Heading into fall camp one year ago, Ohio State was preparing for the position battle of all position battles. J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones were set to go head-to-head for the starting quarterback spot on a team attempting to defend a national championship.
Things are a little bit different this time around; it seems like quarterback is the only position shored up for the Buckeyes.
Of course, there are actually spots other than quarterback where starters are solidified, but the fact Barrett seems like one of the team's only sure things speaks to the amount of roster turnover for Ohio State in 2016. That turnover, however, is a big reason why this upcoming camp may be the most interesting during Urban Meyer's tenure in Columbus. There's playing time available all over the field when the Buckeyes open fall camp Aug. 7 and it's certainly going to be a time when not-so-well-known players earn opportunities to become major contributors in the fall.
With camp on the horizon, we've selected what we believe will be the top-five position battles for Ohio State. These rankings are purely subjective and are a simple combination of quality of players, intrigue, importance and, basically, anything else you can think of that goes into a position battle.
Without any further delay, here are the top-five position battles for the Buckeyes in 2016:
[Author's note: Running back would have been on this list, but Bri'onte Dunn's dismissal means Mike Weber is now the clear-cut frontrunner for the starting job.]
5. Right tackle
Urban Meyer was close to naming Isaiah Prince as the starter here during spring practice, but, in Meyer's mind, Prince hadn't done quite enough yet to earn that nod. It was partially due to performance, but Meyer almost surely also had Malcolm Pridgeon, a junior college transfer who signed with the Buckeyes in February, in his mind.
Meyer stated back then Ohio State doesn't sign junior college players to sit, and that the Buckeyes fully expect Pridgeon to compete for that right tackle spot. Prince seems to have a significant leg up in the competition, but it's still open for now.
With Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell both now on NFL rosters, Ohio State had a pair of openings in the back end of its defense for 2016. Redshirt sophomore Malik Hooker all but solidified one of those spots in spring practice, but the other safety position is still up for grabs.
A converted corner, Damon Webb started the majority of spring ball at safety. Position coach Greg Schiano said the plan was for Webb to remain at that spot, and he's the favorite to win it going into camp, but he will be pushed by Cam Burrows and Erick Smith — who are both coming off season-ending injuries — for the starting job.
3. Wide receiver
Ohio State rotates its wide receivers so often that I'm not sure there will be a winner of this battle, per se. However, I'd fully expect Noah Brown, if healthy, to be the Buckeyes' top outside pass catcher this fall and take over the Michael Thomas role as the one wide receiver who rarely comes off the field.
The other outside spot will probably go to Corey Smith, again if healthy, but there is an abundance of other players who could all see playing time: Parris Campbell, Austin Mack, Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin, Torrance Gibson and K.J. Hill just to name a few.
At the H-receiver spot, the two primary candidates are Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson and both should see a good amount of time at that position though Samuel could see some more snaps at running back now that Dunn was dismissed from the team.
Gareon Conley will start for Ohio State at one corner spot, but the other job is up in the air right now and the battle is between some young, talented corners.
Marshon Lattimore is probably the favorite to win the job, but the redshirt sophomore hasn't been able to stay healthy yet throughout his first two seasons in Columbus. His health remains a wildcard factor in this battle. Lattimore will be pushed by sophomore Denzel Ward, who was one of just four players from the Buckeyes' 2015 class not to redshirt last season.
Billy Price will be one of Ohio State's starting guards this fall, but right now it's unclear which one that will be. He spent the last two seasons at left guard for the Buckeyes but worked out this spring at right guard. Either way, he'll be starting and the other guard spot is up for grabs.
Two other spots — left tackle and center — are also solidified on Ohio State's offensive line. As mentioned above, Meyer was pretty close to naming Prince the starting right tackle, but Pridgeon could push him for that spot. It's a two-man race there.
The more interesting battle is for that remaining guard spot and there are four (!) possible candidates here: Evan Lisle, Matthew Burrell, Demetrius Knox and Michael Jordan. Jordan, a true freshman, worked with the first-team offense for the majority of spring practice as the coaching staff praised his never-stop mentality on the field. Lisle, Burrell and Knox are not far behind, though, if at all.
This spot seems like the one that's the biggest mystery right now with four potential candidates. That intrigue makes it No. 1 on our list.