Buckeyes still facing decisions

Now that Ohio State’s football team has finished up spring drills with summer pre-season camp up next, it’s time to look at how spring practice has solidified some positions while others still haven’t been completely decided yet.

We start at backup quarterback, a position the Buckeyes haven’t had to worry about for two years with the more-than-capable Kenny Guiton able to step in in a pinch and perform at a high level when needed.

But neither of the top two candidates, redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, distinguished themselves this spring to bring much of a smile to head coach Urban Meyer’s face.

What with Braxton Miller’s penchant for injury, having a reliable backup is imperative for the Buckeyes.

Nevertheless, Jones has experience-having played in three games last season-and apparently has moved ahead of Barrett now.

Especially since Meyer has stated that “Cardale is one of the most improved players on the team; he’s clearly the No. 2” ahead of Barrett, more of a dual-threat quarterback like Miller.

Two newcomers did shine, though, in last Saturday’s Scarlet and Gray game as five-star early-entry freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan lived up to his prep reputation and did not disappoint. So look for him to possibly start at middle linebacker this fall.

Another former five-star recruit, redshirt freshman Eli Apple, looked like he might just be a physical presence at cornerback that OSU really needs in the secondary, which was the Buckeyes’ Achilles Heel last season.

A pair of second-year players in Chris Worley and Darron Lee are in the running for the strongside backer spot. Both drew Meyer’s praise in the spring, but Worley may have been the best defensive player on the field last Saturday. He made a game-high nine tackles, knocked down passes and attacked screens to tight ends and receivers, the latter one of the primary things Meyer wants out of that position.

At tailback replacing Carlos Hyde may be running back by committee, although Ezekiel Elliott was a personal recruit of Meyer’s out of St. Louis last spring, and is probably at the top of the depth chart, followed by another early-entry speedster in Curtis Samuel, who had Meyer raving about him this spring.

Also definitely in the mix are three more Hyde-like physical, pound-it-out runners in Bri’onte Dunn, Warren Ball and Rod Smith.

So OSU has a ton of skill, speed and physicality at running back. Now it’s up to Meyer’s offensive staff to figure out how to effectively utilize all that talent.

However, the young offensive line with four of the five starters being new, is not one of Meyer’s pleasant spring memories. Although not pleased with the play of the front five, Meyer would just say the O-line was “still a question mark.”

If that doesn’t get straightened out, although Miller is expected to pass more this fall, he may be spending most of his time just scrambling around the backfield looking for a hole to run through while trying to stay healthy.

Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at shemmelgarn@newsandsentinel.com