It’s natural to start at quarterback whenever the starting job is up for grabs, but Ohio State will have competition at several positions during spring practice, which opens Tuesday.
At quarterback, the spot vacated by record-setting four-year starter J.T. Barrett, it’s natural to assume that Dwayne Haskins Jr. will have the lead over 2016 backup Joe Burrow and redshirt freshman Tate Martell. Haskins is remembered for saving the day last fall in a win over Michigan after Barrett got hurt.
But coach Urban Meyer has indicated a couple of times since the Cotton Bowl, a win over Southern California, that he anticipates an open QB competition over the 15 practices that conclude with the spring game April 14.
A check of the rest of the depth chart shows many other intriguing competitions.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE: With left tackle Jamarco Jones gone, Isaiah Prince, the towering right tackle the past two seasons, will get a look on the left side. Thayer Munford, a backup as a freshman to Prince, will step up to the No. 1 spot on the right as spring begins. Branden Bowen, the starter at right guard last season before suffering a broken leg midseason, will be limited in spring practice. And Demetrius Knox, who played well in place of Bowen, returns, so one of them might spill into the picture at right tackle. So could five-star recruit Nicholas Petit-Frere when he arrives in June.
CENTER: Billy Price is gone, and he said he expects Brady Taylor to get first consideration at replacing him. But guard Matt Burrell also will get a look, as will early-enrollee freshman Matthew Jones, who was the nation's top center prospect in composite recruiting rankings at 247Sports.
TIGHT END: Marcus Baugh is gone, so Rashod Berry probably will be the starter going in. But it’s also time for Luke Farrell or Jake Hausmann to make a move, knowing that five-star signee Jeremy Ruckert is headed to campus in June.
DEFENSIVE END: Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis, who were starters last year, are gone from the rotation, so Nick Bosa, the most nationally recognized name on the team, finally will be listed as No. 1 on one side. Chase Young, who played increasingly as a freshman, seems set for the other side, and Jonathon Cooper is the only other bona fide DE on the roster. But defensive line coach Larry Johnson might slide a couple of players over from tackle, at least for observation.
LINEBACKER: Gone are the starters at the outside positions, Chris Worley and Jerome Baker, so opportunities will be there for Malik Harrison, Keandre Jones, Justin Hilliard and Pete Werner. Dante Booker, who was a starter when last season began, was last seen wearing a shoulder sling after surgery, so he probably won’t get a look until preseason camp. Although Tuf Borland rose to starter at middle linebacker at midseason, former five-star recruit Baron Browning will make a serious challenge.
CORNERBACK: Denzel Ward is gone, and at first take, the obvious competitors to start opposite Damon Arnette are Jeffrey Okudah and Kendall Sheffield, who filled in for Ward at the Cotton Bowl. But with Shaun Wade and Marcus Williamson now healthy, they promise to make it interesting, as do early enrollees Tyreke Johnson and Sevyn Banks, especially because Okudah probably will be limited after shoulder surgery.
SAFETY: The departure of Damon Webb leaves an opportunity for Isaiah Pryor to assert himself to join Jordan Fuller, the returning starter at the other spot. But Brendon White, Jahsen Wint and perhaps Wayne Davis and Amir Riep could step into the picture before Josh Proctor and Marcus Hooker — younger brother of former Ohio State standout Malik Hooker — arrive in June.