Ohio State signs a lot of highly-regarded football players every year.
That leads to high expectations for early playing time — even though getting on the field means out-performing players who were in all likelihood regarded similarly in previous seasons (and have a year or more head start in earning playing time).
Regardless of that paradox, youngsters do break through and become stars in their first year on campus every so often.
Here are our top 10 since 1990.
10. Cameron Heyward
The defensive end from Georgia quickly became known for more than being the son of the late, great Craig “Ironhead” Heyward by tallying 10 tackles for loss as Ohio State won a third straight Big Ten title and made a second straight appearance in the BCS National Championship game.
9. David Boston
A receiver from Humble, Texas, he caught a 58-yard touchdown pass in the 1996 opener against Rice and scored three more times a week later in a 72-0 rout of Pitt, including a 67-yard punt return in which Ohio State famously did not even have a full unit on the field.
He ended up with 33 catches for 450 yards and seven touchdowns, none bigger than the one that won the Rose Bowl in the waning seconds against Arizona State.
8. Joey Bosa
As good as Heyward was in 2007, Bosa was even better in 2013.
The Florida native notched 13.5 tackles for loss, including 7.5 sacks, for Urban Meyer’s second Ohio State team.
7. J.K. Dobbins
Another Texas native, Dobbins burst onto the scene with 181 yards rushing in his debut against Indiana in 2017. He finished with a freshmen single-season record 1,403 yards on 192 carries (including seven touchdowns) as the Buckeyes won another Big Ten title.
6. Braxton Miller
The Wayne High School star left little doubt why he was one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in the 2011 class, running for 715 yards and seven touchdowns while passing for 1,159 yards and 13 more scores during an otherwise forgettable 6-7 season.
5. Orlando Pace
A physical freak from Sandusky, Pace stepped right into the starting lineup and became a dominating force. He is the only offensive lineman to be named the consensus Big Ten Freshman of the Year. (Teammate Korey Stringer shared the award with Illinois linebacker Simeon Rice the year before.)
4. Terrelle Pryor
The No. 1 player in the class of 2008 ascended to the starting job in week four and threw four touchdown passes in a win over Troy.
He finished with 1,311 yards passing and 631 yards rushing with 19 total touchdowns, including a reception for a score in a Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas.
3. Ted Ginn Jr.
The national defensive player of the year and top cornerback recruit in the country at Cleveland Glenville made his mark on offense and special teams at Ohio State, salvaging a 2004 season that appeared to be headed for disaster by returning four punts for touchdowns, including a scintillating runback that broke open an upset of Big Ten co-champion Michigan at Ohio Stadium. He almost single-handedly beat Michigan State that season, too, when he scored by run, reception and punt return in East Lansing.
2. Andy Katzenmoyer
Another national defensive player of the year in high school, Katzenmoyer became the middle linebacker and linchpin of the original Silver Bullets defense.
The Westerville South product made 85 tackles, including 23 for loss and 12 sacks. He also notched 10 passes defended, including four interceptions, as a veteran group that had been embarrassed by Tim Biakabutuka at the end of the ’95 season transformed into one of the best stop units in the nation.
1. Maurice Clarett
The first true freshman to start at tailback in a season-opener for Ohio State had them chanting his name at Ohio Stadium before a 175-yard, three-touchdown tour de force against Texas Tech was over, and that was just the beginning of a memorable 2002 campaign.
The Warren Harding High School product went on to be one of the catalysts for Ohio State’s first national championship team in 34 years, breaking Robert Smith’s freshman rushing record (since broken by Dobbins) despite battling a shoulder injury in the second half of the year.
While Katzenmoyer was a force of nature, we gave Clarett the nod because he got the ring.
Honorable mention: Robert Smith, Korey Stringer, Antoine Winfield, Mike Brewster, Zach Boren, Michael Jordan.
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