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Ohio State: Five freshmen stepping into larger roles for Buckeyes in 2019

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Ohio State defensive back Sevyn Banks may be called upon for a bigger role with the Buckeyes next season. (Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY SPORTS)

Ohio State Football

Ohio State: Five freshmen stepping into larger roles for Buckeyes in 2019

It seems to happen every year at Ohio State.

A group of seniors and underclassmen leave Columbus for the NFL Draft, and another crop of players enter having been groomed to fill the holes left behind. After the Rose Bowl, this off-season won’t be very different than the last handful have been.

Except for the whole Urban Meyer retiring thing, of course.

The Buckeyes are likely to lose a handful of talent to the next level after Meyer’s swan song in Pasadena. Big names like Dwayne Haskins, Mike Weber, K.J. Hill, Dre’mont Jones and Jordan Fuller seem closer to leaving than to staying.

Just like handing the program keys over to Ryan Day, the positions that will see players depart are already left in good hands.

The Ohio State underclassmen were all parts of impressive recruiting classes the program has secured in recent years. Some have already played meaningful minutes in Columbus, while others proved their worth on the special teams front. One thing that is true though is that all of them will have to step up in their second year.

Here are a few freshmen who flashed on the field this season that will need to step into a larger, more important roles next season.

Wide receiver Chris Olave

This might be the most obvious player on this list, as Olave really broke out the last three games of the regular season and in the Big Ten Championship game. He will likely be remembered forever for his two touchdown and blocked punt performance against Michigan. In essentially four games, Olave racked up 10 catches for 178 yards and three touchdowns. He’s got the goods.

Urban Meyer said multiple times down the stretch of the season that the San Diego native is “going to be a good one,” and Olave put that on display during two of the toughest matchups the Buckeyes had this season. With the departure of Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and probably K.J. Hill, Olave will likely be leaned on much more in Zone 6 next season.

Defensive back Sevyn Banks

If you didn’t know his name already, you likely learned it when he was returning Olave’s blocked punt against Michigan to the end zone.

Like most freshmen when they come into Columbus, Sevyn Banks spent a majority of the season on special teams due to both experience and the depth at his position. He was injured in the early part of the season but stepped up for Ohio State when asked.

His role could change very quickly if and when Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield declare for the NFL Draft. Banks would be one of the cornerbacks fighting for the spot opposite of Jeffrey Okudah that will likely be up for grabs.

That said, Banks may remain on special teams next season simply due to his speed and athleticism but he’s no doubt eyeing the opportunity to get more in-game reps at defensive back and compete for the starting job.

Defensive back Josh Proctor

Like Banks, Josh Proctor will be in a similar situation at his position following the conclusion of this season.

Other than the consistency of Jordan Fuller, the safety position for the Buckeyes had been a question mark for a majority of the season until Brendon White stepped in and provided a bit of stability in a struggling defense. With Fuller likely forgo his senior season in Columbus for the draft, another huge gap in the Ohio State secondary will appear and Proctor will be given the opportunity to step in.

The Owasso, Oklahoma-native has been one to keep an eye on since he committed to the Buckeyes, and it seems he will finally get his chance in 2019. He was a very highly-recruited, 4-star prospect in the Class of 2018 and was mentioned by Urban Meyer as a guy that finally became a “better teammate” toward the end of the season.

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Ohio State freshman Josh Proctor hasn’t played many snaps in the Buckeyes secondary, but that is likely to change after this season. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Defensive tackle Tommy Togiai

This might be one of the more interesting developments to watch this off-season because Dre’Mont Jones will declare for the NFL Draft after the Rose Bowl, if not before. The Buckeyes will be looking for an immediate impact at defensive tackle and their answer may come down to former 5-star defensive tackle Taron Vincent and former 4-star tackle Tommy Togiai.

The Pocatello, Idaho-native registered just nine total tackles during his first season at Ohio State but showed some bright spots such as tackle for loss in key moments during both the Indiana and Northwestern games. After enrolling early with Ohio State Togiai, like Proctor, was seen as someone who could make an immediate impact during his recruitment.

Larry Johnson loves to rotate his linemen throughout the game and Togiai is in line to add significant reps in 2019.

Linebacker Teradja Mitchell

A special teams star his first season, Teradja Mitchell is another guy who could make a splash in his second year. He’s got the talent and the demeanor to do so.

Mitchell was a huge part of the Ohio State special teams unit this season and proved on the kickoff team that he has talent in terms of pursuit tackling and moving well for a linebacker that’s destined to play the Mike position. Pete Werner and Tuf Borland are likely entrenched as returning starters in 2019, but some close to the program believe that Malik Harrison could move on to the NFL and Mitchell will compete alongside guys like Justin Hilliard, Baron Browning, Dallas Gant and K’Vaughan Pope for an increased role in the defensive gameplan.

A group that struggled at times in 2018, Ohio State’s linebackers need a solid core of Buckeyes to bring back the pride and tradition of the Silver Bullets. Teradja Mitchell can be one of those pieces.

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Damon Henry
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Damon Henry

Please no more Werner or Borland at LB.

Birm
Editor

Who knows. Maybe if there’s a new linebacker coach things will change, but I’d imagine they both return as starters.

Jeff
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Jeff

I like all of the team members but just don’t think Borland and Werner are the best at their positions – very frustrating to watch them play when you know 4 and 5-Star talent like Pope, Mitchell, Browning, Jones, Hilliard and etc are behind them

Jon
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Jon

So because YOU don’t THINK they should play, then they shouldn’t. Got it. And I trust you have the inside scoop on who should play, because recruiting stars obviously are the end all argument for this

Allinosu
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Allinosu

I’m optimistic they’ll both improve. I doubt Borland was 100% with that foot.

The Truth
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The Truth

🤦‍♂️

Glenn Buckeye
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Glenn Buckeye

Totally agree….Borland is too slow to play any linebacker position. Much much better players behind him.

Jordon Haan
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Jordon Haan

Borland was playing hurt all year, you could tell he got it together at the end of the season

Kid Buckeye
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Kid Buckeye

PLEASE no more favorites

Nick M
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Nick M

I thought Togiai looked great when he got in on third downs.

Troy
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Troy

Please get some world-class position coaches for LBs and DBs.

The facts
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The facts

Oh hell no. Nobody is entrenched in any position after this seasons performance. Too many 4 and 5 stars sitting on the bench. Lb is open for competition.

Adrian J DeJesus
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Adrian J DeJesus

Borlan can’t stay in as the starter in the middle, he’s shown all year (and the previous season so don’t blame it on the Achilles injury) he just doesn’t have the physical talent and is a liability.

Rick Malone
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Rick Malone

We are in need of some new coach’s on defense specifically at LBs and DBs. PLEASE bring coach Comb’s back we are really missing his leadership .

Mark
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Mark

Bet Hilliard doesn’t get a 5th year.

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Nick is the producer at Lettermen Row. Born in Dayton, Nick recently graduated from Ohio State where he worked for The Lantern and the College of Veterinary Medicine. He also knows the city of Columbus and its love of sports well after interning with Columbus Crew SC and WBNS-10TV during his undergraduate education.

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