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August 26, 2012

Forecasting the breakout freshmen on offense

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

The football season is only a week away and it can't come soon enough for any college football fan. The Buckeyes would be one of the favorites in the Big Ten this season if they were eligible to win the league and move on, but that doesn't mean that this team and the individuals on it still can't be successful.

For the next week, the staff at BuckeyeGrove.com will be taking a stab at predicting how the 2012 Ohio State football season will play out. These predictions include educated guesses about everything from who will lead the Buckeyes in major statistical categories to which players will have breakout seasons. Today, we do our best to forecast with freshmen on the offensive side of the ball will emerge as rising stars.

Kevin Noon - Publisher

Freshman right tackle Taylor Decker will emerge as a rising star on the offensive side of the ball

I believe that by the mid-point of the season (if not sooner) that Decker will be the starting right tackle and will be the most impactful member of the offensive recruiting class. That doesn't mean that guys like Michael Thomas and the running back tandem of Warren Ball and Bri'onte Dunn can't be in the mix, but I just see Decker being further along in the development necessary of his position.

Ben Axelrod - Lead Team Writer

Freshman wide receiver Michael Thomas will emerge as a rising star on the offensive side of the ball

While Decker is fully entrenched in a position battle to start at right tackle for the Buckeyes, there is no guarantee that he will beat out senior Reid Fragel for that spot, or that he'll play a meaningful minute in 2012. While all signs point to Decker having a very successful Ohio State career, it would be hard for him to make much of an impact in his freshmen season if he's spending it on the bench.

Thomas, on the other hand, is a wide receiver, and will get his shot to shine, regardless of if he's a starter or not. The Los Angeles native's spring game spoke for itself (12 receptions, 131 yards) and his name has consistently been mentioned by members of the Ohio State defense when asked which wide receivers have stood out in fall camp, regardless of age. In Urban Meyer's spread offense, the playmakers will be the stars, and all signs point to Thomas having the tools to be one of them, right away.

Marc Givler - Recruiting Analyst

Freshman right tackle Taylor Decker will emerge as a rising star on the offensive side of the ball

Right now, Decker is the only true freshman pushing for a starting position on the Ohio State offense and he just may win the job by the time Big Ten season rolls around. Decker's early enrollment in the spring has helped him greatly and he has clearly been one of the top freshmen during both the fall and spring practices that were made available to the media.

Jeremy Birmingham - Team Writer

Freshman right tackle Taylor Decker will emerge as a rising star on the offensive side of the ball

As many have noted, the 2012 recruiting class, while finishing on a very high note, was a class that was lacking the "playmaker" so coveted and necessary in an Urban Meyer offense. While it would appear that need has been filled in the 2013 class with players like Jalin Marshall, Ezekiel Elliott, and Taivon Jacobs among others, it will be another year until those players can don the scarlet and gray.

It is not to imply that the 2012 class won't produce any offensive firepower however, as freshmen running backs Dunn and Ball both enter the Buckeye offense as highly recruited players, but in a crowded offensive backfield, it would be quite a surprise if either of these two get much of a chance to really make a serious impact. That is why my choice as the "breakout" player offensive freshman is none other than Decker, the 6-foot-7, 310 pound signee from Vandalia, Ohio. Decker's been battling the senior tight-end transplant Fragel for the starting spot at right tackle, and his combination of excellent footwork, high-level intensity and freshman exuberance might be too much for Fragel to hold off. If Decker, the former-Notre Dame commit who arrived on campus as an early enrollee in March, is able to stay healthy, he's got the talent to be a multiple year starter at Ohio State and a repeat multi-year All-Conference selection.

Tom Levenick - Time and Change Contributor/Former Player

Freshman right tackle Taylor Decker will emerge as a rising star on the offensive side of the ball

While an offensive lineman is never in the media's eye, Decker has the opportunity to be a very rare offensive line starter as a true freshman. By the way, I remember three others during my Ohio State Tenure. They are Joe Lukens, Korey Stringer, and Orlando Pace. No pressure Taylor, just play hard and the rest will take care of itself.



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