Buckeye Nation will never forget the contribution of kicker Drew Basil. He served the Ohio State football team well during his time in Columbus, but his time has passed, which leaves us with the question: who will replace Basil as the Buckeyes’ new kicker?
There are two candidates for the job, both with ambitions of seeing the field this season. Kyle Clinton is a walk-on in his senior season with the team. Sean Nuernberger is a freshman who graduated high school early to practice with the Buckeyes in the spring. Both have a solid case for the starting job. Clinton has put in the time and worked hard to get to where he is today. Nuernberger was the 10th rated kicker in the 2014 recruiting class. The decision will ultimately be Urban Meyer’s to make, and it will be based off of a couple different assets.
Accuracy is obviously key for kicking field goals, and Clinton has the edge in that department, but the Buckeyes attempted just 10 field goals last season, so accuracy may take a backseat to power. Kick power is essential for kickoffs, on which Urban likes to send the house in order to win the battle of field position right away. In this category, Nuernberger has the obvious edge, being the visibly more athletic kicker of the two guys. Nuernberger entered the spring as the favorite to win the job, and he appears to be on his way to starting for the Buckeyes as a true freshman.
Cameron Johnston did the same last season for the Buckeyes at punter, and he did nothing but impress. He will be the punter again in 2014, and he will be used as a safety net for either of these guys this season. The field position battle is too important to Urban to risk long field goals with an untested kicker, so he should call on Johnston often this season.
Returning kicks will be a duo of speed demons. Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall should handle all of the returning duties, and I don’t know if opposing special teams will be able to catch them. These are arguably the two fastest players for the Buckeyes and both have very good elusiveness to go along with their speed. Dontre should see the bulk of the duty, with Marshall being a redshirt freshman, but both have the skills to set defenses on their heels with good starting field position.
As for the long snapper, Bryce Haynes has had those duties since 2012 and he has done a flawless job. Expect more of the same this season, which should help which ever kicker wins the job.
Special teams will not be a tremendous strength of the Buckeyes this season, with question marks looming at kicker, but it should not cause any problems either. Expect Urban to limit the workload for the kickers by punting in long field goal range and going for it on 4th and short often.
Special Teams Depth Chart -
K Sean Nuernberger: 6-1, 237 pounds, Freshman, Buckner, KY
P Cameron Johnston: 6-0, 195 pounds, Sophomore, Geelong, Australia
KR/PR Dontre Wilson: 5-10, 185 pounds, Sophomore, DeSoto, TX