When Ohio State has received great play from their quarterback and runningback, the Buckeyes are almost unbeatable the past four years under Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes added one of each last Wednesday. Can they impact the roster next season?
DEPARTED: The good news is Ohio State will only lose two players of any significance off last year's team at these two crucial spots. The bad news is one of them was Ezekiel Elliott. Cardale Jones has also moved on to the next level.
QUARTERBACKS: This position must play at a higher level than the Buckeyes received in 2015.
If J.T. Barrett plays like he did as a freshman, and the way he finished last season against Michigan and Notre Dame, then Ohio State has no worries at the quarterback spot at all. The question to me is if Barrett is a game manager that benefited from being surrounded by great talent in the past, or is he a truly great player that can lift an inexperienced offense that's going to surround him? I have a feeling he's the real deal, and will play well from not having Meyer yo-yo he and Jones around like last year. Regardless, Barrett is THE KEY to next season for Ohio State. That cannot win big with average-to-poor quarterback play, like they had for most of the 2015 season.
Joey Burrow: Like this kid a lot, but hope he only takes snaps when Ohio State is running out the clock off big wins. Would develop better if this year is another learning year for him, and not being forced to have to win games in place of Barrett. Still think he's going to be tough to beat out once Barrett moves on. He would seem to be the perfect quarterback for where I think Ohio State needs to go offensively, and another year will only aid his progress.
Dwayne Haskins Jr.: As the greatest high school quarterback Meyer has ever seen, you'd think Haskins would automatically be the starter this year. If you're better than Cam Newton and Tim Tebow, that should put you under center. Obviously, that's not happening and I see Haskins fighting for the number-three job. A redshirt year would probably be best, to gain strength and learn the system.
Stephen Collier: Will probably be fighting Haskins for third position on the depth chart, and I'm not certain he can win that battle. Has been a good loyal soldier, willing to do whatever Meyer asks of him as a practice player. Would be nice to see him gets reps if there are blowouts, but those could go to Haskins.
Torrance Gibson: While I think his future is at wide receiver, Gibson told me this winter that Ohio State has him learning both wideout and quarterback. Will he see a limited package under center next season? Could be. He is so talented, that there has to be a place for him on the field at some capacity.
SUMMARY: I really like this group, especially if Barrett is the J.T. Barrett we all think he is. If he's the Barrett from early 2015, this is going to be a long year, but I do not expect that and think there are legit reasons why he struggled. Would love to see Burrow get some snaps once things are in hand, because in this offense the quarterback takes a lot of hits.
RUNNINGBACKS: Can Ohio State continue putting one of the best players in America at tailback like they have with Zeke and Carlos Hyde? Running between the guards keeps this offense from being too much east/west.
Brionte Dunn: Really came on two years ago on special teams, and looked good last year on limited carries. Would be nice to see Dunn get carries in his final season, and I think he has the talent to run the football inside for Ohio State. Still think he has a chance to go out with a bang this year.
Mike Weber: There is a lot of excitement for this kid, and I think the hype is legit. Runningback is an area where players can be ready to go early in their careers. Had Weber not been injured last season, I do not think he would have redshirted. He can run inside or outside, and we need to see if he can block and catch the football.
Curtis Samuel: While I don't see him as a true runningback, and think he starts at H-back, there is a chance Ohio State could turn to him in a pinch. Can he carry it 25 times, with half of them between the tackles? No. Could be an outside threat on sweeps, screens and throws out of the backfield? Absolutely. He's too talented to not be on the field full time.
Antonio Williams: While I don't necessarily think he's going to be ready to carry the football in prime time next season, I could definitely see them getting his feet wet in blowouts. Williams is physical, and that just might have him ready to go as the number-four back in this offense.
SUMMARY: Not quite as confident with this group as I am at quarterback, but only because I've seen Barrett play at a high level already. Not so with the runningbacks. There is a lot of talent running the football, but the offense needs to know how to use each of the pieces successfully. That was not a strength of last year's coaching staff. Maybe Weber is the next Zeke, and they just give it to him 25 times per game with no dropoff?