Going into 2015, football fans thought we knew the Buckeyes, but the historic powerhouse of our collective imagination never materialized. Rather than secure a second straight national championship, Ohio State didn't even win its own division, settling for a non-playoff Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame. It was as much of a bummer as a 12-1 season can be.

Going into 2015, football fans thought we knew the Buckeyes, but the historic powerhouse of our collective imagination never materialized. Rather than secure a second straight national championship, Ohio State didn't even win its own division, settling for a non-playoff Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame. It was as much of a bummer as a 12-1 season can be.

So maybe it's not such a bad thing that this year's team is a blank slate. With 16 starters gone, including 12 picked in the first four rounds of the NFL draft, the 2016 Buckeyes might as well be wearing question marks on their jerseys instead of numbers. Let's examine some of the storylines that will define the season.

1. Will J.T. Barrett step up and lead?

Barrett proved he could oversee a masterful season in 2014, but his injury against Michigan put Cardale Jones behind center for the championship run. The two QBs split time throughout 2015, and neither settled into a groove for long. Now Barrett finally has the starting QB job all to himself again, but the seasoned junior is surrounded by mostly untested talent. The season likely hangs on whether he can regain his freshman year form and inspire his teammates to rally behind him.

2. Can Mike Weber fill Ezekiel Elliott's shoes?

Elliott was Ohio State's most reliable weapon the last two years, and some NFL scouts pegged him as the most promising pro running back prospect in a decade. (The Cowboys drafted him fourth overall.) With Bri'onte Dunn dismissed from the team and Curtis Samuel doubling as a receiver, redshirt sophomore Weber is the most likely candidate to get Elliott's carries - but can he come close to the 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns Elliott accumulated in 2015?

3. Do Tim Beck and Ed Warinner have any good ideas up their sleeves?

Offensive coordinators Beck and Warinner often returned to the same poisoned wells throughout 2015, repeatedly sending Braxton Miller running into a brick wall among other bad ideas. Their unit rarely locked into a productive rhythm. To be fair, it's hard to spread the ball around to so many stellar players while maintaining a consistent system. Now that Ohio State's offensive cupboard is no longer overflowing with stars, perhaps Beck and Warinner will be forced to get creative again.

4. Was hiring Greg Schiano a genius move or a grave error?

Defensive coordinator Schiano is Urban Meyer's personal friend, which may cloud Meyer's judgment when hard decisions have to be made. And Schiano, whose success as head coach at Rutgers led to a failed stint coaching the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, may not be long for Columbus if another head coaching gig comes along next offseason. But if anyone's capable of whipping this young unit into worthy torchbearers for Chris Ash's 2015 defense, it's Schiano.

5. Who will lead the defense?

The defensive line, linebackers and secondary each boast one returning starter: junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis, junior linebacker Raekwon McMillan and junior cornerback Gareon Conley respectively. Each of them owes some of his prior success to playing alongside superstar teammates - Lewis, for instance, led the Buckeyes in sacks last year partially because Joey Bosa drew so many double- and triple-teams. Now each will have to be the best version of himself, and at least one needs to become the heart and soul of the unit. (Our money's on McMillan.)

6. What else does the Bosa family have to offer?

Joey Bosa was arguably the best player on some of the best Ohio State teams ever. His brother, Nick, a fellow defensive end, might be even better. Urban Meyer says Nick is ahead of Joey's progress going into freshman year, so even though Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard are expected to start at DE, don't be surprised if the younger Bosa sees a lot of playing time - especially if he's even half as dominant as his brother.