11 Questions Surrounding Ohio State as it Prepares to Enter Fall Camp

By Tim Shoemaker on August 4, 2016 at 8:35 am
Urban Meyer is preparing for his fifth training camp at Ohio State.

With 16 starters gone, there are plenty of new faces on Ohio State's football team as the Buckeyes prepare to enter fall training camp Sunday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. 

Because of that, there are plenty of question marks surrounding Urban Meyer's team as he prepares for his fifth season at the helm in Columbus. Here are 11 of the most burning questions surrounding Ohio State this season as it gets ready for fall camp.

1. Will J.T. Barrett return to his 2014 form?

He has to for Ohio State to be successful. After a redshirt freshman season in which Barrett finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting, the Wichita Falls, Texas native struggled to find his footing early in the 2015 season as he served as Cardale Jones' backup. After the Buckeyes' loss to Michigan State, Barrett looked to be himself again over the final two games of the season in wins against Michigan and Notre Dame. Ohio State needs that J.T. Barrett to contend in the Big Ten in 2016.

2. How will the offensive line handle its overhaul?

Pat Elflein and Billy Price return, but the Buckeyes' offensive line will feature three new starters in 2016. One of those will be junior Jamarco Jones, who Meyer named the starting left tackle in spring practice. Ohio State still needs to solidify the other two starting spots in fall camp and then build cohesion within the unit before the Sept. 3 opener against Bowling Green. The Buckeyes underwent a similar overhaul in 2014 when they had to replace four starters up front. That year, in a Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech, Ohio State's offensive line allowed seven sacks. 

3. Who emerges at wide receiver?

Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Braxton Miller all moved on to the NFL so the Buckeyes must figure out a way to replace their top three wide receivers from the 2015 season. Noah Brown, who missed all of last season with a broken leg, has high expectations and is a player Meyer said can be "All-Big Ten caliber," but beyond that, it's anybody's guess as to who steps up. Ohio State certainly isn't lacking for talent, however, as there are a number of options who could emerge as solid contributors alongside Brown: Corey Smith, Parris Campbell, Curtis Samuel [to an extent], and Terry McLaurin just to name a few.

4. Can Mike Weber become 'the guy' at running back?

With Bri'onte Dunn's dismissal, Weber is the likely candidate to earn the bulk of the carries this season for the Buckeyes. Samuel will also carry the ball out of the backfield some, but at Ohio State, Meyer has shown he prefers to have a bell cow running back like Carlos Hyde or Ezekiel Elliott over the last few years. There's a lot of pressure on Weber to become 'the guy' out of the Buckeyes' backfield, but the redshirt freshman from Detroit certainly has all kinds of talent.

5. What exactly is Curtis Samuel's role?

This seems like the $1 million question when it comes to Ohio State's offense. Samuel is a player Meyer said is a "top two or three playmaker on our team" yet he doesn't seem to have a defined role. Is he a running back or a wide receiver? How many touches will he get on offense this year? Can he stay healthy? All of these questions need to become clearer for the Buckeyes as camp progresses. 

Curtis Samuel could have a big 2016 for Ohio State.
6. Will some true freshmen actually contribute this year?

Well, they almost have to. Meyer always says he doesn't like to redshirt players, but throughout his first four years at Ohio State, he's redshirted plenty. The Buckeyes have a talented group of freshmen and guys like Nick Bosa, Michael Jordan and Austin Mack are names we've heard already as those expected to contribute this fall. There's usually a player or two who emerges once the pads come on during fall camp, too. Playing time is certainly there for the taking.

7. How will the reshaped secondary look?

Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days "it's a street fight right now" when it comes to playing time in the secondary. With Gareon Conley as the only returning starter, that certainly appears to be the case. Malik Hooker is the favorite for one of the safety spots, but there are still two positions up for grabs: cornerback and the other safety. Denzel Ward and Marshon Lattimore figure to battle for the corner spot while Damon Webb, Erick Smith and Cam Burrows will fight for the safety position. Redshirt freshman Damon Arnette is also a wildcard for both open positions.

8. Can Dante Booker and Chris Worley really replace Joshua Perry and Darron Lee?

Perry was a three-year starter and Lee was an All-American and first-round NFL Draft pick so it's a high bar here, but both Booker and Worley have been waiting in the wings for quite some time now. Ohio State will rely heavily on Raekwon McMillan to anchor its linebacking corps, but Booker and Worley need to produce at a high level, as well.

9. Is Sam Hubbard the next Joey Bosa?

Probably not, as that's not really fair for anybody to be asked to produce like Bosa did, however, Hubbard has the skillset to become a dominant player on the Buckeyes' defensive line, too. He's a 6-foot-5, 266-pound freak of nature who showed flashes last season as a redshirt freshman backup to Bosa. Now expected to be a full-time starter, Hubbard and fellow defensive end Tyquan Lewis must dominant games off the edge for Ohio State.

10. How will the interior of Ohio State's defensive line hold up?

Meyer says the interior of his defensive line remains a concern for him and although Michael Hill and Tracy Sprinkle figure to be the starters in the middle, the depth behind that pair is certainly questionable at this point. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson loves to rotate up front, so there certainly needs to be some depth built throughout camp. Dre'Mont Jones, Jashon Cornell, Robert Landers, DaVon Hamilton and perhaps even true freshman Malik Barrow are the names to watch here.

11. Who will become fall camp's breakout player?

There are 44 players on Ohio State's roster who have never played in a game before so there's going to be plenty of playing time available in 2016. That means the fall camp competition level should be quite high. One or two players will emerge as breakout performers once the pads come on, but it's anybody's guess right now as to who those might be.

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