Ohio State-Kent State: Players to Watch

After a tough and emotionally draining performance against Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes are looking to bounce back against Kent State out of the MAC. Here are a few players to keep an eye on this Saturday as the Golden Flashes visit The Shoe.

Kent State

Colin Reardon, Quarterback

Chris Ash paid respect to Reardon in his presser this week stating the sophomore quarterback could cause the Buckeyes “trouble”. And to some extent he is right especially with the volume of throws Reardon is asked to attempt per game. In the Golden Flashes first two games Reardon has attempted 41 and 40 passes with varying amounts of success. In their first game versus Ohio, Reardon threw the ball very well boasting a 73% completion percentage accompanied by 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. However, Reardon struggled in his second contest only completing 42% of his passes versus a tougher MAC opponent, South Alabama. So somewhere in between lies the real Reardon.

Regardless of which Reardon shows up Saturday, the Buckeye seconary will see lots of balls thrown out to the perimeter and they will be asked to make tackles in space. Kent State does not boast a great rushing attack so Reardon will have the ball in his hands the majority of the game and the offenses success will live or die with Reardon.

Jon Cunningham, Nose Guard

Cunningham has been a welcome sight on the defensive front. Cunningham is only a freshman, but has had a productive first two starts registering 7 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and a forced fumble. He is no phenom on the inside but Cunningham does have a good engine and good size to him at almost 300 pounds. While normally I would not be concerned with a freshman nose guard from a mid-tier MAC program, the struggles of Ohio States interior offensive line last Saturday mixed with Cunningham’s fast start and growing confidence could provide some problems for Ohio State.

Richard Gray, Defensive End

Gray is the best play maker on the Golden Flashes defense. He did not play in 2013 due to ineligibility, but in 2012 he started one game,played in twelve, and recorded 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Gray is very talented and athletic at 6’2 250 pounds. He has had a good start to his 2014 campaign registering 10 tackles in his first two games and I imagine him to have an impact on Saturday. Gray will likely be moved around the line to see where he can have the most success, and I’m guessing he will end up spending most of his time versus Darryl Baldwin. Baldwin has proved that he struggles with athletic pass rushers so Gray would be wise to test the right side of the Buckeyes offensive line. Expect to see Gray with his hand in the dirt, standing up, dropping in to coverage, and doing anything else his coaches will need him to do. He is a very talented and versatile player that could be a valuable chess piece on Saturday.

Ohio State

Ezekiel Elliott

Elliott was expected to take over the starting running back spot this year and become Ohio States next great running back. He has flashed and he has impressed, but overall he has been wildly inconsistent. Elliott is very good once he gets out on the edge, but he needs to improve on his between the tackle running. Maybe take a few notes from the freshman pushing him for touches Curtis Samuel. Samuel hits the hole with speed and keeps his legs churning even after contact. I fully believe Elliott has that in him, he may just need a big game versus an inferior opponent to get him going on all cylinders. South Alabama’s running back averaged 4.9 yards per touch against Kent State last week so there should be no reason why Elliott can’t have similar success versus a mid-tier MAC opponent.

Jalin Marshall

Marshall had a solid opening performance versus Navy, but was largely held in check versus the Hokies. I expect Marshall to be heavily involved in this weeks gameplan, along with Dontre Wilson. The H-backs are crucial to this offenses success with the amount of touch passes and jet sweeps they like to run to the edges. The defense will largely be focused on containing Dontre Wilson, which should allow Marshall to get free on a few occasions. Marshall is a very dangerous, under the radar weapon for this offense and I would definitely like to see him more involved in the run and pass game. Look for Marshall to take a jet sweep to the house on Saturday, which could kick off his coming out party versus Kent State.

Noah Spence

The highly touted defensive line unit will become whole again this Saturday with the return of Noah Spence. Spence will not be starting on Saturday, but expect to see him in early and often to shake off any early season rust. Spence’s speed and athleticism on the edge will complete the nightmares opposing offensive lines should be having prior to the game Saturday. Even defensive coordinator Chris Ash stated he is excited to get Spence back on the field. I expect Ash to move Spence around a lot, drop him in to coverage, and incorporate him in to some zone blitzes Ash may have up his sleeve. The return of Spence will be huge for the Buckeyes not only on Saturday, but moving forward in the season as well.

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