5 Questions Ohio State Must Answer Heading Into 2014 Season

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5 Biggest Concerns For Ohio State Heading Into 2014

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Andrew Weber - USA Today Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes had a good shot at playing for a national title this season.

That is until they lost the Big Ten Championship game to the Michigan State Spartans. The Buckeyes had gone undefeated in the regular season and a win over the Spartans surely would’ve sealed them a trip to the BCS National Championship game. Instead, they headed to the Orange Bowl, where they lost to the Clemson Tigers and further solidified their inability to beat other top-ranked teams.

The biggest reason for their struggles is a lackluster defense that did not play up to their potential. The Buckeyes had a championship-caliber offense that was one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but their defense was nothing to brag about. Urban Meyer knows the defense can be better, as he sees their potential, and hopes him and his defensive team can come up with a much better defensive plan in 2014. The defense will be losing star linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby to the NFL. However, the Buckeyes have plenty of young defensive players who have showed promise and could be a great option to replace the talents of Shazier and Roby.

The Buckeyes' offense should be in good shape if Braxton Miller decides to return for his senior season. It was reported on Saturday that he would return, but the media outlets in Columbus are reporting that he has not yet made a decision and that it should come this week. It is suspected that he will stay. The biggest concern will be if Miller doesn’t return, but if he does, then the biggest offensive concern the Buckeyes should have is their offensive line. The offensive line will be losing a majority of their starters and the worry is that the starters in 2014 will not be able to protect the quarterback as well as the current starters did. Ohio State will also be losing senior running back Carlos Hyde and senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown.

What other questions does Ohio State need to answer as they head into the 2014 season? It certainly has some repairs to make if it wants to make a run for a championship, especially with the losses of some key players on both sides of the ball.

Jenna Aquino is a Big Ten Football writer for RantSports.com. Follow her on Twitter, "Like" her on Facebook, add her to your network on Google, or reach her by e-mail at starz9815@hotmail.com.

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5. Will Braxton Miller return for his senior season?

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Andrew Weber - USA Today Sports

This question should be answered sometime this week. Right now there is conflicting information, but it sounds like there is a good chance that Miller could return for the Buckeyes in 2014. It would be a huge boost to an Ohio State offense that will be losing some key players, including star backup quarterback Kenny Guiton. If Miller leaves, their next option would be Cardale Jones, who will be a sophomore next season. He is currently their third string quarterback and has had very little playing time yet with Miller and Guiton ahead of him. Jones has been compared to the likes of former NFL and Marshall Thundering Herd quarterback Byron Leftwich, but Ohio State’s best chance of winning a championship next season will be if their offense is led by Miller. Miller will likely be a Heisman favorite again next season barring any more injuries, which is what took him out of the running in 2013.

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4. Can offensive line protect the quarterback?

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Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

The offensive line that did such a wonderful job of protecting Miller and Hyde, while also creating running lanes for the explosive rushing duo, will be losing four senior starters. Only sophomore right tackle Taylor Decker will be returning on the offensive line and the Buckeyes will look to him to be a leader. It will be important for them to be able to protect the quarterback, especially if it’s Miller, who will do even greater things in 2014, if he can get the protection that he needs.

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3. Who will replace Carlos Hyde?

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Robert Mayer - USA Today Sports

Hyde ran for more than 1,500 yards in just 11 games this season. He and Miller made up perhaps the most explosive rushing attack in college football that was feared by many teams and difficult to stop. Even the No. 1 defense of Michigan State could not slow them down. Senior Hyde will be leaving for the NFL and fellow senior running back Jordan Hall will be gone too, so the Buckeyes will need to find good running backs to replace them. Bri’onte Dunn, Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith and even Dontre Wilson could be options to replace Hyde. Elliott is the most likely since he shows the most promise. Wilson is going to be worked into more of an all-around player by Meyer, so that opposing defenses don’t know what to expect when he comes in. He could be lined up in the backfield, at the receiver position, or just put in to block. His speed gives Meyer plenty of options. It will certainly be a battle in spring training to determine who will be Hyde’s replacement.

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2. How can defense be greatly improved?

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Andrew Weber - USA Today Sports

The Ohio State defense needs much improvement if they want to be successful in 2014. The losses of star linebacker Shazier and cornerback Roby to the NFL are indeed huge losses for the defense, but the Buckeyes have plenty of young defensive players who have already proved they can step up and make plays when necessary. The Orange Bowl was essentially a peek into their future as they started six freshmen or sophomores on defense with Roby sidelined with a knee injury and Noah Spence suspended. Jamal Marcus started in place of Spence and had six tackles and a deflected pass. The toughness of defensive end Joey Bosa is something the Buckeyes desperately need defensively. Bosa showed that toughness by playing most of the Orange Bowl on a sprained ankle. Much-improved linebacker Joshua Perry could lessen the blow of losing Shazier, though they will still need plenty of improvement at the linebacker position. Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell and Armani Reeves all show promise in a secondary that will be without Roby next season. They all started in the Orange Bowl and showed flashes of greatness. If Ohio State can concentrate on making its defense better and build on the young defensive potential it has, then it may have a shot at a championship. It wasn’t far off from it this season despite the defense playing the way it did.

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1. Can Ohio State win a championship?

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Bradley Leeb - USA Today Sports

The Buckeyes will need to answer all of these questions and more if they expect to be able to win the Big Ten and compete for a national championship in the new playoff system that the NCAA will employ in 2014. Miller will provide a nice boost to the offense if he returns, as he looks to continue to make plays with his legs and improve on his passing game. The biggest question will be their less than stellar defense. If they can greatly improve their defense with some promising young players, then the losses of Roby and Shazier won’t sting as much. Meyer knows how to turn his team into a championship team, so don’t be surprised if they’re in the running for a championship once again in 2014.

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