Although it may be hard to believe, there is still football to be played in Columbus.
And it might be some of their best football played in recent years.
Returning 20 starters from a year ago, including All-Americans James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins, might be a good place to start.
Couple that with another top recruiting class, and you just may get another crack at a National Championship.
The Buckeyes will rely on veteran leadership and a bolstered schedule to try and repeat as Big 10 Champions. If they are to do so, they will be the first school in conference history to win three consecutive outright conference championships.
Games at Southern Cal, Wisconsin, and Illinois may prove to be major obstacle courses in their repeat hopes.
Still, the Buckeyes will be one of a few teams who could make a viable title run again.
While that may upset pundits around the nation, (including those in Columbus), there is no doubt the Buckeyes have reloaded yet again.
And while people will cringe at the thought, with a top 10 preseason ranking, wins over Southern Cal and Michigan just may put them back in familiar territory.
In this multi-part segment, I’ll take a stab at the depth chart, covering offense, defense and special teams. I’ll also take a look at their upcoming schedule, and offer early previews and predictions for a Buckeyes team hoping the third time’s a charm.
For their sake, and mine, I hope it is.
Todd Boeckman (5th-yr Sr.) – Unlike Troy Smith’s senior year, look for Boeckman to heavily rely on the enormous amount of talent surrounding him on offense. And with a great defense, just avoiding mistakes may be enough for this team.
2nd String: Joe Bauserman(Fr.) – Bauserman may have taken away the backup job from Antonio Henton in the spring game. He showed he has a big-time arm and can make all the throws necessary. Don't be surprised if Bauserman is the bridge between Boeckman and incoming freshman Terelle Pryor.
Wild Card:Antonio Henton/Terelle Pryor – Both QBs are in the same mold – fast, athletic and elusive. But with Pryor not expected to join the team until June, it might be too much to expect him to fully grasp an offense. Look for either QB however, to have packages in place to fit their abilities.
Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells (Jr.) - Wells looks to build on an outstanding sophomore campaign (1,609 rushing yards, 15 TDs). Beanie proved to be a rare bright spot in the BCS title game, and will certainly enter this year as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
2nd String: Brandon Saine (So.) – Saine didn’t play much in the spring game, but primarily for health reasons. Tressel is looking to keep him healthy for the upcoming season. Saine proved he can also be a down-the-field threat catching the ball out of the backfield last season (3 catches for 69 yards in the BCS title game).
3rd String: Maurice Wells (Sr.) – Wells played sporadically in the ’08 season, and with the emergence of Brandon Saine, might not get on the field much again this year.
Wild Card: Daniel Harron (Fr.) – Boom Harron has a similar style to Chris Wells, but also possesses above average hands and balance. With mop-up duty likely this year, Harron is poised for greater things down the road with the Buckeyes.
Brian Robiskie (Sr.) – Robiskie dominated cornerbacks a year ago, and with a repeat performance this year, he could be a sure-fire pick to go in the 1st round in next year’s draft.
Brian Hartline (Jr.) – While fellow wideout Brian Robiskie gained all the national headlines, Hartline caught 52 balls and reached the endzone six times. Both Brian’s have lofty expectations this year.
2nd String: Ray Small, Taurian Washington – Two guys that didn’t have an overwhelming contribution to the offense last year, but may get much more playing time this year. Small, a junior, probably holds the slot receiving job right now, but a few more big plays from Washington may lead to a heated battle in the offseason.
Wild Card: Dane Sanzenbacher (So.) – With stiff competition ahead of him, it’s most likely he’s waiting patiently for his junior year. Although if Small or Washington struggle, look for Sanzenbacher to make the most of such an opportunity. Somewhat reminds me of Brian Hartline.
Stay tuned for my next segment, where I'll cover the offensive and defensive lines.