Ohio State Buckeyes: Ohio State offseason countdown

The work for the 2013 season is already underway for Ohio State with the strength program in full swing, but the first moves that started shaping the potential encore effort from a perfect campaign began almost two months ago. BuckeyeNation is counting down the five biggest early developments for the team since last season ended and how they will impact the Buckeyes moving forward.

No. 1: Urban Meyer keeps his staff in one piece
  • Development: Jobs of all kinds were open all over the country during a busy offseason in the coaching ranks, and on the heels of an undefeated season, the Buckeyes had plenty of guys in demand to fill them. There were apparently four of them, in fact, who had opportunities to move on and lead their own programs elsewhere. But there apparently wasn't anything tempting enough to prompt anybody on Urban Meyer's first staff to walk away from what Ohio State has going now, and every member of that group will be back to honor the two-year commitment the boss asked for when he took over -- and potentially make a run at a championship it couldn't compete for last season.
  • What it means: There is no shortage of benefits for Meyer in keeping his collection of assistants intact for a second season, starting with the continuity it provides for the players already on campus and extending to the class of recruits that the coaches built relationships with while representing the Buckeyes. In the short term, keeping offensive coordinator Tom Herman and giving him another season to help install the uptempo spread offense should help take it to a higher level as the players get more familiar with the playbook and the pace of play. On defense, the Buckeyes won't have as many experienced players returning as the other side of the ball will have, but there's plenty of young talent and they won't have to learn a different way of doing things with Luke Fickell, Everett Withers, Mike Vrabel and Kerry Coombs all back for another season trying to restore the proud tradition of the Silver Bullets. And while maintaining the same sort of communication that had been expected by recruits from the staff is invaluable as well, there also figures to be a stronger bond and more understanding between all the members of the staff just within the meeting rooms at Ohio State. Chemistry doesn't typically happen instantly, and the coaches should be plenty comfortable with each other now.
  • He said it: "The fact that our coaching staff remains intact is important. We had four guys that had some people trying to discuss head coaching opportunities for them, and I hope that happens for some of them, kind of glad it doesn’t happen after just one year. After two years -- I always ask for just a two-year commitment -- I think that’s fair." -- Meyer

Offseason countdown: Roby stays put

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
9:00
AM ET
Bradley RobyKirk Irwin/Getty ImagesBradley Roby's return should bode well for Ohio State's secondary.

The work for the 2013 season is already underway for Ohio State with the strength program in full swing, but the first moves that started shaping the potential encore effort from a perfect campaign began almost two months ago. BuckeyeNation is counting down the five biggest early developments for the team since last season ended and how they will impact the Buckeyes moving forward.

No. 2: Bradley Roby decides to stick around

    • Development: The combination of a previous redshirt season and a breakout campaign as a sophomore gave Roby something to think about. After more than a month of deliberations, the rising star at cornerback eventually decided that a chance to compete for a championship and boost his stock even more was enough to put his professional dreams on hold for another year. The lightning-fast playmaker had started thinking about parlaying his huge season and the ability to declare for the draft after spending three years with Ohio State into a potential move even before the program had clinched a perfect record, having conversations with the coaching staff about the possibles pros and cons while continuing to play at a high level in the secondary. But he made clear from the start that the opportunity to make a run at a title with the Buckeyes would tempt him, and Roby ultimately couldn't walk away from it.

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The work for the 2013 season is already underway for Ohio State with the strength program in full swing, but the first moves that started shaping the potential encore effort from a perfect campaign began almost two months ago. BuckeyeNation is counting down the five biggest early developments for the team since last season ended and how they will impact the Buckeyes moving forward.

No. 3: Buckeyes land pledges at a critical position
    [+] EnlargeTrey Johnson
    Miller Safrit/ESPNThe commitment of Trey Johnson on Jan. 4 gave Ohio State a much-needed shot in the arm at linebacker.

  • Development: For the better part of a year, the biggest hole on Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class was the same as void that can be found on the current roster. The Buckeyes were thin enough at linebacker, but heading into January, they didn't even a single pledge at the position. It only took two days for Urban Meyer and his coaching staff to fix that this month, with a pair of ESPN 150 recruits making their intentions to sign with the Buckeyes public, as Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson helped boost a class that's currently ranked No. 4 in the country.
  • What it means: The demands of the position can make the transition from high school to the Big Ten a bit more challenging for a linebacker than it might be at a few other spots on the field, so it's difficult to project exactly how much the talented tandem might contribute right away for a team that is likely going to start the season among the top 5 programs in the country. That certainly doesn't mean Mitchell or Johnson can't be a factor, but the best-case scenario for the Buckeyes would be that they find two starters to pair with Ryan Shazier out of the group they signed a year ago -- or one guy to match with Curtis Grant if he's ready to live up to his billing coming out of high school. With Jamal Marcus, Camren Williams, David Perkins and Joshua Perry all having gone through a season, spent time learning the defense and benefitting from the upcoming work in spring practice, there are plenty of options already on hand for defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. But just in case a reminder of the importance of depth was needed, all Ohio State has to do is look at the situation it was in last season.
  • Numbers game: The high school resume doesn't always offer a true reflection of the potential for a recruit, so it has to be taken with at least a couple grains of salt. But the statistics Mitchell and Johnson put on paper are hard to ignore. As a senior at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, Mitchell piled up 186 tackles, with 32 of them going for a loss. At Central Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Ga., Johnson was credited with 140 takedowns. The two potential Buckeyes combined for 14 sacks.
  • He said it: "At this time, we like our class. As with most classes, how you finish is what determines if you love the class. You have to hold on to what you have. There’s a lot of chaos with a lot of new staffs, new coaches trying to take your players and all that kind of stuff. We just have to keep recruiting our players and get going." -- Meyer on the homestretch for the 2013 recruiting class

