Buckeyes Must Answer Questions In Camp

Joshua Perry

There is plenty of anticipation for the start of Ohio State's fall camp, and why wouldn't there be? The Buckeyes are coming off an undefeated season and are already among the favorites to give two-time defending national champion Alabama a run for its money at the top of the polls. But BSB takes a look at what OSU needs to figure out in camp in order for the season to live up to expectations.

Fall camp begins tomorrow for the Ohio State football team, with freshmen scheduled to practice in the morning before the team's returning veterans hit the field in the afternoon.

This particular Buckeye team doesn't have a ton of holes to fill, especially with a Heisman Trophy candidate back at quarterback, most of the starting offense returning and a number of burgeoning stars on the team's defense.

Of course, there are still plenty of questions that have to be answered in any fall camp, and the Buckeyes – who are ranked No. 2 in the coaches poll to start the campaign – are not immune from such uncertainties.

With that in mind, BuckeyeSports.com rakes a look at some of the top questions that need answered for Urban Meyer and Ohio State over the next few weeks, all leading up to the Aug. 31 opener against Buffalo.

Which freshmen step up at the offensive skill positions? Meyer has praised a number of the incoming youngsters for their speed and predicted a few would see the field during the 2013 seasons.

Now, the question is, which ones will it be? Four-star running back Dontre Wilson, who is expected to join Jordan Hall and Chris Fields at the "H" spot, has clearly turned heads based on what the Buckeye players and coaches said in Chicago, and his prep pedigree is sterling. Five-star wideout Jalin Marshall, dubbed Mr. Excitement at Middletown High School, also has fans waiting to see how his talent translates to the college level.

Add in JUCO transfer Corey Smith, a wideout who doesn't have much time to make an impact; four-star wideout James Clark, a playmaker who joined up late in the class; and four-star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is actually rated higher than Wilson, and it's clear the Buckeyes have a lot of options.

Which of those youngsters has the best combination of standout talent and fundamental skills – the kinds of things like route-running and blocking abilities that get you on the field at the college level – remains to be seen, but it should be a fun process to find out.

Which linebackers are ready to play? Coming out of the spring, one got the sense the Buckeye coaching staff was really confident in only three linebackers – returning All-America candidate Ryan Shazier, the sure starter at Will; former five-star prospect Curtis Grant, who is battling to take over at Mike; and his major competition, sophomore Joshua Perry, who could also be the No. 1 Sam when the Buckeyes need three linebackers.

That isn't enough linebackers to get through an entire season, though, so growth continues to be necessary. In addition to seeing someone grab the open middle linebacker spot, the Buckeyes will need depth, so players like Camren Williams, Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell will have the chance to show what they can do. OSU could also put someone like Darron Lee, Jayme Thompson or Christopher Worley – three players that could play LB, star or safety based on need – into the mix to see if they can rise to the top.

Who punts? At least there are options here, but this is a battle that could continue to rage until opening day.

Australian import Cameron Johnston comes with high praise, but will the 21-year-old master the position to the point he can earn Meyer's trust for the first game? If not, is Drew Basil ready to pull double duty, all while keeping his leg fresh enough to make big field goals when called upon? And is the darkhorse, Frank Epitropoulos, going to stick at the position and use his booming leg to seize the job?

This position will bear watching to see which player is most ready to give the Buckeyes consistency at the position.

Is there quarterback depth? Ohio State found out time and time again last year that you need to have at least two competent quarterbacks given how often Miller had to leave games because of injuries.

Kenny Guiton did his part when called upon, leading not just the stunning comeback victory against Purdue but also finishing off key drives at other times, including in the tight early-season win vs. Michigan State.

Guiton has been called the best backup in the nation by QBs coach Tom Herman, but Meyer said in June that Guiton was bothered by a hand injury. He should be ready to go by the time the season starts, but that does make you wonder just a bit whether redshirt freshman Cardale Jones or true freshman J.T. Barrett will be ready to go.

Obviously, something has really gone wrong if those two get called upon, but it could happen. After a rocky first year in the program, Jones was given some more responsibility in spring ball and responded with some nice plays; he is raw but boasts a rocket arm and great mobility. Barrett also looked good throwing some in spring, though he was limited by continued rehab on a torn ACL. Either of those two showing they can be trusted in small roles would be helpful as the Buckeyes try to add depth to the position.

Is there cornerback depth? On the other side of the ball, one position that stands out as needing similar depth is the cornerback position. The Buckeyes might have to go without All-American Bradley Roby for a few games as his legal issues get sorted out, and there wasn't exactly a ton of ready bodies behind Roby this spring.

Junior Doran Grant, who has called his cameos last season "disappointing", is expected to take over Travis Howard's role as a starter and had a good spring. Behind him, Armani Reeves made a big step forward this spring in the eyes of position coach Kerry Coombs but is still just a second-year player.

After that, the Buckeyes were left with just true freshmen Cameron Burrows and Eli Apple this spring as the Nos. 4 and 5 corners, though both showed flashes of skill after being highly rated high school prospects. The Buckeyes also welcome back the injured Najee Murray and could move Tyvis Powell or Adam Griffin back from star if the need arises, but it seems there will be some youngsters in the two-deep at this spot for sure.

Who will win the right tackle job? Perhaps the fiercest position battle in the fall will take place at the lone open spot on the offensive line. The Buckeyes need to find a replacement for NFL draft pick Reid Fragel, with sophomores Taylor Decker and Chase Farris the top two players in the running.

Decker seems to have all the physical skills but is still learning the nuances of the position, and the same thing could be said of Farris, who is a converted defensive lineman. Farris' body also seems more suited to guard, and if he makes a big step forward this fall, perhaps a player like Marcus Hall or Andrew Norwell could swing from guard to tackle to set the starting five.

Either way, Meyer was clearly not 100 percent pleased with this spot coming out of the spring, so it bears watching how the two main combatants respond starting tomorrow.

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