5 Things I Think: Offseason (Part 1)

FootballIt’s been an interesting offseason in college football thus far, with something new seemingly coming across the wire every other day. We’re in the Spring Game season right now. Going into this weekend approximately 65% of the 126 FBS teams putting on a game or its equivalent have been played. Pittsburgh and Texas A&M will not play one this year. Of the remaining 44 teams, only three teams who played in a BCS bowl last season are left (Alabama, Auburn, and Michigan State). Alabama (1pm CST ESPNU) and BCS runner-up Auburn (2pm CST ESPN) will play this Saturday and will likely battle for the top spot in terms of Spring Game attendance. Penn State currently leads in that category with just over 72,000 (a testament of the excitement the James Franklin has brought to State College), but Auburn and Alabama each beat that last year (83,401 and 78,315 respectively). Being a resident of Alabama, I am certain that they will rank first and second once again this year — but it’s a coin flip as to in what order. The passion for college football in this state is … unmeasurable.

On the other end of the attendance spectrum, Buckeyes’ quarterback Braxton Miller called out Michigan for their putrid turnout of just over 15,000 (in the third largest stadium in the world) after the Buckeyes drew approximately four times that many fans. Way to go, Braxton!

Let’s get into some of the offseason highlights:

1. Michael Sam announces he’s gay. Firstly, sexual orientation of public figures is none of my business. However, in the world of sports, particularly male sports, it’s not a topic that is discussed freely especially for those who aren’t heterosexual. My favorite part of this whole thing was that the media allowed Sam to make the announcement rather than “break” the story despite several media members knowing about it a couple of days beforehand. Also, the idea that he’ll be a distraction in the locker room once he becomes the first openly gay NFL player was debunked by Missouri winning the SEC East in just their second season and Sam winning SEC Defensive Player of the Year given that Sam announced this to his team last August. He may be a distraction in terms of the media, but so will Johnny Manziel. Just as Jason Collins’ (NBA Player currently on the Nets’ roster) and Connor Mertens’ (current Willamette University kicker) announcement likely helped Sam make his announcement, his announcement likely led to Mitch Eby (current Chapman University DE) announcing he’s bisexual and Derrick Gordon (UMass) becoming the first active Division I basketball player to announce he’s gay. None of these announcements could have been easy.

2. 2014 Signing Class. The rankings were about as should have been expected, with Alabama having the number one class according to ESPN (my Buckeyes’ class ranked seventh). The two things that surprised me a little bit was Tennessee grabbing the fifth-ranked class and Ole Miss falling all the way down to 17 after the phenomenal 2013 class they had. What I found funny about this year’s class were a few of the names that were signed. Purdue signed offensive tackle Bearooz Yacoobi out of Dearborn, Michigan. I’ve never heard of that first name or last name before, but I love them both! My favorite name of the class, though, was signed by the Eastern Michigan Eagles. They signed a 6’4” defensive end named Lion King. Yes, you read that right. His name was originally Lion King Conaway, but he legally changed it to Lion King. The Eagles play Florida this season in a game that I hope is televised because it will be interesting to count how many “hakuna matata” and “simba” jokes will be told. Then there was the story of a kid who signed three Letters of Intent. D.J. Law signed an LOI with Utah, Ole Miss, and East Mississippi Community College. There was confusion on all sides and eventually Ole Miss released him from their LOI leaving him free to sign with Utah or EMCC; he ended up becoming a Ute.

