First Ohio State depth chart leaves some questions

Vonn Bell, here making an acrobatic intercpetion in last year's Orange Bowl, is among Buckeyes still vying for a starting spot as the season opener nears. 

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After some delay, Ohio State released its first official depth chart of the season Wednesday, three days ahead of the Buckeyes’ season opener against Navy in Baltimore. 

While these often must be taken with a grain of salt because playing time remains up to the whim of the coaching staff, nearly one third of the positions on offense and defense had more than one player listed as a starter. In total, there were more "or"s than surprises. 

The positions with more than one player listed as a potential starter: left guard (Billy Price, Joel Hale), center (Jacoby Boren, Chad Lindsay), running back (Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, Curtis Samuel), H-back (Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall), defensive tackle (Michael Bennett, Tommy Schutt), cornerback (Gareon Conley, Eli Apple) and safety (Cam Burrows, Vonn Bell).

There were some jobs that were at least potentially up for grabs at some point during the offseason that had definitive starters listed, including redshirt freshman Darron Lee at strong-side linebacker (over classmate Chris Worley), senior Darryl Baldwin at right tackle and Evan Spencer at the outside receiver position opposite fellow senior Devin Smith. Spencer was a starter for most of last season but missed spring practice recovering from a lower leg injury suffered in the Orange Bowl, opening the door for any number of youngsters to usurp him.

On Wednesday night, head coach Urban Meyer met with reporters and rather than bring clarity to some of the "or"s added another name to the running back discussion: Bri’onte Dunn.

"Bri’onte and Rod were kind of written off," he said. "We didn’t talk about them much, but they’re not written off anymore. They had a good training camp."

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Too many players is often a good problem to have, of course, especially at running back, where all of the candidates are former four-star recruits. They bring a nice mix of ability, too, with Elliott probably the most complete of the group, Smith and Dunn power backs and the 190-pound Samuel offering a change of pace. All are hoping to get carries left by the graduation of All-Big Ten performer Carlos Hyde. 

Meyer, who declared early in his tenure at Ohio State he wanted to establish most of his depth chart during spring ball, also called the plethora of seemingly open spots on the depth chart a positive but allowed himself an out — "I’ll let you know after the first game."

Perhaps the most surprising "or" was at nose tackle, where senior captain Bennett was assumed to be the man since spring practice. He told reporters he missed some time in preseason camp with an injury and Schutt, a highly regarded prospect who was bothered much of last season by injury, took advantage. Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell further explained the coaching staff has a strong desire to play a variety of players against Navy, anyway, and continued to do so all season.

Offensive line coach Ed Warinner, who won’t have anyone starting in the same spot they finished last season, let slip that his top five has been picked but it won’t be revealed until game day.

The initial depth chart contains 12 seniors, including nine listed as at least a co-starter, and 17 freshmen. Of the first-year players, as many as five could start, and six of the 17 freshmen are members of the class of 2014.