Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Buckeyes’ Fountain of Youth, Roster Predictions for 2014

Oh come, let's sing Ohio's praise, and songs to Al-

Wait, it’s not that time yet? Oops, my bad.

With less than a month to go until the start of the Ohio State Buckeyes’ football season, many questions still loom over their shaky roster.  The departures of many key upperclassmen have left Ohio State with a youthful looking team, and in a sink or swim year for the Buckeyes, it’s up to their youngins and fresh faces to keep them afloat.  With some of the Buckeyes’ biggest inefficiencies coming at their most vital positions, duplicating their recent success with such a young team can only be summed up as easier said than done.

Here are some predictions for the Buckeyes’ biggest weaknesses throughout their roster.  

Running Back

The question for the Buckeyes here is not if there’s a lack of talent at the running back position, but if Ohio State can adequately replace the recently departed Carlos Hyde (NFL Draft).  

Elliot (15) looks to lead the way at running back for OSU.
To start last season, Hyde was suspended the first three games for questionable reasons.  Hyde would eventually return and go on to have a monster year, all while becoming the very first 1,000 yard back under head coach Urban Meyer.  With that statistic in mind and given Meyer’s track record as head coach, it’s hard to see Hyde not being replaced with somewhat ease. 

Leading candidate sophomore Ezekiel Elliot showed flashes last year that led some to believe he could shine in Meyer’s offense, which is what he’s expected to do this upcoming season.  Elliot’s size, power and excellent speed enable him the chance to excel this year behind quarterback Braxton Miller. 

The yin to Elliot’s yang could be fifth-year senior Rod Smith, who uses his balance and bruit force to power his way through opposing defenses.  Don’t be surprised, however, if true freshman Curtis Samuel or third-year sophomore Bri'onte Dunn upend Smith and battle with Elliot for some serious playing time this fall.

Offensive Line

After boasting one of the best offensive lines in the country last season, the Buckeyes are now left with the tough task of replacing four senior starters.

Only junior Taylor Decker remains and will move from right to left tackle.  Next to Decker, junior Antonio Underwood, who missed all of last season due to a knee injury, looks to nail down the left guard vacancy. 

Graduate transfer Chad Lindsay will provide some stability up front, as the former Alabama center started four games for the Crimson Tide last year.  Sophomore Pat Elflein saw some action late last season after Marcus Hall was, well, you know, and should start at right guard come August 30. 

Rounding out this unsettled group is fifth-year senior Darryl Baldwin, who’s essentially a shoe in to start at right tackle.

Despite the return of starters Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry, the Buckeyes have a sizeable hole to fill with the loss of 2013 All-American and leading tackler Ryan Shazier, who left early for the NFL Draft.
Sophomore Darron Lee will likely wrap up the starting job next to Perry and Grant, while freshman Chris Worley will sit as Lee’s backup. 

As the start of the Buckeyes’ season inches closer, watch for five-star recruit and true freshman Raekwon McMillan to push Grant for the starting middle linebacker position.  McMillan is as good as they get entering the college ranks and will be given every opportunity to win the starting job. 
Even Grant is impressed with McMillan’s play in camp.


Arguably their most vulnerable unit, the Buckeyes secondary poses a huge question mark heading into the 2014 season. 

Three starters, including 2013 first-team All-Big Ten cornerback Bradley Roby, are gone, with only one lone starter returning in senior cornerback Doran Grant.  Junior Armani Reeves should start opposite of Grant come week one for the Buckeyes, with talented freshmen Eli Apple and Gareon Conley providing solid depth. 
Bell (11) will appear as the Buckeyes feature safety this season.
At safety, the Buckeyes might just turn to a pair of sophomores to lead the way in Orange Bowl standout (LINK) Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell.  Backing up the inexperienced starting tandem could be true freshman Erick Smith and sophomore Cameron Burrows.  Both possibly will see a fair amount of playing time depending on how Bell and Powell play. 

From a schematic standpoint, the Buckeyes defense as a whole should be much more improved than their mediocre 2013 counterpart. 

The Buckeyes enter the 2014 season amidst a cloud of doubt.  After a terribly disappointing 2013 campaign, Ohio State will have the chance to right all of their wrongs if they can win the Big Ten title and qualify for the new College Football Playoff.  With a very young team and questions marks all over the field, it will take a truly special season for the Buckeyes to call themselves “champions” of any sort.  August 30 is fast approaching, a date the Buckeyes may not want to come just yet.   

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