3. To change a rule or not to change a rule. The offseason exploded early on with the rule proposal that wouldn’t allow the offense to snap the ball within the first ten seconds of the play clock. Nick Saban and Bret Bielema were big proponents of such a rule with the very thin veil of player safety concerns draped over that support. This rule was eventually “tabled” until next year presumably because this was a “safety only” rule change year in the NCAA and there is no available evidence that hurry-up offenses cause more injuries. I guarantee it will come up again next offseason, however. I’m do not support such a rule, but I know it’s not going away anytime soon. Not much longer after that rule was tabled, the NCAA amended the current targeting rule. Last year’s rule allowed for a targeting call to be reviewed by the officials to determine if an ejection was warranted. Even if they ruled an ejection wasn’t warranted, the 15-yard penalty was upheld. The change this year is that if after review, if it is ruled that it wasn’t targeting, the 15-yard penalty will not stand. The part that is often overlooked, however, that if there were another call (e.g. unnecessary roughness) made, that 15-yard penalty would still stand. Additionally, the ejection rules are still the same. This past week the NCAA Rules Oversight Committee did approve a new rule concerning quarterback safety, however. The rule states that no defensive player who is rushing unabated can forcibly hit a quarterback who is in a “passing posture” at or below the knee (he cannot initiate a roll or lunge that does so either). I believe the key word here is “unabated”. If he is blocked, pushed, or tripped into the quarterback and hits him at or below the knee, this rule wouldn’t apply. Additionally, if the quarterback is no longer in a “passing posture” this rule wouldn’t apply.

4. Coaching Carousel spun out of control. I’ve been watching college football for nearly thirty years and I can’t remember a time when the head coaches of so many prominent programs changed in one offseason. Consider that four teams in the final AP rankings have new coaches (Louisville, USC, Vanderbilt, and Washington). Additionally, historically successful programs like Penn State, Texas, and Boise State also have new coaches. The most shocking (and hilarious) coaching change this offseason was Alabama hiring Lane Kiffin as its new offensive coordinator. While I have gone on record as saying it’s an excellent hire on Nick Saban’s part, living in the part of the country I do, I couldn’t help but be entertained by it. He once coached Alabama’s rival Tennessee in a game which I dub “The Armpit Bowl”. Terrence Cody blocking two field goals with his armpit saved Alabama’s 2009 championship aspirations. Kiffin is not liked in this part of the country, and that’s putting it mildly. That is partly because of his brash personality and partly because a lot of people didn’t like the manner in which he left the Volunteers. The second most shocked I was in terms of coaching changes, was that Ed Orgeron did not get a gig anywhere. After his turnaround of USC’s season last year, I was sure a program would give him a head-coaching job. He may take the year off and be an analyst somewhere, but he’ll be back in coaching soon enough (although, to be fair, I said the same about Houston Nutt).

5. Players are spinning quite a bit too. Whether it’s due to graduating, early entry into the NFL draft, transfers (JUCO or otherwise), or player dismissal, there is always a lot of player movement in the offseason. Quarterbacks usually dominate these kinds of moves, at least in the public eye, and it’s easy to see why. Approximately 25 FBS quarterbacks have transferred or announced plans to do so (Texas A&M’s Matt Joeckel just joined that group this week). Tyler Ferguson transferring to Louisville to play for Bobby Petrino seems significant as does Max Wittek transferring from USC, as they are both eligible to play right away. Wittek hasn’t announced his destination yet, but I think he’d be silly not to go to Texas now that David Ash is out. The biggest QB transfer, however, has to be FSU’s Jacob Coker transferring to Alabama. Like Ferguson and Wittek, Coker is eligible to play right away (however, he is still finishing his Spring semester in Tallahassee). He battled Jameis Winston through fall practice for the starting job last season, but Famous Jameis eventually won out. I am still of the opinion (as I have been for the last three years) that Cooper Bateman is the next quarterback for the Crimson Tide, but if Coker comes in and dominates, one couldn’t blame Saban for going with him. Dorial Green-Beckham, star wide receiver for Missouri, was dismissed last week after yet another off-the-field incident. This one involved his alleged physical mistreatment of his girlfriend and her friend. No charges were filed, but Coach Gary Pinkel was clearly tired of the constant trouble DGB was getting into and felt it there was a necessary change of scenery for both he and the team. I expect him to transfer to an FCS program this season and then enter the 2015 NFL draft. If I were him, I’d transfer to Southeastern Louisiana University. The Lions already have five FBS transfers who will play for them this year including two from LSU and one each from Tulane, Southern Miss, and Louisiana-Lafayette. They were 11-3 and went to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs, adding all this talent can only help their chances.

