COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State spring practice is almost here, and not a day too soon.
After an unthinkable shutout in the Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes have had to wait two months to get back on the field. In the meantime, they added one of the best recruiting classes in program history, half of which is already enrolled and ready to practice.
There are still plenty of questions to answer, though, so I put out a call for the issues Ohio State fans most want to discuss. Let’s get to the mailbag.
Most intriguing story line:
Battle for reps at WR
Who starts at CB
Who fills open O-Line spot
— Buckeye SloopCast (@SloopCast) March 6, 2017
Those are the three biggest storylines, for sure. (I’d also throw in the backup quarterback spot, but that’s less pressing.) I’m personally most intrigued by the wide receiver battle for a couple of reasons. First, I think there’s a little more certainty at cornerback and offensive line. We know Denzel Ward will win one of the spots and there’s only one offensive line spot open. I also think there’s a really exciting old vs. new component to the wide receivers.
Will guys like Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell show improvement? Or will younger players like Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack phase them out? (This also applies to Trevon Grimes, but he won’t be here this spring.) I think the younger guys could end up as the better options. It will be interesting to see if the staff agrees, because it often favors experience.
I’ll briefly mention the other positions, too, because I can see why some might be more intrigued by those. I don’t know if either will shake out in spring, but I’m putting it on the record that I think Jeffrey Okudah starts at the other cornerback spot and Malcolm Pridgeon starts at right guard. Demetrius Knox might be closer than people think, though. His Fiesta Bowl wasn’t great, but sometimes players just have a bad game.
@rmginn Does Ohio State actually improve at WR this year?
— Wes Patterson (@WesPatterson23) March 5, 2017
The million dollar question! I can’t have a mailbag without discussing wide receiver improvement. I think it comes down to whether the older guys improve or, failing that, whether the coaches go with the younger guys. The passing game will probably improve no matter what because J.T. Barrett and the offensive line should take steps forward. I do think the wide receivers will be a more productive unit next season. There’s a ton of talent, and Kevin Wilson will figure out how to best use it.
@rmginn What's your take on kicking postions this year?
— JR Wood (@AmmoJR28) March 5, 2017
I’m going to have a ton on Blake Haubeil later this week as a part of our Next Generation series, so be on the lookout for that. For now, however, I’ll say that I think Sean Nuernberger will kick this season. Haubeil will get a chance, but Nuernberger will have all spring to get back in rhythm before Haubeil arrives in June. He was really good in 2014, and he can get back to that level if he’s fully healthy.
There’s a chance, though, that Haubeil handles kickoffs if they’re comfortable with the idea of burning a redshirt for that. Nuernberger has never handled kickoffs, and Haubeil has experience doing exactly what Urban Meyer wants — putting a kickoff near the left sideline just before the end zone. If they do use Haubeil there, the staff will also have less of a reason to keep him from kicking field goals, too. It ultimately depends on Nuernberger’s health.
@rmginn Not much ever brought up about the 2 deep on the center position!
— Don Yahner (@yahner_donrn) March 6, 2017
That’s an interesting spot. I think you can probably figure out how Ohio State feels about its center depth after watching a pair of guards move over to center for their senior seasons. In my opinion, however, this will probably be the last year for that. As long as redshirt freshman Jack Wohlabaugh continues to develop on the field and in the weight room, I think he’s the center of the future.
Matthew Burrell could also wind up there if he gets squeezed out of the guard competition going forward — especially with Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis showing up this year. He’s a versatile and intelligent guy who I think could do well there.
@rmginn I'm getting a jersey for a class of 17 recruit. Suggestions?
— Matthew Leightman (@enLeightman_me) March 5, 2017
I love this question. One of my favorite mailbag submission ever because it’s creative and a lot of factors go into choosing the right jersey. I’m going to go through the top candidates one by one.
Tate Martell is probably the biggest risk-reward. He’s not going to play this year, so there’s no instant gratification. He also has to beat out Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins and Emory Jones to see the field — and if he doesn’t he might never play. However, if he’s good enough to start over those guys he’s going to be a Heisman-level player. I think that’s one where you wait for him to start before pulling the trigger, though.
Trevon Grimes is a good choice, too, but I’m always worried about receivers because they don’t necessarily control how often they get the ball. For all the talent at the position, there haven’t been too many receivers during the Meyer era where you’d want to have their jersey over other guys.
Chase Young is also a great option, because you know he’s going to be a star at defensive end and that’s one of the most fun positions on the field.
I’m going to go with someone else, though. I think Jeffrey Okudah is going to be the biggest star in this class. As I stated above, I think he’ll play as a true freshman. He’s a great kid who will make some amazing plays, and I think he’s the surest bet to succeed of any recruit in the class of 2017.
Non-Ohio State Question of the Week
@rmginn Brittany or Christina? STP or Pearl Jam?
— Steven h (@lpn1983) March 5, 2017
Pride of Louisiana, baby. And let’s say Pearl Jam for the second one, though I’m too ignorant to really have an opinion there.