Ohio State Buckeyes: Ohio State triple threats

Triple threats: Bradley Roby

January, 31, 2013
1/31/13
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Everybody is chasing the elite recruits, and championships aren't usually won unless there's a pretty impressive constellation of four- and five-star athletes on a roster.

But those guys also aren't typically solely responsible for taking a program to the next level, and it can often come down to which coaching staffs properly identify and develop the players without as much buzz coming out of high school -- or the ones intent on proving those doubts wrong at the next level.

BuckeyeNation is looking at five of those players on the Ohio State roster who will be key to making a title run, all of them capable of outplaying that three-star label.

[+] EnlargeBradley Roby
Andrew Weber/US PresswireThe Buckeyes' Bradley Roby. a three-star recruit as an athlete in 2010, is now an All-America cornerback.
No. 2: Bradley Roby

  • Who: Ohio State waited patiently for the process to play out, and when a decision was finally announced, it was good news from Bradley Roby. The redshirt junior's transition from a potential contributor at wide receiver when he was a high school prospect to an impact defender was already a success, but Roby made it quite clear that cornerback was the perfect position for him with the Buckeyes and in the NFL with his breakout season last fall, one that had him thinking about making an early leap to the draft. Instead he'll try to improve his craft in coverage even more while vying for a championship with Ohio State, and the coaching staff certainly was thrilled to hear he'd be back considering it was already facing the need to replace seven other starters.
  • Then: The signs of a big-play threat were there all along at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Ga., but they seemed to be pointing to them coming on offense at that point. The scouting report raved about Roby's speed, pointed to his soft hands and praised his ability to track the deep ball among the many traits that could make him dangerous as a receiver for the Buckeyes. Pretty much all of those have been put on display since his redshirt year in 2010, though he's put them to use swatting away passes, coming up with critical interceptions and delivering touchdowns on special teams instead.
  • They said it: "Savvy receiver who knows how to work leverage. ... May get a look at corner as he flashes the great speed, body length and ball skills sought after as a perimeter defender. Overall, this is a guy who may be falling under the radar nationally and with some positional polish should develop into a very good wideout or corner at the major college level. We also like his ability to return kicks as well as cover them, showing his athleticism and versatility." -- RecruitingNation in 2010
  • Now: Few defensive backs in the country put together a resume as diverse and well-stocked as Roby's last season, and after breaking out the way he did while becoming an ESPN.com first-team All-America pick, it's understandable why he was thinking about moving on to the next level. But as productive as Roby was for the unbeaten Buckeyes, there are still some improvements that can be made technically in coverage and in terms of his study habits of opposing offenses. There also wasn't much buzz among scouts for Roby heading into last season, and with one big year under his belt now, he should be able to boost his draft stock with an encore.

Triple threats: Devin Smith

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
9:00
AM ET
Everybody is chasing the elite recruits, and championships aren't usually won unless there's a pretty impressive constellation of four- and five-star athletes on a roster.

But those guys also aren't typically solely responsible for taking a program to the next level, and it can often come down to which coaching staffs properly identify and develop the players without as much buzz coming out of high school -- or the ones intent on proving those doubts wrong at the next level.

BuckeyeNation is looking at five of those players on the Ohio State roster who will be key to making a title run, all of them capable of outplaying that three-star label.

Devin Smith
Greg Bartram/US PresswireWide receiver Devin Smith was a three-star recruit who is playing at a higher level.
No. 3: Devin Smith

  • Who: What he might have lacked in terms of consistency as a sophomore, Smith definitely made up for with his explosiveness and some timely production when Ohio State needed it most. The speedy, bouncy wide receiver put several more plays on a highlight reel that is swelling, starting with his jaw-dropping, one-handed snatch out of the air in the season opener and continuing with a couple more game-winning grabs from Braxton Miller that built on the early success the pair had as freshmen. Smith still might not be a finished product, but he's the best deep threat on the roster and has tremendous upside thanks to his natural athleticism.
  • Then: There was plenty to like as Smith prepared to make the jump from Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio, as his physical tools have always been pretty tough to miss. There were even hints in his scouting report back then about his "sneaky second gear" that allowed him to pull away from defenders on balls thrown deep down the field, and to this point that's effectively become his calling card thanks to great timing and chemistry with Miller when the Buckeyes attack vertically in the passing game. He definitely hasn't disappointed Ohio State so far as he continues to build on the experience from his first two seasons, and it's clear there's more potential waiting for him to tap.
  • They said it: "Smith is a prospect that really grows on you the more you watch him and you begin to realize that he is a hybrid possession/big-play receiver that is deceptively fast and possesses very good measurables. ... Smith is still a bit green as a short and intermediate route-runner, but when he catches the ball he shows deceptive quickness and top-end speed. We are not saying he is a burner, but he does play fast for his size. Smith is a quality prospect with size and redeeming qualities as a pass catcher." -- RecruitingNation in 2011
  • Now: Smith doesn't exactly have to be the No. 1 target and pile up receptions for the offense to keep lighting up the scoreboard the way it did a year ago, particularly with the majority of pieces from a relentless rushing attack returning and senior Corey "Philly" Brown back after leading the team in receptions. But there's little doubt that if Smith can make an already high-powered attack more dangerous if he takes another step forward heading into next season. At the top of the list of things to work on as he made the adjustment to the next level was developing his route-running skills on short and intermediate routes, and just as when he signed with the program, that figures to be the area where he can make the biggest strides and become a truly dangerous threat in the spread offense.

