COLUMBUS: It’s not difficult to envision a scenario on Saturday in which Chris Carter is blocking for Braxton Miller, who fakes a handoff to Rod Smith and completes a pass to Verlon Reed.
What’s the big deal? All four are untested freshmen the Buckeyes could be relying on at various times this season.
The ramifications of the suspensions hanging over four Ohio State players to start this season are most obvious on the depth chart. The Buckeyes will start five freshmen and sophomores on offense, but that doesn’t even include freshman quarterback Miller, who is expected to play significantly in the opener against the University of Akron.
Reed will start at receiver in place of the suspended DeVier Posey. Smith, a redshirt freshman, is in line to get carries as a backup due to the suspension of starting tailback Boom Herron. Even starting quarterback Joe Bauserman, a senior, is relatively raw as he is making his first career start.
“We didn’t bring them here to sit on the bench,” coach Luke Fickell said of all the youngsters. “You might sleep a little better if you didn’t have to stick them in on that first play, but that’s all part of it. We’ll do what they can do best and give them the opportunity.”
The Buckeyes have eight freshmen listed on the two-deep on offense. So many new, young faces playing pivotal roles could mean a slimmed-down playbook, at least early on.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman will take over the play-calling duties now that Jim Tressel is gone. Bollman and Tressel consulted on the play calling in the past. Now it’s expected to be even more vanilla than it was under the conservative Tressel.
“Especially our first few games, we’re probably going to be a pretty simple team,” junior tight end Jake Stoneburner said. “Run the ball and throw simple routes just to get the quarterbacks in a groove. But we have good enough athletes. We can go out and make plays even on simple plays.”
They better hope so. The Buckeyes’ depth and experience will be sorely tested through the first five weeks.
Sophomore Andrew Norwell will start at left tackle in place of the suspended Mike Adams. He’ll be one of three sophomores starting up front, meaning seniors Mike Brewster and J.B. Shugarts will be expected to shoulder most of the load early on. The offensive line’s entire second unit is comprised of freshmen and walk-ons.
“We have a depth issue there,” Fickell said. “When you have some injuries and you have guys that are going to be out, you have worries.”
Shugarts believes that he has seen enough out of guys like the massive 350-pound Carter to believe the youngsters will survive when called upon.
“I’m trying to be there as an older guy that’s been through it and knows what it takes to try to help them out and get them to learn everything faster,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of depth on the offensive line. Those guys have to get ready to play in case something happens.”
In all, Ohio State has 28 freshmen and sophomores listed on the two-deep — 13 on defense and 15 on offense.
That type of inexperience hasn’t left much time for the underclassmen to stand and watch. Most of them have been active since arriving.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen young guys come in and really work hard,” junior fullback Zach Boren said. “Usually the young guys come in and they’re shell-shocked at first. They don’t know what to expect and they pace themselves a little bit. This year they came in fighting from the beginning and pushed everyone.”