Grading Ohio State's Post-Spring Depth Chart
At Ohio State, most position battles are won or lost in the spring, when the coaches have the time to really evaluate the roster and identify their playmakers.
With spring practice in the books, Urban Meyer's Buckeyes are starting to take shape.
While a number of starting spots remain open as the Buckeyes work to replace 10 starters, the top contenders have been identified. Safety Tyvis Powell emerged as a contributor, and he knows where he stands going into summer conditioning, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer:
The way they treat it here, spring is the opportunity to go earn a position. When summer camp comes around, they pretty much got who they want in. There aren't too many changes made, so what you see right now is kind of what it is going to be.
Of course, there are exceptions. Last year, Joey Bosa and Dontre Wilson arrived in the fall and earned a spot in Ohio State's two-deep rotation as true freshmen.
But the depth chart's foundation is set in the spring. Here's a detailed look at each position group after spring practice.
Starter: Braxton Miller
Backups: Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett
With Braxton Miller back for his senior season, Ohio State is in great position at quarterback.
Miller is one of the Big Ten's most explosive offensive threats—he won the conference's MVP award in 2012 and 2013—and he should have a big year in his third season running Urban Meyer's spread offense.
If his numbers continue to improve and he can stay healthy, Miller will surely be a top Heisman Trophy contender this fall.
If he does go down, the Buckeyes won't have Kenny Guiton as a safety net. Redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett battled for the backup spot this spring, a competition Jones seized midway through camp.
Jones is no Guiton, which prevents Ohio State from having a perfect quarterback situation. Still, with Miller in the fold, the Buckeyes are in tremendous shape.
Starter: To be determined
Contenders: Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith
Backups: Bri'onte Dunn, Curtis Samuel
Carlos Hyde had one of the most productive seasons in school history last year, but the 230-pound bulldozer won't be back at Ohio State.
Hyde is expected to be the first running back taken in this year's draft, and while most teams would struggle to fill that kind of void, Ohio State seems up to the task.
The Buckeyes have stockpiled tremendous depth at running back. Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott, a former 4-star speedster out of St. Louis, is primed to seize the starting role this fall.
Coming out of spring, however, the position remains open. Rod Smith, who battled Elliott for a majority of camp, missed practice time down the stretch as he caught up with his academics. That gave redshirt sophomore Bri'onte Dunn and true freshman Curtis Samuel a chance to gain some reps, and both proved during the spring game that they're capable of contributing.
While none of Ohio State's current running backs will fill Hyde's shoes entirely, there's loads of talent in the backfield.
Starters: Dontre Wilson
Contenders: Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Michael Thomas, Corey Smith, Johnnie Dixon
Backups: James Clark, Jalin Marshall
Thanks to Urban Meyer's efforts on the recruiting trail, Ohio State is loaded at the wide receiver position.
The only problem—much of that talent is unproven.
Following Ohio State's spring game, Meyer said he was having trouble identifying a single starter out of the group. Of course, Dontre Wilson snagged the starting H-back position earlier this spring. Devin Smith and Evan Spencer both started for last year's team, so it's safe to assume they'll do so this season.
Beyond those three, Ohio State's receivers have a collective 22 yards receiving on three catches, all of which came from Michael Thomas in 2012.
Because of the depth, the Buckeyes are in better shape than last year despite losing leading receiver Corey Brown. Because there's so little experience, though, there's room for growth.
Starter: Jeff Heuerman
Backups: Nick Vannett, Marcus Baugh
Jeff Heuerman had a breakout season in 2013, hauling in 26 catches for 466 yards and four touchdowns.
Those are big numbers for a tight end at Ohio State, which has a long history of deficiency at the position. With Heuerman back, the Buckeyes have a viable threat to attack the middle of the defense.
There's also a tremendous amount of depth.
Nick Vannett had a great spring—so good, in fact, that it has Meyer exploring the possibility of two-tight end sets in 2014.
And then there's Marcus Baugh, who had a redemptive spring after numerous off-the-field issues nearly derailed his Buckeye career.
