Preview: Ohio State vs Indiana

 

When:  Thursday, August 31st @ 6:00 PM on ESPN

Where:  The Rock, Bloomington, Indiana


With the 2017 College Football season fast approaching, I could not help but preview opening day of the upcoming season.  After my brief break due to my move back to the states, I am proud to say that I am back MOTSAG faithful!

To open the 2017 season, Ohio State will collide with a seasoned Indiana team that is capable of putting up huge numbers on opposing defenses, but that was under former Head Coach Kevin Wilson, who coincidentally was dismissed by Indiana and is now the Offensive Coordinator at Ohio State.
In an unusual turn of events and because of some luck, Coach Meyer jumped at the chance to improve their offensive deficiencies by employing Wilson.  Wilson has a proven track record of reinventing offenses under his watch with stints at Miami (OH), at Northwestern and at Oklahoma. He will bring a quick tempo attack to Ohio State, and it is what the Buckeyes lacked after Texas Coach Tom Herman left.
The search for improvements did not stop there, as Coach Meyer plucked another young coach from the NFL ranks to bolster their staff in Quarterback Coach Ryan Day.  Day, a Chip Kelly disciple, will be tasked to improve the QB play.  Day and Wilson will work side by side to resurrect an anemic Buckeye offense that was shut out in last years CFB Playoffs.
J.T. Barrett will lead the team for his last season donning the Scarlet and Gray for a Thursday game at Bloomington, Indiana.  With him, he has 4 returning starters along the O-Line, but a new RG that has yet to be announced.  Bruising RB Mike Weber returns and TE Marcus Baugh is back as well.
Ohio State will break in many first year starters at WR, with Dixon, Campbell, and McLaurin leading the way.  Ohio State also has a mix of older and younger players at the position vying for playing time in Hill, Mack, Victor, Harris, and Grimes, so we will have to see how the offense adapts to their newer, faster system.
The defense returns the majority of the front seven and their backups.  The biggest question would be the secondary, which lost 3 first rounders to the NFL Draft.  The projected starters at CB will likely be Arnette, Sheffield, and Ward with Okudah as the fourth man up.  While Wade, Williamson and Riep will be looking for playing time in during garbage time.
At the Safety spots, Webb is the only returning starter, while the other spot is up for grabs between Erick Smith and Jordan Fuller, who no matter who wins, both will play this season.  Both bring different playing styles, but both would do well when called upon.
Indiana has a bit of a QB battle going as Richard Lagow is trying to fight off a Redshirt FR Peyton Ramsey, who did well during the spring game.  They will have 5 returning starters on offense and a BIG leading 9 on defense led by Tegray Scales.  Scales will attempt to stymie his former Head Coaches new team in the season opener.
Prediction:  44-20 (Ohio State)
The Barrett led offense will shine in the opener, with obvious improvements across the board.  It will be a balanced attack with 200+ yards passing and at least 100 on the ground.  The WR’s will be the biggest improvement and the TE will be featured more frequently than the previous seasons.  O-Line will improve as well with Prince and the new RG being the key players, but also the key matchup.  
The defense will be stout, but the secondary with the new starters will give up a few huge chunk plays before the lock in.  The Rushmen package will be lethal the LB’s will give Indiana fits.  I look for them to have a least 2 sacks and a forced fumble, while the secondary snags 2 interceptions. Scales will lead the defensive charge and he will be a problem.  He will be near the ball the entire game.  

Post Spring Game Depth Chart: Defensive Line

The biggest strength of the Ohio State defense, the Rushmen, will wreak havoc this season.  After losing multiple starters to the NFL Draft over the past two years, Ohio State managed to return their key D-Linemen for at least one more season in the Scarlet and Gray.

At Defensive End, both starters from last year, Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis have returned and the will lock down the two starting positions for the Buckeyes.  Behind them, Nick Bosa, Jalyn Holmes and Dre’Mont Jones wait patiently to spell the aforementioned starters or during the Rushmen Package.

Defensive Tackle is the most open out of all the positions with Dre’Mont Jones returning and Tracy Sprinkle returning from injury from a season ago.  Michael Hill also has spent some time as a starter, and he will look to build further because his eligibility is running out.  Sprinkle was supposed to be the starter coming into last season, but an injury prevented him from starting.

