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Answering Ohio State’s biggest question marks on game day

Last minute nuggets before the Buckeyes and Hoosiers kickoff.

Parris Campbell
Jamie Squire

We’ve made it, friends. We’ve finally made it.

It’s been 244 days since the Ohio States Buckeyes have played a meaningful down of football.

But today’s the day. It’s gameday for the Scarlet and Gray.

With that comes plenty of pros – well, mostly pros – but there is at least one con every fan experiences leading up to kickoff.

Will my team play better this year? Did they really improve in the areas they needed to? Are they as good as I think they are?

And so on.

In the Buckeyes case, there’s more than enough to be concerned about.

Don’t get me wrong. They’re a contender for a reason. But here at this place called The Ohio State University, expectations are astronomically high (as they should be), so we examine the heck out of the team’s flaws.

That’s what I’m doing today with Indiana looming. Only I’m taking a look at what the answers are could be.

Let’s get started.

I like Kevin Wilson. I like him a lot, Ryan Day, too. Will they make a difference?

I cannot confirm or deny. This question only gets answered at the end of the season. What I can say is that based off Kevin Wilson’s incredible track record and how well J.T. Barrett and Co. have taken to their new offense, I’d expect to see an efficient, high-scoring unit in 2017.

Who are our receivers going to be? Are they good?

We’ve got a bunch of talented fresh faces at the position this year. The versatile Austin Mack could have a big season. Johnnie Dixon is healthy and ready to roll, and is followed up by Binjimen Victor and Terry McLaurin. K.J. Hill and Paris Campbell should help out at H-back, too.

Will the deep ball be a thing this year at OSU?

You know, there have been plenty of teams that’ve had to dink and dunk their way to championships. Yes, I’m going to use Tom Brady and the New England Patriots as an example. In any case, I can’t say for certain the deep ball will be a regularity in Columbus, but with guys like Victor, Mack, Campbell and Hill, I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be.

Please tell me our offensive line will be better.

This should be the case. Unlike the Buckeyes receivers and cornerbacks, though, there isn’t exactly a clear answer here. OSU welcomes back four returning starters, ensuring stability. Depth is a major concern, and until the team’s O-line takes the field against Indiana, we won’t know with any certainty how good they’ll be.

Who’s going to be starting at cornerback opposite of Denzel Ward?

For right now, Damon Arnette and junior college transfer Kendall Sheffield are going to rotate, with Arnette probably playing more nickel. Both are skilled corners and should improve as the season rolls along. High-ceiling backups in Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade provide solid depth.

Damon Webb is back again at safety but Malik Hooker is long gone. Who’s replacing him?

This might’ve been the most contested position battle of the offseason. Experienced senior Erick Smith is basically going to take first watch and the rangy Jordan Fuller will rotate in. It’s Fuller that has greater star-potential and could wind up being the starter at season’s end.

Our special teams was particularly hard to watch last season. Will it better this time around?

You always hear about how much Urban Meyer values special teams. Plan on that translating into big things on the field this season. There’s a ton of explosive athletes to choose from at return specialist and K.J Hill is going to get the first crack at punt returner in Bloomington. Parris Campbell or Hill – or a combination of both – will be returning kickoffs. Fan-favorite Demario McCall figures to factor in, too.

We said goodbye to a great punter, but also lost an inconsistent walk-on kicker. What’s the deal?

Well, Cameron Johnston was more than just great. Averaging 46.7 yards per punt is special, and you can bet that OSU will miss Johnston as much as anyone. They’re in good hands with Drue Chrisman, the No. 1 punter prospect in the 2016 recruiting class. The reliable Sean Nuernberger is healthy and back at kicker as a junior.


Final Thoughts

Every fan imagines this season ending with OSU winning the College Football Playoff National Championship.

But is a second gold trophy really in the cards?

While it’s obviously not a certainty, the Buckeyes will have their say in how the college football season ends.

A hungry, efficient senior quarterback in Barrett leads a revamped offense. OSU is one of the strongest in the trenches on both sides of the ball and may be home to the best linebacking corps in the nation. They’ve improved across the board and shored up weaker areas.

There’s a whole lot to love about the Buckeyes this year.

Hopefully it translates into more additions to their trophy case.