A year ago, 2012 was scheduled to be a rebuilding year for the Ohio State offense, but NCAA issues got some of those growing pains out of the way early for a variety of players. Twenty players started at least one game last season, and 14 of them are scheduled back in 2012.
They will have plenty of room for improvement after finishing a dismal 81st in the country in scoring and 107th in total yards.
The Buckeyes had a strong running game, and that should continue to be the case even with the switch to new head coach Urban Meyer's spread-option offense.
Some more attrition is still possible between now and the start of spring practice in April, but here is your first look at what Meyer and his new staff will be working with. More freshmen could enroll early, as well, but we are only listing the ones confirmed so far.
Most notable of the group after being thrown into the fire last season is quarterback Braxton Miller. The offense experienced more than a little turbulence with the hot-shot recruit at the controls, but he managed to emerge as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The sky would seem to be the limit for Miller, who should benefit from the chance to work with Meyer and new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tom Herman.
What goes on below the unquestioned starter on the depth chart should be interesting as well. Will Guiton build on a sophomore season that saw him pass now-departed senior Joe Bauserman on the depth chart? Can he be a viable option if Miller goes down with an injury? Jones is an intriguing prospect as well after enrolling in January following a year at Fork Union Military Academy.
A group with depth and potential star power should be interesting to watch assimilate into Meyer's offense. The former Florida head coach is already on record as looking forward to seeing what he can do with big backs such as Hyde, Smith and Dunn, all of whom possess the speed to be more than simply down-hill battering rams. How they adapt to what's been a shotgun-based attack in the past under Meyer will be key as well.
Hall offers the type of shifty scat-back Meyer is more often associated with using. He ran between the tackles with mixed success last season but could thrive in a more diverse role as a senior. He is not the the type of burner who is going to outrun people around the edge, but he can catch the ball and make people miss.
The previous coaching staff often used these players in similar ways whether they lined up in the backfield or on the line of scrimmage, but the group figures to be even more intermeshed in Meyer's spread. Boren is a devastating blocker and underrated athlete. He might be the best player on the team from a pound-for-pound standpoint, and he figures to find some kind of niche with the new staff one way or another.
Stoneburner is a bona fide threat as a pass catcher who has improved as a blocker, and Heuerman showed flashes of potential as the No. 3 tight end last season. Vannett received good reviews from teammates during his redshirt season, and Homan has been a valuable backup for Boren as well as a corps special teams contributor.
No position group endured a more difficult 2011 season than the wide receivers, who struggled with health and immaturity throughout the campaign.
Brown is a deep threat who can get on top of a cornerback in a hurry, but he battled an ankle problem for much of the season. Fields has been viewed as a potential contributor in the slot, but his main contribution last season came in the form of a handful of penalties for illegal blocks. Williams brings size and athleticism to the position but must prove he can catch the ball consistently. Reed flashed considerable potential after coming on late in spring ball last year then emerging further in preseason camp, but he will spend spring rehabilitating a serious knee injury.
Smith and Spencer also turned heads in preseason camp last year to earn minutes as true freshmen, but the coaching staff will demand more consistency from them before they can take the next step.
Thomas adds another option with size and speed to the mix.
Reid Fragel, sr.; Marcus Hall, jr.; Corey Linsley, jr.; Jack Mewhort, jr.; Andrew Norwell, jr.; Brian Bobek, soph.; Antonio Underwood, soph.; Tommy Brown, redshirt-fr.; Chris Carter, redshirt-fr.; Jacoby Boren, fr.
When the only senior in this group has never played offensive line in college, an interesting few weeks are probably going to be in store.
That would be Fragel, the converted tight end who is hoping to position himself for a future in pro football and bolster the Ohio State offensive line in the process.
How quickly he takes to the position figures to be an important part of how this group comes together because he could provide something that is desperately scarce: the ability to play tackle. Mewhort, Hall and Underwood all saw game time at tackle last season, but all seem better suited to play inside.
Under the old staff, Bobek was considered the heir apparent at center, but it remains to be seen how new offensive line coach Ed Warinner will view what he has in the cupbard. Mewhort and Linsley spent considerable time at center in practice in years past, although Linsley had consistent problems completing the center-quarterback exchange. He should be ready to step into a starting role at guard depending on what happens with the open slot at tackle.
A handful of walk-ons will help fill out this group as well.