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Projecting the Ceiling for OSU Freshmen in 2017



With 12 returning starters on offense and defense combined, OSU’s roster for 2017 is loaded with experience and explosiveness on paper.

Mason Rudolph, Justice Hill and James Washington form a lethal big three on offense that proved to be unstoppable at times last season. And on defense, Chad Whitener and Jarrell Owens headline what should be a formidable front line that finished on a high note last season.

Regardless of how far the returning starters can propel the team in 2017, though, it seems every year there’s a newcomer that makes a bigger-than-expected impact at a position of need. Just a few seasons ago, it was James Washington who caught 28 passes for 456 yards as a freshman. Last season, it was Justice Hill running for over 1,000 yards and earning freshman All-American honors. So who might it be this season? I’ve got some ideas.

Let’s take a look at the ceiling of impact for each incoming freshmen.

Baron Odom, tight end: Odom was a late addition to the 2017 recruiting class after a late flip from long-time pledge Tyler Henderson to Baylor. As such, I don’t see Odom contributing — and he likely won’t be expected to. A former Rice commit, Odom will likely redshirt in 2017.

Tylan Wallace, wide receiver: Even with Tyron Johnson, James Washington, Jalen McCleskey and Chris Lacy, Wallace has a shot to make an impact in 2017. He’s a fast, shifty receiver who Gundy says is “tremendous in a phone booth.” I think his ceiling is a 25-catch season for ~400 yards — similar to what James Washington accomplished as a freshman.

Chuba Hubbard, running back: In any other scenario, Hubbard might be an auto-redshirt. But behind Justice Hill there’s no real quality depth that’s been developed outside Jeff Carr. I think Hubbard is due for a breakout season as a true freshman. He won’t have the same year Hill had (rushing for 1,000+ and earning All-American honors), but I think he’ll grab 600 rushing yards and be a threat as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Malcolm Rodriguez, safety: Rodriguez has a high ceiling, but I think he’ll remain on the floor as a redshirt in 2017 with the depth OSU has.

Thabo Mwaniki, safety: Mwaniki, too, is a highly talented player with big upside. But I’d be stunned if he plays in 2017.

Tre Sterling, safety: I won’t budge from this: any safety OSU signed is likely to redshirt. Maybe that changes depending on depth and injuries, but Sterling likely won’t play as a freshman.

Brayden Johnson, wide receiver: Given the depth at receiver, Johnson is a redshirt candidate.

Brock Martin, defensive end: Call me crazy, but I think Brock Martin sees the field as a freshman. He’s a wildly talented pass-rusher with good hands he developed as a wrestler, and uses his leverage to his advantage. I think he’ll earn some buzz in fall camp similar to what Justice Hill and James Washington have over the past few years.

Brendon Evers, defensive tackle: Just like Martin, I think the door is open for Evers to make an impact as a freshman. He’s built like a MACK truck and has the mindset needed to compete at the Division I level.

JD King, running back: I don’t mean to sound hot-takey, but King reminds me a lot of Ezekiel Elliott. He’s got a quick burst through the gaps, he’s a solid pass-blocker, and he’s a heckuva runner in the open field. If someone told me that King, not Hubbard, has more rushing yards as a freshman, I wouldn’t be shocked. I think he’s going to be a beast.

Brendan Vaughn, linebacker: Linebacker depth is almost always a concern, but this year might be the exception. Vaughn, an early enrollee, could be part of a rotation as a third man. But if he plays more than that, injuries will have a big role.

Kris McCune, safety: Of all the freshman safeties, I think I like McCune to contribute early the most. Like I said above, I think all safety signees will redshirt. But McCune is a freak athlete who could see the field and it wouldn’t surprise me.

Jelani Woods, quarterback: A battle for the backup position might be won by Taylor Cornelius, but Jelani Woods will have his shot, too. The 6-7 athlete will compete against Keondre Wudtee and John Kolar for the gig. But I think the plan is for him to redshirt next season.

Tracin Wallace, quarterback: After two brutal ACL tears, OSU has the luxury of redshirting Wallace and rehabbing his knees. He’ll do well as a scout-teamer in 2017.

LaMarcus Morton, cornerback: Morton was an early enrollee and could be an early contributor, given the lack of depth at cornerback.

Shamond Greenwood, wide receiver: For as good as Greenwood is, his best option will be redshirting and waiting to replace Marcel Ateman in 2018. 6-foot-4 receivers don’t grow on trees, and he’s in for a solid college career if he can stay healthy.

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