Archives for July 2018

Expectations VS Reality

With the 2018-2019 quickly approaching, the excitement steadily builds within the fanbase as we inch closer to opening day.  As the excitement builds, the expectations become unrealistic and it could potentially depart from reality quicker than someone could conjure it up in their head.

Dreams of an undefeated season en-route to another championship is surely attainable, but it will not be an easy road.  Then there is the possibility of securing the top ranking in the recruiting game.  It is surely doable, but it would also be difficult to achieve.  Then there is the worst kept secret with our coaching staff, namely with Coach Schiano returning after being forced out by the Tennessee fanbase.

These are all juicy subjects but let us look at the potential for the Buckeyes to go undefeated this season.

Are We Going Undefeated?

With the season coming up, we all would LOVE to see our Buckeyes go undefeated throughout the season and win the entire CFB Playoff, but as I previously stated, it will not be that easy.  When going over this seasons schedule, the Buckeyes will be tested early and often right from the get-go.

First, in week 3, Ohio State will travel to Arlington, Texas to face a nasty TCU defense that will bless have a new quarterback leading the offense that will give the Silver Bullets an early test.  TCU has recently come on as of late, and I am willing to bet that they are still angry at the fact that they were left out of the first CFB Playoff.  This will be a measuring stick game for the Buckeyes (Haskins and offense) and for TCU as they attempt to get their signature win over a CFB Blueblood program.  All eyes will be looking at this early season matchup between Top 10 teams, will the Buckeyes sink or swim out the gates?

During week 5, the Buckeyes will travel to Happy Valley for another hostile “whiteout” situation where the last time they arrived in these conditions, they fell to the home team via blocked FG that resulted in a TD.  It will be another dogfight minus, Barkley and Gesicki, but Trace McSorley is a magician and he will give the defense fits with his ability to pass and run.  Add the fact that this is an East Division and a rivalry game and that former Buckeye target Micah Parsons is there?!  It’ll be tough sledding for sure, but hopefully, the Buckeyes can do enough to silence the crowd.

Then you have a couple of trap games lined up in consecutive weeks that could lead to trouble for the Buckeyes playoff hopes.  In week 10, a home game against a Nebraska team that is now led by the former head coach of the undefeated UCF “National Championship” team.

The Buckeyes have demolished the previous two Cornhusker teams, but this year might bring a different kind of energy and focus to the game.  With a seemingly rejuvenated team, with a bright young mind leading the charge, this game might be harder this year.  And if some of you forgot, there was also the Tate Martell versus Tyjon Lindsey beef that might resurface.

In week 11, the Buckeyes will travel to East Lansing to face Sparty and this has the potential for another air guitar letdown for the Buckeyes.  It still haunts me and hurts my soul, but it’ll be a slugfest between two Eastern Division rivals vying for a berth in the Conference Championship Game.  This game will be intense.

Brian Lewerke returns as the starter, but you cannot discount the potential impact of the Spartan back-ups because they have had some success against the Buckeyes.  They used DeWeaver as a runner, and I could see the same issue this year.

Then there is something called The Game, that will pit Ohio State against Michigan.  I do not have to put effort into how important this game is, especially for the Buckeyes.  There have been many times when either team was undefeated up until this game, then poof–dream is gone.  If the Buckeyes take care of business up until this game, this game will have a lot at stake.

If they remain undefeated during the regular season and they secure the East Division berth in the Conference Championship Game, there is another obstacle in the way, the West Division representative.  It will be either Wisconsin or Iowa, two teams that always remain in the way of Ohio State related goals.  Last year it was Iowa’s demolishing of the Buckeyes at home that ousted the Buckeyes playoff hopes and Wisconsin always finds a way to do the same in the postseason.

So, to be clear, I am not assuming that they will remain undefeated and that they will breeze by opponents because what’s not to say that another Iowa game happens.  It won’t be an easy season, but I have enough faith in the team that they will not disappoint.

