2012 Buckeye Football: Urban Meyer and Braxton Miller Ready to Go After Spring

jeremy whittContributor IIIMay 8, 2012

2012 Buckeye Football: Urban Meyer and Braxton Miller Ready to Go After Spring

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    Buckeye fans are trying to forget 2011.

    Urban Meyer didn't make it any easier by hiding his team like a new Corvette concept car this spring. Nevertheless, it's time to prognosticate. Fall camp starts in less than three months, and the Miami (Ohio) game is only 116 days away.

    That's a week in "offseason Buckeye time."

    With players switching positions, new kids coming in and letter winners coming back, there's actually quite a bit to talk about. The Buckeyes won't be playing in the postseason, but a new coach and a new offense more than offsets the bowl ban.

    Ohio State won't be Big Ten champions, but they will be the best team in the conference. The Buckeyes return 18 starters and bring in one of the top five recruiting classes in the country.

    It's Miller Time!

    Urban won't tell you how good this team is going to be, so I will.

    What freshman will make an impact? How does the spread affect the players already in place? It's all right here. Sit back and catch up on everything Buckeye football.

The New System

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    Urban Meyer's offense needs no introduction—just get ready for a fast-paced, no-huddle offense.

    Urban inherits not one but two mobile quarterbacks to run his spread. Third-year quarterback Kenny Guiton is a huge asset to this football team. He'll push Braxton Miller just enough and provide Urban with a capable backup.

    Guiton's running abililty has been underrated and underused, but it could resurface if Braxton were to go down.

    Speaking of Braxton, he should explode in this offense. Look for him to have more passing attempts and an increase in rushing yards.The true sophomore quarterback will have greater opportunities with less men in the box.

    Meyer isn't overly concerned with his quarterback's health either, and Miller's ceiling is nearly unfathomable in this system. He became a Heisman candidate the day Ohio State hired Urban Meyer.

    There will also be positional changes.

    I'll touch more on this later, but Urban wants to get faster across the board. We are not going to see 330-pound offensive lineman. In addition, the roles of the FB and TE have changed drastically, and fans are already getting the feeling the days of seniority and, to some degree, predictability have gone by the wayside.

    The playbook shrinks, but the options for each play expand dramatically. 

    Expect a huge increase in production from players who may fit the system better than others. Carlos Hyde is the perfect back for this offense with his ability to break the long run or push the pile on short third downs. 

    Another player that should explode in this offense is tight end Jake Stoneburner.

    Stoneburner had just 14 receptions in 2012, but you can expect that number to double. Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett are fantastic back-ups at tight end that will see ample time in this rotating offense.

    Get ready for more ball and stat distribution.

Positional Changes

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    The biggest position shift of note is TE Reid Fragel's move to right tackle. The depth at TE and the departure of RT J.B. Shugarts and LT Mike Adams initiated the move.

    Reid has already packed on about 22 pounds of muscle. He looks the part at 6'8" and 298 pounds, and he should only get bigger before August. 

    Strength coach Mickey Marotti has already made a huge impact in terms of his players passing the "eye test." Reid doesn't look like your average tackle, and I mean that in a good way.

    Mike Brewster has moved on to the NFL, and Corey Linsley will slide inside to play center. Corey is getting rave reviews from his new coach, and he should follow in the footsteps of many great Ohio State centers. Stay tuned for more information on Linsley.

    Many thought we would see Linsley at guard and Brian Bobek at center. I never thought that would be the case. Linsley was OSU's best (and most improved) OL at the end of the spring.

    Jack Mewhort is yet another guard that could be in transition. Right now, Mewhort is probably the favorite to take over at left tackle, but his position could very well depend on the development of freshman, Taylor Decker and Joey O'Connor.

    There are two players that can play guard or tackle, and they are Andrew Norwell and Jack Mewhort.

