COLUMBUS – And just like that: spring football is upon us. The earliest documented start for spring football in Ohio State history – prompted by the university's academic calendar change this year from the quarter system to semesters – will be Tuesday, March 5 when second year coach Urban Meyer will lead his squad onto the field for the first of 14 practices leading up to the spring game April 13 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
The start is also one of the earliest for a Meyer-coached team, but it can't come quickly enough. It will have been 103 days since the Buckeyes last practiced – Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27 to be exact – when the team opens its spring drills on Tuesday. The Buckeyes will practice two days later on March 7 before taking a spring break week with practices resuming March 19.
Meyer and his coaching staff, entirely intact after a 12-0 season in 2012 and a final Associated Press ranking of No. 3, will like the fact that 51 lettermen return – 23 on offense; 25 on defense and three specialists. Included are nine offensive starters from a unit that averaged 37.2 points per game and led the Big Ten Conference, plus ranked second in rushing and third in total offense with 242.2 and 423.8 yards per game, respectively.
Of concern entering spring is the fact that seven defensive starters must be replaced, including the entire starting front four – John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Nathan Williams and Garrett Goebel – and only one linebacker returns who has significant game reps: junior Ryan Shazier.