Ohio State football: 5 biggest holes to fill in 2021 starting lineup
Last season should be remembered fondly by Ohio State fans.
No, they didn’t win it all. Yes, they were pretty soundly thumped in their National Championship game appearance. But there was still a lot to love. Scores were settled. Records were broken. Another B1G title was won.
And the future for Buckeyes football is bright. Even with as many as 13 starters leaving, the way Ryan Day recruits results in a lot of talent in Columbus, with enough players coming back to make this team very competitive. Will they be able win a 5th straight B1G title and make another run at a national championship? There are a lot of questions that have to be answered before we know how good this team can be.
Some of those questions involve the major holes that will need to be filled — and who will replace some elite-level talent. Such as:
1. C.J. Stroud replacing QB Justin Fields
Was Justin Fields the best quarterback in program history? You’ll find many who will make that argument. Regardless of where you might rank him, it will be difficult to fill his cleats in 2021.
The task will likely fall to Stroud, who — along with Jack Miller and Kyle McCord — will compete for the starting gig. Stroud seems to be the odds-on favorite here. Why? This is who Day put in when Fields was on the sideline. The 6-3, 205-pound Californian was the nation’s No. 2 -ranked pro-style quarterback coming out of high school and his familiarity with the offense gives him a leg up on the incoming McCord.
But the situation for the incoming QB could not be any better. With an offensive line filled with studs and the best receiving corps in the country, it might not matter who is taking snaps. Maybe any of the three could find success.
2. Jerron Cage replacing DE Tommy Togiai
Ohio State’s defense was criticized throughout the season for various inconsistencies, but Togiai was one of the few, constant, high-level performers was Togiai. Losing him will be tough to replace — as we saw in the national title game.
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But if that game was any indication, we already know how Day will replace him. He’ll use fifth-year Jerron Cage, who will line up alongside Haskell Garrett and Antwuan Jackson to once again provide a formidable defensive front. Cage has been unremarkable but should be a solid option as a veteran. And who knows? Maybe this is his breakout season.
He’ll get the chance. And he’ll have some talented teammates alongside him.
3. Thayer Munford replacing OL Wyatt Davis
There’s a lot more to Wyatt Davis than just being an all-world offensive lineman. Davis was a leader. He was honest when he took criticism and joyful after victories. Who could replace that? It’ll take a few players.
On the field, it will likely be Thayer Munford, whose decision to come back for another season will allow Ohio State to not miss a beat on the offensive line. While others like Paris Johnson would like the chance on the end, some talented players may move to guard to make room.
It’s a good problem to have. And Munford also brings a toughness, leadership and work ethic that is unmatched. In that sense, he seems to be the best person to fill in for Davis.
4. Sevyn Banks replacing CB Shaun Wade
On the back end of the defense, there wasn’t a lot of consistency last season — but there were a lot of big pass plays that were given up.
OSU gave up more completions covering 20+ yards (34), 30+ yards (13), 40+ yards (7) and 50+ yards (5) than anybody in the B1G. Granted, some of those came against Playoff teams, but still … that’s far too many. The 2019 team allowed 6 completions covering 40 yards — in 14 games.
Now, take away the best athlete of that group and you’re going to leave a big hole to fill.
Shaun Wade had a rough season after moving from covering the slot to covering the corner. A lot didn’t work. But Wade still had enough athletic ability to show up and make plays when needed. Now he’s off to the NFL. So who steps up?
The guess here is Sevyn Banks. The former 4-star recruit from Florida had 1 interception last season (against Clemson) and he will get the chance to do a lot more in 2021. Coaches love his crazy athleticism, and they feel that Banks has the kind of ability to become the next Buckeyes corner to make his mark in the NFL. Here’s a fact: This team will need this kind of production from someone — anyone — at this position.
5. TreVeyon Henderson replacing RB Trey Sermon
Call it one “Tre” for another. As Trey Sermon finished last season by setting records and winning games — and then by getting injured — he left a big hole to fill when he decided to take his talents to the pros.
While Master Teague, Steele Chambers and others remain in the backfield, I’m betting on the No. 1 high school running back in the country — a guy who has already been compared by pro scouts to Carolina Panther Christian McCaffrey — to come in and start from Day 1. Teague has solidified himself as a great backup running back. Chambers has shown flashes but hasn’t really done anything to wow anyone.
Henderson could be the real deal, a do-it-all, every down kind of guy who steps in with speed and power. Some scouts are already saying he will be on the all-time lists with Griffin, George and Elliott.
I say let’s hold on a bit. All Ohio State needs right now is Henderson to be a good replacement for Trey Sermon.
If he can do that — and others can step up to fill these other holes — Ohio State will again make a run at a national championship.