Ohio State Football: 5 Burning Questions for the Buckeyes' Spring Game

Burning Questions for Ohio State's Spring Game

4/9/14 in NCAAF   |   rlnichols11   |   22 respect

The third season of the Urban Meyer era will kick off this Saturday when the Ohio State Buckeyes hold their annual Scarlet and Gray spring game in Columbus. Blog Photo - Ohio State Football: 5 Burning Questions for the Buckeyes' Spring Game

Here are five questions Meyer and his coaching staff will need to find the answer to:

1. Who is Backing Up Braxton Miller?

With the departure of Kenny Guiton, Meyer has to fill void left at backup quarterback.

As great as Miller has been, it's no secret that he's been prone to injury during his tenure at Ohio State. Whether he misses a couple of plays or a couple of weeks, having a backup who can come in and keep the Buckeyes' high-powered offense in sync is crucial to their success.

With Miller sidelined this entire spring while recovering from shoulder surgery, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett have been splitting the first-team reps the past three weeks, giving each plenty of opportunities to prove themselves to Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman.

Jones appears to be the front-runner at the moment, but Barrett could steal the job with a standout performance this Saturday.

This position battle holds even greater significance, because the winner this year will likely be the starting quarterback next year after Miller graduates. This is definitely something Meyer and Herman will be thinking long and hard about during the Scarlet and Gray game.

2. How Will the Holes Be Filled on the Offensive Line?

The Buckeyes are forced to replace four of their five starters from their offensive line a year ago, arguably their strongest unit from the 2013 season.

Sophomore Taylor Decker is the lone starter coming back this season, as he will make the move from right tackle to left tackle. After that, it appears as though everything else is in flux for the time being.

Antonio Underwood and Pat Elflein have been taking most of the first-team reps at the guard spots, with Jacoby Boren and Darryl Baldwin taking the snaps at center and right tackle, respectively. 

Nothing is set in stone, however, as guys like Billy Price, Kyle Dodson, and converted defensive lineman Joel Hale will get their share of opportunities to prove themselves worthy of a starting spot along the o-line. 

Finding the best, most consistent group of five will be important for the Buckeyes to take care of this weekend, so the starting unit can have the time that they will need to get in sync for the opener against Navy on August 30.

3. Is Raekwon McMillan the Answer at Inside Linebacker?

McMillan is the gem of a strong 2014 recruiting class for Meyer, and he might be asked to step in and perform right off the bat.

The consensus top freshman inside linebacker in the country -- and as an early enrollee at Ohio State -- he has been raising a lot of eyebrows the past few weeks.

Curtis Grant, who himself was the top linebacker of his class back in 2011, started most of last season at middle linebacker. He's battled injuries for the better portion of this three years of Columbus, and hasn't yet lived up to the high expectations he brought with him coming out of high school.

I still ultimately expect Grant to be the starter come opening day. Although there's no denying the excitement that McMillan has brought to a struggling linebacking unit, the leadership and experience Grant brings is something McMillan can't offer to the Buckeyes' defense quite yet.

That being said, if McMillan finishes off the spring with a great performance in the Scarlet and Gray game, he could earn himself some significant playing time for his freshman season. Maybe, just maybe, he might play well enough to shock Buckeye Nation and steal the starting spot.

4. How Will the Defense Look Under New Co-Defensive Coordinator Chris Ash?

Ash comes over from Arkansas to try and help Luke Fickell resurrect a defense that has struggled often the last two seasons. And although he's only been on the job for a couple of months, there is a lot of positive vibes about the "in-your-face" mentality that Ash has already begun to instill in his players.

Meyer has given Ash complete control over the back end of the defense, in hopes to sure up a secondary that got burned repeatedly at the end of the 2013 season. He's implemented a much more physical and aggressive strategy, starting with a lot more press coverage from the cornerbacks.

I'm very intrigued to see what kind of an impact Ash's aggressive mindset and scheme will have on the passing defense. If the Buckeyes want to have any shot at a national title this season, they will have to improve drastically on their 110th-ranked pass defense from a year ago. 

5. Can Ezekiel Elliott Replace Carlos Hyde?

The Buckeyes have a huge, 240-pound hole to fill in their backfield with the departure of Hyde to the NFL, but it appears as though Elliott will be Meyer's plug.

Elliott showed flashes of his ridiculous talent in the limited amount of touches he received last season. Now he will have the opportunity to put in on full display this fall.

Although he's not Dontre Wilson tiny, he certainly relies more on his lateral speed and quickness more than brute strength. This has raised concerns as to whether or not he can carry the load that Hyde is leaving behind.

Elliott does not need to be the 30-carry-per-game freight train that Hyde was in 2013. Wilson looks to take on an expanded role in the offense as the H-Back (better known as "The Percy Harvin") which will certainly take pressure off of the starting running back. I also expect Miller to showcase his arm a little more than he has the past few seasons.

That being said, Elliott will still need to be a consistent 20-carry, 100-yard back day-in and day-out for the Buckeyes in order for their offense to be as successful as it has been the last two years. Elliott will need to show all of Buckeye Nation that he can be that guy this Saturday. 
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