COLUMBUS — The time is thankfully running out on preseason polls, projections and watch lists. But Lettermen Row is sneaking in one more before Ohio State opens training camp on Friday, and it might just be the most important of them all.
Welcome to the first edition of the Ohio State Power Rankings, which takes the pulse of the individuals trying to repeat as Big Ten champions and evaluates who is doing the most valuable work as part of the effort. Everybody knows the strength of the unit overall is the priority for the program, but there’s also nothing wrong with recognizing the production of individual Buckeyes along the way, right?
So, that’s what we’ll do right here throughout the year. The members of the staff will each submit a ballot which hopefully allowing a balanced consensus to shine through in the evaluation of Ohio State. And it still may not always wind up being perfect, which means the debate can always continue on the message boards after the voting is done.
As always, Power Rankings are subject to change from week to week. But heading into the year, this is how Lettermen Row sees it.
1. DE Nick Bosa: The star junior might want to start getting comfortable with seeing that number by to his name, particularly since it’s been so common as the projection where he could be picked in the NFL Draft next spring. The reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year is coming back stronger, more confident and with the possibility of playing more snaps, which should lead to even more impressive production as the leader of the Rushmen. Bosa is a truly special talent, and he’s earned the top spot.
2. RB J.K. Dobbins: What does the super sophomore have in store for an encore? Even if he simply matched his output from his incredible debut campaign, Dobbins would still be one of the most valuable contributors for the Buckeyes. But with a full year of experience under his belt, the talented tailback should only be more dangerous. And with the Buckeyes breaking in a new quarterback, Dobbins figures to have a lot more opportunities to show what he can do as well.
3. DT Dre’Mont Jones: Since his somewhat surprising decision to return to the Buckeyes for another season, the redshirt junior has been a monster on the practice field and one of Meyer’s most trusted leaders off it. With an expanded role coming in the Rushmen package as a pass-rushing threat on the inside, Jones is poised for the kind of season that could make him quite wealthy a year from now.
4. SAF Jordan Fuller: The rangy, athletic safety proved last year that he could do just about anything required of a defender for the Silver Bullets. Fuller isn’t afraid to come into the box and make tackles, finishing second on the team last year. And he can fly around in coverage and find the football in the air, snagging a couple interceptions in the secondary. Expect his numbers to improve across the board with aggressive new position coach Alex Grinch working with Fuller.
5. QB Dwayne Haskins: Maybe it’s a bit surprising to see Ohio State’s quarterback this low in the rankings, but it’s a reminder that Haskins has still never started a game for the program and remains largely unproven. There’s no question that he’s the guy for the Buckeyes heading into training camp, and certainly he’ll have chances to climb closer to the top if he’s able to deliver on all the potential the coaching staff has seen in him dating back to his recruitment.
6. WR/H-B Parris Campbell: The variety of ways the Buckeyes can use Campbell and his blazing speed make him an invaluable weapon for the power-spread attack, and the veteran should expect to have the football in his hands plenty this season. With Ohio State looking to evolve the passing game and new position coach Brian Hartline working with him, Campbell is poised to put up some dazzling statistics this season.
7. DT Robert Landers: The undersized defender tends to fly below the radar in discussions about the dominant potential for the Silver Bullets, but Landers has quietly gone about his business and is in position to play a key role in the middle. There is a lot of competition nipping at his heels from a group of talented newcomers, but right now, the tireless Landers has built himself into the kind of player who can ruin game plans for opponents.
8. Kendall Sheffield: There were some early growing pains last season for the cornerback after his transfer in from junior college. But by the end of the year, it was crystal clear why Ohio State had pursued him on the recruiting trail both times he was on the market. The upside for somebody with his speed and size is off the charts, and Sheffield now looks like the kind of defender capable of extending the program’s ridiculous streak of cranking out first-round draft picks at cornerback.
9. RT Isaiah Prince: Those struggles from two seasons ago are definitively in the past and safe to be forgotten, because Prince has emerged as a true rock for the Buckeyes on the offensive line. The senior could play either on the left side or the right this year depending on the need, but no matter where he lines up, he’ll be absolutely crucial in helping protect Haskins.
10. RB Mike Weber: Once Weber finally got healthy last season, he put on a show that reminded the country just why the expectations were so high for him coming of his freshman campaign. With a 1,000-yard season already on his resume and without needing to carry the workload alone, a fresh Weber should form a dynamic one-two punch with Dobbins in the Ohio State backfield.
Others receiving votes: DE Chase Young, LB Tuf Borland, WR Austin Mack, OT Thayer Munford, LG Michael Jordan.