As spring drills are getting underway for Ohio State back in Columbus and football begins to regain the attention of the Buckeye faithful, there are plenty of questions to be answered and even more shoes to be filled.
With the progression of each early recruiting class coming full circle for the Buckeyes, the 2006 class will be more than represented for Ohio State in terms of players needed for the team to be successful.
While some players from the 2006 class are no longer with the Buckeyes - like former running back Chris Wells - there are plenty that have proven themselves or have the capability of stepping up for Ohio State in a big way.
Following is a breakdown of key players from the 2006 class and what we can expect from them this season:
Services surely needed
Jake Ballard - While the Buckeyes' new offensive attack of 2009 has certainly yet to be revealed, it wont be a surprise if there is quite a bit of utilization of the rushing attack, to say the last. Last season, Ballard was probably one of the more consistent blockers on Ohio State's offensive front, and that will certainly come in handy, especially with the departure of a stud rusher in Wells. With Jake Stoneburner being moved to tight end, it doesn't look like Ballard will be used much in terms of the passing attack. Either way, the blocking is what the Buckeyes need out of this veteran.
Chimdi Chekwa - If anybody is going to need to step up with the departure of Malcolm Jenkins, it is going to be Chekwa. The junior stormed on the scene last year, and though he had some struggles (remember the Fiesta Bowl?), the year of experience should play to his advantage in the fall. It will be tougher, however, as he won't have Jenkins on the other side. The cornerback position is extremely important, and he will have to be a leader with the newcomer on the other side, whether it be Travis Howard or Devon Torrence, both of which will be questionably ready come the commencement of the season.
Kurt Coleman - Coming to Ohio State as a 4-star defensive back recruit out of Clayton (Ohio), there were plenty of high expectations for Coleman during his time at Ohio State. Now, entering this season, Coleman has the opportunity to be the special player most expected when he initially enrolling at Ohio State. With the departures of James Laurinaitis and Jenkins, Coleman's leadership is going to be a much needed commodity in the fall. The responsibility will be on Coleman's shoulders, especially because he is expected to pick up a defensive captain title.
Thad Gibson - Believe it or not, with the return of Gibson, Todd Denlinger, Doug Worthington and Cameron Heyward, coupled with the reemergence of Lawrence Wilson from injury, the Buckeyes defensive line looks to be one of the strengths of the team. As of now, it looks like Gibson who could be the most dangers player of them all along the defensive front. Expect Gibson to wreak havoc in opposing backfields this year and be one of the Big Ten Conference's best defensive ends.
Time to step up?
Bryant Browning - It may not be the backside of Terrelle Pryor, but don't kid yourself, the right tackle position is arguably one of the most important on the offensive side of the ball. There have been some flashes of excellence out of Browning in the past, but with expectations of filling the starting spot at right tackle, this would be the perfect opportunity for Browning to step up.
Ross Homan - We all know how important the linebacker position is, particularly at Ohio State, so Homan will have his hands full as the projected "Will" outside linebacker. Homan, a former 4-star recruit out of Coldwater (Ohio), should fit nicely into that position and make the transition a little more smooth for the Buckeyes.
Tyler Moeller - As one of the more speedy linebackers, Moeller isn't really expected to be a starter in Ohio State's linebacking corps, but that doesn't mean he won't have a large impact on Ohio State's defensive. Moeller will have a unique job for Ohio State, whether it is in the "star" position or filling in as a backup linebacker. That being said, don't let him not being a starter fool you - he is for real.
Dexter Larimore - Like stated above, the defensive line is going to be pretty stacked this year for Ohio State. Thought Larimore may not be a projected starter, defensive lines are typically shuffled around in order to maintain freshness. With that said, expect Larimore and Denlinger to be familiar faces in the games this season.
Living up to the hype
Ray Small - If anybody wants to talk about expectations and excitement about a young man's career coming out of high school, Small is the king. When recruited by Ohio State, former Buckeye standout Ted Ginn Jr.'s father, also the head coach at Cleveland Glenville, proclaimed Small would be as big of a weapon or better than Ginn. Well, that's what the Ohio State faithful have expected and they haven't gotten it. Small has had issues off the field, and there were even rumors he may transfer from Ohio State. Well, all the issues seem to be behind him. Can he finally be electrifying?
Rob Rose - Speaking of high expectations and Glenville, another name immediately pops into everyone's head. Rose, a former 5-star recruit, had plenty of expectations but never has been able to get over the hill. This year he is listed as a two-deep defensive end. Can the former high school standout and one of the most exciting recruits of 2006 finally make a difference on the defensive front?
Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at AriWasserman@gmail.com.
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