The Ohio State football team released its first two-deep depth chart of the season Tuesday, four days prior to the team’s season opener versus Buffalo.
The Buckeyes have a number of notable changes on offense. At wide receiver, junior Evan Spencer is listed as the team’s starting “Z” receiver, while senior Corey Brown and junior Devin Smith are listed as co-starters at the “X” receiver position.
Brown and Smith started opposite one another at wide receiver last season, but Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman referred to Spencer as one of the team’s starters last week. Spencer has caught 15 total passes for 214 yards in his first two seasons at OSU.
With running backs Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith both suspended for the season opener (Hyde is also suspended for two additional games), redshirt senior Jordan Hall is listed as the team’s starting running back. Hall has 1,032 career rushing yards for the Buckeyes, but only played in three games last year after cutting his foot on broken glass before the season began and partially tearing the PCL ligament in his knee against Michigan State Sept. 29.
Senior Chris Fields is listed as the Buckeyes’ starting H-back, a hybrid position between running back and wide receiver made famous by wide receiver Percy Harvin while he was at Florida. True freshmen Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall are listed behind Fields at the position on the depth chart.
The only change to the starting offensive line from last year is at right tackle, where sophomore Taylor Decker is the starter, replacing Reid Fragel. Redshirt freshman Kyle Dodson is listed as his backup.
Redshirt senior center Corey Linsley has been working his way back from a foot injury this offseason, but Meyer said he is “90-95” percent healthy. Meyer said Linsley will start Saturday.
Defensively, the Buckeyes will have just three returning starters on defense Saturday: junior linebacker Ryan Shazier, senior free safety Christian Bryant and redshirt senior strong safety C.J. Barnett.
Redshirt junior cornerback Bradley Roby was also a starter last season, but is suspended for the season opener and therefore not listed on the depth chart. Junior Doran Grant and sophomore Armani Reeves are listed as the team’s starting cornerbacks.
Meyer said the “jury is certainly out” on the defense, but added that he is “very comfortable” with how both his defensive players and defensive coaches operate.
“I think we’re going to be a faster defense, and hopefully more aggressive as we grow in our scheme,” Meyer said. “Last year, we started the season kind of a bend but don’t break defense where it seems like we’re always on our heels, and that’s not the kind of defense that anybody wants, we want to be an aggressive defense.”
Meyer said the team is going to utilize man coverage more frequently on their defense this season. In order to do so, Meyer said the Buckeyes will use the dime defensive package, which means six defensive backs on the field and only five players in the defensive front, more often than they did in 2012.
Meyer explained that when opponents use an offensive formation that puts extra wide receivers on the field instead of a tight end and/or running back, the defense must adjust by putting faster players on the field to avoid matchup issues.
“When you start to talk about man coverage, you can’t play it certainly in base and then in nickel, sometimes you get caught with matchup issues, so that’s what the dime defense is for,” Meyer said. “You have to be in some type of dime if you want to play man coverage, and we just didn’t have that capability last year.”
The Buckeyes are replacing six of seven starters on the defensive front seven in their base 4-3 defensive scheme, but Meyer said that a number of the new starters have stood out in their preparation for the season. Meyer said Shazier, junior defensive tackle Michael Bennett and sophomore defensive ends Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence have been standouts in preseason practices this summer.
Senior Drew Basil returns as the team’s kicker, while redshirt senior George Makridis and redshirt sophomore Bryce Haynes are listed as co-starting long snappers again this season. Cameron Johnston, a freshman from Australia, is listed as the team’s punter.
The Buckeyes will take on Buffalo on Saturday at noon.