Playoff Preview: Ohio State (11-1, BIG 8-1) vs Clemson (12-1, ACC 7-1) Part 1

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Playstation Fiesta Bowl Playoff Semifinal:

As the season winds down and as bowl games have been dispersed to deserving teams around the nation, the casual college football fan cannot hide their excitement for the upcoming playoff semifinal matchups, along with the New Years Six matchups.  There will be many great and exciting matchups, and I think that the Playstation Fiesta Bowl matchup between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Clemson Tigers will be the game to watch.  That isn’t to downplay the matchup between Alabama and Washington because that will also be another good matchup and a test for Crimson Tide Defense that will see a crop of talented receivers that the Huskies.  The pundits are predicting a rematch of last season’s Championship Game, with Alabama and Clemson.  Will we see another rematch this year or will we get a surprise matchup?  Only time will tell as we count down.  We all know that you shouldn’t count Urban Meyer out of it, and Clemson would not be smart if they did.  Although the Buckeyes are a slight 3-point favorite, I won’t be surprised if by the time the game rolls around, the Buckeyes end up as the underdogs because everyone seems to like the rematch from last year.

The Quarterbacks:

The Quarterback position is the most important position in football and they are what makes the offense function to move the chains.  For both teams, they have two battle-tested Quarterbacks who have won a lot of games and this is what makes this matchup so exciting for the fans of the game.  On one side you have Deshaun Watson, who has a high octane offense that is capable of scoring in a ton of ways and on the other, you have an offense struggling to find their identity and they are searching for additional playmakers outside of Curtis Samuel, who can consistently separate from opposing corners and get open.

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Deshaun Watson was a highly coveted Quarterback prospect out of Gainsville, Georgia.  He was heavily targeted by Ohio State for the duration of his recruiting venture before he ultimately decided to stay in the south.  This was one of the few misses Urban Meyer has had on the recruiting trail.  The rest is history as now he is set to face-off against Meyer once again.  For those who don’t remember (or choose not to), Clemson handed Urban Meyer one of his 5 losses in the 2014 Orange Bowl in which they won 40-35 in a shootout.  The Quarterback was not Watson, but he eventually committed to Clemson.  Watson is a Dual-Threat Quarterback who can sling the rock and run it, if necessary.  He has a variety of weapons at his disposal and he is dangerous for opposing defenses.  For the season, he is 329 for 487 and he has thrown for 3914 yards and has 37 touchdown passes.  He rushed 129 times this season for 529 yards for 6 scores.  He is capable of turning the game around in Clemson’s favor, but he has a single weakness, ball security.  This season, he has thrown 15 interceptions, which is a career high for him.  He will look to keep turnovers to a minimum against a greedy Ohio State Defense, who excels at taking the ball away from opposing offenses.  You could say that it is strength versus strength, but we will have to see how it all unfolds.

imgresJ.T. Barrett was a moderately pursued Quarterback out of Texas in 2013, who wanted to play at the next level at Texas. Luckily, the offer he wanted the most, never came and Texas’ loss is Ohio State’s gain.  Barrett was another Dual-Threat Quarterback, who is also capable of shredding opposing defenses through the air and on the ground.  This is why this matchup will be exciting and fun to watch.  Barrett isn’t as accomplished as a passer when being compared to Watson’s numbers, but he has provided his team with leadership and the ability to will his team to victory.  We all saw it during the Michigan game, The Game, and I don’t expect anything less this game.  Barrett is 214 for 346 for 2428 yards and 24 total touchdowns through the air and he rushed 194 times for 847 yards and 9 scores.  Unlike Watson, he has been known to take care of the ball, as he has only thrown 5 interceptions all season.  Turnovers and offensive production will be the determining factor for this contest.  You really don’t know what will unfold, and with the Jekyll and Hyde offense that Ohio State has, you never know what you will get until the game is on the line and in the hands of Barrett.  This will be a matchup to watch.

Running Backs:

imgres-3Wayne Gallman was recruited out of Grayson High School out of Loganville, Georgia.  He wasn’t a highly rated recruit, but he was recruited as a four-star Outside Line Backer prospect and ended up signing his letter of intent with the rest of the 2013 recruiting class.  Gallman stands at 6-0 feet tall and a solid 210 lbs.  He doesn’t shy away from contact and that effort has put him over the 1,000-yard rushing mark with 1,002 yards total for the season and he has 15 rushing touchdown’s to go along with it.  He has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, but he has only managed to reel in 16 catches for 103-yards with no touchdown receptions.  This may surprise you, but his job is to pound the rock and get the first down yardage when faced with short yardage situations. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t fast because he is.  He can get outside if he finds a lane, and that is what makes him dangerous.  He will be used to grind out the clock and to keep the Ohio State Defense honest. He will look to rack up the yardage on the Ohio State front seven, but it could be a contest of wills and determination.

images-1Mike Weber was heavily recruited by the Midwest Powerhouses, such as Michigan and Michigan State before eventually signing with Ohio State after some drama toward the end, close to signing day.  When the dust settled, Coach Harbaugh did not get his man and Weber embraced the Scarlet and Gray.  Weber went to high school at Cass Tech, a well-known recruiting pipeline for Michigan.  Weber is the third player from Cass Tech, who has picked Ohio State as the Buckeyes look to keep their presence there to establish their very own pipeline.  Weber is 5-10, 212 lbs, but he plays like a former Buckeye, Carlos Hyde.  He runs with an aggressive and punishing style that leaves defenders bruised and battered. Like, Gallman, he has the ability to run away from people, but he does not have the breakaway speed like Zeke has, but Hyde 2.0 is not a bad thing to have in the backfield either. Weber has racked up 1072-yards on the ground on 177 attempts for 9 touchdowns and he has reeled in 2o catches for 87-yards.  His touches have been sporadic as of late, as the staff has been concentrating on splitting the touches between J.T. Barrett and Curtis Samuel.  Whenever he has the opportunity to touch the ball, sparks usually fly, as he makes the best of it.  He wears defenses down with his aggressive running style and has shown the power and the ability to block when asked to do so.  This game will depend on their ability to control the clock and get the offense humming.

