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Can Ohio State Repeat as College Football's National Champions in 2015?

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State is back on top of the college football world after a 42-20 win over Oregon in the national championship on Monday night. The run to the title was a surprising one for coach Urban Meyer’s team, as the Buckeyes were down to their third quarterback and had to defeat the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the playoff committee rankings. However, no obstacle was too tough for Ohio State to overcome. Even though the 2014 season just finished, it’s never too early to think about next year. The Buckeyes should be the favorite to repeat with most of the depth chart returning, but like every team in college football, there will be issues for Meyer and his staff to iron out in the spring.

Can Ohio State repeat in 2015? Let’s take a look at the key returners, departures and some of the questions facing this team next year:

Offense

Key Returnees:

QB J.T. Barrett

QB Cardale Jones

QB Braxton Miller

RB Ezekiel Elliott

HB Dontre Wilson

HB Jalin Marshall

WR Michael Thomas

TE Nick Vannett

LT Taylor Decker

RG Pat Elflein

LG Billy Price

C Jacoby Boren

Key Departures:

WR Devin Smith
TE Jeff Heuerman

RT Darryl Baldwin

Defense

Key Returnees:

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DE Joey Bosa

DT Adolphus Washington

LB Darron Lee

LB Joshua Perry

LB Raekwon McMillan

CB Eli Apple

S Tyvis Powell

S Vonn Bell

DB Armani Reeves

P Cameron Johnston

Key Departures:

DE Steve Miller

DT Michael Bennett

LB Curtis Grant

CB Doran Grant

Three Offseason Storylines to Watch

Crowded QB Depth Chart

Urban Meyer and the offensive staff have a good problem on their hands this offseason. The Buckeyes have three proven options at quarterback – Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett – and each player is slated to return to Columbus for 2015. Of course, that outlook could change if Miller transfers (as rumored). Miller is recovering from shoulder surgery, and there’s no guarantee he’s 100 percent by the end of spring practice. Even if Miller leaves, the battle between Jones and Barrett would be one of the top quarterback battles of the offseason. And it’s not out of the question for the coaching staff to rotate between Jones and Barrett next season if those two are the top options in the fall. Having three proven quarterbacks presents an interesting dilemma for Meyer in 2015.

Shuffled Coaching Staff

When you have success at a high level like Ohio State has experienced under Meyer, the assistants are going to be hot commodities for programs looking for a new head coach. And the Buckeyes are already experiencing the staff turnover, as offensive coordinator Tom Herman was hired by Houston to be the program’s next coach. Meyer hasn’t officially announced the new staff assignments, but it’s expected Ed Warinner will be promoted and former Nebraska assistant Tim Beck will be hired to work as the co-offensive coordinator. Herman won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant in 2014. Will the revamped staff have the same results in 2015?

More Development on Defense

The addition of assistant Chris Ash as the team’s co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach made an impact on the Buckeyes in 2014. This unit returns largely intact for 2015, but there are a few key departures. The line was thin on proven depth throughout the season and will miss end Steve Miller and tackle Michael Bennett. The return of tackle Adolphus Washington and end Joey Bosa should alleviate some of the (small) concerns up front, and this unit won’t miss a beat if young players like end Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes take the next step in their development. In the secondary, Ohio State will miss cornerback Doran Grant. The senior was a key cog in the improved play by the defensive backfield in 2014, and the Buckeyes need more from young cornerbacks like Gareon Conley, Eli Apple, Damon Webb and Marshon Lattimore. There’s no shortage of talent on this defense. But Ash and co-coordinator Luke Fickell have some work to do up front and in the secondary this offseason.