Ohio State Roster Still Thin Entering Spring Practice

By Kyle Rowland on March 4, 2014 at 9:15a
54 Comments

Try playing against FBS schools with only 55 scholarship players. That’s the number Ohio State was down to at the end of the 2013 season, 30 fewer than what major college football programs are allotted and eight fewer than FCS schools. A travel roster includes 70 players.

That’s right. The Buckeyes couldn’t fill its travel roster with scholarship players. And when Ohio State played Florida A&M last season, the Rattlers, incredibly, had more resources in the name of scholarships. 

If you wondered why head coach Urban Meyer was so gung-ho on depth and having bodies, the answer is now in front of you. Attrition came in all forms; there was no discrimination for the Buckeyes. NCAA sanctions, transfers, injuries, redshirts.  

For one more season, Ohio State is limited by three scholarships, to 82, because of violations committed under Jim Tressel. Unlike his former SEC brethren, Meyer refuses to stockpile the roster by oversigning. So when 24 players transferred over a four-year period, the Buckeyes were left with little in the way of depth.

The entire spring roster – walk-ons included – features 93 players. Of those 93, 67 have scholarships and 45 are underclassmen. 

But coaches shouldn’t be given a free pass on the thin roster. A group that preaches loudly against redshirting opted to sit 19 players in 2013. Meyer vowed that won’t happen again.

“We wanted to do it last year. We didn’t,” he said on Signing Day. “Gareon Conley should have played last year. That’s Gareon’s fault and our fault. We’re counting on these guys to go play. What you don’t want to do is have a young man come in and play 12 snaps and lose a year. If we’re going to play him, play him. But you have to get him ready to go. If it’s the way it turns out, we’ll redshirt a very minimal amount of this class.”

Seven of them will take part in today’s spring drills with an additional 16 joining the team in August. That means the Buckeyes will have 67 scholarship players to tinker with during spring practice and a full compliment of 82 in August, though as it stands now they’re one over the limit.

But for Meyer and Co., whittling down a roster is preferred over filling gaps with inexperience. 

Quarterback

Who: Braxton Miller (SR), Cardale Jones (SO), J.T. Barrett (R-FR), Stephen Collier (FR)

What to watch: Not Miller since he just underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder. But fear not, the quarterback position is one of intrigue this spring because Kenny Guiton’s departure opens up a must-see derby for the backup spot. Jones will get the nod on Day 1, but it’s not expected to last.

Barrett was the first quarterback signed by offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tom Herman, and conventional wisdom says the Buckeyes would like to have him spend one year as the understudy to Miller. The native of Wichita Falls, Texas, holds all the necessary skills to lead a Meyer-Herman offense.

Running Back

Who: Ezekiel Elliott (SO), Dontre Wilson (SO), Rod Smith (SR), Bri’onte Dunn (SO), Warren Ball (SO), Curtis Samuel (FR)

What to watch: It’s one of the deepest positions on the team, and that’s a welcome thing considering Ohio State must replace a 1,500-yard rusher. For the past two seasons, the Buckeyes have been fortunate to have a go-to tailback when bursts of yardage were needed.

The favorite is Elliott, who averaged nearly nine yards per carry on 30 attempts as a true freshman. Similar to Hyde, Elliott can use his speed and be a bruiser. Wilson is due to get the ball more frequently, whether it’s in the backfield or as a slot receiver. Expectations were too high for him a year ago, but Year 2 should give way to more dynamic plays.

Smith, Dunn, who redshirted last season, and Ball also will receive carries. Samuel, an early enrollee who’s listed as hybrid player, possesses blazing speed and elusiveness. He could make an immediate impact, beginning in the spring.

Wide Receiver

Who: Devin Smith (SR), Evan Spencer (SR), Michael Thoams (SO), James Clark (R-FR), Corey Smith (JR), Jalin Marshall (R-FR), Johnnie Dixon (FR), Curtis Samuel (FR), Jeff Greene (JR), Frank Epitropoulos (SO)

What to watch: Devin Smith and Spencer combined for almost 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago. Spencer will not take part in spring drills, though, while still rehabbing his leg from an injury suffered in the Orange Bowl. Thomas redshirted last season and has been a spring sensation since he arrived on campus. But he’s never been able to build on those performances. In 2014, Ohio State is likely to lean more on the veteran Thomas.

Behind those three players is an abundance of talent, but little to no statistics. Clark and Marshall redshirted, Corey Smith suffered a season-ending injury, Dixon and Samuel are true freshmen, Greene transferred from Georgia Tech and Epitropoulos has played sparingly.

