The third year for a player in the Ohio State football program is usually an important one. It is when they are expected to take a leap in their ability. They’ve matured physically, have an understanding of what they are doing on the field, and now it is time for them to contribute. Let’s call this third year their leap year. The calendar may not say it, but it is definitely a leap year for a few Buckeyes.
Trey Leroux, Grant Toutant, Jakob James, and Enokk Vimahi – I include these four together because they, probably more than any other Buckeyes, are needed to take a big leap this year. Once you get past the starters on the offensive line, this team is very thin. VERY thin.
These four need to help provide that much-needed depth. Vimahi is actually in his fourth season and is someone I thought would have been more of a factor by now – he’s easily the most experienced of the four. James played ten snaps in 2021, Leroux only eight, while Toutant did not make an appearance at all. I don’t like to use such a cliched term as “step up”, but the Buckeyes need these four to step up in a big way.
Lathan Ransom – He’s a third-year player who we have seen a lot of since he joined the Ohio State football program in 2019. Ransom started the first two games of 2021 as the slot corner, but was replaced in week three and made just one more start the rest of the season.
He has shown flashes but has not been consistent enough to become the type of impact player we have been hoping for. The junior from Tucson suffered a broken leg in the Rose Bowl but has been pronounced fit to take part in preseason practice.
Joe Royer and Gee Scott, Jr. – These two tight ends make this list for different reasons. Royer redshirted as a true freshman and then appeared in five games last year. He had a very good spring game and Ryan Day is pleased with his development.
This position is a real question mark for the Buckeyes, so if Royer has made that big leap in development, it will go a long way in helping the offense. Scott came to Ohio State as a top-ten wide receiver but asked to switch positions during 2021’s spring practice. With over a year now to learn the position and looking much bigger physically, he is hopefully ready to show the skills that made him such a highly-touted recruit.
Steele Chambers and Palaie Gaoteote – Although both have been in college football for more than three seasons, they do have one thing in common: each became linebackers for the Ohio State football program just last year and both should be far more comfortable in 2023.
Chambers made the switch from running back and became a starter at his new position. At times he was effective, but far too often he wasn’t. Part of that blame goes to the awful scheme run by the Buckeyes, but another part of the problem was Chambers never seemed completely comfortable playing linebacker.
Under this new defense that wants to turn its athletes loose, he should thrive. Gaoteote transferred from USC last summer, but his joining the program was held up when the NCAA had questions about his eligibility.
That put his learning curve way behind and he never seemed to completely find himself all season. I like him because he’s experienced (fourteen starts at USC) and he is the big-bodied linebacker (6’2”, 245 pounds) this unit needs. Regaining the form that allowed him to be a starter at USC is going to pay big dividends for the defense.
For some, everything falls into place and they make that leap. For others, it takes longer and for others still, it doesn’t happen at all. The more on this list that makes those big strides this year, the better the Buckeyes will be as a team.