The 2012 Ohio State football program is in an unfamiliar situation, and the program will need its seniors now more than ever.
Coach Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes will not be playing for a bowl game this year. There is only a regular season to be played.
It is a challenge to get players to play to their potential when there is a championship to be had, but it is even harder to do so when no championship is to be had.
Urban Meyer cannot lead the Buckeyes by himself and will need his seniors to push the other players harder and longer than in years past.
There are five seniors, especially, that Ohio State will need to lean on in order to not only get through the season, but to excel and prove that there is more to play for than bowl games.
As you can see by the picture, RT Reid Fragel was actually a tight end last year.
He showed more of a skill for blocking, so the 6'8", 310-pound senior was moved to the tackle position.
He needs to quickly become a leader on the offensive line, as he is the only senior on the line.
Unfortunately, he needs to first solidify himself as the starting right tackle. According to Austin Ward of ESPN.com, Fragel is having difficulty right now, and there is still competition for the spot:
"We can’t name a starter right now," Meyer said. "... Right tackle has got to be a little better."
If Fragel can earn the spot, he could be a dominant tackle. He has the length, and his experience as a tight end should mean good footwork. Now, he just has to show that he is ready for the job.
From one former tight end to another former tight end, the Buckeyes will rely on Jake Stoneburner for leadership and offensive production.
He has ideal size at 6'5", 245 pounds with good speed and great hands.
Stoneburner played in seven games last season as a tight end and recorded 193 yards receiving on 14 receptions. He also finished the season with seven touchdowns.
As a tight end, he earned all-Big Ten Conference honors as was voted on by coaches and the media.
He will be a big, reliable target for quarterback Braxton Miller, as long as he is on the field.
Stoneburner just recently was reinstated onto the football team after violating team rules.
The switch to receiver was necessary as Ohio State lacks the depth needed to compete.
Stoneburner will be a go-to target and he will need to produce if the Buckeyes want offensive success early in the season.
The explosiveness for the 2012 Buckeye offense will come from senior running back Jordan Hall.
Hall is currently healing from a foot injury, but when he returns, he will add a new dimension of "wow" to the team.
Hall took a backseat to Dan Herron last season and only rushed for 408 yards.
With Herron graduated, now is the time for Hall to dominate.
Hall may be small, but there is really nothing he cannot do.
Hall runs, catches and is even an explosive return man. The Buckeyes will probably look to get Hall into the open field so he can showcase his return skills on opposing defenses.
This newly-elected team captain will be the home run hitter the team needs to compete in the Big Ten.
Another team captain looking to prove Ohio State still should be feared is Etienne Sabino.
The 6'3", 237-pound senior linebacker will look to lead the defense against a conference that features five teams that scored at least 30 points per game (Northwestern scored 29.5 and is included) in 2011.
Sabino was a great contributor last season, as he had 62 tackles along with two sacks. He also earned MVP honors for his play in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl.
He will provide leadership and tenacity, and he will prove that fear can come from any team, not just from a contender.
Of all the seniors on Ohio State, none will be looked to more than John Simon.
The two-time captain is a mix of the Incredible Hulk and Captain America. He is an absolute terror on the defensive line and made quarterbacks have nightmares with his seven sacks and 53 tackles.
He may only be 6'2", 260 pounds, but the man plays like he is seven or even eight feet tall.
Not only is Simon a disruptive and monstrous freak of nature on the field, he is also a model athlete and leader off the field.
Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com reported that coach Urban Meyer even called Simon "Tebowish." He is selfless and just a solid football player.
Rittenberg also wrote:
"At times this spring, the coaches had to pull Simon off of the practice field so the offense could get some quality work in without No. 54 blowing up every play."
Ohio State will lean on Simon this season, but Buckeye fans should feel confident that Simon can should the load.