Ohio State Football: 5 Biggest Questions Heading Into 2015
The Ohio State Buckeyes are once again king of the mountain in the college football world. After a 2014 season that saw them lose not one, but two potential Heisman trophy winning quarterbacks, the Buckeyes were able to win the first ever college football playoff on behind the arm of third string QB Cardale Jones.
With only a handful of losses on both sides of the ball in the offseason, and all three of their top quarterbacks returning, it would be safe to say that Ohio State is again among the favorites to hoist the national championship trophy in January. Add to the roster a top 5 recruiting class coming in this fall, and it would appear the Buckeyes have few if any question marks heading into 2015.
Nevertheless, here are the five biggest questions surrounding the Ohio State football team as spring practices begin to wind down.
Can the Buckeyes become the first team since USC to repeat as National Champions?
The Buckeyes certainly have the talent on both sides of the ball to make a return trip to the CFB National Championship game. And should they be able to get by Virginia Tech (the only team to defeat them in 2014) in the season opener September 7, they would be odds on favorites to run the tables.
Ohio State is far from a lock to win it all, however. In addition to the fact they would more than likely have to go 15-0 to win it all this season, the Buckeye offense is bound to have a slight regression from their record setting 2014 campaign. Furthermore, they only have to look to Florida State to find an example of how hard it is to repeat as champions. It seemed the Seminoles had a huge target on their back each Saturday last year, with the wheels finally coming off in the Rose Bowl versus Oregon.
Who will be the starter at quarterback for the Buckeyes in 2015?
This seems to be the biggest question surrounding the OSU football team this year, especially in Columbus, where everyone has their own opinion on the matter. Prior to the start of last season, it was thought Braxton Miller would end a brilliant college career with a Heisman to add to his trophy case. Then a season ending injury opened the door for backup J.T. Barrett. The redshirt freshman set a record for total offense by a QB before being injured in the season finale vs. Michigan. His replacement, Cardale Jones, would lead the Buckeyes to three of the more improbable wins in all of OSU football on the way to capturing the eighth national title in school history.
So who exactly should be the starter this season? My gut feeling is that while Urban Meyer will name a starter prior to the Virginia Tech game, he will give each of them a chance to prove their worth. To be honest, with the non-conference schedule shaking out the way it has, we may not have a definitive answer until the start of Big Ten play.
Who will be the next Devin Smith for Ohio State?
The former OSU wide receiver was known for his big play ability, as he averaged 28.2 yards per catch as a senior. The odd on favorite to replace Smith’s production is redshirt freshman Johnnie Dixon. The speedster out of West Palm Beach, Florida was ready to highlight his talents last year before an injury derailed his season. If he can live up to the hype around him, watch out.
Another player to watch would be redshirt junior Michael Thomas. A crisp router runner with size to boot, Thomas has improved each year, bringing in 54 receptions for 799 yards in 2014.
Who will be this year’s version of Darron Lee along the defensive front?
The obvious answer here is middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Many thought the sophomore would be starting before now. No longer under the shadow of Curtis Grant, however, now is the time for McMillan to shine.
Others poised for a breakout season this year include cornerback Gareon Conley, defensive end Jayln Holmes, and safety Erick Smith. Also watch out for defensive end Tyquan Lewis, a player Joey Bosa has already labeled as a ‘freak.’
Will the special teams’ unit(s) be better in 2015 than they were in 2014?
Urban Meyer certainly hopes so, especially since this could be considered his specialty. While publicly Meyer will say he prefers touchdowns to field goals, everyone knows he would like to see a little more consistency in the kicking game.
And as far as the punting unit goes, they had better get their act together, and fast. Otherwise the Buckeyes might be going for it on fourth down at a higher rate in 2015.