Ranking Ohio State's Positional Units From Strongest to Weakest Before Fall Camp

By Kevin Harrish on June 12, 2018 at 11:05 am
Dobbins and Weber

In order to compete for a national championship this season, the team will have to be strong at each of its nine positional units. Heading into fall camp, there's still a lot of personnel decisions in flux and positional battles waging on.

Here are Ohio State's top units ranked one through nine ahead of fall camp, based primarily on returning production and experience.

9. Tight End

Luke Farrell

The Buckeyes lost a four-year letter winner and two-year starter in Marcus Baugh following the season, and need to find a couple more contributors this year.

Luke Farrell emerged as a frontrunner to earn the top spot in spring practice, and Rashod Berry has played the most first-team reps of anyone on the current roster, but there's no clear-cut first-team guy like Baugh was the past few years.

It's likely five-star freshman Jeremey Ruckert comes in during the fall and fights for first-team reps, but there's still just a lot of unknowns about the tight end position at this point, from the top to the bottom.

8. Linebacker

Malik Harrison

Ohio State currently has no starting linebackers.

That doesn't mean this unit will necessarily be a weak point on the team by season's end, or even by the beginning of the season, but right now it's tough to list it as a strength, knowing the Buckeyes must replace three starters from last season.

The candidates to earn the starting spots are talented. There's Malik Harrison, Keandre Jones and Dante Booker – all of whom saw action with the first team last season – along with Justin Hilliard, Baron Browning and Pete Werner.

Everyone in the units was a highly-touted recruit and this could be a position of strength by the end of the season, but you'd certainly like there to be a little more experience in the group. Entirely new players at a position is never ideal. 

7. Safety

Jordan Fuller

This unit is hard to rank, because while it includes a player of All-American potential in Jordan Fuller at one position, nobody else has even emerged as a potential starter at the other.

"The field safety is probably our No. 1 concern on our team right now," Urban Meyer said after the spring game. "We’re just not quite sure who that is."

The potential candidates are Isaiah Pryor – who appears to be the frontrunner – with Jahsen Wint, Amir Riep and Brendan White also fighting for the spot. The door is even open for true freshman Josh Proctor to compete for the spot this fall.

6. Cornerback

Kendall Sheffield

You can always expect at least some sort of drop off whenever a key member of a unit is drafted No. 4 overall in the NFL Draft, but it might not be that steep.

Even with Denzel Ward gone, the Buckeyes do return two first-team players in Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette, and a ton of talent behind them in the form of young four and five star recruits including Jeffrey Okudah, Shaun Wade and Marcus Williamson.

This unit is undeniably talented – probably one of the most talented on the team in terms of recruiting rankings – it's just young and inexperienced at a position where reps are vital to development.

There's a chance that by the end of the season, this is a position of strength.

5. Quarterback

Dwayne Haskins

It's hard to expect the quarterback position to be one of the strengths of the team with a first-year starter, but Dwayne Haskins certainly isn't a slouch. And with an entire offseason to prepare, he should be ready come fall.

What will be different this season, however, is that the quarterback might not be the anchor of the offense the way J.T. Barrett was in previous season. The offense will likely hinge much more on other playmakers at receiver and running back.

Another factor is depth. Behind Haskins will be redshirt freshman Tate Martell – who's never played a competitive snap in college – and behind him is true freshman Matthew Baldwin, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury in high school.

4. Offensive Line

Michael Jordan and Isaiah Prince

We still don't know exactly what the offensive line will look like this season with a few positional battles still up in the air, but this is perhaps the deepest offensive line the Buckeyes have had under Urban Meyer.

We know it will include returning starters Isaiah Prince, Michael Jordan and new starter Thayer Munford. The two remaining spots in the middle of the line will likely be filled with any combination of Demetrius Knox, Branden Bowen, Brady Tayler, Josh Myers or Malcolm Pridgeon.

Knox and Bowen both started at guard last season and played well. There's still a chance both of them see the field at the same time along with Jordan, with one of them moving to center. If that happens, the Buckeyes would only be playing one player without first-team experience, with a ton of depth behind them.

3. Wide Receiver


Ohio State returns all six of its top receivers from last season and the position figures to be a strength of the team.With a new starter at quarterback, six veteran receivers will help break him in and provide some consistency and reliability in the offense.

More than that, with a pass-first Dwayne Haskins at quarterback, there's a chance these receivers see more action than they did in previous years, particularly on throws outside of the hashes. With six returning starters, they should be ready to contribute.

Behind them are younger, talented players also hungry and eager for reps, including four players with freshman eligibility.

2. Defensive Line

Nick Bosa

The Buckeyes just had three defensive linemen drafted in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft, and this unit will still be the strength of the defense in 2018.

Ohio State figures to have one of the most fearsome defensive lines in the country this season, featuring the top NFL prospect in the country in Nick Bosa, a likely future first-round pick in Dre'Mont Jones, a sophomore sensation in former five-star Chase Young, and the quick twitch disruptor Robert Landers.

Behind them is an army of depth at both the inside and outside position.

1. Running Back

Dobbins and Weber

The strength of the team in 2018 will be the running backs.

The Buckeyes have not one, but two former 1,000-yard rushers in J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber – both of whom have legitimate claims as the Big Ten's top running back. They also have an arsenal of running back talent behind them with three four-star freshmen.

With a less mobile, first-year starter at quarterback, it's likely this team will revolve around its running backs this season.

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