"He has a chance to be a first-day guy when all is said and done. But that's not what's driving him. He wants to be the best college player."
-Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, via Adam Rittenberg, ESPN.com
ESPN just got done ranking their top 100 players in college football, and it should come as no surprise that the most dominant player on the reigning national champs took hold of the top spot. Joey Bosa is racking up acclaim faster than he can get into the backfield, which is saying something -- he's one of the best in the business at rushing off the edge. Both his own coaches and opposing coaches have nothing but praise for the junior defensive end, who led the Big Ten in both sacks and tackles for loss in 2014.
Right now, Bosa projects as the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. It's always dangerous to make those judgments before the season, but if Bosa continues his trajectory -- he certainly hasn't gotten worse since being named the B1G defensive player of the year -- it's hard to see someone supplanting him at the top. Although Bosa will miss the first game of the season against Virginia Tech on September 7, due to a suspension, he will have plenty of time (hopefully 14 games) to continue terrorizing opposing linemen and quarterbacks.
Joining Bosa in the ESPN top 100 are teammates Ezekiel Elliott (No. 2, a well-deserved honor after last season's hot finish), Taylor Decker (No. 28), J.T. Barrett (No. 29, though would surely be higher if he had the starting QB job guaranteed -- at the moment he's tied with Pitt WR Tyler Boyd), Darron Lee (No. 33),Adolphus Washington (No. 35), Pat Elflein (No. 47), Cardale Jones (No. 77, perhaps based on only having three career starts), and Joshua Perry (No. 84). I'm not great at math, but one team out of 128 boasting nine of the top 100 players in college football seems pretty good.
"It could be a Jalin Marshall...it could be a Braxton Miller. We've gotta find that out."
- Urban Meyer, via Bill Landis, Northeast Ohio Media Group
According to Bill Landis, there's one major question mark on offense as far as Urban Meyer is concerned. And it doesn't concern the guy taking snaps under center. With the departure of Devin Smith, Ohio State has yet to figure out who its true deep threat is, and Meyer is willing to consider a number of possibilities, any of whom would be hard-pressed to replicate Smith's feats from 2014.
Jalin Marshall, perhaps the most dynamic of the Buckeye pass-catchers, could become the guy, but there isn't evidence yet that he has the kind of natural ball-tracking ability that Smith possessed. Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell, and Terry McLaurin are all extremely fast, but they're raw and untested at the college level. Could Braxton Miller, of all people, be that guy for Ohio State?
The answer is a Bosa shrug. We have no idea how Miller will adjust to life outside of the primary QB position, or how Meyer will see fit to use him. He's a tremendous athlete with perhaps the best straight-line speed on the field, but he's also ridiculously shifty, and may be better used on quick-hitting screens in space against linebackers instead of defensive backs. Only time will tell who Urban Meyer decides is best-suited to taking the top off of defenses.
"Even though he's just recently come into playing wide receiver, he makes it look easy."
- Browns GM Ray Farmer, via Doug Lesmerises, Northeast Ohio Media Group
As recently as last season, Terrelle Pryor was incredibly vocal about not wanting to play anything other than quarterback, citing his inability to catch as a reason why he'd never play receiver or tight end. But after being cut by the Bengals this season -- his third team since 2011 -- Pryor was convinced that the only way he'd make it in the league was as a wideout. The Cleveland Browns are perhaps the team where that position change will stick.
At the moment, Pryor is sidelined with a hamstring issue, but he's been impressing Browns GM Ray Farmer since long before landing in Cleveland. According to Doug Lesmerises, Farmer cites Pryor's touchdown grab in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl against Texas as the moment he knew Pryor was truly a special athletic talent. "You just have to give him an opportunity to put it all together," Farmer said.
Pryor stands at 6'5, 230 pounds, the kind of frame that could make life miserable for opposing defensive backs. It remains to be seen whether or not he'll nail down the nuances of the position in time to be given a real shot at making the team, but Cleveland could be an ideal situation, as they lack real depth at receiver and could maybe afford to take a chance on an unproven talent like Pryor.
"With three very talented linebackers in the starting lineup...Meyer could have his first dominant defensive unit since taking over in Columbus."
- David Regimbal, Bleacher Report
Joey Bosa gets all the hype, and rightfully so, but the most dominant unit on Ohio State's defense lines up behind him. The Buckeye linebacking corps looks stronger than it has in years heading into 2015, thanks to some big-name recruits...and an unheralded one making waves. Raekwon McMillan, Darron Lee, and Joshua Perry are one of the best trios in football at the position.
McMillan, a former 5-star recruit, enters 2015 without a career start, but in splitting time with veteran Curtis Grant last year, he began to showcase the talent that made him such a big get for the Buckeyes. He finished his freshman campaign with 54 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks, per David Regimbal. This season could be his true breakout, now that he has the starting MLB job locked up. Darron Lee, meanwhile, looks to build on his monster redshirt-freshman year. Lee was the antithesis of McMillan coming out of high school -- unheralded, undersized, an unknown commodity -- and in his first year of playing time became one of the three or four most valuable players on the whole team, terrorizing opposing offenses with his speed and vision.
The young guns will be tempered by the senior leadership of Joshua Perry, who quietly led all Ohio State players last season with 124 total tackles, with 73 coming solo, in 2014 (also per Regimbal). He'll look to close out his Buckeye career even stronger than he started it. With good depth and three phenomenal starters, Urban Meyer has it made at linebacker in 2015.
STICK TO SPORTS:
- Ryan Adams will cover every Taylor Swift song from 1989, meaning my life is now complete.
- Why do babies in medieval paintings all look like ugly old men?
- Farewell, Jon Stewart.
- PFTCommenter on the GOP Debate and the eternal Joe Flacco question. Appointment reading IMO