Mike Weber (20) and Dante Booker (33) are a pair of Ohio State players who could join the starting lineup for the first time this fall. David Jablonski/Staff

Young starting lineup could mean boom or bust for Ohio State

If Ohio State sells a few extra programs for the Buckeyes’ season-opening football game, don’t be surprised. With only six starters returning, coach Urban Meyer’s fifth OSU team is going to have new faces all over the lineup.

Phil Steele’s “NCAA experience chart” ranks Ohio State 128th nationally, but how do the Buckeyes rank against previous versions of themselves?

When we looked at the previous 15 seasons and broke down the starting lineups by class, the results were mixed in an intriguing way.

Yes, this fall’s squad will be young, but four times Ohio State has had a younger starting lineup than the one we project for 2016: 2004, 2007, 2011 and 2014.

That’s an interesting quartet because it includes two seasons that ended with Ohio State playing for the national title while the other two are the worst seasons in the group we looked at.

Doesn’t exactly narrow down a range of expectations, does it?

Of course, the 2011 season turned out to be somewhat of a disaster because of an ongoing NCAA investigation and the spring departure of head coach Jim Tressel. That squad was still in contention for a division title until falling apart in November.

It is the youngest squad of the past 15 years— the only one younger than the 2014 team that won the national championship.

The next-youngest was 2004, another down year, but No. 3 was the 2007 team that won the Big Ten outright and loast to LSU in the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans.

The 2016 group could still end up being the youngest depending on what happens at several positions, including receiver, defensive tackle and safety. We have juniors and seniors penciled into starting roles at those positions, but some hotshot youngsters figure to push them in preseason and into the fall.

Injuries are bound to alter the picture as well, but the moral of the story is being young is not always a bad thing. Except for those years that it is.

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