Wednesday, September 7, 2011

IT'S EARLY BUT OSU'S FRESHMAN CLASS MAY BE NATION'S BEST

Braxton Miller
TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
COLUMBUS — With a month of football practice and a regular season win now under their belts, it's going to be quite difficult to find a better true freshman class than what Ohio State possesses in 2011.

Not only did 13 true freshmen participate in Saturday's 42-0 rout of Akron, many of them starred, making us take account of how extremely gifted this young class at Ohio State is and will be.

"We have a really talented freshman class," True freshman wide receiver Evan Spencer said. "I said it way back when we had signing day, I said I really thought we had the best recruiting class in the country. I'm biased a little bit, but that's what I believe. So I knew that when we came in the first game that the freshman were going to ball out. And we did so."

Of course, all eyes were on quarterback Braxton Miller — the crown jewel of the 2011 class — and the dynamic passer certainly didn't disappoint. He finished the win against Akron with 160 total yards and a touchdown pass in a little less than two quarters of work.

It wasn't much of a surprise that Miller would excel early on, but the performances of his fellow freshman teammates definitely made us all take notice.

Whether it was Spencer's acrobatic one-handed snag on a 33-yard go-route from Miller, or linebacker Ryan Shazier shooting the gap and getting a sack, or defensive lineman Michael Bennett dragging an Akron offensive tackle like a dog-sled en route to crushing the Zips' quarterback, the Buckeyes' freshman class dazzled in a way that isn't often seen in college football.

"I think they did a good job," OSU interim head coach Luke Fickell said. "We knew we were going to be in a situation where we would need them to step up and play. Regardless of who we're going to play, we're going to need those guys. I think they've done a good job. They've shown that throughout camp.

"Sometimes, shoot, we go through camp and you're like, 'I'm not sure how good this guy is or how he's going to show up in front of 106,000 (fans).' But you forget he's been going against great people all across him in camp.

"I think getting out there, letting them get their first time out there and knowing we have enough confidence in them, I think is a big thing."

True freshman receiver Devin Smith, who also made his presence felt in the Buckeyes' opener with three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown, agreed with Fickell's assessment that confidence in a young player will work wonders.

"I think once I got more reps, I got more plays and stuff like that, my confidence got better," Smith said. "I'm glad I got into (the Akron) game and got my confidence up."

Fickell's confidence in guys such as Smith and Miller was paid back in full Saturday — most notably on a beautiful 14-yard scoring strike in the fourth quarter between the duo.

"It was sort of an over route and I didn't think (Miller) was going to throw the ball and I saw him look at me and he threw it, and I had to make the play," Smith smiled. "Emotions were high, man.

"It felt good," Smith continued. "Just being in this atmosphere was the best feeling that I've had in a long time and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."

After the freshman class' performance Saturday, Ohio State fans will be looking forward to not only the rest of the season, but the next four years as well.

"This class is full of athletes," Smith said. "I think every single one of us will see ourselves on the field a lot this year and the rest of the years that we're here.

"I feel that when it's all said and done it's going to be us on the field, and we're going to hold it down for Buckeye Nation and do the best we can."

This story is certainly to be continued ...