Greene led the Yellow Jackets in receiving as a sophomore, but he’s walking on at Ohio State. His size and sure-handed pass-catching ability could thrust him into the rotation. Much is also expected from Marshall, Dixon and Samuel.

Offensive Line

Who: Taylor Decker (JR), Pat Elflein (SO), Jacoby Boren (JR), Antonio Underwood (JR), Darryl Baldwin (SR), Chase Farris (JR), Kyle Dodson (SO), Evan Lisle (R-FR), Joel Hale (SR), Tommy Brown (JR), Billy Price (R-FR), Marcelys Jones (FR), Kyle Trout (FR)

What to watch: Plenty. The line, Ohio State’s strength the past two seasons, lost four starters and 135 career starts. Finding suitable replacements for the fifth-ranked rushing attack begin in earnest. Decker will slide from right tackle to left, replacing Jack Mewhort, while Elflein and Boren are almost certain to replace Marcus Hall (right guard) and Corey Linsley (center), respectively.

Baldwin is the presumptive starter at right tackle – Meyer said as much – with Lisle providing the competition. An assortment of players will compete for the other guard position. Underwood is coming off a knee injury and Farris and Hale are moving over from the defense. Marcelys Jones and Trout should benefit from getting immersed into the system. In the fall, Jamarco Jones arrives with a great deal of hype.

But Meyer’s philosophy centers on spring practice, not fall camp. It’s rare for a position battle to be decided in August. That piece of information makes March and April exciting for the Buckeyes. The offensive line should play host to the best competition this spring.

During Meyer’s first two season, only seven teams topped Ohio State’s rushing output: 7,228 yards, 278 yards per game and 82 rushing touchdowns.

Tight End

Who: Jeff Heuerman (SR), Nick Vannett (JR), J.T. Moore (SR), Marcus Baugh (FR)

What to watch: Heuerman is the clear No. 1 at tight end and figures to be one of the main pieces of the offense this season. He’s the best all-around pass-catcher and blocker the Buckeyes have, though Vannett isn’t far behind. Moore and Baugh have their work cut out for them, especially Baugh. He was suspended indefinitely in January for another run-in with the law.

Defensive Line

Who: Noah Spence (JR), Michael Bennett (SR), Joey Bosa (SO), Adolphus Washington (JR), Tommy Schutt (JR), Steve Miller (SR), Jamal Marcus (JR), Chris Carter (JR), Tyquan Lewis (R-FR), Michael Hill (R-FR), Tracy Sprinkle (R-FR), Donovan Munger (R-FR)

What to watch: The top storyline on the defensive line is their coach – Larry Johnson. The veteran Penn State assistant moves west in search of that elusive national championship. He already showed his recruiting prowess by flipping Michigan State commit Darius Slade on Signing Day. Next comes coaching.

Spence is suspended for the first two games. Marcus filled in for the Orange Bowl and displayed a high motor and knack for finding the ball. He should be the guy for Navy and Virginia Tech. Names like Bennett, Bosa, Washington, Schutt and Miller fill out the line. The main objective this spring will be replenishing depth.

A slimmed down Carter is the only other Buckeye with game experience. But Hill, Sprinkle and Munger came to Columbus as highly regarded recruits. This should be another building block in their development. As for Carter, he continues to drop weight, add muscle and become a legitimate defensive lineman. Slade, Jalyn Holmes and Dylan Thompson arrive in the fall.

Linebacker

Who: Curtis Grant (SR), Joshua Perry (JR), Trey Johnson (SO), Cam Williams (JR), Raekwon McMillan (FR), Devan Bogard (JR), Darron Lee (R-FR), Craig Fada (JR), Joe Burger (JR)

What to watch: The position that’s caused Meyer – and Luke Fickell – great stress. Four true freshman join the crop this year, but only one will be on the field this spring. It happens to be the best of all, though – McMillan.

It’s not often a senior incumbent who was formerly the No. 1 overall recruit in the country is challenged for his starting position. But it appears that could be the case this spring. Whether it’s a real open competition or the coaches attempting to motivate Grant remains to be seen. One thing is certain, McMillan is intent on making a noticeable impact.  

Perry should keep hold on his starting spot, while Johnson is the next man in line for Ryan Shazier’s vacant position. He’ll receive a challenge from Bogard, but he’s still nursing a season-ending knee injury, his second in as many seasons.

Fada and Burger, both walk-ons, are two of Meyer’s favorite players for their work ethic and grit.

