When Ryan Day took over for Urban Meyer after Ohio State's Rose Bowl win against Washington, he inherited one of the most loaded rosters in college football. The defense was stacked with first-round NFL talent along the line and secondary while the offense boasted a bevy of weapons.
The Buckeyes' head coach faces a more challenging offseason in 2020. Ohio State is losing seven starters on defense, headlined by consensus first-team All Americans Chase Young and Jeff Okudah. The offense is losing a ton if its firepower as well with the departure of record-setting running back J.K. Dobbins and three of its top five wideouts.
Day has Meyer's incredible recruiting to fall back on, however. Ohio State's 2017 recruiting class boasted players like Young, Okudah, Dobbins, Shaun Wade, Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers and Thayer Munford, who played a huge role in the Buckeyes' playoff run.
With another year in the program, it's time for certain members of the heralded 2018 recruiting class to make a jump and help Day plug the holes in the depth chart.
These three players in particular have a huge offseason and opportunity in front of them.
Ohio State's offensive line is in great shape entering the offseason with the return of Davis, Myers and Munford, but it needs Nicholas Petit-Frere to step up and anchor the right side of the line after the loss of Branden Bowen.
The former 5-star prospect narrowly lost the battle for the right tackle spot in fall camp, but was called upon in key spots during the 2019 season. When Munford's availability was up in the air going into Ohio State's matchup with Northwestern, Day turned to Petit-Frere and gave him his first collegiate start.
There were ups-and-downs, including a stretch in the first half that saw Munford take over for a few series, but Petit-Frere finished the game and earned praise from the coaching staff.
“I think Nick stepped up,” Day said in his postgame press conference. “Nick played well.”
He'll have to continue to step up and play well during the offseason in order for Ohio State to maintain its dominance in the trenches.
Leading up to the 2019 season, Taron Vincent was fighting for a starting spot at defensive tackle after a strong offseason. The true sophomore had turned heads all offseason and was making a huge push in fall camp.
“Taron's so disruptive, so disruptive in the run game, in the pass-rush,” senior defensive tackle Jashon Cornell said when assessing Vincent. “We call him battering ram because once he gets off the ball, he's knocking everybody off.”
But a week before Ohio State's 2019 season opener against FAU, Vincent tore the Labrum in his right shoulder, which required season-ending surgery. The season went on without him in pads or on the field, and he had a hard time adjusting.
“The beginning of the season was hard just standing there,” Vincent said after the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin. “I'm used to it now, and I'm just here to encourage everybody and keep their heads up and stuff.”
Vincent will have plenty of time to fully rehab and get back into game shape this offseason. If he returns to form, he'll help Ohio State replace the loss of both starting defensive tackles.
Tuf Borland and Pete Werner will be back for Ohio State, but the linebacker room is losing it's most athletic member with the graduation of Malik Harrison.
That leaves a big hole in the defense. The staff used Harrison's speed and athleticism strategically when it implemented its base scheme this season. Greg Mattison and Co., will give Teradja Mitchell a long look as a potential replacement.
Ranked the No. 44 prospect nationally, Mitchell came to Ohio State as a decorated linebacker prospect. He hasn't seen much of the field his first two seasons, though, primarily serving as a special teams contributor.
He has the speed and athleticism to complement Borland and Werner, so he could be in line for a big role in 2020.