- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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2011 overall record: 6-7
2011 conference record: 3-5 (fourth, Leaders division)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 2
QB Braxton Miller, RB Jordan Hall, TE Jake Stoneburner, T Jack Mewhort, DE John Simon, DT Johnathan Hankins, DT Garrett Goebel, LB Ryan Shazier, S Christian Bryant, S C.J. Barnett, CB Bradley Roby
OT Mike Adams, C Mike Brewster, RB Dan Herron, WR DeVier Posey, LB Andrew Sweat, S/LB Tyler Moeller
2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Braxton Miller* (715 yards)
Passing: Braxton Miller* (1,159 yards)
Receiving: Devin Smith* (294 yards)
Tackles: C.J. Barnett* (75)
Sacks: John Simon* (7)
Interceptions: Bradley Roby* and Orhian Johnson* (3)
1. System suits Miller: Ohio State's offense will take time to settle in, but it's clear from the spring that the no-huddle, spread system suits quarterback Braxton Miller. The athletic sophomore ran a version of the spread in high school and should flourish in an offense that demands mobility from the quarterback position. Miller completed 24 of 31 passes in Ohio State's spring game; he attempted 37 total passes in his first seven games last fall. Things are changing in Columbus, and Miller should benefit.
2. Simon dazzles: John Simon hasn't played a game for Urban Meyer, but the Buckeyes defensive end already has put himself in an elite group of former Meyer stars. Simon dominated play this spring, so much so that the coaches had to pull him off of the field at times so the offense could get in its work. Meyer made headlines by calling Simon "Tebowish" and later told ESPN.com, "It should be Simonish. He's a next-level type player: leader, character, toughness, commitment. He's elite, elite."
3. Hall, Stoneburner emerge: Meyer spent much of the spring grumbling about Ohio State's lack of offensive playmakers, but he identified two in running back Jordan Hall and tight end Jake Stoneburner. Like Miller, Hall is a player who could flourish more in the spread offense and fill the so-called "Percy position," occupied by former Meyer standout Percy Harvin and others. Stoneburner is a pass-first tight end finally playing in a pass-heavy offense. While he needs to improve his conditioning this fall, he'll play a big role for the Buckeyes.
1. Search for playmakers: Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman are adamant about the need for additional playmakers to emerge around Miller. The Buckeyes might have found one in the spring game in freshman receiver Michael Thomas, who recorded 12 receptions for 131 yards. Whether Thomas can build on his performance in August remains to be seen. Other players to watch include receivers Corey Brown, Devin Smith and Chris Fields, and running backs Carlos Hyde, Bri'onte Dunn and Rod Smith.
2. Offensive line depth: The Buckeyes appear to have a good starting five up front on offense, but offensive line depth remains a big concern entering the summer. Tight end Reid Fragel moved to tackle this spring, and the Buckeyes will need some of their younger linemen like Chris Carter Jr. and Jacoby Boren to grow up in a hurry. Help is on the way from the recruiting trail, but Ohio State can't afford many injuries to its starters.
3. Studying the spread: While Ohio State will be much more interesting to watch on offense under Meyer and Herman, the fact remains that the new system is a dramatic departure from what the Buckeyes ran in the past. Early this spring Meyer likened the offense's performance to a "clown show," and while things improved, the unit is far from a finished product. Meyer and Herman want to operate at an extremely fast past -- think Oregon -- but can only do so if players can execute without drive-killing mistakes.
20hBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer
2dBrian Bennett and Austin Ward