The focus of the offseason is always on the unknown. We want to talk about position battles, unproven players and new starters.
But truth be told, in the midst of those questions, we know exactly what the core of this team will look like. We know who the leaders will have to be, we know who the stars are and we know who we can expect to make big plays in big moments.
For the most part, the players who will lead this team next fall are the ones who've already done it, and are just coming back for more. So as Ohio State continues its quest to solidify starters at linebacker, safety and on the offensive line, let's take a look at who will anchor the team in the midst of that uncertainty and while new starters find their bearings.
Nick Bosa – DE
If he were allowed to leave after his sophomore season, Nick Bosa would have been a first-round draft pick. But the rules dictate he must play with college students at least one more year.
Bosa was named the top defensive lineman in the Big Ten last season, this year it's not unlikely he's the best player in the entire country – he even has Heisman odds listed by Bovada.
If there's one single player who will anchor this Buckeye defense next year, it's him. He'll be vital in eating blocks for fellow pass rushers and new contributors Jonathon Cooper and Chase Young while also serving as a disruptor in the run game, aiding the three new starters at linebacker.
Dre'Mont Jones – DT
Quietly one of the best players on the roster last season, Dre'Mont Jones returns to Ohio State to an enlarged role. With the surplus of pass rushers last season, Jones was rarely on the field in obvious passing situations. This season, he will be. And as a converted defensive end, he knows how to get to the quarterback.
With three new starters at linebacker, Jones' ability to disrupt the inside and blow up a play before it even gets started will be helpful in run defense, and his pass rushing ability will help the team recover from losing 3/4 of its rushman package to the NFL.
Jordan Fuller – S
While one safety spot is still up for grabs with the race wide open, Jordan Fuller has a stranglehold on the other spot. Fuller grew enormously in his position last season and emerged as one of the most reliable tacklers on the team and was vital in coverage.
This season, Fuller looks to be the anchor of an extremely young and inexperienced secondary and to add a bit of certainty to a safety position with so many unknowns.
Damon Arnette & Kendall Sheffield – CB
With the departure of Denzel Ward to the NFL, Ohio State lost its best coverage corner. There's no shortage of talent to replace him – over half of the corners on the current roster were five-star recruits coming out of high school – but very few of them have much in-game experience.
That's why Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield will be so vital this coming season. While players like Jeffrey Okudah, Shaun Wade and Marcus Williamson will almost surely be worked into the rotation, Arnette and Sheffield are returning starters and contributors with a season full of experience.
Mike Weber & J.K. Dobbins – RB
It's a luxury to have a former 1,000-yard rusher returning to your offense, but the Buckeyes have two. Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins will be perhaps the most fearsome running back combination in the country this season.
That talent in the backfield is great news for a team that will have a new, less-mobile starter at quarterback and still has questions on the offensive line. Weber and Dobbins will provide a sense of stability to an offense as it transitions signal callers and looks to replace a few guys up front.
Campbell, Hill, Mack, Victor, Dixon, McLaurin – WR
That's a lot of names, and it's because the Buckeyes return every single one of their six top receivers from last season.
While this unit has struggled with consistency at times, it's certainly good news that a new quarterback will be throwing to an entire group of veteran, experienced receivers – the same group he's thrown to in practice the past three years.
Like Weber and Dobbins, those six receivers will provide a bit of stability during the quarterback transition and could see a bit more action this coming season with pass-first Dwayne Haskins at the helm.
Isaiah Prince & Michael Jordan – OL
Losing Billy Price and Jamarco Jones to the NFL hurts the slobs, but Isaiah Prince and Michael Jordan are entering their third seasons as starters and will now be the veterans on the Buckeye offensive line.
Ohio State will see a new starter at left tackle in Thayer Munford, a new center and will have a guard who's played less than a full season, whether it's Demetrius Knox or Branden Bowen. Prince and Jordan's experience will be vital in leading that unit.