 

What to Expect: Linebackers

The Ohio State linebackers had some up and down moments during last season.  The highlight of last season was the Michigan State game.  The low point, sadly, was the game before against the Iowa Hawkeyes who absolutely torched us, and cost us a spot in the College Football Playoffs. A topic I could go on and on about because a certain team played Mercer last year, but I digress.

The 2018 season will feature players that had quite the roll in last season as backups, but played more and more as the season went along.  Tuf Borland will most likely be the starting middle linebacker, as he is the best player for the job. However, he is coming off an Achilles injury where he missed all of spring ball.  Hopefully, he comes back the same player, or even better than last year because this kid has talent.  In the MSU game, he had 11 total tackles with 8 of them being solo and 1 sack.

If Borland can’t go or just loses the starting job, look for Baron Browning to be the next guy up. Browning was the No. 1 linebacker in the 2017 class, and was on the field during special teams last season. I expect Borland and Browning to play a lot this season back and forth, and having two guys with same level of skills is never a bad thing. Browning can also play outside linebacker, so if Borland does come back healthy, expect Browning to be on the field at both middle and outside linebackers.

Justin Hilliard, who lost his starting position to Borland last year, is the older player, but he has dealt with lingering injuries.  If Borland or Browning can’t go Hilliard is looking to improve from last season, and the Buckeyes will need him to be his former 5-star self.

Malik Harrison is expected to be the starting Strongside Linebacker.  Harrison got in games last year in garbage time, and to give the other guys some rest for a play or two, but he did show what he can do, especially in the MSU game.  Dante Booker will most likely be the backup even though he chose to comeback, and forego the NFL Draft.  Booker didn’t have the best of season last year, and that wasn’t entirely his fault.  He has been injured almost his whole career at Ohio State.  He wants to come back and show everyone, including the scouts, what he really can do.

Weakside Linebacker is the big question mark for the Buckeyes.  Replacing 3rd round draft pick Jerome Baker is no easy task.  But expect Keandre Jones to be the starting linebacker with Pete Werner to back up. Both players have seen plenty of time on special teams, but not much action at the linebacker position.  Jones is the the older player which is why I’m giving him the starting job, but Werner and Browning will be coming for the spot.

After the Iowa game, Urban and Greg Schiano made some linebacker changes for the Michigan State, and they payed off big time.  Putting in the young guys really helped the Buckeyes defense come alive.  I expect this season to be much better at the linebacker position, and they will help get the Buckeyes off the field on the 3rd down plays.  The Buckeyes have a history of great linebackers, and this season should be no exception.  With 4 and 5 star players all over the field the Buckeyes should have plenty of depth and talents to keep the NFL linebacker talent alive.

What to Expect: Defensive Line

Ohio State is expected to remain one of the top defensive lines in the country.  Even with three seniors leaving, Jayln Holmes, Tracey Sprinkle and Tyquan Lewis, and one early departure, Sam Hubbard, Ohio State has raw talent. The group is young and looking to make a name for themselves with hard footsteps to follow.

Headlined by Nick Bosa at defensive end.  Bosa is looking to improve his 8.5 sacks and 19 solo sacks a year ago. He is already dropping jaws at his stellar performances and wants to continue his and his family legacy at Ohio State.  In my opinion, Bosa will do just that.  As he had to share snaps last year with second-round draft pick, Tyquan Lewis, Bosa will get plenty of playing time this season, and earn his top 5 draft pick.

On the other side from Bosa is another familiar name, Chase Young.  Young saw playing time last year, but really only in garbage time.  With so many older, more experienced players in front of him, it was hard to get him in.  However, going into his sophomore year Young will get a chance to really show off his talents.  Young has all the makings of being a top ten draft pick, and this year is the start of it. Splitting the snaps with Young and Bosa will be Johnathon Cooper, a redshirt freshman, and Jashon Cornell, a redshirt sophomore. Cooper is the third defensive end and will get the bulk of the playing time alongside Bosa and Young.  Cornell can earn significant playing time if he shows up in camp and on the field.

