This year’s Ohio State Football team is expected to do big things, entering the season with 8/1 odds to win the National Championship, behind only Alabama (2/1) and Clemson (9/2). Coming off a 2017 campaign that ended with a Big Ten title and an arguable snub from the College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes did not lose many key players and should pick things up right where they left off.
There are obviously still the stars on the roster that make Ohio State one of the best teams on paper heading into the season. On defense, guys like Nick Bosa and Chase Young are both projected first round NFL Draft talent. The only major loss on that side of the ball is Denzel Ward, last year’s top cornerback, taken fourth overall by the Cleveland Browns.
The offense has a lot to be excited about as well. There is tremendous confidence in the quarterback position, whether it be expected starter Dwayne Haskins or Tate Martell should he win the job in camp. Everyone knows about the speed of Parris Campbell and saw the raw talent of now-sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins.
The Buckeyes, however, also feature some guys who don’t get the same recognition, but could make just as much of an impact in this upcoming season.
On offense, one of the biggest under-the-radar players in 2018 could be senior walk-on wide receiver C.J. Saunders. Saunders played in 8 games for OSU last season, finishing with 17 receptions for 221 yards and a touchdown, getting most of his reps in garbage time.
Saunders showed a glimpse of what he is capable of in the game against UNLV last year, where he caught six balls for 102 yards and his lone score of the season. At just 5-11, Saunders is an undersized receiver. However, after adding on 10 pounds already this offseason, he could see an increased role in 2018.
The wide receiver room at Ohio State is stacked, as all six draft-eligible receivers elected to return this season. Saunders is a great route runner and has some of the strongest hands on the team. The main concern was his ability to block in the run game as a smaller receiver, which his increased size and strength will undoubtedly help with, potentially paving the way for him to make an impact this year.
On the defensive side of the ball, one guy that should be receiving more attention is junior safety Jordan Fuller. In 2017, Fuller lead the team in solo tackles with 51. He finished the season with two interceptions, a goal line pick against Indiana in the season opener and the game-ender against Michigan.
Fuller has had the benefit of watching some incredible safety play in his time at Ohio State. As a freshman, he played behind Malik Hooker, arguably one of the best defensive players the Buckeyes have ever had. He also played alongside Damon Webb as a sophomore, who has since signed as an undrafted free agent with the Tennessee Titans.
As one of the most experienced players in the OSU secondary, especially among the safeties, it will be on Fuller’s shoulders to be a leader in the defensive backfield. After an impressive 2017 campaign, Fuller should be in store for a big year in 2018.
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