Jones, Sprinkle and Hill will be fighting for the starting spot, while trying to stave off Landers who shined during spot duty.  Davon Hamilton will be nursing his broken foot and is this years Sprinkle, with an unfortunate injury.

The depth at Defensive Linemen is similar to what Coach Meyer had at Florida and the talent is in place.  Year after year, they team adds a couple of highly touted and quality recruits, and all of them train to make each other better.

A few names to watch for are Robert Landers, Jashon Cornell, Haskell Garrett, Jerron Cage and Chase Young.  They add to the depth of the team and they all will be looking for a more permanent role on the team.  The biggest advantage is that they could all play and most of the DL are versatile and could play multiple positions.  It will be up to Coach Johnson to decide, but this will be an exciting group of players to watch for years to come.

Post Spring Game Depth Chart: Offensive Line

The Offensive Line or the Slobs have been a staple at Ohio State since the new Playoff system and as time has passed, the tradition still remains.  The Buckeyes have one lone member of that Championship team remaining.

At Left Tackle, Jamarco Jones will return to protect J.T. Barrett’s blindside for the 2018 season.  Jones was a solid contributor the entire year and he will try to continue to improve as the offseason continues and as the 2018 season approaches.  Behind Jones, a talented true freshman Josh Myers will look to make the two-deep as his back-up, but nothing will be given to him.  He will try to beat out upperclassmen such a Branden Bowen and Kevin Feder for the back-up spot.

Left Guard will return Michael Jordan, a rare true freshman starter who was the second Buckeye to earn a starting role along the Offensive Line just like Buckeye Legend Orlando Pace did years ago.  Behind Jordan Gavin Cupp, Matthew Burrell, Brady Taylor and Demetrious Knox will try to earn their way onto the two-deep.

The Center will be leaned on because the lone member on the Offensive Line, Billy Price will cap off his Ohio State career and start at the position.  He brings the experience and the stability to ensure the rest of the line lives up to the standard.  Behind him is Gavin Cupp and Jack Wohlabaugh who are two more versatile linemen wanting to help the team this season.

Right Guard was the only question mark as Price changed positions and Pat Elflein left for the NFL.  There are a bunch of good candidates in play here as incoming freshman Wyatt Davis will try to impress the coaches to be the third true freshman to start, but he will have to fend off the competition.  Malcolm Pridgeon, Matthew Burrell, Demetrious Knox, Brady Taylor and Gavin Cupp are all in play as well, making Right Guard the most interesting open spot on the roster.

Finally, at Right Tackle Isaiah Prince will look to rebound after surrendering a dreadful amount of pressures a season ago.  Prince was the weak link for the Slobs and he will have a fire in his belly to ensure he protects Barrett.  Behind him is incoming freshman Thayer Munford and the upperclassmen Bowen and Feder, who will try to unseat him or earn spot on the two-deep.

Consistency will be key and with 4 of the 5 starters from last season returning, the Buckeyes will search for improvement in communication and protection.  The trenches will be the biggest point of emphasis along with the lack of creativity with play calling.  Coach Meyer made some changes to his staff and it is now fight or flight.  How his team will respond to adversity and change.  Clemson did a number on the Slobs and they are looking for redemption and quite possibly, payback after the beatdown that they endured at the Fiesta Bowl.

 

Recruiting Spotlight: Matthew Jones

Another resounding boom is shot across the twittersphere, and just like that another key cog in the 2018 recruiting class was added to the puzzle.  Coach Meyer found a way to get another gem, this time in the form of the #1 player in the state of New York, Matthew Jones.  Jones is another versatile player who plays on both sides of the ball, but he is was recruited to play across the offensive line.  He is listed as a Defensive Tackle and Tackle on his Hudl profile, but the Ohio State coaches see and want him on the Offensive Line.  He is currently 6’4″, 315 lbs, but after a couple of months under Coach Marotti’s program, he will improve with time.  Jones will join Tackle Max Wray as members of the 2018 recruiting class, the #1 class according to 24/7 Sports.  This class has the potential to be another good one and if the dominoes fall in place, they could potentially add Tackle Jackson Carman to the mix.

