Ohio State Football: 5 Most Important Spring Practice Position Battles
It may not look like spring in Ohio, but spring does come early this year as the Ohio State Buckeyes open practice on Tuesday.
For the first time since the 26-21 win over Michigan, the Buckeyes will take the field with the hopes of winning their first national championship since 2002.
Urban Meyer's second spring means there are new questions to answer, including several major position battles.
Some of these positions involve just a couple of players, while others have quite the hill to climb.
Here's a look at the five most important battles this spring.
Corey Brown and Devin Smith led the OSU wideouts last season from the perimeter, but Brown will move to the slot per Brandon Castel of The-Ozone.net.
With Brown moving to the slot and Jake Stoneburner graduating, there is a void opposite of Smith at the edge wideout.
Experienced receivers Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas will be among the favorites for the position through the spring, with JUCO commit Corey Smith jumping into the race in the fall.
Spencer and Thomas have had mixed success, so one of the two will need to have a big spring to help out Devin Smith and Corey Brown in the passing game.
Considering Jim Tressel was the coach not too long ago, it's pretty surprising to see that the punter would become a major concern.
Kicker Drew Basil is likely to assume punting duties in addition to place kicking, but keep an eye out for receiver Frank Epitropoulos, who was a punter at Upper Arlington H.S. outside of Columbus.
Basil or walk-on Kevin Niehoff are among the favorites, but don't sleep on Epitropoulos, who can provide a unique threat if OSU decides to run fake punt packages. Meyer may never run one, but Epitropoulos can at least give them a threat.
The Buckeyes don't have many holes to fill on offense, but their biggest will be at the right tackle position after converted tight end Reid Fragel graduated.
OSU has a pair of young tackles vying for the starting job in sophomore Taylor Decker and redshirt freshman Kyle Dodson.
Decker saw spot time early last season before falling out of the rotation, and Dodson is healthy after rehabbing from the shoulder surgery he had before enrolling last year.
While Decker may be the more balanced tackle, Dodson has plenty of power in his game that should give him just as good a chance to win the job.
Ryan Shazier is the only returning front-seven starter this season. And even though he is one of the most talented linebackers in the country, he needs a lot of help.
The Buckeyes do have a lot of young players with potential already in Columbus, including sophomores Josh Perry, who saw the most time of the 2012 recruits at the position, Camren Williams and David Perkins.
Junior Curtis Grant may get one last crack at it despite losing his starting job three weeks into the 2012 season and looking nearly invisible when he was on the field.
Whoever wins the job in the spring will have to fend off a pair of talented freshmen in Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson, who will both enroll in the summer.
It's rare that a team has to completely replace an entire starting unit. Unfortunately, that's the case this year as the Buckeyes have to replace their entire defensive line from the 2012 season.
Sophomores Noah Spence, Tommy Schutt and Adolphus Washington are expected to have big years and live up to their respective billings. Another player who should be able to step in is junior Michael Bennett, who was outstanding in replacing John Simon against Michigan.
Other players like J.T. Moore, Joel Hale, Steve Miller and Se'Von Pittman are also in contention for jobs, though most are somewhat unknown commodities.
This year's freshman class is very deep at defensive line, including two camp attendees Tyquan Lewis and Tracy Sprinkle. Lewis is more of a pure pass-rushing end, but Sprinkle has the size and motor to move all over the defensive front.
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