Forecasting Ohio State's Depth Chart: Offense

The football season keeps getting closer and closer, so we at BuckeyeSports.com figured it was time to start talking more about the pigskin. And nothing says football more than a depth chart, so we're taking a stab at what we think it will look like for game one against Navy.

Don’t look now, but football is just around the corner. The Big Ten Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon are Monday and Tuesday, and OSU’s camp will begin next Sunday.

That’s right, the pads will be popping soon enough.

With that in mind, we figured this was as good a time as any to predict Ohio State’s depth chart for the opening game vs. Navy in Baltimore on Aug. 30. This could very well change by the time the Buckeyes are in the Charm City, but this is just our best guess as of this very moment.

Taking part are BSB editor Jeff Svoboda and staff writer Ryan Ginn, so let’s get to it.

Jeff
Quarterback: Braxton Miller
We put the easiest one first, clearly. Barring injury or alien abduction, there’s no way Miller isn’t taking the first snap of the season for the Buckeyes under center – or, I should say, in the shotgun in Urban Meyer and Tom Herman’s spread offense. The two-time defending Big Ten MVP, Miller is the key to the Buckeyes’ national championship hopes considering the graduation of Carlos Hyde, the losses at offensive line and the defense that still needs to prove it can stop the pass. The backup battle seemed to be settled in favor of Cardale Jones during the spring, so I feel pretty comfortable putting him at No. 2 here in case something happens to Miller.

Ryan
Quarterback: Braxton Miller
Miller’s job is safer than any other spot in the lineup. In fact, the Buckeyes will lean on the fourth-year starter more than ever now that the safety net that was Kenny Guiton is no longer in place. Instead, the battle for Miller’s backup will come down to sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett. After spring, it appears that Jones is ahead of Barrett and I expect it to stay that way through fall camp. True freshman Stephen Collier seems destined to take a redshirt, just as Jones and Barrett did their first years in Columbus.

Jeff
Running Back: Ezekiel Elliott
I like all of the candidates here but the smart money is on Elliott, so I’m going with that. Everyone else brings something to the table, but Elliott appears to be the total package and shined last year in limited duty. He was called out a bit in spring by Herman, who suggested Elliott was approaching things like someone who already had the starting job, but that might’ve just served as a kick in the butt. His experience will likely be the difference here, in my opinion. I think Brionte Dunn will be the next man up because I’ve always been a fan of his combo of speed and power. I like Roderick Smith but I’m just not sure if he’s ready to embrace the challenge of being a major contributor – I hope he is, but I’m in believe it when I see it mode.

Ryan
Running Back: Ezekiel Elliott
Ohio State never used more than one running back on the first play from scrimmage in 2013, and I expect that to be the case when the Buckeyes open the season in Baltimore. With only one spot available, I think Elliott gets the nod. Running backs coach Stan Drayton took great pains during spring practice to make clear that the battle would continue into fall practice, but Elliott will ultimately hold off the rest of what could be a crowded backfield.

Jeff
Wide Receiver: Dontre Wilson, Devin Smith and Michael Thomas
I’m not exactly thinking outside of the box here but these are my three. I just can’t see anyone taking over for Smith in the starting lineup after he has showcased his deep-ball skills the past few seasons, and I think he’s in line for a big senior year. In addition, Wilson is, I believe, a lock for a starting job after he showcased his dual-threat skills in the spring. He’ll start in the slot and be the “H” OSU has been looking for since Meyer took over. That leaves one spot to go, and I will take Thomas over a deep slate of wideouts that also includes the talented Corey Smith, the experienced Evan Spencer, and explosive youngsters Jalin Marshall and Johnnie Dixon. All of those guys will get chances – seriously, picking out three here is a tough task – but I think Thomas is ready for a starting job after he made a number of circus catches in the spring.

Ryan
Wide Receiver: Devin Smith, Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson
Wilson was a no-brainer, as he’ll start at the “H” this season with no questions asked, but I agonized over the other two spots for some time. Being the first game of the season, I think there’s a chance senior Evan Spencer finds his way back into the starting lineup. But at the end of the day, how much does superior blocking really outweigh limited production? You could make the case for several receivers, but I like the two Smiths to earn the nod. Devin, while inconsistent, has shown he can make big plays. After eliminating Spencer, the last spot came down to Corey Smith and Michael Thomas. I’ll roll the dice with the guy assistants have described as one of the most athletic players on the team.

Jeff
Tight End: Jeff Heuerman
Another no-brainer here. Heuerman will be a team captain and probably a big part of the passing game during his senior season. There’s been a lot of talk over the years about the tight end in the passing game, but Heuerman showed a year ago that he has the skills to stretch defenses down the seam when they start worrying about other things. He’s also a pretty solid blocker, one play in the Big Ten title game aside. Backup Nick Vannett is moving into being an upperclassman and is probably even an even better receiver than Heuerman; it’ll be interesting to see how many opportunities he gets this year given Heuerman’s talents. Everyone else here is battling for scraps.

Ryan
Tight End: Jeff Heuerman
Heuerman had foot surgery in the middle of spring practice but will be good to go this fall, and Ohio State will certainly rely on him as one of the leaders of this team. He proved to be a weapon despite receiving fewer targets than perhaps he deserved last year, and he’ll give the Buckeyes a consistent offensive threat that will force defenses to account for his presence on the field. He’s fully recovered from the foot injury, but if he gets hurt again there are a handful of players waiting for their turn. Nick Vannett showed last fall he could get it done when called upon, and redshirt freshman Marcus Baugh had an impressive spring.

Jeff
Offensive Line (L to R): Taylor Decker, Chase Farris, Chad Lindsay, Pat Elflein, Evan Lisle
I’m coming from off the board with a couple of these, but hear me out. OK, Decker is pretty set at left tackle after a standout sophomore year on the other side, and Elflein can be written in pen at right guard, as well. As for the other sports, here’s my reasoning. Lindsay will probably start at either left guard or center depending on where the team feels most comfortable finding another player, and while I am not counting out Jacoby Boren at center, I really think Farris is a guy who can be a stud at guard if he’s healthy (remember, he was the sixth OL in 2012 and was in the running for a starting spot last year in camp). That would give OSU some more experience in the middle as well. That leaves right tackle, and I’m taking Lisle. Sure, he’s only a redshirt freshman, but I was incredibly impressed with him in spring as far as his ability to pass block in a fundamentally sound fashion. He has future star written all over him, so why not now? The backups will include Boren at center; Joel Hale and Antonio Underwood at guard; and Darryl Baldwin at tackle.

Ryan
Offensive Line (L to R): Taylor Decker, Antonio Underwood, Chad Lindsay, Pat Elflein, Darryl Baldwin
As the season gets closer and closer, Decker (left tackle) and Elflein (right guard) are the only two players with their spots sewn up for the Aug. 30 kickoff. Barring injury, both will start. That leaves three spots, although I have to imagine that Lindsay, an Alabama transfer, didn’t come to Columbus to sit on the bench. The battles at left guard and right tackle are close, but I ultimately sided with experience at a position that often requires plenty of it. While Underwood got the nod, don’t count out Chase Farris at left guard, as the defense-to-offense transition has been done before under offensive line coach Ed Warinner. Likewise, the senior Baldwin will have to fend off redshirt freshman Evan Lisle at right tackle.

Come back tomorrow for our defensive picks


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