Ohio State Buckeyes: 2017 Season Outlook

The Ohio State Buckeyes are coming off one of the worst defeats in the Urban Meyer Era.  The loss at the hands of Clemson was one of the worst offensive displays in recent memory, dating back to 2011, when Ohio State finished 6-7 and it proved that wholesale changes needed to be made on the offensive side of the ball.
Coach Meyer made the necessary changes during the off season bringing in a new Offensive Coordinator Kevin Wilson and Quarterbacks Coach Ryan Day, and collectively his squad will be looking to improve the passing game and bring back the sizzle to the Buckeye offense.  The offense will need to maintain a balance between the passing and the ground game to secure another playoff berth in the 2017 season.
The goal is set firmly in place, but the Buckeyes will have to traverse through a perilous road to secure another coveted spot in this years College Football Playoffs.  The goal will be attainable because 7 of the 12 games will be played at home and the home field advantage in The Shoe, helps the Buckeyes chances. Unfortunately, 5 of the 12 games are going to be played away from home, far from the confines of Ohio Stadium.
According to Alexander P., odds maker at mytopsportsbooks.com, “Ohio State is the modest favorite to win the Big Ten despite losing three first-round talents to the NFL. While they have a tough schedule ahead, the fact that they get to host Penn State and Oklahoma is a massive advantage. Their toughest road game is against a Michigan team that’s arguably losing even more key pieces.  The Buckeyes should be good for ten wins, if not more.”
It’s the 7 of 12 games on this season’s schedule that can shift the Buckeyes from being modest favorites, however.  They’ll be taking place at home, at The Shoe.  Home field advantage definitely helps the Buckeyes, but they will still be tested during those games.
The big games on the home slate will begin with a tilt with the Sooners.  Oklahoma will come into town in week 2 looking for some revenge after the Buckeyes came to Norman and embarrassed them.  The Buckeyes will welcome Penn State in week 9 to get some payback after they fell in Happy Valley a season ago.  In week 11, Michigan State will visit after a down year to potentially spoil season for the Buckeyes.
This years non-conference home games providea decent level competition as well, with Army being the most dangerous of the bunch.  Army finished 8-5 and they run the triple option, which will test the Buckeyes Defense.  UNLV will be coming in after a down year, after they finished 4-8.
The Buckeyes will also welcome two up-and coming conference foes in Maryland and Illinois to The Shoe.  Both coaches are looking for their signature wins, and what better opportunity that spoiling the Buckeyes chances at the Playoffs?
D.J. Durkin worked under Meyer at Florida before taking a job at Michigan over Ohio State.  Lovie Smith has the NFL Head Coaching experience that could turn the program around.  So the Buckeyes shouldn’t take these two teams lightly.
5 of the 12 games will be played away from home and at hostile stadiums across Big Ten country.  The Buckeyes open the new season against an Indiana team that always gives the defense headaches.  The kicker is the offensive genius in Kevin Wilson does not lead that program anymore and he now calls the shots on offense for the Buckeyes.
From there, the Buckeyes will face off against another former coach in Chris Ash.  He is looking to resurrect a Rutgers program and will look for improvement in year 2 as the Head Coach.
The most intriguing away game will be played at Lincoln against Nebraska due to the heated Wide Receiver battles that both position coaches engage in on the recruiting trail.  They constantly butt heads and it often ends with fireworks and subtweets between the two.
The Buckeyes will then travel to Kinnick Stadium for a gritty, Big Ten style game.  The battles in recent memory have been low scoring affairs, and it will be interesting to see how they rebound after falling apart toward the end of last season.
The Buckeyes will cap their season off with a stopover at the Big House to engage in another installment of The Game.  With both teams suffering losses to the NFL Draft and with graduations, this will be fascinating as new pieces will face off in another high-stakes game for all the marbles.  The road to the Playoffs will run through The Big House and this clash will not disappoint.
The expectation is clear at Ohio State, but with key starters returning for redemption, the Buckeyes will look to build something special this year and for years to come.  J.T. Barrett returns to lead the team in his last season to rebound after the Fiesta Bowl.  He will have new pieces to play around and with new coaches on the staff, there is no reason to think good things are on their way.
Ohio State is has one of the deepest teams in recent memory and they certainly reload year after year, before and after the draft.  The players on the two-deep projections and beyond can play anywhere in the nation as they anxiously await for their shot.  They remaining players from last season are battle-tested and they will look to lead their younger teammates and their new starters.
The road will most certainly not be easy, but the overall schedule favors Ohio State with the majority of their games being played at home.  The rest of the Big Ten however, will not cooperate and they will try to play spoiler to ruin another shot at a title for Coach Meyer and his squad, and they most certainly will not go out quietly.

