COLUMBUS, Ohio — At this time a year ago, the Ohio State football program found itself in the middle of a catch-22.
On one hand, the Buckeyes were celebrating a record 12 players being picked in the first four rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft. But that meant Urban Meyer had a dozen pro players to replace.
If ever there were a year in which a “rebuilding season” in Columbus would have been understandable, 2016 was it.
But as they say, what a difference a year makes.
Yes, Ohio State’s 2016 season ended with a 31-0 defeat in the College Football Playoff. But the fact that the Buckeyes were even in that position tells you everything you need to know about the health of Meyer’s program. Ohio State possessed the least experience of any team in the nation entering the 2016 campaign. The Buckeyes responded with an 11-1 regular season record before suffering a Fiesta Bowl blowout at the hands of Clemson.
That Ohio State remained in the national title hunt after replacing 16 starters only increases expectations entering 2017.
With 14 of 22 starters returning, Meyer possesses his most experienced roster since arriving at Ohio State. That starts with fourth-year starting quarterback J.T. Barrett, who is one of seven returning fifth-year seniors from the Buckeyes’ famed 2013 recruiting class.
“We have a ton of great leaders here,” Meyer said this spring.
On top of that, any perceived holes on Ohio State’s roster will be filled with the aid of a player development program that helped transform four first-year starters last year into NFL draft picks. It’s no coincidence that multiple Buckeyes dot several way-too-early 2018 mock drafts, including one from Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, who lists three Ohio State players in his first projection for next spring: linebacker Jerome Baker, defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones and cornerback Denzel Ward.
Considering that group doesn’t even include the likes of Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Billy Price and Parris Campbell, it’s easy to see why Miller refers to the Buckeyes’ 2017 roster as “loaded.”
Early 2018 thoughts:
– Good QB potential
– Ohio State is loaded
– Strong LB, CB, OT class
– WR, DL, TE look iffy
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 30, 2017
Between a group of upperclassmen that could set the record for most draft picks from a single school, and the highest-rated freshman class in school history, Meyer’s 2017 roster might mark his most talented to date at Ohio State. Oddsmakers are taking notice, with VegasInsider.com giving the Buckeyes the second-best odds to win the national title (11/2), trailing only Alabama (15/4).
As Ohio State’s offseason continues to unfold, the hype for the Buckeyes continues to build.
At this point last year, everybody was trying to figure out how Meyer was going to replace all of that NFL talent. After having lost seven draft picks this spring — including three first-rounders — a similar version of that question exists.
But we have a better idea of how that question will be answered.
“There are certain standards at Ohio State,” Barrett said. “And they shouldn’t change for anybody.”