Ohio State’s season begins one week from today, and the identity of many of the 22 starters the Buckeyes will send on the field against Navy remains a mystery.
That doesn’t include quarterback, where redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett will step in for the injured Braxton Miller.
But the surrounding cast that Barrett will lean on remains unknown. The Buckeyes haven’t released a depth chart, recent practices have been closed to reporters, and interviews with assistant coaches this week were canceled after Miller’s injury.
It appears that sophomore Ezekiel Elliott remains the favorite to succeed Carlos Hyde at running back despite missing time because of a broken wrist that required surgery. But freshman Curtis Samuel has dazzled, and Meyer said Wednesday that Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn “have had a heck of a camp.”
“Center and left guard (are) still to be determined, but it’s a much better ‘to be determined’ than it was in the spring because we have (capable) bodies,” Meyer said.
The tackles are set with Taylor Decker (left) and Darryl Baldwin (right). Pat Elflein is likely to start at right guard, though he could switch to center, Meyer said.
If Elflein stays at guard, Jacoby Boren is the likely center. If Elflein plays center, converted defensive lineman Joel Hale is the top candidate to play right guard. Billy Price, who has impressed throughout camp, has the inside track at left guard.
Chad Lindsay and Chase Farris are also in contention for spots.
Jeff Heuerman will start at tight end, assuming that his foot is sufficiently healed, with Nick Vannett also playing a significant role.
Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall are competing at the hybrid position. Both are expected to get snaps, regardless of who starts.
Seniors Devin Smith and Evan Spencer are the most experienced receivers, but assistant coach Zach Smith said on media day Aug. 10 that the competition was fierce. Players such as Michael Thomas and Corey Smith have made a strong push.
“There’s a lot of competition in the room,” Smith said. “It’s going to be really, really cool to see who comes out of it as opposed to trying to develop two or three receivers. This is developing eight receivers, nine receivers, 10 receivers and seeing who’s going to flourish in the end.
“We’re far from a finished product, but guys are doing things I haven’t seen in two years, which is really good to see.”
Fewer positions on defense remain up for grabs. Rashad Frazier or Steve Miller is expected to start at one defensive end position while Noah Spence serves a two-game suspension.
Curtis Grant has apparently held off the challenge from freshman Raekwon McMillan at middle linebacker. Joshua Perry and Darron Lee are expected to start at the outside spots.
The starting secondary will include cornerback Doran Grant and strong safety Tyvis Powell. Sophomores Vonn Bell and Cam Burrows have competed at free safety.
Meyer said that redshirt freshmen Eli Apple and Gareon Conley are competing with junior Armani Reeves for the other cornerback spot.
“I would say it’s a healthy competition,” Doran Grant said. “They’re all good players, so whoever wins the spot will have to keep working or they’ll be gone.”
That will be the case elsewhere as well. Whoever starts against Navy isn’t assured of starting beyond that. No mystery there.