A few days ago, I posted the beginnings of what I consider to be Ohio State's main concerns as they begin spring football on April 1st. I have ranked the concerns from low priority to high priority. This article will focus upon what I consider to be Ohio State's top concerns from now until the opening game against Marshall on September 2nd.
5 ~ How Will Ohio State Address Its Running Back Situation?
As it relates to the running game, Jim Tressel is fond of saying that a team needs "a pair and a spare". Ohio State has accomplished that feat with their recruiting, but will they be able to keep everyone happy?
Senior Brandon Saine returns, and is the projected starter at tailback. Saine combines with redshirt junior Daniel "Boom" Herron as the tailbacks who will get the majority of the workload. Neither Saine or Herron are the type of back to carry the ball twenty times a game, but both have been effective for Ohio State.
Now we are getting into the concern area. Sophomore Jordan Hall, who had limited work but played well when given the opportunity, also returns. Hall reminds me of former Buckeye Pepe Pearson, who also wore # 29. Supposedly, Hall may be willing to redshirt this coming season, and that may be a good decision.
Redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry, who battled injuries all last season, will get an opportunity to win some carries. I have suggested Berry be given opportunities to contribute as a kickoff returner, at the very least. Rumors persist that Berry may transfer over lack of playing time.
Redshirt sophomore Jermil Martin moved to tailback from fullback last season. Martin played well against Minnesota, then hardly played after that.
Incoming freshman Carlos Hyde has enrolled and will participate in spring football. Hyde spent last season at Fork Union Military Academy, and is the stereotypical big back Ohio State fans are used to, such as Jonathan Wells or Chris Wells.
Last but not least on this list, Ohio State has also signed Roderick Smith out of Indiana. Smith will arrive in the fall, and was arguably the top-rated player in Ohio State's 2010 recruiting class.
Concern Level: I am going to give this a 6. How will Jim Tressel keep everyone happy? Here's the answer - he will not. The best thing Jim Tressel can do is find various roles for these players, redshirt some (Jordan Hall? Roderick Smith?), and try to incorporate as many into the game plan as possible. Saine and Herron will get the bulk of the carries, but this is going to be an area to keep an eye on throughout the spring and well into the season.
# 4 ~ Who Will Emerge As Ohio State's Backup Quarterback?
In the painful aftermath of Ohio State's loss to Purdue, Joe Bauserman was a very popular choice to take over at quarterback. In the wake of Terrelle Pryor's Rose Bowl performance, now the question is - who would play if Terrelle Pryor was hurt?
Joe Bauserman and Kenny Guiton will be given every opportunity to win the backup quarterback position, with Pryor being limited due to his offseason knee surgery. I would expect both Bauserman and Guiton to play extensively in the spring game on April 24th.
Concern Level: I will give this a 6. By all indications, Terrelle Pryor will be fine by the beginning of the season in September. My concern level comes from watching what Oklahoma experienced last season when Sam Bradford went down, and how a talented team's season can suddenly unravel.
# 3 ~ Who Will Emerge As Ohio State's Defensive Line Depth?
Ohio State loses starting DE Thaddeus Gibson and DT Doug Worthington, as well as reserves DT Todd Denlinger, DE Robert Rose, and DE Lawrence Wilson. Senior Cameron Heyward returns at one defensive end spot, while redshirt senior Dexter Larimore will return at a defensive tackle spot.
Junior DE Nathan Williams is projected as a starter at one defensive end position, while sophomore DT John Simon is projected as a starter on the interior. Both Williams and Simon have had extensive playing experience.
Returnees include DT Garrett Goebel, DE Jonathan Newsome, DE Keith Wells, DE Melvin Fellows, DE Solomon Thomas, and DT Adam Bellamy. Incoming freshmen include DE JT Moore, DE Jamel Turner, DE Darryl Baldwin, and DT Johnathan Hankins.
Concern Level: I will give this a 6. As you can read up above, Ohio State have several defensive linemen on their roster, but the bulk of this talent is relatively unproven and untested. Ohio State prides itself on having a dominating defensive front. This spring will help to answer what kind of depth Ohio State has within its defensive line pool.
#2 ~ Who Will Win The Offensive Left Tackle Position?
I believe this song will be the theme song for Mike Adams this spring. Adams was one of the hyped members of his recruiting class, and has not developed into the dominant offensive tackle most projected when he signed with Ohio State.
Andy Miller will return to battle Mike Adams for the starting spot. Miller started last season when Adams was suspended, and then was sidelined with the flu. Miller lost eighteen pounds from the flu, so Jim Cordle played left tackle the bulk of the season for Ohio State. Cordle did his best, but it would be charitable to say that Cordle was a natural for the position.
Ohio State is secure throughout the rest of its line. J.B. Shugarts and Marcus Hall may also be given an opportunity to win the job if Adams or Miller are unable to seize control of the position.
Concern Level: I will give this a 7. Ohio State needs someone, anyone, to rise up and become a solid left tackle. Considering this is the position responsible for protecting Terrelle Pryor's blind side, I can only hope Mike Adams finally rises to the occasion and becomes the player most expected him to be when he signed with Ohio State.
#1 ~ Who Will Win The Safety Positions?
In my estimation, here is the biggest concern for Ohio State heading into spring football and possibly the 2010 season. Losing a three year starter in Kurt Coleman is challenging. Former starter, contributor, and favorite Ohio State fan whipping boy Anderson Russell has also run out of eligibility, and Ohio State needs to replace a lot of experience at the last line of defense.
Jermale Hines returns at one projected starter position. Hines replaced Russell after the Navy game, and is a hybrid linebacker and safety. Hines has extensive playing experience.
Orhian Johnson is the projected front-runner for the other safety position, but Johnson will have competition for the starting spot. Aaron Gant, Nate Oliver, Jamie Wood, Zach Domicone, and C.J. Barnett will all try to win the starting position and precious playing time. All of these players, with the exception of Jamie Wood, have playing experience gained through special teams contributions.
Concern Level: I will give this a 7. As I wrote up above, Coleman was a solid, dependable three year starter. While not a big hitting safety in the mold of former Ohio State greats Jack Tatum or Mike Doss, Coleman provided tremendous leadership and was a steadying presence on Ohio State's defense. I will be anxious to see how this critical position shakes out over the course of the spring practices.
As I wrote previously, it is possible that these questions may not be answered definitively by the conclusion of Ohio State's spring practices on April 24th. Many of these questions rank low in comparison to other football programs around the country. Regardless, I am hopeful that many of these questions will be answered, and look forward to seeing how the answers will help to predict Ohio State's 2010 season.