Offseason countdown: Hankins moves on

January, 22, 2013
1/22/13
9:00
AM ET
The work for the 2013 season is already underway for Ohio State with the strength program in full swing, but the first moves that started shaping the potential encore effort from a perfect campaign began almost two months ago. BuckeyeNation is counting down the five biggest early developments for the team since last season ended and how they will impact the Buckeyes moving forward.

[+] EnlargeOhio State's Johnathan Hankins
AP Photo/Scott BoehmReplacing Johnathan Hankins will be among the Buckeyes' biggest tasks heading into the 2013 season.
No. 4: Johnathan Hankins declares for the draft

  • Development: The Buckeyes certainly weren't blindsided by the decision, but that doesn't mean it still didn't sting when Johnathan Hankins officially announced he was forgoing his senior season and making himself available for the upcoming NFL draft. The stout, skilled defensive tackle had been projected as a first-round pick all season long, and with his stock unlikely to climb much higher even with another productive campaign for Ohio State, the program was always anticipating there would be a hole to fill in the middle of the defensive line.
  • What it means: If it were simply a matter of just plugging one guy in the rotation up front, the Buckeyes wouldn't have much to worry about. But with the other three starters all exhausting their eligibility, the loss of Hankins effectively tipped the scales. It turned a position group that could conceivably have been young, but still deep, into an inexperienced unit that could deal with some growing pains without that veteran presence around. That's not to suggest the Buckeyes don't have the talent on hand to pick up where the departed players off last season, particularly since Noah Spence, Tommy Schutt and Adolphus Washington all picked up some valuable experience off the bench and have tremendous upside. There's no doubt that trio would have benefited from having Hankins back for another season, but with options such as Michael Bennett or J.T. Moore still around, the Buckeyes still figure to be in good shape.
  • Numbers game: Replacing four starters is daunting enough on its own, but the bar is set just a little higher considering the contributions up front last year. Combined between John Simon, Nathan Williams, Garrett Goebel and Hankins, the first-team line chipped in 182 tackles -- 31 of them for a loss -- and 13 sacks. The torch has been passed to the rising sophomores, and the pressure is now on to live up to that standard or surpass it.
  • He said it: "For me to say we have to get [to the championship] next year, that's like talking about having to go fly to the moon. We're nowhere near having that conversation. You know what we really have to do? We have to find out who can play defensive line for us. We lost some really good players." -- Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer
The work for the 2013 season is already underway for Ohio State with the strength program in full swing, but the first moves that started shaping the potential encore effort from a perfect campaign began almost two months ago. BuckeyeNation is counting down the five biggest early developments for the team since last season ended and how they will impact the Buckeyes moving forward.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Hyde
Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesOhio State running back Carlos Hyde will have a bigger leadership role in 2013.
No. 5: Carlos Hyde returns for his senior season

  • Development: When the opportunity to establish himself as the workhorse back presented itself, Hyde certainly made the most of it in his junior season. After breaking out in a major way for the Buckeyes and piling up touchdowns seemingly all season long, Hyde at least entertained the idea of capitalizing on his productive campaign and making an early jump to the NFL. But ultimately the starting tailback elected to stay, giving him the chance to both compete for a championship and boost his professional stock even more. The benefits, obviously, are mutual.
  • What it means: The Buckeyes would have still had talented options to turn to in the backfield without Hyde next season, particularly with Jordan Hall coming back from injuries that forced him into an unplanned redshirt year and with Rod Smith showing glimpses of the ability that made him such a coveted prospect when he signed in 2010. But Hyde's mix of power running between the tackles and undervalued top-end speed made for a perfect combination with quarterback Braxton Miller's athleticism on the perimeter, giving Ohio State a deadly inside-outside threat that defenses struggled to defend. Now instead of replacing half of the equation, the Buckeyes can simply add more weapons around them to make the rushing attack even more challenging to slow down.
  • Numbers game: Few teams were more successful in the red zone last season than the Buckeyes, and it was Hyde's knack for finding the end zone any time the offense was close that paced an attack that converted 76 percent of its possessions inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns. The longest of Hyde's touchdown runs went for 16 yards, which means the other 15 scores all came with Ohio State on the move and inside the red zone as well.
  • He said it: "Huge [leadership] void. Jordan Hall returning is a tremendous boost, because he was elected captain last year. Looking for [defensive backs] C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant to step up. And then guys that I have already had conversation with that have not been in that situation but now they are, that’s [Corey] 'Philly' Brown and Carlos Hyde." -- Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on identifying veteran leaders, including the returning Hyde.

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