“Almost everything that is great has been done by youth…” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
Ohio State will begin spring football practice on March 8th. Heading
into the 2016 college football season, Ohio State will have 44 players on its roster designated as either a redshirt freshman (21 of
the 25 players signed in February 2015), or a true freshman. For a
roster that can have only 85 scholarship players, Ohio State will have
around 52% of its roster with no playing time experience. As former Ohio State Head Coach John Cooper used to say, "If a dog is going to bite you, it will bite you as a pup.".
For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group
previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio
Stadium on April 16th, 2016. These position groups will be ranked, from
least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible
that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be
reevaluated after the spring game.
(Honorable Mention – Placekicker) ~ In 2015, Ohio State had issues
with both Jack Willoughby and Sean Nuernberger at placekicker. Late in
the season, Nuernberger was awarded the placekicker position, and was
successful in the 2016 Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl, hitting on all three of
his field goals attempts. Considering how young Ohio State will be in
2016 across the board, Nuernberger may be counted upon more from a
points option than Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer would prefer.
9th ~ Running Back
Players Lost – Ezekiel Elliott, Warren Ball. Ball has a fifth year of eligibility, but has decided to use it at Akron this coming season. Best of luck to Ball in all of his future endeavors, on and off the football field. Ezekiel Elliott? Yeah, you may have heard about him these past three years. Elliott was the focal part of the Ohio State offense, as Urban Meyer’s philosophy is to lean heavily upon the power running game. No matter if Ohio State has a dominant running back, or decides to use a committee approach, having a dependable running game is essential for Ohio State’s success on the field.
Returning Players/Incoming Players – Bri’onte Dunn (Redshirt Senior),
Curtis Samuel (Junior), Mike Weber (Redshirt Freshman), Antonio
A few things to keep in mind as it relates to this position group…
· Curtis Samuel has fluctuated between playing running back
and the H-Back position in his first two seasons in Columbus. A very
versatile player, Samuel has also been used on special teams for kickoff
returns. Samuel underwent surgery in January, which means Samuel’s
involvement in spring football is likely to be minimal. Could Samuel
emerge as the leading candidate at running back? Certainly, but Samuel
will likely need to make his move in fall camp, not spring football.
· Bri’onte Dunn is one of two redshirt seniors on the roster;
the other is projected starting center Pat Elflein. Dunn was a
highly-touted recruit in 2012, yet has not been able to consistently
stake a claim for playing time as a running back; the vast majority of
Dunn’s playing time has been as a well-respected special teams coverage
member. Dunn has had occasional fumbling issues when given the chance
to carry the ball. Can Dunn finally break through in his last
opportunity to play as a running back for Ohio State this spring?
· Mike Weber redshirted in 2015, thanks to a surgery that
took place during fall camp. Weber was earning rave reviews at the time
of his surgery, and seemed likely to play at some point in 2015. Could
Weber emerge this spring as the top candidate to replace Ezekiel
Elliott in the Ohio State offense?
· Antonio Williams arrived on campus and began classes in
January 2016. Originally committed to Wisconsin, Williams flipped his
commitment to Ohio State in November 2015. Through the years, Ohio
State has had several running backs enroll early, with names such as
Maurice Clarett, Antonio Pittman, and Beanie Wells notably taking
advantage of spring football to stake their respective claims for
playing time. Will Antonio Williams be able to add his name to this
illustrious list by the end of spring practice?
These questions, among others, will be on my mind once Ohio State spring practice begins March 8th.