Ohio State Buckeyes: De'Van Bogard

A record number of underclassmen elected to take the NFL plunge this year, but the Big Ten barely made a splash. Only four Big Ten juniors are entering the draft, continuing a recent downturn after just six left early a year ago. Several stars certainly could have entered the draft, so this is good news for fans who enjoy seeing the league's top players stay for a fourth year. But it also underscores a lack of top talent, especially when compared to the SEC and Pac-12.

Despite a small contingent of early entries, Big Ten teams have some significant holes to fill. As spring ball approaches, here's a look at who's gone and who might replace them.

Leaving: Indiana WR Cody Latimer

[+] EnlargeShane Wynn
AJ Mast/Icon SMIShane Wynn averaged 13.8 ypc this season and scored 11 TDs. His stock and those numbers should soar higher as he takes on a bigger role next season.
The replacement: Shane Wynn

Wynn and Latimer obviously have different body frames, but both produce at a high level, particularly when it comes to touchdowns. Latimer led Indiana by wide margins in both receptions (72, next highest: 47) and receiving yards (1,096, next highest total: 739), but Wynn had more touchdowns with 11 (Latimer at nine). The departures of Latimer, Kofi Hughes and tight end Ted Bolser make Wynn the team's only returning receiver with more than 15 receptions in 2013.

Indiana certainly could use a bigger receiver to play on the outside where Latimer roamed, and perhaps Nick Stoner or incoming recruit Dominique Booth fills that role. But the Hoosiers undoubtedly will rely more on Wynn, a 5-foot-7 dynamo who averaged 13.8 yards per reception last season. Of the Big Ten's early entries, Latimer is the most surprising, given the strength in the draft at wide receiver, but Indiana has had little trouble developing strong pass-catchers.

Leaving: Penn State WR Allen Robinson

The replacement: Geno Lewis

Latimer's departure raised a few eyebrows, but Robinson's had been expected for some time, especially after coach Bill O'Brien left Penn State for the NFL's Houston Texans. Robinson earned the Big Ten's Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year award in both 2012 and 2013 after recording back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to lead the league each year. The Penn State standout had 97 catches for 1,432 yards last season, topping the Big Ten charts in both categories despite not playing in the postseason.

Lewis likely will move into the No. 1 spot, in part because Penn State doesn't much experience at receiver. In addition to Robinson, the Lions lose No. 2 wideout Brandon Felder. Although Penn State returns a wealth of talent at tight end, Lewis is the leading returning wide receiver with 18 catches for 234 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. Lewis showed potential during his redshirt freshman season, especially with a 91-yard performance in the finale at Wisconsin. After struggling midway through the fall, Lewis' strong finish sets him up well to be quarterback Christian Hackenberg's top option in 2014.

Leaving: Ohio State CB Bradley Roby

The replacement: Doran Grant. Grant played opposite Roby throughout last season and recorded 58 tackles, 3 interceptions, 10 pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. He endured some ups and downs in a secondary that struggled for much of the season, especially after losing safety Christian Bryant to injury, but the experience should prove valuable going forward. Not surprisingly, Grant was challenged more than Roby, but as these numbers show, he held his own despite some mistakes here and there.

Roby's early departure is the least surprising of the group, as he announced before the season that it would be his last at Ohio State. His presence will be missed, especially on special teams, but Grant could develop into a top corner. Ohio State certainly has bigger problems to address in the back four as it welcomes in new coordinator/secondary coach Chris Ash from Arkansas.

Leaving: Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier

The replacement: Trey Johnson. Ohio State returns starters at the other two linebacker spots in Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry, and it's possible Perry could slide over into the role where Shazier excelled. But Johnson served as Shazier's backup in 2013 and boasts the athleticism to step in and perform. Johnson played sparingly last fall, recording 11 tackles in six games, but his role undoubtedly will expand with Shazier moving onto the NFL.

There should be plenty of competition at linebacker, a spot where depth has been a concern for head coach Urban Meyer. Like Johnson, Mike Mitchell came to Ohio State as an extremely decorated recruit and should push for playing time this spring after a redshirt season. Camren Williams and converted safety Devan Bogard also are possibilities, although Bogard will be coming off of a second ACL tear.
CLEVELAND -- Ohio State pledge Marcelys Jones knows all about the tradition and responsibility of being a Cleveland Glenville Tarblooder.

