The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Ten Breakout Buckeyes
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

Spence2 copyThe preseason All-American teams and All-Big Ten teams are out, and they are littered with the names of Ohio State players: Miller, Roby, Shazier, Norwell, Mewhort, Barnett.   This article is not about them. Every summer I take a stab at identifying ten Ohio State players who may not yet be household names in Big Ten country, but are about to be.

It’s a hit or miss endeavor, as you might imagine, and for the sake of consistency, I have a couple of rules I follow in picking my list. As always, no seniors are included. because I want a list of players on the front end of their college careers, with their best days of OSU football still ahead of them when 2013 is over. While breakouts by seniors are welcome (thanks, Reid Fragel, Doug Worthington, Nader Abdallah, Shawn Lane, Antonio Smith, et al.) a look at  this year’s roster doesn’t reveal many potential Fragels. Receiver Chris Fields might be the best bet to make a big senior splash.  But he can’t be on my list, because...rules.

Also, no true freshmen are allowed. This is not to suggest there will be no breakout seasons by this year’s monster class of first-year Bucks. I fully expect to see a lot of Jalin Marshall and Vonn Bell and Joey Bosa and Dontre Wilson before it’s all over, but Bell is the only freshman I can see with any shot at being a starter for Urban Meyer on August 31. Look for a whole slew of 2013 recruits in this space a year from now.

The 2013 Buckeyes are a veteran group on offense, but will be relying on seven new defensive starters. So my list of this season’s breakout players is necessarily weighted towards the defense. One thing I’ve learned from doing this for several years is that, no matter how talented and promising a young player may be, it’s a mistake to predict he’ll “break out” if you can’t realistically project him into a starting job, or at least a regular spot in the game day rotation. This season, perhaps more than usual, there will be an awful lot of talent waiting its turn in Columbus.

Here then are the ten Buckeyes I see breaking out in 2013...



Marcus510. Jamal Marcus - DE - #34 - Soph. - 6’ 3’, 245 lbs. - Durham, NC

Marcus came to OSU last year as an outside linebacker, but he has been switched to the defensive line, and will be vying for playing time as a backup to fellow sophomore Noah Spence at the weakside (Leo) rush end spot. He’s one of just two players on this list (Mike Thomas the other) who are not projected as starters for the Buckeyes in 2013, so his inclusion is more of a hunch. Junior Steve Miller is on the depth chart at the Leo as well, and even true freshman Tyquan Lewis could see early time there, but Marcus looks to possess that speed-power combination that all good pass rushers need. Although we’ve only seen him on special teams, where he registered 10 tackles in 2012, I think he has a chance to get regular field time in the d-line rotation. 



CGrant19. Curtis Grant - LB - #14 - Junior- 6’ 3”, 241 lbs - Richmond, VA

The long-awaited breakout of the talented inside linebacker in 2013 is less an expectation among Buckeye fans than it is a fervent hope. Arguably the only member of my list a year ago to prove me wrong, Grant showed flashes this spring that he is ready to fulfill his promise. Midway through last season, Zach Boren rescued Ohio State by filling the problem area at middle linebacker, but the crucial MLB job is open again. No single question mark about the championship caliber of the 2013 Buckeyes is greater than the uncertainty concerning the level of play they will get at Grant’s position. There are no questions at all about his physical ability, and his mastery of the defense is reportedly coming around. There’s a lot of pressure on Grant this fall, but there is also a terrific opportunity for him to make his mark.



Perry2 AndrewWeber USAToday8. Josh Perry - LB - #37 - Soph. - 6’ 4”, 243 lbs. - Lewis Center, OH

OSU fans got a glimpse of what Perry can do last season when he got into 10 games as a true freshman and registered five tackles, and this spring he was penciled in as the starter at the strongside (Sam) linebacker spot. A special all-around athlete, Perry ran the 400 meters and long-jumped 23 feet while at Olentangy High School, and he has reportedly added weight since enrolling early at OSU, while maintaining his speed and agility. There is concern about depth at linebacker for this 2013 team, because of the five freshmen linebackers recruited last season, only Perry and Camren Williams remain at the position. But with the defense playing in the nickel much of the time, only two linebackers will be on the field, and one of them is going to be Ryan Shazier. At the outset, it appears, the other one will be either Josh Perry or Curtis Grant. My bet is that Perry is going to break out in 2013 along with Grant, but probably not without a few growing pains.


ThomasM47. Michael Thomas - WR - #83 - Soph. - 6’ 2”, 199 lbs. - Los Angeles, CA

When Thomas enrolled early as a true freshman last year, and then caught 12 passes in the 2012 Spring Game, he immediately became a breakout candidate for last season. Instead the playing time went to more seasoned players, and Thomas finished the season with just three catches for 22 yards. But if hard work and a great relationship with the starting quarterback count for anything, Thomas could blossom in 2013 for the Buckeyes. The sophomore from L.A. is close friends with Braxton Miller, and OSU’s Heisman candidate stayed at Thomas home while he worked with QB guru George Whitfield.  Thomas was on the other end of all of Braxton’s throws in those sessions, as he has been all offseason. Thomas showed off his big play ability once again this spring, and his hours of practice time with his quarterback are bound to pay off as he cracks the OSU receiving rotation in 2013.


