Buckeyes Addressing Depth Issues

Ohio State certainly had a memorable team in 2012, but the Buckeyes had plenty of flaws as well. One of those was a lack of depth brought on by a variety of issues ranging from injuries to transfers to NCAA scholarship reductions. OSU thinks it has addressed some of those issues with its 2013 class.

When he was hired, Urban Meyer was asked about an Ohio State team that had just finished the 2011 regular season with a 6-6 record, its first .500 record in more than a decade.

Meyer said a lot in response, but one comment stuck out.

"I don't think Ohio State is broke," the two-time national championship coach said.

He then went out and proved it, leading OSU to a 12-0 record in 2012 that gave the Buckeyes the No. 3 ranking in the final Associated Press writers' poll.

But not everything was right. The Buckeyes had "the most flawed undefeated team in the history of college football" offensive coordinator Tom Herman said recently, and one major reason for that was a lack of depth and available bodies at some spots.

Think about some of the problems Ohio State faced throughout the 2012 season. The defense struggled for the first half of the season as injuries mounted, the same problems hit the running back position, and both the kick coverage and punt teams were prone to occasional disasters.

All of them were at least somewhat related to depth issues. That was especially true on special teams, where the younger players that often man many of the positions on punt team and kick coverage were young and injured, leaving the Buckeyes without the cover necessary.

That spilled over to linebacker, where the Buckeyes were so thin senior fullback Zach Boren had to be moved over into an immediate starting spot. Midway through the season, Meyer was exasperated as the team's count of healthy, available bodies dropped near 60.

"You don't want to get caught without players, which we're getting pretty close to getting caught," he said at one point. "There's a lot of holes that need to be filled and enhanced. That's through development, and that's through health too. You start knocking some bodies out of there, and we've got a problem."

The good news is that the cavalry appears to be on the way with the Buckeyes' signing of the 2013 recruiting class. Ohio State solidified a number of position groups by bringing in a 24-member group ranked first in the nation that should help shore up some of the problem areas a season ago.

For example, the team's skill positions didn't run that deep in 2012, and the Buckeyes have added explosiveness in players like four- and five-star players Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, Ezekiel Elliott, Corey Smith and James Clark.

Meyer has targeted that area as one in which OSU has needed to improve since taking over.

"It was pretty good," Meyer said of the roster he inherited. "We went 12-0. I think we were built a little differently. But to say we never had talent, I never said that. We maybe didn't have the home-run hitter explosiveness, open-space players on offense."

The Buckeyes added 14 players on defense, as well. With four starters gone, OSU brought in six defensive linemen, while the linebacker spot was boosted by two players who can play early in five-star player Mike Mitchell of Texas and four-star ‘backer Trey Johnson of Georgia.

"Obviously it starts with numbers," linebackers coach Luke Fickell said. "We were down in numbers at the linebacker position as you know from last year. But we're going to continue to have to find guys that can come in and be ready to play. Both of those guys give us a skill set that I think that has the ability to come in and hopefully help out in some way."

There are still things that need to be worked out, though. Both this year and last, the Buckeyes have been reduced to 82 scholarships as part of the punishment for the NCAA violations committed by former players and head coach Jim Tressel.

Meyer said that the Buckeyes had to rescind some offers this year on the recruiting trail and wasn't sure if OSU made the right decisions while being sensitive to the fact it must be three players below the NCAA maximum.

"That was awful. It was horrible," Meyer said. "You can't take three more players. It's like a toothache. I mean, every time you say, okay, ‘Let's (do this)' – well, we can't. Then you start juggling the numbers. So, yeah, it's significant. Someone says you only have three scholarships less. Wait a minute. That could be three Braxton Millers or John Simons. Three scholarships is a significant amount. It's not easy to deal with."

Meyer was also forced to admit the one place Ohio State didn't quite fill its needs was at offensive line. That's fine for this year, but four starters are set to exhaust their eligibility after the 2013 season.

"The area we had to do better was offensive line," Meyer said. "Offensive line we got two. We're going to have four starters walk out the doors next year this time. We're not prepared for that, so that's area No. 1 and 1A, 1B, 1C."

Ohio State has already addressed that, getting commitments from four-star and Scout 100 lineman Kyle Trout of Lancaster, Ohio, as well as Marcelys Jones of Cleveland Glenville.

All in all, it appears the staff is starting to live up to the mantra Meyer laid down from the very beginning.

"Go recruit some really good players that know how to compete, are tough, go surround them with the best coaches in the country, you usually find a way to win a few games," he said upon being hired. "That's the formula we're going to use here, and we're going to go really, really hard."

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