2013 Ohio State spring football primer: Dates, players and more to know

Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

The Buckeyes have high expectations following a surprise 12-0 season in 2012. Can Urban Meyer and the program take the next step in year two?

When Ohio State hired Urban Meyer, people expected the Buckeyes to return to the top of the Big Ten quickly. However, with a bowl ban in place for the 2012 season, could they would get back during his first year in Columbus?

As it turned out, the Buckeyes went a perfect 12-0 during Meyer's first season, and the program appears to be ahead of schedule as it prepares for a national title run in 2013. Star quarterback Braxton Miller is back for his junior season and ranks among the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy.

Ohio State's schedule sets up nicely for another undefeated run. Their only non-conference game of note is on Sep. 14, when they travel to play Cal. In Big Ten conference play, they host both Wisconsin and Penn State, but leave home to face Michigan in the season finale. As odd as it may sound, a stumbling block for the Buckeyes could be their game at Purdue on Nov. 2. Ohio State is 1-3 in their last four games in West Lafayette, despite a distinct talent advantage in every matchup.

However, as with all Ohio State football seasons, 2013 will come down to the season's final game vs. Michigan. The Wolverines are the only other team in the Big Ten that's recruiting on the same level as the Buckeyes, and there's a good chance that the two teams could play again one week later in the Big Ten title game.

Spring practice start date: Spring practice begins on Tuesday, March 5.

Spring game date, location: The Ohio State spring game will be played on Saturday, April 13. The game will be held in Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, as Ohio Stadium will be undergoing work at the time.

Approximate returning starters: The Buckeyes are returning about 13 starters from their 2012 team, starting with Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde. All told, nine starters are returning on offense, including four on the offensive line, but only four starters are returning on a defense that was shaky at times in 2012. Ohio State will need to replace everyone in the front seven except for linebacker Ryan Shazier, but do bring back three starters in the secondary, including cornerback Bradley Roby.

Biggest addition: The biggest additions to the Ohio State program are probably a pair of defensive back early enrollees in Eli Apple and Cameron Burrows. Both Apple and Burrows are ranked in the top 10 among cornerbacks in the 2013 recruiting cycle, and could factor in the fight to replace the departed Travis Howard.

Biggest loss: The Buckeyes have to find a way to replace Johnathan Hankins and John Simon on the defensive line. Both Hankins and Simon were stalwarts, and while there are definitely talented players left to take their place, nothing is a sure thing. On offense, the Buckeyes will need to find a replacement for tight end Jake Stoneburner, who was a productive player for years.

New players? Ohio State welcomed five early enrollees to campus in January in cornerbacks Apple and Burrows, quarterback J.T. Barrett, and defensive ends Tyquan Lewis and Tracy Sprinkle. The rest of the highly rated 2013 Buckeye recruiting class will join them in August camp, including a pair of potential breakout freshman in Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson. Both Marshall and Wilson could play a role similar to Percy Harvin in Meyer's offense, a key piece that was missing from the 2012 Buckeyes. Here's some film on Marshall:

And some film on Wilson:

New coaches? The Ohio State staff returns intact for year two of Meyer.

New schemes? The lack of coaching turnover means that there won't be any radical changes in terms of strategy for Ohio State. The one difference could be that Meyer loosens the reins on Braxton Miller and the offense, as they now have a year of experience under their belt.

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