Ohio State football is now three practices into fall camp, and a little under four weeks away from its first game of the season.
The Buckeyes are projected to be one of the best teams in the nation this fall, but still have some big questions to answer in every phase of the game.
Sunday, we looked at 5 things to watch for on the Ohio State offense, including some questions up front, a position group with something to prove, and some true freshmen who could be impact players sooner rather than later.
However, the first game is now less than four weeks away.
That means there’s not much time for the team – and everyone else – to figure out the answers to a few big questions about this year’s Buckeyes.
Here’s a list of five things that will be interesting to watch for once we get a chance to see the team in person.
How good is the line going to be?
Given the talent across the deck on the defensive line, the answer here could range anywhere from “quite good” to “DEATH, THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS.”
With players and coaches already talking up Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones as potentially being the best on the team, that’s a good start.
Robert Landers returns at the nose tackle position. Jonathon Cooper, Chase Young and Jashon Cornell figure to see time in the defensive end rotation.
Then add in the insane tackle depth from guys like Davon Hamilton, Antwuan Jackson, Haskell Garrett, Jerron Cage, Malik Barrow, and others.
This group is big, strong, fast, and deep, and is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Who’s going to start at linebacker?
While the defensive line is loaded with outstanding, experienced players, the linebackers are a little more in flux.
Jerome Baker and Chris Worley are off to the NFL. Tuf Borland is still rehabbing an Achilles injury.
That means all three starting linebacker spots are up for grabs.
Once Borland returns, probably at some point in September, you can pencil him in at the MIKE spot. Until then you could see Baron Browning or maybe Justin Hilliard there.
Malik Harrison saw a lot of time at the SAM spot last year, especially in passing situations. He is the likely starter there, although Pete Werner is pushing for playing time as well.
Keandre Jones was probably the frontrunner at WILL coming out of the spring, although you could easily slide Browning or Hilliard out there.
Then there’s Dante Booker, the only senior on the defense. He missed spring ball with a shoulder injury, but is healthy now. The coaching staff sounds like they’re expecting him to play significant minutes as well.
A lot of these guys could slot in at multiple positions, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how it shakes out over the next month.
How are the young corners developing?
The Buckeyes have two starting corners back, in Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield. Both should be solid again this year, and it will be interesting to see if one or both of them can take “the leap” as many OSU corners have recently. However, those players were all working with Kerry Coombs. Taver Johnson is now the position coach there, and he has a lot to live up to.
Even more interesting than those guys are two players entering their second year with the program. Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade were ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 corners nationally in the 2017 recruiting class.
Okudah played meaningful minutes as a true freshman, including almost all of the Cotton Bowl win over USC. He looked raw, but extremely promising.
Wade missed the entire year with an abdominal injury. He was back for the spring and looked impressive in the limited amount of time the media got to watch.
This time next year, Wade and Okudah will be the guys OSU is banking on to lock down the opposition’s top two receivers.
But given the way OSU rotates players at corner, both will be tested this fall as well. If they can start living up to the hype around them, that could make this defense even more dominant.
Who is replacing Damon Webb at safety?
Technically, the answer to this is Jordan Fuller, who is sliding from the boundary safety spot over to Webb’s old spot on the field side.
So the real question is who will replace Fuller at the boundary spot.
The default answer for most of the spring and even into the summer has been Isaiah Pryor, a highly-touted sophomore who saw time last fall in a reserve role.
However, the coaching staff has not been willing to fully commit to handing the position to Pryor.
Redshirt sophomore Jahsen Wint, true sophomores Brendon White and Amir Riep, and true freshman Josh Proctor could all steal that starting spot away during fall camp.
Pryor has to be considered the favorite to win the job, but it’s still something of an open competition.
The freshmen to watch
Proctor is one of the names you hear most when people around the program discuss guys who could contribute immediately.
But there are plenty of others who could become household names before the end of the year.
Defensive end Tyreke Smith could be on the two-deep for the first game.
Players and coaches have raved about defensive tackle Tommy Togiai, although the depth there may make it hard for him to see the field early.
Linebackers like Dallas Gant, K’Vaughan Pope, and Teradja Mitchell will face a similar challenge, although any of them could turn into special teams assassins.
Ditto for corners Sevyn Banks and Tyreke Johnson. Both of them were in for spring ball, and could see time at corner in blowouts.
This time next year, one or both could be in the regular rotation.