Why Ohio State will need instant impact from its Top 3 recruiting class

BY foxsports • February 3, 2016

Urban Meyer has assembled some epic recruiting classes during his tenures at Florida and Ohio State, groups that went on to produce national championships and NFL All-Pros. With this, his latest class to finish in the Top 3 nationally, he may need something even a little extra.

He needs these guys to make a significant impact right away.

Ohio State in 2016 will return just seven starters from its 12-1 Fiesta Bowl squad. That includes a host of stars — RB Ezekiel Elliott, DE Joey Bosa, LB Darron Lee and S Vonn Bell, among many others — who keyed the Buckeyes' 2014 national title run.

Certainly there are plenty of talented underclassmen waiting in the wings, but playing opportunities will abound for true freshmen. Meyer's had a handful of freshman standouts in the past, from Florida WR/KR Percy Harvin in 2006 to CB Janoris Jenkins in '08 to Bosa in '13. But much more commonly, even his most decorated players like former Florida QB Tim Tebow or Ohio State's Elliott were backups or role players their first year on campus.

Most of this year's group will likely start that way, but don't be surprised if numerous signees are starters or key contributors by season's end.

"I'm going to push real hard for these coaches to get these guys ready, because I hope to redshirt minimal [numbers] of this year's class," Meyer told The Audible on Wednesday.

Ohio State will need bodies on the defensive line. Four-star DT Malik Barrow and four-star DE Jonathon Cooper enrolled last month and have a head start toward contributing. And Bosa's younger brother, Nick, is the highest-ranked recruit in the class.

The Buckeyes also need new faces to step up at receiver and running back in place of Elliott, Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Braxton Miller. There are no shortage of candidates with four-star WRs Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor and RBs DeMario McCall and Antonio Williams.

Meyer on Wednesday said Mack will play immediately and that 2015 signee Mike Weber will compete at running back.

And one particularly pressing need is in the secondary, which lost three of four starters. One potential replacement, four-star defensive back Jordan Fuller, only committed to the Buckeyes earlier this week.

"Jordan Fuller was such a great get," said Meyer. "There's no doubt he'll play as a true freshman."

Few recent high-level teams have ever had to replace as much production from one year to the next as the Buckeyes will this fall. Having experienced QB J.T. Barrett, softens the blow somewhat, and Ohio State has recruited well every year under Meyer. But a few key freshmen could be the difference between contending for another New Year's Six bowl or taking a step or two back.