NCAA Football News
It's pretty obvious that freshmen will be the bright spot for the Longhorns this season.
As 10 starters depart for either the NFL or a life after football, the nation's No. 9 class arrives to replenish the ranks. There will be a drop off in on-field production, but the trade-off is a tremendous group of talent that can be developed to carry this program into the future.
Before the season reaches its end, many of these players should see their first college action. The lack of returning talent almost demands it.
But who will start in his first year out of high school? Malik Jefferson and Connor Williams busted through this spring to fill spots that needed talents like theirs. Now, it's their classmates' turn to show Charlie Strong and the rest of this coaching staff that they're ready to go right away.
Ohio State is absolutely loaded with superstars for another title run in 2015, but imagine a parallel universe where guys such as Nick Chubb, Kendall Fuller and Myles Garrett are also suiting up in scarlet and gray this fall.
That possibility was almost a reality for the Buckeyes.
Urban Meyer has shifted Ohio State's recruiting into a higher gear since taking over in 2012, signing the Big Ten's top class in each of his first four recruiting cycles in Columbus. But the Buckeyes have missed on some of their top targets during that span—guys who would have taken Ohio State's roster from "this is unfair" levels to "how is this even possible" status.
Which targets in particular?
These five players would fill holes in Ohio State's two-deep, upgrade a particular unit or take away one of the opposition's biggest weapons.
Nick Chubb, Georgia Running Back
Ohio State is set at running back with Ezekiel Elliott, who will enter the season as a Heisman Trophy front-runner, but what if he was backed up by another Heisman contender in Georgia running back Nick Chubb?
The Buckeyes were in the thick of Chubb's recruitment two years ago.
As a 5-star running back for the class of 2014, Chubb boasted offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Texas and a host of others. The Buckeyes were nearing the reality of life without Carlos Hyde in their backfield, so they were trying to build up their depth to complement the unproven Elliott.
Chubb was a Georgia lean throughout the entire process and committed to join Mark Richt eight months before signing day. He went on to have a fantastic freshman season for the Bulldogs, running for an incredible 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns filling in for the injured Todd Gurley.
Imagine that kind of playmaking ability coming off the bench to spell Elliott.
“I remember Coach (Urban) Meyer from Ohio State told me to tell the Georgia coaches that I’m ‘all his.’ I just laughed," Chubb said, via Carvell. "He was just recruiting me, and he knew I was big on Georgia. And no, I never passed the message to the Georgia coaches.”
Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame Linebacker
With Darron Lee, Raekwon McMillan and Joshua Perry in the fold, Ohio State's linebacker unit should be one of the best in the Big Ten this year.
But if Meyer had landed Jaylon Smith back in 2013, the Buckeyes would likely have the best linebacker unit in the country.
That's no slight toward Perry, who led Ohio State with 124 tackles in 2014. But pairing Smith with Ohio State's sophomore dynamos in Lee and McMillan would give the Buckeyes a younger, more athletic group for the middle of their defense.
Smith emerged as one of Notre Dame's most disruptive defenders as a true sophomore last season, leading the team in tackles, solo tackles and tackles for loss. He earned second-team All-American honors from the Associated Press and was a semifinalist for the Bednarik and Butkus awards.
But Smith committed to the Irish over the Buckeyes in June 2012, forcing Meyer to pursue heralded linebackers Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson. Both eventually signed with Ohio State, but three years later, neither are suiting up for the Buckeyes. Mitchell transferred to Texas Tech to be closer to his ailing father, and Johnson walked away from football due to arthritis.
Speedy Noil, Texas A&M Wide Receiver
Ohio State has spent the offseason searching for a replacement for Devin Smith, the blazing deep threat who led the country in average yards per reception by a wide margin in 2014.
That process would have been a lot easier had Meyer landed Speedy Noil for his '14 class.
True to his name, Noil is a speedy wideout for the Texas A&M Aggies, whom he chose over the Buckeyes before enrolling early for his freshman season last year. Boasting 4.4 speed, he thrived in Kevin Sumlin's system, hauling in 46 passes for 583 yards and five touchdowns. He consistently got behind defenses and made the tough catches—the two traits that made Devin Smith so special.
If Ohio State had earned his commitment, Meyer would have a wide receiver unit that features Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith along with Noil.
That's a whole lot of speed and playmaking ability to defend.
Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech Cornerback
The loss of Doran Grant would be a lot easier to handle if Ohio State had Kendall Fuller in its secondary.
Rated a 5-star cornerback and the No. 17 overall recruit for the class of 2013, Fuller had offers from most of the major programs in the country, including Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. Ohio State was among his suitors, but Meyer couldn't pull him away from Virginia Tech, where he became an instant star.
The Buckeyes saw firsthand how good he was last year, when the Hokies upset the Buckeyes 35-21 in the home opener.
Now, instead of having Fuller anchor a secondary that also features 5-star safety Vonn Bell, Ohio State will have to figure out a way to overcome his otherworldly talents when it travels to Blacksburg, Virginia, to open the '15 season.
Myles Garrett, Texas A&M Defensive End
Ohio State already has one of the country's most dangerous pass-rushers in Joey Bosa, who became the first unanimous first-team All-American for Ohio State since James Laurinaitis in 2007. He was dominant for the Buckeyes last year, notching 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss—marks that ranked fifth nationally.
But how much more dangerous would Bosa be if he had an elite counterpunch like Myles Garrett on the other side of the line?
Garrett was the No. 2 overall recruit for the '14 class and the top-ranked weak-side defensive end who chose Texas A&M over Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State and others. He thrived for the Aggies as a true freshman last season, notching an impressive 11.5 sacks in just 12 games.
Having that kind of pressure on the opposite side of Bosa would be next to impossible to block.
Garrett seriously considered the Buckeyes. The Arlington, Texas, native told Scout (h/t Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue) that if he chose a college outside of the Lone Star State, Ohio State was at the top of his list.
"If I want to get away from home, that’s the best place to go," Garrett said of Ohio State.
The Buckeyes feel good about Tyquan Lewis, who emerged this spring and will likely start at weak-side defensive end. But Lewis doesn't have the upside or the pass-rushing ability that Garrett possesses.
All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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