August 28, 2007

Redshirt forecast

Of the 19 members in Ohio State's 2006 recruiting class, all but seven were given a redshirt last season. The small group of freshmen that actually contributed on the 12-1 team of 2006 was highlighted by tailback Chris Wells who rushed for 576 yards and seven touchdowns.

Other freshmen contributing on offense for the Buckeyes last season were wide receiver Ray Small - who made eight catches for 68 yards and a touchdown - and tight end Jake Ballard - who caught a touchdown pass against Indiana.

Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock had four players contribute on his side of the ball a year ago starting with defensive end Robert Rose, who recorded 3.5 sacks in what seemed like 10 plays. In reality he saw time in 11 games and recorded seven tackles. Linebacker Ross Homan played in all 13 games last season and led the freshmen group with 28 tackles and an interception.

Defensive backs Kurt Coleman and Aaron Gant both contributed in the secondary and on special teams last season, with Gant making 10 tackles and Coleman picking up nine stops and a blocked field goal against Bowling Green.

With only four starters back on offense and five on defense, there are plenty of spots up for grabs at Ohio State this fall. Losing talent like Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr. and Quinn Pitcock opens a lot of holes for competition. As a result there could be more freshmen contributing this fall than in the past, specifically on special teams.

Coach Jim Tressel is on record saying as many as eight freshman could see extended playing time this fall, meaning over half the 15 players in the 2007 recruiting class could avoid the redshirt. We take a look at the freshmen most likely to contribute this season all the way down to the ones who should already be setting their time tables for next year.

Lock it up

As we look at the current group of true freshman at Ohio State, four players stick out as locks to get on the field this fall.

RB Brandon Saine - Ohio's 2006 Mr. Football racked up 2,307 total yards last season at Piqua and scored 27 touchdowns. He came to the Buckeyes as the No. 5 running back recruit in the country, and has done nothing but impress this fall. Although he is 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Saine has already shown he can run with anyone on the team and probably most anyone in the country. He is behind Beanie and Maurice Wells on the depth chart, but expect to see No. 3 out there making plays for the OSU offense.

DL Cameron Heyward - As the son of former NFL running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, there were big expectations for Cameron's future on the football field. But no one could have expected Heyward to make the kind of mark he has so soon at Ohio State. After reporting to camp this fall in the 290-to-295 pound range, Heyward has been simply unblockable. He has cracked the two-deep at defensive end and drawn the praise of everyone from Lawrence Wilson to Jim Tressel to Todd Boeckman.

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