Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Urban Meyer released his first-ever two-deep depth chart as coach of Ohio State combining Experienced starters and upcoming young players to form the new starting lineup of OSU’s football team.
Meyer’s offensive depth chart includes twelve starting spots, with three allotted to wide receivers. Sophomore wide receiver Devin Smith, who led the Buckeyes in receiving last season with 294 yards, is listed as the starting split end. Another returning starter, junior Corey “Philly” Brown, is the starting slot receiver. Sophomore Evan Spencer is listed as the starting flanker.
Freshman Michael Thomas, who made a name for himself in the Spring Game with 12 receptions for 131 yards, will be Smith’s backup. Redshirt junior Chris Fields, a starter last season, has been moved to second-string slot receiver behind Brown while redshirt sophomore Verlon Reed will be a back-up behind Spencer.
Meyer said Wednesday that while the wide receivers have made progress this spring, further improvement is necessary.
“We’re not functional at receiver yet,” Meyer said. “That’s not saying that I wasn’t pleased with the progress. The good thing is, I think we have enough talent in there to make some improvement to be very functional by the fall.”
Along with Brown, there are six other returning starters on offense: sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, senior running back Jordan Hall, senior fullback Zach Boren, redshirt senior tight end Jake Stoneburner and junior left guard Andrew Norwell. Redshirt junior Jack Mewhort, who started at right guard last season, is the new starter at left tackle.
Redshirt junior Marcus Hall, who started five games last season, is the new starting right guard. Redshirt junior Corey Linsley is the new starter at center, while converted tight end Reid Fragel, a senior, will start at right tackle.
Meyer said Linsley impressed him as much as any player on offense this spring.
“He was a pleasant surprise,” Meyer said of Linsley. “He has the potential to be a very good player. Very committed player.”
All four starters return on the defensive line, led by senior left defensive end John Simon, a third-team Associated Press All-American last season. He is joined by junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, redshirt senior nose guard Garrett Goebel and redshirt junior defensive end Adam Bellamy.
Bellamy is listed as a co-starter at right defensive end with redshirt senior Nathan Williams, a starter in 2010 who suffered a season-ending injury in the team’s opening game against Akron Sept. 3.
Meyer said that sophomore Michael Bennett, who is listed as the second-string defensive tackle behind Hankins, has made a big push for playing time this spring.
“We’ll rotate guys in, and our four best (defensive linemen) will be on the field at one time,” Meyer said. “It’s hard for me to say (Bennett)’s not one of the four best.”
The secondary also returns all four starters. Sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby retains his starting spot, while last year’s second starting cornerback, redshirt senior Travis Howard, is listed as a co-starter with sophomore Doran Grant. Redshirt junior C.J. Barnett and junior Christian Bryant return as starting safeties.
The linebacker group features, perhaps, the most change on the defensive side of the ball. Redshirt senior outside linebacker Etienne Sabino is a returning starter, but senior Storm Klein lost his starting middle linebacker position to sophomore Curtis Grant. Sophomore outside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who started the final three games last season, holds the third starting spot in the linebacker corps.
On special teams, junior Drew Basil returns as placekicker and redshirt senior Ben Buchanan returns as punter. Buchanan will also assume the duty as the team’s holder for field goal kicks. Redshirt junior George Makridis and redshirt freshman Bryce Haynes are listed as co-starters at long snapper.
The depth chart does not indicate who the Buckeyes’ kick and punt returners will be. Meyer said he expects Jordan Hall to start in both roles along with Smith on kickoff returns, but indicated that he was not ready to name starters yet in those positions.
Thomas, right tackle Taylor Decker, center Jacoby Boren and outside linebackers Luke Roberts and Joshua Perry, all of whom were among the players to enroll early as incoming freshman, earned places on the second string of the depth chart. Meyer said he also expects additional incoming freshmen to compete for playing time prior to the start of the season in September, including defensive end and five-star recruit Noah Spence.
“I would anticipate Noah Spence would be in immediate competition for playing time,” Meyer said.
Meyer also indicated defensive end Adolphus Washington, linebackers Jamal Marcus and David Perkins and offensive tackle Kyle Dodson as other incoming freshmen who he believes could contribute as true freshmen.
OSU’s 2012 season begins Sept. 1 at home against Miami (Ohio).