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Ohio State football will find a new identity with departed players and new coaches

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After a 31-0 loss in the Fiesta Bowl, changes needed to be made.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

“Since [the Fiesta Bowl] Urban Meyer has hired new offensive coordinators who have to figure out how to score touchdowns without the Buckeyes’ best all-around offensive player and top wide receiver from 2016.”

Mitch Stacy, Associated Press

Having to replace talented players is nothing new for Urban Meyer, but he hasn’t faced a makeover quite like this. Last year Ohio State was forced to replace players like Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas, and Braxton Miller on offense, but he had his offensive coaching staff returning. So far this year Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown have announced their intentions to go pro, while assistants Tim Beck and Ed Warinner have left for jobs with other schools. Not only does Ohio State have to replace talented players in the passing game, but they also have to try and reinvent themselves on offense. Meyer made a strong hire by bringing in former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson to be his offensive coordinator.

It isn’t just on the offensive side of the football where Ohio State has plenty of questions to answer. Co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell left to become Cincinnati’s head coach, leaving Greg Schiano with the defensive coordinator duties. Also, for the second straight year the Buckeyes will have to replace a lot of talent in the secondary, with Malik Hooker, Gareon Conley, and Marshon Lattimore all leaving for the NFL Draft. Ohio State has plenty of incoming defensive back talent, but it remains to be seen how long it will take them to be able to fill the vacant spots in the secondary. Even with the losses, the Buckeyes are still going to be a favorite to return to the playoff next year, because they have the majority of their defensive line and linebackers returning to try and do their part to pick up the slack for the inexperienced secondary.

“Like when the ball is in the air, you’ve got to go attack, you’ve got to go get the ball. We need to make some plays downfield, catch the ball. But that’s going to come. We’ve just got to keep working to get better.”

Ohio State wide receiver Binjimen Victor via Tim May, The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State fell short in their run for their second national title in three years, and one of the areas where blame could be placed is with the wide receivers. After having the luxury of receivers like Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, and Jalin Marshall over the last couple years, the Buckeyes didn’t have a wide receiver really make a name for himself this year. Ohio State’s top two receivers from this year, Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown, both recently declared for this year’s NFL Draft, meaning the Buckeye offense will still be searching for a go-to receiver as they head into the 2017 season.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Ohio State in the passing game though, as there are a number of young receivers who have the potential to be playmakers going forward. Even though he had just four catches during the year, true freshman Binjimen Victor showed glimpses of his potential late in the year. Wide receivers K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell each could contribute more with another year under their belt. Now that Kevin Wilson is in the fold as offensive coordinator, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see Ohio State’s receivers dramatically improve next year, and getting those receivers more comfortable is going to be a goal for head coach Urban Meyer as he looks to retool the Buckeye offense.

“We’ve played some games without him so it wasn’t anything. I don’t want to say major because it is major, but just sort of injuries happen and you just literally move forward. It’s what we’ve got and we go with it.”

Ohio State basketball head coach Thad Matta via Patrick Murphy, Bucknuts

After missing the NCAA Tournament last year, many were expecting Ohio State could return to the big dance this year since they had their top-six scorers from last year’s team returning. Things haven’t exactly gone to plan so far this year, with the Buckeyes losing their first three games in conference play. Not that Ohio State hasn’t been competitive, as only two of their six losses this year have come by 10 points or more. With games against Wisconsin and Michigan State on deck, things for Ohio State could get even worse before they get better.

What has hurt Ohio State this year is junior forward Keita Bates-Diop was never really healthy. Bates-Diop suffered a stress fracture in his shin during the summer, and then injured his ankle early in the year against Providence. The injuries forced Bates-Diop to miss five games, and he was never the same in his return before it was announced following the loss to Purdue that he would be lost for the rest of the season. The loss of Bates-Diop puts even more pressure on players like Jae’Sean Tate and Marc Loving, while also shortening a bench that wasn’t that deep to begin with. More could be asked of freshman Andre Wesson, but he might not be ready to contribute since he is only averaging 8.8 minutes per game this year. If something doesn’t change quickly for the Buckeyes, it could be a second straight year having to settle for an NIT bid.

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