Ohio State Likes to Boast About Depth, But What's It Worth Without a Bevy of Starters?

By Patrick Maks on August 25, 2014 at 5:00p

While meeting with reporters Monday, senior wide receiver Evan Spencer wore a gray shirt that read “Power of the Unit” – the well-documented, small-group cohesion mantra of Urban Meyer’s fifth-ranked Ohio State football team – in red letters on the back of it.

It’s a mission statement and a reminder for how the team’s individual units (read, position groups) can work together toward one goal.

And in light of the loss of star quarterback Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder injury, it seems increasingly relevant for the Buckeyes and their championship aspirations.

When Ohio State plays Navy in its season opener Saturday in Baltimore, it’ll do so with a new quarterback, four new offensive lineman, a new running back, new wide receivers and a new defensive backfield. New, in this case, also means young.  

In fact, though just five days separate the Buckeyes from the Midshipmen, they have yet to name starters at a handful of positions, including:

Left guard:  “Not named yet, and it's not because of ability,” Meyer said. “It's just, one, the guy hasn't separated himself.”

Center: “We haven't named the starter on that either. But once again, it's still because the battles are going on.”

The other cornerback across from senior Doran Grant: “They haven't separated themselves yet either, which is a good sign. (Eli Apple and Gareon Conley) will both play.”

Wide receiver: “I couldn't tell you the starting receivers either right now … all of them could march in and they all deserve playing time. So, it's just a matter of who breaks the huddle first.”

On one hand, it's obvious why Meyer and Ohio State like to boast about what's supposed to be a newfound level of depth. There are plenty of options to work with and plenty of pieces to help take pressure off redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who will fill in for Miller for the foreseeable future.

But what it’s worth without starters this close to the start of the season? Isn't that kind of concerning?

“That's kind of normal this time of year,” Meyer said.

“If they're bad players, you got a problem,” he said. “If they're really good players and they're just battling and battling and battling – it means they're both going to play.”

Meyer and Ohio State insist the situation at hand is the latter. The Buckeyes say they're brimming with talent on both sides of the ball – so much so that it could take away the sting of a Miller-less season.

"We have so much depth and so much athleticism in our room, and I think it's really going to come to fruition Saturday," Spencer said of the wide receivers. 

Such a mindset spans across all position groups at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Optimism abounds despite the loss of Miller, Ohio State's most important player.

Whether it's appropriate, though, remains to be seen. 

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