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.

 

2018 NFL Draft Storylines

Griffin Brothers Reunite In Seattle

Shaquem Griffin was the subject of one of the fascinating storylines in this year’s draft due to him and the birth defect that left him with one hand at such a young age.

He is certainly a fighter as he turned into quite the young man and an even better football player that has caught the attention of the NFL Executives and most notably, the Seattle Seahawks organization who were the only team to bring him in for a private interview during the draft process.

Another layer in this great story is the fact that his twin brother who played alongside Shaquem in college is also a Seahawk and like a storybook ending, both of the brothers will have a chance to do it once again in the NFL.

Shaquem may appear to be limited with one hand, but there is hope that he will utilize his ability to blow past the slower tackles and disrupt offenses and getting to the quarterback.  In a move to get a little younger and after trading the majority of their defense, they are looking to rebuild for the future with a less outspoken approach to their craft toward social issues that are plaguing America.

Jalyn Holmes, DE

The first Buckeye off the board is Holmes and he found a home with the Vikings in the 4th Round.  With an already young and stout defense, the Vikings took a chance on Holmes based on his potential and his physical traits.

He projects as a DE and he will likely have to lose some weight to blossom into a key reserve at worst or a late bloomer, that turns into a key rotational player or a starter at best.  Potential is often thrown around loosely, but I believe that he will blossom into the latter because I believe in Coach Johnson and what he brings to the table at Ohio State.  He certainly has a lot of work to do, but he is ready.

Jamarco Jones, OT

I think the Seattle Seahawks had one of the best drafts in 2018 and with the addition of a falling Jamarco Jones in the 5th Round, they have a multi-year starter that is versatile and is considered a plug-and-play addition to an inexperienced line.

Jones’ fall was unexpected and the Seahawks drafted an agile and consistent player that is very durable.  A stalwart at Ohio State and a bookend tackle, Jones will use this slight as motivation to earn a starting spot and what better situation is there than in Seattle, where they have struggled to piece together an offensive line since their Super Bowl victory against my Broncos.

Michael Hill, DT

Hill was in turbulent waters in his final season at Ohio State, where he was suspended for 6 games and afterward, he played sparingly in a deep D-Line rotation for the Buckeyes.

He, like all Buckeyes, made the best of his opportunities often eating double teams and acting as a roadblock often disrupting the running game.  Hill is most likely a project, but he will have to earn what he gets in training camp because nothing is guaranteed in the NFL.  Hill does not have the motor of most Silver Bullets, but this will be the perfect time to make people eat their words with this opportunity as a UDFA with the Detroit Lions.

Tracy Sprinkle, DT

Sprinkle suffered a season-ending injury in 2016 and during his final season he was not as productive, but not because he had no impact on the game.  He was a rotational player who played in the Buckeye rotation in the D-Line and he certainly has the tools to succeed at the next level.

Like Hill, Sprinkle is a space eater that will be plugged in to eat up blocks and be disruptive in whatever defensive scheme he falls under.  As a UDFA with the Carolina Panthers, he will get a chance to play with Star Lotulelei leaving during free agency, but it will be an uphill battle that can be won.  Determination and being a man is preached at Ohio State and the confidence level will be high with every Buckeye taking part in the NFL Draft.

Chris Worley, LB

Worley was the ILB at Ohio State at the start of the 2017 season before getting beat out by Tuf Borland.  After losing his starting position, he took over duties as an OLB after Dante Booker was injured, where he had a decent season.

Worley signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as a UDFA and he is the 3rd Buckeye to join the team via the draft as he joins Billy Price and Sam Hubbard.  Worley did not test well in the combine and is often viewed as a system guy with less than ideal athleticism, but that is false–he can ball if placed in the right system.

With the Bengals, Worley is needed depth to an again defense that has some character concerns.  The addition of Buckeyes signals a changing of the guard with high character players to wash out the negative stigma in Cincinnati.

Marcus Baugh, TE

Baugh was a highly ranked recruit out of California and he will be coming back to his home state after signing as a UDFA with the Oakland Raiders.  He had high expectations coming out of high school, but it has been a long road for him until his final year at Ohio State.

Baugh was used more often this year and he was the recipient of the game-clinching TD at home versus Penn State.  He is a good pass catcher that needs to build strength and work on his blocking skills.  The Raiders have an opening at TE and with Baugh, they add one more name to their roster to compete.

