The Ohio State football team will head into the 2018 season without many familiar names. There will be no J.T. Barrett at quarterback. No Billy Price at center. No Marcus Baugh at tight end.
Instead, there will be somewhat of a young team with only a handful of returning starters.
Though the wide receiving corps and running back duo remain largely the same, there will be other young players competing for playing time during the spring game that will be worth watching. Here are a couple of players to keep track of in Saturday’s Spring Game.
Ohio State began the 2017 season with six starting wide receivers: Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor, K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell. All will return in 2018.
Every wideout brings something different to the table, but none seem to be the top target a passing team needs. Mack has at times looked the part, but he still has more left to prove.
Second-year Jaylen Harris, however, could be the missing top target Ohio State needs. Though he caught just two passes for 27 yards last season, Harris offers the Buckeyes a massive target at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds with the speed to be an impact wideout. The former four-star recruit ranked as the 177th-best prospect, 28th-best wide receiver and fourth-best player in the state of Ohio in the 2017 class.
He will likely face an uphill battle trying to force playing time in a large group of returning veterans. However, he could get a chance to see ample playing time in the Spring Game with Hill sidelined and the other veterans potentially receiving more rest early. Harris still has plenty to prove, but he could be the top wideout for the Buckeyes if given the playing time.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has expressed concern in the past with how the battle for center is going with no one between the trio of Brady Taylor, Josh Myers and Matt Burrell yet stepping up in practice to fill the void left by Price.
While it appears Taylor remains the favorite to win the starting job, Myers has the skills needed to take on such a role. He was a four-star recruit in the 2017 class and the top prospect in Ohio.
Known best as a powerful run blocker, the 6-foot-6, 306-pound lineman just needs to prove that he can handle taking on larger defensive tackles and can effectively snap the ball to whichever quarterback is under center.
Myers will likely be slotted as one of the two starters at center during the Spring Game, and it will be interesting to see whether the interior lineman can handle Ohio State’s defensive tackles. The Spring Game won’t be a deciding factor in the decision for Meyer, but it could lend a glimpse to others into how well he is faring at the position.
The tight end position has historically been one relied upon by Ohio State, but the usage of the role has declined in the past several years. Baugh never was able to produce consistently and there wasn’t anyone to edge him out.
While Ohio State added the second-best tight-end recruit in the 2018 recruiting class in Jeremy Ruckert, head coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday that Luke Farrell might be in front of both the four-star tight end and last year’s backup, Rashod Berry.
“Luke Farrell has kind of advanced in front of the other guys,” Meyer said on Wednesday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference. “But we’re still trying to finalize that.”
Farrell had only two catches for 19 yards in 2017, but was once considered the seventh-best tight end prospect in the 2016 recruiting class. The 6-foot-6, 244-pound tight end was unable to force his way into playing time in 2017. But the redshirt sophomore has a lot to offer Ohio State if he can make himself a reliable receiver.
He has never been viewed as an obvious starter at Ohio State. If he starts to show more speed in the Spring Game with the hands needed to be a full-time player at the position, Farrell could go a long way in solidifying his spot as the starting tight end.