The spring superlatives series continues with Ohio State, which almost certainly will be the Big Ten preseason favorite. Ohio State comes off of another Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl championship, but 2010 always seemed to be the year for loftier goals.
Nine starters return on offense, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, All-Big Ten guard Justin Boren and standout receiver DeVier Posey. The defense loses a bit more but brings back linemen Cameron Heyward, an All-America candidate, as well as linebackers Ross Homan and Brian Rolle.
Strongest position: Linebacker
Key returnees: Ross Homan (108 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 5 INTs, 10 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries); Brian Rolle (95 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery)
Key losses: Austin Spitler (38 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 INT).
The skinny: Ohio State returns more players at other positions, namely offensive line and running back, but no spot boasts a tandem like Homan and Rolle, who both could earn first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2010. The Buckeyes' linebackers were incredibly underrated last season, particularly Homan, who developed into one of the team's top playmakers. Spitler is a loss, but Ohio State should fill the void with Etienne Sabino or Tyler Moeller, provided Moeller returns near full strength from a head injury. There's also depth with guys like Storm Klein, Andrew Sweat and Dorian Bell.
Weakest position: Safety
Key returnees: Jermale Hines (57 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 INTs, 3 passes defended)
Key losses: Kurt Coleman (68 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 5 INTs, 3 forced fumbles, 9 passes defended); Anderson Russell (49 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 6 passes defended)
The skinny: Ohio State doesn't have a glaring weakness heading into the 2010 season, but when it comes to personnel losses, the safety spot got hit fairly hard. Coleman epitomized the Buckeyes' opportunistic defense in 2009, recording five interceptions and breaking off several big returns. His leadership both on and off the field will be missed. While Russell gave way to Hines this year, he brought a lot of experience to the secondary. Hines has a chance to be really good this fall, but Ohio State's other options at safety are unproven.