Ohio State Football: 6 Buckeyes with the Most to Gain in Spring Practice
Believe it or not, spring practice isn't just a chance for desperate fans to get their hands on some football action during the long offseason. In fact, the spring practice period is a key time for new starters to step up, vital position battles to take place, and for a team to really begin its journey to the next season.
Sure, you have starters like Braxton Miller, Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby who will be guaranteed their spot on the depth char,t but with the upheaval of a roster due to graduation and the NFL, there will be plenty of chances for new faces to make their presence know in Columbus, Ohio.
Despite finishing 12-0 last season, Ohio State is no exception to this upheaval and there will be some interesting position battles and developments to keep an eye on as the Buckeyes head into spring practice in the coming months.
RB Jordan Hall
Jordan Hall is one of the few proven starters on this list. The redshirt senior unfortunately missed a great deal of the 2012 season with a foot issue and then a knee injury he suffered against Michigan State.
Before his health complications, people raved about things he would be able to do in Meyer's system. He's a very capable receiver for a running back and could not only make an impact in the backfield but out wide as well. His combination of hands, speed and agility make him a great fit for this new spread attack but there only one problem...
We really haven't seen it yet. Like I said before, Hall missed basically the entire 2012 season due to injury, and if he wants to become a staple in this offense he must show up this spring. The sooner Hall can get the hang of things in this new offense the better, and if he heads into spring focused, and more importantly, healthy, he should make a big impact in 2013.
LB Curtis Grant
Ah yes, of course, Curtis Grant. Do you remember this guy? He was one of the highest-rated linebackers to ever come out of high school and has yet to make an impact at Ohio State.
The upcoming junior is mega talented but has struggled to adapt to the more complex system run at Ohio State. Each season writers and fans alike have expected Grant to turn the corner and really be the type of player he was recruited to be but as of now, he hasn't made much progress.
That all must change this spring. Grant is just too talented to not be at least a solid contributor to this defense and even if it takes turning him into a specialty rush end then so be it. That would at least simple up the schemes for him and maybe would free him up to use the combination of speed and size he possesses.
Nonetheless, wherever Grant ends up this spring, the Buckeyes need him to excel. He could be a great part of a defense that will be missing in some key spots due to graduation.
WR Evan Spencer
As the season progressed, it's hard not to be pleased with the progress the offense made in 2012. What started as a one-man show with Braxton Miller basically accounting for the entire offensive production, turned into a semblance of a balanced offense. Carlos Hyde made some impressive strides in the new offense and wideouts Corey "Philly" Brown and Devin Smith became reliable targets for Miller throughout the season.
But what this offense still lacks is a solid third option at receiver and with high school studs like Jalin Marshall and Ezekiel Elliot heading to Ohio State, Evan Spencer doesn't have much time to relax. Spencer has shown glimpses of greatness in the past but the junior needs to piece these glimpses into consistency this spring.
If he doesn't, there's a group of players headed to Ohio State that will gladly take his spot on the depth chart.
With the graduation of John Simon, Nathan Williams and Garrett Goebel, along with the early departure of Jonathan Hankins, the Buckeyes have some pretty big shoes to fill along the defensive line. Luckily for Meyer and his staff, they have some solid depth at the defensive front due to their recent efforts in recruiting.
One of those big-time recruits waiting in the wings to make an impact is Adolphus Washington. The sophomore out of Cincinnati saw limited time during his freshman season but will be relied on much more in his second season in Columbus. Washington possesses the size to line up inside but also the athleticism to play on the strong-edge, just like Jonathan Hankins.
This spring, Washington must adjust from being a rarely used piece to a staple on this team's defensive front. If he can step up and perform the way I expect him to this spring, he will be a major part of the 2013 defense.
Any CB Not Named Roby
Travis Howard and Bradley Roby were one of the best cornerback combos in the nation in 2012. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes are losing Howard to graduation which means only one thing: Someone else on the depth chart must step up.
Doran Grant is the obvious choice to replace Howard. The junior CB competed heavily with Howard for a starting spot last offseason so as long as he can prove himself again this spring, the spot will be his.
However, it won't be given to him. With sophomore Armani Reeves behind him, along with freshmen Cam Burrows and Eli Apple, there's plenty of talent at the CB position. Therefore, if Doran Grant can't show up this spring, somebody will.
Let the games begin.
TE Nick Vannett/Jeff Heuerman
Before the 2012 season, many (including myself) expected Jake Stoneburner to make a big impact in Meyer's offense. This didn't pan out the way I expected but as the season went on, you could see Miller targeting his young tight ends a little bit more.
Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman both have the size and athleticism to make an impact in the spread system but there's one problem, there's two of them.
Sure, Meyer could use both, and I'm sure he will at times, but one of these big targets are going to get the majority of the snaps. This will be determined based on their work in the offseason, starting with spring practice.
Keep an eye on this position battle as we head into the spring. Whoever becomes the more reliable option for Braxton Miller will most likely get the nod, but who that will be is anyone's guess at this point. Until they hit the field, of course.