    Guard Chris Carter, 6'4" and 340 pounds, has been moved across to the D-line, and he looked fantastic in the spring game.  He frequently caused havoc by busting into the backfield.  Expect Carter to get some time in the D-line rotation. 

    DE Darryl Baldwin practiced most of the spring with the O-line.

    DE's Kenny Hayes and Steve Miller practiced most of the spring with the interior D-line.

Breakout Players

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    It comes as no surprise that the first player mentioned here is freshman WR Michael Thomas from California, after he had 12 catches for 131 yards in the spring game.

    Thomas wasn't even on the national radar going into his senior season of high school, but now, he appears to be one serious late bloomer in terms of WR development.

    Thomas arrived at just the right time. He has already solidified a spot amongst the top five receiving options.

    WR Devin Smith isn't getting the attention of Corey "Philly" Brown or Thomas, but Devin is the best wide receiver on this roster. He's also my No. 1 offensive breakout player for 2012.

    Brionte Dunn will see some time at RB in 2012, but I don't think any running back is going to break out in terms of numbers in this offense. He'll be about third or fourth on the depth chart but could still produce 200-300 yards this season.

    The preseason breakout defensive player of the year is LB Ryan Shazier.

    Some people may not consider him a candidate because he saw significant time last season, but I do. Shazier is straight out of the Florida mold of fast linebackers—think Jelani Jenkins but better.

    He's added 17 pounds, and now, he's up to 226 pounds.  Shazier has amazing speed, and he could lead this team in tackles this season. The sophomore linebacker was raw and undersized last year.

    This year, expect Shazier to burst onto the national radar as one of the best young linebackers in all the land. Were you looking for the next great LB to come out of OSU? Here he is.

    Look for two breakout players on the O-line. Freshman OT Taylor Decker looks the part at 6'8" and 315 pounds, and he'll find plenty of opportunities to impress the staff this fall.

    Another young O-lineman to look out for is guard Joey O'Connor from Colorado. Joey has the strength, the size at 6'4" and 295 pounds and the disposition to start from the first day. Joey O'Connor is my No. 3 breakout player. 

    He wasn't in for spring, but don't be surprised if he cracks the starting lineup at some point this fall.

    The two backups at TE, Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett, can also be considered breakout threats.

    We could see a breakout performance from either of Urban's new 5-star defensive end recruits, Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington.

    Both looked exceptional in All-Star play, and they could take advantage of the questionable status of Senior DE Nathan Williams. Remember, Meyer is looking to get faster off the edge, and these guys bring a bit more speed than OSU currently has on the roster.

    A new system and a great recruiting class could allow for more breakout players than one might expect with 18 returning starters.

Depth Chart Offense

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    Here's some more speculation.

    I'm not going to mention the first five on the depth chart at each position, but I am going to try to mention all the players who have a chance to make an impact on this football team. I'm including 2012 projections.


    1. Braxton Miller—2,350 passing, 22 TDs, 7 INTs, 850 rushing, 6 TDs

    Miller is in no threat of losing his starting spot, but expect Guiton to get a lot of mop-up duty in this explosive offense. Terrell Pryor was flamboyant. Braxton is reserved. 

    Urban will look to bring out more emotion/leadership in his quarterback.

    2. Kenny Guiton—400 passing, 3 TDs, 100 rushing, 2 TDs

    3. It will be a long season if the No. 3 quarterback becomes a factor.

    Running Back

    1a. Jordan Hall—400 rushing, 5 TDs, 300 receiving, 2 TDs

    Hall is another player who has caught the eye of Urban Meyer. We will see more catches out of the backfield this season than we've seen in the last five seasons combined. Jordan will go in motion early and often in 2012.

    1b. Carlos Hyde—650 rushing, 9 TDs, 50 receiving
    Hyde will be the primary ball carrier, and will lead the team in rushing.

    3. Rod Smith—350 rushing, 75 receiving, 2 TDs

    Smith is a fantastic third option with deceptive speed and power. He may be the best pure back OSU has, but he needs to take better care of the football.

