There are a number of important position battles going on right now in spring practice. But, what would the starting lineup look like if the player with the highest recruiting rating on 247’s Composite just automatically won the job, regardless of their age?
We took a look at the biggest competitions, while including the primary contenders along with any freshmen who might surprise and challenge for a starting spot by fall camp.
Contenders: Joe Burrow (.9003), Dwayne Haskins (.9561), and Tate Martell (.9739)
The biggest position battle of the spring is to replace J.T. Barrett at quarterback. And after 9 practices, it sounds like the Buckeyes are still trying to find a solution. Most assumed that the job was essentially Haskins’ to lose following his impressive extended action against Michigan, but none of the three QBs has been consistent enough from both a performance and leadership perspective. According to Urban Meyer, “You wish someone would take it, but that hasn’t happened.”
But if recruiting rankings determined the battle, Tate Martell, the darkhorse, would be your 2018 starting quarterback. While he’s still the least likely to win the job, it sounds like he’s nevertheless making moves in spring practice: “Tate had a much better day today... He’s got a skill set that’s a little bit JT-ish as far as the quarterback run, he’s just built for that and he actually threw the ball well too.”
There’s even talk of Martell playing a little receiver just to get him on the field sooner.
Contenders: Rashod Berry (.8568), Jake Hausmann (.9439), Luke Farrell (.9233), Jeremy Ruckert (.981)
In a year where few had any expectations for Rashod Berry at tight end after his position change, Berry’s six catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns were a nice surprise. But even though he displayed a high level of athleticism, he’s not assured to take over the starting tight end spot vacated by Marcus Baugh. Jake Hausmann and Luke Farrell have received some praise from Urban Meyer this spring, particularly Farrell (“Luke Farrell graded a champion. He’s had as good a week as he’s ever had.”).
But all three tight ends will have to watch out for Jeremy Ruckert when he gets on campus, as he is by far the highest-rated tight end on the team (and the highest rated going back to before Jake Stoneburner). It’s unlikely he would straight-up win the starting tight end job, as the others have benefited from a college weight training program, but Ruckert offers unmatched receiving capabilities that could give him a rotational spot in the offense, maybe as a flexed tight end/receiver early in his career.
Contenders: Brady Taylor (.8618), Josh Myers (.9757), Matt Burrell (.9509), Matthew Jones (.9652)
The next center has a lot to live up to — the last two starters won the Rimington Trophy as the best center in the country. So Brady Taylor, as Billy Price’s backup, understands the expected level of play at the spot.
Taylor was also the lowest-rated recruit of the four players that rotated at the spot during the Buckeyes’ sixth practice. Josh Myers, the borderline five-star who was recruited as a guard, looks like he’s getting a shot as a redshirt freshman. And even if he doesn’t win the job outright this season, Brady Taylor is a redshirt senior, so the team will be looking for another center next season.
Contenders: Branden Bowen (.8666) and Demetrius Knox (.9547)
Branden Bowen’s injury and Knox’s solid performance while filling in makes this a competition, but Bowen is still rehabbing this spring. Demetrius Knox would get the nod if the competition were based solely on 247 recruiting ratings.
Contenders: Robert Landers (.8719), Haskell Garrett (.9678), Davon Hamilton (.8457), Malik Barrow (.899), Tommy Togiai (.9721), Antwuan Jackson Jr (.929)
Dre’Mont Jones has one starting spot locked up already and the defensive line positions are generally rotational anyway, but there’s a chance that the immense top-end talent on this year’s defensive line leads to a slimmed-down rotation in order to keep all of that talent on the field.
But like a couple of other positions we’ve covered, the youngest player is actually the highest rated. Tommy Togiai, who is enrolled and participating in spring practice, is the highest rated player of a pretty impressive group. Robert Landers was (is?) penciled in as the starter beside Jones, but he’s the second-lowest rated of the group.
Meyer also singled out Davon Hamilton after the 9th practice too: “Davon Hamilton, you see a heartbeat there, and he’s a big, powerful guy, so he’s had a very good spring so far, defensive end.” Not clear if Hamilton has actually switched to end or if Meyer just misspoke, but either way it’s a positive sign.
Also notable: Antwuan Jackson Jr., the junior college transfer, should be in line for immediate playing time when he gets on campus.
Contenders: Tuf Borland (.8933), Baron Browning (.994), Justin Hilliard (.9851)
This is an insanely talented group of contenders. Borland comes back as essentially the returning starter, but is out until September with an Achilles injury. That opened the door (if it wasn’t open already) for Browning and Hilliard, who have both been praised by Meyer this spring: “Baron Browning graded a champion for Friday’s scrimmage, so did -- who else? Hilliard was honorable mention...”
Baron Browning is one of Meyer’s highest rated recruits at Ohio State, period, so he’d get the nod over fellow former five-star Justin Hilliard. It’s hard to see a world where Browning doesn’t start at one of the linebackers spots this fall.
Contenders: Malik Harrison (.8568), Dante Booker (.9743), Pete Werner (.8994), Keandre Jones (.9544)
Replacing Chris Worley and Jerome Baker won’t be easy, but the Buckeyes have stockpiled a lot of talent at linebacker. Dante Booker started last season, but a mix of injuries and maybe losing his spot means that starting in 2018 isn’t guaranteed. But he’d be a sure-fire starter at one of the two open outside linebackers spots this fall, along with Keandre Jones, if it were just based on recruiting.
It sounds like the group is playing at a high level so far, according to Meyer: “Actually moved Malik Harrison to Will for a little bit to try that out, Keandre at Sam. That’s one of our better units as far as getting better...and Pete Werner graded champion. So they’re getting better. Really talented guys.”