Ohio State Buckeyes: leaving a legacy

Leaving a legacy: Jack Mewhort

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
10:50
AM ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The final chapter hasn't been written yet for Ohio State's senior class, and a handful of Buckeyes have a chance to author something pretty memorable. This week, we'll be looking at five players with a chance to leave a legacy with the program with one more productive season, what kind of impact they might have this fall and how they might be viewed down the road.

Jack Mewhort
    [+] EnlargeJack Mewhort
    Kirk Irwin/Getty ImagesLeft tackle Jack Mewhort will be asked to become a visible and vocal leader for the 2013 Buckeyes.

  • So far: The nasty, physical left tackle from Toledo isn't the only veteran lineman with a chance to leave the program on a high note, and the presence of three more senior starters up front is a major factor in the national-title buzz that is building for Ohio State. That group typically spreads around the credit and the attention, and Corey Linsley, Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall each deserve praise for the work they've done with the Buckeyes. But individually, Mewhort has become the leader of not only his position group but potentially the entire team, developing into the type of driven leader so highly valued by Urban Meyer. The Ohio State coach hasn't been shy about backing Mewhort's candidacy as the heart and soul of the team, and he has taken it even further by mentioning him in the same category as former captains like Tim Tebow and John Simon. Like any blocker, there isn't much statistical evidence to measure Mewhort's impact by himself -- but he's certainly integral in maintaining a winning culture across the team.
  • Numbers to date: A second-team All-Big Ten pick as a junior, Mewhort anchored an offensive line that helped the Buckeyes rack up more than 242 rushing yards per game to rank No. 10 in the country on the ground. And while they only might have been scratching the surface of what they can do in Meyer's spread offense, the 37.1 points per game the Buckeyes averaged led the conference.
  • Record chasing: The record books might need a number of updates for scoring and yardage if all goes according to plan this fall, which starts with keeping Mewhort healthy and able to continue his streak of consecutive starts. That number sits at 25 heading into the season, and perhaps more impressively includes appearances at three different positions on the line.
  • What's next: The focus always will be on the players who touch the football, and the Buckeyes are pretty well stocked with guys capable of ringing up head-turning statistics. But Braxton Miller needs time to throw, Devin Smith and Philly Brown have to be able to complete their routes and Carlos Hyde and a deep backfield aren't going far without holes to run through, and that all starts with Mewhort and and the front five on offense. Meyer made sure last year to call attention to the job all of those guys did, but their contributions might still have been undervalued at times. Establishing Mewhort as one of the leading voices for the program, though, could change that and shine the spotlight a little brighter on the dirty work in the trenches.
  • Crystal ball: Probably more than any other position, reputations for linemen are often forged by team success as opposed to individual dominance. Mewhort will have some versatility working in his favor when his career is analyzed down the road, and obviously he already has been a part of an undefeated season. But if he's widely recognized as the torchbearer for a team that follows that up with a run to a national title, he'll at least have a framed jersey hanging in Meyer's office in the practice facility.

Leaving a legacy: C.J. Barnett

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
11:00
AM ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The final chapter hasn't been written yet for Ohio State's senior class, and a handful of Buckeyes have a chance to author something pretty memorable. This week, we'll be looking at five players with a chance to leave a legacy with the program with one more productive season, what kind of impact they might have this fall and how they might be viewed down the road.

C.J. Barnett
    [+] EnlargeC.J. Barnett
    AP Photo/Jay LaPreteA healthy C.J. Barnett (center) is a difference-maker for Ohio State's defense.

  • So far: Nobody will bring more experience to the Ohio State defense this fall than the senior from Dayton, though Barnett could lean on even more game action if he'd simply been able to stay healthy throughout his career. Injuries have also had a noticeable impact on his numbers and, at this point, probably overshadow how productive he has been at full strength. Barnett's size and athleticism have always been appealing to the Buckeyes, who first tabbed him for a starting job in 2010 before a knee injury ended his season after two games. After surgery, he bounced back to reclaim that gig and played the only full slate of his career so far, leading Ohio State in tackles, intercepting a pair of passes and ending the season as the team's most outstanding defensive back. As a junior a year ago, Barnett again flashed his potential and proved invaluable in the secondary -- but a nagging ankle injury kept him out of three games and slowed him for a couple others. The Buckeyes, obviously, could use a healthy Barnett, and it might do wonders for the way he's ultimately remembered.
  • Numbers to date: 140 tackles, 13 passes defended, four interceptions and four tackles for a loss
  • Record chasing: There aren't really any defensive marks Barnett is capable of chasing down this fall, and the blame can fall squarely on an injured knee and ankle. But he could conceivably wind up starting 38 games for the Buckeyes if he makes it through the fall unscathed, and he could finish among the top hitters of his era behind linebacker Ryan Shazier and safety sidekick Christian Bryant as he goes into the year ranked third among active players in tackles.
  • What's next: The center of attention in the secondary will continue to be cornerback Bradley Roby, with any spotlight that spills over likely heading to Bryant. But the fact that Ohio State can follow them up with a three-year starter at safety who has been through all sorts of adversity, knows the entire playbook and brings a huge supply of experience to the table reinforces the incredible depth the defense has in the secondary. The Buckeyes are planning to rely heavily on that talent and veteran savvy to set the tone for the overall unit this fall, with the defensive staff likely to frequently line up in nickel and dime packages that should put Barnett and his buddies in position to make a significant number of plays -- and strongly influence how good the Silver Bullets can be.
  • Crystal ball: A couple of stints on the disabled list, albeit one longer than the other, have helped keep Barnett from doing the things that would show up in the record books and throw his name in the conversation among Ohio State's former greats at the position. Another healthy, solid campaign like the one Barnett posted two seasons ago probably won't change that much, but it would definitely be a boost to a team that has national title aspirations. And following up a perfect record in 2012 with a championship is one surefire way to go down in school history.

