With a little more than two weeks before the games begin, depth charts are taking shape around the Big Ten. But several competitions remain unresolved. We're looking this week at fights for playing time that figure to shape the complexion of Big Ten teams, division races and bids for championships.
Now we turn our attention to the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Top (non-quarterback) position battle: Defensive end
The work might only be part time, but it could end up have a long-term impact on Ohio State's bid for another national championship. And if that's not enough incentive, winning the right to fill in for Joey Bosa in the opener also could put a young player on the path to contributing significantly both off the bench this season and as a future cornerstone when Ohio State's superstar inevitably declares for the NFL draft.
First things first, completely filling the void left by Bosa's suspension with just one guy is an almost impossible task, particularly since he might just be the best defensive player in America. But the Buckeyes will have to put somebody in his spot against Virginia Tech, and they have recruited well enough up front to have no shortage of talented options -- though the issue is somewhat compounded by the fact that there will be another first-time starter at the other end spot with Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier no longer around.
Tyquan Lewis appears to have one of the positions locked down, and Ohio State has expressed nothing but confidence in his ability to come off the edge and get to the quarterback or slow down the rush. The Buckeyes also have plenty of faith in Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes as they battle to for the right to fill in for Bosa, but they also have tinkered with the idea of moving senior linebacker Joshua Perry up to the line as a possible stopgap measure.
That's not a knock on the abilities of Holmes or Hubbard, since both have more than enough speed, strength and familiarity with what defensive line coach Larry Johnson is looking for to get the job done. And it might also have more to do with some of the increased depth at linebacker behind Perry, which provides some flexibility for the Buckeyes as they look for a way to add some experience to a unit in the trenches that doesn't have all that much to begin with and will be missing a crucial piece for a difficult game on the road.
But either way, whatever the Buckeyes decide could up being a critical decision -- not just against the Hokies, but potentially far down the line as well.