Check out all of my spring profiles here.
9/1 – vs Oregon State
9/8 – vs Rutgers
9/15 – vs TCU (in Arlington, TX)
9/22 – vs Tulane
9/29 – @ Penn State
10/6 – vs Indiana
10/13 – vs Minnesota
10/20 – @ Purdue
11/3 – vs Nebraska
11/10 – @ Michigan State
11/17 – @ Maryland
11/24 – vs Michigan
The schedule starts off tough with both TCU and Penn State away from home in a 15-day span, along with a killer @ Michigan State, @ Maryland, vs Michigan trio to end the year. The Buckeyes avoid Wisconsin as a crossover opponent, and as long as they can escape September without dropping both big games, they will be primed for a playoff run.
With Joe Burrow transferring out of the program to go play quarterback for LSU, the starting job seems to be locked up for the big-armed redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins, who is best known for his late game heroics against Michigan when starter JT Barrett went down with an injury. With Barrett moving on to the NFL, it is time for Haskins to step into his role as the quarterback of the future for Ohio State.
Ohio State’s running back group might be the best in the country. The backfield in Columbus will return two 1,000 yard rushers in Mike Weber and JK Dobbins. Dobbins, a freshman last year, took the majority of the carries because Weber was dealing with various minor injuries throughout the year, but with Weber back to full health, the more bruising style back will have a chance to compete for more carries like he had in the 2016 season.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The Buckeyes return their top six statistical pass catchers from the 2017 season, including Parris Campbell, who will likely become Haskins’ favorite target throughout the year. Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon, K.J. Hill, Binjimen Victor, and Austin Mack all return as well in the wideout group, although Urban Meyer will have to replace last year’s starting tight end Marcus Baugh. Baugh’s likely replacement will be former four-star recruit, Luke Farrell.
Billy Price and JaMarco Jones were both taken in the NFL Draft, but the Buckeyes have recruited well enough that they have plenty of replacements lined up. Isaiah Prince, who played right tackle in 2017 could swing over to the left side. Michael Jordan returns to start at left guard, but they will need to replace the other three spots. Senior Brady Taylor is likely to start at center, five-star sophomore Wyatt Davis will step into the right guard spot, and another sophomore, Ohio native Thayer Munford, will step into whatever tackle spot Prince doesn’t start at.
Ohio State lost Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, and Jalyn Holmes to the NFL Draft, but they still will have one of the top defensive lines in the country. Potential #1 pick in 2019 Nick Bosa returns for his junior season, and former five-star prospect Chase Young will finally get the chance to shine at the other end spot. Robert Landers, who racked up five sacks last year will step into a starting role, and four-star junior Dre’Mont Jones will also get plenty of playing time.
Jerome Baker has moved on to the NFL, but Ohio State has a lot of pieces returning at linebacker. Tuf Borland, who started at middle linebacker in 2017, was injured in spring camp, but will be expected to return for the start of the 2018 season. OLB Baron Browning and MLB Justin Hilliard are both former five-stars that have dealt with injuries throughout their time in Columbus, but they could compete for starting roles if healthy. Malik Harrison, who racked up 36 tackles in 2017 is likely to be the other starter on the outside.
Denzel Ward is headed to Cleveland, but as has been the theme throughout this breakdown, Ohio State has reloaded. The top two corners they return from 2017 are Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette. Jordan Fuller and Isaiah Pryor are expected to start in the defensive backfield, both of whom played significant time in 2017. Jeffery Okudah, the #1 corner in the class of 2017, missed much of last year with an injury, but he will certainly compete for a starting role this year.
Four-year recruiting ranks
2015: #7 Nationally, #1 in Big Ten
2016: #4 Nationally, #1 in Big Ten
2017: #2 Nationally, #1 in Big Ten
2018: #2 Nationally, #1 in Big Ten
The only coach Ohio State loses is cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs, who is now coaching with the Tennessee Titans. Coombs helped coach the Buckeyes to have five defensive backs taken in the first round in just the past two years. He will be replaced by former Jim Tressel assistant, and most recently Temple defensive coordinator, Taver Johnson.
Ohio State will be massive favorites against two of the worst teams in the power five in week one and two as they face Oregon State and Rutgers. After that, the Buckeyes will head to Arlington for a blockbuster neutral site game against Big 12 contender TCU. Tulane will provide a bit of a break before the Buckeyes head to Happy Valley for a game against Penn State that could determine a playoff spot at the end of the year. If the Buckeyes can escape September undefeated or at most one loss, conference matchups with Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue, and Nebraska should be wins before a tough final three games of the season where the Buckeyes travel to Michigan State and host Michigan. Maryland on the road could present as a sneaky sandwich/look ahead game as the Terps have recruited very well the past few years.
Once again, I need to state that these are not my final predictions, just a spring look ahead.
WIN vs Oregon State
WIN vs Rutgers
WIN vs TCU (in Arlington, TX)
WIN vs Tulane
LOSS @ Penn State
WIN vs Indiana
WIN vs Minnesota
WIN @ Purdue
WIN vs Nebraska
WIN @ Michigan State
WIN @ Maryland
WIN vs Michigan
Projected Record: 11-1 (8-1 Big Ten)