COLUMBUS, Ohio — Midway through Ohio State’s spring, Sam Hubbard revealed he had been spending some time practicing at a new position. After spending the past two years as a standout at defensive end, the redshirt junior was taking reps at linebacker in an effort to get the best 11 defensive players on the field.
The news hardly came as a surprise. After initially arriving in Columbus as a linebacker in 2014, Hubbard first converted to tight end before finding a home on the D-line.
“Telling me to drop, they didn’t really have to coach me up much,” Hubbard said of his new part-time linebacker role. “I already know what I’m doing.”
But whereas Hubbard’s ability to play multiple positions used to be considered unique at Ohio State, it’s since become commonplace under the direction of Urban Meyer. Buckeyes not only routinely switch positions, but entire sides of the ball, to give Ohio State’s talent-laden roster every advantage possible.
“If I hear about a [recruit] with a multiple skill set,” Meyer told ESPN.com’s Todd McShay in 2014, “I get on a plane.”
That approach has manifested itself in what is Meyer’s most versatile Buckeyes roster yet. Take one look at our projected Ohio State depth chart, and you’ll have no problem finding players with previous experience elsewhere.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes’ depth chart features five players with previous experience playing other positions. Some of the switches have been minor, such as Billy Price’s transition from guard to center, while Joshua Alabi and Eric Glover-Williams are each in their first seasons on offense after previously playing defense.
Perhaps the position where Meyer’s quest for versatility has benefited the Buckeyes most is at H-back. After spending his first three seasons on campus as a pure wideout, Parris Campbell has converted to the hybrid role, similar to what Curtis Samuel did as an ex-running back in 2015.
“We put the APB out every year for the multi-dimensional athlete on offense,” Meyer said last spring. “And just over the years, that position has evolved.”
Looking at the rest of Ohio State’s offense, potential position switches are aplenty. At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Demario McCall, K.J. Hill or J.K. Dobbins finish their college careers playing different positions.
But for as versatile as OSU’s offense is, its defensive counterpart possesses even more puzzle pieces. Examining the same projected depth chart, seven players have experience playing multiple positions, including the bulk of the Buckeyes’ front seven.
In fact, all three of Ohio State’s starting linebackers for 2017 are playing different roles than they were this time a year ago. Up front is a defensive line that routinely utilizes a “rushmen” package, which sees former defensive ends Dre’Mont Jones and Jalyn Holmes provide a pass rush from the inside.
Not even that, however, was versatile enough for the Buckeyes to get their best 11 defenders on the field. That’s why Hubbard — along with Holmes — has been taking reps at linebacker, as Meyer’s vision for a roster full of interchangeable pieces comes to fruition.
“Coaches like to say you hold checkers,” Meyer said this spring. “You have five really good checkers right there, so play them all at once.”