Ohio State Football: 5 Takeaways from the Buckeyes' Final Depth Chart
USA TODAY Sports
Two days later than most schools, Ohio State released its first official depth chart on Tuesday, providing insight into who stands where for the Buckeyes heading into the 2014 season.
There weren't too many surprises to be found, as only three starting spots remained up for grabs as of Monday, and head coach Urban Meyer anticipates those battles continuing throughout the week. But we now have our first official look at what Ohio State's lineup should look like on Saturday, when the Buckeyes take the field in Baltimore for their season opener against Navy.
What follows is Ohio State's first official depth chart, followed by a look into what we should make of it.
Takeaway 1: Line 'Em Up?
Replacing four multiyear starters from one of the country's most talented units over the course of the past two seasons, there still appears to be a lack of clarity on the OSU offensive line, with singular starters not being named at either center or left guard. It will either be Jacoby Boren or Chad Lindsay lining up at the former for the Buckeyes, and Joel Hale or Billy Price at the latter.
That could present an issue for OSU, as cohesiveness is needed more on an offensive line than any other unit on a football roster. It could be viewed as encouraging that the Buckeyes have what's perceived as depth at both positions, but also alarming that a player hasn't grabbed hold of either spot.
With Virginia Tech's aggressive defense looming in Week 2, look for Ohio State to use this weekend to seek clarity at both positions this weekend in Baltimore. With a first-year quarterback starting behind it, all eyes will be on the OSU offensive line this season, as it certainly has lofty expectations to live up to.
Paul Vernon/Associated Press
Takeaway 2: Receiver/Running Back Rotation
While seniors Devin Smith and Evan Spencer reclaimed their starting spots from a season ago, that could be viewed as a "name-only" status, as Meyer stated on Monday that the Buckeyes currently possess a rotation of receivers that goes six players deep.
"I couldn't tell you the starting receivers right now," Meyer said a day ago. "All of them could march in, and they all deserve playing time, so it's just a matter of who breaks the huddle first."
It appears that those players will be Smith and Spencer, although it shouldn't be long until we see Corey Smith and Michael Thomas also on the field. Add in highly touted H-backs (and co-starters) Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, and Ohio State appears to have a plethora of playmakers available at J.T. Barrett's disposal.
As far as running backs are concerned, it was long assumed that Ezekiel Elliott would be the Buckeyes' lone starter, but he now finds himself listed as a co-starter alongside fifth-year senior Rod Smith and true freshman Curtis Grant. Given Barrett's inexperience, Ohio State will likely rely heavily on its run game this weekend, and perhaps for the foreseeable future.
While they may be unproven as players, Meyer seems to like what he sees in his skill players this season. Those players living up to those expectations will be all the more important this season, as Barrett attempts to play the role of distributor in Ohio State's spread offense.
Takeaway 3: Defensive Depth
As opposed to a season ago, when the Buckeyes hardly rotated on any unit on the defensive side of the ball, Ohio State finally appears to possess the depth that Meyer has been craving since arriving in Columbus in 2012.
Even with Noah Spence suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season, the Buckeyes go a legitimate eight-deep on the defensive line, with the first four being as good as any in the country. The backups aren't too shabby, either, mixing a blend of experience (Rashad Frazier) and youth (Tyquan Lewis) that should help fulfill defensive line coach Larry Johnson's desire to constantly rotate players. It's also worth noting that senior captain Michael Bennett is listed as co-starter alongside Tommy Schutt, who Meyer said has had one of the best training camps of any Buckeye this fall.
Ohio State could make the most of a rotation at linebacker as well, with Raekwon McMillan spelling Curtis Grant at middle linebacker and Chris Worley possessing a skill set similar to starter Darron Lee. Cam Williams also adds experience and versatility and shouldn't be shellshocked if forced to see the field.
In the secondary, Eli Apple and Gareon Conley have been named co-starters opposite Doran Grant at corner, but each should see significant snaps in Chris Ash's press-coverage system. True freshman Marshon Lattimore was also expected to be a part of the rotation but was slated to undergo surgery on Wednesday morning.
While Cam Burrows and Vonn Bell are listed as co-starters at free safety, expect for Burrows to slide down to the dime back position when the Buckeyes are facing obvious passing situations. Erick Smith cracking the two-deep as a true freshman is also intriguing, as the hard-hitting safety from Cleveland Glenville has the potential to be an X-factor on the OSU defense.
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
Takeaway 4: Fear the Freshmen
Speaking of Smith, it is worth noting the number of freshmen lining the Buckeyes' depth chart, with seven first-year players finding themselves in the OSU two-deep. That's Meyer making good on a promise he made in the offseason, as he's constantly bemoaned the lack of impact that last year's freshman class made.
Of the freshmen who made the Buckeyes' first depth chart, look for Samuel to get the best look at making an immediate impact, perhaps as soon as this weekend. While not currently listed on the depth chart, Jalyn Holmes should also see his name called sooner rather than later, as Ohio State looks to improve its pass rush in Spence's absence.
Erick Smith aside, most of the impact from the Buckeyes' other freshmen could come on special teams—at least in the early part of the season. But making the two-deep this early in one's college career is certainly something worth noting, as it provides insight into who has been impressing the OSU coaching staff.
Takeaway 5: Special Unit
One of the less talked about position battles on the Ohio State roster during fall camp, true freshmen Sean Nuernberger edged out senior Kyle Clinton for the right to be the Buckeyes' starting kicker this fall. A 3-star prospect by way of Buckney, Kentucky, Nuernberger has been lauded for his leg power since arriving on campus and will get the first crack at replacing four-year starter Drew Basil.
In the return game, Ohio State should be as explosive as its been in years, as Wilson not only reprises his role as kick returner but takes over punt return duties as well. More than that, the Buckeyes now appear to have a plethora of options when it comes to returners, as Marshall and Samuel have both been lauded for their ability in open space.
Superb special teams was always a hallmark of Meyer's success at Florida, and Ohio State's makeup in that area currently resembles that of one of his Gators team.
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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