When it was announced that senior quarterback Braxton Miller would miss the 2014 season because of a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, many in Columbus likely held their breath.
Not the Ohio State football team.
The Buckeyes don’t seem worried about their chances for the 2014 season, especially on the offensive side of the football, even with Miller gone.
“I know one thing — we’ve got a lot more playmakers this year,” senior tight end Jeff Heuerman said Wednesday. “We’ve probably got three, four, five more playmakers than we did in years past coming into this season.”
Heuerman, one such playmaker, had a breakout season for the Buckeyes in 2013 when he finished third on the team with 26 receptions and tacked on 466 yards and four scores.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 255-pound tight end said that even with Miller out, the Buckeyes have full faith in redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett.
“He is a great leader. He is super smart, he’s a hard worker and I think that was the case before this happened,” Heuerman said. “He handles his business and does everything right, and we have full confidence in him and full trust.”
But not only are the Buckeyes without Miller, OSU lost Carlos Hyde (San Francisco 49ers) and Corey “Philly” Brown (Carolina Panthers) to the NFL, and graduated four of five starters along the offensive line from last year. Two starting spots are still open heading into the first week of the season.
Meyer named redshirt-senior Darryl Baldwin the starter at right tackle, making Baldwin the third solidified starter along with junior Taylor Decker at left tackle and redshirt-sophomore Pat Elflein at right guard.
“The good thing is we have a couple names in there,” Meyer said Aug. 16 about the battle for the final two spots on the offensive line. “The bad thing is it’s not solidified yet.”
The names Meyer mentioned, amongst others, were junior Jacoby Boren, redshirt-freshman Billy Price, University of Alabama transfer redshirt-senior Chad Lindsay and converted defensive lineman senior Joel Hale.
Running behind the inexperienced offensive line will be a stable of backs, headlined by sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliot.
Elliot, who is the leading returning rusher besides Miller from last season with 262 yards, said he realizes the competition is tough at the running back position.
“I obviously want to secure the starting spot,” Elliot said at OSU’s media day Aug. 10. “We have a lot of great backs here but we’re all doing a good job of pushing each other.”
Those other running backs have been pushing Elliot in practice, especially when Elliot missed multiple practices because of a minor wrist surgery.
Redshirt-sophomore Bri’onte Dunn and redshirt-senior Rod Smith, who have combined for 581 yards and six scores in their collective Buckeye careers, have Meyer’s full confidence.
“Both (Dunn) and Rod Smith have made every practice and done really well,” Meyer said. “I give credit to (Dunn) and Rod Smith, every day they have shown up and they have worked their tails off so they are in the mix.”
Also expected to make an impact is sophomore H-back Dontre Wilson.
Wilson, who totaled 460 offensive yards to go along with three scores as a true freshman, said he is excited about being in an expanded role in the offense.
“I’m pumped to be back in the running back room a bit. I’m excited about it but I’m happy I can also work with the receivers,” Wilson said Aug. 10. “I think when I become more comfortable with the offense, I can take things to another level. That’s starting to happen so far in camp and since I know the plays, everything flows that much easier.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to take the field at M&T Bank Stadium Saturday against Navy. Kickoff is set for noon.