Note: Baseball honored Jackie Robinson this week for his historical breaking of baseball’s color barrier. I’d like to take this opportunity to mention a little something about him that rarely gets mentioned (even in “42”). Robinson was one of just four black players on the 1939 UCLA football team. In those times, there weren’t very many prominent programs that were integrated at all and for the Bruins to have four black players on their team was unheard of back then.

New ESPN 300 Recruiting Rankings

As you know there are four major recruiting services and ESPN happens to be one but not one many like or use because they are shaky at best. Anyhow they have released their new top 300 players for 2015 and all 3 OSU recruits are on it.

Eric Glover-Williams- is ranked 96th and 6th best athlete in the country and 4th best recruit in Ohio for 2015.

Jamel Dean- is ranked 108th in the country and 11th best CB in the country and 23rd best player in Florida.

Ben Edwards- is ranked 170th in the country and 11th best Safety in the country and 32nd best player in Florida.

It is early in the recruiting process and OSU has a small class right now but once again OSU is primed to have a extremely highly ranked class.

Numbers Crunch: 2015 OSU Recruiting Class Size

Last year I did the Numbers Crunch post to keep up to date numbers on the class size based on SRs, early NFL draft entries, transfers, and players kicked off the team. The post was successful and at the very least gave everyone a guide to use. This year will be no different as it is back. So lets take a look at what the numbers look like.

Seniors

Curtis Grant
Michael Bennett
Braxton Miller
Jeff Heuerman
Joel Hale
Daryl Baldwin
Antonio Underwood
Doran Grant
Steve Miller
Evan Spencer
JT Moore
Rod Smith
Devin Smith

Player Transfers

Mike Mitchell- February
Jayme Thompson- April

Players kicked off the team

none

Players leaving early for the NFL

none

Additional Scholarships

3- added back from the NCAA punishments putting OSU back to 85

Total

As of April 16, 2014 = 18 is the magic number right now.

2014 OSU Spring Football – Questions Answered, Questions Remain (Part 2)

Part one reviewed the least concerning areas for Ohio State after the conclusion of spring practice. This article will focus upon the top five concerning areas for Ohio State, heading into summer workouts. Have any position groups changed from before spring practice? Let us review…

5. Defensive Back: One of the biggest changes, after spring practice. Previously ranked as the third most concerning area, I would lower this area after spring practice. Even though there are two open positions at cornerback and safety, my reasoning for feeling better about the defensive backfield lies in the more aggressive approach that was evident during the spring game. Instead of playing off the wide receivers, Ohio State’s defensive backs were pressing right from the line of scrimmage. Throw in the dominant Ohio State defensive line that figures to continually pressure opposing quarterbacks, and it would seem likely that the defensive backs will be in a great position to excel, despite their inexperience.

4. Wide Receiver: Another position group that moved, and this actually increased in concern following spring practice. Talent is on the roster, yet it was evident in the following comments by Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer following the spring game where his thoughts were about his wide receivers after the spring game ~ “We’re not where we need to be. I think we’re better that we were two years ago, and I’m hoping we’re a better notch than we were last year. We got a ways to go…Receiver, I can’t name you one that’s going to start. Which is concerning, but it’s comforting to know I can name about six that have the ability. Those would be Devin Smith, Johnnie Dixon, Michael Thomas, I think Jalin Marshall, before he got hurt he was having a great spring, Dontre Wilson and Evan Spencer; we have some depth there.”. Keep an eye and ear open for news about this position group over the summer workouts and fall camp.

3. Linebacker: A position group that has improved since before the spring practices, yet remains in the same area of concern. While rising junior Joshua Perry has earned a starting outside linebacker position, battles for the other two spots remain between rising senior Curtis Grant and true freshman Raekwon McMillan for the middle linebacker job, and Darron Lee and Chris Worley are both in the mix at the walkout linebacker spot. Considering Ohio State opens up the 2014 season at Navy, a triple option attack, it will be crucial for Ohio State’s linebackers to play disciplined; will that be possible with such inexperience at this position?

2. Backup Quarterback: Another position group that has been elevated since spring practice began, and it truly has less to do with the spring game than the reality of the situation. Rising redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones has emerged as the top backup quarterback, with rising redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett third string. While Coach Meyer seemed pleased with Jones’ development over the course of the spring practices, it must be asked – is Jones truly ready to lead Ohio State if rising senior Braxton Miller is injured this upcoming season?