It’s part of the reason he accompanied Marshon Lattimore, Erick Smith, Milen Golden and Trevon Story on a southern swing through Georgia Tech, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky last week.

It wasn’t so much as to test the waters as it was to help out some future stars at Glenville according to the offensive tackle.

Throughout the next few months, BuckeyeNation will look deeper into those juniors offered by Ohio State. We’ll give as much detail as we can and go behind the scenes to see why these class of 2014 standouts are so attractive to the Buckeyes. Next on the list of cornerbacks is Jabrill Peppers, who took a recent swing through the Midwest and saw both Ohio State and Michigan.

Vitals: Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) is 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds.

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Rising stock: Tyvis Powell

April, 29, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With spring practice in the books and Ohio State heading into its offseason conditioning program, BuckeyeNation is looking at the players who boosted their stock with the program the most during those 15 workouts. The offense went first last week, and it's now followed up with a handful of defenders who will be in line for heavy workloads this fall.

No. 5: Tyvis Powell
[+] EnlargeTyvis Powell
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteRedshirt freshman Tyvis Powell has burst into the secondary rotation this spring.
  • Who: The defensive back spent his first year on campus on the sideline and in the crosshairs of position coach Kerry Coombs, who peppered Powell every day during his redshirt season with tough love designed to bring out his best and develop him into a contributor in the secondary. The results appear to be paying off more quickly than the Buckeyes might have hoped, with Powell claiming a first-team role in the nickel and dime packages at the start of camp and holding on to it all the way to the end. Powell brings intriguing size for a cornerback at 6-foot-3, with length that can be a nuisance for offenses in the passing game and enough strength to come up and support against the run, as well.
  • Spring progress: The first steps forward apparently were taken during the offseason conditioning program, where Powell's work ethic and physical development stood out enough for the defensive coaching staff to reward him with a prominent role on the first day of practice, despite not playing him for a single down last fall. Powell still has room to grow in coverage, but his usefulness against both the pass and the run, and Ohio State's plan to play with its nickel personnel more often, figures to give him plenty of chances to make his mark.
  • Jockeying for position: There might not be a position with more competition than the Star spot in the nickel, given the depth of talent in the secondary -- both on campus already and arriving in the fall from Urban Meyer's second signing class with the Buckeyes. Veteran safety Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown, cornerback Armani Reeves and recovering sophomore Devan Bogard all will be pushing for action, just for starters. And a group of incoming freshmen led by safety Vonn Bell could also raise the bar for Powell if he's going to stick around with the first unit.
  • He said it: "Tyvis, I feel like his confidence is through the roof right now. He's making plays every day in practice. He's a tall, long guy who can make plays in the nickel right now, and I feel like he's stepping up and doing a pretty good job for us." -- senior safety Christian Bryant
  • Closing number: There weren't all that many chances to make a play coming Powell's way in the spring game, but he capitalized on the handful that did with three tackles. The redshirt freshman also chipped in a pass breakup, one of only three recorded for the Gray team against an offense led by Braxton Miller.

Ohio State 2014 Spotlight: CB Brown 

March, 13, 2013
Throughout the next few months, BuckeyeNation will look deeper into those juniors offered by Ohio State.

We’ll give as much detail as we can and go behind the scenes to see why these class of 2014 standouts are so attractive to the Buckeyes.

Next on the list of cornerbacks is Tony Brown, who has over 20 offers, including one from the Buckeyes.

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Ohio State 2014 spotlight: CB Webb 

March, 12, 2013
Throughout the next few months, BuckeyeNation will look further into those juniors offered by Ohio State.

We’ll give as much detail as we can and go behind the scenes to see why these class of 2014 standouts are so attractive to the Buckeyes.

First on the list of cornerbacks is Damon Webb, who bucked the pipeline at Detroit Cass Tech and committed to the Buckeyes instead of Michigan.

Vitals: Webb is 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds.

