CHICAGO — Ohio State’s training camp begins Aug. 3, and though questions abound, so do the lofty expectations that always accompany the Buckeyes.
A lot of familiar faces will be gone, but the roster is deep and gifted.
"Very talented team," coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday at Big Ten media days. "Very good people. Guys have worked hard."
As in years’ past, the Buckeyes will have a symbolic passing of the torch of the team from strength coach Mickey Marotti to Meyer on the eve of camp. But Meyer won’t need Marotti’s assessment to know what he’ll get to mold.
"I've been at the last four workouts, I believe," Meyer said. "I know what we're getting. Even the young players, a lot of times you have no idea what you're getting until you watch them go. But the incoming freshmen, we have a good feel — obviously not the contact part, but the athleticism."
As for quarterback, Meyer reiterated that Dwayne Haskins Jr. will enter camp as the starter. But he seemed to leave the door a little more ajar for Tate Martell to take a stab at the job.
"This guy is very skilled," Meyer said of Haskins. "The guy behind him (Martell) is very skilled. (If) we took the snap today, I made it clear that Dwayne would be the quarterback. But 30 days from now, a lot happens in 30 days."
Meyer said he likes what he has seen from the physically gifted Haskins. But Meyer believes that leadership and toughness are even more essential for a quarterback, and he raved about Martell’s competitive spirit.
"I see a guy who refuses to lose, and that’s very appealing to a coaching staff," Meyer said.
That’s not a slight at Haskins, who’s more reserved by nature. He said Haskins showed his mettle with his performance in leading the comeback at Michigan last season.
"He has a little different way of doing it," Meyer said of Haskins’ leadership, "but he’s earning the respect of our players and our staff. His body has changed. He has worked really hard."
As for what it would take for Martell to supplant Haskins during training camp, Meyer hedged.
"That’s a great question," he said. "I’m probably not prepared to talk about that right now."
Meyer said the Buckeyes will settle on a starter within two weeks of camp.
Several other positions, including center, one safety spot and tight end, remain up for grabs. No position is more unsettled than linebacker, which will likely feature three new starters for the opener against Oregon State. Middle linebacker Tuf Borland is making good progress in his return from an Achilles injury, Meyer said, but is unlikely to be back by then.
One linebacker on the brink of re-emerging is Dante Booker, who lost his job last year after dealing with concussions. There was speculation that he wouldn’t return after missing spring because of a shoulder injury.
But Meyer said Booker is "ready to roll" and expects him to be in the mix. But the competition will be stiff, as it will be almost everywhere.
"We’ve got a lot of depth, and God forbid if something was to happen and we need somebody to step up, we have people to do that," offensive tackle Isaiah Prince said. "It’s Ohio State. We don’t have drop-offs."
The Buckeyes must avoid the potholes like the ones they stepped into against Oklahoma and Iowa last year. Those ugly losses kept Ohio State out of the College Football Playoff despite winning the Big Ten.
"Our biggest question is consistency," hybrid receiver Parris Campbell said of the offense. "There were times last year when we looked like the best team in the country. Then there were times we looked like the worst.
"Obviously, it’s not going to be the best every game, but we have to do a pretty good job of maintaining a certain standard every single game."