Dark horses: Buckeyes voters should watch

July, 22, 2013
7/22/13
10:00
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The last of the lists is out, and Ohio State has players all over them.

From the offensive line to the secondary, the Buckeyes had more than their share of representatives on the various preseason hype lists, which is no surprise given how high the team will rank collectively when the polls come out ahead of the opener in late August.

Obviously not everybody expected to contribute to a potential national-title run found a way into the minds of the various committees who ultimately will hand out the hardware once an actual season has been played. But just in case there was any confusion, appearing on a watch list in July isn't mandatory to lift an individual trophy in December -- just ask Johnny Manziel.

So with that in mind, BuckeyeNation offers up its own helpful list for potential voters heading into the season, taking a look at some Ohio State players who will bear watching and conceivably could draw some attention to themselves before the year is done.

Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence
  • Who should be watching: Nagurski, Lombardi voters
  • Why: The sophomores didn't play enough a year ago to generate any sort of national buzz, but there's little doubt they each have the athleticism and playmaking ability to become household names quickly this fall. Playing behind veterans in John Simon and Nathan Williams helped bring the talented bookends along slowly while still incorporating them in the rotation during their first year on campus, but the Buckeyes will need to unleash them with those seniors gone and the spots in the starting lineup waiting for Washington and Spence to show their potential off to the rest of the country. The glimpse they showed in the spring game only reinforced how high the ceiling is for the duo, even if it was only a scrimmage.
  • Dark-horse chances: No matter how much damage Washington's strength or Spence's speed inflicts on Ohio State's opponents, neither is likely to seriously challenge a destructive force like Jadeveon Clowney this season. But with breakout campaigns now, they definitely can lay the groundwork for a future run at individual glory as juniors.
Nick Vannett
  • Who should be watching: Mackey committee
  • Why: Jeff Heuerman gave the Buckeyes one entry on the watch list for the nation's best tight end, and he's certainly a deserving candidate who can make life tough for defenders with his ability to create physical mismatches in the passing game while still chipping in as an effective blocker for the rushing attack. But there's another guy on the Ohio State roster who fits that bill as well, and it's the ability to pair Heuerman and Vannett together that could make for weekly headaches for defensive coordinators trying to decipher what Urban Meyer is doing with his spread attack this season.
  • Dark-horse chances: At this point, it would be reasonable and perhaps fair to peg Vannett's chances of winning an individual award at the same level of Heuerman heading into the season. After all, both are going to figure prominently in Ohio State's plans for the offense this year and are equally capable of providing a reliable target for Braxton Miller and building the kind of statistical resume needed to win over voters. That might hurt the chances for both of them in the long run, but Vannett shouldn't be overlooked.
Marcus Hall
  • Who should be watching: Outland, Lombardi voters
  • Why: The Buckeyes have such a rich supply of senior starters, at least one was bound to be overlooked in the offseason. The right guard drew that short straw for Ohio State, but that certainly doesn't make Hall any less important to the offensive line or even that unlikely to draw some sort of individual acclaim by the end of the season. He left camp as perhaps the most improved member of that veteran offensive line, and position coach Ed Warinner wasn't shy about pointing out the refinements Hall made as a technician in the trenches. Perhaps Andrew Norwell, Jack Mewhort and Corey Linsley were all more deserving of spots on the various watch lists for linemen, but Hall really couldn't have been that far behind.
  • Dark-horse odds: The Buckeyes might have a battle on their hands just to pick the most valuable blocker on their own team, so standing out from the group enough to generate the kind of national support needed to win a personal trophy will be a challenge for all four seniors up front. But at a minimum, Hall's contributions aren't likely to go unappreciated by the Ohio State coaching staff and his teammates.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter

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