From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about players to watch this upcoming season. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”Player to Watch” articles here.
Though we are now past Memorial Day, summer doesn’t officially start for a couple more weeks. However, it is never too early to start predicting how things will play out when our favorite teams get back to action this fall.
Earlier this week, we asked Ohio State fans to predict who they think will be the breakout freshmen and MVPs for both the football and men’s basketball teams. I’m not sure that I agree with all of the selections, but I definitely think that there are a lot of good options.
If you disagree with the consensus — or my responses — let us know in the comments below.
Question 1: Which Ohio State football true freshman do you think will have the biggest season?
I understand why fans would pick Carnell Tate for this. He has been a big name on the recruiting trail for years and was a major get for the Buckeyes and position coach turned offensive coordinator Brian Hartline. The thing about picking a true freshman to have a big season is that at a place like Ohio State, it’s unlikely that a rookie will be one of the key players on the squad, let alone a starter.
With Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, and Julian Fleming firmly entrenched as the first-team receivers, barring an injury (and probably multiple ones), it would take something inconceivable for Tate to become a starter. While recruiting rankings don’t mean much once someone gets to campus, Noah Rogers is actually the highest-rated prospect at the position this year; Rogers was the No. 53 player nationally according to 247Sports Composite Ratings, while Tate was No. 59.
Personally, I would have picked Jermaine Mathews, and not just because he was the top player in the class. Instead, I think he has a good shot of working into the mix because cornerback is a position that had a lot of volatility last season.
While things look to be a bit more settled with Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock, and newcomer Davison Igbinosun ready to take the bulk of the snaps, we saw how injuries could impact an already thin room in 2022. So, having a supremely talented CB ready to go could lead to a decent amount of playing time this season.
Question 2: Which Ohio State men’s basketball true freshman do you think will have the biggest season?
As I said in the survey article, I am always going to be partial to Devin Royal because we both are Pickerington High School graduates — technically he graduated from Pickerington Central, but I went there before the split. So, same school, slightly different name. However, I do understand why the masses when with Scotty Middleton.
Though significantly lighter than Brice Sensabaugh, he does fill a similar role on the team. Both came to Columbus as 6-foot-6 small forwards, but with much different skill sets. Middleton is a significant presence on the defensive end of the floor — something that no one has ever accused Sensabaugh of being.
However, Brice could score the ball in just about any way imaginable. Middleton, however, currently is a spot-up shooter who struggles at times to create his own shots. But, given that Royal will be behind Zed Key at the power forward position, his ability to be a major contributor is slightly more limited that Middleton’s.
Question 3: Other than a quarterback, who will be the Ohio State football MVP?
I mean, is Harrison Jr. going to be the best player on Ohio State’s team this season? Almost assuredly. Is he going to be the most valuable? I don’t know. With so much wide receiver talent on the roster, I’m just not sure that any WR can claim that mantle. Last season, Jaxon Smith-Njigba entered the season as college football’s best pass-catcher (as Marv will this fall). JSN then basically didn’t play all season and the Buckeyes were still essentially one play away from a national title. So how valuable could he have been?
I would probably go with Donovan Jackson (or even recent transfer Josh Simmons) because of how up in the air the offensive line is for Ohio State this season. Therefore, if the Buckeyes end up having a season that earns them a Big Ten title and berth into the College Football Playoff, someone on the o-line will need to step up.
However, I could also see the argument for Tommy Eichenberg and J.T. Tuimoloau, simply because of him talented and productive they are while playing significantly impactful positions like linebacker and edge rusher.
Question 4: Who will be the Ohio State men’s basketball MVP?
I really hope this happens. The Bruce Thornton we saw down the stretch of the last season was really exciting as he moved out of Sensabaugh’s shadow. I definitely believe that he is capable of being the team’s leader, but I do find it interesting how the fans’ perspective of Zed Key has changed over the past 12 months.
I understand that the team appeared to improve when he was out of the lineup with his shoulder injury late in the campaign, but I don’t think that this should erase how important he can be for the team. Keep in mind that he played for quite a while while trying to deal with the injury, which may or may not have been the best for him or the team. Nonetheless, when Key is 100% healthy, he is still a major contributor, and I think this year he has even more of an opportunity because Felix Okpara has proven that he can provide quality minutes at center.