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Spring forward: Safety breakdown

February, 27, 2013
With national signing day in the books, the next big date on the Ohio State calendar as it continues working toward an encore for an undefeated season in 2013 is spring practice. Before those workouts begin, BuckeyeNation will take a look at each position to see where the roster is at -- and where it's going.

[+] EnlargeChristian Bryant
Greg Bartram/US PresswireChristian Bryant will return as a starting safety in 2013.
  • Who's back: The Buckeyes will lead from the back, with both experience and leadership expected to provide a trickle-down effect for the defense with Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett returning for one more season together as the starting tandem at safety. Ohio State even has a veteran waiting in line to come off the bench and potentially help in the nickel package with senior Corey Brown providing yet another old hand as the program reloads in front of the secondary. There will be six new starters in the front seven and one more at cornerback, but the Buckeyes are as stable as they possibly could be at the back of the defense with Bryant and Barnett poised to close their careers on a high note.
  • New face: The huge target the Buckeyes officially landed on national signing day won't be around to add depth or potentially crack into the rotation until fall practice, though there's already plenty of buzz building about what Vonn Bell could provide in the secondary when he arrives. The athletic, 6-foot-1, 190-pounder should be walking into a situation without the pressure that can come from having to contribute a whole lot right away thanks to the presence of those talented seniors -- though coach Urban Meyer will likely be counting on them to get Bell up to speed as well.
  • Projected spring depth chart: Bryant and Barnett will be back in their familiar spots, with Brown currently the favorite to be the first man up in the nickel package and a valuable option in reserve. The Buckeyes were bitterly disappointed to watch rising sophomore Devan Bogard's first season with the program end with a knee injury last fall, but he figures to be in the mix for work at some point, and classmates Tyvis Powell and Najee Murray could offer something as well.
  • Numbers game: Barnett was slowed by a nagging ankle injury for part of the season, but when he and Bryant were on the field together, the production was hard to miss. The two combined for 127 tackles, three takedowns for a loss, three interceptions, 21 passes defended, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Barnett missed three games and took some time to shake the rust off after that as well, but there's plenty of evidence of how effective those two safeties can be in the back end.
  • One to watch: The clock is ticking for Brown, and there will be more competition for his job heading into fall camp,with Bell leading the charge. The Buckeyes already have some sophomores on campus capable of pushing the veteran for playing time, and Brown will certainly need to make an impression with his existing knowledge of the defense and a higher level of consistency than he's shown in his few opportunities to contribute over the last couple years. Departed senior Orhian Johnson proved how important it was to have a reliable upperclassman ready to complement Bryant and Barnett, and co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Everett Withers will be watching closely to see if he's got another one he can count on when the season rolls around.
  • He said it: "I've been doing this a long time, but this group with the young men that are [already] here in [cornerbacks] Eli Apple and Cam Burrows and the guys we just added to that group -- if the development goes as we think it will go, we feel like this is a very talented group which should be able to help Ohio State do special things." -- Withers on signing day

Breakdown: Ohio State's Glenville 18 

January, 22, 2013
If Christopher Worley signs with Ohio State in two weeks and junior pledge Marcelys Jones does the same on Feb. 5, 2014, they’ll become the 19th and 20th players from Cleveland Glenville to do so since 2002.

It’s a talented pipeline that really began to gush with quarterback Troy Smith. It includes a few misses, but many hits as Ted Ginn Jr. and Donte Whitner will represent the city and Ohio State in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 as members of the San Francisco 49ers.

Smith, of course, was the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner. Here’s a look at the 18 Glenville Tarblooders who have signed with the Buckeyes since 2002:

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Freshman focus: LBs ready for work 

October, 10, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The time to wait is over.

A senior has been removed from the equation at linebacker for at least three weeks for Ohio State, and it's going to be up to a freshman to fill the void at the second level starting on Saturday at Indiana.

There is no shortage of options with a handful of talented defenders waiting for a chance to contribute, but to this point they've all largely been limited to special teams work. Two of them were given opportunities to show what they could offer in a blowout win against Nebraska with some inconsistent results that reflected their youth, but they both factored in this week's Freshman Focus and could be critical players to watch on the road against the Hoosiers.

