If someone asked you who the difference makers for the Buckeyes are going to be in 2009, I am guessing your response would be pretty predictable. The guys that instantly come to mind are Terrelle Pryor, Boom Herron, Chimdi Chekwa, Brian Rolle, Kurt Coleman, Cameron Heyward, and so on. The success of this team is just as dependant on the question marks and less known players though. So let me suggest a few of the unlikely difference makers who could help define the success of the Buckeyes this upcoming season:
Taurian Washington: If you follow this blog at all you know that I have been pretty hard on Ray Small. In fact, a few weeks back I contended that I think he is an incredibly overrated as a wideout. I am optimistically holding my breath that he will redeem himself in his senior year, but the facts are that Small is a much better return man than wide receiver. That is why I name Washington an unlikely difference maker.
After watching him the last few seasons in person, I really don't think he is ever going to be a phenomenal route runner or an overly physical wideout. Luckily for the Buckeyes they already have those areas covered with guys like Posey, Carter, and Sanzenbacher. What the Buckeyes need, as they did a season ago, is a burner who can go and get the long ball. I think this is where Washington will find his niche in the offense, and if he performs like he did in the past two spring games, the Buckeyes will find the missing link in the passing game.
J.B. Shugarts: There is no doubt that the left tackle situation has to be figured out. There are a whole host of problems going on with Mike Adams, and now Andrew Miller is taking a lot of the reps with the first team there. No offense to Miller but I don't think he is the answer at left tackle, even though I appreciate his hustle. At this point I think Shugarts has to step up and be the man. I don't even think he has to be the next Orlando Pace to be a difference maker, he just needs to make sure his name doesn't get mentioned very often on Saturdays. If his name does get called, its probably because some defensive end has blown by him to blindside Pryor. If he can live up to the recruiting hype or even just become a consistent tackle, the Buckeyes will be a force on offense.
Andre Amos/ Devon Torrence: I mention both of these guys, because the Buckeyes have to get something out of the corner spot opposite of Chekwa. We also know that regardless of who the starter is, the other guy is going to be on the field a lot. Now it is realistic to expect these guys to give up a few big plays and be burnt at certain moments, but that cannot become a habit. Tressel doesn't like shootouts, and honestly the offense isn't set up for that role. So these guys both can very easily become unlikely difference makers. Neither is probably going to be winning any awards when the season concludes, but if they get the job done, they will change the outlook of the season.
Brandon Saine/ Jordan Hall: Everyone knows that Boom Herron is the man in 2009. Let's not kid ourselves though, one good back isn't going to be enough to get through the Big Ten season. On top of that, Boom isn't notoriously a guy who takes it to the house that often. Don't get me wrong, he had some big runs at the end of the last season, but he is much more of an "in the trenches" kind of runner. So the Buckeyes need a guy to step up and be the consistent second running back, who has great play making ability.
Some of you may be shocked that I didn't just name Saine for this role. My beef with Saine is that he still has to prove that he is the kind of play maker he was billed to be coming out of high school. I know he has battled injuries, but I still think he dances too much. He could very well prove me wrong, but let's not forget about freshman Jordan Hall. Hall has shocked everyone this fall with his performance, and I think he shows himself to be a great "change of pace" back behind Herron. Jamaal Berry could also be an option, but with his injury problems I would not be surprised to see him redshirt this season.
Overall: These guys all could be heroes when the season is over, some just for filling a role and being consistent. Probably none of these guys will get tons of publicity, but that doesn't diminish the fact that they are difference makers.