A trio of true freshmen – Kyle Berger, Sam Hubbard and Dante Booker – will be welcomed in August.

Cornerbacks

Who: Doran Grant (SR), Armani Reeves (JR), Gareon Conley (R-FR), Eli Apple (R-FR)

What to watch: Chris Ash will be tasked with fixing the Buckeyes’ broken pass defense. In the final three games of last season, Ohio State allowed 539 yards and 38 points per game. Most of the damage was done through the air, where the Buckeyes ranked in the hundreds nationally.

This season is expected to feature more press coverage, a staple of Ash’s philosophy. At every job, he’s been able to improve the on-field product and many times thrive. Still, Bradley Roby’s loss will loom large over the group.

Grant and Reeves are sure-fire starters in 2014. Grant’s emerged the past two seasons as a potential all-Big Ten-caliber corner. Reeves has gone through growing pains, but appears poised to be dependable.  

On Signing Day, Meyer lamented Conley’s redshirt, so chances are he’ll be on the field this season. Offseason rumblings point to a breakout year for the Massillon product. Apple is another redshirt freshman many believed would play last year.

Safeties

Who: Tyvis Powell (SO), Vonn Bell (SO), Cam Burrows (SO), Ron Tanner (JR), Chris Worley (R-FR), Jayme Thompson (R-FR)

What to watch: The biggest overhaul on defense will come at safety. Ohio State lost three seniors and returns just one upperclassman. Luckily for the Buckeyes, their freshmen and sophomores happen to be uber-talented. Powell, the hero in Ann Arbor, and Bell are in line to receive a bulk of the playing time.

Communication is the biggest factor. Breakdowns have plagued Ohio State in recent seasons. Ash’s voice should help steady any confusion. Powell is the most experienced safety and Bell is the most talented. They should be a focus in the secondary all year.

Burrows and Tanner should be solid contributors on special teams and could be involved in nickel coverage. Tanner’s become a durable utility guy who’s among the best tacklers on the team.

The redshirt freshmen are still a year or two away from becoming regulars in the rotation. Thompson is coming off a season-ending ankle injury.

Highly touted freshmen Erick Smith and Malik Hooker will partake in fall camp.

Specialists

Who: Cameron Johnston (SO), Bryce Haynes (JR), Sean Nuernberger (FR), Kyle Clinton (SR)

What to watch: The only intrigue surrounding the specialists is Nuernberger. He’s the lone scholarship kicker on the roster, and the true freshman from Germany by way of Kentucky is expected to be the starting kicker. If not, the duties will likely fall to walk-on Kyle Clinton.

Johnston returns as the Big Ten’s top punter, and Haynes, after receiving a scholarship out of high school, seems to be rounding into a superb long snapper.

[Kirk Irwin photo]

54 Comments

Comments

ab1993's picture

Double post - sorry

+3 HS
ab1993's picture

Surprised you didn't mention the incoming freshmen CBs - Damon Webb and Marshon Lattimore. Definitely two of my favorite recruits this year

+2 HS
mh277907's picture

He only included early enrollees. Webb and Lattimore will be here in the summer along with everyone else. Collier, McMillan, Jones, Trout, Dixon, Nuernberger and Samuel are the only incoming freshman participating in Spring drills.

buckeyebobcat

+1 HS
ab1993's picture

Check again. He mentions all the incoming freshmen at the end of each position analysis.

mh277907's picture

Oh, I gotcha. I thought you meant why they weren't included in his analysis of Spring ball.

buckeyebobcat

+1 HS
osu07asu10's picture

(I actually gave you an upvote and just enjoy the GIF). We've all fallen victim to the double post!

 

"They don't know what they don't know." - Coach Mick

+16 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

I take more offense to the fact he left off 11W's own, Demetrius Knox! 

Kyle must be slipping because the beginning of spring has him busy as hell. 

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

+4 HS
AndyVance's picture

Yeah, I sort of panicked a little when I didn't see his name listed, but I was too afraid to say anything in case I'd missed some memo on the subject.

+1 HS
FitzBuck's picture

Reeves has gone through growing pains, but appears poised to be dependable

I hope this proves correct.

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Maybe it was just a matter of not being coached up, properly. I hope he does well this Spring, Summer and Fall.

 

 

buckeye4life050233's picture

 hopefully this kid pans out unlike the trend our lb's have had over previous years.

bukyze's picture

Armani Reeves - nooooooooo!!!!!   Hope Ash can quickly get him turned around.