Damon Webb, S

Webb landed in the ideal spot after signing with the Tennessee Titans as a UDFA joining former Buckeye Defensive Backs Coordinator Kerry Coombs in the NFL and Mike Vrabel, who coached alongside Luke Fickell and is a former Buckeye great.

Due to the familiarity with both coaches, it makes a ton of sense for Webb, who will use this as motivation.  He was a ballhawk at Ohio State and he can play in the box.  Adding him to the young secondary will be scary if he can turn the light on during camp.  He is an aggressive playmaker that could be a great depth piece and the teams that passed up on him will regret it once he figures it out.

JT Barrett, QB

Barrett is the winningest quarterback to come out of Ohio State and he just signed as a UDFA with the Indianapolis Colts.  In an interesting move, the Colts added a winner to a questionable QB room outside of Andrew Luck, who has been bitten by the injury bug lately.

Jacoby Brissett, Brad Kaaya, and Phillip Walker are all fighting for the backup role, and with the addition of Barrett it will make things interesting and he has a realistic shot at making the 53 man roster if he continues his winning ways.

He certainly has the tools to succeed at the next level and with the Colts, it is his best shot.  He will give it his best shot moving forward.

 

 

 

2018 NFL Draft Storylines

Tyquan Lewis, DE

In the 2nd Round of this years draft, with the 64th overall pick, the Colts picked up a total of four-second rounders and with their last pick they bolstered their pass rush with Lewis.

Lewis has the tools and the motor that the Colts need to put pressure on opposing offenses.  With Larry Johnson serving as his position coach at Ohio State, Lewis is ready to carve out his own path in the NFL joining former Buckeyes John Simon and Malik Hooker, a 1st Round selection from Ohio State a year ago.  Re-tooling the defense is the name of the game and with the defenders added during the draft, the Colts might be a dangerous defense in 2018.

Jerome Baker, LB

Baker was the first Buckeye drafted in the 3rd Round with the 73rd pick in this draft, and if you haven’t sensed the overall theme, he joins Raekwon McMillan another former Buckeye in Miami to form a pretty good Linebacker duo.

With speed and coverage skills, Baker will be another sideline to sideline defender who will be tasked to cover Tight Ends and he will also be utilized as a run stuffing Linebacker.  Like with the Colts, the Dolphins are looking to inject some young, talented playmakers on defense and with the Patriots aging, they will look to improve to be more competitive within their division.

 

Sam Hubbard, DE

The Ohio based franchises are doing something that hasn’t been done in quite some time–drafting Buckeyes.  This is the third Buckeye drafted by an Ohio based franchise and Hubbard is the second to be taken by the Bengals.

Sam Hubbard, a Notre Dame commit for Lacrosse, was found by Coach Meyer while playing dodgeball and the rest is history.  He was one of the playmakers for the Buckeyes that possessed a relentless motor and he led by example.  He is surely an athlete and he was vastly undervalued at the draft, but he will give this aging Bengals defensive line a spark in the meantime.  Re-tooling this defense will be critical to keep up with their division rival the Steelers and what better way to do so than to add depth to their pass rush.

 

2018 NFL Draft Storylines by Trevor Arnold

Denzel Ward – 4th Overall

The Ohio kid is staying home! The first player coming off the draft board for the 2018 NFL Draft class for Ohio State is Denzel Ward.  Ward was selected 4th overall by the Cleveland Browns, who also selected Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick.  Ward is coming off being a one-year starter for the Buckeyes.  A position he saw Marshon Lattimore do a year earlier when he was taken 11th overall by the New Orleans Saints.  Ward now makes it three straight years where Ohio State has had a cornerback drafted in the first round.  A feat that hasn’t been done since Ohio State did it in 1999-2001.

Ward is coming off a stellar year for the Buckeyes.  He had 37 total tackles including 30 solo tackles.  Also, he had two interceptions with 15 pass breakups.  With Ward being the #1 CB in the class according to most analysts, being selected in the top 5 was still surprising.  The Cleveland Browns have not selected an Ohio State player since 2009 when they took Brian Robiskie in the second round.  They haven’t taken an Ohio State player in the first round since Craig Powell in the 1995 class, 30th overall.  This may shock some since Ohio State has had 10 first round draft picks since the 2014 draft class.

Ward is on the smaller side at only 5’10”, but possesses has elite speed, running a 4.32 40 yard dash, and has a 39-inch vertical jump.  Ward will look to use his skill set and pure athleticism to help the Browns return to the playoffs for the first time since 1994.

