Ohio State Football: Biggest Questions Going into the 2012 Season
Whether the Buckeyes are eligible for a bowl game or not, with the insertion of head coach Urban Meyer and his spread offense, Buckeye fans worldwide are optimistic about this upcoming season.
Given his impressive coaching resume and excellent recruiting ability, things become even more enticing when you think of what Urban Meyer's teams might accomplish in the future at Ohio State. But before we rubberneck too far into the future, let's reminisce about this coming season, shall we?
Here are some of the biggest questions for the 2012 Buckeye football team.
Will Jordan Hall Really Be the Primary Running Back?
All spring long, we've heard about how senior running back Jordan Hall would get the majority of touches this coming season at the running back position. However, with the stable of Ohio State's running backs, will this really be the case?
There's no question that Hall's speed and explosiveness will compliment Urban Meyer's offensive scheme very well. But does that mean that he would be the most productive back out there on the field? After all, sophomore Carlos Hyde had more touches and more yards per carry than him a year ago.
It'll be interesting to see how Hall and the other running backs' abilities will be utilized this fall.
Just How Good Could the Defense Get?
Though there were times last season when the Ohio State defense seemed inconsistent at best, they impressively finished 24th in the nation in total yards allowed per game. When you consider the fact that their defense only ranked sixth in the Big Ten conference, however, it doesn't make that number seem all that impressive.
With 10 returning starters on this year's squad, the defense only looks to get better behind stars like senior defensive lineman John Simon. The question is, how good will they get?
Will There Be a 1,000+ Yard Rusher on This Squad?
While we don't know whether or not Jordan Hall will get the majority of carries (as it is rumored), with talented backs like Rod Smith, Carlos Hyde and Bri'onte Dunn also in the lineup, we don't know how often the running backs will split carries either. Therefore, it's highly unlikely that any of the Ohio State running backs will rush for over 1,000 yards in 2012, but yet who knows what will happen?
Well what about Braxton Miller? Could he rush for 1,000-plus yards in an offense that better compliments his skill set as a dual-threat quarterback? After all, the stud signal-caller did lead the team in rushing yards last season, and he set the record for the longest run by a QB (81 yards) in Ohio State history.
Urban Meyer has never had a 1,000-yard rusher in his head coaching career. Could this be the year that that changes?
What Youngsters Could Come in and Make Significant Impact?
Though the Buckeyes only went 6-7 last year, with 19 returning starters on their 2012 squad, they might be the team to beat in the Big Ten this season. Could any freshman come in and have anything to do with that? Let me evaluate.
The Buckeyes will need to replace three starters on the offensive line this season. Which freshman (if any) could battle for a starting spot this fall? It might be highly inconceivable for a freshman to actually start, seeing as how Ohio State has reeled in 11 offensive lineman in the last three recruiting classes. But who knows what could happen.
What about on the defensive side of the ball? With the departure of Nathan Williams, could any of the five defensive lineman from the 2012 class come in and take his place? And is it possible for anyone besides Ryan Shazier to fill the shoes of Andrew Sweat at linebacker?
Lastly, we get back to discussing the running back position. Highly-touted Bri'onte Dunn (who has drawn a lot of comparison to former Ohio State running back Beanie Wells) has reportedly impressed coaches this spring. How will he impact the running game, if he does at all?
How Well Will the Team Adjust to the New Offense?
For a decade now, Ohio State fans have gotten used to seeing what's known as "Tresselball." It was a slow-paced, conservative offensive approach that revolved primarily around the running game. Though Ohio State will always be a run-first football team (as most teams are), with Urban Meyer running things, there will me a more aggressive passing attack.
With all the pieces needed to find success in an Urban Meyer-like spread offense (including a quarterback that scoot), how different will the offensive flow of the game be? Will it be an effective difference? And how will the passing game open up holes for the running backs?
One thing is for sure: No team Urban Meyer has ever been the head coach of has had trouble moving the ball down field.
Is Braxton Miller a Legitimate Heisman Trophy Candidate?
Braxton Miller can flat out fly, and he's capable of exploding for big chunks of rushing yards on every given play. Having great speed, good vision, the ability to break tackles and a knack for knowing when to tuck the ball and run, he is one of the most dangerous QB's in the country with his feet.
Now that Miller will be put in Urban Meyer's spread offense, his talents will better be exploited, and he could really put up some huge numbers on the ground. However, has his passing game developed enough for him to put up Heisman numbers?
Though Miller completed 54.1 percent of his passes in his freshman campaign, before going 18-of-23 (78 percent) in the Gator Bowl, he literally completed just 50 percent of his passes. As demonstrated in the spring game, however, his passing game has improved immensely, and he looks very comfortable in the new offense.
Dating back to his years as the Utah Ute's head coach, Urban Meyer has coached some very successful quarterbacks, and Miller is the kind of guy he likes behind the center.
Does Miller have the skills that it takes to put up extraordinary passing and rushing numbers in the same season? If so, could that happen as early as his sophomore year? And will Ohio State win enough games for him to get Heisman recognition? I can't wait to find out!
Can the Buckeyes Actually Run the Table?
It may seem a bit far-fetched to be talking about the possibility of the Ohio State football team going undefeated just a year after having a losing 6-7 record. However, it may be a realistic feat for them to accomplish.
Though they had an awful 3-5 record in the Big Ten last year, the Bucks kept every game close, not losing by more than a touchdown in conference play. This year, the Big Ten won't be nearly as strong, with teams like Michigan State and Wisconsin losing key components on each side of the ball.
Will the weaker Big Ten in the fall and favorable home-field advantage, it would be surprising to see the Bucks lose more than one or two games. The Michigan game will be the toughest of them all.
So, in closing, regardless of the bowl ban, expectations are high in Columbus. Do you think Ohio State actually has a shot at going undefeated in 2012? If not, what are your predictions for the outcome of the season?
As always, God bless and go Bucks!