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An early look at the Ohio State Buckeyes

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Land-Grant Holy Land helps preview what Justin Fields and Ryan Day could have in store in Columbus.

NCAA Football: Ohio State Spring Game Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never too early to write about next season!

With spring football completed for college programs, and with what feels like a long offseason until late July/early August, B5Q wanted to check on the Wisconsin Badgers’ 2019 opponents—with the help of some of our SB Nation friends.

Note: These previews will not be in the chronological order of the games, but we hope to get through all of them at some point before fall camp rolls around.

On Oct. 26, Wisconsin heads to “The Horseshoe” to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in a cross-divisional matchup. The Big Ten powerhouse has seen change with Urban Meyer departing and Ryan Day taking over as head coach. Gone also is Dwayne Haskins to the NFL, and Georgia transfer Justin Fields appears to be in position to take over at quarterback.

Patrick Mayhorn from Land-Grant Holy Land answered some of our questions.

What are your overall thoughts about Ohio State heading into the 2019 season?

I’m cautiously optimistic heading into the 2019 season. Obviously with a new head coach, a bunch of staff turnover, and a new quarterback there’s a lot of uncertainty around Ohio State, but I’m really not super concerned about any of it. I think every one of the coaching changes that was made was a necessary one, and because of that, I’m more optimistic than most. There’s a higher chance for disaster with a brand new head coach and quarterback than there has been in years past, but there’s also a higher ceiling now that Ohio State has cleared out some of the rot that plagued their staff for the past few seasons.

Who are the main players returning, and how could they help the Buckeyes next season?

I’ll widdle the main players down to five: halfback J.K. Dobbins, offensive tackle Thayer Munford, defensive end Chase Young, safety Jordan Fuller, and cornerback Shaun Wade. Ohio State struggled with two large things last season: running the ball, and stopping the pass, and all five of these guys are key to fixing those problems this season. The running game relies heavily on Dobbins returning to his freshman form, and on Munford stepping up as a leader for a young offensive line. Even if Justin Fields struggles throwing the ball, Ohio State should be able to score if Dobbins and Munford are up to the task. Defensively, a new scheme will go a long way, but even more crucial is Chase Young taking the next step towards dominant pass rusher, Shaun Wade developing into a number one corner, and Jordan Fuller locking down the back of the field. Ohio State had no hope against efficient spread offenses last season, and will need both Wade and Fuller to thrive in the new nickel defense if they want to fix that this upcoming season.

Who are the critical departures from 2018, and has anyone stepped up to be the potential replacements?

The number one critical departure is Dwayne Haskins, and despite Fields’ top billing, there’s no way he can fully replace Haskins and the skills that Haskins brought to the table. Along with Haskins, Ohio State’s top three receivers (Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon) are off the the NFL, though the replacements there (K.J. Hill, Chris Olave, Austin Mack) are much more experienced than Fields. Up front, Ohio State has to replace several good but not great offensive linemen, which shouldn’t be a huge issue. Almost the entire defense is back, save for Nick Bosa, who missed nearly all of last season, and Kendall Sheffield, who struggled greatly in his starting role.

Who is your “way too early” breakout player of the year candidate based on the spring?

My way too early breakout player is do-it-all back Demario McCall. He’s jumped around between running back and wide receiver for years now, but Ohio State has officially moved him to running back (his better position) full time for his senior season. His speed and explosiveness is exactly what Ryan Day’s offense calls for at running back, and while Dobbins will start the year as the number one option, I wouldn’t be stunned at all if Demario takes that job by the time Ohio State faces off with Wisconsin.

What is your way too early prediction of the Ohio State/Wisconsin game on Oct. 26th?

If Ohio State was playing Wisconsin in Madison, I’d be inclined to think that Wisconsin takes that game straight up. Ohio State will be coming off of what should be a physical game with Northwestern, and they’re looking ahead to a bye week the week after, so there’s certainly a chance for some let down. However, because it’s at home, and because I’m not convinced Wisconsin will have the explosive passing game needed to really gash Ohio State, I have it down as an ugly, close win for the Buckeyes. Something like 21-17.

What is your prediction for Ohio State’s season?

It’s super hard to say how Ohio State’s season turns out in mid-May, but I think it’s another successful year for the Buckeyes. I see 10-2, with losses to Nebraska and Penn State, a Big Ten Title berth, and a NY6 bowl.