For more content or information on the projected Win/Loss total for every Big Ten Team please visit the link below: 

Big Ten Football: Buckeyes Lead 2017 O/U Win Totals (again)

 

Recruiting Spotlight: Master Teague

The Buckeyes stayed hot on the recruiting trail, and once again they pulled another talented prospect out of the prized SEC territories to bolster their ranks.  Teague is a Running Back out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee and he stands at 5’11”, 214 lbs.  He is 4-star prospect on 24/7 and a 3-star on the Rivals and Scout services, but he earned his way onto this class with a stellar camp performance in front of the Buckeye Coaches that earned him an offer.  Teague finished his day with a logged 42.5 vertical, 10.8 for the broad jump and a blazing 4.31 on the 40-yard dash, which all but secured the coveted offer from the Buckeyes.

Teague is a load at his position and he brings a lot of tools to the Buckeyes backfield.  He has the vision that the position requires and he is not afraid of seeking out contact from the defenders.  He has the ability to break away with his blazing speed, but could also break tackles and bull over defenders.  He runs with power, purpose and aggressively, which is like a throwback back, and it will fit nicely for the Buckeyes.  The Buckeyes are reaping the benefits of having another talented member of the 2018, who is from nearby Franklin, Tennessee in Max Wray, which helped Teague because they are from the same state.  As the Buckeyes build toward the future, the future is looking brighter.

Recruiting Spotlight: Teradja Mitchell

The depth at Linebacker at Ohio State is a very talented group, but with three consecutive hauls at that very position, Ohio State is stocked full of potential starters and impact players at every position.  Teradja Mitchell, prospect out of Virginia pulled the trigger for Coach Davis’ position group and joins another stellar Ohio State recruiting class that is only trailing Miami.  Mitchell is an aggressive, hard-hitting Linebacker with the ability to play zone coverage.  Mitchell excels at diagnosing the play and sticking his nose into the backfield.  He plays with anger and hits so hard, the ball carrier is usually fumbling after contact.  He is a throwback Linebacker that can plug-and-play if needed, but if he needs to redshirt, he will if it helps the team and Mitchell grow as a player.

Mitchell is an aggressive, hard-hitting Linebacker with the ability to play zone coverage.  Mitchell excels at diagnosing the play and sticking his nose into the backfield.  He plays with anger and hits so hard, the ball carrier is usually fumbling after contact.  He is a throwback Linebacker that can plug-and-play if needed, but if he needs to redshirt, he will if it helps the team and Mitchell grow as a player.

Mitchell is supposedly 110% committed at this time and he will most likely be the one to start a chain reaction to get other blue-chippers to join the Ohio State class of 2018.  He is already starting on social media in conversations with notable recruits like Micah Parsons and Carman Jackson, who Ohio State really want.  We will have to see, but for now, we should enjoy this win over Florida State.  It is likely others will come between now and National Signing Day, but we will see.

Post Spring Game Depth Chart: Tight Ends

 

The Starter:

This years Tight End spot is retained by Marcus Baugh.  The incumbent starter from last season will be looked at for his familiarity in the system, but now all bets are off due to a new position coach and Offensive Coordinator in Kevin Wilson.  The Tight Ends might see an uptick in targets, but unfortunately Baugh was held out due to an injury.  He will be leaned on by the younger players for guidance, but he will be up for the task that Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett established in the past.

