COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has reason to feel a little unsettled as his team begins preparations for the 2016 season. He has to find replacements for his best offensive player, his best defensive player and other key parts of a squad that finished 12-1 last year and ranked No. 4 in the nation.Ezekiel Elliot, one of the best running backs in Buckeyes history, departed early for the NFL, as did defensive end Joey Bosa. Both were stalwarts in the 2014 national championship run and right on through last season. Just six starters from last year will be in camp this fall.The good news: Quarterback J.T. Barrett enters a season as the undisputed starter for the first time after taking over for Cardale Jones at mid-season last year. In 2014, Barrett led the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record before breaking his ankle in the Michigan game and giving way to Jones, who led the team to the national title.I anticipate he will be as good a quarterback as weve had, Meyer said. Its his show and he knows it, and hes prepared.Middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, a second-team All-American who was one of the Big Tens top tacklers, will anchor a defense with a ton of potential -- including Bosas little brother, Nick, an incoming freshman defensive lineman.Freshmen and other inexperienced players will see extensive playing time on both sides of the ball and must perform for the Buckeyes to have success. A true freshman might even start on the offensive line, an exceedingly rare occurrence at Ohio State.But that doesnt necessarily mean it will be a rebuilding year for the Buckeyes. For Meyer, a master recruiter, its always a matter of waiting for the next crop of All-Americans to come of age and take over the team.We have a lot of momentum here at Ohio State right now, he said. We cant lose it just because we lost some great players.Some things to watch as the season arrives:THE GROUND GAMEWith Elliott now in camp with the Dallas Cowboys, Ohio State enters fall practice without an established running back. The teams most experienced back, fifth-year senior Brionte Dunn, was dismissed last month for violating an unspecified team rule. That leaves redshirt freshman Mike Weber and true freshman Antonio Williams, both highly regarded prep players Meyer has raved about. Weber likely will be the starter, and look for H-back Curtis Samuel to get a share of the touches, too.ABOUT THOSE RECEIVERSOhio States three best receivers from 2015 are gone. The four players expected to step up as top pass-catchers -- Noah Brown, Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson and Samuel -- were recovering from injuries and didnt participate in spring practice, opening the door for youngsters like Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell and Torrance Gibson, all of whom had their shining moments in the spring game. Meyer needs one of them to emerge as the guy who can consistently get open and catch the deep ball.KEY GAMESSept. 17 at Oklahoma; Oct. 15 at Wisconsin; Nov. 19 at Michigan State; Nov. 26 vs. Michigan.SEASON OPENERSept. 3 vs. Bowling Green: The Buckeyes may have to work up a sweat dispatching the Falcons, one of the Mid-American Conferences better teams. Its the first of two tuneup games Ohio State will play at home before traveling to Oklahoma for an early-season showdown.PREDICTIONDespite losing a lot of experienced players, the Buckeyes have the talent to remain among college footballs elite teams. 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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Forward Rickard Rakell agreed to a six-year, $22.8 million deal Friday to stay with the Anaheim Ducks.Rakell has 29 goals and 49 assists in 165 games for the Ducks, who drafted the Swede in the first round in 2011. He scored 20 goals for Anaheim last season while ranking fourth on the team with 43 points, emerging as one of the Ducks top young offensive threats.The restricted free agent didnt participate in training camp while technically holding out for a new deal, although he would have been unable to play anyway after surgery last month related to his appendectomy last spring.The surgery kept Rakell out of the World Cup of Hockey, but the 23-year-old is working out again in Sweden with hopes of returning to hockey before the end of October. He will return to Anaheim when his visa is acquired, and he is expected to play on one of the Ducks top two lines.I think its something we both agreed was common ground for the two of us, Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. The injury held us up a little bit. We wanted to be totally comfortable Ricky was going to be OK going forward. Hes over 200 pounds right now and hes skating.Rakells contract, which runs through the 2021-22 season, absorbs two potential seasons of unrestricted free agency.With Rakells deal complete, Murray can turn his full attention to re-signing defenseman Hampus Lindholm, Rakells fellow restricted free agent. Lindholm is still at home in Sweden, depriving the Ducks of an elite young blueliner as they begin their first season under returning coach Randy Carlyle.Murray had no progress to report on negotiations with Lindhollms representatives, but he is speaking with them frequently.ddddddddddddheres lots of different things that could happen with Hampus, Murray said. Were trying hard to get that accomplished. Both sides are talking. We have no idea what that deal is going to be.Murray said he wouldnt necessarily need to trade another player to create room on his limited payroll for Lindholm. Defenseman Cam Fowler has been widely mentioned in trade rumors.Murray is less optimistic about the health of defenseman Simon Despres, who left their season opener at Dallas on Thursday night with an unspecified upper-body injury.Despres missed large stretches of last season following a concussion, and Murray clearly is concerned about a possible reoccurrence of symptoms. Despres didnt absorb any major hits before leaving in the second period.He was not feeling good last night, Murray said. Were trying to figure out whats going on with him. He had those problems last year. Something is wrong here, and weve got to get to the bottom of it.After losing their season opener, the Ducks play at Pittsburgh on Saturday, continuing their five-game East Coast road trip before their home opener against Vancouver on Oct. 23.Anaheim also assigned forward Joseph Cramarossa to its AHL affiliate in San Diego on Friday, a day after the Ducks claimed veteran forward Emerson Etem on waivers from Vancouver.Etem joined the Ducks on their road trip Friday, but his equipment didnt arrive with him from Canada in time for practice. ' ' '