Spring Preview: Five Players Set to Make or Break Their Ohio State Futures When Drills Open Tuesday

By Eric Seger on March 7, 2016 at 8:35 am
Five players set to make or break their place at Ohio State this spring.

For many, spring practice is an opportunity to cement themselves in starting positions for the following season. For others, it could be a last ditch effort to show their worth in the program.

Ohio State lost over half its starters from a team that went 12-1 and beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl New Year's Day. The majority of them are about to head to the NFL, leaving a host of starting spots available in Urban Meyer's program.

The youth movement in Columbus will be evident with another highly ranked recruiting class coming in this summer, but there are a slew of older players that are running out of chances to show they belong in one of the nation's top programs.

Injuries happen to hinder the growth and development of players more often than they or Meyer want to see, but the start of spring practice presents a clean slate. That holds true even more so this year with so many spots available in Columbus.

Here are five Buckeyes who need to show something this spring to either make or break their careers in Columbus — will they step up and perform? Or slide back in the shadows behind the younger talent?

Johnnie Dixon, Wide Receiver

His third spring in the program, Dixon has yet to live up to his four-star classification as a burner from Florida due to knee problems.

Tendonitis and other issues led to surgery and ultimately a redshirt in 2014, even though he tallied four carries and 20 yards in Ohio State's 66-0 win against Kent State. He sat out the majority of last spring and missed the spring game as he continued to battle knee problems, then faded down the depth chart after recording his first career catch against Virginia Tech.

Dixon's a terrific athlete when healthy. With so many spots open at the position after the departures of Braxton Miller, Jalin Marshall and Michael Thomas, if he can stay on the field and compete for playing time he willll likely play a big part for Ohio State in 2016. If not, young, eager talent at wide receiver held back a year ago will move by him.


Chris Worley, Linebacker

Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said Worley would start alongside Raekwon McMillan and Dante Booker at the position if the Buckeyes had to run out for a game in January. Worley is a redshirt junior and needs to show he can step in for Darron Lee or risk seeing Jerome Baker or others pass him on the depth chart.

Lee isn't someone easy to replace, but Worley will get the first crack at it. After all, he started the season 2014 season opener against Navy before Lee burst on the scene and became a key cog in the team's national title run.

Ohio State's talent at linebacker is stout due to a pair of strong recruiting classes, so it should be able to withstand the exits of both Lee and Joshua Perry. Will Worley hold onto the starting spot?

Kyle Trout, Offensive Line

Trout's first two years with the program were spent on the scout team. He redshirted in 2014 after coming to Ohio State as a four-star prospect from Lancaster, Ohio, and didn't crack the two-deep a year ago.

So where does Trout fit in? Ed Warinner and Co. signed a massive offensive line haul in 2015 (four players) and added three more for 2016. One is junior college transfer Malcolm Pridgeon, who likely has the early line to start at one of the tackle spots. Will Trout make a push to separate himself from Jamarco Jones, Demetrius Knox or others?

Plenty will be learned about the 2016 version of Ohio State's offensive line this spring, but we should also get an idea of where Trout sits in the program with such a wide breadth of skill sitting behind him.


Evan Lisle, Offensive Line

Lisle falls in the same category as Trout, though he is a year older. He backed up Pat Elflein at right guard in 2015, but could fall through the cracks like Trout if new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa likes what he sees from younger players when practice starts.

Lisle has great size at 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, but as a redshirt junior is expected to make a dent this fall. There are three starting spots available on the offensive line, so if he's going to do something to earn significant minutes at Ohio State now is the time.

In some ways, it is fortunate for guys like Lisle and Trout that Warinner is moving to tight ends coach, so they can sort of wipe the slate clean as Studrawa enters. Who will take advantage?

Marshon Lattimore, Defensive Back

Lattimore played significant minutes in 2015 after taking a redshirt the year before. He was a huge part of the 2014 recruiting class, but dealt with nagging hamstring injuries and eventually underwent surgery.

Lattimore has a ton of talent, but needs to separate himself from the other players on the back end of Ohio State's defense with three open starting spots available. Gareon Conley has one cornerback spot locked down. Is Lattimore next in line at the other? Or will he move to safety? Who will play nickel?

Those holes could be filled by the Glenville product, but also by others like Denzel Ward, Eric Glover-Williams, Damon Webb, Joshua Norwood or Damon Arnette. Lattimore was thought to be among the best of the bunch as a recruit. If he can't stay healthy and show it this spring, he risks falling down the depth chart.

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