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Ohio State football’s 5 most invaluable players for the 2018 season

The Buckeyes are loaded with talent, but there are a handful of players they can’t afford to lose at any point in the 2018 season.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

“Even with all that talent, a host of factors beyond sheer talent play into which players are seemingly more crucial to the cause in 2018 than others. A lack of proven depth and criticality of talent at a given position are ust a few additional considerations in determining the truly most indispensable players on this year’s squad.”

-Chris Lauderback, Eleven Warriors

Ohio State lost a bunch of talent from their 2017 squad, meaning that a number of players are going to have to step up in 2018 if the Buckeyes want to experience similar success to that of last year. Most of the critical losses for the Buckeyes came on the defensive side of the football, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some players that will need to standout on the offensive side of the ball.

The biggest question mark for Ohio State is what will happen with the quarterback position now that Dwayne Haskins is taking over for J.T. Barrett. The importance of Haskins grew even more a few weeks ago when backup quarterback Joe Burrow announced that he was transferring to LSU. Haskins did show a brief glimpse into the future against Michigan with his stellar performance in relief of an injured Barrett, but now the redshirt sophomore is going to have to be at the top of his game every week if the Buckeyes want to stay in national title contention.

If Haskins is going to have any kind of success this year, he’ll need a strong season from offensive tackle Isaiah Prince. Now that Ohio State doesn’t have any veteran leadership on the offensive line after Billy Price is now in the NFL, Prince is even more valuable, as he is the offensive lineman with the most experience. The Buckeyes need Prince to stay healthy this year, or else life will become a lot tougher for Haskins in his first year as starter.

The defensive line lost four key players from last year’s squad, but at least Ohio State has some very talented linemen returning. Nick Bosa will likely be one of the top picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, and the Buckeyes are going to need an even bigger season from him this year to replace some of the production that was lost from Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes, and Tyquan Lewis.

If the Buckeyes are going to get production on the ends from Bosa and Chase Young, they’ll need Dre’Mont Jones to set the tone in the middle of the defensive line. Not only does Ohio State need Jones to produce on the field, but he’ll also be counted on to mentor some of the talented defensive tackles coming up the pipeline for the Buckeyes.

In his first year as starter at safety, Jordan Fuller was second on the team in tackles, despite missing some time due to injury. Fuller is now the most experienced Buckeye in the secondary, and he’ll be counted on to quarterback the unit. Even though Ohio State does have a lot of talent in the secondary, it is pretty young talent, and the veteran leadership of Fuller is something the Buckeyes can’t afford to lose.

Ohio State may have a less than impressive schedule most of the year, which should give some of the younger players an opportunity to get their feet wet, these are five players they’ll need out there if they want to make another playoff run. Even losing one of these key players could be see Ohio State fail to meet expectations this year.

“I think we have a little bit of higher expectations for us, but at the same time I don’t know if expectations are too high because of how much we lost.”

Ohio State center Micah Potter via Colin Gay, The Lantern

There’s no question that Ohio State overachieved in Chris Holtmann’s first year as head coach. A year ago at this time, Holtmann was just being introduced as Ohio State’s new head coach, and the Buckeyes defied expectations by making the NCAA Tournament. Now Holtmann and his squad have a full summer to prepare for the upcoming season, but there are plenty of questions that they’ll have to answer.

The biggest question that looms for Ohio State is how will they replace Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate, who were the heart of the Buckeye team last season. Ohio State was able to bring in Wake Forest graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods to shoulder some of the load, and plenty will be asked of Luther Muhammad, Jaedon Lee, and the rest of the 2018 recruiting class.

One player who is ready to take the next step for the Buckeyes is center Micah Potter. While Potter did start for Ohio State to open up each of the last two seasons, he is hoping to take the next step now that there is more stability with not only the coaching staff but also the strength and conditioning team. Potter averaged 4.1 points per game in each of his first two years with the Buckeyes, but Ohio State is going to need more from the junior if they want to continue the success they found last season.

The future is bright for Ohio State, especially after seeing the type of success the Buckeyes were able to find after a short offseason for Holtmann and his coaching staff. With the losses of Bates-Diop and Tate, the Buckeyes might see some growing pains in Holtmann’s second season with the school, but there is no question the program is back on the right track.

2018 has been quite kind to the Ohio State Track & Field program. Not only have the Buckeyes won their first Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Championships in 25 years, but now they have their first national champion in a quarter century. Yesterday in Oregon, senior Zack Bazile set a personal and school record with a 8.37m long jump to take home the national title. Bazile’s jump was the furthest in the nation this year.

The New Jersey native is a four-time All-American in the long jump for the Buckeyes, and yesterday’s jump broke the school record of 8.15m that was set by Michael Hartfield in 2013. Bazile is Ohio State’s first national champion since Chris Nelloms won the 200m dash in 1993. The long jump national championship for Ohio State is the first for the Buckeyes since Joe Green won in 1989.

Long jump wasn’t the only event in which Bazile showed his skills yesterday, as he helped the Ohio State 4x100m relay team qualify for the final. Bazile anchored the relay team, which also included Eric Harrison Jr., Duan Asemota, and Drelan Bramwell. The Buckeye relay team finished with the fourth-best time, and placed third in the second heat, qualifying for the final by time. Ohio State is the only Big Ten 4x100m relay team to qualify for the final, and marks the first appearance in the final for the Buckeyes since 1994. The 4x100m relay final will take place on Friday night in Eugene.

“Seth Kinker was our go to guy. Kind of an old-school closer who got several three inning saves. It was an incredible luxury to have a guy like Seth at the back end of games.”

Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals via the Ohio State Athletic Department

Ohio State senior reliever Seth Kinker has been named one of the five finalists for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award. Kinker appeared in 30 games this year, posting a 6-2 record with a 2.77 ERA and 15 saves. Kinker pitched in 63.1 innings, recording 60 strikeouts and walking just five batters.

The 15 saves from Kinker this season was the third-highest single-season total in school history, and Kinker’s 24 career saves is fourth-most in program history. Six of Kinker’s saves in 2018 were three-inning saves. Kinker set a school record with 109 career appearances for Ohio State. The 12.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio from Kinker this year was the highest in the Big Ten, and third-best in the country.

Kinker is the first Buckeye to be nominated for the award since Jake Hale in 2009. Other finalists include Brooks Wilson from Stetson, Chris Mauloni from Jacksonville, Florida’s Michael Byrne, and Jack Little from Stanford. The winner of the award will be announced at a press conference on Saturday June 16th at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.