Spring practice is right around the corner for Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes, and with that, the process for finding 10 new starters for the 2014 season begins.
Three position battles in particular stick out.
The Buckeyes need to replace a trio of pivotal players—a backup and two starters who were a big part of Ohio State's success last season.
Here are the three players who could be in line to fill those roles.
The Buckeyes will be tasked with replacing one of the most productive running backs in Ohio State history with the loss of Carlos Hyde, but second-year standout Ezekiel Elliott could make that process easy.
Elliott impressed as a freshman last year, running for 262 yards on just 30 carries (8.7 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. He was first off the bench when Hyde and Jordan Hall needed breathers late last season, edging out upperclassman Rod Smith. That would suggest Elliott has the inside track to the starting role in 2014.
With an impressive spring, Meyer and the Buckeyes could peg their next great running back.
With Ryan Shazier's departure, Meyer and the Buckeyes will need to find an outside linebacker with enough speed and strength to fill that void. Johnson, who was Shazier's primary backup last year, is next in line.
With Braxton Miller's injury history and the graduation of Kenny Guiton, finding a capable backup quarterback has to be one of Meyer's top priorities this spring.
Freshman JT Barrett would benefit greatly from a strong showing.
The former 4-star signal-caller out of Wichita Falls, Texas, took a redshirt last year as he recovered from a torn ACL. Because he lacks game reps, Barrett will need to capitalize on every opportunity this spring to climb the depth chart.
Three quarterbacks—Barrett, Cardale Jones and Stephen Collier—will be competing for the No. 2 spot behind Miller. Jones, a soon-to-be sophomore, played sparingly in three of Ohio State's biggest blowouts last year, while Collier will be getting his first taste of collegiate action as an early enrollee from the Buckeyes' 2014 recruiting class.
With a strong spring, Barrett could not only seal the backup spot this year, but the starting role for years to come.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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