- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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With spring in the books for more than a month, the long march through the offseason and back to football is only beginning. But BuckeyeNation is going to keep doing its part to speed up the journey -- or at least make it more interesting. This week, that means a bunch of countdown lists, continuing today with a look at the most valuable Buckeyes coming out of spring practice and how it compares to the last breakdown of the 2012 season.
Ohio State 10: Post-spring power rankings, 1-5
No. 1: QB Braxton Miller
Last ranking: No. 1
Spring movement: There was nowhere the junior could go but down in the rankings, but his work in camp only solidified his standing as the most valuable player in the program. Miller's skills are only improving as a passer, and the work he can do with his legs is already well documented. If the Buckeyes are going to win a national championship, it will be their multitalented quarterback doing the heavy lifting.
Key stat: Miller took a significant step forward in his passing accuracy last fall, bumping his completion percentage by more than four full points up to 58.3. He doesn't even need to duplicate that same level of improvement to cross a critical milestone in his development, because simply hitting the 60-percent mark would make the spread offense much more devastating.
No. 2: LB Ryan Shazier
Last ranking: No. 2
Spring movement: The junior was limited throughout camp as he recovered from surgery to repair a sports hernia, but his absence offered a clear reminder of how critical he is for a defense in transition after the loss of six starters in the front seven. The depth at linebacker is certainly not to the level the Buckeyes are used to traditionally, and the margin for error is still slim. But putting a healthy Shazier back on the field with his sideline-t0-sideline athleticism and nose for the football can help mask any growing pains that might be going on around him, and he's in line for more monster numbers this fall.
Key stat: The raw totals were impressive on their own, but the rate at which Shazier made plays in the backfield speaks volumes about his ability to read and react to what he sees at outside linebacker. During his breakout sophomore campaign, one in about every seven tackles for Shazier resulted in a loss for opponents -- which can produce a lot of lost ground when a guy is piling up a total of 115 hits during the season.
No. 3: CB Bradley Roby
Last ranking: No. 4
Last No. 3: RB Carlos Hyde
Spring movement: Roby also missed some action during camp as he took some time to let an ailing shoulder recover, but there's been little doubt about how much the redshirt junior's return to the program for another season will lift the defense. Aside from the physical tools that have him already projected as the top cornerback in the 2014 draft, Roby is tapping into some vocal leadership that he previously hasn't displayed and helping to bring along a group of talented young defensive backs who will ultimately need to replace him when he's gone. That provides both short- and long-term benefits.
Key stat: Opposing quarterbacks aren't likely going to have much desire to test Roby in the passing game, which might make it important for him to fight off complacency and find other ways to make an impact. For starters, Roby is a willing tackler and finished with 63 a year ago, and helping against the run or blitzing off the edge could be ways to keep making a mark.
No. 4: RB Carlos Hyde
Last ranking: N0. 3
Last No. 4: CB Bradley Roby
Spring movement: The bruising, high-scoring tailback was unquestionably the starter going into spring, and he didn't need to do much work to keep that position heading into the summer. And while there has never been more praise for Hyde and his potential to give Urban Meyer a 1,000-yard rusher, there's a chance now that the Buckeyes had a look at their backup options and came away feeling good about them that a few carries might slip away from him and wind up with Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn or perhaps Warren Ball in certain situations. What Hyde can offer certainly hasn't changed, but the Buckeyes might now be able to add a bit more variety to their ground attack.
Key stat: When his 242 pounds are moving downhill with the kind of speed that isn't natural for somebody Hyde's size, the urge to just run over people might be tough to turn down. But the Buckeyes need more elusiveness from him when he does break through to the secondary, which could turn attempts such as his longest run of 29 yards a year ago into something much more explosive.
No. 5: LT Jack Mewhort
Last ranking: None
Last No. 5: WR Philly Brown
Spring movement: The torch was ready to be passed with two-time captain John Simon moving on to the NFL, and Mewhort has locked his grip on it and become the type of guy Meyer leans on to get his message across and ensure the troops are all on the same page. Aside from his intangibles, Mewhort is back for another season as a starter after a productive junior campaign in which he emerged as one of the top blockers in the Big Ten. With three other veterans returning along with him, the group up front will set the tone for the Buckeyes all year long.
Key stat: Miller's athleticism can bail out a missed assignment or two from his blockers, and it can occasionally get him in trouble as he tries to extend plays a bit longer than he should. So while the blame can be spread around, either way the Buckeyes will be trying to cut down on the 30 sacks they gave up a year ago as the offense tries to hit a higher gear.
3dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman
3dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy