In a season that featured three quarterbacks, the death of a player, three post-season games and ultimately a national championship, the Ohio State football team overcame adversity in a season the likes of which not many have ever seen.
The Lantern sports staff was there for the roller coaster ride that it was, and came up with the five biggest takeaways from the Buckeyes’ eighth national title.
1. Tom Herman is the biggest loss from the 2014-15 team
Even if all three quarterbacks return for the 2015 campaign, the loss of co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach to the University of Houston is the biggest loss from the title team.
Herman was largely the reason why OSU was able to win a national title with two different starters in 2014, as he prepared them exceptionally after losing senior Braxton Miller to injury.
As he takes the head coaching job for the Cougars, newly hired Tim Beck has big shoes to fill as he takes the same position as Herman.
Can the likes of Miller, redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett and redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones continue their success under Beck? Maybe. But there is no denying Herman is going to go down as one of the main reasons OSU is at the top of college football in 2015.
2. The 2013 recruiting class will go down as one of the best in program history
The 2013 class marked the first group chock full of Urban Meyer recruits, and even at the time, it was ranked the No. 3 class in the nation by ESPN. But top to bottom, not many could have predicted the impact those players have had through just two seasons in Columbus.
Of OSU’s 24 commitments from the 2013 class, 13 started at least one game this season.
When the Buckeyes won the Sugar Bowl against Alabama, the offensive MVP — sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott — and the defensive player of the game — redshirt-freshman linebacker Darron Lee — were both part of the class.
And through all that, there’s still been no mention of Barrett, sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa, who totaled 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, or other starters like redshirt-freshman offensive lineman Billy Price, sophomore safety Vonn Bell and redshirt-freshman cornerback Eli Apple.
Essentially, a huge chunk of the key players in OSU’s title run were from the 2013 class, and all of them will be back for another season at least.
If the progression continues, this class could easily go down as the best group in Buckeye history.
3. Elliott could be the best running back in college football
Entering the Big Ten Championship Game, the above statement would have be a laugher.
Then Elliott ran away from the then-No. 2 defense in Wisconsin before dismantling the Alabama and Oregon defenses en route to back-to-back Sugar Bowl and national title game MVP awards.
Elliott has just one more year before he can declare for the NFL Draft, and if he has another year in 2015 like he did this season, NFL general managers will surely hope to see him on everyone’s big board in 2016.
4. Reloading is hard, but the Buckeyes are well stocked to replace all departures
The Buckeyes this season were young. Really, really young.
From quarterback down to the kicker, the lineup was speckled with freshmen and sophomores and a limited number of impact seniors. Sure, losing players like senior wide receiver Devin Smith will be tough to take, but redshirt-sophomore Michael Thomas could well be the best receiver on the team, and he’ll likely be back.
At tight end, Jeff Heuerman has run out of eligibility, but redshirt-junior Nick Vannett has arguably developed into an even better player. On defense, seniors like linebacker Curtis Grant and cornerback Doran Grant are gone, but young guns like freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan and freshman cornerback Damon Webb are chomping at the bit for the chance to shine.
Even at positions where players are departing, OSU is deep enough to fill every game, which is a great sign if the Buckeyes want to repeat next season.
5. Meyer has coached some greats, but the 2014 Buckeyes are his masterpiece
Especially at quarterback, there’s no debating that Meyer’s coaching job with the 2014 Buckeyes was his best yet.
The team came back from injuries to two Heisman-caliber quarterbacks, an early season loss to a poor opponent and the death of a teammate.
And not only did they bounce back, but the Buckeyes went above and beyond to sweep through the postseason on the way to the national championship. Florida in 2006 was a great team led by Meyer, and he did an incredible job molding Utah into the David to college football’s Goliath, but the adversity this team faced coupled with the success it had was something even he couldn’t have seen coming.