Ohio State football: What are the 3 biggest position battles?
Urban Meyer will miss the first three games of the season while he’s suspended. The Ohio State coach set off another firestorm of controversy with his performance at Wednesday’s press conference regarding his punishment. So did the school, because many people felt OSU should have given Meyer much harsher treatment surrounding his reaction to allegations of domestic violence against then-receivers coach Zach Smith.
With all of that swirling around Columbus, including questions about the future of athletic director Gene Smith, it’s easy to forget that Buckeyes players and coaches have games coming fast, and that preparations are well underway.
But the schedule isn’t changing, and the opening game against Oregon State is still just more than a week away for Ohio State. And, like every fall camp everywhere, the Buckeyes have position battles which are worth analyzing.
So, here are the 3 biggest position battles in Columbus, and why they matter:
Summary: Senior Brady Taylor, below, appears to be the heir apparent at center, where OSU will miss All-American Billy Price. Assuming Isaiah Prince, the starter at right tackle the past two seasons, stays put, the Buckeyes will have either Josh Alabi or Thayer Munford at left tackle.
Why it’s important: Price, a first-round draft pick in April, slid over to center and followed another top-notch center, Pat Elflein, very nicely. The Buckeyes have a nimble new quarterback in Dwayne Haskins and two excellent running backs, J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. So the line does not have to be great, but considering the depth of quality defenses in the Big Ten East, the OSU line needs to hold up its end of the bargain so the playmakers can do their thing.
Summary: Malik Harrison, Pete Werner, Baron Browning, Dante Booker and Keandre Jones are all fighting for playing time in camp. Meyer speaks highly of Werner, a sophomore.
Why it’s important: Returning starter Tuf Borland, a redshirt sophomore, is still battling back from an Achilles injury suffered in spring, and he’s set to anchor the middle when he’s ready. Even with him, this unit is probably the most inexperienced on the team. Jerome Baker was lost to the NFL draft and starter Chris Worley is gone, too.
Summary: Junior Damon Arnette returns and sophomore Jeffrey Okudah is projected for the other starting spot. This unit is also very young — five of the nine CBs on Ohio State’s official roster are freshmen.
Why it’s important: This unit only lost one starter but he was a really good one: Denzel Ward, who was drafted fourth overall by the Cleveland Browns. This group must step up; otherwise the Buckeyes will be in trouble because teams like Michigan State and Penn State are likely to sling the ball all over the place if the defensive backs can’t cope.