The Buckeyes rank No. 5 in Athlon's Top 25 for 2019
At Ohio State, successful eras can stack on top of one another — but that certainly doesn't mean it will be a smooth transition for new boss Ryan Day. After all, Day is now walking in the hallowed footsteps of Urban Meyer, who retired the day after the Rose Bowl win over Washington.
Day inherits an OSU squad that is missing the likes of defensive end Nick Bosa and record-setting quarterback Dwayne Haskins, among other key personnel, but he showed the coaching chops to keep the program on a high plane last year while Meyer served a very public three-game suspension.
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Day also has shown that he will go wherever necessary to find coaches who improve his staff. Case in point: the addition of co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and linebackers coach Al Washington, who arrived from Michigan.
The newcomer under the largest spotlight, though, is quarterback Justin Fields, who transferred to campus after one season at Georgia. A top-five prospect nationally in the 2018 recruiting class, Fields now has the reins of Day's high-powered offense.
Previewing Ohio State's Offense for 2019
Fields' rocket arm and impressive wheels will have to be on full display for him to even approach the dizzying production of Haskins, who amassed more than 4,800 passing yards and 50 touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his attempts in 2018.
J.K. Dobbins led the Buckeyes in rushing last season with 1,053 yards and 10 scores, but he still was overshadowed at times by Mike Weber, who averaged 5.5 yards a pop and seemed to have more meaningful jaunts in big games. Weber has departed, as has the talented Brian Snead, who has transferred out of the program. Master Teague and Demario McCall will vie for time behind Dobbins; McCall likely has the advantage given his potential as a weapon in the passing game.
The depth, production and consistency of the OSU wide receivers took the offense to new heights last year. Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin are gone, but K.J. Hill is back after an 885-yard season. Many others figure to contribute, including Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor and Chris Olave, who exploded with seven catches for 127 yards and three TDs in late wins over Michigan and Northwestern. The depth at tight end is noteworthy, with veterans Rashod Berry, Luke Farrell and Jake Hausmann all back in the fold, and a buzz growing around young Jeremy Ruckert.
Offensive tackles Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince have exhausted their eligibility, and center Michael Jordan somewhat surprisingly followed them out the door. That presents some challenges for line coach Greg Studrawa and tempers the outlook for the offense. Still, veterans Thayer Munford and Branden Bowen are ready to lead.
Previewing Ohio State's Defense for 2019
Even with all the talent up front, the Buckeyes allowed foes to rush for 4.5 yards per carry. D-line coach Larry Johnson looks to tighten up his front four, which is now without Bosa and the versatile Dre'Mont Jones. That sounds daunting, but the Buckeyes still boast plenty of ability at end in Chase Young (9.5 sacks), Jonathon Cooper and Tyreke Smith. The Buckeyes also lured local phenom Zach Harrison, a freak athlete with a lofty ceiling.
The middle of the OSU defense has been a puzzle since Raekown McMillan left a few years ago. Tuf Borland did an adequate job last season but had to overcome an Achilles injury in the offseason. Senior Justin Hilliard was ready to provide lots of help inside and on special teams but suffered the same setback this spring; his injury-plagued career could be over. Malik Harrison, on the other hand, is the mainstay.
Keandre Jones' transfer to Maryland led the coaches to take a long look at placing safety Brendon White at a hybrid outside linebacker spot. The son of former OSU standout William White, Brendon may appear undersized but hits like a truck and emerged as a force in the back seven midway through last season.
In the backfield, Jeffrey Okudah looks to be in shutdown mode, and Damon Arnette, while still inconsistent, is a senior with tons of experience and willingness to enter the fray. Shaun Wade also has proven his worth. Jordan Fuller could have jumped to the NFL but remains as one of the Big Ten's best defenders. The reliable senior tied Harrison for the team lead last year with 81 tackles and also came up with three takeaways.
Previewing Ohio State's Specialists for 2019
Placekicker Blake Haubeil and punter Drue Chrisman aren't exactly your run-of-the-mill kicking specialists — both stand 6-foot-3 and weigh 220-plus pounds. They also have booming legs, especially Chrisman, who also has displayed uncanny touch with 29 kicks downed inside the 20 last season compared to just one touchback. McCall will try to infuse some excitement into the return game.
The offense will feature lots of personnel, a fast tempo and a new signal caller who's a highlight waiting to happen. It will be a thing of beauty when it clicks, but it may take a while given the fact that several linemen still need to settle into a comfort zone. On defense, there's reason to believe the Buckeyes will be troublesome with a capable secondary and plenty of beasts up front. Get ready for an interesting and wild ride.