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Those Who Must Step Up for the Buckeyes in 2016: Offense
By Patrick Murphy
Urban Meyer is excited for what he has on the offensive side of the ball despite all of the losses
Photo by Dan Harker
 

COLUMBUS – It’s a period of transition for Ohio State. Nine seniors who contributed to the 2015 Buckeyes are gone along with the nine juniors that declared early for the NFL Draft.

But transition is not a bad thing especially for the Scarlet and Gray where, as they say, “they don’t rebuild, they reload.”

The Buckeyes lost six key contributors on the offensive side of the ball, including 59 percent of the passing yards, 72 percent of the team’s rushing yards, and 80 percent of the receiving yards. Ohio State returns just three players who contributed an offensive touchdown a year ago.

Despite all those losses, Meyer called the future, “extremely bright.”

He followed up with several players that will need to take a big step in order for next season to be a success. Here’s a look at those offensive players Meyer identified:

Mike Weber and Bri’onte Dunn

Dunn has the most experience of returning RBs
Photo by Jim Davidson
 

Gone is Ezekiel Elliott and with him goes his 1,821 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns from 2015. Over the last two seasons, Elliott accounted for nearly 30 percent of OSU’s offensive touchdowns so someone else must help replicate that.

Under Meyer, the Buckeyes have been most successful when they can run the ball effectively, which means one of these two running backs needs to take the reins.

Or both. Running backs coach Tony Alford has already said that while he would like to have one of these two players establish himself as the lead back, he is willing to work with a committee.

In his three years at OSU, Dunn has 48 carries for 287 yards and three touchdowns. While that is not much experience to lean on, it is much more than Weber who redshirted during his freshman season after injuring his meniscus in Fall Camp.

The power run game is important and these are the backs that can give that dimension to the Buckeyes.

Noah Brown

The winner of the hype machine during the 2015 preseason never got the chance to live up to his potential due to a broken leg in practice.

While he played as a true freshman, Brown only recorded one reception for nine yards. The wide out was expected to be in the receiver rotation last year until the injury kept him from playing.

Noah Brown, we all know, you guys never really got to see him in the training camp,” Meyer said. “He was one of our 1, 2, 3 best receivers on our team when he got hurt.”

The Buckeyes missed a deep threat weapon last season and had Brown not been hurt, it likely would have been him. Once he’s back to full health, Brown will be a new weapon for which the offense can play.

Ohio State lost its top three pass catchers from 2015 and that production needs to be replaced. With J.T. Barrett returning at quarterback, the passing game should be good to go, but he will need receivers to make plays. Brown can be that playmaker once healthy.

Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson

Dontre WIlson
Photo by Dan Harker
 

With inexperience at both running back and wide receiver, the H-back position, which brings back these two starters, will be as important as ever in Meyer’s offense. Samuel and Wilson both have the skills to carry and catch the ball and both can make a big play happen at any moment.

The problem for them has been opportunity. Over his two years as a Buckeye, Samuel averages 54 touches per season. Wilson has received 33 touches a year in his three seasons in Columbus. Those numbers must increase in 2016 if the Scarlet and Gray offense is going to once again put up big numbers.

With Samuel out for at least the beginning of spring practice, Wilson will have the chance to demonstrate that the skills that made him the No. 6-ranked athlete in the country out of high school are still there.

Once Samuel is healthy, this could be a dangerous tandem for Meyer to play with.

Marcus Baugh

The tight end position continues to be underused in the Ohio State offense. Starter Nick Vannett had only 19 receptions a year ago and no touchdowns. Marcus Baugh only registered two grabs for 32 yards, but did have a career-long reception of 27 yards in the Fiesta Bowl.

Baugh was the fourth-ranked tight end out of high school two years ago according to the 247Sports composite and much was expected of him. While the Buckeyes haven’t used tight ends much in the past, Meyer’s mention of Baugh – who he said “has got to continue to grow” – shows that the desire is there.

Like with Samuel and Wilson, there should be opportunity for Baugh as Barrett looks for receivers he is comfortable with in a young group.

Isaiah Prince and Jamarco Jones

Prince has all the tools to dominate on the OL
Photo by Jim Davidson
 

Nothing written above matters if Ohio State doesn’t have the offensive line play the Buckeyes have become used to over the last several seasons. Two of the five positions are already filled by returning starters Pat Elflein (center) and Billy Price (left guard), but Prince and Jones are expected to step into the two tackle spots.

Isaiah Prince is going to make a huge jump,” Meyer said and he needs to be right. Prince was one of the best offensive tackles in the nation coming out of high school last year. After spending 2015 as a backup to Chase Farris, the 6-foot-7, 305-pound beast needs to be ready to play every snap to help keep Barrett upright.

Jones has been in the system for two years at Ohio State and his time has come. He had a good role model in Taylor Decker playing in front of him, but now he must become the highly recruited player the Buckeyes expected when they got him out of Chicago, Ill. As Meyer said, “Jamarco Jones is a key cog in the wheel,” so he must be ready to play.

Come back tomorrow for a look at who must step up on the defensive side of the ball.
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