1. Offensive Line: The biggest concern I had heading into spring practice, and nothing has changed since spring football concluded. In the words of Coach Meyer, “Offensive line, we’ve got to really go, we gotta really go from here. I saw Jamarco Jones, Demetrius Knox is coming in, Brady Taylor. Those are three bodies that are going to be coming in in June and I look them right in the eye and said “You’re not red shirting; you’re playing,” and that’s hard for an offensive lineman, so we’re gonna — that’s an area that we have got to get back to where we — maybe not where we were, but close…On offense you got Pat Elflein and our left tackle, Taylor Decker, and everyone else is wide open, no other spots taken.”. My first thoughts, as I read those comments? Be grateful that Ohio State was able to retain offensive line coach Ed Warriner.

**
Thomas Edison once stated, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”. Ohio State fans can rest easy knowing that the Ohio State coaching staff and players will seize these opportunities to work over the coming summer months.

2014 OSU Spring Football – Questions Answered, Questions Remain

Before Ohio State’s 2014 spring practices began in March, I posted questions ranked from least concerning areas to most concerning areas as I perceived them. Are the categories in the same sequence? Let’s find out.

10. Special Teams Units: Ranked tenth coming into the spring practice, and I believe this important area still ranks low in terms of concerns heading into the summer. During the spring game, Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer did not practice kickoffs, and punt returns all resulted in fair catches. Furthermore, with the influx of freshmen talent who will arrive in June, it would be reasonable to expect a number of freshmen to compete for playing time in this often over-looked area.

9. H-Back/Pivot/Hybrid/Slot: An area that was ranked eighth heading into spring practice, it seems to be in fairly capable and competent hands. Coach Meyer withheld rising sophomore Dontre Wilson from the spring game, and Wilson should have ample opportunities to play H-Back when the season begins next August 30th. Rising redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall and true freshman Curtis Samuel should also have chances to contribute in this area; Samuel had several moments during spring practice that impressed Coach Meyer.

8. Tight End: Ranked ninth, I elevated this area for two relatively minor reasons. First, rising senior Jeff Heuerman missed a considerable portion of spring practice a foot injury that required surgery, and will keep Heuerman in a cast and walking boot until summer workouts. Secondly, rising redshirt freshman Marcus Baugh had some impressive moments this spring, but is still trying to regain the confidence of the coaching staff. Rising junior Nick Vannett will play considerably this fall. Overall, a solid group, but Heuerman’s absence and injury led me to rank this as an area of more concern after the spring than before the spring practices.

7. Running Back: This position area is in the same location as it was when spring practices began. My concerns rank in the same general area – will the coaching staff be able to keep all of these players happy and involved? Rising sophomore Ezekiel Elliott seems to be the prohibitive favorite going into summer workouts, but rising redshirt sophomore Bri’onte Dunn, true freshman Curtis Samuel, and rising redshirt sophomore Warren Ball all played well throughout the spring. Throw in rising senior Rod Smith, who had a strong spring, in the words of Coach Meyer, and perhaps you can see why I question how the coaching staff will be able to keep all of these players involved and happy.

6. Placekicker: Another adjustment, post-spring practice. This battle will continue throughout the summer, but true freshman Sean Nuernberger may have a slight lead over rising senior Kyle Clinton. Nuernberger was able to successfully kick both field goal attempts from 52 yards, while Clinton was unable to do so. It is early in the process, but considering Nuernberger is a scholarship player, it would seem plausible that Nuernberger may have the edge on this spot going into summer workouts.

Part two will focus upon the five areas of highest concern, as Ohio State leaves spring practice behind and prepares for summer workouts and fall camp.

Thad Matta & The Buckeyes Land Big Man Thompson

Ohio State has picked up seven-foot Virginia Tech transfer Trevor Thompson, according to ESPN Basketball insider Jeff Goodman.

