Ohio State Football: 5 Starters Who May Lose Their Spot by the End of the Season
Urban Meyer released his post-spring depth chart last month, with little-to-no surprises among the list. Although this is subject to change throughout the remainder of the offseason, it'll likely be the starting lineup heading into Week 1.
That said, there are a few players who could end up losing their spot during the regular season, whether it be due to lack of production or inadequate performance.
Meyer will not hesitate to put his best 11 athletes on the field, so midseason changes to the depth chart are a possibility.
Here are five starters who may lose their role with the team by the end of the year.
Travis Howard, CB
After receiving a two-game suspension for accepting improper benefits to begin the 2011 season, cornerback Travis Howard returned to the starting lineup with high expectations as a high-impact player.
At times he did look like an upgrade to what was a very young, inexperienced secondary, but for the most part, Howard struggled. He was susceptible to numerous mental errors and had a difficult time trying to bring down opponents during initial contact.
Unfortunately for the 6'0", 190-pound senior, Meyer is also a little unsure of his current status on the depth chart. He listed Howard as a co-starter alongside sophomore Doran Grant, who impressed as a freshman and had a good spring.
Don't be surprised if Howard is passed up by Grant at some point in 2012.
Evan Spencer, WR
The only thing that deserves a second glance on Ohio State's post-spring depth chart is sophomore Evan Spencer starting over freshman Michael Thomas.
Not that Spencer hasn't earned the spot—the picture above alone showcases his talent level—but the fact that Thomas exploded for 12 receptions and 131 yards in the Buckeyes' annual spring game makes the decision somewhat puzzling.
To put Thomas' performance into perspective, three Buckeyes were tied for the team lead with 14 receptions for all of 2011.
Following the game, Meyer was quoted saying that Thomas was one of the team's best receivers:
"Right now, him and (Brown) are kind of our top two (receivers)," Meyer said, according to The Lantern. "I’d have to say right now our playmakers on offense—the top five, in order—are Jordan Hall, would be Jake Stoneburner, would be probably Carlos (Hyde), Philly Brown, Michael Thomas and Devin Smith."
That was less than a month before he released the depth chart.
The starting position is Spencer's—who missed the spring game with a shoulder injury—to lose for the moment.
Reid Fragel, RT
Reid Fragel dedicated the offseason to making a huge transition—the transformation from tight end to right tackle. He's put on over 30 pounds while maintaining less than 10 percent body fat, all while still being able to stay extremely agile.
"Reid is doing great. He’s everything you could want from a tackle in our system," said offensive line coach Ed Warinner, according to TheOZone.net.
Fragel is listed as the starting right tackle, but incoming freshman Taylor Decker—who was the sixth member to join Urban Meyer's first recruiting class at Ohio State—has been pushing for the spot.
Decker has continued to impress Meyer, reports Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com. He earned a lot of praise from the two-time national champion coach throughout spring practice and will keep pressuring Fragel for the position.
Corey Linsley, C
Making the transition from being a backup guard to anchoring the offensive line as a center is senior Corey Linsley. He has become a leader overnight and has shown significant improvement from his first three below-average seasons with the Buckeyes.
"I really didn't see myself as accomplishing too much," Linsley told ESPN.com about his career. "I wasn't putting in all the time to be a great player. I was just doing enough to get by, and thought that was good enough. Obviously, last year showed that it wasn't.
"We had a series of 5 a.m. workouts right when Coach Meyer started, and that's when it kind of clicked for me," he continued. "I had to make a decision: Am I going to sit back and relax, or am I going to take the initiative to get better, to become a better player and a better person?"
Linsley took the latter, which has proven to pay off so far. He's listed as the current starter over freshman Jacoby Boren—who was the early favorite—and sophomore Brian Bobek.
Still, his track record isn't clean and the position is still up in the air. Many expect Linsley to keep his role on lockdown throughout the season (switching centers is always difficult on a quarterback), but the possibility of a change is not out of the question. He'll have to continue working harder than ever to maintain his spot.
Corey (Philly) Brown, WR
Probably the least likely to lose his job among Buckeyes starters is Corey (Philly) Brown, who is listed as the "H" receiver on Meyer's post-spring depth chart.
This is the same position former college standout (and current NFL standout) Percy Harvin held during Meyer's tenure at Florida.
Big shoes to fill, right?
Harvin recorded 133 receptions for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns during his collegiate career as a Gator in the same spread-option offense. Brown, who finished 2011 with 14 receptions, 205 yards and a touchdown, had a great series of spring practices and is a "playmaker" in Meyer's eyes.
If Brown can immediately step in and live up to his title, he will have no problem holding down his starting position over junior receiver Chris Fields.
On the other hand, if he struggles to make the big plays that are expected of him, Meyer will not be reluctant to shake things up and throw other guys into mix. Even if Fields doesn't pressure Brown for the spot, others like Verlon Reed and Michael Thomas will.
Follow this reporter on Twitter: @Tyler_Waddell.