As of Monday afternoon, Michigan had yet to release a roster or a depth chart for its season opener Saturday against Florida. One newspaper filed a freedom of information act to try to force Michigan’s hand. Coach Jim Harbaugh went so far as to list the former Wolverines in the NFL in the game notes this week, referring to that list as the 2017 roster.
Ohio State Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer isn’t playing that game. His program updated its roster months ago. It released its first depth chart Monday, three days before the season opener Thursday against the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington, Ind.
The Buckeyes make a big deal about players earning starting roles. The coaches call the players’ parents to inform them of the news and sometimes record video of the conversation. The Ohio State football Twitter account shared one such video, featuring wide receivers coach Zach Smith and starting wideout Johnnie Dixon, on Sunday.
Smith called Dixon’s mom, Latoya Smith, with Dixon sitting next to him in the locker room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“I want to let you know next Thursday your boy is getting his first start as a Buckeye,” Zach Smith said.
“Are you serious?!” Latoya Smith said.
“Oh my god, I’m so happy! Do you know how long I’ve been waiting on this?!”
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Ohio State released a similar video featuring defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle calling his family a week earlier. For Meyer, breaking that news to families is one of the best parts of the job. He doesn’t want the phone calls from coaches to parents to always be about bad news.
“It started when my daughters were playing college sports,” Meyer said. “I just think that’s one of the coolest things in the world to say because quite often you have to call a parent because something stupid happened. I just try not to do that. I like having a relationship with the families, and our coaches should have those relationships.”
Dixon will make his first start Thursday, though the depth chart lists him or Terry McLaurin as starters at one of the wide receiver positions. Austin Mack or Binjimen Victor will start at the other spot.
There were no surprises on the depth chart. Dwayne Haskins won the backup quarterback job. There was no drama there because Joe Burrow’s broken hand made Haskins the obvious choice.
Mike Weber or J.K. Dobbins will start at running back. Denzel Ward will start at cornerback. Damon Arnette or Kendall Sheffield will star at the other cornerback spot.
Wayne grad Robert Landers, Sprinkle’s backup, is the only local graduate on the depth chart. Miamisburg grad Josh Myers, a freshman, was not one of the 11 offensive linemen listed as starters or backups.
“He’s got a ways to go,” Meyer said, “but I’m glad he’s a Buckeye. He’s going to be a great player.”
Redshirt sophomore Brandon Bowen won the starting job at right guard, beating out Matthew Burrell, Malcolm Pridgeon, Wyatt Davis and others and ending one of the tightest position battles.
“He’s the most improved guy, one of the most improved players on our team,” Meyer said. “Something clicked with him in the early summer. I heard it from coach (Mickey Marotti); I saw it. It really wasn’t that close to be honest with you. Burrell was very close to him. But Bowen did a very nice job.”