State of Ohio

Top 10 players: Ohio State Buckeyes

Spring practice has allowed some players to establish themselves as the new cream of the crop on rosters across the Big Ten. While summer might bring another shake-up with the arrival of more freshmen and transfers, it’s time to take a look at the best players on campus for each school right now.

These lists are subject to change by the time the season gets started. Next up is Ohio State.

This fall the Buckeyes will be leaning on quarterback J.T. Barrett, who is one of their few returning starters. Greg Bartram/USA TODAY Sports

The preseason favorite to claim Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors, Barrett is finally healthy for a spring camp, free of the controversy that swirled around the position a year ago and poised to build on his strong finish to last season. Considering all the talent the Buckeyes lost in the offseason, Barrett might just be the most important returning player for any potential contender in the country.

The quarterback on the other side of the ball figures to play just as crucial of a role for Ohio State’s title aspirations, because obviously the defense was decimated by departures as well. McMillan bloomed into one of the league’s most consistently productive tacklers last season, and he should only be better with another year under his belt.

The senior flirted with leaving for the NFL a year early, but after becoming one of the few Buckeyes to spurn the draft, he immediately turned his attention to a new position and the chance to anchor the offensive line at center. Elflein has limited game experience snapping the football, but he has practiced there throughout his career, and there’s no doubting his abilities as a blocker.

With another top cornerback heading off to the NFL, it’s up to Conley now to keep up the tradition before perhaps handing off the torch himself next year. The athletic defensive back has had some ups and downs in coverage, but he still snagged a couple interceptions last season, and finished with 49 tackles from his spot in the secondary.

Along with Elflein, Price gives the Buckeyes some veteran leadership on the line along with a proven ability to blast open holes for the rushing attack and protect Barrett in the pocket. The spotlight doesn’t often shine on him, but Price has quietly become one of the most technically sound blockers in the Big Ten.

There is little doubt Lewis reaped the benefits of lining up on the opposite side of Joey Bosa a year ago, frequently drawing one-on-one matchups that put him in position to shine. But Lewis still had to make the most of those opportunities, and he showed he could deliver as he actually paced the Buckeyes with eight sacks - three more than Bosa.

After finally finding a position that suited him after Ohio State shuffled him all over the field, Hubbard is poised to become one of the next breakout defensive stars for the Silver Bullets. Despite still being early in a transition to the pass-rushing position after starting out as a safety in high school, Hubbard still racked up 6.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman coming off the bench, and should only add to that total moving forward.

Thanks in part to his versatility, Samuel doesn’t technically count as one of Ohio State’s few returning starters. But that ability to line up as a wide receiver or in the backfield as a rusher while also contributing on special teams makes him indispensable for the Buckeyes, and Urban Meyer is scheming up as many ways as possible to get him the football this fall.

Injuries have kept the dynamic weapon from truly tapping into his potential so far in his career, and he’s still dealing with a nagging health concern this spring. But the Buckeyes are expecting him at full strength by the time training camp rolls around, and the senior will have one last shot to impact the game with his blazing speed and get back in the end zone after going all of last season without a trip there.

Obviously Meyer would prefer never to punt in the first place, but the Australian import is a legitimate weapon who can dramatically swing field position with his powerful leg or pin an opponent inside the 10-yard line with his soft touch and uncanny distance control. Johnston actually could have taken those skills and moved on after last season, so the Buckeyes will certainly be glad to have him around for another year.

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