The Feeling Surrounding Ohio State as Fall Camp Nears is Much Different in 2016

By Tim Shoemaker on August 5, 2016 at 1:05 pm
Jerome Baker, Dre'Mont Jones and Branden Bowen check into fall camp last year.

As Ohio State checked into its team hotel for call camp last August, media members, recorders and cameras lined the walkway to the entrance. There were some fans there, too. It seemed quite a few people wanted to get a glimpse of the defending national champions.

Cardale Jones donned a Ronda Rousey T-shirt on the eve of the Buckeyes’ often-discussed quarterback battle. Joey Bosa, fresh off the announcement of his Week 1 suspension, quietly walked by with a piercing stare. Some players had their iPhones out and documented the experience on Snapchat. Others were followed around by Big Ten Network cameras as they filmed ‘Scarlet and Gray Days.’

Braxton Miller showed up with a drone. It was quite the spectacle.

And while coverage of the 2016 camp check-in will be similar Saturday when Ohio State reports, many of the faces arriving will be different.

The likes of Bosa, Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Darron Lee, Taylor Decker and more all are gone now and the Buckeyes — with 44 players on the roster who have never played in a college football game — are one of the youngest teams in the country. A year ago, the only real unknown about Ohio State was the quarterback position. This season, it feels like that’s the only sure thing.

This 2016 version of the Buckeyes is totally different than last year’s, but head coach Urban Meyer — who is set to enter his fifth season at the helm — kind of likes it that way.

“It’s a free-for-all for playing time,” Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days.

There are more questions than answers at this point, perhaps more problems than solutions. It could be a transitional season. On the flip side, it could be a memorable one.

Expectations certainly haven't shifted much. Ohio State is one of the favorites to win the Big Ten and the Buckeyes recently came in at No. 5 in the [essentially meaningless] coaches poll. 

The truth is nobody really knows much about this Ohio State team. But it is for that exact reason this year’s training camp is the single most interesting in Meyer’s tenure in Columbus.

The Buckeyes have a wealth of young talent, but it’s exactly that: young. It’s unproven, too, but that’s what makes it so intriguing. There are position battles at what feels like every level. A year ago, everybody knew Bosa was going to start at defensive end, that Elliott was going to shoulder the load at running back, that Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell would man the back end of Ohio State’s defense. Heading into camp this season there are only a handful of spots solidified.

There is quite a bit of uncertainty.

“I just remember the first day back after the Fiesta Bowl, I looked around and Jacoby [Boren] is not there, Taylor’s not there, Josh [Perry] isn’t there, Adolphus [Washington]. All those guys were gone and I was like, ‘Wow, it’s just me,’” fifth-year senior center Pat Elflein recalled. “Just all the new faces that are there and the guys who have played aren’t there anymore and the guys that are coming up to me asking me questions, as I expected they would, and guys have done that before in the past. J

“It is different and we’ve adjusted to it and I’ve built relationships with those younger guys, trying to connect with them.”

It feels different because it is.

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