- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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With spring in the books for more than a month, the long march through the offseason and back to football is only beginning. But BuckeyeNation is going to keep doing its part to speed up the journey -- or at least make it more interesting. This week, that means a bunch of countdown lists, picking up today with a look at a handful of incoming freshmen who could contribute right away for Ohio State.
Ranking potential impact freshmen
1. DB Vonn Bell: The Buckeyes don't exactly need a safety to come in and play extensively right off the bat thanks to the veteran presence of senior starters C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant, and they even have a senior in Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown with the talent and experience needed to play a valuable role in reserve. But the late addition of Bell, thanks to the tireless recruiting of safeties coach Everett Withers, does give the Buckeyes an elite athlete who could crack the rotation in the nickel and dime packages right away. And with Ohio State likely playing extensively in formations with extra defensive backs, Bell could be seeing a lot of action quickly.
2. ATH Dontre Wilson: The spread attack operated just fine a year ago even without Urban Meyer having a dynamic skill-position guy capable of playing his vaunted H-back position. Heading into his second year with the program, Meyer worked overtime to find a versatile rusher/receiver to take the offense to another level, and Wilson is at the top of the list because of a combination of speed and ability to make defenders miss in space. The Buckeyes already have enough options on hand to be even more explosive than they were a year ago, but Wilson figures to supply one more element of danger if his transition to the Big Ten matches his fast times on the track.
3. LB Trey Johnson: His position is among the toughest on the field to play right away, but Johnson is walking into a situation where the Buckeyes are still low on depth and could need him to fill out the rotation after just one training camp. Natural instincts and a seemingly advanced knowledge of the game could give Johnson a head start as he tries to give the Buckeyes another candidate for work at the second level, and he should have plenty of chances to show what he can do on the practice field in August. If Johnson can market himself as an option either in the middle or at strong-side linebacker at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, his odds of making a mark will only get better.
4. WR Jalin Marshall: Another weapon in the open field with a high motor and elusiveness, Marshall will be on the working list of options at H-back along with Wilson. But he could also find some work soon after showing up on campus as a target in the passing game, and the path to the field might be a bit more clear at wide receiver with a relatively thin position group on hand coming out of spring for the Buckeyes. Philly Brown and Devin Smith are the clear starters again after productive seasons a year ago, but there aren't a lot of bodies behind them. If Marshall can absorb his responsibilities on the perimeter and master a handful of routes in a hurry, he could find the ball in his hands with a chance to inflict some pain on defenses.
5. DT Joey Bosa: The Buckeyes landed the elite pass-rushers they needed in Meyer's first class. The second addressed restocking the cupboard on the interior of the defensive line, and the four-star defensive tackle from Florida should help fill that void after Johnathan Hankins left early for the NFL draft and Garrett Goebel graduated. The Buckeyes have some veterans returning who have solid claims to the starting jobs and rising sophomore Tommy Schutt will be a factor inside as well after shaking off some injuries from spring practice. But they could certainly use some fresh blood to bolster the two-deep. Bosa's aggressiveness and violent first step might vault him into that mix sooner rather than later.