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Buckeyes face intriguing decisions about reps, playing depth in opener

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Ohio State plans on rotating as many bodies as possible into the lineup. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Buckeyes face intriguing decisions about reps, playing depth in opener

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 playing depth? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

The timeless debate about Reps versus Rest has even more urgency than normal for Ohio State heading into the opener considering the huge challenge waiting on deck.

Assuming the Buckeyes handle their business as expected in a game they are favored to win by nearly four touchdowns, it seems a safe bet that Ryan Day will prefer to get as many players ready for Penn State as possible rather than focus solely on the starters.

In a season that will almost certainly test the depth of his talent-laden roster, the best possible outcome for the Buckeyes would be getting the front-line guys quality snaps early and then getting them safely to the sideline in the second half. That should keep Ohio State as healthy as possible, but more important, it would give it a chance to get both evaluations and experience for the next wave of reinforcements. Ohio State needs to find out exactly how many guys it can truly roll through the lineup, and that’s likely going to be far more beneficial than putting a heavy workload on the returning veterans in Week One.

The Buckeyes know what Justin Fields can do. Where exactly they would turn in a meaningful moment at quarterback with Gunnar Hoak battling with freshmen C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller is something that needs to be settled through live reps.

C.J. Stroud-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Ohio State has two talented freshman quarterbacks in C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller. (Courtesy/Ohio State Dept. of Athletics)

The offensive line can be historically dominant for the Buckeyes. But if Ohio State needs to dip into the bench, Paris Johnson is going to need to get his feet wet and Dawand Jones could use some guard snaps against Nebraska.

The secondary rotation needs to be tested. The potential for a freshman like Ty Hamilton to help on the defensive line early needs to be explored. After redshirting last season, Steele Chambers deserves a chance to show what he can do to help the rushing attack.

If the Buckeyes get into a tight game, obviously Day is going to lean as heavily on his stars as possible to make sure they get a win. But there’s not likely to be much benefit to leaving them on the field any longer than necessary with arguably the biggest challenge of the Big Ten season looming next week at Penn State.

“I think that’s the thing that’s going to be exciting about the start of this journey on both sides of the ball and on special teams,” Day said. “We’re going to see where we’re at. … I mean, we’ll see how guys play on Saturday. There have been so many practices here, and I watch them day in and day out practice physically. But what really matters is how they play on the field in a game.

“At the end of the week, we just decide who deserves an opportunity to play. Who do we feel strongly about that we can put in the game?”

The Buckeyes are going to need as many game-ready players as they can possible get this season. And the sooner Ohio State can validate that status in a live setting, the better off the program will be.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.