4 Things We've Learned About Ohio State Through Fall Camp so Far
Week 1 of fall camp is officially in the books for Urban Meyer and Ohio State, and a number of big storylines have already emerged as the Buckeyes prepare for another national title run in 2014.
Two of Ohio State's most important and explosive offensive weapons are nursing injuries. The Buckeyes' rebuilding process along the offensive line is hitting a crucial point. And to Meyer's satisfaction, a host of true freshmen are already making their presence felt.
Here are four things we learned about the Buckeyes last week.
Braxton Miller Isn't Really 100 Percent Healthy
At Big Ten media days two weeks ago, Urban Meyer said that Braxton Miller was 100 percent healthy and in the best shape of his life following offseason shoulder surgery last February.
After one week of fall camp, it's clear Miller hasn't fully recovered.
Miller went through drills with the team on Monday, but he was limited the rest of the week due to soreness in his shoulder. Backup quarterbacks Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett saw a lot of the action with Miller sidelined.
Meyer has made it no secret that the Buckeyes plan to ease their star signal-caller back into the swing of things. But if Miller's shoulder soreness lingers into next week, it will develop into a real issue.
"It's still early," Meyer said, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer. "If this were next Saturday and he didn't go, then it's going to hinder our progress."
Ohio State kicks off the season with a pair of tough nonconference games against Navy and Virginia Tech. If Miller isn't fully healthy by Week 1, the Buckeyes could have a rocky start in 2014.
Ezekiel Elliott's Injury Will Test Ohio State's Running Back Depth
In other injury news, Ohio State's bad luck continued when running back Ezekiel Elliott fractured his wrist during Friday's practice, per Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer.
Although the rising sophomore had surgery on Saturday, Urban Meyer expects Elliott back in practice by Thursday. The coaching staff will limit his contact, but he should be fully recovered by Ohio State's season-opener against Navy.
The injury will test Ohio State's deep stable of running backs. Players such as Rod Smith, Curtis Samuel, Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball will have the opportunity to secure some serious playing time if they shine while Elliott's on the mend.
After playing sparingly this spring, Smith has surged during the first week of fall camp. The Buckeyes' No. 2 running back spot belonged to Samuel going into the week, but the senior has really impressed.
Urban Meyer on the RB pecking order: Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, Curtis Samuel, Bri'onte Dunn.— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) August 10, 2014
While Ohio State is fortunate to have such great depth, Meyer will want to get Elliott back to full speed as quickly as possible.
Rebuilding the Offensive Line Hinges on One Position
Urban Meyer is tasked with rebuilding the offensive line after losing four senior starters to graduation last year.
The Buckeyes moved last year's right tackle—Taylor Decker—over to left tackle to replace Jack Mewhort. Pat Elflein won the right guard spot in the spring, leaving three vacancies to sort out this fall.
While the center and right tackle positions are important, Meyer is most concerned about the hole to fill at left guard.
"If I had to say, 'Where's all the focus?' To me, it's that left guard," Meyer said, according to John Porentas of The Ozone. "What are we going to do with that left guard?"
That position is so pivotal because the Buckeyes pull their guards on a lot of their base running plays to create a numbers advantage at the point of attack. Meyer needs a strong, yet agile big man at left guard to fill that role.
According to Buckeye Grove's Kevin Noon, Meyer has a number of capable candidates.
"Right now the battle for the left guard spot is Tony Underwood, Joel Hale and Billy Price now. (Billy) at times looks fantastic, so I think we are a little more stabilized at that position."
Sorting out the left guard situation will be one of Meyer's top priorities in the coming weeks.
The Freshmen Are Ready to Make an Impact
Ohio State brought in the nation's No. 3 recruiting class this year, and if the first week of fall camp is any indication, the Buckeyes' first-year players are primed to make a big impact on the field in 2014.
"They’re just guys that—over 3.0 students, take care of business," Meyer said of McMillan and Dixon, according to Eric Seger of The Ozone. "They act like pros, they act like grown men. So we let them practice with the grown men today.”
The Buckeyes are also getting big things out of running back Curtis Samuel, who joined McMillan, Dixon and four others as Ohio State's early enrollees this winter.
According to Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod, Urban Meyer also singled out Dante Booker, Kyle Berger, Sam Hubbard, Noah Brown, Parris Campbell, Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith.
The Buckeyes are replacing 10 starters and a number of key reserves, so these first-year players will have a shot to play if they continue to step up.
All recruiting information via 247Sports.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.