Leaving a legacy: Philly Brown

June, 26, 2013
6/26/13
11:00
AM ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The final chapter hasn't been written yet for Ohio State's senior class, and a handful of Buckeyes have a chance to author something pretty memorable. This week, we'll be looking at five players with a chance to leave a legacy with the program with one more productive season, what kind of impact they might have this fall and how they might be viewed down the road.

Philly Brown
[+] EnlargePhilly Brown
Greg Bartram/US PresswireThe Buckeyes want to see more yards out of leading receiver Philly Brown in his senior season.

  • So far: The veteran wideout already has led Ohio State in receiving twice in his career, though it only took 14 catches to do it as a sophomore. Even his breakout campaign a year ago came with some occasional criticism from the coaching staff, since his yardage didn't explode at quite the same rate as his reception total on the way to 60 grabs. But by the end of his junior year, Brown was showing the kind of speed and elusiveness that Urban Meyer values so highly on the perimeter, and that once again should provide no shortage of opportunities for the Buckeyes to put the ball in the senior's hands. Despite those modest numbers from the 2011 season, Brown is already on the brink of the top 20 in program history for receptions. He likely will be climbing the all-time yardage list steadily this fall, given his prominent role in the spread offense -- if he stays healthy -- putting him in prime position to stake his claim among the most productive targets in school history.
  • Numbers to date: 82 catches for 979 yards and 5 touchdowns; 13 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown; 24 punt returns for 281 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Record chasing: Brown would need only to maintain the pace he established during his much-improved junior campaign to crack the top five in Ohio State history in receptions, with a projected 70 catches spread over a potential 14 games. He actually only needs to snag 58 passes to pass Santonio Holmes at No. 5 on the career list, and from there it's pretty elite company with the likes of David Boston, Chris Carter, Michael Jenkins and Gary Williams.
  • What's next: There is more help on the way for a thin group of receivers that was at least partially responsible for the heavy workload for Brown last fall, and the Buckeyes still have some experienced options on hand for quarterback Braxton Miller in Devin Smith, Chris Fields and Evan Spencer. Along with sophomore Michael Thomas and a talented group of newcomers, a bit of the weight should be coming off Brown's shoulders this fall. But he also deserves credit for his reliability and progress as a threat to extend plays after the catch, which was also a significant factor in how much he was used during the unbeaten season a year ago. Brown has good chemistry with Miller, he's a sold route-runner -- and is certainly still at the top of the priority list heading into his final year with the program.
  • Crystal ball: The feat wasn't exactly accomplished the same way the first two times, but finishing his career by leading the Buckeyes in receiving for a third year in a row would definitely give Brown a somewhat unique entry in the record books. It's no secret the Buckeyes want him to pile up more yardage as a senior, and if he can bring some of the game-breaking speed and moves he showed on his two punt-return touchdowns last year, they should get what they're looking for this fall. And in the process, Brown might find himself posting one of the most prolific statistical careers the Buckeyes have ever had at wide receiver.

Leaving a legacy: Christian Bryant

June, 25, 2013
6/25/13
11:00
AM ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The final chapter hasn't been written yet for Ohio State's senior class, and a handful of Buckeyes have a chance to author something pretty memorable. This week, we'll be looking at five players with a chance to leave a legacy with the program with one more productive season, what kind of impact they might have this fall and how they might be viewed down the road.