This game will depend on their ability to control the clock and get the offense humming.  Both teams have the talent and the weapons to do so at the Quarterback and Running Back positions, but it is a matter of consistency and willpower to show up come game day.  That is it for this preview, on the next installment, I will be previewing the Wide Receivers and the Offensive Line.  Until then enjoy the suspense while you can. Go Bucks!

Recruiting Recon:

imgres-4Boom!  The staff has added another blue-chip recruit with a high ceiling in Indiana’s four-star and #2 overall prospect, Pete Werner.  Werner is an Outside Linebacker prospect who was once committed to Notre Dame.  Werner is talented and hard working and he is certainly capable of growing into a Middle Linebacker after working with Coach Marotti and his staff during the offseason.  He needs to improve his strength, but his ability to diagnose a play quickly and his ability to pursue the ball carrier is second to none.  He is very instinctual and very fast for his 6-3, 220-pound frame, he is a sure tackler and he can also lay the boom as well.  The Buckeyes are getting a player that is ready to assume a role on Special Teams as he works his way up the depth chart.

imgres-5Baron Browning, like Werner is an Outside Line Backer prospect, but of the five-star variety out of Kennedale, Texas. He committed before Werner, so this Linebacker group will be a good one.  Brendan White, who is listed as an Athlete, could eventually grow into a Linebacker, but that is still up in the air.  Browning flashes the speed and the tenacity to shed blocks at will and to blow by slower linemen to get into the backfield.  He is another sure tackler, that has a high ceiling. He committed to Ohio State knowing that they might possibly lose some starters from this season and that the staff can help him grow, both on and off the field.  He is also in line to play on Special Teams.

imgres-7Kerry Coombs committed to the Buckeyes after rumors began swirling due to the potential hiring for Cincinnati of Luke Fickell.  Days after the official announcement Coach Coombs took it to social media, officially committing to the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes lucked out because Coombs is the door to Michigan’s recruiting fields.  Not to mention that he is well-liked and respected by the local coaches.  He also recruits everywhere and he is loved in Cincinnati because he used to coach at Colerain High School.  Coach Coombs is like the spark plug for the team, the proverbial energy bunny who can recruit like no other.  He is fifth in the 24/7 recruiting list with a total of 6 recruits that he assisted on or single-handedly brought in.  Those recruits are Amir Riep, Isaiah Pryor, Marcus Williamson, Jerron Cage, Blake Haubeil and recent commit, Pete Werner.  His best recruit to date?  Vonn Bell, Eli Apple, Damon Webb and Justin Hilliard.  Pretty good player and talents, but now he has his eyes set on Donovan People-Jones, during a winter storm.  He, accompanied with Coach Meyer made it to gauge his interest or the Buckeyes chances.  He is another highly ranked recruit and if they steal him (not likely), they will do it after Michigan thought they had the last visit and he will be a part of a Wide Receiver class that already has a five-star and a high four-star in Trevon Grimes and Tyjon Lindsey.  That would be a three-headed monster that would spell trouble for defenses, but once again, it is highly unlikely.  The other Buckeye coach who ranks higher?  Mr. Zone 6, Zach Smith who is ranked #1 with recruiting wins as he sealed the deal with Nick Bosa and Jalin Marshall and currently in the 2017 class, he convinced the aforementioned Lindsey and Grimes, Wyatt Davis, Haskell Garrett and the recruiting machine, Tate Martell.  Each member, especially Coombs is a valuable recruiting asset and from a continuity point of view, he will receive an expanded role with the departure of Coach Fickell.  He will looks to continue his efforts to building recruiting classes in 2017 and beyond.

Thanks for everything Coach Fickell:

imgres-6If you haven’t paid attention, Coach Fickell just received a 6-year deal to become the next Head Coach at Cincinnati.  He will take over a program that is suffering a bit after Tommy Tubberville had decided to step down.  The Bearcats signed a defensive minded coach that has seasoned himself under the tutelage of Coach Tressel and Coach Meyer.  He endured one of the worst seasons prior to Coach Meyer being hired and was retained after the higher ups recommended it.  It certainly has paid off as he got the defense back on track and has developed his players with his passion and knowledge of the game that he loves.  This is what you are getting and you should be happy with it.  It is truly a huge loss for the Buckeyes as they search for a suitable replacement.  Another thing the Buckeyes will miss is his recruiting prowess, on being able to spot diamonds in the rough.  He earns the trust of all those involved in recruiting and as he moves on, he will assume control of the Queen City where he helped find a Notre Dame Lacosse commitment playing dodge ball, who eventually grew into a starter for the Buckeyes.  He is valuable, but he needed to grow outside of Ohio State and what a perfect opportunity it is for him to stay in Ohio and grow.  Also, Jerimiah, I do agree with you that the one’s who said #FireFickell, this is a huge loss and I too, cannot forgive them nor forget about the travesties that occurred that season.  You certainly will be missed, good luck and God bless you and your family in your journey as Head Coach.

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