Following another stellar season that culminated in a 12-1 record and a Fiesta Bowl win, Ohio State will see more turnover than just about any program in the nation. After sending 12 players to the first four rounds of the NFL draft, the Buckeyes return just 24 percent of their 2015 production on offense and defense. That’s lower than all but one team in the country (UMass), according to SB Nation.
And so it’s time for new faces to step up– as they often do at Ohio State, the Midwest’s best program at recruiting talent and then turning it over to the NFL. All of the starters and role players will have their importance, but some will carry far more than others.
Each day at noon (ET) through July 21, we’ll count down another one of the 10 most important players to Ohio State in 2016. Because it’s still early, we’ll be making some role projections. With only 10 spots, we’ll leave off some crucial players, too. That’s part of the game.
Let’s get the countdown started with No. 10:
No. 10: Jamarco Jones, junior left tackle
We’ve only seen him as an extra lineman so far, but Jones is about to step into one of the most important jobs on the Ohio State roster. The former four-star recruit will be a junior when he takes over the responsibility of protecting the blind side for J.T. Barrett, Ohio State’s quarterback and undisputed leader on a unit that’s losing just about everything else.
He’ll take over for Taylor Decker, who in addition to being a three-year starter, first-team All-American and first-round draft pick, was also a co-captain. Decker protected the blindside, but he was even more valuable in the way he shot up to linebackers and cleared running lanes for Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott and a rushing attack that finished in the top 11 in the nation all three years. That’s what Jones – the 2014 recruiting class’ No. 4 offensive tackle and No. 58 overall player – will be expected to do.
It’s an important task because the Buckeyes can’t count on Elliott’s superb vision and burst anymore. They’ll be turning to new faces in the backfield, which will place more emphasis on a group of linemen that was already the focus of the offense. It will start inside, as it always does, but Jones’ importance rises a tick with how crucial it will be to protect the health of the quarterback with so much instability around him.
(Yes, it’s safe to assume at this point that Barrett will be making an appearance on this list.)
As important as Jones’ job is, he’s still a wild-card given his lack of playing time, so judging his value in relation to proven players is difficult to do. As a first-year starter, he won’t carry the leadership expectation that others will, and he’s still going to play for a run-first offense that will need all five offensive linemen to produce.
Note: All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com’s composite averages unless otherwise specified