Whether it is a player whose offseason work has resulted in a higher depth-chart listing than expected or a clue into a player's injury status, there is always information to be gleaned from the first look at the two deep going into fall practice.
On the surface, one of the bigger messes going into the 2007 season appears to be the defensive back position. With a host of talented newcomers on the roster and Anderson Russell missing the spring because of injury, just how the secondary would shake out was a mystery heading into camp.
The first view of how that battle will go came in the depth chart in the media guide that was handed out in Chicago at the Big Ten media days. The book revealed that redshirt freshman corner Chimdi Chekwa and junior Shaun Lane are listed as the two backups at cornerback behind expected starters Malcolm Jenkins and Donald Washington.
The more interesting news might have come at safety, where Russell, now fully healthy from knee surgery, is listed as the starting free safety ahead of Nick Patterson, while Kurt Coleman has overtaken Jamario O'Neal as the strong safety.
"Kurt Coleman is doing a lot better," Jenkins said. "He's becoming a leader back there in the backfield."
At the cornerback spots, Jenkins said Ohio State goes five deep in players who are ready to play, which includes both Chekwa and Lane. By all appearances, Chekwa has been the star of both the spring and summer. Players have constantly brought up the 6-1, 180-pounder from Clermont, Fla., as someone who has impressed during the past six months, and any look at Chekwa shows he has taken his work in the weight room seriously.
"He progressed through the spring and the summer tremendously," Jenkins said. "I think he had a great spring. He surprised a lot of people. He's worked on his technique a lot, which has helped him a lot. He has great speed, so I think it will be interested to see what he brings to camp."
Lane enters camp hoping to earn playing time after missing the end of 2005 because of an ACL injury and all of 2006 because of a knee injury. In a similar situation is junior Devon Lyons, a wideout who missed most of the last two seasons because of injury.
Lyons worked his way into the rotation as a true freshman in 2004 and caught two passes for 15 yards. Now healthy, and in a young receiving corps hurt by the loss of Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez and Roy Hall, Lyons is in the two deep as the backup to Brian Robiskie at split end and hopes to make up for lost time.
"He's back and he's excited and he's had a really good offseason," Robiskie said. "He just talks about how ready he is to step up and get back on the field."
Lyons might have a ready-made role as Hall's replacement. Hall was 6-3, 240 pounds, and Lyons checks in at 6-4, 214 pounds and brings a similar skill set as the new Indianapolis Colt.
"He's kind of taken that role of being the big receiver now that Roy's left," Robiskie said. "He's not just a big guy. He can definitely run, too."
On the offensive line, it was not a surprise to see Ben Person and Jim Cordle listed as the starting right guard and center, respectively, but the two who are mostly unfamiliar to many Buckeye fans have huge roles to fill in replacing T.J. Downing and Doug Datish. The dean of OSU linemen, fifth-year senior Kirk Barton, said he has seen signs that the two are ready for their starting assignments.
"They've been here," Barton said. "Physically they can do it. Mentally, they'll be fine. They're both smart kids. You're going to see how they do under fire."
Finally, one thing that has been confirmed is that seniors Trever Robinson and Tyler Whaley, two players who came to OSU as walk-ons, are still at the fullback position. Robinson, in fact, is listed as the back-up to starter Dionte Johnson, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him and "Tank," as Whaley is known, get some playing time in an effort to blow open holes for the Buckeye tailbacks. Johnson said the two have picked up the schemes fairly well for two relative newcomers to the position.
"They've picked up the nuances now that they've been there for a while," Johnson said. "Any position is hard to switch to. They've come a long way. They've come real quick."