The Ohio State football team entered its season-opener against Navy on Saturday with a plethora of question marks throughout the team. The depth chart was filled with listings of one player “or” another set to start, and a redshirt-freshman quarterback was set to be under center for the first time as a Buckeye.
While not every question was answered in the game, The Lantern’s sports editors picked five key takeaways from the Buckeyes’ 34-17 victory at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
1. There won’t be an “or” at quarterback on OSU’s next depth chart
Coming into the game against Navy, there was still some speculation as to whether redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones would replace Barrett for any amount of time against Navy.
Before the game, OSU coach Urban Meyer said there was no set plan for that to happen, but left the door open for a possible Jones appearance despite the fact that Barrett was listed as the only starter under center.
On Saturday, Barrett played the entire game and gave the coaches no glaring reason to pull him. The Wichita Falls, Texas, native completed 12 of 15 pass attempts — including at least one drop — and threw two touchdowns and one interception. The pick, which came in the red zone, was the only clear mistake Barrett made throughout the game.
While he still wasn’t — and never will be — the runner that senior quarterback Braxton Miller is, Barrett still managed to lead the Buckeyes with 50 yards on the ground.
He wasn’t asked to do a lot, but for all intents and purposes, Barrett passed his first test with flying colors.
2. Offensive line partially sorted out, but still a red flag
Speaking of question marks on the depth chart, there might not be a position group with more unknowns than the offensive line.
On the depth chart released by OSU before the Navy game, only three of the five offensive line positions had a set starter listed. Junior Taylor Decker, redshirt-sophomore Pat Elflein and redshirt-senior Darryl Baldwin were set to get the starting nod at left tackle, right guard and right tackle, respectively.
All three did end up starting, although Elflein was moved over to left guard while redshirt-freshman Billy Price started at right guard. Junior Jacoby Boren started at center and played the vast majority of the game for OSU.
It looks like Boren will have that spot locked down going forward, but Price and senior Joel Hale rotated during the game at the second guard position after Price struggled early. It could be argued that Hale had the better overall day, and you can look for both to continue fighting for playing time the rest of the season.
Even if the line is sorted out in the coming weeks, it’ll have to improve — Meyer said he was “very disappointed” by its performance against Navy.
3. Young Buckeye backs impressed in debuts
Replacing a 1,000-yard rusher at running back is never easy, but a few young Buckeyes proved they can handle the football in their hands.
Freshman running back Curtis Samuel showed he can handle the pressures of major college football as he recorded 45 yards on seven carries in his Buckeye debut.
Redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall showed why he has been pushing sophomore H-back Dontre Wilson for touches against Navy as he showed explosiveness on a few outside runs. Ultimately though, Wilson proved he is still deserving of a starting job as he led the Buckeyes in yards per carry (7.2) against Navy as he finished with 43 yards rushing to go along with another 46 yards receiving.
Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliot did not have a big day, but he did account for OSU’s only rushing score as he amassed 44 yards on 12 carries in the Buckeye win.
4. OSU kickers will likely split duties
Freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger accounted for all of OSU’s first half points against Navy as he converted on field goal attempts of 46 yards and 28 yards in his first college appearance.
Redshirt-senior kicker Kyle Clinton however, assumed the kickoff duties for the Buckeyes but did not exactly impress, booting one kick out of bounds, resulting in a penalty.
Despite that, it appears the two kickers will continue to split duties barring an injury or poor performances from one or the other.
5. ‘Silver Bullet’ secondary remains untested
As expected, the Navy offense did not attempt the throw the ball much against the Buckeye defense, completing two of just four pass attempts in the 34-17 loss to OSU.
Entering Saturday, the Buckeye defense will be up against a much more traditional offense as Virginia Tech comes to Columbus.
The Hokie offense is led by Texas Tech transfer quarterback Michael Brewer who, in his first start for Virginia Tech, threw for 251 yards on 23 of 30 passing attempts. Needless to say, the OSU secondary that struggled mightily in 2013 will face its first real test Saturday.
The Buckeye secondary, which returns only one starter from 2013 in senior cornerback Doran Grant, will play in front of its home fans for the first time in 2014 when it takes on Virginia Tech at Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.