Ed Warinner is not worried. Either that, or the Ohio State offensive coordinator could be a fine poker player, which he says he is.
Ed Warinner is not worried.
Either that, or the Ohio State offensive coordinator could be a fine poker player, which he says he is.
The Buckeyes lost Ezekiel Elliott, their 1,800-yard rusher. Their top receivers are gone, as are three of their offensive linemen.
Eight starters in all from the 2015 Buckeyes are gone. That would cause many offensive coordinators to fret about how they could possibly replace that much talent, especially since presumed successors at those spots remained sidelined by injuries.
Yet only two days into spring practice, Warinner seems quite confident that Ohio State's offense will measure up in 2016. The Buckeyes practiced twice last week - both without pads - before starting spring break.
"We're a young team, a talented team that has a lot of growth and room to get better," Warinner said. "I love the energy, love the hunger and the attitude. It's fun to be around them."
The Buckeyes aren't starting totally from scratch. They have a veteran quarterback - J.T. Barrett is only a junior, folks - and a first-team all-conference lineman, Pat Elflein, who has moved from left guard to center for his senior season.
"The two things that (allow us to) sleep good at night are when Pat Elflein is your center and J.T. Barrett is your quarterback," Warinner said.
He likened it to a baseball battery. If you have an ace pitcher and All-Star catcher, you'll take your chances.
"We're pretty good up the middle up, the way I see it," Warinner said. "A really good center who can be a Rimington (Award) finalist, and a really good quarterback who can be a Big Ten player of the year finalist."
Left guard Billy Price, described by Warinner as an all-Big Ten caliber player, will return at left guard.
Beyond them and junior tight end Marcus Baugh, the rest of the starters are to be determined. Receivers Noah Brown and Corey Smith aren't participating in spring practice after each suffered a broken leg in 2015. Hybrid back Curtis Samuel (foot) also is out.
Jamarco Jones is expected to start at left tackle, but the other two line spots are open.
Coach Urban Meyer said that senior Bri'onte Dunn will get first dibs on the starting running back spot, though redshirt freshman Mike Weber will push him hard. For all their talent last year, the Buckeyes were not the consistent powerhouse they were expected to be. They never scored 50 points in a game after doing so six times in 2014.
The offense perked up in its final two games, against Michigan and Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, when Warinner went to the press box and took over play-calling duties from quarterbacks coach Tim Beck. Warinner will remain upstairs this season.
The Buckeyes also plan to use their quick-tempo offense more frequently in 2016.
"I thought we were slow-twitched last year," Meyer said. "We've changed all the drills in the quarterback room. Everything is 'Get the ball out fast, quick, hustle.' We're going to do a lot more up-tempo offense. The last two games, it was about 80 percent tempo."
The challenge now, Warinner said, is to discern who Ohio State's playmakers will be.
"It has to be different," he said. "Every team is different. How you build that team starting in January - nobody is better at that than coach Meyer and (strength) coach (Mickey) Marotti with the offseason plan we have - is that we'll manufacture our yards in other ways.
"It won't be just a one-man show or leaning on one guy. It'll be more spread around."