College Football News recently published their annual Ohio State season preview yesterday. It's a great, in-depth read, and it does a great job of not only covering the players and stories that we know about, but some of the under the radar guys as well. It's a good thing that CFN can do that, because after having eight men selected in the NFL draft, and seven other starters try and make it as undrafted free agents, there are a lot of holes to fill in that depth chart.
So who will be the new guys stepping it up?
Last year's starter: Troy Smith
Likely replacements: Todd Boeckman, Robbie Schoenhoft, and Antonio Henton
Last year's starter: Antonio Pittman, Stan White Jr. (Fullback)
Likely Replacement: Chris Wells, Dionte Johnson (Fullback)
Last year's: Ted Ginn, Anthony Gonzalez, Roy Hall
This year's: Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline, Ray Small
No key losses
Losses: TJ Downing, Doug Datish
Gains: Any of Jim Cordle, Ben Person, Connor Smith, Jon Skinner, and Kyle Mitchum
Sayonara: Jay Richardson
Hola: Lawrence Wilson, Robert Rose
Aloha: Quinn Pitcock, Doug Patterson, Joel Penton
Aloha: Todd Denlinger, Doug Worthington, Alex Barrow (Barrow could also see time at defensive end)
Good Riddance: John Kerr
Good luck: Ross Homan, Curtis Terry, Larry Grant
No Key losses
Hug Goodbye: Antonio Smith
Shaking Hands: Donald Washington, Andre Amos
Hasta La Vista: Brandon Mitchell
Welcome Aboard: Nick Patterson, Anderson Russell (Russell started at the beginning of last season, but blew out his ACL and is attempting a comeback)
Clearly, with just about every position having some form of restocking going on in the offseason, the outcome of the regular season and beyond heavily depends on the development of these replacements. Some of these positions (Quarterbacks, Receivers, Defensive Tackles) have such big shoes to fill that it is unfair to ask these players to perform at the same level as their predecessors. However, just like some shoes are too big to fill, some old shoes will be replaced by a pair of flashy new Air Jordans and will be forgotten in a matter of weeks, these "new shoes," of course, are the guys that have been waiting in the wings for quite some time to overtake their former teammates. Beanie, Cordle, Wilson, and whoever ends up winning the final linebacker spot will almost certainly be an improvement from last year just simply due to the fact that coaches, players, media members, and fans alike have had too many good things to say about these players from the moment that they've walked on campus for them to be anything but the next great football players at Ohio State. In the past, it was all a matter of being less experienced that kept these players on the bench. Now, it's their turn, and they will make the most of it. As the old cliche goes, powerhouses like Ohio State don't rebuild -- they reload. The top talent in the country will always flock to Columbus for the shot at being a Buckeye, and that's why such little parity exists in college football today.
One of the two positions I listed on that list as having no key losses very well may be two of the most important positions to the team this year. The tight end position last year was far and away the most under utilized offensive position last year. With Tressel's spread offense revolving around Troy Smith, most of the sets were out of shotgun with multiple receivers on top of the running back(s). When spreading out the offense, the odd man out is almost always the tight end. Well, this year, there will be no spread offense. It will be much more vintage Tresselball for much of the season, which means that the tight end will find it's way into the offense much more often. Troy Smith had a calm demeanor in the pocket. He knew how to check his progressions, and when nothing was open was when he ran. That came with experience. Young quarterbacks always look to throw to the big targets -- the tight ends -- on just about every throw. Do you think it's a coincidence that most mediocre teams have great tight end play? No, of course not. It's because most mediocre teams have young quarterbacks that love to throw to the tight end. There shouldn't be any reason to expect anything different out of whoever plays quarterback for Ohio State this year.