“The passing attack clearly is the Buckeyes’ top priority this spring, and there really isn’t a close second.”
Spring practice has begun, and that means football is back - at least, for the time being. Still, football in Columbus always means high expectations, and Urban Meyer is well aware of the task that lies ahead for Ohio State. The Buckeyes open the season against Indiana this fall and there’s plenty to be done before then for Ohio State to be ready. Returning starting quarterback J.T. Barrett means the Buckeyes are sure to be one of the top ranked teams in the country at the start of the season. And despite losing some stellar talent to the NFL draft, Ohio State is in the same position each season.
Some of the things that will be question marks this spring and during the early fall will be about the passing attack, how the Buckeyes can replace their defensive secondary stars, and even about some special teams in terms of kicking and punting. Last season downfield passing was a large part of the offensive struggle, and will need to be much improved in 2017. In the secondary, there will be three fresh faces to start the season as only Damon Webb returns from last season. Malik Hooker, Gareon Conley, and Marshon Lattimore headed to the NFL and are all likely to be taken higher in the first round of the draft. As for the kicking, if Sean Nuernberger can get healthy, he seems to be the obvious choice for placekicking. Losing Cameron Johnston will no doubt hurt though, and it’s up to Meyer to find a suitable replacement.
“The hole in the middle of the unit appears it will be filled by a familiar face. Chris Worley was working as the middle linebacker on the first day of spring drills.”
The spring practice opening for Ohio State means the depth chart has already begun to take shape early on. Bill Landis of Cleveland.com broke down what he saw on defense and who looks to be the starters. On the defensive line it was no surprise that Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis were the starters on the ends, while Dre’Mont Jones and Michael Hill anchor the middle. The biggest change at linebacker was the move to put Chris Worley at middle linebacker (he was outside last season), with Jerome Baker and Dante Booker returning to the lineup after missing much of 2016 due to injury.
The secondary showed the most significant change, for obvious reasons. At the cornerbacks Damon Arnette and Denzel Ward were on the first team with Erick Smith and Damon Webb at the safety spots. Some notable backups on defense included Nick Bosa, stuck behind two great defensive ends. Still expect to see plenty of Bosa during the season as there is usually quite a bit of rotation. Jalyn Holmes is also a backup on the line, while Justin Hilliard is the backup middle linebacker.
“[Biggest strengths on each Big Ten team] Ohio State - The pass rush.”
Continuing the breakdown of what appeared to be the depth chart, the offense looked much the same from previous seasons. J.T. Barrett is the unquestioned starter but the battle for backup quarterback continues. As of now, it appears Joe Burrow has it locked down with Dwayne Haskins and freshman Tate Martell fighting for the spot as well. Mike Weber returns after a 1,000-yard rushing season at running back and according to Wasserman, Demario McCall got some work at running back but also caught some passes and believes McCall is the favorite to replace Curtis Samuel at H-back, which makes sense given his explosiveness which he displayed in mop-up duties last season.
Some familiar faces returned at wide receiver with Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and K.J. Hill getting the most work. From left to right on the offensive line, it went Jamarco Jones, Michael Jordan, Billy Price, Demetrius Knox, and Isaiah Prince. It will be interesting to see if Binjimen Victor can make a push for a starting spot this fall at wide receiver. He showed flashes last season in limited opportunities and has a great skill set and frame for the position.