    4. Brionte Dunn—250 rushing, 25 receiving

    Dunn is as physically ready as Chris Wells was as a freshman, but he won't be relied upon this season.


    1. Devin Smith—700 receiving, 6 TDs

    Smith is perhaps the only "complete package" in the lot.

    2. Michael Thomas—450 receiving, 4 TDs

    He's shifty, quick and has decent size and great hands.

    3. Corey Brown—450 receiving, 4 TDs

    He's the fastest on the team, but he still needs to work on separation and strength.

    4. Jake Stoneburner—400 receiving, 5 TDs

    Stoneburner is possibly the best TE in the country.

    5. Chris Fields—320 receiving, 3 TDs

    He's undersized, but he has big-play potential.

    6. Evan Spencer—260 receiving, 2 TDs

    He's a serious threat to prove my projections wrong if he gets healthy.

    7.Verlon Reed—180 receiving, 1 TDs

    He's still waiting to see if he can be effective coming off the serious knee injury.

    8. Zach Boren—110 receiving

    9. Tyrone Williams—110 receiving

    He fit better in the old system but could still be a red-zone threat at 6'6".

    10. Jeff Heuerman—HB/TE—110 receiving 1 TD

    11. Nick Vannett—HB/TE—90 receiving

    1. Corey Linsley—6'3", 292 pounds

    2a. Brian Bobek—6'2", 275 pounds

    3a.Jacoby Boren 6'3", 281 pounds

    3b.Ben St.John 6'3", 277 pounds

    1a.Marcus Hall—6'6", 317 pounds

    1b.Andrew Norwell—6'6", 304 pounds

    3.Joey O'Connor—6'4", 304 pounds

    4.Antonio Underwood—6'2", 301 pounds

    5.Ivon Blackmon—6'3", 310 pounds

    6.Tommy Brown—6'4", 310 pounds

    1.Jack Mewhort—6'6", 310 pounds

    2a.Reid Fragel—6'8", 298 pounds

    2b.Andrew Norwell—could shift if necessary

    4.Taylor Decker—6'7", 310 pounds

    5a. Antonio Underwood—can play G or T

    5b. Joey O'Connor—can play G or T

    1. Jake Stoneburner—6'5", 245*

    2. Jeff Heuerman—6'6", 247*

    3a. Nick Vannett—6'6", 248*

    3b. Zach Boren—6'1", 246*

Depth Chart Defense

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    Middle Linebacker

    1a. Etienne Sabino—6'3", 237 pounds

    1b. Storm Klein—6'3", 242 pounds

    Klein could push Sabino for the starting spot.

    3a Joshua Perry—6'4", 231 pounds

    3b. Jamal Marcus—6'2", 237 pounds

    Weakside Linebacker
    1. Ryan Shazier—6'1", 226 pounds

    2. Connor Crowell—6'1", 233 pounds

    3. Luke Roberts—6'1", 226 pounds

    Strong-side Linebacker
    1. Curtis Grant—6'3", 235 pounds

    2. Connor Crowell—6'1", 233 pounds
    Connor looks like the number 1 back-up for both OLB spots.

    3. Stewart Smith—6'3", 230 pounds

    1a.Adam Bellamy—6'4", 292 pounds

    Bellamy can shift inside and play a 4 technique. 

    1b.Michael Bennett—6'3", 277 pounds

    Bennett can too.

    3a.Noah Spence—6'4", 252 pounds

    3b.Steve Miller—6'3", 255 pounds

    I think Miller's position, whether Weak or Strong, could depend on Williams' availability. Steve could also be permanently moved to the inside with the riches at DE, but my guess is that Miller stays outside at least until Urban gets a really good look at Spence and Washington.  As of now, Miller is probably the number 2 weak-side defensive end, not strong. He displays pretty good quickness for his size, but I don't think he's big enough to move inside permanently.