With that depth to complement Heuerman in a starting role, Ohio State is set at tight end.
Starters: Taylor Decker (left tackle), Pat Elflein (right guard)
Contenders: Antonio Underwood, Evan Lisle, Jacoby Boren, Billy Price, Darryl Baldwin, Tommy Brown
Backups: Demetrius Knox, Joel Hale, Jamarco Jones, Kyle Trout, Marcelys Jones
After losing four senior starters from the 2013 squad, Ohio State's offensive line is the most depleted unit on the team.
The Buckeyes have a number of highly talented players, but Pat Elflein secured the only opening this spring, leaving three vacancies going into summer conditioning.
Taylor Decker officially made the switch to left tackle this season, which secures Braxton Miller's blind side. Antonio Underwood, Jacoby Boren and Darryl Baldwin have the best chance to fill out the first-team unit, but they'll be battling an infusion of freshmen talent this fall.
Ed Warinner is one of the best offensive line coaches in the country, and in 2012, he molded what looked like the weakness of the team into one of its greatest strengths.
He'll need to do that again this year.
Starters: Joey Bosa, Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett
Backups: Jamal Marcus, Tommy Schutt, Steve Miller, Chris Carter, Tracy Sprinkle
Without question, Ohio State's strongest unit is its defensive line.
Stocked with 4 and 5-star talent, the Buckeyes defensive front won't just be the best in the Big Ten, but one of the best in the entire country.
Junior Noah Spence and sophomore Joey Bosa will set the edge. Both had phenomenal seasons last year (Spence recorded a team-high eight sacks), but Bosa exploded onto the scene midway through the season.
After playing as a reserve through five games, Bosa got his first start against Northwestern and never looked back. He finished the year with 44 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, six quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He earned first-team freshman All American honors for his efforts.
Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennet make a formidable interior, and the depth that Jamal Marcus, Tommy Schutt and Steve Miller provide give new defensive line coach Larry Johnson a number of elite players.
Starters: Joshua Perry
Contenders: Curtis Grant, Raekwon McMillan, Darron Lee, Chris Worley
Backups: Trey Johnson, Camren Williams
It's hard to believe that a school that recently produced All-American linebackers such as Matt Wilhelm, A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis and Ryan Shazier would have a linebacker problem, but it does.
According to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors, linebacker depth was Meyer's top concern coming into the spring:
The linebacker position is still my biggest concern on our team. The depth is a major concern. When you think of the great linebackers here; arguably the last decade as good a linebackers as anywhere in the country played at Ohio State.
Joshua Perry, a starter in last year's defense, has switched positions to take over Shazier's vacated spot. Curtis Grant is battling with true freshman Raekwon McMillan at middle linebacker, and redshirt freshman Darron Lee came out of nowhere this spring to seize control of Perry's old position.
But the unit still has a long way to go, and Meyer wants the three true freshmen who report in the fall to play immediately.
While depth is on the way, Ohio State isn't where it wants to be at linebacker.
Starters: Doran Grant, Tyvis Powell
Contenders: Vonn Bell, Armani Reeves, Cameron Burrows, Gareon Conley, Eli Apple
Backups: Devan Bogard, Ron Tanner, Jayme Thompson
Ohio State fielded one of the worst secondaries in all of college football last season. The Buckeyes allowed teams to throw for an average of 268 yards per game, which ranked No. 110 in the country.
Three starters from that unit are gone, and when paired with the schematic overhaul that new defensive coordinator Chris Ash installed this spring, Ohio State's secondary is going through a lot of changes.
Vonn Bell was supposed to highlight that new look this spring, but the standout sophomore who starred in his first start against Clemson sprained his MCL during the first practice.
The lone returning starter, Doran Grant, led the way. Armani Reeves is battling with redshirt freshmen Gareon Conley and Eli Apple for the other cornerback spot. Tyvis Powell secured one safety spot this spring while Cameron Burrows started in place of the injured Bell.
According to Bleacher Report's own Michael Felder, the new-look secondary is much improved.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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