As Ohio State prepares for its season opener against the Navy Midshipmen on Saturday, some players are preparing for their first taste of college football.
While the Buckeyes return seven starters on defense, including all four across the defensive line, OSU returns just four starters on offense.
One of those returning starters, senior wide receiver Evan Spencer, said although the Buckeyes are more inexperienced, it will create opportunities for young players to step up.
“The difference I would say, from this year compared to last, is obviously our depth,” Spencer said Monday. “With as many playmakers as we have on the offense and on defense — but more specifically offense — we’re going to find ways to get people the ball.”
One of those players will be touching the ball every play, as redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett is set to make his first career start in place of senior quarterback Braxton Miller, who will miss the season because of a shoulder injury.
Spencer said while he feels bad for Miller, he is not worried about the offense operating under Barrett.
“It’s definitely a change. But I mean at the same time, all throughout camp J.T. and both (redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones) have been getting so many reps with the ones,” Spencer said. “They’ve been throwing the ball so much all throughout camp, and really all throughout the offseason that it’s not that much of a transition for us just because that’s what we’ve been going through.”
OSU co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said while Barrett might not be a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate right now, Herman is sure of the quarterback situation.
“I am very confident,” Herman said Wednesday. “I think J.T. has had an excellent camp. Cardale has actually had his best week as a Buckeye this week.”
Herman went on to say he thinks there are other teams in the nation that would envy having a player like Barrett or Jones under center.
“I would think there are a lot of schools right now that would take our scenario over what they got,” he said.
Despite Spencer and Herman’s praise for Jones, coach Urban Meyer said there isn’t a plan in place for Jones to come in Saturday and take playing time away from Barrett.
Not only does the quarterback position feature a freshman starter, the Buckeye defense will likely start at least two freshmen, and others are also expected to see the field.
OSU co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said Wednesday that although the defense is young, he is excited to see how the group performs in what is, for some of them, their first taste of college football action.
“We got a lot of youth, and sometimes with youth, you are not exactly sure how they act or respond at the start,” Fickell said. “We know that we want to play 19 to 20 guys.”
Among that group will likely be redshirt-freshmen cornerbacks Eli Apple and Gareon Conley and highly-recruited freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan.
Fickell said both Apple and Conley, who are listed as co-starters for week one, have shown they are worthy of playing time in practice, but added he is nervous about sending them out on the field Saturday.
“Now you are looking at two guys who are young. We’ve seen what they can do, we love who they are, we love what they have done throughout camp. We are not sure how they will do in front of 80,000 people,” Fickell said. “That is one of those things that keeps you laying awake at night.”
The young Buckeyes are scheduled to take on the Navy Midshipmen on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Kickoff is set for noon.
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