COLUMBUS, Ohio — As of Tuesday, it will have been 66 days since Ohio State’s 31-0 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal Fiesta Bowl.
You know that old saying, “time heals all wounds?” On Tuesday, the Buckeyes will put that theory to the test.
For just the second time in the Urban Meyer era, Ohio State enters spring practice coming off a loss — and a devastating one at that. As a result, the Buckeyes coaching staff underwent a minor shakeup this past offseason, while Meyer hasn’t been shy to share his desire to “freshen” up his program’s approach.
Tuesday will mark another step toward doing just that, as Ohio State kicks off its first of 15 spring practices.
What follows is everything you need to know about spring practice, from Ohio State’s schedule, to projected depth charts, position battles and storylines for a crucial offseason in Columbus.
Ohio State has confirmed the following practice dates for its spring practice session: Tuesday, March 7; Thursday, March 9; Tuesday, March 21; Thursday, March 23; Tuesday, March 28; Thursday, March 30; Tuesday, April 4; Thursday, April 6; and Monday, April 10.
The Buckeyes will host their annual spring game on Saturday, April 15 at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Other dates of note for Ohio State this spring:
March 13-17 — Spring Break
March 23 — Ohio State Pro Day
April 13-15 — Coaches Clinic
April 27-29 — NFL Draft
You can purchase tickets to Ohio State’s spring game via Ticketmaster.
Ohio State spring practice depth charts
Ohio State will return a combined 15 starters from a season ago, including eight on offense and seven on defense.
Here is a projection of what the Buckeyes’ offensive and defensive depth charts look like heading into spring.
|Quarterback||J.T. Barrett||Joe Burrow||Dwayne Haskins|
|Running back||Mike Weber||Antonio Williams||J.K. Dobbins|
|X receiver||Binjimen Victor||Austin Mack||Brendon White|
|Z receiver||K.J. Hill||Parris Campbell||Terry McLaurin|
|H-Back||Demario McCall||Eric Glover-Williams||Parris Campbell|
|Tight end||Marcus Baugh||A.J. Alexander||Jake Hausmann|
|Left tackle||Jamarco Jones||Branden Bowen||Malcolm Pridgeon|
|Left guard||Michael Jordan||Matthew Burrell||Josh Myers|
|Center||Billy Price||Brady Taylor||Gavin Cupp|
|Right guard||Demetrius Knox||Matthew Burrell||Josh Myers|
|Right tackle||Isaiah Prince||Malcolm Pridgeon||Kevin Feder|
|Defensive end||Tyquan Lewis||Nick Bosa||Rashod Berry|
|Defensive end||Sam Hubbard||Jalyn Holmes||Jonathon Cooper|
|Defensive tackle||Michael Hill||Tracy Sprinkle||Jashon Cornell|
|Defensive tackle||Dre’Mont Jones||Robert Landers||Davon Hamilton|
|SAM||Chris Worley||Malik Harrison||Brendon White|
|MIKE||Dante Booker||Baron Browning||Tuf Borland|
|WILL||Jerome Baker||Keandre Jones||Justin Hilliard|
|Cornerback||Denzel Ward||Shaun Wade||Rodjay Burns|
|Cornerback||Jeffrey Okudah||Kendall Sheffield||Marcus Williamson|
|Free safety||Jordan Fuller||Erick Smith||Damon Arnette|
|Strong safety||Damon Webb||Isaiah Pryor||Jahsen Wint|
Offensive position battles
With seven vacancies on the depth chart from a season ago, the following position battles are set to take place in the coming weeks:
With Noah Brown off to the NFL, Ohio State will look to find a new starter at its top receiver position.
Sophomore Binjimen Victory appears to be the odds-on favorite to slide into a starting role after the 6-foot-4, 185-pound target showed flashes of being a top-level playmaker in his freshman season. He’ll share reps — and ultimately compete for a starting spot — alongside sophomore Austin Mack and early enrollee Brendon White.
