"We made a big emphasis with our players about spring practice not being about just fundamental development and skill development but also earning a spot on the team because our focus in August is not developing a depth chart, it's trying to go win a game," the first-year Buckeye head coach said. "I think the urgency was there this spring, especially after the players were really made well aware of their playing time will be determined in spring practice, not so much in fall."
Nine players are either new to the lineup or find themselves somewhere other than where they spent most of last season with one spot still apparently up for grabs.
The most movement is up front on offense where Jack Mewhort moved from right guard to left tackle while Corey Linsley (center), Marcus Hall (right guard) and Reid Fragel (right tackle) moved into the starting lineup with Andrew Norwell returning at left guard.
Jordan Hall is listed as the new starter at running back while two holdovers joining Norwell are quarterback Braxton Miller and tight end Jake Stoneburner. Zach Boren returns at the top of the depth chart at fullback, but his status as a starter is in question as three-receiver sets are expected to be favored in Meyer's newly installed spread offense.
On defense, middle linebacker Curtis Grant is the only player new to the lineup from the end of last season. He replaces the graduated Andrew Sweat and slides in between Ryan Shazier (weak side) and Etienne Sabino (strong side).
The front four offered somewhat of a surprise as Adam Bellamy was listed as the starter at one end. He held down that position last season along side three-technique tackle Johnathan Hankins, nose tackle Garrett Goebel and "Leo" end John Simon, but Michael Bennett spent much of the spring running with the first team.
Meyer said Bennett, a true sophomore, can expect to see extensive playing time regardless of who starts.
The secondary also contained a bit of a surprise with sophomore Doran Grant listed as a co-starter along with senior Travis Howard at cornerback. Howard started last season opposite Bradley Roby, who is back for his sophomore season.
At safety, Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett emerged at the top of the depth chart after injuries left the picture muddled for most of the spring. That pair started most of last season but received pushes from Orhian Johnson and Corey Brown, both listed as backups on the new depth chart.
Meyer is not ready to set his return men's names in stone but identified Jordan Hall and Devin Smith as top candidates.
The head coach made setting a depth chart a priority in spring practice but confirmed there is some room for movement in the fall as the team prepares to open the season against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 1.
"In the competitive nature of what we do, if you recruit well and you develop well, you've got to hang on for dear life to your position," he said. "If we do that then we've obviously got a bunch of good players on this team."
Taylor Decker, a true freshman who enrolled in March, could push Fragel, a senior who played tight end his first three seasons, as the starter at right tackle while several incoming freshmen who will join the program in June could fight their way into the mix as well.
"I anticipate Noah Spence would be in an immediate competition for playing time just from what I know as a player and what we need as a pass rusher," Meyer said.
"He had them I guess last fall, too, so they're still doing some medical workups on him. He's going to class and that part of it, but he's been away from football for a little bit," Meyer said of Hayes, a redshirt freshman from Toledo.
Williams, a senior who was expected to start last season before having to undergo microfracture knee surgery, continues to progress after taking a medical redshirt.
"He's doing good. June is a real critical month for him. He's running in the pool. I see him every day. He's very committed," Meyer said. "From everything I understand, Luke Fickell thinks extremely highly of him. He made comments that he may be the best one we have, so we need to get him back."
Williams could claim the Leo position while Hayes would add depth at end or tackle.