6 things to know about Ohio State football this offseason

Ohio State last played a football game more than three weeks ago.

The Buckeyes won’t play one that counts for more than seven months.

But football never sleeps these days.

>>RELATED: 2019 coaching staff finalized

Ohio State players are already back on their grind at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, having started winter workouts Jan. 17.

Here are six things to know about the Buckeyes this winter:

1. Ohio State returns four starters from one of the best offenses in school history. 

Running back J.K. Dobbins is the leader with 26 starts in his two seasons in Columbus. Next is senior receiver Austin Mack (19) followed by left tackle Thayer Munford (13) and tight end Luke Farrell (10).

Senior K.J. Hill is not a returning starter but has been among the team’s most productive receivers the last two seasons.

Offensive linemen Joshua Alabi, Wyatt Davis and Branden Bowen and tight end Rashod Berry also have started at least one game in their careers.

The offensive coaching staff will also look much like it did last season despite Ryan Day talking over as head coach from Urban Meyer, who retired after the Rose Bowl win over Washington.

2. Ohio State returns nine starters from one of the worst defenses in school history. 

The defense has more experience than the offense with linebackers Tuf Borland (a 20-game starter), Malik Harrison (14) and Pete Werner (13) all returning.

Safety Jordan Fuller (26) and cornerback Damon Arnette (25) also have double-digit start totals to their names while the front line includes Robert Landers, a senior from Wayne who started 11 games last season, and ends Jonathon Cooper and Chase Young, who started 12 and 11 games last season, respectively.

Junior safety Brendon White rounds out the group after starting the last six games of 2018.

Unlike the offense, the defensive staff received a major makeover in the past month.

3. The roster includes 31 seniors, up from 14 last year.  

Despite six players opting to enter the 2019 NFL draft with eligibility remaining, Ohio State will have a large group of fourth- and fifth-year players.

That includes contributors Landers, Cooper, Fuller, Arnette, Harrison, Berry, Alabi and Mack, who missed the end of the season with a foot injury, along with defensive linemen Jashon Cornell and Davon Hamilton and linebacker Justin Hilliard.

4. Justin Fields is among seven newcomers. 

A sophomore quarterback who transferred from Georgia, Fields figures to be the center of attention this spring as the battle to replace Dwayne Haskins takes place.

Six freshmen who signed in December area already on campus getting a head start on their college careers. That group is headlined by Zach Harrison, a defensive end from Olentangy Orange High School who was the No. 1 recruit in Ohio in 2019, and five-star receiver Garrett Wilson of Austin (Texas) Lake Travis.

>>READ MORE on the Fields situation

Offensive lineman Ryan Jacoby and defensive lineman Noah Potter, both from Mentor, Ohio, also enrolled early along with running back Marcus Crowly of Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian Academy and safety Ronnie Hickman of Wayne (N.J.) DePaul Catholic.

5. The current roster has seven players from local high schools. 

Fifth-year seniors Landers and Derrick Malone, a walk-on tight end from Thurgood Marshall, are the deans of the half-dozen Miami Valley natives on the 2019 Ohio State football team.

Joining them are third-year sophomore Josh Myers (offensive lineman, Miamisburg), redshirt freshmen Blue Smith (receiver, Wayne), Ben Schmiesing (linebacker, Piqua) and Zaid Hamdan (defensive lineman, Mason) and true freshman Alec Koch (receiver, Lebanon).

Schmiesing and Hamdan both joined the team last year as walk-ons, while Coch joined the program in January.

Landers is a candidate to be a captainMyers is in line to be the team's starting center and Smith is hoping to break into the rotation at receiver this spring.

6. Spring practice begins in early March. 

Director of sports performance Mickey Marotti, a confidant of Meyer who is considered a key holdover for Day’s staff, essentially runs the team at this time of the year.

He will have the Buckeyes through February before they return to the field the week of March 4 for the start of spring practice.

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The next chance for fans to see the Buckeyes in uniform will be April 13 in the spring game.

The season-opening game is set for Aug. 31 when Florida Atlantic comes to Ohio Stadium.

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