+4 HS
1MechEng's picture

Reeves is easy to turn around, as many average QB's proved last year.

 

+9 HS
unknownmusketeer's picture

Can Braxton work on his read option game without straining the shoulder? Or is he completely out?

740Bucks's picture

Good read Kyle... thanks!!

I'm hoping Joel Hale's move to the OL pays dividends. He was in the mix on DL so I see him being in the mix on the OL... or why move?

The under-appreciated Ed Warriner has made OL better than expected the last two years & it will need to do the same this year! 

The talent & depth on the DL looks AWESOME! Young talent and a new philosophy should bring the secondary around (fingers crossed).

 

"My idea of a good hit is when the guy wakes up on the sidelines with train whistles blowing in his head." - Jack Tatum

+1 HS
buckeyepastor's picture

Wow.   Looking at the scholarship stats shared here, makes me wonder how depleted and how much we really had available on the roster vs. MSU last December.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

+1 HS
buckeye4life050233's picture

yea I am very appreciate of the 24-0 record we had going into the B1G championship game more now that the whole injuries and transfers numbers get put in perspective.  then again what does that say about the state of the rest of the B1G ten that we went through a season that depleted roster wise.

+2 HS
Furious George 27's picture

Lets keep in mind that 24-0 was not without some very close calls along the way.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

osu07asu10's picture

Lots of intrigue this spring. Obviously RB garners a lot of attention and so will Braxton's back up but the real gains to be made are going to be on the defensive side of the ball and how the coaching staff gels.

Is Fickell the odd man out now that he lost his buddy in Vrabel with Ash and Johnson coming in. Meyer has said Fickell is still calling plays, but "everyone" will have a voice in preparations. 

We won't know until Fall, but I sure hope that Ash, Fickell, Johnson, and Coombs start to gel as a staff and bring back the silver bullets come September!

"They don't know what they don't know." - Coach Mick

+1 HS
tussey's picture

Kyle, are you sure we are watching the same player in Armani Reeves?  I understand that you have more opportunity to watch the team more than I do, but this came as a surprise to me, especially when you said "sure-fire" to start.  What is it in his improvements and play that makes you confident in saying that he will start in the fall?

+2 HS
Ahh Saturday's picture

Should be some epic position battles this spring.  I expect Grant to win the starting job, but I've got a feeling that Kwon is going to make a heck of a push.  RB should be fun to watch as well with EZE possibly starting camp with a slight lead and both Rod Smith and Brionte Dunn in "now or never" mode.  Also have a feeling Adolphus Washington is showing up with bad intentions.  Finally, with Braxton sitting out the spring, plenty of snaps for the Kenny G sweepstakes.

+1 HS
wolfeman17's picture

Did Mike Mitchell actually transfer? I remember the stories about him thinking about it, but did anything actually ever happen? I assume the coaches were/are trying to talk him out of it.

GO BUCKS

dlb72osu's picture

Mitchell is gone. I do not believe he has officially named a school, but he has moved back to Texas to be close to his ailing father. We all wish him and his family the best.

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
- Invictus

+1 HS
Chise47's picture

Read on TheSportingNews that he & his brother may wind up @ Baylor.

falconlax13's picture

Wasn't it Clark who had the season ending injury, and Corey Smith with the redshirt?

+5 HS
buckeye4life050233's picture

Clark had the season ending ankle injury.  and later posted the pic of the 2 screws that were in his ankle

+2 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Man. Those screws look like something you could get from your local Home Depot or hardware store.

 

 

Killer nuts's picture

Yup, beat me to it

bucknut94's picture

At least Miller will be starting in the fall unlike last year when he missed three games. I believe the running game is solid. My concern is if Miller can make better reads and find the open receivers.

+3 HS
dlb72osu's picture

Miller started the season last year, also. He was injured in the second game, ending up sitting out the rest of that game and the next two. Obviously, he could get injured at any time, but we are all wishing for a complete healthy year for BM. 

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
- Invictus

+1 HS
Go1Bucks's picture

I'll be interested in seeing how the additional time with the CA coach works out.  If he can maintain his time in the pocket, and get through his check downs, I think the improvement will be noticeable right away.  There is the additional advantage of having a Senior player with full command of the offensive sets to rely on.

 

Great read Kyle.

Go Bucks!

buckeyedude's picture

I wonder if he practiced with that coach this winter, like he did last winter, out in Ca.? He had a bowl game this year, so I don't know.

