Today, the Ohio State football program begins fall camp, with the freshmen going this morning and the veterans set to take the field this afternoon. Urban Meyer will speak after the day is done, and BuckeyeSports.com will be there to bring you what the head coach has to say.
But what are the big things people will be looking for as camp begins? Here’s a breakdown of some of the storylines – some obvious, some not so much – as the Buckeyes get to work.
How Is Braxton Miller?
This might be the million dollar question facing the Buckeyes right now. Last week in Chicago, Meyer said his star quarterback was fully healthy after undergoing shoulder surgery during the winter but also mentioned he’s not quite in game shape at the moment. He has a month to get there and almost certainly will, but the progress of his shoulder – not to mention his game – will be monitored closely. Meyer said Miller made up for the missed spring practice time by going through a simulated quarterback camp this summer, but the fruits of that labor won’t be seen until he goes through a full fall camp.
Who Carries The Football?...
This was a simple one last year, as Carlos Hyde was the bell cow and the man who made the offense move. Sure, Dontre Wilson caught some screens and Ezekiel Elliott had a few cameos, but it was Hyde’s offense last year. This year, it’s not so easy. Elliott looks like the potential starter considering he was the No. 2 back a year ago, and he looks like he could be a complete back. But there’s a lot of talent behind him, as well, in the forms of Rod Smith, Brionte Dunn and Warren Ball. Add in true freshman Curtis Samuel, someone Meyer has talked up at every opportunity, and this could be an intriguing position to watch. Do the Buckeyes settle on one player or do they use a committee approach?
…And Who Blocks For Them?
This could be just as important when determining how the offense is gonna go. Last year’s offensive line was one of the best in the sport, but only one starter returns in tackle Taylor Decker. Otherwise, there’s a general dearth of experience, one reason Meyer went out and got Alabama transfer Chad Lindsay to come in to play either guard or tackle in his final season at the college level. If the line isn’t as dependable as it was last year – and that seems to be almost a guarantee – the style of the offense could very well change and the Buckeyes could attack the perimeter more. It will also be interesting to see how the pass protection holds up and how that affects both the offense and Miller’s health.
How Does The Press Coverage Work?
The defense has changed majorly this year, as Chris Ash was brought into install a press quarters coverage style that will have the cornerbacks playing aggressively on the line of scrimmage this fall. That should help OSU prevent the swing and screen passes that tore up the defense a season ago, and Meyer has said the Buckeyes are going to challenge every throw. But will the Buckeyes get beat over the top as a tradeoff? That’s an especially acute worry given the fact that the team is so young at the position behind senior Doran Grant and junior Armani Reeves. How the youngsters react in camp could go a long way in determining the eventual success of the pass defense.
Off With The Redshirts
There could be an invasion of redshirt freshmen playing big roles this season as a number of players who didn’t play a season ago will enter the rotation, it appears. Such players as Jalin Marshall, Marcus Baugh, Evan Lisle, Billy Price, Tyquan Lewis, Eli Apple and Gareon Conley either could be counted on to play major roles this fall or turned heads in the spring. Then there’s Dunn and Michael Thomas, two players who have sophomore eligibility but redshirted a season ago when there just wasn’t room for them on the field. Get used to hearing about how those players grew a season ago but were ready to get on the field.
And How About The Freshmen?
People always want to know which youngsters are going to see the field, and this year’s crop could result in some early gems. Meyer has already spent time talking up such early enrollees as Samuel, Johnnie Dixon and Raekwon McMillan, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Buckeyes get some use out of the first-year players in the back seven as well. Considering they were able to get some experience in the summer this year, the freshmen should make more of an impact than last year’s group did.