necessarily received all that much buzz during spring camp or the offseason but look like they might potentially wind up playing key roles for the defending Big Ten champs.
In other words: Don’t overlook these Buckeyes.
LB Pete Werner
Maybe he was lost in the buzz about Tuf Borland’s superhuman rehabilitation and the excitement surrounding guys like Malik Harrison, Keandre Jones and Baron Browning. But it appears Pete Werner has been making the most of his reps and offseason conditioning based on the amount of reps the versatile linebacker was getting early in practice on Tuesday. The true sophomore made an impact in his limited opportunities on special teams last season, finishing with 9 tackles and drawing some praise from Urban Meyer for the way Werner handles his business. The safest bet at this point would be Werner potentially competing for a role at outside linebacker opposite Harrison, but he’s versatile enough that he could also be an option in the middle depending on Borland’s availability early in the season.
H-back Jaelen Gill
Maybe it’s a stretch to include a 4-star freshman who grew up just outside Columbus as an under-the-radar pick. But Gill qualifies here because of the depth at both wide receiver and running back that will make it a challenge to crack the rotation and get his hands on the football right away. Much like Demario McCall, though, Gill’s athleticism is unmistakable on the practice field, and he could potentially start earning some touches on special teams as a kickoff or punt returner. Gill will have at least four games to audition for a role this fall — and his upside could turn that into more, particularly if he keeps turning heads like he did in the circle drill.
DB Amir Riep
The hype about Josh Proctor’s athleticism is justified, and the true freshman is more than capable of playing a role right away this season. And at this point, it’s still safe to assume that Isaiah Pryor is the leader for the vacant starting job at safety alongside Jordan Fuller in the Ohio State secondary. But maybe sandwiched right in between is a sophomore who isn’t going down without a fight, and Amir Riep may well make a push in that intriguing battle to replace Damon Webb. Riep certainly doesn’t have the size of either Proctor or Pryor, and that may wind up being a factor that favors the other two. But if nothing else, Riep should be somebody the Buckeyes can count on for solid work on special teams.
OL Malcolm Pridgeon
The path to playing time has been a bit rocky for the fifth-year senior, and it’s still going to be a challenge to crack the starting rotation with Ohio State boasting so much depth and versatility on the offensive line. But Pridgeon has always had the size to be a factor up front, and it looks like he might be putting together the rest of the skills to go with it as he competes for a job at guard. The competition is fierce with Michael Jordan, Branden Bowen, Demetrius Knox all boasting starting experience, and Wyatt Davis is seemingly on the rise as well. But Pridgeon is obviously no pushover, and he’s a key figure to watch in training camp.