April 2, 2009

Ohio State offense begins anew with Pryor

Ohio State tied for the Big Ten title last season and finished with another loss in a BCS bowl.

Still, rather than piling on about the bowl loss, most observers gave Ohio State credit for getting into the BCS with a true freshman quarterback.

Terrelle Pryor's presence makes the Buckeyes a potentially dangerous offense, but one of the priorities this spring has to be overhauling the wide receiver corps. Defensively, finding two new starting linebackers will be the most important task.

Here's a look at the Buckeyes as they prepare for spring practice.

Ohio State AT-A-GLANCE
Terrelle Pryor will have to get used to a new group of backs and receivers.
Coach: Jim Tressel
Last season: 10-3, 7-1 Big Ten. Lost to Texas in the Fiesta Bowl.
Spring dates: April 2-25
Offense (4): C Michael Brewster, T Bryant Browning, G Jim Cordle, QB Terrelle Pryor.
Defense (8): CB Chimdi Chekwa, SS Kurt Coleman, E Thad Gibson, T Cameron Heyward, LB Ross Homan, FS Anderson Russell, E Lawrence Wilson, T Doug Worthington.
Special teams: None.
Positions of strength

The loss of cornerback Malcolm Jenkins hurts, but OSU will conduct spring practices with a veteran corps of defensive backs that may end up being the strength of the defense. The defensive line returns six players who started at least two games and four who started at least seven. Pryor should be one of the nation's most dynamic players.

Help is needed

There will be only two scholarship quarterbacks and running backs in spring drills. Another quarterback and three more running backs will arrive in June. With limited bodies at both key positions, the coaches must be prudent in how they conduct spring practices. Ohio State needs two new starting linebackers and two new starting wide receivers. A new starting tailback is needed, too.

Keep an eye on

G Justin Boren: He earned the respect of coaches and teammates while sitting out last season following his publicized transfer from Michigan. Boren, a junior, will be part of an offensive line that's replacing two starters. Boren better be ready.

RB Dan Herron: With Chris "Beanie" Wells off to the NFL a year early, all eyes will be on Herron. He showed flashes in a few starts last season when Wells was out with a toe injury. Is Herron capable of being the feature back?

LB Austin Spitler: James Laurinaitis is gone, putting the spotlight on Spitler. His eagerness earlier in his career resulted in some dubious personal-foul penalties; it's time for the senior to shine for a young group of linebackers.

His time is now

Defensive end Lawrence Wilson has missed big parts of the past two seasons because of injuries. Now a senior, Wilson needs to shine as a rusher off the edge. And if fellow senior end Rob Rose who still is in search of a signature season becomes a force, the Buckeyes could have one of the top lines in the nation.

The buzz

The defense teems with experience, so most eyes will be focused on the offense this spring. Pryor must continue to develop as a passer, and he'll need to develop chemistry with new targets now that Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie are gone. Is Herron ready to take over for Wells behind an overhauled line?

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.


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