[+] EnlargeChristian Bryant
Greg Bartram/US PresswireChristian Bryant, who enters his third year as a starter, is often overlooked but is a steady performer in the Buckeyes' secondary.
Christian Bryant

  • So far: There hasn't been all that much individual acclaim for Bryant, a Cleveland native, despite holding down a starting job for the last two seasons. The hard-hitting, ball-hawking safety still won't be the centerpiece even among defensive backs heading into his final campaign with the Buckeyes. But if cornerback Bradley Roby commands the spotlight and offensive players with higher profiles generate headlines, Bryant has already proven that his quieter contributions are invaluable for Ohio State as he steadily racks up tackles while chipping in some turnovers in the process. And while Bryant can often go overlooked even while finishing third on the team in tackles in one season and second the next, he isn't opposed to making a little noise with both his physical play and his mouth, occasionally crossing the line and earning some unwanted attention from officials. But those same traits help make him a popular guy in the locker room, and he's in line for a prized leadership role as his time with the Buckeyes winds down.
  • Numbers to date: 149 tackles, 21 passes defended, three forced fumbles, an interception, a fumble recovery and a tackle for a loss.
  • Record chasing: Cracking the program's top 20 in tackles isn't entirely out of reach, though it would certainly be a stretch for Bryant to come up with the 119 hits needed to find his way onto that all-time list -- particularly after finishing second on the team a year ago with 70 tackles. But even if Bryant doesn't end up with any career records, if he stays healthy he will at least leave Ohio State as one of the more productive defenders during his time on campus. He's currently second among active players in tackles, passes broken up and forced fumbles, and he could conceivably wind up starting 36 times before moving on from the Buckeyes.
  • What's next: The strength of the Ohio State defense is in the backfield, and it won't hesitate to lean on the secondary this fall with experienced, talented veterans such as Bryant in order to supply stability. Bryant, C.J. Barnett and Roby offer the kind of steady, sometimes spectacular, play that should help the Buckeyes survive some potential growing pains in the front seven, where six new starters will be breaking into the lineup. That nucleus will be complemented by a deep group of athletic youngsters who have already been taken under the wings of the upperclassmen, and with a heavy dose of nickel and dime packages expected to be deployed, there should be plenty of chances for Bryant to lead by example as well.
  • Crystal ball: If Bryant can get his hands on a few more passes and actually keep them locked on for a few interceptions, his stock will go up dramatically and enhance his reputation as a playmaker in the secondary. But even if that doesn't happen and he simply churns out another solid season similar to the one a year ago, his contributions for a team that went undefeated and his long stay in the starting lineup shouldn't be overlooked. A handful of interceptions and another big year for the team as a whole, though, and the conversation about the mark he made with Ohio State might extend beyond just his era.

Leaving a legacy: Carlos Hyde

June, 24, 2013
6/24/13
11:00
AM ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The final chapter hasn't been written yet for Ohio State's senior class, and a handful of Buckeyes have a chance to author something pretty memorable. This week, we'll be looking at five players with a chance to leave a legacy with the program with one more productive season, what kind of impact they might have this fall and how they might be viewed down the road.

Carlos Hyde
Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesCarlos Hyde scored 17 touchdowns as a junior and came close to becoming Urban Meyer's first 1,000-yard running back.
Carlos Hyde

  • So far: The bruising rusher from Naples, Fla., had to wait longer than perhaps he wanted to before taking over the starting job in the backfield, but Hyde proved that he deserved it with a breakout junior campaign that almost certainly would have included more than 1,000 yards if he'd been healthy all year. Hyde was a monster in the red zone and racked up 17 total touchdowns, which has him knocking on the door to Ohio State's all-time top-10 in career scoring. The Buckeyes have no shortage of legendary tailbacks in the record book, and while a handful will remain untouchable for Hyde no matter what he does this fall, he could still wind up climbing into elite company.
  • Numbers to date: 315 carries for 1,677 yards and 22 touchdowns; 18 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown
  • Record chasing: Hyde was almost automatic a year ago when the Buckeyes were knocking on the end-zone door, but there's still plenty of work to do with the scoring bar set so high at a program that has churned out prolific rushers. Hyde still needs 14 more rushing touchdowns to crack the top five in school history, and one more than that would move him ahead of Tim Spencer and Harold Henson into fourth place by himself.
  • What's next: Clearly the top choice heading into a season for the first time in his career, Hyde finally won't have to prove himself during camp or fight for chances to touch the football. But even as one of Ohio State's first offensive options, along with quarterback Braxton Miller, Hyde might not see quite the same steady diet of carries as he did a year ago with a deeper pool of tailbacks behind him, starting with Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball and likely including touches for freshmen Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall. A more explosive Hyde, though, might not need the ball as often to eclipse his yardage total from last season, and breaking through to give coach Urban Meyer his first 1,000-yard running back would give him a legacy that in some ways would transcend Ohio State.
  • Crystal ball: Projecting Hyde's 2012 season over potentially 14 games this year would put him on pace for nearly 1,400 yards, a number that would give him more than 3,000 yards for his career. Ohio State has only had six players hit that milestone in school history, and with a perfect season already on his resume and a chance to make a run at something even bigger this fall, Hyde is in position to crack the conversation about the great rushers in school history.

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