The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and the units with the most and least experience for the Buckeyes? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Which unit has the most experience with returning starting players and which has the least experience?
— Jess 🅾️☕️💫🥂 (@Buckeyetxgrl2_0) February 5, 2021
There still won’t be anything truly normal about spring practice, at least not as long as simply getting into the Woody Hayes Athletic Center requires daily testing.
But even without those complications, Ohio State would likely be treating the March-and-April practices differently and with perhaps more urgency than it normally might — which probably means more work even for the veterans.
The Buckeyes have been known to lighten the workload for upperclassmen or proven starters during the spring camp over the years, a move designed to save some reps for those guys for when it counts and to ramp up the development of the next wave. But thanks to the pandemic-shortened season a year ago, even the top-line Buckeyes missed out on some valuable snaps, potentially leading to a few tweaks and more chances to compete in the expected simulated games the program is planning over the next two months.
“I think the thing for us is just that we’re planning on having a somewhat normal spring where we can have six weeks of a lead-up working in the facility and then having a normal spring practice schedule,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said earlier this month. “The thing that isn’t different is that we’re still in protocols. We still can’t have a lot of group things together. We have to make sure that we’re still following all those things. We’re still being tested and all that.
“But we’re hoping all to be together and not broken up like we were last year.”
When the Buckeyes do get back together, which unit could afford to tap the brakes a bit at the top of the depth chart? Where does Ohio State need to focus its attention with a youth movement? Let’s dive into the situations for the most and least experienced positions on the roster.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Ohio State fully loaded with targets
The Buckeyes were going to have one of the nation’s best groups of wide receivers no matter what. But Chris Olave’s somewhat surprising decision to return for another year at Ohio State solidified the program at the top of the list thanks to his proven productivity, athleticism and leadership. Having Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams back with a couple seasons of experience already had the Buckeyes in great shape with Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Julian Fleming and Gee Scott all poised to take the next step as sophomores. Olave, though, pushes Ohio State to a truly elite level and ensures that the winner of the race to replace Justin Fields at quarterback will have an embarrassment of riches to work with down the field.
The bonus there for wide receivers coach Brian Hartline? The veteran presence should allow him to spend more time with the sophomores and yet another ridiculous signing class with guys like Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison and Jayden Ballard now on campus.
LINEBACKERS: Buckeyes have plenty to do in spring
The Buckeyes have a handful of guys who have spent several years in the program at linebacker, but that doesn’t exactly qualify that unit has traditionally experienced. Other than spot starts or the occasional role off the bench, Teradja Mitchell, Dallas Gant and K’Vaughan Pope have all had to patiently wait their turns for a while now thanks to the group ahead of them that was entrenched in the starting lineup. But now those four seniors are officially out the door, and the pressure will be on for the Buckeyes to reload instead of rebuild without them.
Keeping Al Washington around to lead the project was a big boost for Ohio State, and he has no shortage of talent to work with moving forward. Beyond that group of rising seniors, keep an eye on versatile defenders like Craig Young and Cody Simon or hard-hitters in Tommy Eichenberg and Mitchell Melton who will have shots to make an impact in the spring. With so much production to replace, the competition is essentially wide open.
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