That's what we think, so with that in mind, we're asking 20 Questions when it comes to the Ohio State football team. Every day from now until the opening game week, we'll have our BSB writers answer one question about the Ohio State football team. Some will be serious, some will be funny, and none will be "Animal, vegetable or mineral?" But all should help you think about the upcoming season, hopefully in a different way than before.
Question 10: Which player can Ohio State least afford to lose to injury?
Ryan Ginn: I think you could make a strong case for Eli Apple or Adolphus Washington, but I’m going to go with Ezekiel Elliott. I have a feeling even I could probably fare decently behind that offensive line so it’s not a doomsday scenario to be handing off to Bri’onte Dunn, Curtis Samuel, Warren Ball or (eventually) Mike Weber, but Elliott opens up the whole offense with his brilliance. There are ways they could fill those gaps – moving Samuel back to running back full-time or giving Braxton Miller an increased role in the backfield – but any of them would likely reduce the overall potential of what could be a historically great offensive machine. I’ll close by adding this: Elliott’s worst game of 2014 – eight carries for 32 yards against Virginia Tech – was also Ohio State’s worst game of 2014. His best – pick your postseason game – was Ohio State’s best.
Blake Williams: This is a tough one because at first glance the Buckeyes have a number of players that appear indispensable, but there is so much talent behind them that I think Ohio State could get by. My first instinct was to pick Taylor Decker, but I think Jamarco Jones could step in and provide some slightly diluted version of what Decker gives Ohio State. That essentially eliminates all offensive linemen, because the team would shift things around to get Jones on the field if any one lineman went down
After considering the ramifications of an Ezekiel Elliott injury, I ended up landing on Adolphus Washington. The senior isn’t the best player along the defensive line, but I think in many ways he is the most important. I trust Ohio State’s depth of talent at defensive end more than I do at tackle (we’ll know more about that Sept. 7) and losing Washington would remove the only player on the roster I think can rush the passer from the inside. The players behind Washington will be fine if they are asked to provide depth on the line, but push them in to a starting role and I think the front four of the Buckeye defense begins to erode with ripple effects spilling over in to the back seven.
Jeff Svoboda: I have rattled this one around in my head a few times, and talking this one over in the office has led to a new interesting ideas. Like, I hadn't thought of Ezekiel Elliott simply because of how much talent the Buckeyes have at the skill positions, but it is true that there aren't exactly a ton of experienced backups behind him, and he's kind of a unique rusher on the roster. Losing Raekwon McMillan would hurt, too, because the team is untested behind him at nearly every linebacker spot, and Blake's answer of Adolphus Washington is pretty smart, too. Nick Vannett would be a solid answer as well because the depth behind him is just Marcus Baugh (one career catch) and two true freshmen.
But I have to go with the answer that I keep coming back to, and that's Eli Apple. It seems weird to say that about someone who has never been the team's No. 1 player at a position, but I think a potential injury to Apple would scare the pants off the Buckeyes. In the team's aggressive defense, the corners are put in high-stress situations which can result in touchdowns if things go wrong. Apple is the team's only experienced corner and proved last year he was up to the task, especially when he helped limit the damage Amari Cooper could do in the Sugar Bowl. The word is Gareon Conley is ready to start opposite him, but if Apple went down the team would have to add in another new starter. I like Damon Webb and Marshon Lattimore, the latter especially if he can stay healthy, but a baptism by fire at that important position would be tough to handle.
Question 1: Who Will Start At Quarterback For Ohio State?
Question 2: If Ohio State swapped coaches with the other team for every game, what would its regular season record be?
Question 3: How noticeable will the loss of Tom Herman be?
Question 4: If Ohio State could bring back one player from 2014 for this season, who would it be?
Question 5: More all-purpose yards: Braxton Miller, Dontre Wilson or Curtis Samuel?
Question 6: Aside from Michigan State, which Big Ten team should Buckeye fans be most worried about?
Question 7: Seven Buckeyes made 1st or 2nd team All-Big Ten last year (four are back). How many make it this year?
Question 8: What kind of leash will the starting quarterback have? (Or to put it more clearly, what kind of performance would it take for the starting quarterback to fully lose that job – not just be subbed out for a series or two?)?
Question 9: How many true freshmen will have their redshirts pulled this season? Who will they be?