Following another stellar season that culminated in a 12-1 record and a Fiesta Bowl win, Ohio State will see more turnover in 2016 than just about any program in the nation. After sending 12 players to the first four rounds of the NFL draft, the Buckeyes return just 24 percent of their 2015 production on offense and defense. That’s lower than all but one team in the country (UMass), according to SB Nation.
And so it’s time for new faces to step up – as they often do at Ohio State, the Midwest’s best program at recruiting talent and then turning it over to the NFL. All of the starters and role players will have their importance, but some will carry far more than others.
Each day at noon (ET) through July 21, we’ll count down another one of the 10 most important players to Ohio State in 2016. Because it’s still early, we’ll be making some role projections. With only 10 spots, we’ll leave off some crucial players, too. That’s part of the game.
Here’s our list so far:
Let’s continue with No. 8:
No. 8: Billy Price, redshirt junior guard
Urban Meyer has said time and again that Ohio State is an offensive line-based team, and the past two years have made it difficult to disagree. The line’s ascension in 2014 allowed two backup quarterbacks to flourish and for a ground game to run roughshod to a national championship. Last year, the unit that returned four starters was supposed to do much of the same but took a step backward, due in part to offensive line coach Ed Warinner’s split duties as a first-year offensive coordinator, and an up-and-down offense slipped from No. 9 nationally to No. 41.
This year’s front group will only return two starters, and one of them is Price. Entering his third year in a starting guard role, Price has seen this unit at its most dominant as well as when it’s struggled. He knows the difference, and as one of only three returning starters on offense, he’ll have the opportunity to help direct it all — both literally in getting out in front of Ohio State’s zone runs and option plays and figuratively in how quickly he pulls three new starters up to task in the rugged Big Ten.
Price isn’t the best athlete on the team, but he might now be the strongest. At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, the left guard possesses the upper-body mass to hold bull rushers in pass protection and the lower-body strength to power-drive linemen and linebackers down the field in the running game. For a run-first team whose most dangerous weapon is its quarterback, that’s a lethal asset. And with inexperience at the running back position after two straight years of running Ezekiel Elliott wild, a reliable front five is going to mean everything for Ohio State’s chances to reach the playoff in 2016.
No guard is going to climb too far up a list of most valuable individual players, and although Price is consistent and reliable, he doesn’t offer the blow-up potential that would boost him as high as some other trench players yet to come. But as Meyer knows, he’s one of the biggest cogs to what the Buckeyes will try to do again this season. He is literally and figuratively.