The opening game of the 2014 season is only days away, and as Ohio State prepares to take on Navy, the Buckeyes have released their much-anticipated depth chart for the first week. After head coach Urban Meyer lost senior quarterback Braxton Miller to injury, it was assumed that redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett would step in to fill Miller's big shoes.
Looking at the depth chart, Barrett is listed as the starter with Cardale Jones being listed as the backup. Coach Meyer said during his press conference that it is possible both quarterbacks will play against the Midshipmen, but it appears Barrett will get the first shot.
At running back, Ezekiel Elliott will enter the season as the co-starter. After Carlos Hyde had used up his eligibility last season, big things are expected from the stable of running backs that include Elliott, Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn, and even true freshman Curtis Samuel. Expect to see all of the backs get some sort of action or playing time, as all are greatly talented, though Dunn is nowhere to be found on the first such list of the year.
At wide receiver, Devin Smith is the unquestioned starter at the 'X' with Michael Thomas backing him up. The staff has been high on Evan Spencer and have praised him for being an excellent blocker and he's the other starter. Corey Smith, who redshirted last season, is his backup. Coming in at the 'H-back' is Dontre Wilson OR Jalin Marshall with true freshman Noah Brown as the backup, but again, expect to see plenty of the first two of them on the field, possibly even at the same time.
The normal starter at tight end is Jeff Heuerman, but because of his foot injury that he's still recovering from, more than capable Nick Vannett will see more action than usual. The offensive line has to have a good season for the Buckeyes to be successful, and the starters haven't been named until now. From left to right on the line, the starters will be Taylor Decker, Billy Price OR Joel Hale, Jacoby Boren OR Alabama transfer Chad Lindsay, Pat Elflein, and Darryl Baldwin. The backups, in the same format, go Antonio Underwood, Evan Lisle, and Chase Farris.
On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive line has been touted as the class of the Big Ten. While Noah Spence is suspended for this week and next, he'll be the normal starter at defensive end. Steve Miller will start in his place, while Rashad Frazier and Tyquan Lewis will also get see playing time. Joey Bosa will begin his sophomore campaign as the starter opposite Spence (Miller this week). At the defensive tackles, Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett OR Tommy Schutt will lead the way with Donovan Munger and Michael Hill as the backups. Against the likes of Kent State or in the off chance Navy gets out of hand, we may get a chance to see Munger and Hill in action.
The linebacker was another position of intrigue this offseason. Darron Lee gets the nod at strongside linebacker along with Joshua Perry. Chris Worley and Dante Booker will back up the outside linebackers. Manning the middle linebacker position is Curtis Grant, who won the starting job over exciting true freshman Raekwon McMillan. I would count on McMillan seeing at least some playing time against Navy. Cam Williams is the next man up after that.
Doran Grant is penciled in at cornerback, with Gareon Conley OR Eli Apple opposite of Grant. Backing up Grant will be Armani Reeves, who will also play nickel back for the Buckeye. At free safety, Cam Burrows OR Vonn Bell will get to shine, though both will see the field. At strong safety, Tyvis Powell will get a chance to show his stuff, with Ron Tanner and Erick Smith as his backups.
For special teams, Ohio State will have new blood at kicker for the first time since Drew Basil, with Sean Nuernberger getting the start and Kyle Clinton in there as his backup. Cameron Johnston will look to build upon his outstanding freshman year at punter, with Nuernberger there in case of emergencies. As far as the return game is concerned, Dontre Wilson, unsurprisingly, will be returning kickoffs and punts. Jalin Marshall will be out there fielding kicks and punts as well.