Ohio State Football: 10 Important Storylines to Watch Develop in 2012
With just four days until the beginning of the 2012 season, some of the storylines surrounding the Ohio State program are tantalizing, and some are downright alarming. Buckeye Nation can barely contain their excitement for the Urban Meyer era and the dynamic offense Meyer brings to the table. The defensive line should be dominant, and the Buckeye's secondary brings a lot of experience and talent to the forefront.
This being said, this Buckeye team still has plenty of questions surrounding their wide receiver corps, offensive line and linebackers, and it will be very intriguing to see if these players can step up in 2012.
One thing I can guarantee to all of Buckeye Nation is that you will be hard-pressed to find a dull moment this season. Anything after that should be some entertaining drama.
The Position Battle at Right Tackle
As of right now, Reid Fragel has been announced as the starting right tackle for the Miami (OH) game, but people close to the program fully expect freshman Taylor Decker to see some time this Saturday. The two mammoths have been battling it out for the starting position throughout the offseason and have each shown their share of promise and setbacks.
Fragel is a former tight who has excelled as a run blocker, but has struggled mightily to become an efficient pass blocker. Decker, on the other hand, offers less experience to the table, but is a big guy for his age and fits the exact mold that Meyer wants in an offensive tackle.
This battle is far from over, and it will be extremely interesting to see which lineman will emerge as a solid starter.
Will Curtis Grant Live Up to the Lofty Expectations?
Curtis Grant was one of the most highly touted linebackers in the history of high school football. He was the Buckeyes' top recruit in the 2011 recruiting class, but his debut year in Columbus was a tad bit disappointing.
The current sophomore had trouble picking up the advanced-level defense last season, and his inability to master the defense kept him off the field.
However, Grant has had a full year under his belt to better understand the defense, and he's still an extremely talented player. If this defense is going to succeed at a high level, Grant must emerge as a playmaker and leader at the middle linebacker position.
What Receiver Will Emerge as a Big-Time Playmaker?
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The lack of playmakers at the wideout position has probably been the most glaring weakness of the team all offseason. The production from the wide receiving corps last season was basically non-existent, and that will not fly in Urban Meyer's offense. If this team is going to light up the scoreboard, at least one wideout must emerge as a big-time playmaker in 2012.
Whether it be Philly Brown, the experienced speedster, Devin Smith, the promising young wideout or Michael Thomas, the inexperienced, but solid freshman, someone has to step it up in 2012.
The Offense's Tempo
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Buckeye Nation has become very familiar with a slow-paced, more predictable offense that they have witnessed for quite sometime now, but with the hiring of Urban Meyer, all that has gone out the window. Meyer's offense is futuristic, fast-paced and relentless, and it should be a joy to watch.
One of the key components of Meyer's offense is the quick and unrelenting tempo that it is performed under. There isn't much standing around, and defenses will be hunched over and gasping for the air halfway through the game. Let's just say, watching this efficient offense perform in scarlet and grey will be a breath of fresh air for Buckeye fans everywhere.
Who Will Have a Bigger Year? John Simon or Jonathan Hankins?
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It's no secret that the Buckeyes are stacked on the defensive line. They return a plethora of talented defensive lineman along with a solid freshmen recruiting class of D-linemen that could easily contribute this season, but with all these studs across the defensive front, it's completely understood as to who the two head honchos are on the D-line.
John Simon is an absolute beast in the weight room and is the leader of the defense this year. Jonathan Hankins is a complete mammoth with exceptional speed and athleticism for his monster size.
Both players are primed to have big years in 2012, but it will almost be a race to see who will have the better season. My money's on Hankins, but these two are so talented; it's a toss-up.
Who Will Be the Team's Leading Rusher?
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Meyer's offense thrives on multiple players making an impact on the ground. Now as long as they receive an exceptional amount of production from the running game, I don't think Meyer will care who leads the team in rushing, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out throughout the season.
Clearly, Braxton Miller has the ability to accomplish this, but may not, if he focuses more on the passing game. One may expect Carlos Hyde to lead the team due to his consistency and his stature as the No. 1 back on the team from Week 1.
The dark horse has to be Jordan Hall. Hall is still out with a foot injury, but if he can return in good time, his talents may be suited best for this offense.
What Freshman Will Make the Biggest Impact?
Urban Meyer's first recruiting class was an excellent success despite how late he got started. The 2012 recruiting class the Buckeyes managed to assemble was ranked as the fourth-best in the country, according to Rivals. With studs like Noah Spence and Michael Thomas, someone will make an immediate impact in their first year on campus.
Spence was probably the most highly touted recruit of the class and has already proven he belongs at this level right now. Thomas had a huge spring game and could give the Buckeyes a lift in a major position of need. Other first-year players like Adolphus Washington, Taylor Decker, Najee Murray and Camren Williams could also make a major impact in 2012.
How Well Will Braxton Miller Perform in the New Offense?
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Braxton Miller had an exceptional freshman season despite being stuck in a dysfunctional and predictable offense, and ever since the hiring of Urban Meyer, people have been salivating at the thought of Miller in his offense.
The sophomore quarterback is the prototypical QB for this offense and could do wonders under Urban Meyer. Miller has all the tools to be successful in this system, and it should be a constant treat to watch him perform in this offense.
Maybe Miller hasn't fully grasped the offense or maybe he's already mastered the trade? Either way, it will be intriguing to see how Miller grows in this system.
How Will Meyer's Team Perform in the B1G
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Urban Meyer is no stranger to the Big Ten or a tough conference schedule. The new head coach in Columbus was extremely successful at Florida in the SEC, and Buckeye Nation should be eager to see how Meyer approaches this year's Big Ten schedule.
Meyer understands how important it is to set the tone in this ,and it will be intriguing to see the firepower he brings to key games like at Wisconsin, at Michigan State and at home against Nebraska and Michigan.
With a bowl ban hanging over their heads, their objective should be to set the tone for the future and put the conference on notice.
Will the Buckeyes Avenge Their Loss to Michigan?
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During his time at Florida, Urban Meyer was 17-1 against the Gators' traditional rivals, and he knows how important this rivalry is to the program. Last year was the first time in a while that the Buckeyes fell to their arch-rivals, and it was a painful experience for all.
This game will determine the success of this season, and with no possible way of playing in a bowl game or winning a conference championship, it is their entire season. This game holds major implications in recruiting and also who the head honcho of the Big Ten is.
Oh and did I forget to mention, it's the greatest rivalry in sports. These teams and fans hate each other with a tenacious passion.
Meyer will certainly have some tricks up his sleeve saved for Michigan, and his team will be ready for this rivalry. If he wins this one game, the 2012 season will be a success.