July 8, 2016
Those born and bred in Columbus understand how huge sports is in our city, especially that of football. Despite us lacking an NFL team like cities Cincinnati and Cleveland, we’ve channeled this die-hard passion in support of our Ohio State Buckeyes. From childhood, we were raised wearing scarlet and gray themed memorabilia, watching games every Saturday with our families, hating the state of Michigan and being atop of the Big Ten conference. Every year we anticipate to at least contend, if not win the national championship and for OSU fans this upcoming season is no different.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to make the case we’ll mirror the same success we had in seasons 2014 and 2015. The losses on both the offensive and defensive ends are crucial, with over half of our starters (14) either graduating or opting for the draft. Losing first round talent like former players Ezekiel Elliot, Joey Bosa, Eli Apple and Michael Thomas has left a sense of uncertainty for sports reporters and analysts. Back in March of this year, writer Chad Peltier of SB Nation, rated Ohio State no. 14 on the preseason rankings. Peltier pointed out key players that were leaving, and questions as to who were going to fill their spots, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
These questions are all valid; however, that doesn’t mean they’re without valid answers. Though we’ve lost several significant players from last season, we still have arguably the most important position filled with J.T. Barrett returning as our starting QB. His leadership and presence kept our season afloat last year, as we leaned on him when Cardale Jones struggled to throw the ball. Again, we will have to look for him to lead the offense and make the jobs of RB Curtis Samuel and WR’s Jalin Marshall and Noah Brown easier. Now, defensively there are massive holes to fill. However, the schemes that defensive guru Luke Fickell and recent hire, Greg Schiano, will develop could mask their inexperience’s and in time, eventually form an effective Big Ten defense.
Beyond the players, we have to take in to account the impact that both the head coach and the schedule will have this season. Since the hire of head coach Urban Meyer back in 2012, the Buckeyes have had a record of 50-4. Which, is considered one of the most successful in coaching history over the span. He’s not only established a successful football system, but has drawn in stud recruits from all over the country. Recruits that could provide flexibility onto an already speed-driven and highly talented roster; and based on their upcoming schedule this season, they shouldn’t have a problem setting these players into Meyer’s system. The two games Buckeye fans have to worry about is Michigan State on the road and Michigan at home. Michigan State’s defense stifled our high-powered offense last year and ended our chances of grabbing a playoff spot. This season we’re at their house, and we’ll have to be prepared to match their intensity and go to war on the front lines. Though we’ve beaten Michigan convincingly the last 5 seasons, they’re always a tough match up. With their improvements in 2015, expect head coach, Jim Harbaugh, to continue to recruit and build this program back into contention this season.
This season is definitely going to be a difficult one to address. Many believe the lapses in both talent and experience will result in losses on our record. It’s true, we’ve lost players that were essentially the center pieces of our team. Players we leaned on to produce and to lead others toward goals they set out to accomplish. Still, despite these losses this program has continued to reinvent itself and remain as one of the top-10 teams in the country year after year. We have to credit Urban Meyer and his ability to lead these groups of young men and encourage them to embrace their roles. He puts players in the right positions, and with the no. 3 recruiting class in 2016, there will be a busload of new talent at his disposal. As fans, our trust should be in the hands of this man and the incredible coaching staff he’s built around him. Since his arrival on campus we’ve had an undefeated season, multiple bowl game appearances and the first college playoff championship. So, lets continue to support our buckeyes and encourage them to prove those that doubted them, wrong.