Ohio State’s preseason football camp opened on Monday. As usual, expectations are high in Columbus as many preseason publications have already tabbed the Buckeyes as a preseason favorite to win the Big Ten. To achieve this goal and possible a berth in the College Football Playoff, five areas will need to be addressed by Head Coach Urban Meyer and his staff. These areas include:
1. Solidifying the offensive line
Co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Ed Warinner will need to retool an offensive line that returns only one starter from last season. Last season’s line was instrumental in paving the way for a Big Ten-leading 45.5 points per game.
Taylor Decker, the lone returning starter, will move to left tackle after playing right tackle last season. Redshirt sophomore Pat Elflein saw extended action late last season at guard after Marcus Hall was ejected from the Michigan game. Elflein started in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State.
2. Fixing the pass defense
The Buckeyes’ defense unraveled at the end of last season, as the defense allowed an average of 539 yards per game in the last three games, including 377.7 through the air. This translated into 38.3 points per game.
During the offseason, Meyer hired Chris Ash from Arkansas to be the new co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach. Ash has been tasked to fix the leaky pass defense.
Three starters from last year’s secondary are gone, with only senior Doran Grant returning.
3. Replacing Carlos Hyde
The Buckeyes will need to find a replacement for the bruising Hyde, who rushed for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2013. Hyde was a key cog in the Ohio State offense, registering 73 first downs on 208 rushes last season.
A talented but green group of backs will vie to fill Hyde’s shoes. The leading candidate is sophomore Ezekiel Elliott. Last season, Elliott rushed for 262 yards, including 162 against Florida A&M. Fifth-year senior Rod Smith, redshirt sophomores Warren Ball and Bri’onte Dunn, and freshman Curtis Samuel will also figure into the mix.
4. Finding a backup for Braxton Miller
Last season, Buckeye fans could rest easy with senior super sub Kenny Guiton coming off the bench to fill in for Miller. Guiton threw 14 touchdown passes and rushed for another five when playing in place of Miller.
The two candidates are redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett. Both took first-team reps during spring practice as Miller recovered from shoulder surgery.
5. Forgetting last year
After stretching their win streak to 24 games, the Buckeyes lost the Big Ten Championship Game to Michigan State and a possible shot at playing the BCS National Championship Game. Ohio State followed up with a loss to Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl.
It will be imperative for the team to forget about the disappointment of last year and turn that into motivation to win a tough East Division.
Tags: Ohio State Football