Ohio State remains the class of the Big Ten, with more talent and depth up and down the roster than any team within the conference.
But the departure of dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields will present a significant hole to fill for the Buckeyes. Fields led Ohio State to the national title game last season, then declared for the NFL Draft soon afterward, where he was taken 11th overall by the Chicago Bears last April.
A three-way competition at quarterback this fall will include returning freshmen C.J Stroud, Jack Miller III and incoming five-star freshman Kyle McCord.
The new quarterback will have plenty to work with as Ohio State returns the starting receiving tandem of Chris Olave (50 catches, 729 yards, 7 TDs) and Garrett Wilson (43 catches, 723 yards, 6 TDs). Second-leading rusher Master Teague III (104 carries, 514 yards, 8 TDs) is back at running back. Ohio State also brings back three starters on its offensive line, including standout left tackle Thayer Munford, who has started 26 games over the last two seasons.
Four starters return on defense, led by seniors Haskell Garrett and Tyreke Smith on the defensive line.
Here’s an early outlook for Ohio State heading into the 2021 season:
WHAT THEY LOST
Fields passed for 2,100 yards and 22 TDs last season, while rushing for 383 yards and 5 more TDs. Running back Trey Sermon, who gained 870 yards on 7.5 yards per carry last season, was taken in the third round of the NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Defensive back Shaun Wade, Ohio State’s best player in the secondary last season with 35 tackles, 4 pass breakups and 2 interceptions, was taken in the fifth round by the Baltimore Ravens.
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH
Jack Sawyer, a five-star recruit incoming freshman from nearby Pickerington North High in Pickerington, Ohio, could contribute right away as a pass-rushing defensive end. Treveyon Henderson, a five-star incoming freshman from Hopewell, Va., will compete with Teague for carries at running back. Incoming freshman Jesse Mirco, from Fremantle, Australia and developed at the Prokick Australia academy, will take over as starting punter.
PROSPECTS FOR 2021
Ryan Day enters his third season as Ohio State coach with two straight Big Ten Championships, and the Buckeyes will be favored to win the conference crown again this season. Some holes were exposed in the secondary last year and it could be a weakness again this season, with cornerback Sevyn Banks the only starter returning. But Ohio State has more than enough firepower left on offense to compensate. It will take a special team to dethrone the Buckeyes this fall.