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Aug. 5, 2011

Fall camp for the 16th-ranked Buckeye football team begins Monday, Aug. 8 as the 2011 season presents the Buckeyes with more than their share of challenges. For the first time since 2001, Ohio State will have a new man in charge on the sidelines in head coach Luke Fickell, who took over for Jim Tressel, who went 94-21 as head coach.

“I can’t tell you how humbled I am to stand here as the coach of The Ohio State University,” Fickell said at his first news conference in June. “The 2011 Buckeyes will not be compared or contrasted to previous years. It will be about respect, toughness and being men of action. We have a goal to lead the nation in three categories: effort, turnovers and toughness.”

To help reach those goals, not only will Fickell and his staff need to replace four offensive and seven defensive starters, but also find out who will fill temporary voids left by starters WR DeVier Posey, RB Daniel “Boom” Herron and LT Mike Adams on offense and DE Solomon Thomas on defense – all of whom will miss the first five games of the 2011 season. However, the biggest concern for Fickell will be to find a permanent replacement for departed QB Terrelle Pryor, who went 31-4 as a starter the past three years.

Combined with graduation, Ohio State loses (for the first five games anyhow) its top six point producers on offense/special teams and five of its top six tacklers. So if the Buckeyes plan on continuing their run atop the Big Ten Conference, some of the younger players will need to emerge and learn quickly.

The quarterback position, no doubt, will be the most intriguing as Fickell and his staff will be watching and waiting for a player to emerge during fall camp. Redshirt senior Joe Bauserman looks to have a leg up on the competition, backing up Pryor for the past two seasons with 320 passing yards and two TDs. Also in the mix will be Ken Guiton, a redshirt sophomore, who played in five games last season. But there also has been plenty of buzz surrounding incoming freshman Braxton Miller, who could move up the depth chart quickly if he proves capable during preseason workouts. And don’t count out redshirt freshman Taylor Graham, who also should get plenty of snaps this Fall to showcase his skills.

“I think it’s completely wide open,” Fickell said. “I think Joe and I understand that. He understands that. We’re going to have the opportunity when the fall comes to make sure everyone knows what’s expected and then we’re going to evaluate on a daily basis.”

Competition will be fierce at running back as well. Even with the absence of Herron, the Buckeyes remain stacked with the likes of junior Jordan Hall (37 att., 169 yds, 2 TDs), sophomores Jaamal Berry (32, 267, 1 TD) and Carlos Hyde (24, 145) and redshirt freshman Rod Smith. The versatile Zach Boren, who caught 10 passes out of the backfield in 2010, is back once again to clear holes at fullback along with junior Adam Homan.

Clearing the way up front will be an experienced offensive line, anchored by All-America center and Rimington and Outland candidate Michael Brewster, who has been called by some “the best center in America.” Looking to fill the void left by Adams, Justin Boren and Bryant Browning will be sophomore Andrew Norwell and redshirt sophomores Corey Linsley, Jack Mewhort and Marcus Hall. Back to anchor the right side of the offensive line will be steady senior J.B. Shugarts while on the outside, the Buckeyes return two solid starters at tight end in redshirt junior Jake Stoneburner and junior Reid Fragel.

With Posey’s absence and Dane Sanzenbacher’s departure, a major void has been left at wide receiver. Thankfully, the Buckeyes have plenty of talent waiting in the wings to prove their worth. The one with the most experience, albeit eight games, is sophomore Corey “Philly” Brown, who showed great flashes in limited action last year. Also look for sophomores Chris Fields and James Louis to emerge along with 6-foot, 5-inch T.Y. Williams – a big, talented target from East Cleveland who redshirted 2010.

Defensively, defensive coordinator Jim Heacock must replace seven starters from a Silver Bullet group that ranked second in the nation in total defense during the regular season. Back are junior strong safety Orhian Johnson, senior linebacker Andrew Sweat, junior tackle John Simon and senior defensive end Nathan Williams. Also returning are two once-upon-a-time starters who fell victim to season-ending injuries last season in senior defensive back Tyler Moeller and safety C.J. Barnett.

Gone up front are all-Big Ten defensive end Cameron Heyward and tackle Dexter Larimore. The front-runners to fill those voids appear to be sophomore Johnathan Hankins, who played big minutes up front as a true freshman in critical situations, redshirt junior Garrett Goebel, redshirt sophomore Adam Bellamy along with Darryl Baldwin and J.T. Moore. Competition will be on to replace two starting linebackers and two defensive backs as well. Travis Howard received valuable minutes last season at corner, recording a pick-six in the Penn State win, while redshirt sophomores Corey Brown, Dominic Clarke and Florida State transfer Dionte Allen will also vie for the other starting nod at cornerback. Seniors Nate Oliver and Donnie Evege and redshirt sophomore Jamie Wood also have the talent and experience to emerge in the secondary while Christian Bryant will look to regain his starting spot at one of the safety spots.

After Sweat, linebacker battles figure to be more than interesting among juniors Etienne Sabino and Storm Klein and senior Tony Jackson with numerous freshmen – Chad Hagan, Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant to name a few – vying for playing time.

Returning at punter is Ben Buchanan, who averaged 41.0 yards per kick last season, while sophomore kicker Drew Basil is expected to take over the full-time duties for kickoffs and field goals.