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Buckeye Football Notebook: 'I Get That You Guys Gotta Ask It, But I'm Just Tired of Hearing It'
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — It's a question that has been asked of the Buckeyes since they won the national championship back in January — who is going to start at quarterback for the Buckeyes against Virginia Tech.

Every day, every week, every month, and it's always followed by the same "I have no idea" answer.

It's like having your kids asking repeatedly "Are we there yet?" on a long road trip.

No, we're not there yet, but we'll be there tomorrow.

"I have no clue," Buckeye left tackle Taylor Decker said last week when asked if the team knew who the starting quarterback would be.

"I gotta block them out. I really don’t [know]. Honestly, I’ve gotten that question so many times I’m just tired of hearing it. I get that you guys gotta ask it, but I’m just tired of hearing it."

The question is no longer about who is actually starting at quarterback but rather if the team even knows. As of a few days ago they said they didn't, and if they're anything like Decker, they don't really care who starts.

"I think we’ve shown that whoever’s in there at quarterback, we’ll be a successful offense," he said. "I’ve said it all along, while they’re great players, one player isn’t necessarily going to define our team."

What has defined the team, however, is leadership, positivity and cohesiveness, and that is exactly what he has seen at the quarterback position throughout camp, which is another reason why there is so little concern on his part.

"Just the fact that they’re supportive of each other," he said. "There’s one spot and there’s all kinds of people going for it. That’s got to be difficult for them, and I’m sure at times that it is, but they just do an awesome job of being supportive of each other and being really positive. At other places I’m sure a quarterback battle could kind of mess up the cohesiveness of the offense, but I just don’t feel that because of how positive they are about everything."

Returning a pair of starting safeties is a luxury in college football, and the Buckeyes are one of those fortunate teams. Better than just returning a pair of starters, however, is the fact that they are returning a pair of very good starters.

Not only will Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell be tasked with diagnosing so much of what Virginia Tech is doing on Monday, but they'll also need to make the plays that come to them, as well as a few others. Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash loves what he has in Bell and Powell.

"They’re really the generals of the defense," he said. "They make all of the calls. They make up all of the adjustments. They cover up a lot of stuff. If a defensive lineman is out of a gap, or a linebacker has misfit something, if you have really good safeties that tackle well, they take care of it and they get things down. If you look at us last year I think we might have been the No. 1 defense in the country in terms of fewest big plays allowed, it’s because those guys could tackle and cover stuff up."

Urban Meyer and Ash stress the importance of having safeties who can cover like cornerbacks, but they also have to be able to tackle like safeties. Right now the Buckeyes believe they have the right mix at the position, and possibly the best in the nation.

"I think the combination of Tyvis and Vonn Bell can be an outstanding safety tandem back there, as good as there is in the country," Ash said.

What makes a great tandem?

"Two guys that really have great chemistry out there," he said. "They communicate well together. They play extremely hard. They’re in the right spots all the time. They cover each other up. If somebody is maybe wrong in his assignment before the snap, the other gets him corrected, and that’s really what these two guys do."

Given the hostile and hectic environment that the Silver Bullets will be in on Monday night, communication and corrections will be key. Ash and Meyer believe the Buckeye defense is in good hands at safety, and if the end of last season is any indication, they're absolutely right.

If you want to have an Ohio State defender or defensive coach correct you, simply mention to them that there are concerns about the interior of the defense. It's a sure way to be put in your place, politely.

"I’ll tell you, with our starters Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt in there, I don’t see any weaknesses," Ash said. "We’ve got to develop depth not only at that position, but a lot of positions on this football team. We’re continuing to work on that every single day."

Losing Michael Bennett may have Urban Meyer concerned, but everybody else is confident that the Buckeyes will be just fine up front.

"I think we’ll be just as productive, maybe even more," said Adolphus Washington. "With me moving back to three technique, Tommy Schutt definitely will come in and play nose tackle and be just as productive as I was last year. I have no doubt and I have all of the confidence in the world in him."

Ash has no doubts about Schutt either.

"It’s his time and he’s shown that he’s ready to shine," he said. "At a place like Ohio State you recruit at a high level. Michael Bennett’s gone, so it’s somebody else’s time to shine. Last year at this time, guys didn’t know anything about some of the players that shined, and hopefully Tommy Schutt’s going to be the guy."

The starters would seem to be on solid footing for Monday's opener, but there are also concerns about the depth of the position. The Buckeyes have the same young players as they did a season ago, and they are still waiting for them to develop and demand playing time.

"Guys that didn’t play as much last year, Michael Hill, Donovan Munger, Tracy Sprinkle are starting to embrace what we’re doing," defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. "That’s what you want to see. You want to see those guys who have been around for a year and now they get it, and you see them starting to move forward. I’m really excited about that.

"They’re doing really well. I’m really pleased with the way they’re working. I think it’s been a process for them learning how to play at this place. With the weight training and the offseason program, we’re really happy with where they are right now. They should provide us some depth in the fall."

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