Ten questions Ohio State will face in spring practice

Jim Naveau column | For The Times-Gazette

Spring football practice at Ohio State begins today and continues through the spring game on April 11.

Ten things to look for during the Buckeyes’ spring practice:

1. Can Master Teague fill the shoes or J.K. Dobbins, or at least one of his shoes? And who will be the No. 2 running back?

Teague rushed for 789 yards last season as Dobbins’ back-up, mostly in blowouts. He rushed for more than 100 yards against Maryland and Indiana, but had 7 yards against Penn State, 9 yards against Clemson and did not get a carry against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.

Teague is a straight-ahead runner who has not yet shown the speed, the elusiveness or the pass catching ability of Dobbins.

His most likely back-up, Marcus Crowley, suffered a leg injury late last season and and might not be ready for spring practice.

2. Can Ohio State find replacements for three defensive backs who made life miserable for opposing passing games?

In his new role as an analyst on Fox, Urban Meyer said last year’s defensive backs – cornerbacks Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette and Shaun Wade and safety Jordan Fuller – had NFL talent. The question is if the players replacing Okudah, Arnette and Fuller next season possess something close to that.

Wade is back and Josh Proctor is expected to replace Fuller at safety in Ohio State’s three-cornerback alignment. Cameron Brown, Sevyn Banks, Marcus Williamson and freshman Lejond Cavazos might be the top contenders for the other two corneback spots

3. Will quarterback Justin Fields be even better in his second season as the starter?

It’s hard to expect better statistics than throwing for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns with only three interceptions, but with another year in Ohio State’s system this offseason, he could improve in some areas.

4. Speaking of quarterbacks, will someone emerge as the leader to become the No. 2 quarterback?

Last year’s No. 2, Chris Chugunov, is out of eligibility. Will one of the incoming freshmen, Jack Miller and C.J. Stroud, win the back-up role this year? Both are 4-star recruits. If it’s not one of them, last year’s No. 3 QB, Gunnar Hoak, could move up to No. 2, though that seems unlikely.

5. Who will replace the reliability of three senior receivers – K.J. Hill, the all-time leader in pass receptions at OSU, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor?

Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson give Ohio State two top-notch receivers. Jameson Williams will probably get more playing time and two 5-star recruits, Julian Fleming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, are already enrolled and will participate in spring practice.

6. How might replacing two of last year’s assistant coaches affect the 2020 team?

Jeff Hafley turned around OSU’s defensive backfield in his one season in Columbus before being hired as Boston College’s head coach. He is being replaced by former OSU assistant Kerry Coombs.

Quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich also departed after one season to become Texas’ offensive coordinator and was replaced by Corey Dennis, who was promoted from a graduate assistant’s position.

7. Who are some former 5-star recruits who have kind of been forgotten who could make a move in the spring?

Defensive tackle Taron Vincent was a 5-star recruit in 2018 and played in 10 games as freshman. But a torn labrum in preseason practice kept him out all of last season. Slot receiver Jaelen Gill is another former 5-star who has not gotten a lot of playing time so far.

8. Who will replace the two starting offensive linemen, Branden Bowen and Jonah Jackson, who were seniors?

Harry Miller, who was recruited as a center, appears to be the leader to replace Jackson and Nicholas Petit-Frere is probably the top contender to take over for Bowen.

9. Who is the next Chase Young? That might be an unfair question, but sophomore Zach Harrison, a former 5-star recruit who started in the Fiesta Bowl, appears to be on his way to becoming the next elite defensive end at Ohio State.

10. Will there be a hangover from the loss to Clemson and coming so close to playing for a national championship?

The players will say no, but it could be in the backs of their minds.


Jim Naveau column | For The Times-Gazette