Ohio State Football: Extensive Spring Ball Preview for the BuckeyesMarch 29, 2012
The Ohio State Buckeyes suffered through one of the most tumultuous seasons in team history in 2011, as the transgressions of numerous players (including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor) and head coach Jim Tressel caught up with the program. Pryor was kicked off the team, Tressel resigned (and would have been fired if he hadn't resigned), and several players were suspended for anywhere from one to 10 games over the course of the season for accepting illegal benefits.
It was rough, and the 6-7 record reflected it.
Urban Meyer is now there to turn the Buckeye program back around, and he's got loads of talent to help make that happen. Even if OSU were eligible for the postseason, though, it's hardly a lock to take first place in the Leaders Division—or, for that matter, even get to 10 wins. There's some rebuilding to do, and that starts this spring.
Ohio State's spring practice started Wednesday, March 28, and its spring game is on April 21 at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Biggest Question Marks
Think of the tackling machines that Ohio State has had at linebacker, even in just the last 15 years: Andy Katzenmoyer, James Laurinaitis, A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter all dominated for the Scarlet and Gray. Now consider that Storm Klein occupied that coveted role at MLB for the Buckeyes in 2011, and he racked up all of 45 tackles on the season. That's a problem.
Klein is now embroiled in a position battle with Curtis Grant, the crown jewel of OSU's 2011 recruiting class. Grant played sparingly in his first season and has lots of room to improve, but with Klein nursing injury problems this spring, Meyer's going to want to see improvement from Grant immediately.
Additionally, Etienne Sabino underwhelmed at OLB for most of 2011 but seemed to show improvement late in the year. Also, Ryan Shazier looked like a future All-American in limited playing time as a true freshman last year; now, the test is to see how many snaps Shazier can handle.
Ohio State has more than its fair share of wideouts, but none of them really showed up in 2011. Admittedly, a lot of that has to do with the tandem of Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller struggling so much in the passing game (to the point where Ohio State went back to the "cloud of dust"-era running offense, but still, when nobody on the team registers more than 14 catches in an entire season, that's not only on the quarterback(s).
Corey Brown and Devin Smith were the primary receivers last season, but they'll both be pushed by Evan Spencer, T.Y. Williams and other receivers. If there's any position where the depth chart's written in pencil, it's here.
Early 2012 Prediction
Urban Meyer was one of the best coaches in the nation at Utah and Florida, and Ohio State fans are right to have big expectations for their new coach. He's going to use Braxton Miller in a variety of ways, much like he did with Tim Tebow (albeit with far fewer Baby Rhino dives, one would imagine). Miller's passing numbers will improve dramatically, as will the Buckeyes' offensive production as a whole.
Still, that improvement probably doesn't push Ohio State ahead of Wisconsin or Michigan in overall quality, so 10 wins looks like the absolute ceiling for Ohio State. Considering games against Nebraska and Michigan State also loom large on the schedule, it would probably be a miracle if a first-year coaching regime runs the table in the 10 games in which it'll probably be favored.
Call it 8-4 or 9-3 for OSU in 2012, and hey, for Year 1 in the Urban Meyer era, that's not bad at all.