With spring practice, the record-setting spring game, and "The Land of the Wolves" in full effect, the depth chart heading in to the summer got a little clearer.
Sure, some summer enrollees may shake things up and there are still some notable battles that will continue throughout summer practice and fall camp, but the depth chart at a few key position groups was mostly clarified.
With so many holes in the lineup due to a potentially record-setting NFL Draft class, the spring was critically important for a number of new starters. Nowhere was that more true than on the offensive line, where it looks like true freshman early enrollee Michael Jordan has found himself on the two deep, with likely starter Demetrius Knox (who is a former blue-chipper himself). At linebacker, Chris Worley appears to have held off Jerome Baker (for now) at WILL, while Dante Booker has slid right in to the SAM slot formerly manned by Joshua Perry. And in the secondary, where only Gareon Conley returns to a starting role, former three-star safety Malik Hooker looks to be the best of the group. Ohio State will need to juggle a few recruited corners at safety to fill in some caps.
On offense, Bri’onte Dunn and Mike Weber are locked in an "OR" fight right now for the top spot (though Weber is thought to be trending up), and the backup quarterback spot belongs to Joe Burrow, at least until Dwayne Haskins arrives on campus this summer.
The two-deep may be taking shape for the summer. But how would the depth chart look if the coaches just immediately put the most talented recruits in to the starting roles? I took a look at the Buckeyes roster by position group, ranking the top players in to a two-deep to see how it compares with the penciled-in two-deep heading in to the summer. I looked at the 247 Composite scores for the recruit rankings below.
|1||Marshon Lattimore, So. (.9729)||Eric Glover-Williams, So. (.9499)|
|2||Gareon Conley, Jr. (.9322)||Denzel Ward, So. (.9021)|
It looks like the second-stringers talent-wise could actually be the starting lineup in the fall. According to various reports, the staff would love for Marshon Lattimore to claim the spot, but injuries have slowed his career down so far. Denzel Ward, reportedly the fastest player on the team, would likely be the top option opposite Conley right now. This grouping will likely look different by fall camp, as some recruiter corners may end up on the safety two-deep.
|1||Damon Webb, So. (.982)||Cam Burrows, Jr. (.9719)|
|2||Erick Smith, Jr. (.9665)||Malik Hooker, So. (.8858)|
The only mostly sure thing right now is that Malik Hooker will be one of the two starting safeties -- but there was a huge gap between him and the other three safeties in the two-deep according to high school recruiting rankings. So is this another diamond in the rough like Tyvis Powell?
|1||Nick Bosa, Fr. (.9965)||Jonathon Cooper, Fr. (.9801)|
|2||Jalyn Holmes, So. (.9622)||Sam Hubbard, So. (.9230)|
Thought to be one of the most talent-rich parts of the team despite losing Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington, incoming freshmen Nick Bosa and Jonathon Cooper bump the projected starters at defensive end. Last year's sack leader Tyquan Lewis didn't make the top four, but his projected counterpart Sam Hubbard, and likely rotational player Jalyn Holmes did. The question for the summer and fall will likely be whether these two five-star recruits can get up to speed to hit the rotation by the beginning of the season.
|1||Jashon Cornell, Fr. (.9530)||Dre'Mont Jones, Fr. (.9350)|
|2||Michael Hill, Jr. (.9240)||Malik Barrow, Fr. (.8890)|
In contrast to defensive end, defensive tackle doesn't quite have the same star power. Jason Cornell moved inside, which gives this group a significant boost, but the two-deep would still be full of players who haven't seen much, if any, playing time. Tracy Sprinkle was a former three-star, while his counterpart Michael Hill is the highest-rated non-freshman in this two-deep.
|1||Raekwon McMillian, Jr. (.9894)||Justin Hilliard, Fr. (.9817)||Dante Booker, Jr. (.9721)|
|2||Jerome Baker, So. (.9646)||Keandre Jones, Fr. (.9540)||Nick Conner, Fr. (.9116)|
If any group has completely changed since Urban Meyer took over (when Zach Boren moved from fullback to linebacker!), it's this group of linebackers. Easily one of the most talent-rich two-deeps on the team, the linebackers are extremely talented and mostly veterans. Two likely starters post-spring appear in this two-deep too, while the likely third starter at WILL, Chris Worley, is in a battle to hold off Jerome Baker. Incoming elite recruit Keandre Jones continues the trend of blue-chippers who will have to wait their turn at linebacker.
|1||Jamarco Jones, Jr. (.9696)||Evan Lisle, Jr. (.9646)||Demetrius Knox, So. (.9518)||Isaiah Prince, So. (.9488)||Matthew Burrell, Fr. (.9484)|
|2||Michael Jordan, Fr. (.9389)||Malcom Pridgeon, Jr. (.9328)||Tyler Gerald, Fr. (.9277)||Billy Price, Jr. (.9155)||Kyle Trout, So. (.9010)|
The offensive line had to be almost entirely rebuilt apart from Price and Elflein -- but Elflein didn't even crack the top-ten most talented offensive line recruits for this two-deep. Obviously this group of ten doesn't specify the position, but it's an extremely talented group nonetheless (Ohio State has over ten players who were four-star or higher on the offensive line!). Notable is that Michael Jordan, a second-stringer here, looks at least neck-and-neck with the much more experienced Demetrius Knox for a guard spot. The two likely starting tackles, Isaiah Prince and Jamarco Jones, were also among the top four most talented linemen in high school.
|1||Mike Weber, Fr. (.9584)|
|2||Bri'onte Dunn, Sr. (.9537)|
It's close in real life and close in the recruiting rankings, but Mike Weber edges out the veteran Bri'onte Dunn here for the starting running back spot. Can either player handle the feature back role? Especially with J.T. Barrett likely challenging for the most rushing yards next season (along with H-Backs stealing carries) the division of touches for the ground game will be interesting to watch.
|1||Marcus Baugh, Jr. (.9597)|
|2||Jake Hausmann, Fr. (.9416)|
Ohio State has also begun to really stockpile tight ends. With two on the roster and two more coming in (not to mention the recent walk-on graduate transfer from Notre Dame), the Buckeyes look to be in good shape. Urban Meyer and Tim Hinton and given Buckeye tight end recruits plenty to NFL Draft success to entice them to commit (Stoneburner, Herman, and Vannett), but can Baugh live up to his recruiting hype?
|1||Dwayne Haskins, Fr. (.9550)|
|2||J.T. Barrett, Jr. (.9348)|
Sorry, J.T., but this two-deep would have you demoted in favor of incoming freshman Dwayne Haskins. Funny enough, Haskins might be one of the most talented quarterbacks Urban has ever recruited.
|1||Demario McCall, Fr. (.9761)||Curtis Samuel, Jr. (.9695)||Dontre Wilson, Sr. (.9685)|
|2||Johnnie Dixon, Jr. (.9639)||Austin Mack, Fr. (.9613)||Torrance Gibson, Fr. (.9584)|
Do you think Urban has had much success selling recruits on "being the next Percy Harvin?" The top three wide receivers are all H-Backs (I lumped them with the other wide receivers), showing that that promise sells more than the actual past production from Buckeye H-Backs. Here's to hoping that Curtis Samuel makes this the year when we really see the Ohio State offense incorporate these speedsters into the system. Otherwise, there's a lot of exciting young talent out there for the Buckeyes to use on the outside -- highlighted by freshman Austin Mack and redshirt freshman Torrance Gibson.