Under Urban Meyer, the cupboard is always overflowing in terms of talent for the Ohio State Buckeyes. The team lost a great deal of talent to the NFL after last season, but with numerous five-star prospects set to enter more prominent roles in 2016, many expect the Buckeyes to pick up right where they left off.
While quarterback J.T. Barrett and linebacker Raekwon McMillan garner most of the attention, Phil Steele of ESPN sheds some light on a different position group that make an impact for the upcoming campaign. That group? The special teams.
Steele projects Ohio State to boast the No. 11 special teams unit in the country, and he had this to say about its potential:
Urban Meyer always has a top-notch special-teams unit, and last year was the first time in 13 years that Ohio State did not have a kick or punt return for a touchdown. The Buckeyes will get a return TD this year. K Sean Nuernberger hit 3 of 4 field goals in 2014 and a 57-yarder in this year’s spring game. Australian P Cameron Johnston has a big leg and has had nets of 40.8 and 40.3 in his first two years.
Return touchdowns, as noted above, are notoriously fickle, but it is a luxury to have two returning contributors in the kicking game. Nuernberger and Johnston won’t form the best kicker/punter duo in the land, but Ohio State should be soundly above-average across the two spots, and the Buckeyes should be utterly loaded with talent in kick coverage and in the return game.
As for the spotlight position of kick/punt returner, Ohio State has a number of options. At the moment, senior Dontre Wilson and junior Curtis Samuel are expected to see time with the ball in their hands this season, but there is no shortage when it comes to quality options with explosiveness and speed.
Games are often won and lost on special teams (just ask Ohio State’s biggest rival about their infamous punting snafu) but the Buckeyes should be able to gain positive traction from special teams this season.