The Buckeyes have been in the running for Thompson for several weeks now and Ohio State was speculated to be one of his top choices in his college search. Thompson averaged 5 PPG and 4.7 RPG over 30 games for the Hokies this past season. Due to transfer rules, Thompson will sit out the upcoming season and will have three years of eligibility left starting in the 2015-2016 season. This is a great pickup for Thad Matta’s squad after clearly lacking size in the front court this past season. Here’s a taste of what Thompson can bring to the team:

Thompson himself also took to Twitter to announce the news:

Thompson is ready. Are you ready for him Buckeye Nation?

The 2014 Ohio State Spring Game: Youth Will Be Served

“Youth will be served, every dog has his day, and mine has been a fine one.”

~ George Borrow

Attending the Ohio State spring game has always been one of my favorite spring time events. The very first spring game I attended was in 1996, eagerly anticipating how the newly-signed quarterback Mark Garcia would do in his Ohio State debut, as he battled Stanley Jackson for the starting quarterback position. Little did anyone know a third quarterback by the name of Joe Germaine would outperform both quarterbacks in the spring game, giving fans in attendance an early glimpse at one of the best quarterbacks in Ohio State football history.

Another fond memory was the 2003 spring game. Not only was Ohio State basking in the glory of the 2002 national championship, but fans were treated to an aerial duel between Justin Zwick and Troy Smith. It was the unofficial beginning of the quarterback battle for the 2004 starting job.

My wife and three children will be joining me for this spring game. I have taken my wife before, and my sons came with me three years ago, but this will mark my daughter’s first visit to Ohio Stadium. I am also planning on meeting up with Shannon Sommers as well at Ohio Stadium…

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has already stated that true freshmen Curtis Samuel and Johnnie Dixon figure prominently in Ohio State’s upcoming season; the spring game will give fans that first look at both as Buckeyes. Freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan and freshman placekicker Sean Nuernberger will also be counted upon this fall; I am anxious to see how both perform for what should be a pretty decent crowd.

The player I am most anxious to see? Linebacker Darron Lee, who has been starting all spring. Lee has been consistently cited by Coach Meyer for his aggressiveness and intensity all spring. Considering the level of disappointment that Coach Meyer and the fans had of the 2013 linebackers, watching Lee’s performance will be foremost for me at the spring game.

A close second? Cornerback Eli Apple. Apple redshirted in 2013, but has recently had his black stripe removed, symbolizing that he is now a player that will be relied upon in game situations. Like the linebackers, the 2013 secondary left much to be desired. Apple and Gareon Conley have been playing well this spring, and will be challenging for playing time this season.

Yes, youth will be served during the spring game. Youth may also be served this coming season.

Honoring All Americans

Are you going to the Spring game Saturday? Hope so I know I am. We will get to watch Ohio State honor be honoring their four most recent first team All Americans. Johnathan Hankins and Bradley Roby for their 2012 seasons and also Ryan Shazier and Jack Mewhort for the 2013 season. It’ll be great to be there and be a part of honoring them. Also the losing team from the Spring game will have to cleanup and landscape Buckeye Grove after which Hankins, Roby, Shazier and Mewhort will have trees planted in their honor.

Sad to see these guys leave but they have bright futures ahead of them in the NFL and hey maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to watch one play in the Dawg Pound. Don’t forget before the game there will be a mens lacrosse match pitting Ohio State against TTUN. Go Buckeyes and hope to see you there Saturday.

Spring Practice Update: Defense Two Deep Predictions

Before reading this I think we all need to take a deep sigh of relief and remind ourselves that last year’s secondary will not be returning. Yes, losing Bradley Roby does not help, but inheriting Chris Ash should off-set Roby’s loss. With some of Ash’s new schemes, he has caused a bit of a shake-up in the linebackers room and a new name has emerged as a starter. Continuing the trend from back to front I’m going to take a look at some of the depth and rotation new d-line coach Larry Johnson Sr. is creating. Don’t worry Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, and Joey Bosa will still have the green light to reek havoc with offensive lines across the Big Ten. However, Johnson is focusing on creating depth this spring. Let’s take a look at all of these position changes and battles.

