Players to Watch: Week 6 Ohio State-Maryland

Ohio State opens up Big Ten play in College Park this Saturday taking on new comer Maryland. The Terrapins are 4-1 and have started off the season on a hot streak recording some decent wins over Indiana, Syracuse, and South Florida. The Terps will threaten Ohio State with a big play offense like Cincinnati’s, however it is a more balanced offense that poses the additional threat of a dual threat quarterback.

Ohio State is coming off of a solid win over in-state little brother Cincinnati. The Buckeyes had a balanced offensive explosion led by youngsters J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott. They will look to travel their new found run game and put up similar numbers against a could be stubborn Terps defense. Speaking of defense, Chris Ash is looking to prove to Coach Meyer and Buckeye nation that his schematic miscues in the win over Cincinnati are fixable and the Buckeye defense is on the up and up.

Let’s look at players on both teams that will have an impact on this Big Ten clash.

Maryland

C.J. Brown,Quarterback

Brown’s career with the Terrapins has been filled with ups and downs. Brown has always possessed talent as a runner and a passer, however he has been plagued with the injury bug on several occasions. His injury prone nature is the reason why he is listed as questionable entering the Ohio State game Saturday. Brown injured his wrist in the second quarter versus Indiana and will be a game-time decision.

When Brown is healthy, he provides an extra dimension to this potent Maryland offense. The Terps are able to take full advantage of their read option game, and their offense takes similar appearance to Ohio State’s offense when Braxton Miller is playing quarterback. Brown is no Miller in the open field, but it is impressive that he leads his team in rushing yards and touchdowns. He does not do anything extremely well, he simply makes consistently good decisions as would be expected from a senior starting quarterback.

Marcus Leak, Wide Receiver

Last week it wasn’t the top two receivers for the Bearcats that gave the Buckeyes trouble, but the third man on their depth chart who exploded for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns. This week I’m following that theme. Leak is thought of as the third major option in this offense, but leads the team in touchdown receptions (3). Leak has not shown up consistently for the Terps offense, but when he does it is in a big way with a 17.6 yards per catch average. The Buckeye defense will be mainly concerned with the Terps number one man Stefon Diggs, so expect Leak to get a few targets to loosen up coverage on Diggs.

Stefon Diggs, Playmaker

Diggs college decision came down to Ohio State and Maryland, and Diggs spurned the Buckeyes for his hometown Terps. He finally gets a chance to showcase his talents against the team and coaching staff that coveted him so much.

What makes Diggs so talented is his ability to constantly improve and master his craft. Diggs does have game breaking speed, and can make defenders miss in space, but it is the little things he does well that make him very talented. He runs very crisp routes, has good feet off the line to beat tight coverage, understands when to sit down in zone or when to continue his route, and is willing to do the dirty work in the run blocking game.

Diggs suffered a tough season ending injury last year, but is bouncing back to his stellar form as a freshman where he had 54 receptions for 850 receiving yards, 6 touchdown receptions, as well as 20 rushing attempts for 114 yards. Diggs has gone from the flashy freshman to a consistent and reliable veteran in this receiving core. He hasn’t made a ton of big plays in the passing game this season, but his 29 receptions lead the team, and he has already recorded two 100 yard plus games. Diggs also is a big time threat in the kick game. The kid can do it all and it is no surprise why Meyer wanted him so badly.

Ohio State

Ezekiel Elliott

Being able to pack your offensive line and running game and take it on the road with you is one of the ultimate goals for most football coaches. The Buckeyes will attempt to do that on Saturday and expect Elliott to receive the majority of those touches. He proved versus Cincinnati, with his first real opportunity to be the feature back, that he can not only carry the load but be the stud he was touted to be out of high school. Elliott was able to rush effectively, as well as pose a major threat receiving out of the backfield. He will be heavily relied upon, along with the offensive line, to get the offense in to rhythm and maintain the momentum they gained in the Cincinnati win.

Darron Lee

Lee was instrumental in keeping Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds in check and I would expect him to have similar responsibilities against C.J. Brown. Lee has been playing the step out linebacker position at a very high level only being a redshirt freshman. He is a solid tackler, has great range in run defense, coverage,and rushing the passer. Raekwon McMillan may be charged with spying Brown the majority of the game, but if Brown escapes McMillan I would expect Lee to be right there to clean up any mistakes. Lee’s athleticism and versatility will be key versus a very versatile offense.

J.T. Barrett

A great litmus test for the maturity of a young player is to see how they handle success. Barrett has been touted as a great leader for how young he is. It will be interesting to see how he performs on the road, after a big win, facing an under the radar dangerous team, with a noon kick. Will Barrett come out slinging the rock like he did against Cincinnati? Or will we seem him get off to a slow start and struggle to get the offense going? After going up 31-7 in Saturday’s performance, Barrett and the offense sputtered and seemed complacent which instigated a very passionate Coach Meyer to implore his freshman QB to “TAKE CHARGE!”. Hopefully that proved to be a teaching moment for Barrett and the young offense to not take their foot off the gas, ever.

Barrett’s performance last week was outstanding. He was provided with a great performance from his offensive line and his stud running back. He was also handed a large majority of the playbook. Barrett will need to step in to the sleepy noon environment with as much energy and focus as he did in the electric environment that the great fans at The Horseshoe provided last Saturday night. Entering conference play will test Barrett’s maturity and his readiness to take on the tough Big Ten slate. It will be interesting to see how the redshirt freshman responds.

Comments

  1. Maryland and Diggs are making me itchy. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. I think we’ll handle them, but I don’t think it will be easy.

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  1. […] of best games from a unit, I was extremely impressed with the linebacking core. Darron Lee, as some predicted, had a stellar performance harassing quarterback C.J. Brown in the backfield and also recording an […]

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