 

 

BTBuckeye's picture

Great article Kyle

We need a bunch of guys to step up if we're going to win a B10 championship. Particulary, our secondary and a few Sophmores.

Important rule of thumb IMO, never expect anything from Frosh. If one steps up and performs well that is strictly a bonus.

Go bucks

 

 

 

+1 HS
Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Great info Kyle.  Not as high on Reeves as you are.  I would like to see Apple or Conley in that position.  I would definitely be more comfortable with them.  Different body styles and types of DBs.  I'm ready to see Urban's recruits start going to work in the coming year.  

+1 HS
CaliforniaBuckeye's picture

I agree with you 100% on Reeves. I know i'm talking about a college kid so I won't be as harsh, but he's not as long or as fast as UFM likes his corners to be, I think he had opportunities to show what he could do last year and came up short. Not great at press coverage and kind of stiff in the hips. Special teams is a more likely fit for him this season.

"The only way we'd get beaten was if we got a little fat-headed, if we didn't train right, if we had dissension on the squad." - Woody Hayes

buckeyedude's picture

Yeah, but he's got a cool name.

 

 

gumtape's picture

I know it has been said many times, a friend of mine who was a walk on offensive lineman still raves about Rod Smith absolutely destroying people when he was a true freshman on the scout team. Guys like Cam Heyward and Ross Homan. We shouldn't count this guy out yet.

High and tight boo boo

+3 HS
Furious George 27's picture

The biggest problem with Rod Smith is that he fumbles too much, not his talent.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

-1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Rod hasn't actually had fumble issues in some time. It's been more attitude. One final year for him to stay out of the doghouse and unleash that talent. 

+2 HS
saltybuck61's picture

He may have had those fumble problems several years ago, but he hasn't had much of a chance these past couple of years. He was fine in 2012, and he didn't run much in 2013. I am more worried about Wilson than Smith with regards to fumbling.

buckeyedude's picture

Here we go...

Personally, I thought Roderick transferred or dropped out of school. Did he touch the ball once last year? Because if he did, I sure don't remember it. I hope he gets a shot though. Last chance, brotha.

 

 

Buckabroad's picture

Really like what Meyer is building.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I'm most intrigued by the spring battle between Grant and McMilllan. Raekwon has been hinting that he's claiming ownership of the MLB spot, almost kind of 'dissing Grant in the process - but in a healthy, competitive way. I am confident that either McMillan will take command or Grant will have stepped up his game to keep the starting spot. Let the best man win.

buckskin's picture

It's not about how many players you have, it's more about the quality of those players.  Let's hope injuries are kept to a minimum this year

WesPatterson23's picture

With the lack of depth at cornerback, why are they moving Cam Burrows to safety. Cam did a great job last year filling in for Doran Grant when Doran left the game early.

mobboss1984's picture

I like Cam's move to safety. He has good instinct. I hope armani is working on improving. I think him at safety would be better than him playing corner. Burned by a tight end is unacceptable. Curtis Grant time is up no matter what his status is. If Raekwon dominates at MLB than Urban needs to stick with his guns and say best man wins. Perry is growing, but still in need of work. He makes alot of mental mistakes. 

Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.
Bruce Lee
 

okiebuck's picture

This spring it's all about the D as far as I'm concered; especially the LB's and secondary. I am not at all worried about the OL after seeing Elfien step right in and not miss a beat; I think Coach Warriner's guys will be ready to rock. I disagree with the line "Roby's loss will loom large over the group";  other then on special teams; I can't think of a game last year, where our supposed shut down corner, shut down anyone. I'm also pulling for Armani Reeves, and am hoping that Chris Ash will coach em up!

 

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

+2 HS
hetuck's picture

Cardale could be a good red zone QB a la freshman Tebow. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

+3 HS
Crumb's picture

Good article. 11W's gets me asking the question "Is it August yet?" early and often. I like what we have at every position, it's great to be a Buckeye!

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+1 HS
buckeye4life050233's picture

would be nice if the whole story on how he broke his nose comes out or is at least clarified.  be good to get vannett and baugh reps with the 1's.

Crimson's picture

Vrabel came back to amp some people up during lifting and forgot that Heuerman didn't have a helmet on.  Headbutt broke the poor guy's nose.

buckeyedude's picture

WTF?! Did he drop a barbell on his nose or did he bash it with a dumbbell whilst doing curls?

 

 

osubuckeye4life's picture

May the best men win!!! 

 

dtanmango's picture

quickie typo under Wide Receivers: Michael Thomas for (Michael Thoams)

-dtan

+1 HS