Players to Watch: Ohio State vs. Navy Week 1


It’s here, it’s finally here. No more questioning what this team is capable of without captain and former Heisman candidate Braxton Miller. No more questioning what the defense will look like with new co-coordinator Chris Ash at the helm. It’s time to put foot to ball and go play. First up, Navy and their incredibly annoying and efficient triple-option offense. Let’s take a look at the key players to watch in this Saturday’s match-up.


Keenan Reynolds- Quarterback

Urban Meyer has stressed time and time again about the importance of the quarterback position in his spread read-option offense, the same can be said for the Navy triple-option offense. In fact, one could argue that the position that carries the most responsibility and level of difficulty in all of college football is the Navy starting quarterback. Keenan Reynolds has not only embraced the task of mastering this difficult offense, but has been very successful in doing so.

Now normally this is the part where I talk about how great his arm is, or how accurate he can be, or how he works through his progressions well and can potentially nickel and dime you down the field, but we’re talking about Navy and the triple-option, so for you traditional quarterback lovers this may be the time you abandon ship. Instead I’m going to talk about Reynolds impressive 4.3 yards per carry last year, and his astounding 32 rushing touchdowns, which included a ridiculous 7 touchdown performance vs. San Jose State.

Now I’m almost positive San Jose State did not field 4 defensive lineman that could all potentially be 1st or 2nd round picks in the NFL draft as Ohio State does, but none the less, a 7 touchdown performance and 32 total is nothing to downplay. The Buckeyes must be careful with Reynolds and his running ability. If the Buckeyes allow the quarterback to have an impact in the run game, lookout for the Midshipmen’s play-action game and for them to take shots against an inexperienced secondary.

Midshipmen Offensive Line

This collective unit could absolutely become a nightmare for the Buckeyes. While they are undersized and do not possess a remarkable amount of talent, their technique of cut blocking is one that frightens any coach and player that faces them. For those who are unfamiliar with the technique, cut blocking is when an offensive lineman, or blocker in general, dives at his opponents feet and ankles to block them instead of their numbers. This technique is very controversial and is often confused with chop blocking which is illegal in college and professional football. A chop block consists of a blocker diving at his opponents knees or thighs to bring him down. Both can be an absolute nightmare for those being blocked, and both have been known to weaken and injure players.

However, it is not just their technique that could cause the Buckeyes problems, it is the quickness of the offensive lineman that pose a threat as well. The Midshipmen’s biggest lineman will be their right guard Jake Zuzek who weighs an astounding 290 pounds. While yes that is small for a big ugly, the Midshipmen possess mobile big uglies that can cause defensive lineman, and linebackers alike, a major issue getting off the ball first and initiating contact. If the Buckeyes want to slow down this rush attack they will have to win at the point of attack and use their size advantage against the Midshipmen. If they fail to do so, the Midshipmen cut blocking techniques could be come very effective and harmful to the Buckeyes front seven.

Ohio State

J.T. Barrett

The moment has finally arrived for redshirt freshman John Thomas Barrett to take the field as the starting quarterback for The Ohio State Buckeyes. While that is a mouthful, Barrett will not be dealing with a dumpster fire situation Braxton Miller found himself in for his first start as a true freshman. Barrett will be surrounded by great talent and a very experienced coaching staff to guide him through his first start, which will be on the road.

However, in my opinion, it will be a blessing in disguise to have his first start on the road at a neutral site. While the game will be in “Navy country”, the largest contingent of Ohio State alumni resides in Northern Virginia and as usual, Buckeye nation is expected to show well. The balance of not dealing with a home crowd that is watching your every move and also not dealing with too hostile of a crowd should bode well for Barrett.

What could also play in Barrett’s favor is that he will not be facing the most daunting defense in the country. While the Midshipmen defense has been known to be stubborn in the red zone, the Buckeyes will find no issue moving the ball between the 20’s as the Midshipmen ranked 56th last season in total defense. The Buckeyes were also incredibly efficient last year in the red zone, and with the plethora of weapons Barrett has he should do well in his first start. Barrett will only be asked to be the distributor that the coaches know he can be, nothing more, nothing less. If he stays on that path the redshirt freshman should be successful and avoid any major bumps and bruises during his first start.

Curtis Grant

The senior linebacker has faced many questions the past two seasons. Will he live up to the five star hype? Can he play in coverage? Is it only a matter of time before McMillan passes him? In spite of all the doubt and questions, Grant has began to play his best football for the Buckeyes.

The young and inexperienced Buckeye defense will need Grant to continue his quality play this Saturday against a tricky defense. Grant does a good job of filling holes and attacking downhill, however the blocking scheme he will face this Saturday will be less traditional than what he is used to. While I do not think this will pose a huge problem for Grant, it will be important for him to play well and set the tempo and standard for the linebacking play in this game.

Not only will Grant need to lead by example, but his vocal leadership will be valuable on the field Saturday. Grant must be the commanding voice for the Buckeyes defense and keep them disciplined and calm. The option offense requires a great amount of communication and patience to defend against. If the Silver Bullets show well on Saturday, expect Grant to be a large contributing factor to a successful performance.

But What Do I Know???

Let me know in the comments section below which players you think will play the biggest role in Saturday’s game and any other predictions you may have.


  1. OhioGuy313 says

    Very good article- one correction, though. Both of the things you described are cut blocks. A chop block is when Player A tries to block an opponent by diving at his legs, when that opponent is already being blocked “up high” by Player A’s teammate.

  2. I think, since we’ll be running the ball quite a bit to take the pressure off Barrett, that a running back will play a BIG role in this game. And with the four-headed monster that we have at running back, it could be anyone — Elliot, Smith, Dunn. We’ll see!

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