Ohio State Spring Football: 5 OSU Storylines to Watch
Spring football is officially underway in Columbus as Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes take the field for the first of 15 spring practices Tuesday.
Ohio State returns 13 starters to a team that ran the table last year, and expectations are sky high as the Buckeyes prepare for a title run in 2013.
Unlike the handful of teams that are considered national title contenders entering the season, Ohio State isn't coming off of 15 bowl practices and a clash against an elite team. The Buckeyes' bowl ban last year put Ohio State at a disadvantage in 2013, so Meyer has a unique challenge in front of him to get his team up to speed.
With that in mind, here are five storylines to watch as the Buckeyes go through spring practice.
With a playbook tailor made for his skill set and as one of the best play-callers in college football, Braxton Miller shredded the Big Ten on his way to winning the conference's Offensive Player of the Year award in 2012.
Despite setting an Ohio State single-season record for total offense with 3,310 yards in just 12 games last year, Miller had some work to do this offseason to develop a more rounded, fundamental passing game.
Miller reportedly did so with the help of famed quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. this winter, and Buckeyes fans will get their first look at the new and improved passer this spring.
John Simon, dubbed "the heart and soul" of the Buckeyes by Meyer in 2012, will be greatly missed not only for his production on the field but the example he set off of it.
Meyer raved about Simon's work ethic and leadership last year, comparing him to former Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow. A few members of the team will have to step up and replace not just Simon but four of Ohio State's five captains (Simon, Zach Boren, Garrett Goebel and Etienne Sabino).
Meyer will be looking for leadership this spring, and aside from returning captain Jordan Hall, Jack Mewhort, Corey Brown, Carlos Hyde, Ryan Shazier, Bradley Roby, Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett could fill that role.
Filling Holes on Defense
Along with replacing Simon's leadership, Meyer and the Buckeyes will also need to find seven new starters for a defense that struggled early and surged late in the season last year.
Ohio State loses all four of its starters along the defensive line, two of its three linebackers and long-time starting cornerback Travis Howard.
Fortunately for Meyer, many of the departing starers' backups remain on the team, which should provide some intense positional battles this spring.
A number of underclassmen, including five true freshmen (cornerback Eli Apple, quarterback JT Barrett, cornerback Cam Burrows, defensive end Tyquan Lewis and defensive end Tracy Sprinkle), will get a long, hard look from the coaching staff this spring.
Outside of the five freshman who enrolled early, soon-to-be sophomores Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt will all be competing for starting positions along the defensive line this spring. Sophomores Camren Williams and Joshua Perry also have a good chance of joining Ryan Shazier as starting linebackers.
Meyer has demonstrated that he isn't afraid to play younger guys if the talent is there.
Meyer changed the momentum of the Ohio State football program quickly, taking a 6-7 team and carving them into perfection in a 12-month span.
Will the Buckeyes continue the momentum built during the 2012 season and carry it over in 2013? Can Miller and the offense continue to grow despite the fact that it was the best unit in the Big Ten last year? Will the defense be able to avoid the kind of early-season slump that the team suffered in 2012?
While these questions won't be answered until the fall, Meyer and the Buckeyes can make great strides toward continuing that momentum this spring.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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