Ohio State Football: Final Fall Camp Stock Report

Ben AxelrodBig Ten Lead WriterAugust 21, 2014

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If this were an actual stock report, the market in Columbus would have crashed this week when it was announced that Ohio State star quarterback Braxton Miller will miss the entirety of the 2014 season due to a torn labrum.

Or maybe the Buckeyes would have turned into a value stock, with their national championship odds dropping from 12-1 to 50-1 in the blink of an eye.

Regardless of how you look at it, Ohio State's final week of fall camp has been an eventful one, as a single shoulder injury has turned the Buckeyes' season on its ear. In the span of a day, priorities—and perhaps expectations—in Columbus have changed, as Ohio State finds itself just nine days away from opening the 2014 season in Baltimore against Navy.


Next Man Up

With Miller out until at least the 2015 season—he hopes to return as a fifth-year senior—Urban Meyer now turns to redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who only recently was named the two-time Big Ten MVP's top understudy. The OSU offense will undoubtedly change with Barrett at the helm, as the 6'1", 225-pounder doesn't possess the arm strength or leg speed that made Miller one of college football's most dangerous weapons for the past three seasons.

But while Barrett may not be the one-man highlight show that Miller has been, he's also plenty capable, particularly in the passing game. Look for the Buckeyes to install more of dink-and-dunk approach than they used with Miller, as Barrett will try to distribute the ball to Ohio State's plethora of playmakers.

If you're looking for a comparison for what the Buckeyes offense could resemble in the coming year, look no further than to a year ago, when Miller missed the better part of three nonconference games with a sprained MCL. It was then that backup quarterback Kenny Guiton stole the show, passing for a combined 643 yards and 12 touchdowns in three games.

And while Barrett may now be three years younger than Guiton was at the time of his hot streak, Meyer sees a lot of similarities between the two signal-callers. In fact, Meyer compared Barrett to the now Los Angeles Kiss quarterback, adding a new adjective to the Ohio State dictionary.

With game week approaching, the Buckeyes have only nine days to get Barrett ready for the first start of his college career. And although Meyer didn't rule out playing Cardale Jones in Ohio State's season opener as well, Barrett's teammates appear to be behind him and confident that he'll make the most of his opportunity.


Where To Now?

With the Buckeyes now aware of the task at hand, Ohio State players and coaches alike find themselves facing one overarching question: How do expectations change for the 2014 season?

While the company line may be that they won't—that the Buckeyes' season will still be defined by its championships—they aren't naive to the situation they currently find themselves in. As a player who once compared Miller's importance to Ohio State to LeBron James' importance to the Cleveland Cavaliers, tight end Jeff Heuerman didn't necessarily back down from his comparison, but did state that the Buckeyes now must find their versions of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

"We understand what happened and what we lost," Heuerman said. "But just like the Cavs, just because LeBron is out, you don't put them out, do you? They have a lot of other playmakers and that's kind of the situation we're in. We have a lot of playmakers and we're going to have to rely on them."

As for Meyer, the third-year Buckeyes head coach said that Ohio State responded to the news of Miller's injury with perhaps its best practice since he arrived in Columbus. Asked how expectations should change for the Buckeyes after their star quarterback's season-ending injury, Meyer refused to take the bait, but didn't shy away from expressing optimism.

“You know the answer to that,” Meyer responded to a reporter. “Got practice 21 [Thursday] and I still like our team. After today’s practice, I really, really like our team.”

As for the pundits writing Ohio State out of the national title picture, senior linebacker Curtis Grant had a message as well: Just watch.

“That’s cool on their part,” Grant said. “We can show you better than we can tell you.”


Buckeye Battles

Speaking of Grant, Ohio State's battle at the middle linebacker spot appears to be over, with the senior getting the better of 5-star freshman Raekwon McMillan.

That leaves just the starting spot opposite Doran Grant at cornerback up for grabs on the Buckeyes defense, with Armani Reeves, Gareon Conley, Eli Apple, Marshon Lattimore and Damon Webb all vying for playing time. With co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash's new press coverage scheme in place, all have a chance at experiencing significant action this fall, but one is yet to emerge from the pack as a solidified starter.

On the offensive side of the ball, three spots in particular remain unfilled, with Ohio State still searching for starters at running back, left guard and center.

At running back, sophomore Ezekiel Elliott had a firm grasp on the Buckeyes' starting role through the first two weeks of camp, before wrist surgery knocked him out of action for a week. That opened the door for fifth-year senior Rod Smith, third-year sophomore Bri'onte Dunn and true freshman Curtis Samuel to take reps with Ohio State's first team, giving the Buckeyes backfield more of a committee feel heading into game week.

As for the two vacancies on the offensive line, Ohio State is still waiting for a pair from a plethora of interchangeable parts to emerge and grab hold of its two open starting spots. Chad Lindsay, Jacoby Boren, Billy Price, Joel Hale, Chase Farris and Antonio Underwood are all still in the hunt to start at either center or left guard, where they'll team up with set-in-stone starters Taylor Decker (left tackle), Pat Elflein (right guard) and Darryl Baldwin (right tackle).

With an inexperienced quarterback behind it, the need for the Buckeyes offensive line to be a cohesive unit has only increased in the past week. Meyer and his staff will spend the next nine days attempting to ensure that they have just that before they head to the Charm City, as their battle with the Midshipmen is right around the corner.


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 courtesy of 247Sports.