The "'09" Ohio State Buckeyes will have a very different look compared to the 2008 team.
Gone are running back Chris 'Beanie' Wells, defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, and wide receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline.
So 2009 will SURELY be a rebuilding year in Columbus...
In the famous words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend!"
With back to back top three recruiting classes, the Buckeyes have loads of talented players ready to 'RELOAD' into their starting lineup!
In case you were living under a rock last year, Terrelle Pryor, the No. 1 H.S. recruit in the nation, committed to Ohio State. After Ohio State lost decisively in Week Three to USC, Pryor was named the starter (replacing Senior captain Todd Boeckman) for the rest of the year.
The 6'6" speedy QB led the Buckeyes to an (8-2) record in his ten games and most importantly, gained priceless experience that will most certainly pay off in 2009.
While the loss of Wells can't be ignored, there's plenty in the cupboards to help ease the pain. Daniel 'Boom' Herron filled in admirably last season when Wells missed time due to injury. Even after Wells came back, Herron had impressed the coaches enough to earn more playing time and will most likely be the starter to open the 2009 season.
Freshmen recruits Jamaal Berry and Carlos Hyde will also look to push for immediate backfield playing time should Herron falter. The 5'11", 190-pound Berry is a five-star speed back and game-breaking threat any time he touches the ball.
Hyde (6'1", 225) is fast for his size, but is more of a power back possessing a stiff-arm comparable to the one Wells made famous in Columbus!
Even if Herron plays great, expect Berry and Hyde to both get their fair share of looks in relief.
In recent years, WR "U", as Ohio State has been called in the past, has still had a talented receiver or two in any given season, but not a whole lot of depth.
That WILL NOT be the case in 2009! So much so that at this point, even attempting to project the starters would be a complete crap shoot.
Ray Small, Dane Sanzenbacher, Taurian Washington, DeVier Posey and Lamaar Thomas headline the list of returning veteran receivers. It has also been rumored that Brandon Saine may be moving to wideout.
WR/TE Jake Stoneburner will join the team in 2009 after red-shirting his freshman year, along with new recruits Duron Carter, James Jackson, Chris Fields, and dual-threat Corey Brown. Brown was a two-way star in H.S. who may potentially play both WR and CB for the Buckeyes.
The much-hyped O-line hasn't been as horrible as some pessimists will tell you, but it has been disappointing nonetheless.
That should be a thing of the past going forward for the next several seasons.
Michael Brewster leads the way after taking over as starting center last year as a freshman.
Sophomores J.B Shugarts and Mike Adams, along with freshmen Marcus Hall, Jack Mewhort, Sam Longo and Corey Linsley are practically a "Who's who" of four and five star linemen that will each look to earn their place in the starting lineup alongside veterans Bryant Browning and Jim Cordle and Michigan defector Justin Boren.
Rather than list position by position, I'll instead offer an overview of the defense as a whole.
As I already mentioned, there are big shoes to fill at safety and linebacker. As I also already mentioned, the cupboard is not bare!
Etienne Sabino played mainly on special teams in 2008 but with the departure of Laurinaitis and Freeman, expect to see him step into that role of stud LB at OSU!
Other possible candidates for that title include Andrew Sweat, Austin Spitler, Dorian Bell, and Storm Klein.
Kurt Coleman, Chimdi Chekwa, Anderson Russell and Jermale Hines are a solid four-some for the Bucks at the safety/cornerback positions. Former WR turned DB Devon Torrence, along with Zach Domicone and the aforementioned Corey Brown should also see the field in 2009.
Along the defensive front, the Buckeyes are loaded as well. I can't attempt to predict all the starters but a few key guys and probable starters include Cameron Heyward, Thaddeus Gibson and Lawrence Wilson.
Others worth mentioning
Garrett Goebel, Willie Mobley, Dexter Larimore, Keith Wells, Solomon Thomas, Robert Rose and Nathan Williams. (We should know more about who will be the twenty-two starters after the Spring game on April 25th.)
Ohio State will undoubtedly be locked and reloaded in 2009 and we won't have to wait long to see just how big their bullets are, as they play host to the USC Trojans in Week 2.
If the talent on paper translates to the field, Ohio State could make their fourth trip to the BCS title game in eight seasons under Tressel and their eighth BCS bowl appearance in the eleven years since the inception of the BCS.
Either way, this season will be exciting to witness and if the Buckeyes can get past USC, don't be surprised if I'm right about them running the table and playing for the BCS title!