Morning Conversational: What Is the Buckeyes’ Most Interesting Position Battle?
Perhaps the most intriguing part of any fall camp is the position battle.
Sure, everybody wants to know how the quarterback is doing — and a position battle at quarterback is always huge, but there are other position battles going on every year as well.
This year, despite losing a sizable number of starters, many of the position battles at Ohio State are occurring further down the depth chart.
But not all of them.
While Ryan Day and quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich are adamant that there will be a quarterback battle in camp, it is fairly safe to assume that Justin Fields will end that competition quickly.
Others, however, should last quite a bit longer.
At left guard, we could see a pair of talented fifth-year seniors battling. Rutgers transfer Jonah Jackson was an Honorable Mention All-B1G selection a year ago. He has yet to take part in his first Ohio State practice, but he was brought over to contend for a starting spot. Battling him should be OSU’s jack-of-all-trades Branden Bowen.
Bowen spent the last two years dealing with a broken leg, but did win the right guard job out of camp in 2017. He can play any of the tackle or guard spots, so he is an incredibly valuable member of the line. The best man will win the job, but don’t be surprised when the “second-best man” also contributes heavily this season.
At right tackle, fifth-year senior Josh Alabi and redshirt freshman Nicholas Petit-Frere could also be a situation to watch.
The rest of the offense rotates so much that anybody who is capable of making plays should be able to see the field this year.
Defensively, there are interesting battles at all three levels.
The defensive ends will rotate, so the competition here will be more about the freshmen trying to move in front of the sophomores.
At defensive tackle, however, fifth-year senior Jashon Cornell and sophomore Taron Vincent are still fighting. Both will certainly play this season, but it will be interesting to see if Vincent can overtake Cornell next month. Cornell left the spring seemingly in front, but he’ll need to be at the top of his game to stay there.
There is plenty of intrigue at safety and we didn’t get to see enough of it shake out in the spring because Jordan Fuller was out.
However, the lineup that makes the most sense is Fuller at free safety and Shaun Wade at strong safety, but that is still to be determined.
The most interesting position battle remains at middle linebacker where fourth-year junior Tuf Borland, junior Baron Browning, and sophomore Teradja Mitchell will all be giving it a go.
Borland missed most of the spring with a minor knee injury, and following camp, head coach Ryan Day said the middle linebacker position was still up in the air.
Borland will come into camp another year removed from his Achilles injury, which will help considerably. Despite being slowed last year, he still finished third on the team with 67 tackles and 9.0 tackles for loss.
It was a learning experience for Mitchell last year, but most of it came from special teams. He is still looking for his first career tackle, but there isn’t a team in the nation that wouldn’t volunteer to have him get No. 1 as a member of their defense.
Browning started three games last season and is now an upperclassman. He came to Ohio State with more potential and expectations than any linebacker since possibly Andy Katzenmoyer.
With a new defense freeing them up, all three could blossom this season under the guidance of new linebackers coach Al Washington.
The smart money is on Borland reclaiming his job, but Browning and Mitchell may be too talented to bet against.
And if all three are good enough to start, then they will find a role for all three.
Regardless of how it shakes out, it’s going to be interesting to watch it all unfold.