In 2014, the Ohio State offense put up an astounding 672 points, good for the second most total points in the country. They amassed 90 touchdowns in 15 games, thanks to the array of playmakers from multiple positions. They lost two key wide receivers and a tight end to the NFL, but they return starters at various positions and talented, young players who are fighting for a spot on the two-deep depth chart.
In this season's spring practice, they had the luxury to move players around to the various skill positions. The coaches have an embarrassment of riches at the wide receiver and H-back positions, so it will be interesting to see who climbs up the depth chart before the season kicks off in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Entering the 2015 season, the Buckeyes have to replace the nation's top deep threat and their best perimeter blocker.
It is safe to say that even with a loaded wide receiver depth chart, no one will be able to replace Devin Smith's outrageous 28.21 yards per reception and his uncanny deep ball tracking ability, but there are multiple players who will make plays after the catch. Michael Thomas, who led the team in receptions last season with 54, has the size and talent to be one of the nation's best overall wide receivers and the go-to-guy on the perimeter. With Smith there to stretch the field last season, Thomas was not asked to run many deep routes on the route tree. Instead, Thomas had an excellent rapport with J.T. Barrett, as Barrett constantly looked his way on quick slants. Thomas converted a first down on seven of his eight third-down receptions.
Across from Thomas will be Jalin Marshall, who looks to be switching positions to become a full-time wide receiver rather than H-back, where he excelled after Dontre Wilson went down with a foot injury versus Michigan State. In the two College Football Playoff games, he caught three clutch, third down passes to extend drives which proved that he could be more than just a threat after the catch. He finished with 10 total receptions in those final two games. In 2014, Marshall played the majority of his snaps out of the slot , so it will be an interesting story line throughout camp to see how he adapts to his new role as an outside receiver.
Evan Spencer is a player who did not jump off of the stat-sheet but he was a coaches favorite, as he excelled on the perimeter as a blocker. Although he was most known for his crack-back block against Alabama on Ezekiel Elliott's 85-yard touchdown run; he was prone to making that type of block in almost every game that he played in as a Buckeye. With Noah Brown primarily focusing on playing wide receiver rather than H-back, expect the 6'2, 222 pound sophomore to replace Spencer on the field as a blocker in running situations and Spencer's production as a pass catcher. Brown has the body type to blow up defenders and pave the way on the perimeter for ball carriers.
Others who will be playing a factor on the outside include Corey Smith, who finished third on the team (out of wide receivers) in receptions with 20 and he has shown the ability to make plays after the catch. Coaches will look for more consistency out of Smith, who will most certainly be in the two-deep portion of the depth chart. Smith could be pushed for playing time by a couple of highly touted youngsters, redshirt freshmen Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin and redshirt sophomore James Clark, who has battled injury since coming to Columbus.
Dontre Wilson came to Columbus in 2013 as one of Urban Meyer's more hyped up recruits, who showed shades of Percy Harvin in high school. Since arriving though, Wilson has been an up-and-down performer who has been under a microscope from Buckeye fans. He seems to always be a shoestring tackle away from breaking a huge run but as of now, it just has not came all together for the DeSoto, Texas product. Wilson will be coming off of a tricky foot injury that caused him to go under the knife twice, but he should be ready for camp, per receivers coach Zach Smith.
With Marshall switching to more of a wide receiver role, rather than the H-back position where he flourished in last season, sophomore running back Curtis Samuel made the switch to H-back during spring practice. Samuel is a little less shifty than Marshall and Wilson but he would bring more power as a runner than the other two. With the lack of depth and experience behind Elliott at running back, one would think that Samuel will get on the field as a H-back and then spell Elliott at running back. I would expect a 50/50 split with a healthy Wilson and Samuel at H-back.
If Wilson's foot injury acts up and he misses time, or if Elliott suffers an injury, Samuel would be back to full-time running back duties. I would expect Marshall to be back at H-back along with the possibility that redshirt freshman Parris Campbell sees time.
Just like at wide receiver, the Buckeye offense will have to replace a multi-year starter at the tight end position in Jeff Heuerman. Luckily for this season, Heuerman battled injury last season which allowed Nick Vannett to get quality repetitions in big games. For the last two seasons there has not been a drop-off between Heuerman and Vannett and Vannett could actually have a statistically better season this year than Heuerman's best statistical season. Vannett can do it all, as he has a big body (6'6, 260 pounds), possesses good hands and is a very good blocker.
When the Buckeye offense is in 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR), the highly touted, yet often troubled Marcus Baugh will see playing time. The California product is immensely talented but has yet to see quality snaps due to his off-the-field troubles and being stuck behind the aforementioned Heuerman and Vannett.
Due to the lack of depth at this position, there may be a positional change from a more athletic defensive lineman or linebacker or even an emergence from the 6'4, 220 pound freshman, A.J. Alexander during spring practice.