By Mitch Stacy
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS — When Ohio State opened training camp earlier this month, coach Urban Meyer said it was “open season” for starting jobs. With a little more than a week to go before the season opener, some of those jobs have yet to be locked down.
That happens when a team has to replace eight starters on each side of the ball. Offensive line, wide receiver and cornerback are among the positions where starters for the Sept. 3 game against Bowling Green still haven’t been named, Buckeyes coaches said this week. Regardless of who starts, there will be many new faces on the field next week.
On the offensive line, returning starters Pat Elflein and Billy Price are the anchors at center and right guard. Pencil in Jamarco Jones at left tackle and at right tackle probably Isiah Prince, one of the team’s few true freshmen who earned playing time last year. The big competition is for the left guard spot, with 6-foot-7, 310-pound true freshman Michael Jordan mixing it up with sophomore Demetrius Knox and redshirt freshman Matthew Burrell. All likely will see playing time.
Highly touted junior college transfer Malcolm Pridgeon, who was expected to compete at guard and tackle, was lost to a knee injury in training camp.
“The number one thing up front, I think, is experience, so we don’t have a lot of it,” offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said. “We’ve got some new guys coming in there. The second thing is getting the group in there playing together. We’re struggling with that a little bit.”
On the defensive line, Tyquan Lewis returns at end, and sophomore Sam Hubbard, who backed up All-American Joey Bosa last season, has locked down the other end position. The competition for the tackle spots continues, with juniors Michael Hill, the most experienced tackle on the squad, and Tracy Sprinkle trying to fend off redshirt freshmen Davon Hamilton and Dre’Mont Jones.
“Everything is a competition, no matter if you think you’re a starter or you’re not,” Sprinkle said. “Everything’s a competition, so you have to go out there every day like somebody is on your heels.”
The No. 6 Buckeyes lost all their starting receivers from last year, which has made for one of the most intriguing competitions in camp.
Noah Brown, who has just one catch in his Ohio State career, has been designated a starter at one of the wideout spots. Fifth-year senior Corey Smith had laid claim to the other spot because of his experience, but Meyer said this week that Parris Campbell, who played some last year as a redshirt freshman but has yet to catch a pass, has a chance to grab that job. Terry McLaurin, Austin Mack and others also are expected to play. Curtis Samuel, who backed up Braxton Miller last season, brings some experience to the H-back position.
“I need six guys who are going to go into every game, and whoever earned it that week will start and the other ones will play just as many plays,” receivers coach Zach Smith said. “I don’t know who it is yet. I can’t stamp anybody as ‘game ready.’ There are a couple who are close.”
Returning starter Gareon Conley is locked in at one cornerback spot and could be, according to coaches, one of the best in the country. It’s been a fight for the other spot between sophomores Marshon Lattimore, who is returning from a nagging hamstring injury, and Denzel Ward, who is the fastest player on the team. Redshirt freshman Damon Arnette also is in the mix.
“They’re all going to play, they’re all going to play early, and I’m very, very excited about that,” cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said.