Schutt16. Tommy Schutt - DT - #90 - Soph. - 6’ 2”, 303 lbs - Glen Ellyn, IL

The big defensive lineman from Chicago was anything but under the radar as a prep player. He was a 5-star recruit, and the top-ranked player in Illinois when he was the first to commit to Urban Meyer after the new coach was hired in November, 2011. After a year of weight work under Mickey Marotti, and a season under the tutelage of position coach Mike Vrabel and starting nose tackle Garrett Goebel, Schutt will have his chance to shine in 2013. He dealt with a leg injury this spring, which left junior Joel Hale taking most of the reps as the starting nose tackle, but there will be plenty of regular season snaps for both of them. Schutt is one of three defensive linemen on this list, as OSU replaces their entire defensive front. Schutt and his mates Hale and Chris Carter will have to be effective stopping the inside rushing game if the Buckeyes are to make a run at a conference title. They’ll team with Michael Bennett at the 3-technique spot to form the core of the defensive tackle rotation. There are talented freshmen arriving at tackle too, but Schutt is the pick here to break out.


Washington25. Adolphus Washington - DE - #92 - Soph. - 6’ 3”, 292 lbs. - Cincinnati, OH

The last time you saw Adolphus Washington in a game, he was blowing by Michigan’s consensus All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan for a sack of Devin Gardner, (at the 1:35 mark here) causing a fumble that Zach Boren fell on for the Buckeyes. Expect more of that stuff from this budding star. Washington got only sporadic action behind the veteran defensive line last year, but the staff feels very good about plugging in the versatile 5-star talent from Cincinnati at the strongside defensive end position, and letting him do his thing. Washington was an all-state basketball player at Taft High, and won Ohio player of the year awards in both sports. He had a very strong spring season this year, topped off with four (touch) sacks in the spring game. Bottom line: guys that big aren’t supposed to be that athletic and quick. Adolphus Washington is primed to show the nation he has arrived.


Decker24. Taylor Decker - OT - #68 - Soph. - 6’ 7”, 315 lbs. - Vandalia, OH

In the Ohio State coaching change after the 2011 season, they almost let Ohio’s best offensive tackle get away from them. Decker had committed to Notre Dame, but after Urban Meyer came on board, he hired two Irish assistants for his coaching staff, and Decker was persuaded to join his position coach Ed Warinner in Columbus. Decker has a huge frame and the quick feet valued by spread teams, and he demonstrated early that he was a good fit for Meyer’s system.  He saw some limited game action as a true freshman, and competed in the spring with Chase Farris for the starting right tackle spot, the only vacancy on a veteran Buckeye offensive line. Meyer wasn’t entirely happy with the spring play of either competitor as the 2013 replacement for Reid Fragel, but Decker finished spring ball as the presumed starter. If his development continues as most expect it to, Decker could be a fixture at right tackle for three years.


DGrant2 EamonQueeney Dispatch3. Doran Grant - CB - #12 - Junior - 5’ 11”, 191 lbs. - Akron, OH

Grant was one of the nation’s top-rated cornerbacks coming out of St. Vincent-St. Mary two years ago, and he has played in every game for OSU in his first two seasons in Columbus, mostly on special teams. He has one start as a Buckeye, filling in capably for Bradley Roby against UAB last season, a game in which he registered a sack, a fumble recovery and interception to go with his seven tackles. Grant had a very strong spring, and he will surely start the season opposite Roby as the other starter at cornerback, despite the presence of some seriously talented freshman corners. There will be nowhere to hide for Grant this fall, as he will be tested early and often by teams trying to throw the ball where the consensus All-American Roby isn’t.  On the plus side, he’ll be the only new starter in a veteran secondary, with seasoned safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett alongside him. Two years of seasoning have Doran Grant more than ready to step up at Cornerback U.


Heuerman22. Jeff Heuerman - TE - #86 - Junior - 6’ 6”, 250 lbs. - Naples, FL

If one of these ten Buckeyes might be said to have already broken out in 2012, it could be Heuerman. He started the last seven games of 2012 after playing behind Jake Stoneburner for most of his first two seasons in Columbus, and he has nine career receptions, including a TD catch against Nebraska. He’s best remembered for his catch on the game-tying two-point conversion against Purdue, preserving the unbeaten season. The catch was less spectacular than the tight end “drag” play call that had Heuerman wide open, but it salvaged one redeeming aspect of an otherwise flawed OSU season...the zero in the loss column, as the Bucks went on to win in OT. Heuerman is the most complete of the young OSU tight ends, while maybe not quite the receiver Nick Vannett is. But Meyer and tight ends coach Tim Hinton rave about  Heuerman’s blocking prowess, his athleticism ( a 36.5” vertical) at 6’6”, 250, and his mental grasp of the offense. The tight ends usually thrive in Meyer’s offense, so it’s pretty safe to predict a big season for his starter.


Spence11. Noah Spence - DE - #8 - Soph. - 6’ 3”, 247 lbs. - Harrisburg, PA

On the day he was hired, Urban Meyer set out  to recruit the nation’s best players to Ohio State, and one of his first successes was the highly-decorated Spence (#8 at top), a top ten overall talent nationally, and the #2-rated defensive end in the country. Spence played in all but one game a year ago, registering 12 tackles and a sack in a backup role, giving Buckeye fans enough of a sample of his talent to get excited about seeing him as a regular. Spence and Washington, his sophomore running mate at defensive end, were the talk of spring ball this year, and the word “unblockable” was being thrown around whenever Spence’s name came up. It’s his quickness...that first step that sets the great pass rushers apart...that is evident when you watch Spence come off the ball. As he gets stronger and learns to better disengage from offensive linemen, he’ll be tough to contain. And Buckeye offensive linemen are glad it will soon be someone else’s problem to block him.  


Previous versions of Ten Breakout Buckeyes:

2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009



on Twitter at @dwismar

Dan's OSU Links and Resources


Photo credits: Andrew Weber,USAToday(Perry) - Eamon Queeney, Cols. Dispatch (Doran Grant)

The TCF Forums