The new-look Ohio State football team is well into its offseason conditioning program, and the sense of urgency is palpable. Sixteen starters from last season 12-1 team are gone, and the competition for those jobs is already well underway.
The new-look Ohio State football team is well into its offseason conditioning program, and the sense of urgency is palpable.
Sixteen starters from last season 12-1 team are gone, and the competition for those jobs is already well underway.
"Guys are hungry," senior Pat Elflein said this morning. "They're trying to earn spots every day. We're calling it the land of the wolves. Eat or be eaten. Every day you're evaluated on everything. If you're not on your game, someone behind you wants to take your spot."
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Elflein, who will move from right guard to center this season, is one of only three offensive starters back. Quarterback J.T. Barrett and left guard Billy Price are the others.
On defense, defensive end Tyquan Lewis, middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan and cornerback Gareon Conley are the only returning starters.
"I love this kind of group," head strength coach Mickey Marotti said. "I think it's awesome. You just see a different mentality from the last bowl practice at the Fiesta Bowl to here. Guys grow up.
"There's no more Ezekiel Elliott and Taylor Decker and Jacoby Boren. There's no more Joey Bosa or Joshua Perry. You see them grow up without even doing anything. It's their turn."
Spring practice starts next month, and that's typically the time when position battles under Urban Meyer have been won. The Buckeyes have amassed talent, and most of those young players have had to be patient playing behind veterans who won the 2014 College Football Playoff championship and returned last year.
Now they are getting their chances, even as the challenges, represented by those hypothetical wolves, lurk.
"The wolves are out there, and it's a barren land and you have to survive," Marotti said. "That's kind of the motto and the thing we drew on the last couple weeks. You're out there in the wilderness, and you've got to survive. That's part of the mentality of our young guys."