On a roster loaded with four and five-star talent, Ohio State has very much cultivated a next man up philosophy.
No doubt, guys are ready to step in should someone go down, and while the talent drop-off when Ryan Day must call on a backup isn't as dramatic as what it is at 99% of the other FBS programs, there are still some guys that would be dramatically more difficult to replace should the unthinkable happen.
With that, here are the five most indispensable players on Day's 2020 roster if the Buckeyes are to capture another Big Ten crown and a bid to the College Football Playoff.
WYATT DAVIS - RIGHT GUARD
The most complete offensive lineman on Ohio State's roster, Wyatt Davis enters his redshirt junior season ready to vault up NFL Draft boards after an outstanding 2019 season.
The five-star out of Bellflower, California earned first-team All-American honors as a first-time, full-time starter at right guard, teaming with Josh Myers and Jonah Jackson to form one of the nation's truly elite interior offensive lines.
With the trio leading the way, Ohio State ranked No. 6 in the country in yards per carry (5.63) and No. 4 in total offense with 529.9 yards per game.
Davis is back for one more shot at a national title and his ability to be nasty in run blocking and agile in pass pro is of supreme value to Day's offense.
Moreover, the candidates to back him up have yet to see significant snaps in a game in which the outcome was ever in doubt.
Redshirt senior Gavin Cupp likely has first dibs if Davis were forced out of action. The Ohio product logged just 174 snaps last year. If not Cupp, Matthew Jones would be in the mix and redshirt sophomore played only 114 snaps a year ago.
No offense to those guys but losing Davis would be crippling to Ohio State's aspirations.
SHAUN WADE - CORNERBACK
Redshirt junior Shaun Wade is a no-brainer for this list based on his first-round NFL talent and Ohio State's lack of proven players in what will be a retooled secondary following the departures of Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette and Jordan Fuller.
A third-team All-Big Ten selection as primarily an inside/slot corner in 2019, Wade tied Arnette for second place on the squad with eight pass breakups in 13 games.
Wade moves to the outside as Ohio State's No. 1 corner this fall and Day is counting on him a big way. There's little reason to believe Wade won't successfully make the transition based on his experience and talent.
While Wade's elite play is basically at expectation at this point, the same can't be said for the rest of the secondary. The talent is there but most of it hasn't proven enough yet to assume it's a lock which only increases Wade's importance.
Sevyn Banks, Cameron Brown, Tyreke Johnson and Marcus Williamson will all make their case for playing time opposite Wade and in his vacated slot spot and while gifted, none have logged extensive time in meaningful games.
My money would be on Banks and Brown to seize the two starting spots or, at minimum, rotate on the outside.
At safety, Josh Proctor will start and could be in line for a big season if his discipline and tackling take the next step. Marcus Hooker should also see rotational time.
Assuming Banks, Brown and Procter join him in the starting lineup, those three combined played just 18 more snaps than Wade logged by himself last season.
JUSTIN FIELDS - QUARTERBACK
So, yeah, Justin Fields makes the list.
I really shouldn't even type any words beyond that because obviously Ohio State's title hopes rest on the shoulders of Fields more so than any other player in the program.
The Heisman finalist put up 3,757 total yards last fall with 41 passing touchdowns and another 10 scores on the ground against just three interceptions and five lost fumbles.
And he accumulated those numbers while playing the last 2.5 games on one healthy leg.
Behind him, Gunnar Hoak is a serviceable backup but I don't think it's a slight to say he's probably not a national championship-caliber quarterback. True freshman C.J. Stroud could be a national championship-caliber signal caller in the future but the pandemic's impact on football related activities to date will make it extremely difficult for him to supplant Hoak this year, let alone be ready to guide the team to greatness if called upon in year one.
JOSH MYERS - CENTER
Myers was an absolute stud as a first-year starter in 2019, bringing home second-team All-Big Ten honors.
Flanked by Jonah Jackson and Wyatt Davis, as noted above, Myers and company formed one of the truly elite interior offensive lines in college football.
Myers showed an elite ability to get wide to the second level, creating cutback lanes with seal blocks or simply road-grading guys lined up straight ahead.
He's mean, strong, experienced and smart, and he should make a legit run at All-American and Rimington Trophy honors this fall.
If that wasn't enough to earn him a spot on this list, his backup could very well be a true freshman. Luke Wyper is talented and his time will come, make no mistake, but history says it's a rare breed that can start at any of the offensive line positions from day one.
Of course, expected starting left guard Harry Miller could always play center but even if that happened, it would leave a big hole that would also be filled by a talented but extremely green reserve.
PETE WERNER - SAM LINEBACKER
This one might draw some challenges in the comments but I'm taking Pete Werner to round out the list.
Werner is a bit polarizing for reasons that should've died after he finished second on the team in tackles last year, proved to have the best coverage skills among the rotational linebackers, was disciplined in his assignments and displayed a versatility that is probably unmatched on defense. The dude actually played single-high safety at times yet was physical enough to be a solid run stopper and all-around dependable player.
It's fair to argue that linebacker depth could be enough to bump Werner from this list but Justin Hilliard doesn't have the versatility and names like Teradja Mitchell (Mike) and Dallas Gant (Will) might have better chances to crack the rotation at the other linebacker spots.
For transparency, Chris Olave was the other name I considered. He's obviously an elite talent and when teamed with Garrett Wilson figures to give the Buckeyes a 1-2 punch that could prove to be the most elite duo in school history.
That said, I didn't go with Olave because I have so much confidence in the talent within the receiver room and of course, Brian Hartline's ability to expedite the learning curve of a Jameson Williams, Julian Fleming, Gee Scott Jr. and/or Jaxon Smith-Njigba.