July 22, 2011

Looking at the sleepers: offense

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - With limited access to the team, Ohio State's coaches may have a hard time picking out the players who've stood out this summer.

When talking to the players in interview sessions, the media has tried to find out who's come on strong in the summer months, but the answers have generally been rather vague.

Offensively, the Buckeyes return a lot of talent but are in a curious situation because three prominent seniors will miss the first five games of the season while serving suspensions.

Most like to think they've figured out who will step up for the Buckeyes this season offensively, and maybe they're right. But we'll take it a little deeper when providing names of players that have been overlooked but could be a big part of the scheme.

  • Taylor Graham, QB - Most of the talk at quarterback is all about Braxton Miller, which is to be expected given he's the dual-threat stud coming out of high school. Though Miller had a great spring game and could be in line to be Ohio State's starter, don't be too quick to look past Graham. We've heard great things about Graham's command of the offense this summer and he too showed off a powerful arm in the spring game. Don't forget Luke Fickell wants to win now, so if Graham is farther along in the process he may go with him, even if its not the most popular selection.

  • Verlon Reed, WR - Before Jim Tressel resigned he was asked to name one "dark horse" player from the spring. After a quick pause, he threw out Reed's name. Now Reed has taken that to heart, changing his Twitter name to reflect the "dark horse" nickname. Perhaps the most encouraging part about it was that he showed in the spring game what Tressel was talking about, hauling in the first touchdown pass of the game. With Ohio State's wide receiver situation open, the former high school quarterback could be in position from playing time if he has a fall that resembles his spring. He's certainly athletic enough to do it.

  • Carlos Hyde, RB - With all the talent in the offensive backfield, it isn't hard for certain players to not be talked about as much. That's specifically the case with Hyde, who went from being one of the gems of his recruiting class to a running back that may only be used in short yardage situations. That may not be the case, however, as it was recently reported that Hyde ran the fastest 40-yard-dash time of any running back on the team. Given his body size, that speed could be huge for his case to get on the field more. He's just another big talent at running back for the Buckeyes.

  • Andrew Norwell, OT - There are plenty of young offensive lineman that could make a difference on this year's team - see Corey Linsley and Jack Mewhort - but Norwell seems to be on the outside looking in on the starting lineup. However, Norwell showed last season in his freshman year that he is something special and he could be just one turned ankle away from ample playing time. Ohio State's offensive line depth was weak in the spring, but there are seven potential starters on the squad. Norwell could be the first one off the bench.

  • Reid Fragel, TE - Fragel isn't Ohio State's starter at tight end, but he may be on the field quite a bit this year. Though Jake Stoneburner will likely catch more passes, Fragel has shown a great ability to block and pull down passes. He had a huge play in the Sugar Bowl and has been rather consistent for the Buckeyes in the recent year. With Ohio State likely turning to the run, the Buckeyes may come out in double-tight sets more often than usual. That could mean a lot of playing time for the often-overlooked tight end.

    Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.


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