Land of 10/file photo
Chase Young is poised for a breakout sophomore season on the Ohio State defensive line.

Ohio State football: Picking early leaders for breakout candidates in 2018

Austin Ward

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On a team with so much returning talent, predicting some true off-the-radar breakout performers for Ohio State this season is a little tricky. Particularly on offense, the vast majority of the production seems likely to come from players who have prior experience with the football in their hands ― and the safest pick defensively is somebody who also has flashed his enormous potential when given a chance to come off the bench. But even with that caveat, the leading contenders at this point heading into spring ball for me are Parris Campbell and Chase Young.

Parris Campbell-Ohio State-Buckeyes-football-wide receiver-H back
Parris Campbell could have moved on to the NFL, but instead he’s preparing for what should be a huge year at Ohio State. (Land of 10/file photo)

Campbell is intriguing because at times last season, he did emerge into the kind of game-changing factor the Buckeyes envisioned last year. In other instances, he didn’t quite have the impact needed in that critical H-back role in coach Urban Meyer’s power-spread offense. A big part of the issue, of course, was Campbell dealing with a concussion  in the middle of the season and the time he missed. It’s also a tribute to him that the Ohio State offense didn’t look the same without him on the field. Maybe if Campbell had stayed completely healthy, he’d already be heading to the NFL instead of coming back looking for the kind of consistent star turn that everybody in the program believes he’s capable of delivering. After 50 combined catches and rushing attempts with 4 touchdowns, Campbell isn’t exactly a mystery. But he’s now poised to become a household name with his potential and the position he plays.

Defensively, there was a temptation to not go with such an obvious choice. Malik Harrison is going to be a major factor at linebacker and Jeffrey Okudah could really take off in the secondary this season, but Young’s incredible upside is just too much to ignore. On top of that, Ohio State will be putting him in prime spots to succeed on the opposite side of the defensive line from Nick Bosa, which should give the freakish pass-rusher no shortage of one-on-one opportunities to get to the quarterback. Based on the disruptive ability he showed in limited playing time off the bench with 3.5 sacks as a freshman, Young could do some truly scary things for the Buckeyes as a sophomore.

Both those players are going to need some company in the spotlight, of course. And with Ohio State loaded up with more than enough talent to defend the Big Ten title and get back to the College Football Playoff, it’s a safe bet that more breakout Buckeyes will join them.

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