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Random Spring Thoughts: Ohio State

Using a combination of various computer programs and the Internet — a task nearly beyond my limited computing skills — I selected 25 F.B.S. teams at random. Teams lucky enough to have been randomly selected will be reviewed with several random thoughts as we enter the heart of spring practice. Up next: Ohio State, which needs five guys to replace five guys who stepped outside the lines.

They’re not replacement players, even if they are replacing, in a sense, five players who would otherwise factor heavily into Ohio State’s mix. The five substitutes stepping in for the tattooed quintet suspended for the first month-plus of 2011 are just that: substitutes. Like a substitute teacher, these five aren’t starting for the long term, just for now, for five games from Sept. 3 through Oct. 1, until Terrelle Pryor and his teammates return to action. It’s worth noting that in the suspended five’s stead, the new starters hold the key to Ohio State’s hopes of returning to B.C.S. play.

So who are they going to be? At quarterback, one would think the job would fall to senior Joe Bauserman, Pryor’s backup in each of the last two seasons. What about Braxton Miller, the well-regarded freshman? Not this year, not if O.S.U. wants to stay afloat. The Buckeyes can get by without Dan Herron – as talented as he is – thanks to a stable of backs aiming to make the most of the opportunity for playing time.

With Mike Adams out for September, Ohio State will have new faces at both spots along the weak side of the line: a handful of relatively inexperienced hands will vie for Adams’ hole at left tackle, like Marcus Hall, Andrew Norwell and Jack Mewhort. The big hole – one exacerbated by Dane Sanzenbacher’s graduation – is at wide receiver, which will miss Devier Posey’s big-play ability. The holes are significant, but we knew that already. More random Ohio State thoughts come below:

What about Tressel? I’m curious as to how Jim Tressel will spend each Saturday from early September through Oct. 8. Well, not really – even if I wonder whether he’ll be allowed to be in the stadium on game day or banned altogether. I’m more curious as to how the team will react come September when it’s Luke Fickell, not Tressel, rallying the troops. What do we know about Fickell? He’s paid his dues, for starters, but he’s also extremely well-versed in the Tressel Way – notice the capitalization – which should allow him to continue stressing the fundamentals that keep O.S.U. in the running year after. If nothing else, the spring could be used as a time to prepare this team for a somewhat new voice, even if each player on the roster knows what Fickell is all about.

A new-look offense. Will O.S.U. do things differently on offense with Bauserman under center? He’s no Pryor, in the sense that he’s not quite the dual-threat option as is Ohio State’s typical starter. In that way, O.S.U. would look to be more traditional, more pro-style in the passing game, than it typically is with Pryor taking snaps. On the flip side, what if O.S.U. feels so comfortable in the offense it runs with Pryor that it wants to keep the status quo? In that case, perhaps the Buckeyes would go with either Miller or sophomore Kenny Guiton, both of whom fit into the Pryor mold.

The importance of Michael Brewster. He’s not just one of the best centers in the country, if not the best. Now, this year, with the five players out, Brewster becomes an unquestioned team leader, one who can provide a model of consistency for the understudies moving into starting roles. The same might be said of sixth-year senior Tyler Moeller, should he remain healthy, as he could give the Buckeyes some steady play along the back end of a defense replacing seven starters.

This has to be the year for one defender. It’s time for junior Etienne Sabino to play major snaps. Many have been predicting big things for Sabino since he arrived on campus in 2008, only to see his progression into an all-conference linebacker – one waylaid by last season’s redshirt – encounter several hurdles. Now that the Buckeyes have lost two leaders at linebacker, it’s Sabino’s time to be the player most expected he would become. His potential remains extremely intriguing.

More help is needed. No one thinks Ohio State will struggle defensively, if only because history is clearly on the side of that argument. The Buckeyes haven’t allowed more than 186 points in a single season since 2004, and haven’t allowed more than 229 points – that’s 17.6 points per game – since 2000, Tressel’s debut season. Still, there are faces to replace along each level of the defense: Cameron Heyward along the line, Brian Rolle at linebacker and Jermale Hines in the secondary, to name a few. There are favorites to fill these open spots – Johnathan Hankins’s development is one thing to watch – but more will be decided during the spring.

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  1. schedule nit says:

    Continue to find it dumbfounding that tOSU can miss their five best players for five games, yet their schedule is so laughable that everyone expects them to be 5-0 anyway.

  2. Chris says:

    Re: the previous comment…”[their schedule is] so laughable”? OSU plays two BCS schools, one home and one away in their non-con schedule. Not exactly “so laughable” considering USC and LSU are really the only others doing the same.

  3. Matt Rob says:

    Amen. They leave Ohio for one game in the first five weeks.

    Imagine if LSU lost its coach and five stars for their first five games (neutral v Oregon, at Miss St., at WVU, Kentucky, NW St). Quite a different expectation.

  4. schedule nit says:

    They play an away game out of conference this year?

  5. Mike says:

    It’s more that OSU has been so dominant lately.

    They’re playing at Miami and vs Michigan State, a two-loss team last year. That’s hardly nothing, considering how *everyone* expected Miami to own them last year.

    Practically every school in the BCS plays at 3 powder-puffs, the southern schools just spread them out more, and play them in the middle of their conference season. Big ten schools generally play them all to start the season.

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