"I played running back mostly my whole life. Understanding that game is not hard, it's easy for me to understand. Playing receiver was a little different for me."
- Curtis Samuel via Bill Landis, Northeast Ohio Media Group
Talent wasn't something Ohio State's coaching staff was concerned with when looking over the 2015 offensive roster heading into the season. With Heisman contenders in either quarterback (Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett) and running back in Ezekiel Elliott, playmakers weren't really an issue. Now the staff has to endure losses of Jones, Elliott, Jalin Marshall, several key offensive linemen, and could potentially lose Michael Thomas as well. The good news, however, is that there's still talent on the Buckeyes' roster. One of the players who seems sure to break out in 2016 is Curtis Samuel. At first seeing snaps as a freshman running back, his playmaking ability was too good to have on the bench for the coaching staff and had him make the transition to a H-back/wide receiver role with the team.
You could certainly make the argument that Samuel still wasn't involved as he could or should have been in 2015. With the offense trying to find an identity for much of the season, Samuel was essentially put on the back burner. But in 2016, with Elliott out of the picture, Samuel could prove that it's his time to shine and might move back to running back, depending on how the coaching staff thinks his talents will be best utilized. Regardless, Samuel has proved his ability on the field for Ohio State the past two seasons and will get a chance to do so as one of the main options of attack for the Buckeyes in 2016.
"The Big Ten still needs someone other than Ohio State to pose a legitimate national title threat. Michigan State looked ready to join the Buckeyes, but stumbled badly."
- Brian Bennett, ESPN
The Big Ten was well on its way back to earning respect after the great postseason performance in 2014. Ohio State won a national championship, while Michigan State and Wisconsin got big wins in their New Years bowls. And though the Buckeyes followed up with a New Years Day win themselves this season over Notre Dame, Michigan State fell face-first against Alabama and Iowa got pummeled in the Rose Bowl by Stanford. The Big Ten isn't down by any means, but any notions of the conference being the top dog in college football might have been a bit premature. Still, it's not all doom and gloom. Wisconsin and Michigan took care of business in an impressive fashion, with wins over USC and Florida (both of which were in each's respective conference championship game).
As it has been for the past several seasons, if the SEC is going to be dethroned for more than a season, Big Ten teams need to win on the big stage. Ohio State has been the team to do it recently, and Michigan State seemed to be on the edge of trying to join the Buckeyes. But more needs to be done. Whether it be Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, the conference needs a couple more title contenders during the season in order to make an impact in the postseason, with plenty of eyes watching the conference go head-to-head with the SEC, Pac-12, or Big 12.
"The people who coach me. Really, that's my guy (Meyer). We just have this uncommon commitment to each other. Since day one, he has kept it real with me and I look at him as a father figure. We have a close relationship."
- Vonn Bell via Steve Helwagen, 247Sports
Seven Ohio State players have already announced their intentions to enter the 2016 NFL Draft, including Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Cardale Jones, Eli Apple, Jalin Marshall, Tyvis Powell, and Darron Lee. But two of the Buckeyes' best prospects still have yet to decide what they'll be doing next season. Safety Vonn Bell and wide receiver Michael Thomas haven't yet announced their decisions, but Ohio State will find out soon enough; the early entry deadline for underclassmen is Jan. 18. Bell ended the season fourth in tackles (67), first in pass breakups (nine) and second in interceptions (two) on the team. Since entering the game against Clemson in the Orange Bowl during the 2013-14 season, Bell has been one of the key members of Ohio State's secondary.
When asked about whether he's made a decision about heading to the NFL or returning for another season, Bell has given no comment. But asked about what could potentially sway him to stay at Ohio State, he offered the above quote. It's clear he and head coach Urban Meyer have a tight-knit relationship, and if Meyer believes it will be better for Bell to return, he could have a say in what Bell ultimately decides.
"RB: Ezekiel Elliott, OL: Pat Elflein, DL: Sam Hubbard, LB: Darron Lee, DB: Eli Apple, Returner: Jalin Marshall."
- Brian Bennett, ESPN
ESPN released its postseason All-Big Ten bowl team, based solely off performances made in the bowl games this season. Six Ohio State players made the cut, as seen in the quote above. Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball 27 times for 149 yards and a Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl record four touchdowns against Notre Dame, finishing his career at Ohio State with a bang. Hubbard stepped up in a big way with both Adolphus Washington and Joey Bosa out for the Buckeyes (Washington serving a suspension and Bosa getting ejected early in the game for targeting). Darron Lee came up huge for Ohio State as well, with two sacks and a forced fumble against the Fighting Irish.
Eli Apple was named the defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl, and had five tackles to his name. Apple also announced he would be entering the 2016 NFL Draft following the game. Jalin Marshall had one of his best performances as a return man against Notre Dame, averaging 18.3 yards on four punt returns and bringing a kickoff back 36 yards to give the Buckeyes excellent field position.
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