- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Ohio State loses a large and decorated senior class, as well as three underclassmen (Chris "Beanie" Wells, Brian Hartline and Donald Washington) who would have been starters in 2009. There are holes on both sides of the ball, but Ohio State's ability to consistently produce elite defenses eases concerns there.
An offense that ranked 76th nationally last fall will be in the spotlight this spring. Here's the strong point and weak point for the Buckeyes.
Strongest position -- Defensive line
Key returnees: Junior end Cameron Heyward, senior end Lawrence Wilson, junior end Thaddeus Gibson, senior tackle Doug Worthington
Key departures: Tackle Nader Abadallah (33 tackles, 6 TFLs, 4 pass breakups).
The skinny: The Buckeyes' linebackers have led the way for some time on defense, but things could change this fall. Almost everyone returns on the defensive line, and Ohio State should be particularly strong at the end spot with Heyward, Wilon and Gibson, who made a huge difference in the second half of 2008. After finishing seventh in the league in sacks last season (28), the Buckeyes should see their total rise. Other strong spots include safety and wide receiver, where Ohio State gets a lot younger but potentially a lot better.
Weakest position -- Running back
Key returnees: Sophomore Dan Herron, junior Brandon Saine
Key departures: Chris "Beanie" Wells (207 carries, 1,197 yards, 8 TDs), Maurice Wells (39 carries, 129 yards)
The skinny: Injuries dogged Beanie Wells throughout his career, but he was a force when healthy, a three-tool back (size, speed, agility) who struck fear in opposing defenders. Herron performed decently in place of Wells last year, but his size raises some concern. Saine came to Ohio State with a ton of hype but hasn't been able to stay healthy. Help is on the way this summer with freshmen Jaamal Berry and Carlos Hyde, but the position looks a bit unstable right now. Cornerback also could be a weak spot after the losses of Washington and Thorpe Award winner Malcolm Jenkins.