When Urban Meyer and Ohio State said goodbye to a group of players that served as the base to the coach's 50-4 start in Columbus, many wondered what would be left.
The Buckeyes saw nine players leave the program early for the NFL — the most of any program after the 2015 season. After defeating Notre Dame, 44-28, in the Fiesta Bowl New Year's Day to cap a 12-1 season, Meyer and the Buckeyes lost 16 starters (if you count both Joel Hale and Tommy Schutt, who were listed as co-starters by season's end) to either graduation or the pros.
Key returnees are offensive lineman Pat Elflein, who is set to move from right guard over to center and snap to incumbent starting quarterback J.T. Barrett. Raekwon McMillan is also back for his junior season to lead the defense at middle linebacker and Gareon Conley remains at corner.
Starting spots are up for grabs, even more than we projected in December with Tyvis Powell and Eli Apple electing to declare for the draft.
LOSSES FROM STARTING LINEUP:
- SENIORS, OFFENSE: LT Taylor Decker, C Jacoby Boren, RT Chase Farris, TE Nick Vannett, H-B Braxton Miller
- EARLY ENTRANTS, OFFENSE: WR Michael Thomas, RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR Jalin Marshall
- OTHER: QB Cardale Jones, WR Jeff Greene
- SENIORS, DEFENSE: DT Adolphus Washington, DT Tommy Schutt, DT Joel Hale, LB Joshua Perry
- EARLY ENTRANTS, DEFENSE: DE Joey Bosa, LB Darron Lee, S Vonn Bell, S Tyvis Powell, CB Eli Apple
From the most recent depth chart listed on Ohio State's team website, there are 20 names from the two-deep—excluding special teams—no longer in the program. The exodus was huge and will result in what will likely be a historic draft haul, but was expected by Meyer and company after the return of a few juniors off the 2014 title team. With those players gone, and the signing of another top-5 recruiting class, we've updated our 2016 depth chart to look like this:
|LT||–||MALCOLM PRIDGEON||6-8||325||JR||DE||59||TYQUAN LEWIS||6-3||260||JR|
|67||GRANT SCHMIDT||6-6||300||FR||10||JALYN HOLMES||6-5||265||JR|
|LG||54||BILLY PRICE||6-4||315||JR||DT||52||DONOVAN MUNGER||6-4||300||JR|
|78||DEMETRIUS KNOX||6-4||305||SO||OR||93||TRACY SPRINKLE||6-3||290||JR|
|C||65||PAT ELFLEIN||6-3||300||SR||DT||77||MICHAEL HILL||6-3||295||JR|
|79||BRADY TAYLOR||6-5||300||SO||–||NICK BOSA||6-4||265||FR|
|RG||74||JAMARCO JONES||6-5||310||JR||DE||6||SAM HUBBARD||6-5||265||SO|
|56||MATTHEW BURRELL||6-4||300||SO||86||DRE'MONT JONES||6-3||280||FR|
|RT||59||ISAIAH PRINCE||6-7||305||SO||SLB||35||CHRIS WORLEY||6-2||225||JR|
|59||KEVIN FEDER||6-9||305||FR||17||JEROME BAKER||6-1||215||SO|
|TE||85||MARCUS BAUGH||6-5||255||JR||MLB||5||RAEKWON McMILLAN||6-2||240||JR|
|88||A.J. ALEXANDER||6-2||235||FR||47||JUSTIN HILLIARD||6-1||230||FR|
|WR||84||COREY SMITH||6-1||195||SR||WLB||33||DANTE BOOKER||6-2||233||JR|
|21||PARRIS CAMPBELL||6-1||205||SO||34||NICK CONNER||6-3||240||FR|
|QB||16||J.T. BARRETT||6-2||225||JR||CB||2||MARSHON LATTIMORE||6-0||195||SO|
|10||JOE BURROW||6-3||208||FR||12||DENZEL WARD||5-11||180||SO|
|OR||25||BRI'ONTE DUNN||6-0||215||SR||SAF||24||MALIK HOOKER||6-2||205||SO|
|OR||20||MIKE WEBER||5-10||215||FR||16||CAM BURROWS||6-0||208||SR|
|H-B||2||DONTRE WILSON||5-10||190||SR||SAF||1||ERICK SMITH||6-0||202||JR|
|—||DEMARIO McCALL||5-11||180||FR||3||DAMON WEBB||5-11||193||JR|
|WR||80||NOAH BROWN||6-2||222||SO||CB||8||GAREON CONLEY||6-0||195||JR|
|83||TERRY MCLAURIN||6-1||200||SO||–||JORDAN FULLER||6-2||198||FR|
|K||96||SEAN NUERNBERGER||6-1||220||JR||H||95||CAMERON JOHNSTON||6-0||195||SR|
|P||95||CAMERON JOHNSTON||6-0||195||SR||PR||2||DONTRE WILSON||5-10||190||SR|
|LS||49||LIAM MCCULLOUGH||6-2||210||FR||KR||4||CURTIS SAMUEL||5-11||200||JR|
Meyer said he hopes 18 members of the 2016 class play this fall, but the smart money is on them cutting their teeth on special teams. He also added Ohio State didn't recruit a junior college player like Malcolm Pridgeon to sit the bench.
New offensive line coach Greg Studrawa is leaving all options open outside of Pat Elflein and Billy Price to round out the starting group. He did not rule out moving some tackles to guard in order to get the best five players on the field to protect Barrett and block for the running backs.
Nick Bosa is someone Meyer singled out with Fuller and Pridgeon as members of the 2016 class as big gets for this fall, but the health of his knee still puts his status in jeopardy before he gets to Columbus this summer. The defensive line has a multitude of options in the program that are not listed, like Robert Landers, Jashon Cornell and Joshua Alabi.
The defensive backfield is obviously the most pressing issue for Ohio State after the departures of Apple, Bell and Powell. Kerry Coombs said corners could play safety in 2016 because the two spots are interchangeable, so that area is also difficult to project before spring practice gets going.
Ohio State opens those drills March 8 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The annual Spring Game is April 16 at Ohio Stadium.