2010 overall record: 12-1
2010 conference record: 7-1 (T-1st)
Offense: 8; defense: 5; kicker/punter: 1
Top returners (^suspended for first five games)
WR Dane Sanzenbacher, G Justin Boren, DE Cameron Heyward, LB Brian Rolle, LB Ross Homan, CB Chimdi Chekwa, CB Devon Torrence, S Jermale Hines
2010 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Dan Herron* (1,155 yards)
Passing: Terrelle Pryor* (2,772 yards)
Receiving: Dane Sanzenbacher (942 yards)
Tackles: Brian Rolle (76)
Sacks: Nathan Williams* (4.5)
Interceptions: Chimdi Chekwa (3)
1. Hankins steps forward: The Buckeyes must replace two productive starters (Cameron Heyward and Dexter Larimore) on the defensive line, and they had to feel good about what they saw from Johnathan Hankins this spring. The sophomore elevated his game after seeing the field in 2010 and should play a significant role in the line rotation this fall. At 6-3 and 335 pounds, Hankins is a big body who can not only take up space but create disruption in the interior.
2. Fickell gets the call: There's so much uncertainty about Ohio State's first five games, but the team knows who will have the final say on the sideline. Before spring practice kicked off, coach Jim Tressel promoted co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell to assistant head coach and announced Fickell will handle the head-coaching duties during Tressel's suspension. Fickell, an Ohio State alum and a rising star in the coaching ranks, will call the shots for the first time, although Tressel will remain very involved in game planning.
3. Fresh start for Sabino: Spring success turned into summer disappointment for Etienne Sabino in 2010, but the redshirt junior linebacker is out to ensure history doesn't repeat itself this year. Sabino once again had a strong spring and essentially locked up a starting linebacker spot alongside Andrew Sweat, the man who beat him out for a job last August. After spending a season on the sideline, the talented Sabino is ready to produce and help lead the defense.
1. Early season starting QB: The Buckeyes didn't see much separation among the men vying to replace Terrelle Pryor during his suspension. Senior Joe Bauserman boasts the most experience and seems like the safest choice, but he'll need to distance himself in preseason camp. Kenny Guiton and Taylor Graham took plenty of reps this spring, and freshman Braxton Miller, an early enrollee, generated the most buzz in the spring game after leading three scoring drives in four possessions. Miller still must make significant strides this summer, but he should push Bauserman in preseason camp.
2. Fill-ins for other suspended players: In addition to a starting quarterback, Ohio State also must identify a top running back, a No. 1 receiver and a starting left tackle. The Buckeyes look loaded at running back, and the competition between Jaamal Berry, Rod Smith, Jordan Hall and possibly Carlos Hyde should be fun to watch. The situation at receiver is more dire as Ohio State really needs Corey Brown, Chris Fields or someone else to step forward. Ohio State likely will look to Andrew Norwell to step in for Adams during his suspension.
3. The NCAA fallout: Ohio State seemed to do a good job of blocking out distractions this spring, but the NCAA situation involving Tressel isn't going away. The program is facing a ton of national scrutiny, and Tressel's short-term and long-term future as coach remains very much in doubt. Leadership will be paramount, and Tressel liked what he saw this spring, especially from the players who will be suspended for the first five games. It's critical the Buckeyes use this as a chance to come together even more as they'll be facing a truly unique challenge this fall.