No longer able to count on Curtis Samuel, the Buckeyes are in need of a new starter at one of the most prominent positions in Meyer’s offense. Sophomore Demario McCall already looks up to the task.
“Heading into my sophomore year, I’ll be more like an H-back and punt returner and kick returner,” McCall said in December. “And from there, whatever happens, happens.”
This spring will start that transformation, as McCall will compete with converted defensive back Eric Glover-Williams for the starting spot formerly occupied by Samuel. Between the departures of Brown and Samuel, there should be plenty of touches to go around.
With Billy Price sliding over to replace Pat Elflein at center, Ohio State is in need of a new starting right guard. Redshirt junior Demetrius Knox enters the spring as the favorite to fill the void, but redshirt sophomore Matthew Burrell, early enrollee Josh Myers and JUCO transfer Malcolm Pridgeon also will compete for the starting spot.
Defensive position battles
After entering 2016 as a starter at outside linebacker, an injury cost Dante Booker not only his season but his starting spot as Jerome Baker starred in his absence. But with Raekwon McMillan off to the NFL, Booker may now be the Buckeyes’ best option at middle linebacker, although he’ll also compete with early enrollee Baron Browning and redshirt freshman Tuf Borland for the starting role.
For the first time in the Meyer era, Ohio State will replace both of its starting cornerbacks from the previous season. With his previous experience, Denzel Ward appears to have already locked up one starting spot, but the other remains up for grabs.
With 5-star early enrollees Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade battling alongside JUCO transfer Kendall Sheffield, the fight for the right to start opposite Ward may very well be the Buckeyes’ highest-profile position battle. Ultimately, cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs will likely settle on a rotation among his highly touted players. But it will be interesting nonetheless to see how the depth chart shakes out coming out of the spring.
Arguably the toughest position for Ohio State to replace, the Buckeyes are in need of a new starting safety following Malik Hooker’s All-America campaign in 2016.
Entering the spring, sophomore Jordan Fuller and Erick Smith appear to be the front-runners to line up alongside Damon Webb in the back of the OSU defense. Given his versatility, Okudah makes for an intriguing option as well, as the Buckeyes may need to get creative to replace one of their best players from a season ago.
Although Ohio State made the College Football Playoff in 2016, the Buckeyes did so despite possessing a passing attack that didn’t play to its potential. Ohio State ranked 81st nationally in passing yards per game — hardly meeting the standard Meyer holds for his program.
Enter new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, as the Buckeyes are hopeful a shakeup to their offensive coaching staff can help cure their passing game problems. Can Ohio State’s new assistants help get quarterback J.T. Barrett back to playing at his best? We could see signs as early as this spring.
For this first time since 2001, Ohio State enters spring practice without Luke Fickell on its staff. After spending the previous 15 seasons as a Buckeyes coach in some capacity, Fickell is now running his own spring practice down the road as the head coach at Cincinnati.
Greg Schiano is now the sole defensive coordinator on Ohio State’s staff and longtime NFL assistant Bill Davis is the Buckeyes’ new linebackers coach. Without Fickell’s familiar face around, this spring will give us our first glimpse at the new dynamic on Ohio State’s defensive staff.
Earlier this offseason, Meyer made an interesting analogy to describe the composition of his program’s roster.
“We have a really strong lower class. Our (2017 early enrollees) are really impressive, the nine guys that are here. Our ’16 class (is too), and then we have really strong leadership,” Meyer said on his radio show on National Signing Day. “We have a void in the middle here that we have to get more production out of that group. That’s the ’15 class.
“I think (strength coach Micky) Marotti said it best. It’s like an Oreo cookie. You’ve got strength at the bottom, strength at the top and then there’s a squeeze from some of the guys who haven’t done enough around here to produce and be a part of it.”
Meyer’s message was clear: The Buckeyes need to get more out of their 2015 recruiting class in order for Ohio State to be at its best.
Will this be the year the the Buckeyes’ underperforming class rises to the occasion, or will a youth movement in Columbus continue to take place?
The answer to that could very well depend on how Ohio State’s now-third-year players perform this spring.