"No. 4 Ohio State"
- The Associated Press
After Alabama sealed up their first national championship of the College Football Playoff era, the Associated Press released its final top 25 poll of the 2015-16 season. The Crimson Tide, of course, were listed at the top spot, followed by Clemson. Stanford came in at fourth in the poll after an impressive showing against Iowa in the Rose Bowl, while Ohio State and Oklahoma rounded out the top five. The Buckeyes won handily against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl while the Sooners made it to the playoff but fell to Clemson in the semifinals. Michigan State, TCU, Houston, Iowa, and Ole Miss finish out the top 10 teams at the end of the season.
Ohio State might have made a case for the third spot, but after the Cardinal dominated the Hawkeyes in the Rose Bowl, it makes sense that the Buckeyes trail the only other team not to make it into the national championship game. While the final poll doesn't have much to do with how next season's polls, it's still another top five finish for Ohio State and Urban Meyer with only one loss on their record.
"Part of Elliott's immense value is that he isn't limited to one specific style of play. Especially true when compared to his draft peers such as Derrick Henry or Kenneth Dixon, Elliott's ability to challenge defenses as a north/south runner as well as east/west is why his value is unlike a vast majority of running back prospects."
- Ian Wharton, Bleacher Report
Ezekiel Elliott had a phenomenal college football career at Ohio State and will now be looking to take the next step into the NFL. Elliott rushed for 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns this season as the Buckeyes rode him all the way to a Fiesta Bowl appearance and victory over Notre Dame. Elliott in his career has rushed for just under 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns. His ability to both run the ball and pass protect are well-documented. The latter, especially, might be what pushes Elliott that much higher in the upcoming NFL draft. Both his pass protection and run blocking are at an elite level, and those skills alone are something that most rookie running backs don't have in the NFL.
In addition to those skills, Elliott is also a capable receiver out of the backfield and is one of the top all-around running backs in the draft. In three seasons at Ohio State, Elliott had 58 receptions, 449 yards and one touchdown, averaging 7.7 yards per catch. His effectiveness is unquestioned, and no matter which NFL team ends up with him, they will no doubt be better as a team for it.
"I think I can have a major role next year, or have a role next year. Right now, I am just a freshman learning the ropes, learning to play still. I just need to work this offseason and push to be that guy."
- K.J. Hill via Ari Wasserman, Northeast Ohio Media Group
Quite a few of Ohio State's wide receivers went down to injury before the 2015 season including Noah Brown, who was expected to be one of the top targets for the Buckeyes this past season. In addition, both Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall both declared early for the NFL draft, leaving the wide receiver position a wide open race with several spots to fill. Along with Brown, Dontre Wilson will have another year as a Buckeye and will likely see action as a H-back and wide receiver at times. One player the coaching staff is confident about is K.J. Hill, finishing his redshirt freshman season after not playing in 2015.
Hill will be one of the talented young receivers on Ohio State's roster next season and could emerge as one of J.T. Barrett's top threats. Hill was the third Buckeye to lose his black stripe in fall camp, and although he didn't play, received valuable time learning the playbook and what being a receiver for Ohio State is really all about.
"I looked out there and we were down another lineman. We were playing with some cats out there I didn't know were even going to play. But they played hard and did a fine job against a very good team."
- Urban Meyer via Austin Ward, ESPN
Another unit that looks promising for Ohio State next season is the defensive line. Although the Buckeyes are losing Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington, they still return Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Michael Hill, Donovan Munger, Jalyn Holmes, Tracy Sprinkle, and a number of several talented linemen. With Bosa being ejected against Notre Dame and Washington suspended, the Buckeyes got a good look at what their defensive line may look like heading into week one of next season. If the Fiesta Bowl was any indication, they should be just as competitive and strong, if not more to start off 2016.
Lewis will likely be one of the leaders of the line, along with Hubbard. And don't forget that the Buckeyes will still have a Bosa on the team - incoming freshman Nick Bosa. He suffered a season-ending injury this fall, but should be back in time to have a chance at showing his stuff on the gridiron for Ohio State next season and continue the Bosa legacy.
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