Let's get some facts out of the way first.
Fact: Ohio State made the College Football Playoff with the youngest and most inexperienced roster in the sport.
Fact: Billy Price and Sam Hubbard each said they are returning to Columbus for the 2017 season despite both being eligible to turn pro.
Fact: There are more NFL Draft declarations looming. J.T. Barrett, Curtis Samuel and Raekwon McMillan all said they are undecided, though it sounds like Barrett is leaning towards staying.
The Buckeyes finished 11-2 this season, royally flopping in the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson in a 31-0 loss in the national semifinal. The defeat is the only time in Urban Meyer's career that his team failed to score a point.
Such an ugly performance leads to changes everywhere in the program. Tim Beck is leaving Columbus to join up with Tom Herman at Texas, replaced by Ryan Day. Meyer promised the media that the Buckeyes will become a good passing team next year. Does that mean more reshuffling with the names on the offensive staff? Probably. But since the season ended with such a thud, it makes sense to look at the personnel the new coaches will have to work with in 2017.
Such a young roster means many of the same names on the depth chart this year will be back again next. It all revolves around how many underclassmen declare for the NFL Draft, which we also tried to project below.
LOSSES FROM STARTING LINEUP:
- SENIORS, OFFENSE: C Pat Elflein, WR Corey Smith, H-back Dontre Wilson
- POSSIBLE EARLY ENTRANTS, OFFENSE: H-back Curtis Samuel, QB J.T. Barrett, TE Marcus Baugh
- RETURNEES: Billy Price, who said he will move to center to fill the void left by Elflein
- SENIORS, DEFENSE: None
- ASSUMED EARLY ENTRANTS, DEFENSE: S Malik Hooker, MLB Raekwon McMillan, CB Gareon Conley, CB Marshon Lattimore, DE Tyquan Lewis
- RETURNEES: DE Sam Hubbard
Lewis was named the Big Ten's 2016 Defensive Lineman of the Year, is a fourth-year junior and thus has his degree and has played well the last two seasons as a starter. It only makes sense that he would turn pro. McMillan was on a fast track to three years and out when he enrolled early at Ohio State as a five-star recruit in 2014. Plus, with Luke Fickell heading to Cincinnati, his position coach is gone. Time for a fresh start.
Same goes for Conley and Lattimore, who are both projected to be early round draft picks this spring. Conley graduated in December as a fourth-year junior and Lattimore experienced a rise this season similar to Hooker in his first season as a starter.
Another fourth-year junior, Baugh's game could use another year in college but it is pretty evident he doesn't like school. Kevin Noon of Buckeye Grove reported that he plans to stay in college but with three tight ends sitting on the roster from the 2016 recruiting class as well as 2016 backup A.J. Alexander, it is more plausible Baugh will bolt then hang around.
Potentially the biggest question is what Barrett decides to do with his future. He already said it would be difficult to leave after Clemson skunked the Buckeyes 31-0 but a new quarterbacks coach coming into the fold might change is mind. He is not projected as a draft pick, however. Could he transfer? Not likely. Could he declare for the NFL Draft? Maybe. Regardless, Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins, Tate Martell and Meyer will need answers.
With all that in mind, here is a projection of the depth chart with those early entrants listed above gone except for Barrett, the wild card. Please keep in mind we tried to keep it at just a two-deep, thus the reason there are only so many wide receivers listed. That position is the most difficult to figure out because of how much it struggled this year.
|LT||74||JAMARCO JONES||6-5||310||SR||DE||6||SAM HUBBARD||6-5||266||JR|
|75||EVAN LISLE||6-6||308||SR||OR||11||JALYN HOLMES||6-5||274||SR|
|LG||73||MICHAEL JORDAN||6-7||310||SO||DT||86||DRE'MONT JONES||6-3||280||SO|
|78||DEMETRIUS KNOX||6-4||308||JR||OR||93||TRACY SPRINKLE||6-3||293||JR|
|C||54||BILLY PRICE||6-3||315||SR||DT||77||MICHAEL HILL||6-3||305||SR|
|79||BRADY TAYLOR||6-5||300||JR||67||ROBERT LANDERS||6-1||285||SO|
|RG||66||MALCOLM PRIDGEON||6-7||315||JR||DE||97||NICK BOSA||6-4||265||SO|
|75||EVAN LISLE||6-6||308||SR||13||RASHOD BERRY||6-4||252||SO|
|RT||57||ISAIAH PRINCE||6-7||310||JR||SLB||35||CHRIS WORLEY||6-2||228||SR|
|76||BRANDEN BOWEN||6-7||315||SO||17||JEROME BAKER||6-1||225||JR|
|TE||88||A.J. ALEXANDER||6-2||254||SO||MLB||33||DANTE BOOKER||6-2||236||JR|
|81||JAKE HAUSMANN||6-4||205||FR||38||JUSTIN HILLIARD||6-1||230||FR|
|WR||80||NOAH BROWN||6-2||218||JR||WLB||17||JEROME BAKER||6-1||225||JR|
|21||PARRIS CAMPBELL||6-1||208||JR||33||DANTE BOOKER||6-2||236||JR|
|QB||16||J.T. BARRETT||6-2||225||SR||CB||12||DENZEL WARD||5-10||185||JR|
|10||JOE BURROW||6-3||218||SO||28||JOSHUA NORWOOD||5-10||185||SO|
|26||ANTONIO WILLIAMS||5-11||210||FR||SAF||34||ERICK SMITH||6-0||203||SR|
|H-B||30||DEMARIO McCALL||5-9||182||SO||SAF||7||DAMON WEBB||5-10||195||SR|
|OR||14||K.J. HILL||6-0||200||SO||4||JORDAN FULLER||6-2||205||FR|
|WR||83||TERRY McLAURIN||6-0||204||JR||CB||3||DAMON ARNETTE||6-0||195||SO|
|9||BINJIMEN VICTOR||6-4||185||SO||15||WAYNE DAVIS||5-10||190||FR|
|K||92||SEAN NUERNBERGER||6-1||227||JR||H||91||DRUE CHRISMAN||6-3||200||FR|
|P||91||DRUE CHRISMAN||6-3||200||FR||PR||30||DEMARIO McCALL||5-9||182||SO|
|LS||49||LIAM MCCULLOUGH||6-2||228||SO||KR||2||PARRIS CAMPBELL||6-1||208||JR|
Note: True freshmen are hard to peg because they have not yet enrolled at Ohio State, so they are not included.