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Published: Dec. 29, 2016 at 04:16 p.m.

College Football Playoff preview: Top 10 Ohio State prospects

The Buckeyes came into the 2016 season with a lot of question marks after losing 12 players to the NFL draft. They still had head coach Urban Meyer, however, and his annual top-rated recruiting classes. The cupboards were restocked, not rebuilt.

Here are the top 10 Buckeye players that NFL scouts will be watching in their playoff matchup against ACC champion Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

10 Photos Total

  • Ohio State's deep passing game is, well, lacking. Brown's likely to be much more productive in the NFL than he has been in college. The Buckeyes' second-leading receiver (27-345, 7 TDs) had a huge game against Oklahoma, but has been only sporadically involved since then. Clemson's secondary will be a challenge for Brown; if he can use his size (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) to win in all parts of the field, it will show scouts he has the tools to succeed in a big game. 10

    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    10. Noah Brown, WR

    Ohio State's deep passing game is, well, lacking. Brown's likely to be much more productive in the NFL than he has been in college. The Buckeyes' second-leading receiver (27-345, 7 TDs) had a huge game against Oklahoma, but has been only sporadically involved since then. Clemson's secondary will be a challenge for Brown; if he can use his size (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) to win in all parts of the field, it will show scouts he has the tools to succeed in a big game.

  • Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa get more publicity, but Lewis is the one earning first-team all-Big Ten honors from league coaches. He leads the team with 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. The junior plays the strong side well, working with leverage against taller right tackles, disengaging with violent hands and exploding into the backfield with pure hustle. He'll play in the league for a long time. 9

    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    9. Tyquan Lewis, DE

    Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa get more publicity, but Lewis is the one earning first-team all-Big Ten honors from league coaches. He leads the team with 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. The junior plays the strong side well, working with leverage against taller right tackles, disengaging with violent hands and exploding into the backfield with pure hustle. He'll play in the league for a long time.

  • Price might be the best guard in the country. His upper-body strength is outstanding, as he can take his man out of the hole. But he's also mobile enough to lead the way for Mike Weber on pulls and he attacks linebackers off the line of scrimmage. 8

    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    8. Billy Price, OG

    Price might be the best guard in the country. His upper-body strength is outstanding, as he can take his man out of the hole. But he's also mobile enough to lead the way for Mike Weber on pulls and he attacks linebackers off the line of scrimmage.

  • The Ohio State offense is most effective when utilizing Samuels' rushing and receiving gifts on a regular basis. The team's leading receiver (61-790, 7 TDs) and third-leading rusher (84-650, 7 TDs) possesses toughness and agility as an open-field runner that makes him difficult to track. If Clemson allows him to get the sideline, even its talented safeties might have a hard time getting the angle. 7

    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    7. Curtis Samuel, RB

    The Ohio State offense is most effective when utilizing Samuels' rushing and receiving gifts on a regular basis. The team's leading receiver (61-790, 7 TDs) and third-leading rusher (84-650, 7 TDs) possesses toughness and agility as an open-field runner that makes him difficult to track. If Clemson allows him to get the sideline, even its talented safeties might have a hard time getting the angle.

  • Comparisons to the 2016 No. 3 overall pick, Joey Bosa, are unfair. Hubbard might not be as explosive as Bosa, but the redshirt sophomore is a hard-working and athletic end who's able to play either side of the line. 6

    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    6. Sam Hubbard, DE

    Comparisons to the 2016 No. 3 overall pick, Joey Bosa, are unfair. Hubbard might not be as explosive as Bosa, but the redshirt sophomore is a hard-working and athletic end who's able to play either side of the line.

  • The Buckeyes' leading tackler (71), McMillan has good instincts and is versatile -- he's able to play any of the three spots in the second level. Urban Meyer can trust him as a pass rusher, run-stopper and in coverage. 5

    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    5. Raekwon McMillan, LB

    The Buckeyes' leading tackler (71), McMillan has good instincts and is versatile -- he's able to play any of the three spots in the second level. Urban Meyer can trust him as a pass rusher, run-stopper and in coverage.

  • This guy's just getting started. Weber, a redshirt freshman, is somehow both underutilized and a 1,000-yard rusher. He had 15 or more carries in just five of 12 games this year, despite his excellent combination of speed, power and elusiveness. His 5-11, 212-pound compact build is perfect for a feature back, and he has excellent hands out of the backfield. Better than Zeke? No. But not that far off, either. 4

    Chris Knight/Associated Press

    4. Mike Weber, RB

    This guy's just getting started. Weber, a redshirt freshman, is somehow both underutilized and a 1,000-yard rusher. He had 15 or more carries in just five of 12 games this year, despite his excellent combination of speed, power and elusiveness. His 5-11, 212-pound compact build is perfect for a feature back, and he has excellent hands out of the backfield. Better than Zeke? No. But not that far off, either.

  • Conley had a rough game against Michigan, but his tall frame is exactly what many NFL defensive coordinators want on the edge to disrupt receivers' routes. When staying true to his technique, he can prevent Clemson receiver Mike Williams from turning a short pass into a big gain. If he does that, he'll prove to scouts that he's ready for NFL competition. 3

    Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

    3. Gareon Conley, CB

    Conley had a rough game against Michigan, but his tall frame is exactly what many NFL defensive coordinators want on the edge to disrupt receivers' routes. When staying true to his technique, he can prevent Clemson receiver Mike Williams from turning a short pass into a big gain. If he does that, he'll prove to scouts that he's ready for NFL competition.

  • Lattimore is not as tall as his fellow corner, Conley, but he has fluid hips and does not give receivers much room on the outside. He'll battle the receiver downfield with tenacity. He leads the team with four interceptions and nine pass breakups. It's pick-your-poison for Deshaun Watson throwing against Conley and Lattimore. 2

    Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

    2. Marshon Lattimore, CB

    Lattimore is not as tall as his fellow corner, Conley, but he has fluid hips and does not give receivers much room on the outside. He'll battle the receiver downfield with tenacity. He leads the team with four interceptions and nine pass breakups. It's pick-your-poison for Deshaun Watson throwing against Conley and Lattimore.

  • In his first year as a starter, Hooker has earned a reputation as a thumper in the secondary. The first-team all-conference pick is the most athletic safety in the country, using his quickness and length to make secure tackles and big hits. Clemson's Deshaun Watson made some mistakes with the ball during the middle of the season; he won't want to do that with Hooker out there waiting to pounce. 1

    Joseph Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports

    1. Malik Hooker, S

    In his first year as a starter, Hooker has earned a reputation as a thumper in the secondary. The first-team all-conference pick is the most athletic safety in the country, using his quickness and length to make secure tackles and big hits. Clemson's Deshaun Watson made some mistakes with the ball during the middle of the season; he won't want to do that with Hooker out there waiting to pounce.