Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 29, 2015

Ohio State is coming off a season for the ages, posting a 14-1 record en route to capturing the school?s first national championship since 2002.

[ MORE: OSU team homepage | 2014 OSU stats | 2014 OSU schedule ]

The Buckeyes will welcome back myriad key players to make a run at a repeat. In fact, this should be the nation's preseason No. 1 team. The offense will have quarterbacks Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, along with running back Ezekiel Elliott, wideouts Michael Thomas and Jalen Marshall, tight end Nick Vannett and four linemen, led by tackle Taylor Decker and guard Pat Elflein, among other key personnel.

The defense will return end Joey Bosa, tackle Adolphus Washington, linebackers Darron Lee, Joshua Perry and Raekwon McMillan, corner Eli Apple and safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell–among others.

But Urban Meyer?s club-38-3 in three seasons overall and 24-0 in the Big Ten–does have some key guys to replace, including wideout and key leader Evan Spencer and right offensive tackle Darryl Baldwin. Plus, offensive coordinator Tom Herman has bolted to become head coach of Houston.

[ MORE: View all of Tom Dienhart's players to replace in 2015 posts ]

Here?s a look at the Top Five Ohio State players who must be replaced.

DT Michael Bennett. A quick, active force in the interior of the line, Bennett was a disrupter. He tallied 41 tackles, along with 14.0 TFL and 7.0 sacks with three forced fumbles. Bennett?s value also extended to his leadership. A class person. He was second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media.

LB Curtis Grant. He never quite lived up to his five-star billing, but Grant closed his career as a productive player. He notched 69 tackles with five TFLs as a heart-and-soul cog in a much-improved defense.

CB Doran Grant. A big-time corner, Grant tallied 63 stops, showing aplomb in run support. He also grabbed five interceptions and broke up nine passes. Grant was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and second-team by the media.

TE Jeff Heuerman. The big target got banged up late in the year, finishing with 17 catches for 207 yards and two TDs. Heuerman also was a strong blocker in this physical offense. He was second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media.

WR Devin Smith. He was the ultimate big-play weapon, averaging 28.2 yards on his 33 catches that went for 931 yards. He also caught 12 TD passes. Smith was a consensus honorable-mention All-Big Ten choice.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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