Ohio State Football: Toughest Tasks Urban Meyer Faces This Spring

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterMarch 13, 2014

AP Images

The Buckeyes have already started spring football and the to-do list for head coach Urban Meyer is not lacking for significant undertakings.

While there are issues to address all over the field, the three most notable points that Ohio State must hit are rebuilding the offensive line, replacing key production on both sides of the ball and improving the coverage aspect of the defense.

None of those three issues are easy to solve, but unlike many teams around the nation, the Buckeyes are one of the talented few with the bodies capable of making the spring fixes required to be championship contenders.

Braxton Miller, the quarterback for Meyer's team, is still on that to-do list as he sits out spring football due to shoulder surgery.

His mental reps will help him improve, but the growth of the quarterback will remain a concern heading into summer and fall camps. 

Jack Mewhort is just one of the pieces to replace on the O-line.
Jack Mewhort is just one of the pieces to replace on the O-line.Michael Conroy/Associated Press/Associated Press

Meanwhile, the other Buckeyes will be getting after it pushing to earn positions and shore up the areas of need. On the offensive line, Ohio State must replace four starters and it takes time for teams to gel.

As The Columbus Dispatch's Bill Rabinowitz pointed out, there are bodies with some experience. It is a matter of finding the fit for a team that will need its line to help produce in both the run and the pass game.

In the same vein of replacement, Ryan Shazier and Carlos Hyde highlight the biggest losses in production for the Buckeyes.

Trey Johnson is the leading candidate to replace Shazier as a weak-side linebacker who flies around to the football to track down ball-carriers. Johnson has big shoes to fill, but with Curtis Grant and early enrollee Raekwon McMillan, there will be linebackers who understand how to hammer and splatter action to Johnson.

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

On the other side of the ball, Ezekiel Elliott is the favorite to step in at the running back position. Hyde was a monster a season ago, posting over 1,500 yards while only tallying carries in 11 games.

Elliott arrived as a 247Sports.com 4-star recruit and showed flashes of his talent in 2013 when given a chance. 2014 is nothing but an opportunity for Elliott. Expect the rising sophomore to respond.

The personnel issues will solve themselves because Meyer has done a phenomenal job of recruiting talent and stocking the coffers with bodies. The more intriguing action item to watch for the Buckeyes will be how the back seven grows in its ability to pattern-matchsomething the team struggled with in 2013.

As Your Best 11 pointed out heading into the Big Ten Championship Game, the Buckeyes' defenders had problems relating their drops to the routes of the opponents.

The defense expanded to landmarks well, but zone coverage is at its most effective when defenders carry routes, move to deny passes and close windows instead of merely covering space.

The Buckeyes have to go from being around the ball to denying passes.
The Buckeyes have to go from being around the ball to denying passes.Credit: BTN2Go

Ohio State is not the first team to go through the zone coverage growing pains and, this year, as the players have another season under their belt, it should improve. That means turning tackles after catches into batted balls or, even better, quarterback sacks thanks to a lack of open targets.

Meyer's got work to put in this spring and, unlike many teams, the Buckeyes should be able to replace the missing pieces with high-level talent.

If this defense can improve its ability to relate to routes, the unit will take the next step toward being a high-quality group.