The middle guys are the big question here.  Dre’mont Jones and Robert Landers saw playing time last year and most likely will be the two starters at the defensive tackle positions.  However, Antwuan Jackson is a transfer from Auburn.  Jackson was going to commit to Ohio State or Auburn back in 2015 but chose Auburn at the time.  Now in 2018, Jackson is where he belongs and will have a huge part on our defensive line.  Haskell Garrett and Davon Hamilton are also “backups.” The coaching staff is loving the depth at the defensive line position and all these players could earn significant time this year.  The coaching staff also loved Tommy Togiai the true freshman who had a great spring and is hoping to get in the rotation.

What I am expecting this year is the defensive line to continue dominating like in years past. The only real problem Ohio State has right now is creating enough game time to get all these players in.  Ohio State has recruited well at the defensive end position ever since Urban got into Columbus, and with Larry Johnson at the helm the only thing stopping these players from making a name for themselves is themselves. Even with all the talent that has left in the last few years, the Buckeyes just keep on reloading.

What To Expect: Offensive Line

The Offensive Line is one of the deeper units for Ohio State with three returning players who will be leading the charge.  Even after the departures of Rimington winner, Billy Price and bookend Left Tackle in Jamarco Jones to the NFL, this specific unit will bring another wave of talent to the table.

Obviously, this unit did not come unscathed and due to the crowded room, Ohio State lost a handful of potential two-deep players in Matthew Burrell, Kevin Feder, and Evan Lisle, but even without them, I wish them the best of luck with their new teams.  There is no ill will on my end and the rest of Buckeye Nation should do the same, but that rarely happens.  Either way, the room still has a plethora of former five and high four stars, that will get their shot this season.

The fall camp would bring some more intense competition for starting spots along the Offensive Line, but the surefire starters will be Prince at Left Tackle and Michael Jordan at Left Guard.  Beyond that, Brady Taylor looks to be the favorite in the Center battle, it is a toss-up between former starter that is returning from a season-ending leg injury in Brandon Bowen and Demetrius Knox for the Right Guard spot and Bowen could also be a factor at Right Tackle with Thayer Munford.

If I were to call it right now, I think from the left side to the right, it will be Prince, Jordan, Taylor, Knox, and Munford as the starters.  Following that, the two-deep would look like Alabi, Davis, Myers, Bowen, and true freshman Petit-Frere.  Other true freshmen, Max Wray and Matthew Jones could also make some noise in the fall so stay tuned.

All in all the unit is not as deep, but they are deep enough to nearly have a three deep in place in case of emergency.  This year’s line will be important to maintain the balance between the run and the pass.  They need road graders and maulers to do so and I think this line will be special.  Call it a gut feeling, but I think it’ll be a fun year.

 

 

 

What To Expect: Tight Ends

The Tight End position at Ohio State is on the rise and they will be looking to make an impact come gameday.  With the departure of Marcus Baugh, the position will feature a few familiar faces with Rashod Berry, Luke Farrell, and Jake Hausmann, walk-ons Davin Brock and Derrick Malone, and a once in a lifetime talent in true freshman Jeremy Ruckert.

The position would have two additional names, but life happened and it left A.J. Alexander, who was forced to end his playing career due to injuries and Kierre Hawkins, who will be transfering to Youngstown State, where a former Buckeye Head Coach Jim Tressel resides as President.

The Tight End position has been in flux compared to the previous seasons, and I believe it will be on the rise from here on out.  The proof is in the way they used Baugh late in games, like how they leaned on him during that amazing home win against Penn State.  The coaches have shown that if needed, they will lean on the Tight End to win the matchups against their opponents.

It may not be demonstrated right away, but they are certainly trending in the right direction, and with the number of weapons on the offense, everyone will just have to take their best shots when thrust into action or called upon.

Similar to Zone 6, the focus is on balancing the passing and running games to throw defenses off balance.  This years offense has the potency that makes the fans salivate, and it has the potential to be one hell of a ride and season.  Hopefully, it comes to fruition as the season draws closer.