COLUMBUS, Ohio — There isn’t a finished product yet at Ohio State, but there also doesn’t need to be one by the end of spring.
And all things considered, the Buckeyes got just about everything they could have wanted out of the 15 practices in March and April that will set the foundation for their defense of a Big Ten title.
Plenty of reps in the quarterback battle. Aside from a key injury at linebacker, there’s a largely healthy roster. The talent across the board is starting to look like it could be the deepest coach Urban Meyer has had with the program.
And Ohio State closed camp with a spring game that avoided all the bad weather in the area and doubled as another strong recruiting pitch.
So, a productive spring is in the books. Now the offseason work begins for the Buckeyes, and here’s a look at what it needs to accomplish before training camp opens in August.
Get quarterback situation sorted out
It’s possible the Buckeyes still don’t have enough information to make a clear-cut, definitive choice about their starting quarterback. But right off the bat heading into the offseason, Ohio State will need to sit down and have some discussions about the depth chart and come to a conclusion about the future of Joe Burrow. The junior certainly looked the part of a signal-caller who could lead the program to a championship this season with a strong performance in the spring game, but that battle is still neck-and-neck with Dwayne Haskins while Tate Martell is sneaking up from behind. The absolute best-case scenario for Meyer would be keeping all three guys in the program and continuing the competition in training camp. And the first order of business will be figuring out if that’s a realistic possibility, then planning for how to manage the crucial position again in August.
Establish new Ohio State leadership
The Buckeyes have some proven, respected captains returning, but the leadership void after losing a handful of invaluable veterans hasn’t completely been filled yet. Who is next in line to step up and command the locker room — just as Billy Price, J.T. Barrett and Tyquan Lewis did in the past — this season? Ohio State has a head start with Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Dre’Mont Jones still in the fold, but it could use a few more players who can set the standard vocally and with their work ethic. This summer could be significant for a blossoming leader such as Nick Bosa or Mike Weber, or one of the quarterbacks, and getting through the offseason conditioning program reveals the character of potential captains.
Get freshmen ready to hit the ground running
The Buckeyes were able to get a jump on the acclimation process with nine new players enrolling in time to take part in spring practice, and that should pay off by the fall. Defensive tackle Tommy Togiai already has his black stripe off and could be in line for a meaningful role right away, and linebacker Dallas Gant also made a strong impression during his first practices with the program. The rest of that touted signing class will be on campus soon, and there are a handful of candidates for early playing time who need to show up ready to handle the grind. There could be pressure right away for freshmen such as tight end Jeremy Ruckert, defensive end Tyreke Smith and safety Josh Proctor, and the Buckeyes will be watching them closely to see if they can handle the responsibilities at key positions in a hurry.
Keep recruiting momentum rolling
The early signing period has changed the calendar on the recruiting trail, and Ohio State proved last year that it can use that to its advantage. Meyer may not have been a big fan of the change initially and probably still doesn’t love it, but the Buckeyes adapted quickly and put together one of the most impressive signing classes in the nation last season under this format. Now it has to keep building on that with the foundation of the program perhaps as solid as it has ever been, particularly with Meyer adding two more years to his contract this spring. Looking for a key position to watch? With so many upperclassmen and draft-eligible prospects, wide receiver might be the top priority for the Buckeyes right now.