With the debut of Urban Meyer as the Ohio State Buckeyes head coach quickly approaching, expectations are extremely high amongst Buckeye Nation. Anticipation is growing exponentially each day—and for good reason.
After a tumultuous season in 2011, a solid season is the exact thing this university, program and supporters need. Although the reports from practice sound promising, there are still some things that need to happen if this program is going to return to its usual state.
I love the way Christian Bryant plays football—to a certain extent. His playmaking ability is dynamic and absolutely key to the success of this defense. He can lay a solid hit in the open field, and without his risky play, the Buckeyes defense would suffer.
All this being said, Bryant should tone down his risky play just a bit. Many times throughout the season, Bryant would give up big plays, and the Buckeyes clearly can't afford this.
Bryant must learn when to go for the big play and when to play it safe. It's a tricky balance, but if he can manage to do this and still make a major impact as a playmaker, OSU will be so much better off.
At this point, it doesn't matter who steps up, as long as someone does. The position battle is between Reid Fragel and Taylor Decker for the right tackle position.
Fragel is a former tight end and a much better run-blocker, but he has struggled greatly in the pass-blocking department. Decker is a true freshman, and although he is the superior pass-blocker at this point, he is an average run-blocker compared to Fragel.
The right tackle position is easily the weakest link on the Buckeyes offensive line, and if they want to move the ball on the ground and through the air, one of these offensive linemen is going to have to step up and emerge as the best all-around tackle.
The middle linebacker position is probably the thinnest position on the defensive side of the ball at Ohio State. Luckily for the Buckeyes, one of the highest-touted linebackers in the past five years is ready to go after a freshman season under his belt.
In 2011, Curtis Grant had a very hard time adjusting to the college level mentally and was exclusively used on special teams, despite being the Buckeyes' top recruit in the 2011 class.
According to Luke Fickell, he isn't quite sure if they have three starters at linebacker as of today, but Grant has shown promise and certainly has the talent to be a major playmaker for the silver bullets.
As long as Grant can fully grasp the defense before the opening kickoff, he should be a solid piece to the defense. If the Buckeyes are going to be competitive, he must emerge as a playmaker and leader at MLB because he is the only option.
Since his hiring in November, Urban Meyer has lamented the lack of playmakers on this OSU offense time and again. The receivers last year were unproductive, and that won't fly in Meyer's offense.
If this offense is going to put any points on the board against solid competition, at least two wide receivers must emerge as reliable and dynamic playmakers.
I fully expect Corey "Philly" Brown to have a decent season, but two receivers that could really emerge as go-to guys are Devin Smith and Michael Thomas.
Smith has looked great so far in fall practices, and Thomas left a great impression on everyone with his stellar performance in the spring game.
It is absolutely vital that one of these receivers makes an impact.
Having three players rush for 750-plus yards is a tall order, but it is possible. If this is going to be done, Braxton Miller, Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde are the three most likely players.
Miller will most definitely rush for at least 750 yards, but it may be difficult for both running backs to accomplish this, especially with Hall missing the first few games with a foot injury.
If each runner reaches the 750-yard mark, it means they successfully mastered the zone-read play and the speed option, which is excellent news for Meyer and his staff. It will also mean a lot of victories in 2012.
In 2011, Braxton Miller only managed to complete 54.1 percent of his passes. He was a freshman, but Meyer hasn't has a quarterback complete under 60 percent of his passes since his days at Bowling Green.
If Miller can be more accurate, the running game will be even more potent. It will also keep the offense out of difficult 3rd-and-long situations.
Bradley Roby has emerged as a complete stud and the No. 1 cornerback on this defense. The other side, though, hasn't caught up to Roby's effectiveness, and while I don't expect them to completely match Roby, they must step up their game.
Travis Howard had his moments in 2011, but he was often out of position or poor in run support. Right now, Howard has found himself in a dogfight for playing time with Doran Grant, and while I expect Howard to remain the starter in 2012, nothing is guaranteed at this point.
No matter who is opposite Bradley Roby on the field, they must strive to perform like Roby and dominate their side of the field. With the Buckeyes' brilliant defensive line returning in 2012, the corners just need to hold their own.