Leading up to their April 13 spring game at Paul Brown Stadium, Ohio State hold the first of 14 spring practices today. Although they're coming off a 12-0 season, the Buckeyes face several pressing questions. They may find some of the answers this spring.
Who starts on the defensive line?
The Buckeyes lost all four starters from last year's line – Garrett Goebel, Johnathan Hankins, John Simon and Nathan Williams. The Buckeyes shouldn't have trouble finding players to man the end positions. The team has hit on big recruits at the position and players like sophomores Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington should get the first chance to start. Both saw a fair amount of playing time a season ago. Canton McKinley product Steve Miller could also be in the mix at end.
Inside, the picture is far less clear. Sophomores Michael Bennett and Joel Hale could develop into starters, as could redshirt freshman Tommy Schutt. It will be interesting to see how massive 340-pound lineman Chris Carter is used. The redshirt freshman flipped from offensive to defensive tackle midway through last year's spring drills before taking a redshirt.
The linebackers are Ryan Shazier and...?
The Buckeyes bring back just one starting linebacker from a season ago in Ryan Shazier. He is unquestionably the defense's best player, coming off a season of 115 tackles, including 17 for loss. Junior Curtis Grant will get another chance to win the starting middle linebacker job, a position he couldn't hold down a season ago. The other outside linebacker spot opposite Shazier is wide open. Jamal Marcus, Josh Perry and Camren Williams could all be in the running for the spot. Whomever is in that spot could just be a placeholder before true freshmen Mike Mitchell arrives on campus.
Will Braxton Miller be improved as a passer?
Miller enters the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate. While he can do a lot with his legs, the Buckeyes may need him to do more with his arm this season. Miller completed less than 60 percent of his passes last season for just more than 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Miller's top two receivers from a season ago, Corey Brown and Devin Smith, are back. All-around weapon Jordan Hall will also be healthy after missing time last season. The 2013 recruiting class should provide plenty of targets for Miller. Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson and James Clark could all be factors in their first season in Columbus.
Who is the leader on the team?
Last season, it was unquestionably Simon. Head coach Urban Meyer has already said senior left tackle Jack Mewhort will be one of the team's leaders. Meyer may also look to players like Hall, cornerback C.J. Barnett and safety Christian Bryant to emerge as captains.