Top Ohio State Breakout Candidates for 2020

ohio state breakout candidates

The Ohio State Buckeyes lost 14 players to the NFL in April, leaving opportunity for some  breakout candidates in the 2020 season.

They may have lost half of their starters, but Ohio State doesn’t rebuild; they reload.

It’s not uncommon for players to come out of nowhere and destroy the competition.

Jeffrey Okudah, Dwayne Haskins, and Malik Hooker are all examples of players who had one breakout season before becoming a first round draft pick.

Others, like J.K. Dobbins and Chase Young had their breakout seasons early and built on it seasons later.

Ohio State always finds a way to fill the holes in their lineups without missing a beat. This year, there are 14 holes between the offense and defense. This leaves plenty of room for a young up-and-coming player to break out.

There is plenty of talent and depth on the roster. It’s only a matter of who steps up and takes the opportunity.

Ohio State Breakout Candidates for 2020

Julian Fleming

The Buckeyes boasted a talented stable of wide receivers over the last two years. But most of them are now playing on Sundays, so it’s next man up.

Chris Olave will enter his final year, presumably, and Garrett Wilson will be lined up in the slot. Whoever is lined up opposite Olave is going to get a lot of opportunities.

Julian Fleming is one of many talented freshman receivers Ohio State has secured. He was an absolute stud in high school, and will come in and contribute right away.

Fleming is walking into a perfect situation. Olave and Garrett will draw a lot of double teams, and Justin Fields and Trey Sermon will keep linebackers focused on the backfield. He is going to get a lot of favorable coverages as a freshman.

Fleming won’t be the only freshman receiver to draw attention. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Mookie Cooper, and Gee Scott Jr. will also try to break into the offense. Combine them with sophomores Jameson Williams and Kamryn Babb, and the Ohio State offense will have plenty of fresh faces working for their offense.

Nicholas Petit-Frere

The offensive line doesn’t always draw the attention it deserves, but some of Ohio State’s best players are up front.

Branden Bowen vacated the right tackle spot, so Nicholas Petit-Frere will slide into that role. Petit-Frere was last seasons’ swing tackle, but should have no problems starting on the right side.

Unlike Fleming, Petit-Frere will try not to have his name called every play. His work won’t show up on highlight reels, but he will be a force for the line over the next few seasons. 

Zach Harrison

The returning player on the defensive line with the most snaps in 2019 is hardly a breakout candidate. But Chase Young became so prominent that he almost completely overshadowed the rest of the line.

Zach Harrison was the teams’ second defensive end in 2018, but as a freshman among upperclassmen he didn’t get much spotlight. He was fourth on the Buckeyes’ defensive line in total tackles and sacks. 

But Young, along with Davon Hamilton, Jashon Cornell, and Robert Landers, entered the 2020 NFL Draft. Harrison had the largest role in 2019 among returning defensive linemen. He should be the next dominant defensive lineman to emerge from Larry Johnson’s stable.

Because of all the opportunity on the defensive line, Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday, and Javontae Jean-Baptiste will also take a step forward in 2020.

Sevyn Banks

Ohio State has the daunting task of replacing two of their three cornerbacks, both of whom were first round picks in the NFL draft.

Shaun Wade will move from the slot to the boundary, leaving the opposite side for Sevyn Banks to take over. 

Banks has the same dimensions as Okudah (6’0”, 200 lbs), so he’ll fit right in as Ohio State’s next lock down corner. He has had limited opportunities to show his potential so far in his career, with most of his snaps coming from special teams. But the junior has performed admirably when given the chance, so he will shine when finally given the starting role.

Marcus Williamson and Cameron Brown will also have expanded roles in 2020, so defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs will have plenty of fresh talent at his disposal.


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