    3c.Sevon Pittman—6'5", 252 pounds

    1. John Simon—6'2", 260 pounds

    2. Adolphus Washington—6'4" 237 pounds

    He will see time.  He might instantly become the biggest rushing threat OSU has on the roster.

    3a. Nathan Williams—6'3", 249 pounds

    His availability is still a big question.

    3b. J.T. Moore—6'3", 250 pounds

    DT/NG's(all together)
    1. Johnathon Hankins—6'4" 317 pounds
    2. Garrett Goebel—6'4" 285 pounds
    3. Joel Hale—6'4" 295 pounds
    4a. Chris Carter—6'4" 358 pounds
    4b. Tommy Schutt—6'3" 310 pounds
    6a. Chase Farris—6'4" 286 pounds
    6b. Kenny Hayes—6'5" 285 pounds
    CB(all together)
    1. Bradley Roby  5'11", 190 pounds
    2. Travis Howard 6'1", 196 pounds
    3. Doran Grant 5'11", 188 pounds
    4a. Corey Brown(Gateway)6'1" 197 pounds
    4b. Adam Griffin 5'8", 180 pounds

    Griffin played his way into a tie for a back-up spot this spring.  OSU does not want to have to go deeper than this at corner this season.

    6. Najee Murray 5'11", 177 pounds
    7. Tyvis Powell 6'3", 196pounds

    S(all together)
    1. C.J. Barnett 6'1", 202 pounds
    2. Christian Bryant 5'10", 190 pounds
    3. Orhian Johnson 6'3", 210 pounds

    4a. Corey Brown 6'1", 197 pounds

    Brown probably serves as the fourth best option at both corner and safety.

    4b. Zach Domicone 6'2", 216 pounds

    Domicone is still knocking on the door for playing time.  He'll also be this year's "Nate Ebner" on special teams.  Zach is a great athlete.

    6b. Ron Tanner 6', 192 pounds
    6c. Jamie Wood 6'1", 207 pounds

    1. George Makridis
    2. Bryce Haynes

    1. Ben Buchanan
    2a. Kevin Niehoff
    2b. Drew Basil

    1. Drew Basil
    2. Ben Buchanan
    1. Jordan Hall
    2a. Corey(philly) Brown
    2b. Chris Fields
    4. Devin Smith

    Same order as KOR


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    The Buckeyes could run the table, but the question will be how Urban can keep a team motivated when they have no shot at the postseason.

    He'll also have to convince players like Zach Boren, whose value has decreased significantly, that they still have a place on this football team.

    The fans have grown tired of the "three yards and a cloud of dust" philosophy. Urban should feed their hunger for more exciting football. Not long ago, OSU kept everything close to their vests. Now, it's time for them to loosen up and let it all hang out.

    Urban has 10 returning starters on defense, and he brings in the two of the best pass-rushing prospects in all the land.  He also kept Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel on the coaching staff.  The fans can expect another top 10 overall defense this season. 

    The teams success will likely hinge on the performance of the inexperienced LBs and OTs. I think the biggest test of the season comes in Week 5 in East Lansing against Michigan State.

    Sparty's D-Line will pose a serious challenge for our inexperienced offensive tackles. This team is capable of handling the rest of the teams on the schedule.

    Preseason Awards

    Most Improved Player on Offense: Corey Linsley

    Most Improved Player on Defense: Ryan Shazier

    Most Valuable Player on Offense: Braxton Miller

    Most Valuable Player on Defense: John Simon

    Best Freshman Offense: Michael Thomas

    Best Freshman Defense: Adolphus Washington

    12th Man Award: Storm Klein

    Speed-Demon Award: Corey "Philly" Brown

    Most Likely To Take Your Head Off Award: Tie—Ryan Shazier, John Simon

    All heights and weights were pulled from roster@ohiostatebuckeyes.com or Rivals.com (adding 3 percent to weight). Other information gathered from being a huge Buckeye fan.