Triple threats: Christian Bryant

January, 29, 2013
1/29/13
9:00
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Ohio State BuckeyesGreg Bartram/US PresswireChristian Bryant (2), a former three-star recruit, has been a steady performer.
Everybody is chasing the elite recruits, and championships aren't usually won unless there's a pretty impressive constellation of four- and five-star athletes on a roster.

But those guys also aren't typically solely responsible for taking a program to the next level, and it can often come down to which coaching staffs properly identify and develop the players without as much buzz coming out of high school -- or the ones intent on proving those doubts wrong at the next level.

BuckeyeNation will look at five of those players on the Ohio State roster that will be key to making a title run, all of them capable of outplaying that three-star label.

No. 4: Christian Bryant

    • Who: The senior safety has drawn plenty of attention for some untimely penalties and a competitive streak that he doesn't exactly hide, and that at times might overshadow the rest of his work in the secondary -- but it really shouldn't. Bryant might not be perfect on every snap or after the whistle, but he was one of the most consistent contributors all season long defensively on the way to a perfect record and has the resume to prove it heading into his last year with the program. Despite his affinity for making some noise on the field, he somewhat quietly posted the second-highest total of tackles for the Buckeyes and was also topped only by cornerback Bradley Roby in passes defended. Bryant also had a knack for creating big plays, forcing two fumbles, recovering another and also adding an interception during a campaign that sets the stage for what could be a huge senior season.
    • Then: There was more than enough talent on display at Glenville High School in Cleveland to make it clear Bryant could be a factor at the next level, but there were some questions about exactly how he would do it. He did some encouraging things against the pass, but he perhaps didn't have the kind of blazing speed needed to play man coverage against wide receivers all game long. Bryant brought a nasty streak when coming to support against the run and has always been able to deliver a knockout punch, but there were still a few doubts about his size at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds. The minor concerns may have kept him from potentially receiving a four-star grade, but those issues have certainly been erased as he prepares for another run as a key piece in the Ohio State starting lineup.

(Read full post)

Triple threats: Jordan Hall

January, 28, 2013
1/28/13
9:00
AM ET
Everybody is chasing the elite recruits, and championships aren't usually won unless there's a pretty impressive constellation of four- and five-star athletes on a roster.

But those guys also aren't typically solely responsible for taking a program to the next level, and it can often come down to which coaching staffs properly identify and develop the players without as much buzz coming out of high school -- or the ones intent on proving those doubts wrong at the next level.

BuckeyeNation will look at five of those players on the Ohio State roster that will be key to making a title run, all of them capable of outplaying that three-star label.

[+] EnlargeJordan Hall
Rick Ostentoski/US PresswireJordan Hall wasn't an elite recruit, but he has already made his mark on Ohio State despite injury.
No. 5: Jordan Hall

  • Who: The senior running back was forced to redshirt due to a pair of injuries that limited him to just three games in a season that had once held a lot of promise for the projected starter in the backfield. He was productive in his two complete outings, rushing for 192 yards on 34 carries in nonconference wins over California and UAB, and with plenty of time to heal and the decision made to return, he'll once again have a shot at playing a significant role for the Buckeyes before leaving campus.
  • Then: There were some questions about his durability when he signed back in 2009 out of Jeannette (Pa.) High School, though his relative lack of size when he was listed at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds certainly had no impact on the fluke injury he suffered last summer when he cut his foot on a piece of glass and required surgery that kept him out of training camp and the first two games. The scouting report praised his ability to hit the hole decisively, make defenders miss and his hands -- and with a potential role as a hybrid weapon available for him in Urban Meyer's spread offense, that last trait could be critical.
  • They said it: "Hall may have played in the shadow of Terrelle Pryor last year but is a good player in his own right and a versatile running back prospect. ... Overall, Hall is a well-rounded back that will be highly sought after because of his versatility as a runner. Projects best in a zone-read type offense, similar to what he played in at high school, which will utilize his quickness and soft hands in space. Skills in the return game add to his upside." -- RecruitingNation in 2009
  • Now: Elected a captain even while battling through his freak injury a year ago, Hall's work ethic and experience will again provide veteran leadership and help set the tone for the Buckeyes. He isn't likely to take back the starting gig that Carlos Hyde flourished in down the stretch last season, with the bigger, more bruising rusher forming a dynamic one-two punch with quarterback Braxton Miller and piling up touchdowns in the red zone. But Meyer had plans for using both of them in the backfield with Miller before injuries scrapped them, and Hall can do some things as a receiver that will bring some variety to the offense and another element of danger for a unit already returning almost every starter from the Big Ten's most explosive offense.

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