Tight End #2:

The Tight End position was used sparingly last season, but during the Spring Game we saw an increase in productivity.  A.J. Alexander and Luke Farrell combined for 50 total yards and a touchdown, which Alexander snagged.  This is even for now, but a lot could change during fall camp.  Factor in the absence of another pair of talented Tight Ends in Jake Hausmann, who was nursing a sprained ankle and Kierre Hawkins, who was used sparingly in the game.  The Tight End battle and their usage will be interesting for the fans to watch.  Hopefully they are used more to aid in the battle to secure receiving threats for years to come.

Post Spring Game Depth Chart: Wide Receiver

Zone 6 is one of the many crowded position groups that Ohio State has on it football roster.  This is evident as just about every group has their share of talented players patiently working for their shot at big boy football at Ohio State, but the Wide Receiver unit is jam-packed with talent.

The Starter #1:

Johnnie Dixon has battled and endured season after season of debilitating injuries to his knees in back-to-back seasons while at Ohio State.  This is most likely his last shot at glory as his eligibility is running out and as he showcased during the annual spring game, he showed his talent en-route to a stellar multi-touchdown game.  He also showed that, when healthy, he can be that deep threat that Ohio State hasn’t seen since Devin Smith.  Johnnie Dixon showed that he is healthy and working towards a comeback that is eerily similar to what Marshon Lattimore went through during his tenure at Ohio State.  If he can produce the same way that Lattimore has during last season, Ohio State will be lethal.  With a new Offensive Coordinator in Kevin Wilson, who is an offensive genius at the helm, the receivers should have the numbers necessary to keep teams unbalanced and on their heels.  With Dixon, he has the speed and the hands to separate and he is a reliable receiver.  His productivity would just depend on his health.

The Starter #2:

K.J. Hill has the talent to start alongside Dixon.  He also has sure hands and has the ability to obtain RAC yards with ease.  He is elusive and shift, but not Dixon shifty.  He won’t beat defender with blazing speed, but he has the strength to break arm tackles and blow through defenders for big gains.  Hill could also catch between defenders, which would be useful during key third down situations.  With the amount of talent on the roster, this second starter at Wide Receiver could go in any direction, but I am sure that Hill has done enough to catch the eye of the coaching staff.  He is also durable and if other go down, the staff could rest assured that Hill and company have the weapons to plug in and play.  He is a big-play waiting to happen and with his suddenness and burst, he could give defenders headaches throughout the season.  He will be leaned on during the entirety of the season to produce for the coaching staff this season as one of the few contributors to last seasons squad.

Slot/H-Back:

The need for the next Curtis Samuel is needed to ensure production in the Ohio State passing attack and with his departure, it opened up the door for Parris Campbell, Brendon White and Eric Glover-Williams to make their impression on the coaching staff.  Unfortunately for the last two, Campbell was given many looks and he looks like the eventual starter this fall.  Between his speed and the ability to run after the catch, he will be another weapon and asset to the Buckeye coaching staff.  He will be moved around and utilized similar to many of those before him under Coach Meyer.  There is still a lot of time for him to lose ground, but we will see.

 

Other Candidates:

There are other names out there and the Class of 2017 will have previously mentioned Brendon White, Trevon Grimes, Jaylen Harris and Ellijah Gardiner coming in this summer.  The also have Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor waiting vying for playing time as well.  For now, they will grind until called upon and under Urban Meyer, waiting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as he has been able to produce NFL caliber players with little to no experience or production.  With another mass exodus, this time with transfers out of the program and the occasional underclassman leaving for the pros, the younger players will have to be ready to be called upon during game days.  Lets hope they will be ready.

 

 

Recruiting Spotlight: Dallas Gant

 

Dallas Gant, an Outside Linebacker prospect from Ohio, just made it official as he is now a part of the Ohio State Class of 2018.  Another top tier and highly sought after recruit, Gant will now add to another stellar recruiting haul under Urban Meyer.  Gant brings more than just star power to this class, he is another recruit that is talking to prospective Buckeye targets to join their squad and be great.  He will most likely focus on recruiting other and getting bigger, faster and stronger before setting foot on campus.  Gant is a rangy, hard-hitting Linebacker that fits the Darron Lee mold.  Always around the ball and aggressive, and he will attempt to get another stud to play alongside him, namely Teradja Mitchell, who is expected to announce next month.