Quarterback: Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones
Insight: Braxton Miller’s health is going to be more crucial than ever this season for the Ohio State football team.
Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett each took a lot of first team reps this spring with Miller nursing an injury, and neither looked very impressive. Both men lack the consistency that the Buckeyes had in backup quarterback Kenny Guiton last season. That said, Jones has emerged as the clear favorite to back up Braxton this season, and he will need to put in work to improve before the season kicks off, because with Braxton Miller’s fight-for-every-yard mentality, Jones very well may be called upon in high pressure situations this season.
Running back: Ezekiel Elliot, Rod Smith, Bri’onte Dunn
Insight: Ezekiel Elliot entered spring camp as the favorite to replace Carlos Hyde as the starting running back. He performed extremely well when called upon as a freshman, and contains a good combination of speed and power.
Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn are currently locked up in a battle to back up Elliot. That is a close battle, and Dunn may be the more talented back, but I believe Smith will win the battle because of his experience and hard working mentality.
This will be more of a running back by committee approach than in years past, with Elliot still young and so many good options out of the backfield.
H-Back: Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall
Wide receiver: Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Johnnie Dixon
Wide receiver: Corey Smith, Michael Thomas, Jeff Greene
Insight: Receiver is a position of much interest this year. This is one the most most talented groups of receivers the Buckeyes have ever had at their disposal.
I have switched up the depth chart a little since my position previews to better reflect how Ohio State will spread the field. Dontre Wilson has solidified his starting position in the slot, which has to be very exciting news for any Buckeyes fan. Devin Smith is a sure thing to start at wideout on one side, but another battle continues for the last starting receiver opposite him.
This battle is wide open and consists of a few players, but I believe Corey Smith just has too much talent and athleticism to let it slip away from him. Evan Spencer will be a key guy to keep an eye on, as he is returning from injury. The young guys, Jalin Marshall and Johnnie Dixon, should be exciting to watch progress this year, and look for 6-foot-7 Jeff Greene in the red zone. This is a very exciting group of receivers, and they should help solidify Ohio State as one of the best offenses in the nation.
Tight end: Jeff Heuerman, Nick Vannett
Insight: The excitement continues at tight end. Heuerman proved to be a very good option at tight end last season, and now young and athletic Nick Vannett gets added to the mix. This duo of tight ends combined with the Buckeyes receivers should set up nicely for Braxton Miller to make a run at the Heisman trophy this season.
Left tackle: Taylor Decker, Kyle Dodson
Left guard: Joel Hale, Antonio Underwood
Center: Chad Lindsay, Jacoby Boren
Right guard: Pat Elfein, Tommy Brown
Right tackle: Darryl Baldwin, Evan Lisle
Insight: Taylor Decker is the only returning starter of this unit, but this should not be a weak point for the Buckeyes.
Lindsay is a transfer from Alabama, so you know he can play in the trenches. Elfein and Baldwin also have the size and athleticism to block anybody in the Big Ten.
The big battle on the offensive line is a right guard. Head coach Urban Meyer has taken much interest in this particular position battle. The favorites to win the job are Joel Hale and Antonio Underwood. Many think Underwood will win the job, but I believe there is no way Hale does not start. He voluntarily switched from the defensive line to the offensive line this season because he saw it as an opportunity to help the Buckeyes at a position of real need. That kind of leadership cannot be overlooked. That, and he has also made the transition flawlessly and looks as if he was born to play the position.
It is a young and inexperienced line this year, but it will do its job and keep Braxton healthy.