Urban Meyer is looking to do something no college football coach has ever done: win multiple national championships at two different schools.
The Ohio State coach is hoping he can follow the same pattern that saw him win two titles in three years (2006 and 2008) at Florida. However, in order to do so this time around, he’ll have to find replacements for the 12 NFL Draft picks that departed this offseason.
There’s no doubt that the Buckeyes have talent on the roster — Big Urb has brought in no worse than the seventh ranked recruiting class in the nation since 2013 — but making talented reserves into starters means inexperience and cuts down on depth.
The last time Meyer had to replace close to this many draft picks was in 2007 after the Gators saw nine players get drafted into the NFL. That team stumbled to a 9-4 record, before blowing the doors off of everyone the next season to win another title.
Ohio State is hoping the learning curve will be lessened a bit this season, but there’s so much production to replace. Helping in its efforts is the return of quarterback J.T. Barrett, who is firmly the starter for 2016 after competing with Cardale Jones in 2015. Barrett has shown the ability to be one of the nation’s best quarterbacks, as he was fantastic in 2014. While splitting time with Jones in 2015, he was solid, but Barrett was not as dynamic after he returned from the broken leg that ended his 2014 season.
The hardest part in predicting how the Buckeyes will perform is the amount of unknowns around Barrett. Curtis Samuel is the leading receiver (289 yards) and rusher (132 yards) returning for the Buckeyes. The rest of the skill position players will be guys that have barely seen the field in an actual game, if at all.
On defense, the anchor will be talented linebacker Raekwon McMillian in the middle who, like Barrett, will be tasked with leading a very young and inexperienced group. Only three of the top-10 tacklers from last season are back for 2016 — McMillian, Tyquan Lewis and Gareon Conley.
Replacing so much departing talent will require a Herculean effort from the Buckeyes and be big test for the depth of the roster — it’s not just twos becoming ones, but threes becoming twos and having to play in the rotation. Meyer and his staff have done their part in recruiting, and we’ll learn quickly how well they’ve developed those blue-chip recruits into high level college football players.
Ohio State’s in-conference schedule isn’t exceptionally difficult, with the toughest road games coming at Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State. The Buckeyes miss Iowa this year and get Michigan in The Horseshoe in the finale that could very well be the equivalent of a Big Ten East title game.
The biggest test for the Buckeyes will come in Week 3, however, when Ohio State heads to Norman to take on Oklahoma in a massive out-of-conference matchup. That early season game will give us an indication of whether the Buckeyes are a legitimate title contender with their young roster, or if there will be some growing pains to experience in Columbus this season.
The window certainly isn’t closing on Meyer to make history with the Buckeyes as he keeps bringing in talent — as of now, the 2017 class is set to be his best yet at Ohio State. However, if he manages to follow the pattern that led him to two titles at Florida and claims one this season with Ohio State, it would go down as an all-time great coaching performance.
Source: CBS Sports / No. 5 Ohio State: Urban Meyer’s shot at history comes with huge roster turnover