With Urban Meyer entering his second season with the Ohio State Buckeyes, he will continue to tweak the depth chart until it is absolutely perfect. He wants guys that can thrive in his spread offense, and with only four starters returning on defense, there is a lot of work that needs to be done.
More playmakers are in demand on the offensive side of the ball, and talented bodies need to replace gifted starters on defense. Welcome to spring practice, where it will give everybody a chance to make a push up the depth chart and earn more playing time. Right about now, the only safe starting job would be quarterback Braxton Miller, with just about everybody else fighting for reps with the first team.
Spring practice kicks off on March 5th for the Buckeyes, and here are some of the players that will rise up the depth chart.
Cameron Burrows was one of the five Ohio State Buckeyes to enroll early with hopes of earning playing time his true-freshman season. He is one of the more talented corners in the 2013 recruiting class and will be able to take advantage of an injured Devan Bogard, who tore his ACL late last year.
Burrows is an interesting player because of his size at 6'0", 195 pounds. Once he spends time in the weight room and adds weight to his already solid frame, he could end up becoming a candidate for the safety position. This is somebody who is comfortable in both zone and man coverage, and he reacts to the ball well, making him effective in run support.
Overall, the 4-star recruit is an effective player with a ton of upside and could end up earning a backup role at the STAR position behind Corey Brown.
One of the biggest concerns for the Buckeyes last season was playing behind a revamped offensive line. Things seemed to get better as the year progressed, but having to move a tight end to the tackle position isn't exactly a comfortable way of doing things.
Simply put: Ohio State could use depth up front, and Jacoby Boren will help provide that this year.
Buckeyes fans should be familiar with this guy considering he has two brothers in Justin and Zach Boren who have played for the program in years past. He spent most of last year being the backup center behind Corey Linsley and should see increased playing time with a year under his belt. This is a tough-nosed kid who is quick out of his stance, and he is athletic enough to quickly get to the second level.
Ohio State doesn't have a lot of offensive line depth, and the top recruits from the 2013 class won't arrive until the fall. Boren will make an impact this spring and see more reps with the first team.
With the Buckeyes only returning four starters on the defensive side of the ball, plenty of young players will have a chance to rise up the depth chart. This especially includes a defensive line that will be replaced with completely new faces.
Some of the underclassmen that are being thrown in the mix include Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, but it seems like Se’Von Pittman continues to be the odd man out. Being one of the top 2012 recruits who redshirted last season, Pittman should be ready to go this spring.
He is by far one of the more athletic linemen on the depth chart and his quickness off the ball is unmatched. His ability to make plays in the backfield and his effectiveness against the run makes him one of the more complete defensive players Urban Meyer currently has.
Ohio State is going to rotate many linemen in and out of games this season, and with a remarkable spring performance, Pittman will certainly be one of those guys who sees the field often.
Ohio State has a log jam at the running back position, and it's up to the players to help make the picture a little clearer. With Carlos Hyde, Jordan Hall, Rod Smith and Bri'onte Dunn all fighting for positioning, Urban Meyer has plenty of backs to choose from once the season kicks off.
While all of the above bring different things to the table, the back that I expect to have the best spring performance is Dunn. A freshman last year, he finished the season with 25 carries and 133 yards, much of which came in garbage time for the Buckeyes.
However, this is a big running back at 6'1", 215 pounds, and he could easily emerge as the workhorse runner for this team. He is a north and south runner with terrific vision. Despite his big body frame, he has deceptive speed as well. Dunn wasn't given much time to show it last year, but he also has above-average hands and can be effective in the passing game.
Right now Dunn is more of an afterthought behind Smith and Hyde, but all of that should change once the spring is over with.
Eli Apple is the highest rated recruit that has enrolled early, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up earning a starting spot at cornerback by the time spring and fall practices come to a close.
Apple has the athleticism and fluid hips to be able to hold his own in man coverage right away. He has tremendous size for the position at 6'1", and he adjusts well to the football when it is in the air. The thing that stands out the most with Apple is his instincts and awareness on the field. He reacts well, and while not being a terrific open field tackler, he can hold his own in run support.
Urban Meyer is the type of head coach that is going to play the best available players no matter what class they happen to be. Apple is an immediate impact player and has the potential to quickly develop into a shutdown corner. Expect to hear this kid's name quite often and see him on the field sooner rather than later as a first-year player.