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Next Man Up (Again)

While they may be calling this season “The Edge,” it’s the above headline that’s been OSU Football’s unofficial motto for the last three years.

Initially, it took root after the then-devastating injury to Braxton Miller gave rise to the improbable freshman campaign of J.T. Barrett, and then was further employed when his sidelining begged for Cardale Jones to step into the light.

Well, they both answered the call, and the Buckeye trophy case is a little more golden for it.

Now, “next man up” is just a way of life for the Urban Meyer’s football team, as each year expectations and talent-level surge on the same parallel. To boot, 2016 sees OSU ranked No. 6 in the country despite having to replace numerous starters from a program that sent a record 12 to the first four rounds of last year’s NFL Draft.

To maintain and exceed those expectations, the Bucks are gonna have to pull a little more from the well—or, rather fountain of youth—than ever before.

Here’s this year’s Next Men Up:

Michael Jordan (No. 73)

Guard, Freshman

Well, young man, as much as it was hard to live up to your namesake all these years, the pressure in protecting the scarlet and gray’s most important asset might be the greatest you’ve experienced. Oh, yeah, plus he’s from a town with the same name as the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Canton) from the state that we all love to hate (Michigan). Of course none of that matters as much as our MJ is as big as a building, enrolled early in the spring to get a head start and now has won a starting left guard job at a position where freshmen are barely ever considered. As seriously as Meyer and his staff take the offensive line, we’ll take that as good enough proof that we might have a special one on our hands. 

Joe Burrow (No. 10)

Quarterback, Redshirt Freshman

Look, we’re gonna say it. And you can’t get mad, because these things do happen—it’s not just superstition. Quarterbacks are gonna get hurt. In fact, you could make the argument more so in modern times, where dual-threat leaders are taking more hits and picking up more yardage on the ground. God forbid anything happens to Just Touchdowns, but in the case he’s called on, die-hard fans have felt good about what Athens-born backup Burrow could do if called upon. You don’t throw for nearly 12,000 yards and more than 150 TDs in three high school seasons by just being “OK.”

Chris Worley (No. 35)

Linebacker, Junior

What can you say about current New York Jet Darron Lee? Besides “holy-shit-that-kid-was-even-better-than-we-thought-how-do-we-find-another-one-of-him?” It was so hard to fathom that Lee, the former quarterback from New Albany High School, would be better than his predecessor Ryan Shazier, let alone one of the best Buckeye linebackers in history. So, imagine the pressure on a guy with 22 career tackles to his name. Luckily for Buckeye fans, Worley, a junior out of Cleveland, was pushing Lee for playing time even two years ago. After a great spring we think he’s just finally getting his chance to shine considering Lee rarely took off his helmet in two years.

Parris Campbell (No. 21)

Receiver, Redshirt Sophomore

Last year’s opener against Virginia Tech was bit of an odd game. What we thought was a solidifying effort of the thee-headed monster that was Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones, and J.T. Barrett turned out to be a false flag, the offensive sputtering inconsistently for munch of the contests after. But, Campbell remembers it. With playing time already so hard to come by in a talented field of receivers, his drop of a wide-open touchdown in that game seemed to signal him sliding to the back of the bench. Ahh, but it’s 2016, and with three talented wideouts now in the NFL, the Akron native is in the starting lineup and ready to show off the speed that made him one of the fastest players in the country out of high school.

Tracy Sprinkle (No. 93)

Defensive Lineman, Junior

The wrinkle with Sprinkle: without some hard work on his part and a second chance from his coaching staff, the talented defender would have left a gap for someone else to fill two years ago when he was indefinitely kicked off the team for a bar brawl arrest. Now, he’s being counted on to fill some literally big shoes in the middle of the defense, a veteran anchor on a defensive line that will be without Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington (NFL), and Darius Slade (season-ending injury). Now’s your time, big guy.

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.