Ohio State finally began spring football this week.
Practices under new head coach Urban Meyer have been intense, but that's not exactly shocking given the annual expectation level at Ohio State.
With many early arrivals from the highly-touted 2012 recruiting class already on campus, several position and depth-chart battles have emerged.
Just after national signing day, Meyer stated that he did not recruit guys to redshirt at Ohio State. That's a refreshing and welcomed change from previous seasons where, seemingly, seniority sometimes mattered more than on-the-field talent.
Jim Tressel was a great coach, but most would agree that he was often too loyal to his upperclassmen.
It does not matter how long any player has been in the program. No one should earn his playing time based on seniority (cough, Joe Bauserman, cough). The best 22 players should start, period—and Meyer gets that.
By the time the Scarlet and Gray game is played on April 21st, the depth chart should be pretty firmly set. There is, however, still time for guys to move up in the ranks.
So with that in mind, here's a very early look at how the depth chart is shaping up at several key positions.
Obviously, there's no quarterback controversy in Columbus. Meyer was practically frothing at the mouth during his introductory press conference over the prospect of coaching Braxton Miller. But Buckeye fans shouldn't soon forget that Meyer played two quarterbacks at Florida in 2006 (Chris Leak and some guy named Tebow), and that turned out pretty well (41-14).
Miller is the starter, but a solid backup QB is just as important, especially when you have a dual-threat QB who's going to take some hits. That means backup Kenny Guiton and freshman Cardale Jones will both need to be game-ready.
So far, Meyer has liked what he's seen from both Miller and Guiton, saying, "Both those kids, the answer is yes, they can throw." Now, there's all the other stuff that goes on, but they can physically throw the ball, both of them. I feel good about those guys."
When he's gotten the chance to play, Guiton has shown he can guide the offense and could occasionally find himself on the field, if for no other reason than to mix things up and keep opposing defenses guessing. Or he could play give Braxton a breather and/or the chance for some in-game coaching—something he sorely lacked in 2011.
While the hierarchy at quarterback has been established, determining the backfield pecking order could be described as a blurry quandary. That's not so much because of a lack of talent or depth, but rather, a lack of "working together" experience between the new staff and the players, and because the incumbent, Boom Herron, is gone.
Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde are experienced, while Rod Smith isn't. When he did play (ever-so-sparingly) in 2011, he fumbled away the ball and his spot on the offense altogether temporarily when he was moved to defense. Bri'onte Dun, a 5-star true freshman, is unproven at this level as well.
With the loss of Herron to graduation, no clear-cut starter returns or has emerged, so all four backs have been getting reps early on. Meyer said they have momentum and "as long as that continues the talent there is fine."
Hall is the most experienced, but unlike Hyde, he is unlikely to be a workhorse back who could carry the ball 20 times per game. Instead, dumping the ball off to him on a halfback screen or out of the slot would suit Hall's talents much better.
Hyde has drawn comparisons to Beanie Wells and even Eddie George. He's not as fast as Beanie or as dynamic as Eddie, but he does have decent speed and power, and most importantly, he protects the football. In 2011, Hyde averaged 5.4 yards per rush and fumbled just twice in 106 carries.
While Smith and Dunn were both heavily recruited and highly rated coming out of high school, they must both prove themselves on the field the rest of the spring and this fall.
The arrival of Warren Ball, a 4-star RB in the 2012 class, will also affect the final depth chart this fall. Between Ball and Dunn, one might have to redshirt this season rather than waste a year of eligibility.
Depth Chart (subject to change)
Part II—Wide Receiver
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