OSU players will be jockeying for positions

Bill Rabinowitz
With Mike Weber gone to pursue the NFL, junior-to-be J.K. Dobbins will be featured at running back. [Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch]

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for the Ohio State football team.

A coaching transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day has begat a series of changes, most notably among the coaching staff and at quarterback.

Dwayne Haskins Jr. is headed to the NFL and every coach from the underachieving defense is leaving except for line coach Larry Johnson. So the 2019 Buckeyes will have quite a different look beyond Meyer’s absence.

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Cornerback Kendall Sheffield hasn’t announced whether he will join Haskins, Dre’Mont Jones, Michael Jordan and Mike Weber as underclassmen taking their shot at the NFL. Other key players chose to return to the Buckeyes, including receiver K.J. Hill, safety Jordan Fuller and linebacker Malik Harrison.

Much can still change before the Buckeyes open the season against Florida Atlantic on Aug. 31. But here is a position-by-position look at how things project for the 2019 team:


Projected starter: Justin Fields

Making a push: Matthew Baldwin

The skinny: It already has been a head-spinner at this position. Tate Martell, who at the Rose Bowl vowed to stay and win the job, put his name in the NCAA transfer portal after Fields enrolled. Fields, the No. 2 player nationally in the 2018 recruiting class, will apply for a transfer waiver to avoid having to sit out this season. Experts believe he will get one, but it’s not a lock. There is a chance the Buckeyes will have to count on Baldwin, a redshirt freshman who spent last season rehabbing from knee surgery. Safe to say that the quarterback situation will be the major story line for months.

Running back

Projected starter: J.K. Dobbins

Making a push: Demario McCall, Master Teague, Steele Chambers, Marcus Crowley

The skinny: After sharing the load with Weber, Dobbins gets his chance to be the featured back. There is talent behind him. McCall has big-play ability, and Teague showed flashes last year as a freshman. Chambers and Crowley are freshmen who will get their shot, especially if Brian Snead doesn’t return from suspension.

Offensive line

Projected starters: LT Thayer Munford, LG Branden Bowen, C Josh Myers, RG Wyatt Davis, RT Nicholas Petit-Frere

Making a push: Josh Alabi, Matthew Jones, Harry Miller

The skinny: The line will have a vastly different look. Even Munford isn’t assured a starting job; Alabi will push him. Myers has transitioned from guard and has the tools to shine. Bowen has several more months to get his leg stronger from the injury that ended his 2017 season. Davis looks like a star in the making, and Petit-Frere was a five-star 2018 prospect. Don’t discount the possibility of others emerging.

Tight end

Projected starter: Luke Farrell

Making a push: Rashod Berry, Jeremy Ruckert

The skinny: This group remains intact. Farrell developed into a reliable player, and Berry made some key plays. Ruckert is a gifted pass-catcher who will have a more prominent role.

Wide receivers

Projected starters: K.J. Hill, Austin Mack, Chris Olave, Binjimen Victor

Making a push: Jaylen Harris, C.J. Saunders, Garrett Wilson, Blue Smith

The skinny: It’s hard to believe that a unit that loses senior captains Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon might not miss a beat, but this remains a talented group. Hill and Mack are reliable playmakers. Olave emerged late as a budding star. Victor still struggles with consistency but his raw talent is almost unlimited. Of those looking to break through, Wilson has the most long-term — and maybe immediate — potential. He is a five-star prospect who was Baldwin’s high school teammate.

Defensive line

Projected starters: DE Chase Young, DT Robert Landers, DT Davon Hamilton, DE Jonathon Cooper

Making a push: Jashon Cornell, Tyreke Smith, Tommy Togiai, Haskell Garrett, Tyler Friday, Taron Vincent, Zach Harrison

The skinny: It’s no accident that Johnson is the only survivor among the defensive coaches — he excels at recruiting and developing players. Young is the headliner here. If the junior keeps progressing, he will be a top NFL pick next year. The line has depth, but new stars need to emerge. Smith showed glimpses of that last year as a freshman. The development of Harrison, a five-star recruit, will be intriguing.


Projected starters: OLB Pete Werner, MLB Tuf Borland, OLB Malik Harrison

Making a push: Teradja Mitchell, Baron Browning, Justin Hilliard, Keandre Jones, Dallas Gant

The skinny: All three starters from an inconsistent unit return, and they will be pushed. Harrison began to blossom into a star late in the season. Borland also improved after showing the effects of his Achilles injury early. Mitchell’s name was often mentioned as a player to watch late in the year. Browning didn’t seize the job when he had his chance last year but has the talent to excel.


Projected starters: Kendall Sheffield, Jeffrey Okudah, Damon Arnette

Making a push: Shaun Wade, Sevyn Banks, Tyreke Johnson

The skinny: Like the linebackers, this oft-criticized unit returns its starters, if Sheffield returns. Sheffield and Okudah played superbly in the Rose Bowl, and the Buckeyes hope that’s a sign of things to come. Arnette will be pushed hard by Wade and others. It will be interesting to see what technique changes the new defensive coaches make.


Projected starters: Jordan Fuller, Brendon White

Making a push: Josh Proctor, Isaiah Pryor

The skinny: Fuller’s return was a big coup for the Buckeyes. He was steady last year but not quite the playmaker he can be. White solidified the position late in the season after Pryor struggled. Proctor has the talent to make a strong push.

Kicker: Blake Haubeil

The skinny: He took over the job after Sean Nuernberger was injured and will keep it this year.

Punter: Drue Chrisman

The skinny: How was this guy only second-team all-Big Ten?


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