Five To Step Up: Offense

The Ohio State football team's offense is still in the learning phase as it tries to adopt Urban Meyer's spread offensive philosophy. Depending on how quickly things are picked up, the Buckeyes offense could either be apt to scoring points in bunches or a unit that struggles to find its full potential. These five players could be the difference.

Depending on who is asked, the Ohio State football team has a wide range of potential outcomes for the 2012 season. Some may view the Buckeyes still in transitional mode from the NCAA issues they've recently had, while others believe the hiring of Urban Meyer was an instant fix to any problems the program faced.

On the offensive side of the ball specifically, Ohio State has a lot to learn as Meyer and his staff continue to install the new spread offense. Depending on how quickly things are picked up, the Buckeyes offense could either be apt to scoring points in bunches or a unit that struggles to find its full potential.

But it all comes down to the same thing – how well the players perform on Saturdays. Following is a list of five offensive players – all of which are unproven – that could make all the difference between a prolific offense and one that struggles.

• QB Braxton Miller – Starting off with the obvious is the sophomore quarterback. Though universally regarded as one of the best players on the team, Miller's progression from a mistake-prone freshman to a battle-tested leader will be integral in Ohio State's offensive success. Meyer has said countless times that the Buckeyes will go only as far as Miller takes them, making the rate of his growth the most important question the team faces as it heads into the new season.

In his freshman season, Miller showed signs of what many expect to culminate in greatness. His quick explosiveness as a runner makes him a constant threat for defenses even after plays break down, and he did seem to come along as a passer as last season progressed. Many close to the team have noted he's a completely different player in regards to his improvement, but his performance as a sophomore will directly correlate to how the team's offense functions. Remember, the Buckeyes are light on proven playmakers (we'll get to that), so the pressure is on Miller's shoulders that much more to make plays when the team needs them the most.

OT Reid Fragel – The Ohio State offensive line continues to be a work in progress under line coach Ed Warriner, and the right tackle spot is being tightly contested between Fragel and freshman Taylor Decker. Fragel, a senior who spent his first three years at tight end, seems to be just ahead of the freshman to earn the starting spot, but of course has plenty to learn as he tries to anchor the right side of the Buckeyes line.

Given Fragel's experience at tight end, he's already shown to be a better run blocker than the freshman. However, Fragel did show some growing pains this fall while attempting to master pass blocking against some of the most talented Buckeyes defenders. Warriner said the battle, however, is far from over. Meyer, too, has made some comments about being impressed with how far along Decker is for a freshman.

If Decker comes out on top in this battle, than just replace him with Fragel on this list. Either way, the Buckeyes offense is counting on the line to be a consistent entity and that cannot be accomplished without solid play from the right tackle position. The battle between Fragel and Decker will be one to watch as fall progresses, but the onus is on whoever wins the spot to come up big at a position of need.

WR Corey "Philly" Brown – If there is a perceived weakness on Ohio State's team, it is at the lack of playmakers on offense. Especially now with running back Jordan Hall – who was penciled in to play Meyer's hybrid position – out with a foot injury, there is more pressure for wide receivers to step up and become reliable. That's going to be easier said than done, especially because the team's wide receiving corps is far from experienced.

Though fairly youthful himself, Brown is one of the wide receivers that has the most game experience. Last year, Brown had 14 receptions – tied for the team lead – for 205 yards and a touchdown and has been figured to be one of the players Meyer is counting on. He even was thought to be a fill-in for Hall at the hybrid position, though offensive coordinator Tom Herman said that could be somewhat regulated because the staff is reluctance to rush Brown in between the tackles. Known for his speed, Brown says he's become a leader of the wide receivers. Ohio State sorely needs him to lead by example.

WR Devin Smith – Even with only five spots on this list, wide receiver gets another recipient. That's how bad Ohio State needs to find a playmaker at this position. Smith, who led the team with receptions (14) and yardage (294) a year ago, showed that big play ability as a freshman, most notably when hauling in a 40-yard touchdown catch against Wisconsin in the final minute of the game to help OSU seal the victory at home.

That big play ability is reflected in Smith's stats, as four of his 14 receptions went for touchdowns. Having already built a chemistry with Miller, that could easily translate into his sophomore season. But despite making some big plays for the Buckeyes a year ago, Smith didn't play as much as you'd think. Miller alluded to the fact that Smith suffered from some laziness as a freshman, but that has since been corrected. Meyer already pointed to Smith as someone who has stood out this fall, so maybe he could be a player the Buckeyes end up relying on. The opportunity is certainly there for Smith.

RB Carlos Hyde – With Hall shelved while recovering from foot surgery, this fall has been a big opportunity for Hyde to cement his spot as a regular contributor on this year's offense. And thus far in camp, Hyde has seemed to be running with a new authority that may have been lacking in the past. With his size and speed, Hyde could be the ideal option for Meyer, who promises the spread offense will rely as much on the run as the pro-style offensive philosophy the Buckeyes used in the past.

Hyde has been here before. Last year with Boom Herron suspended, Hyde felt his time to shine was a year ago. However, when Herron returned, Hyde saw his role diminish considerably. Now the running back is out to prove that even when Hall returns that he is a viable option to keep on the field. It won't be easy for Hyde, however, especially with the way freshman running back Bri'onte Dunn has been practicing early in his career. If Hyde does do the things needed to prove he's reliable, that would be a huge boost to this Buckeyes offense.

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