Many Depth Chart Questions Still Remain After Ohio State's Spring Practices

By Kevin Harrish on April 24, 2018 at 10:10 am
Barron Browning hopes to earn a starting spot in the spring.

When a team sends 11 players to the NFL following one season, there's going to be quite a bit of roster turnover. That's exactly the situation Ohio State found itself in this spring.

Heading into spring practices, the Buckeyes found themselves in need of a new starter at quarterback, left tackle, center, tight end, field safety, cornerback, defensive end and at least two of the three linebacker spots.

The only unit two units that returned all of their starters were the running backs and the wide receivers – a much different scenario than Ohio State found itself in at this point last season.

The Buckeyes entered spring with lots of questions at lots of positions, but most of them went unanswered, leaving the majority of the position battles to linger over the summer and into the fall.

As we head into the summer following spring practices, let's take a look back at what happened at each of those open spots the past few weeks, and if the battles are closed, open with a clear frontrunner, or wide open.

Quarterback – Wide Open

The most high-profile positional battle of them all remains open after spring practices.

Entering spring, it seemed Dwayne Haskins had the upper hand in the battle as he was J.T. Barrett's backup all season and led the team to a comeback victory over Michigan, but the battled remained too-close-to-call all throughout spring with Urban Meyer repeatedly mentioning that he wished someone would pull away.

Of the three, Joe Burrow had the best spring game performance, but he himself said before the scrimmage that the spring game is not important for determining a starter and that it's more about the larger body of work.

Without completely writing off Tate Martell, it does seem Haskins and Burrow are the two most likely candidates, with Martell seeing the field in special packages. In an ideal world, the quarterback battle would continue into the fall, but Burrow has expressed his intent to transfer and play immediately at another school if he doesn't win the job, which could force a decision sooner than later.

Offensive Tackle – Clear Frontrunner

The offensive tackle spot is one positional battle that seems to have a winner at the end of spring..

Originally, the plan was for Isaiah Prince to move from right tackle to left tackle, and the Buckeyes would look for a new starting right tackle. Instead, it seems Prince will stay at the right tackle spot for the third-straight season while Thayer Munford, the second lowest-rated player in Ohio State's 2017 class, will start at the left tackle spot.

Greg Studrawa said while this isn't set in stone, it's the likely outcome. He also said he would like to rotate more than five offensive linemen this season, as the Buckeyes have plenty of depth and deserving talent at every position in the trenches.

Center – Clear Frontrunner

This is a battle that is still up for grabs as we head into spring, though Brady Taylor has emerged as the clear frontrunner.

Meyer said after the spring game that Taylor was the team's starting center as it exited spring practices, but acknowledged that could change in the fall.

After a late push from Josh Myers, Greg Studrawa said he expects the competition for the starting center job to continue into fall camp.

Spring practice did at least narrow this race, as it became clear Matthew Burrell was no longer in contention, presumably resulting in his decision to transfer from the program.

Tight End – Clear Frontrunner

Most presumed Rashod Berry would be Ohio State's primary tight end this season after the departure of Marcus Baugh, but by the end of the spring, it was Luke Farrell that earned the top spot.

Like the center spot, Meyer said it was "as of now," and he wasn't ready to make him the starter for the season, but after a great spring, he was at the top of the depth chart.

This is a battle we can expect to continue into the spring. Berry and Jake Hausmann will continue to push for playing time, and Jeremy Ruckert – the top tight end in the 2018 class – figures to get some first-team looks when he arrives on campus.

Defensive End – Closed

This one really was never hard. While Ohio State will technically need to fill a couple of starting defensive end spots after the departures of Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes, the next men up are pretty obvious.

Nick Bosa was more-or-less a co-first-teamer along with those three all of last season, playing an equal number of meaningful snaps as the talented and deep unit rotated.

Joining Bosa as a starter will almost certainly be sophomore Chase Young, as he was the most dominant player at any position during the team's spring game. 

Jonathon Cooper and Jashon Cornell are sure to see meaningful reps as well.

Linebacker – Wide Open

We still have no idea what the linebacker position will look like next season as the Buckeyes continue to look for three starting linebackers.

Both outside spot opened with the departure of Chris Worley and Jerome Baker, and Tuf Borland was set to be the starting middle linebacker, but suffered an achilles injury which will likely keep him out of at least some of the season.

Currently, the candidates in the middle include Justin Hilliard, who is finally healthy and seems to have taken most of the first-team reps this spring, as well as Baron Browning, who continues to get better and may be too talented to keep off the field come fall. It's possible either one of these two find playing time outside if they don't win the starting spot inside.

Linebackers coach Bill Davis said the outside linebacker spots are interchangeable, and it appears to be a four-player race for those starting spots. Malik Harrison and Keandre Jones appear to be the frontrunners, getting most of the first-team reps, but Pete Werner continues to push for playing time and Dante Booker, who started last season, will compete when he returns from injury. 

Safety – Wide Open

Another positional battle that's still wide open is the field safety spot vacated by the departed Damon Webb, a position which Urban Meyer called the team's "No. 1 concern" leaving spring practices.

Isaiah Pryor ran with the first-team defense all spring, but Amir Riep, Brendon White and Jahsen Wint are all pushing for the starting spot as well. The fact that nobody has separated themselves and Meyer seems concerned about the position could leave the door open for highly-touted freshman Josh Proctor to make a push when he arrives on campus in the fall.

Cornerback – Clear Frontrunner

On Thursday night, Denzel Ward will likely be the next Ohio State cornerback taken in the first round, leaving the team's top cornerback spot vacant.

Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said that Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette were the two established starters as spring practice ended, citing their game experience, which he called "invaluable," but Urban Meyer also said he expects Jeffrey Okudah to be part of a three-man rotation.

Those three will likely see the majority of the meaningful in-game reps this season, but Shaun Wade and Marcus Williamson had good springs and will push for playing time as well, adding depth to the position.

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