Ohio State Football 2013 Team Program
Ranked No. 2 in the country by both the AP and the coaches polls, the Ohio State football team enters the 2013 season as one of the few teams expected to contend for a national title.
The Buckeyes are suiting up for "The Chase" behind the strength of an experienced offense and a young, but talented, defense. Meyer is also expecting big things from his first-year players, as members of Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class have been turning heads in fall camp.
Here's a complete look at the Buckeyes, including depth charts, X-factors and their prediction for the 2013 season.
To the delight of all Buckeyes fans, Meyer's first year in Columbus could not have gone better in 2012, as Ohio State achieved its sixth undefeated season in school history with a 12-0 record.
Quarterback Braxton Miller led the charge offensively, setting a single-season school record with 3,310 yards of total offense. Miller's efforts were rewarded with the Chicago Tribune Silver Football Trophy, which is given to the Big Ten's most valuable player.
John Simon, dubbed the heart and soul of the team by Meyer, piled up 44 tackles and a conference-high nine sacks before an injury sidelined him for Ohio State's season finale against Michigan. Simon was named the Big Ten's defensive player of the year.
The Buckeyes were banned from postseason play due to NCAA violations that the program was found to have committed in the final stages of the Jim Tressel era. Ohio State's season ended after its 26-21 victory over Michigan. The Buckeyes finished as the only unbeaten team in college football after Alabama routed Notre Dame in the national title game.
Here is a look at how Bleacher Report's Elika Sadeghi, Michael Felder and Adam Kramer preview the Buckeyes.
Depth Chart/Returning Starters
Returning Stares: Nine on offense, four on defense.
* Indicates returning starter.
1. JR Braxton Miller 6-2, 215
2. SR Kenny Guiton 6-3, 208
1. SR Jordan Hall 5-8, 197 (Carlos Hyde suspended)
2. SO Bri'onte Dunn 6-0, 22 (Rod Smith suspended)
1. JR Devin Smith 6-1, 198 *
2. SO Mike Thomas 6-2, 199
1. SR Corey Brown 6-0, 187 *
2. JR Evan Spencer 6-2, 206
1. SR Chris Fields 6-0, 200
2. FR Dontre Wilson 5-10, 185
1. JR Jeff Heuerman 6-6, 250 *
2. SO Nick Vannett 6-6, 255
1. SR Jack Mewhort 6-7, 308 *
2. FR Kyle Dodson 6-6, 324
1. SR Andrew Norwell 6-6, 319 *
2. JR Eric Kramer 6-4, 295
1. SR Corey Linsley 6-3, 297 *
2. SO Jacoby Boren 6-2, 287
1. SR Marcus Hall 6-6, 315 *
2. SO Tommy Brown 6-3, 310
1. SO Taylor Decker 6-7, 315
2. SO Chase Farris 6-4, 300
Strong-side Defensive End
1. SO Adolphus Washington 6-3, 292
2. JR Steve Miller 6-3, 252
1. JR Joel Hale 6-4, 309
2. SO Chris Carter 6-4, 341
1. JR Michael Bennett 6-3, 285
2. SO Tommy Schutt 6-2, 303
Weakside Defensive End
1. SO Noah Spence 6-3, 247
2. SO Jamal Marcus 6-2, 230
1. JR Ryan Shazier 6-1, 222 *
2. FR Trey Johnson 6-1, 225
1. JR Curtis Grant 6-3, 241
2. FR Mike Mitchell 6-4, 225
1. SO Josh Perry 6-4, 243
2. FR Craig Fada 6-0, 226
1. SO Armani Reeves 5-10, 197 (Bradley Roby suspended)
2. FR Cam Burrows 6-0, 202
1. SR Christian Bryant 5-10, 192
2. SO Ron Tanner 6-0, 200
1. SR C.J. Barnett 6-1, 203
2. FR Vonn Bell 6-1, 190
1. JR Doran Grant 5-11, 191
2. FR Eli Apple 6-1, 188
Cornerback Adam Griffin: shoulder injury, not likely to play football again.
Safety Jamie Wood: shoulder injury, not likely to play football again.
Linebacker Curtis Grant: concussion, not expected to miss any games.
Safety Jayme Thompson: broken ankle, out for three months.
Tight end Blake Thomas: chronic condition, not likely to play football again.
Players to Watch
With nine returning starters, there aren't a lot of unknown elements to the Ohio State offense.
The two players slated to play the pivot position, a role made famous by Percy Harvin at Florida, should be fun to watch, though.
Jordan Hall returns after the NCAA granted him a medical redshirt following a senior season in which he only played in two-and-a-half games.
Freshman Dontre Wilson has been dominating headlines, though, and many are expecting him to be the breakout player for the Buckeyes.
Both will play the position that gives Meyer's offense the explosiveness it lacked last year.
Ohio State has a pair of sophomore defensive ends in Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington who could be All-Big Ten caliber players, according to Meyer.
The two put on a show during Ohio State's spring game, combing for seven sacks in four shortened quarters.
Both are replacing long-time starters John Simon and Nathan Williams, and Meyer is depending on them to produce a consistent pass-rush this season.
Ohio State is one of 18 teams in the country that return its entire coaching staff this season, according to CoachingSearch.com.
A number of the Buckeyes' assistant coaches were candidates for vacant head-coaching positions, namely co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers.
Meyer was able to keep his staff in Columbus, though, giving the Buckeyes a continuity that should pay dividends this year.
