COLUMBUS, Ohio — Spring practice has come and gone for the Ohio State football team.
But while the Buckeyes accomplished plenty the past two months, sometimes 15 practices aren’t enough. As a result, Ohio State enters the remainder of its offseason with multiple ongoing position battles.
Which Buckeyes will still be vying to solidify their spots when fall camp starts in August? Let’s take a look.
At this point, plenty already has been written about the race to become J.T. Barrett’s top backup — and potential successor in 2018. But that doesn’t make the backup quarterback battle any less intriguing.
In Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell, Ohio State has three highly talented and highly touted signal callers, each of whom one could envision running Urban Meyer’s spread offense. Making the position battle even more interesting is the fact that the three players — all former 4-star prospects — feature three different playing styles.
“They’re all kind of different shapes and sizes,” said Buckeyes quarterbacks coach Ryan Day. “And they all have different skill sets. But one thing the coaches always recruited here are competitors.”
Exiting the spring, Meyer declined the reveal any sort of pecking order at quarterback. But even if it’s not for a starting spot, there may not be a more important — or interesting — battle on the Ohio State roster.
When it comes to the safeties, this much is certain: Senior Damon Webb will return to his starting role in 2017.
“I know we have one in Damon Webb,” said Ohio State defensive coordinator and safeties coach Greg Schiano. “He performed like a legitimate big-time safety in the spring. After that, we have a lot of guys who have showed promise, but consistency is the issue.”
That group includes senior Erick Smith and sophomore Jordan Fuller, who are vying to replace Malik Hooker in the starting lineup. Schiano’s unit also possesses depth in the form of converted cornerback Wayne Davis and early enrollee Isaiah Pryor.
At this point, a rotation of Smith and Fuller playing next to Webb is a possibility.
Earlier this week, Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said his unit is as deep as it’s ever been since he arrived in Columbus in 2012. That’s certainly saying something when you consider that just two years ago the Buckeyes had three (likely) future first-round picks in their cornerbacks room.
But with depth comes competition, and that’s something that might never end with such an impressive collection of talent. At this point, Coombs knows he has one starter in Denzel Ward. There are a plethora of options at the other corner, including breakout spring practice standout Damon Arnette.
Toss in former 5-star prospects Jeffrey Okudah, Shaun Wade and Kendall Sheffield, as well as fellow early enrollee Marcus Williamson, and it’s easy to see why Coombs speaks so highly of his unit.
At this point, Arnette should be considered the front-runner for the open starting spot. But as Coombs aims to continue what’s been a successful rotation, each cornerback should see plenty of playing time in 2017.
All things considered, the Buckeyes offensive line should be in pretty good shape. Ohio State returns an All-American at center in Billy Price, an All-Big Ten left tackle in Jamarco Jones, and experienced starters in right tackle Isaiah Prince and left guard Michael Jordan.
But as the Buckeyes know better than anyone, one shaky spot can undo the other four. As a result, the race at right guard might be Ohio State’s most important position battle.
Entering the spring, Demetrius Knox appeared to have the edge, but he was surpassed by Matthew Burrell as academic issues limited Knox’s availability. Early enrollee Josh Myers is also a possibility, as is incoming 5-star talent Wyatt Davis.
Right now, Burrell is the favorite after his strong spring finish. But plenty of time remains for another player to give him a run in the race to become the fifth piece to what looks like a pretty promising line.
Backup running back
At one point during spring practice, Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford revealed that early enrollee J.K. Dobbins had passed sophomore Demario McCall on the depth chart. McCall responded in the spring game with a game-high 83 rushing yards on six carries, including a 34-yard run.
Given his apparent burst, it’s easy to see McCall’s “lightning” complimenting the “thunder” brought by starter Mike Weber. But Dobbins’ talent remains apparent and his ability in pass protection might make it easier for the true freshman to get on the field.
With the capability to also play H-back, McCall should find his way onto the field one way or another in 2017. Now it’s just a matter of how often that will be, which is something his competition with Dobbins ultimately could determine.