Buckeyes Will Be Different in 2014, But Expectations Will Remain the Same
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio — All teams change from year to year, but nothing compares to the turnover of players each season in college sports. In any given year, a college football team can lose 20 players, and gain 20 more. The entire identity of a team can change, and not always for the better.
New faces, new places, and way more questions than answers. For Urban Meyer, this has become an issue each spring.
“I think we have a transition of personnel like you have every year,” Meyer said last week. “Last year, the previous year we lost probably the best group of leaders I’ve ever been around.”
After 2012, John Simon, Zach Boren, Travis Howard, and Nathan Williams, to name a few of the leaders, embarked on the next stage of their lives, but the Buckeyes responded and new leaders emerged in 2013.
“This year we had some guys that weren’t great leaders develop into very good leaders,” Meyer said.
OSU once again needs to successfully replace the skilled players who departed, but new blood may not be the end of the world as Meyer believes there may have been a little too much arrogance after an undefeated season.
“I felt last year, I don't want to say the word entitled, but I felt like there was,” he said.
“Last year was kind of, ‘you’re 12-0, you’re preseason this, you’re this’ and I haven’t had many people ask about our preseason, not that I know what it is.”
A major difference in 2014 could be the chip on the shoulder of players after the way things ended last season. Two consecutive postseason defeats means this team isn’t entitled to anything until they actually go out and prove it.
There are also the inevitable key players to replace. Gone are Ryan Shazier, Carlos Hyde, Christian Bryant, and four of the five offensive linemen.
It will be the old saying, “next man up” for Ohio State and spring is the first shot.
The loss of Shazier means the loss of a high-motor player who gave 100% on every play. The linebacker filled up the stat sheet, but also led by example each time on the field.
Converted high school quarterback Darron Lee impressed enough in preseason workouts to get the first team reps at weakside linebacker. Freshman Raekwon McMillan demonstrated that he belonged in the mix in the middle during the first week of spring drills.
Rod Smith and Ezekiel Elliott will both see first team reps at running back as they look to fill Hyde’s massive shoes. After becoming Meyer’s first 1,000-yard running back – despite missing three games – Hyde leaves a hole the size of the one he likes to run through. If one player cannot establish himself, the coaching staff has no issue running by committee.
Meyer called the offensive line the best in the country last season, but the unit only returns one starter this year. The battle for a spot has already begun, as 10 players compete for the five positions.
The list goes on, but spring is a time to look forward. The 13 remaining practices provide the new players an opportunity to make their mark and there will likely be others that step forward before the new season kicks off.
The Buckeyes will be different in 2014, but different doesn’t mean worse. There is no doubting last year’s team had flaws and this year’s team can learn from the mistakes of the past.
The 2014 Buckeyes do not head into the season with the pressure of a top two ranking like last year, though they do carry the same high expectations of every OSU team, and that is why players must begin to produce now.
This is the first chance for the up-and-comers to set themselves apart and begin to distinguish this year’s team from its predecessor.
Every year brings change, but schools like Ohio State aren’t supposed to rebuild. They simply make adjustments and Spring is where that process begins.
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