CHICAGO — Taylor Decker sat at his podium Thursday afternoon at Big Ten Media Days, with a stern look on his face, ready to answer the abundance of questions he was going to receive over the next 90 minutes.
It didn’t take long for the Buckeyes’ senior left tackle and leader of the offensive line to get the question he knew was coming: How big of a blow are the suspensions of four of his teammates — Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith — to Ohio State’s chances of winning its season opener Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech?
“Obviously you never want to lose guys, but we have a next man up culture,” Decker said. “The next guy in is gonna get the job done and we have playmakers all over the field.”
Decker’s not wrong, of course. The Buckeyes are loaded with talent in 2015 as they try to repeat as national champions. “We’ve recruited very well,” head coach Urban Meyer said.
The loss of Bosa will hurt most. The All-American defensive end is one of college football’s best players and a true game-changer on that side of the football. But on offense, Ohio State has plenty of talent capable of making plays against the Hokies.
“We have Mike Thomas, we have Noah Brown, Curtis Samuel and Braxton now,” Decker said. “That sounds like a pretty good lineup to me so I’m not worried about that.”
Miller’s move to H-back gives Ohio State more flexibility on offense and it certainly will be a big bonus when the Buckeyes take on the Hokies. He’ll be joined at that spot by Samuel, a dynamic talent who showed flashes of greatness last year as Ezekiel Elliott’s primary backup at running back.
Ohio State will still have Thomas, too, against Virginia Tech. He is the Buckeyes’ clear-cut No. 1 receiver and has the potential to be an early-round NFL Draft pick should he opt to declare following this upcoming season. Brown is a guy who Meyer and Co. raved about during the spring, saying there are high expectations for the sophomore wide receiver.
“We’ve recruited pretty good, now we have to get them ready to go play,” Meyer said. “I’ll know more as we get going, but I’m not overly concerned at that spot.”
Bosa, Marshall, Wilson and Smith won’t be on the field in Blacksburg, Va. on Labor Day night. To say it’s not a concern would be a bit naive. But the Buckeyes feel confident they can overcome the situation.
One thing's for sure, though: Ohio State’s road to a repeat just became a bit more difficult.
“There’s no perfect team, there’s no perfect program and everyone deals with stuff,” Meyer said. “You know, when you’re Ohio State or some of these other big time programs, stuff becomes a major deal. And this is.”