2013 Schedule and Most Important Games
8/31 vs. Buffalo
9/7 vs. San Diego State
9/14 at California
9/21 vs. Florida A&M
9/28 vs. Wisconsin
10/5 at Northwestern
10/19 vs. Iowa
10/26 vs. Penn State
11/2 at Purdue
11/16 at Illinois
11/23 vs. Indiana
11/30 at Michigan
Ohio State's cross-country trip to play Cal is notable, especially when factoring in the Golden Bears' new coaching regime under Sonny Dykes. Cal is coming off a disastrous 3-9 season, but Dykes' up-tempo, pass-heavy offense could give the Buckeyes fits.
That matchup comes a week after what could be Ohio State's toughest non-conference game against San Diego State. The Aztecs return 15 starters after winning nine games last year, making this a dangerous game for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes don'to play two of the stronger teams with Michigan State and Nebraska off the 2013 regular-season schedule, but road games against Northwestern and Michigan should be very tough. The Buckeyes' trip to Ann Arbor is without question the most important game of the year.
Ohio State will also play two games under the lights in Ohio Stadium when it hosts Wisconsin and Penn State.
What to Look for on Offense
Braxton Miller's Improvement as a Passer
Miller worked hard this offseason to improve his mechanics and reports out of Columbus indicate that he has done just that.
For his career, Miller has completed just 56.7 percent of his passes. Most expect that number to spike significantly this year, including a notable teammate, tweeted Ben Axelrod of Rivals.com:
Ohio State running back Jordan Hall on the accuracy of Braxton Miller this spring: “I haven’t seen a pass outside of the numbers."
The Big Plays
It's no secret that Ohio State's offense last season lacked the big-play ability of some of Meyer's former teams. Much of that had to do with the Buckeyes not having a complementary playmaker alongside Braxton Miller.
That's expected to change this year. With impact freshmen like Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, plus the addition of Hall's return from injury, the Buckeyes should produce more big plays.
What to Look for on Defense
A New-Look Front Seven
Ohio State is replacing six starters in its defensive front seven, with linebacker Ryan Shazier the only holdover.
The Buckeyes have a lot of talent up front, but naturally, that talent is unproven. Meyer has recruited very well and with Washington and Spence coming off the edge, Ohio State should reload just fine.
There are times, though, especially in big games, when that kind of inexperience can doom a team with high expectations.
More Aggressive Pass Coverage
The Buckeyes struggled against teams that spread the ball on offense, particularly those that attacked their perimeter with quick, short passes and bubble screens.
Ohio State will face a number of teams that will look to do that early, such as Cal and Northwestern. The Buckeyes will need to be more aggressive in their pass coverage, playing more man-to-man coverage and less zone, to limit that kind of attack.
X-Factors for 2013
The Biggest X-factor for the Buckeyes is middle linebacker Curtis Grant.
A former 5-star prospect, Grant possesses all the physical tools to be an outstanding player. His biggest issue, at least last year, was the mental aspect of the game.
Grant captured the starting middle linebacker spot in the fall of 2012, but lost it after three games of inconsistent play. His vacated position was eventually filled by Zach Boren, a converted senior fullback who hadn't played defense since high school.
According to Austin Ward of ESPN.com, Grant said his biggest problem was complacency:
I got too complacent; that's the only thing I can say. You know, when you run with the [starters], you take it as an honor, but then you get complacent and don't keep working as hard. Taking it for granted, taking the honor and praise, you get too complacent.
Couldn't handle the glory of being a starter, I guess. Should have kept working harder.
Grant has apparently learned his lesson and battled back this spring to beat out promising sophomore Cameron Williams for the starting spot.
With all the change in Ohio State's front seven, the Buckeyes need Grant to perform at a high level.
Top Storylines to Watch
Who Will Provide the Leadership?
With the departure of seniors such as Jake Stoneburner, Etienne Sabino, John Simon and Zach Boren, Urban Meyer is looking for candidates to step up as leaders.
Leadership is crucial for teams with expectations as high as Ohio State's, and Meyer can envision a special season if those leaders emerge (per NBC4i.com):
This year's team has high expectations, riding off the coattails of what those kids did last year, and it's very simple that if we get tremendous leadership from our coaching staff, but most importantly our players, then we'll have a success—I feel strongly about this group having a successful season.
Braxton Miller, Ryan Shazier, Joel Hale and Jack Mewhort are four solid candidates, but Meyer has singled out many others throughout fall camp.
This Time Around, the Stakes Are Higher
With Ohio State now eligible for postseason play, the Buckeyes are not only playing with higher expectations, but also with higher stakes.
How will Ohio State handle that pressure?
Teams like Alabama seem to live for it, winning three of the last four national titles.
Other teams seem to wilt under it, like USC, which was ranked No. 1 in the country this time last year, only to drop six of its 13 games.
The Buckeyes appear to have an easy path to the title game. According to college football guru Phil Steele of PhilSteele.com, Ohio State comes in at No. 67 on his list of toughest schedules.
Will the Buckeyes put together another undefeated regular season?
Season Prediction: 12-1 (8-1)
After finishing last year as college football's only undefeated team, the Buckeyes proved just how hard it is to run the table.
Doing so twice in a row almost never happens, so history would indicate that the Buckeyes will drop a game at some point during the regular season.
It's hard to imagine when, considering that the Buckeyes will be favored to win every game, but teams such as Wisconsin, Northwestern, Penn State and Michigan have the talent to give Ohio State its first loss since January of 2011.
Ohio State will drop one of those four games then win the Big Ten title game over Nebraska to earn a Rose Bowl bid against Stanford.