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OSU faces questions about team in the spring

02/13/2017, 12:16am EST
By By NICHOLAS PIOTROWICZ BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Buckeyes must address several concerns


Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett will have to learn a new scheme this season under new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, formerly the head coach at Indiana. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

COLUMBUS — Now that the dust has settled from signing day, and eligible underclassmen made their respective decisions about turning professional, Ohio State more or less knows its roster for the 2017 season.

The Buckeyes’ hopes for a third trip to the College Football Playoff in four years have support from oddsmakers. Ohio State is the Las Vegas favorite to win the Big Ten, and second only to Alabama to winning the national title at 13-to-2 odds.

Ohio State is on track to return 15 of 22 starters from last season’s team, and adds 21 players from a recruiting class that is among the most anticipated in college football history. The questions for Ohio State as the Buckeyes near spring football in March are:

How much will the offense change?: The Ohio State offense that failed to score in the Fiesta Bowl will look different the next time it takes the field. The Buckeyes hired Kevin Wilson — who was fired at Indiana amid allegations of player mistreatment — as its new offensive coordinator.

Wilson’s Indiana teams gave the Buckeyes fits with a routinely efficient offense, and the team is hoping for the jolt it was missing against top-tier defenses in 2016.

Given a senior quarterback in J.T. Barrett, four of five offensive linemen back, and some experience in the receiving corps, Wilson will be working with ample talent.

Will an unconventional pick take Curtis Samuel’s place?: A former backup safety could be one of the Buckeyes’ most important offensive players next season. Eric Glover-Williams mostly has been a special teams player during his two seasons at Ohio State, but just might be the man OSU chooses to replace Curtis Samuel, last year’s leading receiver who left for the NFL.

OSU moved Glover-Williams to receiver after the season. Glover-Williams is one of the best athletes on the team, and his teammates rave about his ability to make tacklers miss.

The 5-foot-9, 178-pounder served a scout team quarterback in practice a few times last year, and could be a natural fit to play the slot receiver position vacated by Samuel.

How many freshmen will play?: In many cases, true freshmen at established programs never sniff the field. That won’t be the case with Ohio State this coming season. The Buckeyes’ most recent recruiting class is so loaded — 19 signees were 4-star or 5-star prospects — some true freshmen will have play key roles, up to and including starting.

The most obvious possibility is the defensive backfield, where three of four starters departed for the NFL and the Buckeyes signed the top two high school cornerbacks (Jeffery Okudah and Shaun Wade) and the top junior-college cornerback (Kendall Sheffield).

At least one of them is likely to be in the cornerback rotation by the time the season arrives.

Meyer said freshmen offensive lineman Josh Myers already is pushing for playing time, and top-rated guard Wyatt Davis could do the same. 

Five-star linebacker Baron Browning could force his way into immediate playing time as predecessor Raekwon McMillan did.

The Buckeyes needed freshman guard Michael Jordan to start every game in 2016. There is ample opportunity for another freshman — or maybe more — to do the same thing in 2017.

■ Who steps in at receiver?: More than half of OSU’s pass-catching no longer is in Columbus. The aforementioned Samuel led the team in catches by a wide margin, but the second-ranked and third-ranked pass catchers, Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson, are gone, too. The trio accounted for 52 percent of the team’s catches last year.

Binjimen Victor often was the odd man out in a large rotation last season, but the 6-foot-4 soon-to-be sophomore could be a natural fit in Brown’s place. Meyer said the Buckeyes were “dying” to give Victor playing time last year, and they might have their chance now.

Also in the mix are K.J. Hill, Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and James Clark, all of whom caught between 11 and 18 passes last year.

Will defensive line be the team’s strength?: At this time last year, the defensive line was somewhat of an unknown for the Buckeyes. This time, it looks like a position of strength. Two-time sack leader Tyquan Lewis came back for his senior season and rejoins a deep team of defensive ends along with Sam Hubbard (8 tackles for loss), Jalyn Holmes (8.5), and Nick Bosa (7).

Tackles Dre’Mont Jones, Michael Hill, and Robert Landers had career years in 2016, and OSU should also see the return of Tracy Sprinkle, who was in line to start but missed almost the entire season with an injury.

ADOLPH DIES: Dave Adolph, a defensive analyst who was with Michigan and also was an assistant under three different head coaches at Ohio State, died at the age of 79 on Sunday, according to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

“We have lost one of the truly great ones,” Harbaugh tweeted. “Coach Dave Adolph who brought joy to all he met and associated. 'Do you love football?'”

Adolph, a former offensive lineman and linebacker at the University of Akron, joined the Michigan staff in 2015 as the senior defensive analyst and had more than 40 years of coaching and administrative experience. He also was a member of the coaching staffs of Woody Hayes (1997-78), Jim Tressel (2008-11) and Urban Meyer (2012-13) at Ohio State.

Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at: npiotrowicz@theblade.com, 724-6110, or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz

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Tag(s): College  Ohio State