Just days from the season opener, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer released his first depth chart of the 2014 season, and while it answered some questions, it created others.
The defensive line — arguably the most talented unit on the team — had an interesting note on the depth chart as senior defensive lineman and recently named team captain Michael Bennett is listed as a co-starter along with junior Tommy Schutt.
Bennett, who has been named by some as a potential first-round draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, said he was “dinged up” during fall camp, which opened a door for Schutt.
“At least for the first game, it’s more of a dual thing,” Bennett said of his co-starter status with Schutt. “I’ve said it before: Tommy could start anywhere else in the country. It is sort of a three-man rotation in the middle.”
Even though he said he was banged up during fall camp, Bennett said he will be ready to go against Navy.
“I am perfectly healthy now,” he said. “I took my time, came back and should be ready.”
The cornerback position opposite senior Doran Grant was also too close to call, as redshirt-freshmen corners Eli Apple and Gareon Conley are listed as co-starters as well.
Grant said he has seen both Apple and Conley mature during their time at OSU and added he has been assured of their abilities.
“I am very confident in both of them,” Grant said. “Especially Eli — Gareon too. They are both athletic guys who have tremendous talent, and they are very coachable. They are growing up … and I can see it, so I am very confident.”
The quarterback position, which was occupied by senior Braxton Miller for the past two years under Meyer, is set to be filled by redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett as he replaces Miller, who is out for the season because of a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder suffered on Aug. 18.
Despite the quarterback competition between Barrett and redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones being so close throughout camp, Meyer said Wednesday there is no plan in place to rotate quarterbacks.
“We are not going to do that,” Meyer said. “(Jones) will just be on call and be ready to go.”
The running back position, which was thought to be led by sophomore Ezekiel Elliot, now lists him as a co-starter with redshirt-senior Rod Smith and freshman Curtis Samuel.
Meyer had mentioned redshirt-sophomore Bri’onte Dunn as a possible candidate for touches during fall camp, however Dunn’s name did not appear on the initial depth chart.
Despite that, Meyer said he has confidence in all of his running backs
“I feel really good about our running backs,” Meyer said Wednesday. “I am excited to go watch them play. Bri’onte and Rod were kind of written off, you notice we didn’t talk about them much, but they are not written off anymore. They had a good training camp.”
Meyer said his original plan was to play Samuel at the H-back position, but because Samuel played so well at running back in camp, Meyer left him at that position.
“He just was so productive in the spring at running back, we kept him there,” Meyer said. “We are all anxious to see what he can do.”
The success of the running backs weighs heavily on an offensive line that returns just one starter from last season. According to the depth chart, two spots on the line remain to be filled.
Meyer named redshirt-senior Darryl Baldwin the starter at right tackle on Aug. 16, as Baldwin joined junior Taylor Decker (left tackle) and redshirt-sophomore Pat Elflein (right guard) as the only named starters across the line.
Battles are ongoing for the left guard and center positions.
Meyer again has co-starters listed at both positions as redshirt-freshman Billy Price and senior Joel Hale occupy the left guard spot, while junior Jacoby Boren and redshirt-senior Chad Lindsay occupy the center spot.
Although there are question marks on the depth chart, OSU offensive line coach Ed Warinner said that he has full confidence in his young unit.
“I am satisfied with where we are at,” Warinner said. “We don’t have the same experience (as last year). We have a hungry offensive line, they are aggressive, they are well-trained, they are strong and they are ready to make their mark.”
Despite saying Monday that six receivers had earned the right to play, Meyer has seniors Devin Smith and Evan Spencer listed as starters at the two wide receiver positions.
In addition, sophomore H-back Dontre Wilson and redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall are listed as co-starters.
Meyer said Monday Wilson and Marshall are part of a receivers corps that “all deserve playing time.”
The Buckeyes are set to take on the Navy Midshipmen Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.