Ohio State freshman Michael Thomas looks to help change the world view of the OSU receiving corp.
Urban Meyer's inaugural class of freshman are now fully ingrained with what it means to be an Ohio State Buckeye. Or at least Urban Meyer's still evolving definition. While the nine early enrollees Jacoby Boren, Taylor Decker, Bri'onte Dunn, Cardale Jones, Josh Perry, Se'Von Pittmann, Tyvis Powell, Luke Roberts, and Michael Thomas now probably feel like old veterans, they and the rest of the incoming freshman are still in the process of earning their stripes -- which in the case of Ohio State's newly introduced Meyer-Bowling-Green-tenure adapted tradition of literally getting a black stripe removed from Ohio State's familiar helmet stripe is just that.
Last season we saw Braxton Miller provide the theatrical trailer for the future of Ohio State football and fellow class of 2011'ers Devin Smith and Evan Spencer begin to lay the groundwork for their legacies as Buckeyes as well. Which Ohio State first year football players will have the biggest chance to make an impact right out of the gate?
Warren Ball, Running Back
The 6'2" 200 pound product of Columbus' own St. Francis DeSales High has probably the most relative ground to make up amongst our prospective impact making five but all the physical assets to do just that.
With likely difference maker Jordan Hall sidelined with a foot injury for in upwards of three weeks and a see-it-to-believe-it approach largely necessary to quantify accurately whether or not Carlos Hyde can be anything close to an every down type guy, there'll be plenty of touches to go around on a team that could ultimately need to rely on its ground game.
While sophomore-to-be Rod Smith has earned more in the area of accolades than Ball to point in the early going, should the former first-team Division III all-state tail back start to more regularly put the intricacies of Meyer and Tom Herman's offenses to practice, it's not out of the question that you hear his name called more and more by season's end.
Jacoby Boren, Offensive Lineman
Following in the footsteps of famed Michigan turncoat Justin and Ohio State h-back/weapon du jour Zach, Jacoby, the youngest Boren brother, will have every bit the opportunity to make his own mark in Ohio State football lore with little depth in the current iteration of the OSU offensive line.
While Boren was relatively undecorated by the major recruiting services, the former all-state guard has caught eyes at both center and guard since enrolling last Winter Quarter (RIP quarter system /pours out 40 oz).
Boren's even listed as the top backup at the center position on the most recent Ohio State depth chart. Should a single defender aim too high or too low, Boren's baptism by fire may be commencing a lot sooner rather than later.
Bri'onte Dunn, Running Back
Dunn made headlines a week ago for all the wrong reasons, but given the favorable way the legal situation seemed to resolve itself, there doesn't seem to be a lot of murmurs that he'll be missing any real playing time for the Buckeyes.
The 6'1" 220 pound half back was said by Coach Meyer himself during yesterday's Media Day to be battling with returning RB Rod Smith to be Carlos "El Guapo" Hyde's top backup. Many even believe that Dunn's ceiling may be higher than that of the fellow incoming frosh Ball.
Should Dunn be able to maintain consistency in his approach to carrying the ball and catch the eyes of both Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton and his coordinator, there's little reason to think he won't find himself in OSU's regular rotation in the backfield for the long haul.
Taylor Decker, Tackle
Decker, the 6'8 mountain of a man long-time Ohio State fan ire drawing ex-coordinator Jim Bollman infamously didn't think was good enough to merit a scholarship offer, could very conceivably find himself starting as a true freshman.
With but fellow first year tackle (from a positional standpoint, anyway) Reid Fragel still in the process of learning the nuances of the position, Decker could find himself at worse in a platoon situation gaining on the field experience helping to keep opposing defenders away from Braxton Miller.
The former consensus four star lineman should have every opportunity to hear his name called in upwards of four years, not unlike former Buckeye J.B. Shugarts. For everyone's sanity's sake, let's hope the false starts aren't indigenous to the territory he'll roam.
Michael Thomas, Wide Receiver
The name easily most readily already on the tongues of Ohio State fans both casual and hardcore is that of the most naturally skilled incoming freshman wide receiver in some time, Michael Thomas.
Thomas, a relative long strider (and nephew of long-time NFL'er Keyshawn Johnson), pretty much cemented his status in Ohio State's rotation following a breakout 2012 Spring Game. And unlike Spring Game one-hit wonders of yesteryear, by all accounts his early productivity has consistently translated into practice as well.
Though having Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, and Philly Brown in front of him at the receiving position may be somewhat the detriment, in a relatively open spread offense seeking balance as its top priority, if Braxton Miller can get the protection necessary to go through his progressions, he'll still factor in to Ohio State's offensive equation.
Which Ohio State freshmen do you see having the greatest impact on the 2012 football season?