Secondary
As the Buckeyes took the field this spring the only true returning starter in the secondary was going to be Doran Grant. However, as the practices have gone by the unit has taken shape very quickly. Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell, Armani Reeves, Cam Burrows, and Gareon Conley have all been names that have cracked the rotation at their respective positions. Vonn Bell was lost early in the spring due to injury, but coaches have liked what they have seen out of Cam Burrows at safety in the past few practices. The way the safeties in Ash’s defense are asked to cover receivers it’s not surprising that Burrows has made the position change from corner to safety with some ease. Bell should re-take the starting spot once he returns from injury, but Burrows will not be completely excluded from the defensive rotation with the quality of spring he has had.

Armani Reeves is the starter opposite of Doran Grant. As much as it hurts me to say that, that seems to be where the coaching staff is going at least in the base defense. When going to nickel, Reeves moves over to the nickel corner and either Eli Apple or Gareon Conley come in as the opposite corner. Speaking of Conley and Apple, that battle for the #3 corner has turned in to the hottest position battle the past couple of practices. Both Apple and Conley had themselves excellent scrimmages last Saturday. Apple caught a lot of headlines losing his black stripe finally, but Conley had an equally excellent practice.

Judging from Reeves performances last season, I believe in Reeves to be a very solid nickel corner, and Apple or Conley should be competing for the #2 outside corner. However, being the mere blogger that I am, I can only suggest and dream.

Linebackers
The big story line coming in to spring was whether or not Raekwon McMillan would challenge Curtis Grant for the starting middle linebacker spot. Whether that was a legitimate opportunity or not, it has motivated Curtis Grant and according to Meyer the senior linebacker is having his best spring as a Buckeye. McMillan is still battling to get any reps with the ones. Cam Williams split some reps with Grant with the ones and McMillan was limited to just playing with the twos this past Saturday. It seems like the new scheme Chris Ash has brought in has actually helped Grant. Grant does not have to play in coverage too often and is able to play downhill like he prefers. His leadership has improved and I believe he will be the starting middle linebacker. The McMillan hype seems to be dying down and now he is in a battle for the number two linebacker with Cam Williams.

The story that has surfaced out of spring practice from the linebacker room has been of Darron Lee. Yes, Darron Lee the 3 star recruit who played quarterback, safety, and wide receiver in high school, is your new outside linebacker at Ohio State. Why? Lee’s versatility, athleticism, and more importantly his relentless effort have coaches raving about the kid. He goes from point A to point B as fast as he can even though according to Coach Meyer “he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.” The kid has played fast, hard, and will be filling a similar role that Ryan Shazier had last season. Lee has become the unheralded star of spring practice and the more reps he earns, the more Lee will find his way to the spotlight.

Defensive Line
The starting defensive line for Ohio State is set in stone. Even though Noah Spence will be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season, he along with Joey Bosa should man the edges with Bennett and Washington plugging up the middle. It is the depth where there is constant battle and rotation. Larry Johnson Sr. would like to rotate 8 to 9 players on the defensive line. However, good luck picking between Steve Miller, Tommy Schutt, Donovan Munger, Michael Hill, Tyquan Lewis, Chris Carter, Tracy Sprinkle, and Rashad Frazier. Something has happened with Jamaal Marcus where he did not practice Saturday and has somewhat disappeared in the rotation after a stellar Orange Bowl performance. Tyquan Lewis seems to have impressed coaches enough to overtake Marcus as Lewis started the spring with the number two’s.

Needless to say, LJ Sr. has a ton of talent to work with and his dream of having defensive line shifts could easily become a reality this fall.

Predicted Two Deep Post Spring Practice
LE- Noah Spence
Steve Miller

DT- Adolphus Washington
Tommy Schutt/Michael Hill/Tracy Sprinkle

DT- Michael Bennett
Donovan Munger or Chris Carter

RE- Joey Bosa
Tyquan Lewis

SAM-Darron Lee
Chris Worley

MIKE-Curtis Grant
Camren Williams

WILL-Joshua Perry
Trey Johnson

CB-Armani Reeves
Eli Apple

CB-Doran Grant
Gareon Conley

FS-Vonn Bell
Cam Burrows

SS- Tyvis Powell
Ron Tanner

Spring Practice Update: Predictions of Offense Two Deep

The 2014 Ohio State offense could truly live up to the title of Dream ’14 if they sort through early spring injuries and youth. Replacing the best offensive line-running back tandem in the country from last year has been the biggest question mark surrounding spring practices. However, with those two areas of concern in the forefront it has brought some light on the area of the Buckeye offense that will have to carry them early in the season, the outside play-makers. Let’s take a look at a few of the battles that are being watched closely by the coaching staff.

