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New Ohio State captains tasked with building team culture

J.T. Barrett and co. will lead the charge for a team losing a ridiculous number of starters.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

"I'm going to ask this team coming back, 'Why did he do that?' He did it for love of teammates, for love of unit, and for the culture that's here at Ohio State."

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, via Tim May, The Columbus Dispatch

In the aftermath of a solid bowl win, in what was perhaps a masterful jab at Notre Dame's ridiculous #CultureBeatsScheme hashtag, Urban Meyer was quick to praise the team mentality that saw every departing underclassman give his all against Michigan and the Fighting Irish, even though their playoff dreams were dead. For Meyer, next year's lessons start with this one: getting the guys he does have returning -- and there aren't many -- to give their all, in the same way that Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Vonn Bell and co. did even when they could have been focusing on their NFL futures.

Meyer is getting the jump on next year by naming captains much earlier than normal. Earlier this week, he announced that J.T. Barrett would be reprising his role, joined by O-line stalwart Pat Elflein and do-it-all linebacker Raekwon McMillan. It's far too early to tell if Barrett and McMillan might be among next year's crop of guys who leave school with eligibility remaining (though McMillan almost certainly has the pedigree to do it), and for now, they're the ones tasked with molding a young, inexperienced team (only six starters from this year's team are returning) into a winning unit.

"As much as Bosa was a game-changing force...Hubbard is as well-positioned as a player could be to try to replace him."

Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com

Speaking of returning players, the defensive depth chart battle looks mighty interesting heading into the offseason. Despite all the question marks, one of Ohio State's deepest positions for 2016 is clearly at defensive end. Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard both made names for themselves at DE in 2015 -- Lewis as a season-long starter who led the team in sacks (his world-destroying performance against Minnesota didn't hurt), and Hubbard as Joey Bosa's substitute in the Virginia Tech game, as well as in the "Rushmen" package that featured three DEs.

As firmly entrenched as those two might be in the starting lineup, it's scary to think that there's another guy on the roster who could actually challenge for playing time: Nick Bosa, Joey's younger brother. He's currently hobbled by a knee injury, but if he's fully healthy when camp comes around, watch out. It's tantalizing to imagine what 2016's Rushmen package might look like, with Lewis, Hubbard, and Bosa 2.0 all showcasing their ability to make hay in the backfield.

"By the latest count, there are 14 new coordinators in the Big Ten for 2016. That is half the coordinator jobs in the conference."

- Brian BennettESPN.com

As the 2015 season came to an end, the Ohio State Buckeyes found themselves involved in discussion about a few high-profile coaching moves. Gone was defensive co-coordinator Chris Ash, now the head coach at Rutgers. Urban Meyer moved quickly to hire his replacement: Greg Schiano, formerly of Rutgers, who will now work alongside longtime OSU assistant Luke Fickell to continue the tradition of defensive excellence. (The math in the above quote, for what it's worth, works in theory but not in practice -- Meyer essentially uses two coordinators on each side of the ball, meaning there are more like 30 in the Big Ten, not 28.)

Still, it's good to know that the Buckeyes won't be the only ones experiencing growing pains heading into next season. Four Big Ten teams will have new head coaches: Rutgers and Maryland made outside hires, while Illinois and Minnesota promoted interim coaches to the top spots. Wisconsin lost their revered defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda, to LSU. Penn State actually hired a head coach, but as their offensive coordinator, as Joe Moorhead moves over from Fordham to State College. The Big Ten landscape could look awfully different in 2016 -- the sidelines will, at any rate.

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