We've all been reading the preseason magazines, programs, and (naturally) blog posts about the upcoming Ohio State football season but all it seems anyone ever talks about are the biggest names (Braxton Miller, Urban Meyer, et al) and the most obvious stories (Jordan Hall, Stoneburner and Mewhort, and of course now Storm Klein). That's all well and good, but there are plenty of other important story lines out there that we, the media, and thus the fans have either forgotten about or swept under the rug.
While a lot can change in a month time, in an effort to try and forecast some of the potential different makers (or goats), let's take a look at a few of the players that are minor or off the radar now but could become much bigger deals come August and September:
As if the lead picture and caption weren't a hint enough, the evolution of Reid Fragel deserves our consideration, first and foremost. The big tight end, who always struck me as a very talented athlete who was stuck behind an even better one in Jake Stoneburner, now finds himself having to bulk up, adapt his current skill set, and slide over to right tackle.
How is this not a bigger story? Am I missing something? Isn't this going to affect not only Carlos Hyde and the running game but Braxton Miller's growth in the passing game as well? This could either end well or, speaking rather freely, very poorly. Lest we forget, JB Shugarts wasn't exactly an NFL commodity (despite some grading him as a 5-star tackle out of high school) but potentially rolling the dice on someone even rawer this stage in his career? The Fragel experiment could end up even worse. Depth on the O-line subsequently is also an issue. It should be interesting to see if green-as-can-be Taylor Decker can step in to the void should Fragel not work out as expected.
The Corner Position
Bradley Roby had a good year last year. We know that. He played better and better as the year went on, even having the confidence to say that Illinois' AJ Jenkins was "decent but nothing special" and then proving it on the field. Travis Howard is starting at the other position, though, and "Howard Island" was a hot vacation spot for Big Ten quarterbacks and receivers. If Howard continues to struggle, who is behind him? The most likely candidate to replace him (explained by his being listed as "co-starter" on Urban's inaugural depth chart), Doran Grant, didn't see a whole lot of playing time last year. Based on his body of work last year, Howard seems to be better suited in the nickel anyway. There's also Adam Griffin, who came out of nowhere to turn some heads this spring. Wasn't he just an almost courtesy scholarship just a little more than a year ago?
Nathan Williams/Adolphus Washington
We seem to be taking for granted that Nathan Williams will be back, be a 100%, and just step right back in and start at DE. Honestly though, I think that Williams may struggle this year. His injury is a tough one that usually takes a year to two to come back fully from. Realistically we may not see Williams playing to his full potential this year. The defensive line has lots of young players on the depth chart, but the one I think may have a surprising impact is Adolphus Washington. Having seen Washington in action at Cincinnati Taft High School, he absolutely dominated every game he was in. He is a total force rushing the passer who's only real shortcoming is the need to add some bulk to his frame (which given new strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti's nutritional and training regiments, shouldn't be a stretch). If he doesn't get redshirted, I think we could see him on plenty of passing downs, especially if Nathan Williams isn't fully himself.
Reed just fell off the face of the earth after having a great spring game in 2011. Unfortunately he tore his ACL that ensuing fall and has been working to get back ever since. He isn't very high on the depth chart but with the current crop of receivers being what it is, but I think Reed has a real chance to impress Urban Meyer, Tom Herman, and Zach Smith this year. Reed played quarterback and receiver in high school, so we know he's a versatile athlete. It'd be premature to think we've heard the last of Verlon Reed.
What are your potentially underrated story lines for this season? Who do you see making or breaking Urban's first year in Columbus?