"The talk goes beyond the simple question of whether or not the No. 1 Buckeyes are capable of winning it all again. Now it includes a projection of where they might rank among the top programs in history if they win back-to-back titles."
Ohio State comes into the 2015 season with quite the expectations. ESPN's Austin Ward explores how the 2015 Buckeyes have the potential to become an all-time great team, and how they can manage to do so. One of the factors mentioned by Ward, is draft picks. He draws a comparison to the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, who are undoubtedly one of the greatest college football teams put on a field. In total, they had 38 draft picks, five of those in the first round. The Buckeyes will likely have Joey Bosa, Cardale Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Taylor Decker, and Darron Lee. Depending on the outcome of the season and their performances, Ward notes that it wouldn't be a surprise to see Adolphus Washington, Vonn Bell, or Michael Thomas slide in there. It reiterates the fact that this team is returning a ridiculous amount of talent from an already impressive championship team.
Ward also draws a comparison to the 2004 USC Trojans, and how they boasted a pair of Heisman finalists, a factor he feels made that team one of the best ever. That team had an offensive machine led by Matt Lienart and Reggie Bush, and made for some entertaining football. Whoever starts at quarterback is expected to put up Heisman-type numbers, and of course expectations are high for Ezekiel Elliott, as he is currently only 2nd to TCU's Trevone Boykin in the Heisman odds provided by Bovada. Ward also notes that perhaps with a great enough season, Joey Bosa could help end the bias against defensive players.
His third factor, and this one perhaps the most obvious of all, is the final count on the scoreboard. How much the Buckeyes win each game by. His comparison drawn to this point is the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers, who had an average margin of victory of over 38 points per game. The Buckeyes don't have the toughest schedule in the world, and perhaps could put up similar numbers if they click on all cylinders for the majority of the season.
"While bringing this up feels like rubbing salt in Mizzou wounds, it shouldn't. [Ezekiel] Elliott made the right choice, and Mizzou has been just fine without him."
Connelly touches on all the right spots with this one, a great objective bit on Ezekiel Elliott's choice to go to Ohio State as opposed to Mizzou coming out of high school, and how both sides have fared well as a result of it. The conversation has been brought up more since the Buckeyes' title win, and was recently discussed on an E:60 feature that ran last night. Connelly highlights that Elliott wouldn't be the Heisman hopeful that he is in 2015 with Mizzou, as well as saying that he would not have helped them win more games in his two collegiate seasons, which is absolutely not a knock on Elliott or his talents.
As far as his Heisman contention goes, Connelly notes that you have to be on a national title contender to contend for the Heisman, which, if you look just the past 10 years, that's pretty accurate. He makes a great point in noting last year's Heisman contest, where Melvin Gordon rushed for nearly 3,000 yards, and still didn't even receive half of the votes that Marcus Mariota did, who ran away with the award. On top of the Heisman, Elliott would have only really helped Mizzou in one game that Connelly points out, which was a 2013 matchup in an overtime loss to South Carolina, where Mizzou's trio of backs had just 143 yards on 31 carries. Regardless, Mizzou has had great production at running back, and Elliott's decision has worked out for both sides.
J.T. Barrett and Dontre Wilson have been named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award 2015 Watch List
J.T. Barrett and Dontre Wilson have been named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award 2015 Watch List, which is awarded to top offensive player in Division 1 football who also exhibits the enduring characteristics that define Earl Campbell: integrity, performance, teamwork, sportsmanship, drive, community and tenacity; specifically tenacity to persist and determination to overcome adversity and injury in pursuit of reaching goals.
In addition to the criteria mentioned above, nominees must have been born in Texas and/or graduated from a Texas High School and/or played at a Texas-based junior college or four year college. Barrett is a native of Wichita Falls, Texas, and Wilson is a native of Desoto, Texas. Barrett was a finalist for the award last year. The award was established back in 2012, with Baylor QB Bryce Petty winning in 2013, and TCU's Trevone Boykin winning in 2014.
"Together, these big three [Kevin Feder, Isaiah Prince, and Branden Bowen] — part of a class of five freshmen offensive linemen that also includes the 6-6 Grant Schmidt and 6-5 Brady Taylor — help form the foundation of the Buckeyes' future lines."
Simply put, the future of Ohio State's offensive line is huge. "They may be the biggest threesome in the history of college football in one class," line coach and co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. Kevin Feder comes in at a gigantic 6-foot-9, and is joined by Isaiah Prince, and Brandon Bowen, both standing at 6-foot-7 themselves. On top of those two, you have Grant Schmidt, and Brady Taylor, who are the littles ones of the group, standing at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5 respectively. Their size keeps them from being able to partake in rides at Cedar Point, or being able to squeeze into a seat on an airline.
Of the group, Isaiah Prince perhaps could be the one who boasts the most talent. Prince was the first Buckeye freshman to lose his black stripe in camp, and is practicing with the second team. Prince was ranked the No. 4 offensive lineman in the 2015 class.
With their outstanding height, these guys have a size advantage that is hard to overcome if you are on the other side of the line. As Brandon Bowen notes, "On the offensive line, your hands are everything. Once you extend and lock up the linemen, that's it." This group of enormous and talented offensive linemen will be in good hands under Ed Warinner, and are expected to be able to pave the way for future great Ohio State running backs, as well as protecting future great Ohio State quarterbacks.
"As those freshmen become older guys, the linebackers could be very interesting. It felt like you could maybe pick up that first day of practice in 2015, drop it in 2017, and the same three linebackers could line up together."
Similar to the future of the offensive line, the future at linebacker is just as bright for Ohio State. And they have formed somewhat of a brotherhood. "Almost every time we go out there, we're almost always together," Justin Hilliard said, referring to camp. "It's kind of cool whenever we go out there, we all run together."
The group has great talent to learn from. Joshua Perry, Darron Lee, and Raekwon McMillan are a linebacking group that is extremely talented. "When I came here I knew we had a bunch of older guys and knew it was a great chance to learn from those guys," Hilliard said. One would have a hard time finding a linebacking group in the nation that is better than that boasted by an Ohio State defense that seems intimidating as any.