Offensive Line
Three of the five spots along the line have been virtually locked up with Taylor Decker and Darryl Baldwin securing both tackle spots, and Pat Elflein being named as the starter at right guard. Left guard may be the most wide open position battle left to be decided until this fall. Incoming freshman Demetrius Knox will have the opportunity to compete for the job with Antonio Underwood (Jr.) and Joel Hale (Sr.), both of whom are currently fighting for the job. Since Knox did not enroll early he will have to wait until the fall to get in to the mix. Jacoby Boren is taking the majority of the reps with the ones at center and I imagine he will continue to get the nod as he has been bred for this position for the past two seasons behind Corey Linsley.

Prior to the 2012 season Ed Warinner and his unit faced several questions regarding the performance of his unit and its potential. As you all know, the 2012 offensive line unit turned in to one of the teams most consistent groups. I fully expect Warinner to provide similar results for this years unit.

Running Back
Entering the off-season, it was strongly believed that Ezekiel Elliott had the inside track to the starting running back role. However, Rod Smith has proven in practice that he too deserves reps as he has been running extremely violent in between the tackles, and has provided the punch that the Buckeye offense lost with Hyde’s departure. A name also surfacing in the running backs room has been Curtis Samuel. Samuel has been placed in the running backs room and could very well earn his share of touches. With the emergence of Samuel, running backs coach Stan Drayton will have the ability to pull from a variety of backs. Elliott is more of an all purpose back, Samuel can serve as a speed back, and Rod Smith can be the power back the offense needs for the inside zone read. Brionte Dunn and Warren Ball will be competing with Rod Smith for time in the power back role. At this point I expect Dunn and Ball to be on the outside looking in again.

At the end of spring practice, I’m expecting Elliott and Smith to split carries. Elliott has put on an extra 25 pounds this off-season, however adding weight and running with it are two different things. We will see how Elliott uses his new found bulk. If he can run violently and still maintain his shiftiness in space I would expect him to receive the bulk of the reps, as he could very easily be an every down back.

Wide Receiver
This may be the most intriguing battle on offense. The wide receiver group will be one of the youngest on the team, but arguably the unit with the most talent. Devin Smith and Evan Spencer are the returning starters on this unit, but Spencer has been held out of spring practice in order to recover from surgery. Incoming freshman Johnnie Dixon has left a considerable impression on all coaches. He possesses great hands, speed, and has done everything the coaches have asked. Michael Thomas, the spring game all-star, has surfaced as the starter opposite of Devin Smith due to Evan Spencer’s absence. Corey Smith has also had a very productive spring. He too also has phenomenal hands and could possibly be the best route runner in the bunch.

Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, Corey Smith, and Johnnie Dixon are the top four receivers right now and I do not expect that to change. James Clark and Jalin Marshall have had set backs due to injury this spring, and Jeff Greene is still battling to see more reps. Greene could get in on red zone situations due to his size, but currently he is pretty far down the pecking order. The spring game should prove to be a fun preview as to what to expect this fall from the more talented and competent receiving core.

Post Spring Practice Two Deep Prediction
QB- Braxton Miller
Cardale Jones

RB- Ezekiel Elliott
Rod Smith

WR(X)- Devin Smith
Johnnie Dixon

WR(Z)- Michael Thomas
Corey Smith or Evan Spencer

TE- Jeff Heuerman
Nick Vannett

LT- Taylor Decker
Evan Lisle

LG- Antonio Underwood
Joel Hale

C- Jacoby Boren
Billy Price

RG- Pat Elflein
Chase Farris

RT- Darryl Baldwin
Kyle Trout