A plethora of playmakers another year older.
An offensive line with a season of cohesion under its belt.
A defensive unit in its second year of a cutting-edge scheme.
Another talented recruiting class on campus.
All that was missing when projecting Ohio State's 2015 roster a year ahead of time was a seasoned quarterback capable of directing it all.
Well, Urban Meyer got that on Tuesday—and then some—when two-time Big Ten MVP Braxton Miller announced his intent to return to the Buckeyes as a fifth-year senior next season, after a reported torn labrum will keep him sidelined for OSU's 2014 campaign, per Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel.
Talk about a helluva recruit.
"My goal is to come back from this injury stronger and better than ever,” Miller said in a statement. “I am on course to graduate in December and I want to attend graduate school, and then return to lead the Buckeyes next season."
It's not quite LeBron James' return letter to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but its impact could be similar in Ohio, at least on the field where it's now championship-or-bust for both teams. Should he follow through on his promise, Miller would make the 2015 Buckeyes an instant national championship contender, as he'd be joining arguably the most talented team that he's played with in his college career.
Just what makes next season's Ohio State squad so intriguing? Look no further than a blend of skill and experience on both sides of the ball that hasn't been present in Columbus in nearly a decade.
Plenty Of Playmakers
Assuming nobody transfers or gets injured—quite the assumption, given the nature of this article—Ohio State will at the very least return Dontre Wilson, Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel, Jalin Marshall, Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin, Noah Brown, Marcus Baugh, James Clark and Parris Campbell for either their second or third seasons in the Ohio State system. There also remains a strong chance that the Buckeyes would be bringing back Nick Vannett, Michael Thomas, Corey Smith, Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball for their fourth or fifth years of eligibility, giving Miller no shortage of playmakers.
The last time Ohio State possessed a stable of potential playmakers that deep? You'd have to go back to 2005, when future NFL draft picks Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez, Roy Hall, Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline made up the Buckeyes receiving corps. Quarterback Troy Smith took advantage of those teammates' talents, leading Ohio State to a 10-2 record and a Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame, which preceded a No. 1 preseason ranking in 2006.
As for Miller, he's been short on toys to play with through the first three seasons of his college career. In his freshman campaign, no Buckeye caught more than 14 balls; in 2012, he served as the team's leading rusher; and last season, only two players topped 30 receptions on the year.
That won't be an issue in 2015, as Meyer will have added four full recruiting classes to Ohio State's roster by the start of the season. That's undoubtedly intriguing to Miller, who was already in line to shatter the Buckeyes' offensive record book heading into his senior season.
O-Line In Line
If Miller didn't get hurt in a non-contact drill in fall camp, there remains a decent chance he would have once the season started, as Ohio State will be replacing four multiyear starters on the offensive line from a season ago. And while growing pains up front may be expected this season, that likely won't be the case a year from now, when the Buckeyes could return as many as four starters to this season's starting five.
Of the offensive linemen in the mix to start for Ohio State this season, only right tackle Darryl Baldwin, center Chad Lindsay and guard Joel Hale will see their eligibility expire at 2014's end. That leaves left tackle Taylor Decker—the best of the bunch—guard Pat Elflein, guard/center Billy Price, center Jacoby Boren and tackle Evan Lisle slated to return when Ohio State takes the field in 2015.
Add in current true freshmen Jamarco Jones, Demetrius Knox, Kyle Trout, Marcelys Jones and Brady Taylor and it's not hard to see that Ohio State's offensive line will be in better shape next year than it is right now. The expected cohesion it will add this season will also go a long way toward making that happen, which will only benefit Miller in his senior season.
A season ago, Ohio State's defense cost Miller what would have been his first Big Ten championship and a subsequent appearance in the national championship game, when the Buckeyes surrendered 438 yards and 34 points to Michigan State in the conference title game. Enter co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who has installed a quarters system that places an emphasis on press coverage for the Buckeyes, which has already drawn rave reviews from Meyer.
But will OSU's defense be so improved that it will be national title-worthy in the coming year? Maybe. But probably not.
The 2015 campaign, however, could be a different story, as Ohio State could return as many as eight projected starters from the 2014 season. That list includes talented defensive linemen Noah Spence and Joey Bosa, as well as safety Vonn Bell and linebacker Joshua Perry to go along with talented youngsters Raekwon McMillan, Marshon Lattimore, Erick Smith and Gareon Conley.
A veteran group playing in its second season of a cutting edge scheme would bode well for the Buckeyes—and, in turn, Miller—come 2015.
Mo' Talent, Fewer Problems
Meyer has never had issues on the recruiting trail since coming to Columbus, bringing in three top-5 recruiting classes, including the nation's No. 2 class in 2013 and No. 3 class in 2014. And while a smaller number of scholarships available may prevent Ohio State's 2015 class from reaching that status, Meyer has once again managed to improved an already impressive Buckeyes roster.
Currently ranked 15th in the country, Ohio State's 2015 crop includes a number of players who could play right away in their college careers. Although much of OSU's already committed talent comes on the defensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes remain strong contenders for 5-star wide receiver Christian Kirk, 5-star running back Damien Harris, 4-star offensive tackle Drew Richmond and 5-star quarterback Torrance Gibson, who could play immediately at the college level.
Could the potential of playing alongside Miller help sway any—or all—of these highly touted prospects to come to Columbus? It certainly couldn't hurt. And it would only add to what will undoubtedly be a national championship favorite in 2015.
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information comes courtesy of 247Sports.
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