February 26, 2024

https://lettermenrow.com/ohio-state-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-early-look-schedule-strength-2020/

We finally reached Week One of the Ohio State Football season! We watched other teams play for the past five weeks while we sat back and patiently waiting. After the incredible season that the Buckeyes had last year, it was stopped in the CFP semifinal. Thus, hopes are exceptionally high this season. So, who are the returning faces and the new players who will get the chance to step up on our road to a championship this year?

Quarterback

Starter: Justin Fields (Jr.)

Backups: Gunner Hoak (Sr.), C.J. Stroud (Fr.), Jack Miller (Fr.)

There’s not much to say about Fields that hasn’t already been said. He is a top Heisman candidate, even though he’ll be playing fewer games than the others. Coming off a third-place finish in Heisman voting, Fields is expected to have an even bigger season before being a sure-fire first-round draft pick. Hoak provided some solid minutes in relief last season, but nothing to get one excited about. Stroud and Miller will be who we want to see in blowouts to get a preview of next year’s QB battle.

Running Back

Starter: Trey Sermon (Sr.) or Master Teague III (So.)

Backups: Steele Chambers (R-Fr.), Marcus Crowley (So.)

Following J.K. Dobbins’ insane season with 301 carries and 2,250 total yards, this year’s backfield will be split between two promising backs. Six months ago, Teague injured his Achilles, and the expectations were that we lost him for the season. With the delay in the season, he looks like he’s ready to take on a shared backfield and improve from his All-Big Ten Third Team season last year as a backup. Sermon comes as a transfer from Oklahoma, averaging 6.1 YPC and 25 total TDs in three seasons. Teague and Sermon will make for a fun backfield to watch. Chambers and Crowley offered consistent relief last year and are expected to do the same this season.

Wide Receiver

Starters: Chris Olave (Jr.), Garrett Wilson (So.), Jameson Williams (So.)

Backups: Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Fr.), Julian Fleming (Fr.), Gee Scott (Fr.), Demario McCall (Sr.)

The eyes are all on Olave as he was Fields’ favorite receiver last year with 840 receiving yards and 12 TDs. Wilson delivered a spectacular freshman season full of big-time plays and will be taking on an even bigger role. Williams was quiet last year with the packed receiver room but seems ready to step-up. The excitement comes from the group of freshmen who all were top-five recruits and expect to excel in the years to come. McCall is a very talented guy who never found where he fits, but hopefully, he can find his place in his final season.

Tight End

Starter: Luke Farrell (Sr.)

Backup: Jeremy Ruckert (Jr.)

Both Farrell and Ruckert will be significant factors in the OSU offense with a combined 261 receiving yards and six TDs last year. Last season, both of them delivered for the entirety, especially on the one-handed catch by Ruckert in the Big Ten Championship. The tight end group offers a lot of depth and expects to be one of the more consistent position groups this year.

Offensive Line

Starters: LT Thayer Munford (Sr.), LG Harry Miller (So.), C Josh Myers (Jr.), RG Wyatt Davis (Jr.), RT Nicholas Petit-Frere (So.)

Backups: OG-OT Dawand Jones (So.), OT Paris Johnson Jr. (Fr.), OG Matthew Jones (So.), OG Enokk Vimahi (So.), OG Ryan Jacoby (R-Fr.)

Three out of the five starters are returners from last year, with Miller and Petit-Frere being the newcomers who were both five-star recruits out of high school. Davis is the big name as he was an All-American last year and would’ve been a first-round pick if he left early, but decided to return even after opting out initially. Munford and Myers are following up big seasons, too. They both finished with All-Big Ten honors.

Defensive End

Starters: Jonathon Cooper (Sr.), Zach Harrison (So.) OR Tyreke Smith (Jr.)

Backups: Tyler Friday (Jr.), Javontae Jean-Baptiste (So.), Noah Potter (R-Fr.)

Ohio State loves to rotate their defensive line, which is why I have so many players included. Cooper returns after having most of his previous season lost from injury. He is no Chase Young, but he does get it done. Now, Harrison can join the OSU club of top DEs drafted as he excelled in his freshman year, opposite Young. Smith, who did well when filling in during Young’s suspensions, should frequently rotate with Harrison. Friday and Jean-Baptiste will also be featured in the rotation as two that can bring life to the line, while Potter should get the chance to prove himself as a top recruit in 2019.

Defensive Tackle

Starters: Tommy Togiai (Jr.), Antwuan Jackson (Sr.)

Backups: Jerron Cage (Jr.), Tyler Friday (Jr.), Jaden McKenzie (R-Fr.)

Injured: Haskell Garrett (Sr.), Taron Vincent (So.)

Unfortunately, the defensive tackle is one of OSU’s weaker groups after losing Davon Hamilton and Robert Landers to the draft. On top of that, Garrett and Vincent are dealing with injuries going into the season. This leads us to Togiai and Jackson, who have little experience between them but seem ready to step-up. They will rotate in and out, like the defensive ends, with Cage, Friday, and McKenzie to offer tangible relief.

Linebacker

Starters: Pete Werner (Sr.), Tuf Borland (Sr.), Baron Browning (Sr.)

Backups: Justin Hilliard (Sr.), Teradja Mitchell (Jr.), Dallas Gant (Jr.), K’Vaughan Pope (Jr.)

The linebacker group consists of the most experience with four returning seniors and three juniors. Werner, Borland, Browning, and Hilliard all rotated as starters last year. They will miss Malik Harrison leading the group, but Werner expects to rise as the best player, and Borland will be the leader he is as a third-time captain. Mitchell, Grant, and Pope may not get as many snaps as the other four, but all offer great depth to the group.

Cornerback

Starters: Shaun Wade (Jr.), and Sevyn Banks (Jr.)

Backups: Cameron Brown (Jr.), Tyreke Johnson (So.)

The cornerbacks are headlined by one of the team’s best players and a possible top-10 pick in next year’s draft with Wade. He’s been able to rotate throughout the secondary as Jeff Okudah, and Damon Arnette led the corners the past two years, but Wade is primed to be the lead guy. Banks was able to shine in some key moments last year and seems anxious to get his opportunity. Both Brown and Johnson have little experience but will get plenty of opportunities as Kerry Coombs loves to rotate his corners. 

Safety

Starters: Josh Proctor (Jr.) and Marcus Hooker (So.)

Backups: Marcus Williamson (Sr.), Ronnie Hickman (R-Fr.)

Jordan Fuller will be missed on the defense, but Proctor and Hooker are ready to fill his shoes. Hooker has even bigger shoes to follow as he is the brother of recent OSU legend Malik Hooker. Proctor excelled in two safety formations opposite Proctor and will be stepping up as a leader. Williamson and Hickman will be ready in relief but should get a lot of snaps as slot cornerbacks too.

Special Teams

Kicker: Blake Haubeil (Sr.)

Punter: Drue Chrisman (Sr.)

Long snapper: Bradley Robinson (Sr.)

Haubeil is the current owner of the best field goal percentage in Ohio State history and produced the fifth-best percentage in a single season last year. In that case, there is little to worry about as he starts his final season with the Buckeyes. Chrisman is one of the more popular college football players, but his punting has gone relatively underappreciated with OSU punting so little. Hopefully, in his final season, he can continue his excellence in pinning opponents against the endzone. Robinson has little experience with Liam McCullough being the guy for so long, but Ryan Day has expressed continued confidence in his abilities this season.

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