Ohio State Football: Urban Meyer's 4 Biggest Personnel Challenges for 2012
While Ohio State's 2011 season was certainly a painful one to watch, the light at the end of the tunnel is the fact that so many young players got good experience throughout the year. The Buckeyes are returning an immense amount of starters and experienced players, leaving them very set at many positions.
But like all programs, Ohio State has a few positions that lack experience or depth and this is why Urban Meyer gets paid the big bucks. The really, really big bucks.
While the Buckeyes return a great amount of experience to the field in 2012 they must catch up at a few areas in order to really have a successful season.
Depth at the Running Back Position
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Due to the injury of senior running back Jordan Hall, the Buckeyes now have a bit of a dilemma at the running back position. According to sources, Hall's foot injury is "significant" and Meyer and his staff don't expect their returning leading rusher until Week 3.
Behind Hall is very capable rusher in rising junior Carlos Hyde, but after that, it's essentially a big question mark on the depth chart. Sophomore Rod Smith has shown some promise but lacks much game experience and has had a hard time hanging on to the football. After Smith, freshmen Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball have been coming along but you're never quite sure what to expect from a true freshman, especially at the running back position.
Starters and Depth at the Offensive Tackle Position
As of right now, starting left tackle, Jack Mewhort is suspended indefinitely and while I don't expect him to miss any games, he's absent from the depth chart for now. Even with Mewhort, the Buckeyes are pretty shaky at the offensive tackle position but without him they are a complete mess at that spot.
On the right side we're still not even sure who will start the first game, and the options are a former tight end, a former defensive lineman, and a true freshman, so the pickings are pretty slim. If Meyer and company had to set the depth chart today I'd assume Reid Fragel would line up at right tackle while true freshman Taylor Decker blocked the left side. With these two starting, the Buckeyes have absolutely no reliable backups for either side and would be one injury away from fielding a very unprepared offensive tackle.
Reliable Pass Catchers
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You can blame last year's almost nonexistent production from the wideouts on poor schemes, an inexperienced quarterback, or just bad luck but at the end of the day they have to accept some of the blame too. No receiver emerged as a go-to target for Braxton Miller and they must step up in this new offense if the Buckeyes are planning on lighting up the scoreboard in 2012.
If all this wasn't enough, redshirt senior, Jake Stoneburner, was supposed to be a key target at the tight end position this season is also suspended indefinitely. If the Buckeyes are unfortunate enough to partake in any games without him, they may be hard pressed to find a reliable pass catcher on key plays.
Lack of Offensive Playmakers
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Urban Meyer has harped on this setback since his hiring in November and rightfully so. In order for his system to really go, he relies on playmakers to do what they do best which is, obviously enough, make plays.
You see, Meyer's offensive philosophy is simple. Put the ball in the hands of your top playmakers and let them do what they do best. It's a philosophy so simple but yet so effective. The only problem is right now, its hard to identify how many playmakers are truly on this roster. The injury to Hall and the suspension of Stoneburner really set them back in the playmakers department and unless some offensive weapons step up, Meyer may have very few playmakers to facilitate the offense.