COLUMBUS, Ohio — The competition may never stop during training camp at Ohio State, but that competition doesn’t necessarily feel the same for everybody.
With so many returning starters back in the fold, numerous starting jobs for the Buckeyes were essentially secure even before camp started last month — no matter how much of a push the youngsters behind them have provided.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the familiar faces who helped Ohio State earn a spot in the College Football Playoff last year don’t have something personally at stake this fall, particularly given the way the season came to an end. As the Land of 10 Camp Questions series continues, the latest debate switches to the offensive side of the ball and which returning starter has the most to prove.
Austin Ward: RT Isaiah Prince
There was plenty of blame to go around for the offensive struggles at the end of last season, but no unit may have come under more fire than the blockers up front. And within that group, the big man on the right side took the most heat for his inconsistency holding down the edge.
The junior undoubtedly has the physical tools to get the job done, and his 6-foot-7, 310-pound frame remains ideal for the position. Prince has only gotten stronger with another year in strength coach Mickey Marotti’s conditioning program, and if he follows a similar track of previous Ohio State linemen, the experience a year ago should allow him to flourish after learning from his mistakes.
Already the signs have been positive in training camp for Prince, and not surprisingly, rave reviews for the line as a whole have followed suit. If he takes a leap forward this fall, memories for the lack of production at the end of 2016 should fade quickly.
“He’s one of the most improved players on the team right now, and that’s A to Z,” coach Urban Meyer said. “That’s not just out there in practice, but with Coach Mick, with the bend and all the things he’s struggled with. He’s a very serious player right now.”
Ryan Ginn: TE Marcus Baugh
Prince is a great choice, but I’m willing to give young, first-time starters on the offensive line more of a pass than other positions. And while it was tough to pass up the numerous possibilities at wide receiver, I’m going to go with tight end Marcus Baugh.
Fair or not, he’s a fifth-year senior who has often been compared former Michigan All-American Jake Butt, the Columbus-area player Ohio State passed on to take Baugh in the Class of 2013. Thus far, it’s not been much of a contest. Ohio State hasn’t shown an inclination for using the tight ends under Meyer, but the past two years with offensive coordinator Ed Warinner were especially light. Over his career, Baugh has caught 27 passes and has 3 touchdowns. Though the Buckeyes have plenty of weapons, they need tight end to be more of a threat.
Baugh is regarded highly in NFL circles, which means the potential is there. And in Kevin Wilson, the Buckeyes have an offensive coordinator with a reputation for getting the ball to the tight end. Baugh can’t completely control how many times he’s targeted, but there are plenty of factors pointing to the possibility of higher production.
It’s now or never, and a big season from Baugh would mean huge things for the Buckeyes.