Ohio State football: Which incoming freshman will have biggest impact for Buckeyes in 2018?
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Which incoming freshman has the best chance to make an immediate impact next year on offense & defense? Will we use the TE more & if so, could Ruckert step in and fight for starting spot?
— Benny (@BennyTheJet2017) January 4, 2018
Usually the first place to start when looking for instant contributors is to get far away from the football, focusing on the skill players and then slowly working back closer to the middle of the formation where strength and development might take time. Offensively, I’m going to split the difference. And defensively, I’m ignoring the typical approach entirely.
There are a handful of guys who seem ready to come in and help Urban Meyer’s power-spread attack right away on the perimeter, most notably potential H-back Jaelen Gill. His dynamic athleticism is probably going to be far too enticing for Meyer not to use next season, and depending on what happens with some pending NFL decisions, there may also be a need for him quickly. But the pick here is still going to be Jeremy Ruckert. Throughout his career, Kevin Wilson has relied on tight ends to help keep his offense humming along, and the Buckeyes have added the best one on the market to their roster for next season. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Ruckert has the size that should allow him to handle the blocking responsibilities at the position — even before Mickey Marotti gets his hands on him in the weight room. And with Marcus Baugh out of eligibility, Ohio State can — and likely will — be putting Ruckert’s skills as a target to immediate use.
On the other side of the ball, Taron Vincent appears to have all the tools needed to make a seamless transition to the Big Ten in a hurry. As previously mentioned, it can be a challenge for freshmen to make an impact in the trenches, but Vincent is the top-rated defensive tackle in his class and should be more than capable of holding his own against more experienced players. Take into account his pedigree, his 6-2, 285-pound frame, and working with Larry Johnson and he should have a fast growth curve. Plus, the interior of the defensive line is probably Ohio State’s one area defensively where more depth is needed heading into this offseason.
The Buckeyes are going to be looking for more than just two freshmen capable of helping as they try to get back to the College Football Playoff next season. But at this early stage, it seems safe to pencil those two options in as guys who will be a meaningful part of the process.