Ohio State Football: 3 Buckeyes Primed for Breakout Seasons
With Braxton Miller at quarterback, Ohio State has a chance to make a serious run at major college football's first-ever playoff.
For Urban Meyer to get his team to the big show, however, other players will need to have breakout seasons for the Buckeyes.
That's especially true when you factor in who Ohio State must replace. Players such as Carlos Hyde, Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby—in addition to four senior starters along the offensive line—have Meyer searching for playmakers and leadership heading into the 2014 season.
Whether they're stepping in for a new starter, looking to boost an unproductive unit or eager to explode in an expanded role, these three players are primed for big seasons.
With Hyde rushing his way into the Ohio State history book, there weren't a lot of opportunities for other ball-carriers in 2013.
That was especially true for Ezekiel Elliott, a former 4-star running back out St. Louis, Missouri. The speedy playmaker saw action in half of Ohio State's 14 games, rushing for 262 yards on just 30 carries (8.7 yards per rush) to complement three total touchdowns.
On the brink of his sophomore season, Elliot's role is expanding in a big way.
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
The search for Hyde's replacement started in the spring, when candidates such as Rod Smith and Bri'onte Dunn had a chance to shine. Elliott seized control, though, and set himself up to become the Buckeyes' starting running back this fall.
Even though he played sparingly, Elliott's limited playing time a season ago gave him confidence heading into his second season.
"Getting out there and playing helped a lot, just getting those jitters out," Elliott said, according to Brian Bennett of ESPN.com. "Hopefully this year, I'll be ready to go."
It may have come late in the season, but Ohio State fans got a glimpse of the future when Vonn Bell got his first start against Clemson in the Orange Bowl last January.
The 5-star safety was the crown jewel of Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class, but he saw close to no action for most of his freshman season. His lack of playing time was a puzzling development, especially as the team's pass defense sunk to the bottom of the national ranks.
Bell got his chance in the Orange Bowl, and even though Ohio State's defense got torched, he made one of the best plays of the game when he picked off Tajh Boyd to prevent an easy touchdown.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
It was really hard for me to not play as much as I wanted to. It's something I can learn from and use to motivate me through the spring. That's every young guy. It's a little bit frustrating but you've always got to be patient and wait for the right time. So I was always ready.
Bell proved that last January, and even though he missed spring practice with a knee injury, he should bounce back and make a huge impact for the Buckeyes this fall.
The hype was there last season—the production just didn't follow.
It seemed like everyone was talking about Dontre Wilson throughout fall camp last season. The electrifying freshman (and one-time Oregon commit) dominated the headlines the same way he flashed in Ohio State's practices.
Which player will have the best season for Ohio State in 2014?
When the season finally came, though, he found himself playing the role of decoy as most of the action was designed for Hyde in the running game and Corey Brown in the passing game. He still managed to pile up 460 total yards and three touchdowns, but that fell wildly short of the expectations most had at the beginning of the year.
Both Hyde and Brown are gone, so Meyer will need Wilson to step up and make plays for the Buckeyes this season.
The blazer out of DeSoto, Texas, is looking forward to his expanded role.
"I felt like a decoy [last year]," Wilson said, according to Daniel Rogers of The Lantern. "But now, things have changed, so now I’m getting my chance and I’m making the best of it.”
Wilson was named the starting H-back in the spring. In an offense designed to get the ball on the perimeter more often, he could be on the verge of a huge season.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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