Devan Bogard

  • Position: Defensive back/special teams
  • Stats sheet: Two tackles

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Monday briefing: Buckeyes thin at LB

October, 8, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The defense is down to two healthy starters at linebacker.

That might be all Ohio State needs this week.

The loss of Etienne Sabino for at least three games due to a broken bone in his right leg will test the depth at a position that was already perhaps the most inexperienced on the roster. But as the Buckeyes prepare for a trip to Indiana on Saturday, they might be in position to survive for a week without the senior captain given the amount of Nickel they're likely to be playing against a pass-happy offense.

"Tremendous blow," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "Very good player ... and we’re going to miss him.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Khris Hale/Icon SMIUrban Meyer isn't quite ready to call Braxton Miller a Heisman finalist.
"We’re also dealing with [this offense], and this week will probably be a lot of Nickel. You’ve got Storm [Klein] and [Ryan] Shazier -- a couple older linebackers and the rest of them are freshmen."

The Buckeyes are going to need at least one of those young guys to contribute in the base personnel package, and Joshua Perry is in line for the start in place of Sabino.

They're also looking for more contributions from guys like David Perkins, Jamal Marcus and Camren Williams, who are much more likely to see action on defense now that the team's third-leading tackler is on the shelf for an extended period of time. But when Ohio State puts an extra defensive back on the field to match up with a passing attack that is throwing for more than 300 yards per game, it will be sticking with its veterans -- even if Shazier just barely counts as one as a sophomore.

"Any time one of your captains goes down, especially a big leader on the team, you need a lot of guys to step up," defensive end John Simon said. "[Sabino] gave a pretty good speech there in the locker room, and he just kind of laid it out for us.

"We’ve got a lot of guys who need to step up this week, and I think we’re starting to prepare for that task and looking forward to it."

Awards talk: Meyer still isn't ready to anoint Braxton Miller as a Heisman Trophy candidate. But the time appears to be getting closer.

The sophomore was named the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback of the Week after another wildly productive outing in a win over Nebraska on Saturday, and his work on the ground over the last two games to open Big Ten action has only strengthened his case as a potential option for Heisman voters at the end of the season.

But Meyer isn't ready to do any campaigning for his guy just yet.

"I don’t think Braxton is a Heisman candidate right now," Meyer said. "I think he’s certainly one to watch, he’s got the ability, but I don’t know who is [a candidate now]. We’re only halfway through the season, in two or three games I think you can start talking about it.

"I’m not talking to Braxton about it. We’re trying to win some games. I think at the right time, he will be a candidate if he continues to play very well."

Bumps and bruises: C.J. Barnett appeared to have a chance to get back on the field since he was in uniform for the win over the Huskers, though his high-ankle sprain again kept him on the sideline.

The Buckeyes might finally be able to turn the safety loose again this week at Indiana.

"Good sign yesterday, he was out there running around," Meyer said. "We need to have him back for obvious reasons."
The Buckeyes could use Jordan Hall back to add depth to the backfield as well, though they didn't exactly have any problem running all over the Huskers without him. Meyer didn't give an indication either way about the senior's availability for the meeting with the Hoosiers other than confirming the partial tear of a knee ligament "is not right yet."

Champions club: Running down the players who graded out the highest according to the film review of the 63-38 win over the Huskers by the coaching staff.

He said it: "We’re getting ready to play a big-time game in that great stadium and I get a bunch of text messages and phone calls, ‘Did you hear?’ We suspended him immediately for the game, a very ignorant comment. That’s exactly what it is, a 19-year-old kid making an ignorant comment, which makes him 1 of 460 million. We’re moving on, we moved on already, had a good chat and he’s very apologetic. He does go to class and he’s actually a heck of a kid." -- Meyer on Cardale Jones and his tweet about the value of classes last week
A few more notes and quotes from Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s press conference on Sunday afternoon during the program’s annual media day:

THE BLACK STRIPES: A tradition that started during Meyer’s coaching days at Bowling Green has become big at Ohio State.

Meyer started placing black stripes on newcomers’ helmets until they proved they belonged.

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