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Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott are already among the NFL’s best players

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They may have just finished their rookie seasons, but their impact is here to stay.

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NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“Bosa was utterly dominant in two seasons of PFF college grading, so nobody was less surprised than we were when he hit the ground running in the NFL in exactly the same way.”

-Sam Monson, Pro Football Focus

Football analysis site Pro Football Focus recently had high praise for two former Buckeyes in its ranking of the league’s 50 best overall players heading into the preseason. The ratings use advanced stats to compare an individual player against others at his particular position group. Chief among them were two rookies in running back Ezekiel Elliott and defensive end Joey Bosa, both of whom came off monster seasons in 2016. Wide receiver Michael Thomas, who earned a spot as a rookie on PFF’s “Top 101 players from 2016” list, was not included in the top-50 list.

Bosa earned the No. 13 spot on the list, despite missing the first four games of the season, and is the highest-rated rookie of the group. Bosa recorded 59 pressures in 12 games for the Chargers--the most by any player over a 12-game span. In addition to playing on both the right and left sides as a defensive end, Bosa showed his versatility lining up at outside linebacker as well, and PFF praised him as “one of the league’s most dominant defenders.” While he came in behind other top edge defenders like Khalil Mack (No. 6) and Vonn Miller (No. 7), Bosa can continue to improve by playing a full season in his second year in the league.

Elliott came in at the No. 45 spot in the rankings--the third running back behind Le'Veon Bell (No. 11) and David Johnson (N0. 15). While Elliott had one of the league’s best offensive lines blocking for him, including three linemen who made the top-50 list ahead of him, there is no doubting his dominance in running the ball (something Ohio State fans are already familiar with). Elliott’s 1,631 rushing yards totaled more than any other running back in the league--by at least 300 yards. He also averaged just under three yards after contact, which is a testament to his power-running ability.

“I had a passion for football, but it wasn’t meant to be. Now, acting feels like what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve been blessed, but it took awhile.”

-Former Ohio State running back Maurice Hall, via Ken Gordon, The Columbus Dispatch

By this point, Buckeye Nation is familiar with former running back Eddie George’s stage-acting career--quite the successful post-football occupation for the former pro. Now, another former running back is finding success in his own acting career. Maurice Hall, who played at Ohio State from 2001-04 and who was a key part of the 2002 national championship team, is returning to Columbus this weekend for a screening of his film “Baker’s Man,” which he wrote, co-directed and starred in.

Hall began work on Baker’s Man in 2014, raising money through crowd-funding. The film is a romantic comedy that tells the tale of a wealthy philanthropist who provides grants to struggling businesses. The protagonist ultimately falls for the owner of a bakery who had been seeking a grant. The movie screened at the Gateway Film Center over the weekend, but can also be purchased through iTunes prior to the DVD release later this month.

After football (Hall was waived by the San Diego Chargers shortly after the 2005 NFL Draft), Hall worked in broadcasting in Columbus, sparking his interest in acting as it enabled him to be creative and “create something out of nothing.” While things got off to a slow start after his move to Los Angeles, Hall’s acting career finally broke through when he got a role on the Mindy Project in 2013. Since then, he has appeared in shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds and NCIS: New Orleans. Also in 2013, Hall married Jeanine Jennings, an emergency medicine physician in L.A., and the pair have two young daughters.

Those around Hall credit his work ethic for creating his success--the same work ethic that guided him on the football field. He still takes acting lessons and “works tirelessly at his craft,” according to a former teammate.

“You always have to practice,” said Hall.

“The Buckeye passing game seemed to make some strides in the spring game, but it’s hard to gauge real progress on a single intersquad scrimmage.”

-Dan Murphy, ESPN

The often-dismal passing attack of Ohio State last year was a key driver in the offseason moves that saw Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day join the Ohio State coaching staff as co-offensive coordinators. Now, the question remains if quarterback J.T. Barrett and his corps of young receivers will be able to live up to much higher expectations heading into the fall. The group showed promise in the spring game, but with fall camp starting soon, coaches will be able to better identify the issues that need to be worked on before the start of the season.

This season, Barrett has the likes of Johnnie Dixon, K.J. Hill. Terry McLaurin and Binjimen Victor. The crew collectively had some exciting moments last season, but accounted for few yards and just four touchdowns. With the loss of Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown, last season’s top receivers, to the NFL Draft, the younger receivers already had a tall order just to replace them. Barrett, the constant on offense for the past three seasons, has the rest of the summer to improve his passing game and to get in sync with his receivers.

On the other side of the ball, the secondary boasts a number of new starters who look to replace Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker and Gareon Conley, all of whom were taken in the first round of April’s draft. Damon Webb is the lone returning starter heading into the fall. However, this situation is nothing new for the Buckeyes, who just last year lost Eli Apple, Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell, leaving Conley as the sole returning starter in 2016. Given new talent like Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette, the Buckeyes should be able to have time to get experience in the secondary given the support from the loaded defensive front-seven.

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