By Aaron McGhee
At this very moment, we sit four days away from the start of the 2013 Ohio State football season and their matchup with the Buffalo Bulls. Today, we take a more in depth look who and what to look out for as the season begins.
The Buckeyes are lead on offense end by junior Braxton Miller, who will be the least of the offensive worries. A Heisman favorite, Braxton seems to be a sure thing for this Ohio State offense and will certainly make his mark on the 2013 season. It’s his other skill position players who could lead to some questions.
The minimum three game suspension of Carlos Hyde and the one game suspension of Rod Smith give Ohio State a few concerns at the running back position. It looks like Jordan Hall- after a myriad of injuries- will finally get the chance to shine at that position for the first couple of games. Hall seems to be more of a typical Urban Meyer back who shows off his speed and athleticism rather than his powerful frame. It will be interesting to see where guys like Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball will fit in the running game as well. While the questions are many for the first couple of games, the rest of the season should feature Hyde as the premier starter.
As opposed to the past couple of seasons, the offensive line should no longer be a question for the Buckeyes. Four seniors: Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley and Marcus Hall, will all provide a ton of experience and talent to a group that improved immensely last year. This season, in fact, the offensive line might even classify as a strength of this Ohio State offense. Sophomore Taylor Decker will look to make a big impact at the right tackle position as the only starting underclassmen on the big, experienced line. A lot of size and a lot of talent should help pave the way for the likes of Braxton Miller and the running game. Depth is still a concern up front, but guys like Chase Farris and Kyle Dodson will hopefully step up if called upon.
The wide receiver group is the x-factor for Ohio State and will make or break this team offensively. With Corey Brown and Devin Smith leading the way, the wide receivers are looking to improve upon their production from last season. There is plenty of depth at the wide receiver position, but the question is whether or not there will be a star. Corey Brown had a very good season in 2012 and seems to be the top candidate to step up and become that star for the Buckeyes. If he does make that step, however, he’s going to have to improve upon his three touchdown performance of last season. Mike Thomas, James Clark, Corey Smith and Evan Spencer will also get their shot at the plate and may need to step up when the lights get brightest.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this Buckeye offense is a player who hasn’t even put on his uniform and played in Ohio Stadium yet. That player is freshman Dontre Wilson. By all accounts, Wilson is set for a breakout year with the Buckeyes. With his 4.4 speed and incredible talent, it will be exciting to see what Meyer will do with Wilson on offense and what Wilson can do as the starting kick returner.
Overall, the offense should be the strength of the Buckeyes in 2013 and should bring a ton of energy and excitement to the field this season.
The defensive line of the Buckeyes will be an extremely interesting group with the potential to lead this defense to a National Championship. Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt and Cris Carter are all names to look out for at this position. With speedy defensive ends like Washington and Spence- who also happen to be very physical- and big time interior guys like Carter and Schutt, the D-line will be versatile and fun to watch. If all goes well, this could be a big-time unit for the Buckeyes this fall.
Maybe the biggest concern in terms of the defense is the linebacking unit, at least to head coach Urban Meyer. Ryan Shazier should continue to grow and has the potential to become a big time player. However, injury concerns for Curtis Grant and a thin depth chart overall will force another player to step up and become a big time contributor on this defense. If Grant can stay healthy and Shazier continues to play like the best linebacker in the Big Ten, this unit can certainly get by, but until that time it remains a huge question mark.
The defense is rounded out in the secondary. CJ Barnett and Christian Bryant will have to step up as leaders in their respective safety positions. Bradley Roby should be one of the best cornerbacks in college football when he comes back in week two. There are plenty of viable options for the other cornerback spot, including Doran Grant who should be the 2nd starter once Roby comes back in week two. Armani Reeves will start temporarily with Roby gone, but will also look to play and provide some depth at this spot. The secondary also has the potential to be a strength in a pretty strong defensive unit.
Defensively, this team really came in to its own as the season went on last year and there should be no reason for a drop off in 2013. The Buckeyes should get back to the dominant defensive football that we became accustomed to in the Jim Tressel era and should mirror the defenses that Meyer had on his dominant teams elsewhere.
In terms of the Special Teams, this edition of Ohio State football will not be heralding the punt as the most important play in football. As long as the kicker is good from 19 yards, that should do!
It should be a fun year for Buckeye football, but anything less than a National Title game appearance will be considered a failure. A lot still has to fall into place in terms of the young guys and their ability to step up, Braxton Miller’s emergence as a legitimate Heisman candidate, and an emergence of true leadership as the season progresses, but it should be a fun journey that starts very soon!