 

Billy Price – 21st Overall

 The Ohio kid is staying home 2.0!  Billy Price was selected 21st overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.  That makes both Ohio teams selecting Ohio State players in the first round.  Price was not able to participate in the NFL Combine after have a partial pectoral tear during the bench press.  Price was the nation’s top center in the 2017 season and was a unanimous first-team All-American.  This feat is impressive because Price was recruited out of high school when he played on the defensive line.  The Buckeyes moved Price to guard in 2014, 2015, and 2016 where he started every single game before moving to play center in 2017.

Price was mister consistent for Ohio State.  He took over the record for consecutive starts at 55 games passing Luke Fickell who previously held the record at 50.  Price helped lead the Buckeyes to 4 straight seasons inside of the top 20 for rushing yards.  Price is very quick and has great strength to help him control the defensive line.

Price’s versatility makes him a great selection for the Bengals.  With experience at both guard and center, and playing both at a high level, will allow him to get a chance to start immediately for Cincinnati.  Price will look to make an immediate impact and help the Bengals make the playoffs since 2015.

History in the Draft

For the first time there was 4 quarterbacks taken in the first 10 picks.

Baker Mayfield, out of Oklahoma, was taken 1st overall by the Cleveland Browns.  The Browns think they finally have their franchise quarterback.  Mayfield has the right attitude to take this team to the Super Bowl.  He is on the smaller side, listed at 6 feet, but has the skill set to be a good quarterback.  His 70% passing percentage is what will make him an NFL quarterback.  Mayfield is a blue collar guy who has fought for everything he has earned in his football career, and will make the perfect fit for the Cleveland Browns.

Sam Darnold, out of USC, was taken 3rd overall by the New York Jets.  The Jets have had many misses at quarterback throughout their draft history.  Their most recent draft misses were Geno Smith, Tajh Boyd, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg.  Darnold is looking to change their history of bad QB picks.  Darnold has the best upside of any of the quarterbacks in the 2018 class, according to most analysts.  His only downfall is his ability to protect the football with 22 interceptions and 21 fumbles in only 27 games.  The Jets are hoping that Darnold can be the guy to lead them back to the Super Bowl.

Josh Allen, out of Wyoming, was taken 7th by the Buffalo Bills.  The Bills traded up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to grab Josh Allen at 7th Overall.  Allen has elite arm strength, but has a hard time of being accurate consistently.  Allen has been in the news for tweets he made in high school which were racist and homophobic.  Allen owned up to them calling them a mistake because of his youth.  The Bills just signed AJ McCarron to a two-year deal which may delay Allen’s start to the NFL early on this upcoming season.  That could be great for him of not having the pressure to perform right away, and he can develop better accuracy.

Josh Rosen, out of UCLA, was taken 10th overall by the Arizona Cardinals.  The Cardinals also traded up to get their quarterback of the future with the Oakland Raiders.  Rosen is best “Pro-Style” Quarterback in the draft.  He has a great arm, accuracy, and has great touch on the deep ball.  He does lack mobility, which seems to be the new era of quarterback in the NFL.  Rosen loves being the underdog, and being selected 10th he only had one thing to say to the rest of the league, “I’m motivated.”  Rosen is hoping to prove every doubter wrong, and looks to be the last quarterback standing when his career is all said and done.

Also, for the first time ever in a draft two brothers were taken in the 1st Round.  Tremaine Edmunds, out of Virginia Tech, was taken 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills. And Terrell Edmunds, also out of Virginia Tech, was taken 28th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Sadly, the Bills and the Steelers do not play each other, but a little brother rivalry will probably be on its way in the near future.

WR Downfall

For the first time since 2009 a WR wasn’t drafted in the first 20 picks.  Only two WR’s were drafted in the first round the first being D.J. Moore, out of Maryland, taken 24th overall to the Carolina Panthers.  The second WR drafted was Calvin Ridley, out of Alabama, taken 26th overall by the Atlanta Falcons.  For the Falcons that makes two elite WRs for them from Alabama in Julio Jones, and now Ridley.  Jones, however, has caused stir throughout the NFL after unfollowing and deleting all his pictures of the Atlanta Falcons.  It will be interesting to see where that situation goes.

Inspiring Moment in the Draft

 Ryan Shazier was asked to announce the Pittsburgh Steelers draft pick.  Shazier walked down the aisle holding his fiance’s hand.  Shazier has shown incredible perseverance through this injury.  He was smiling while walking and waving to fans throughout Jerry’s World.  It was inspiring to watch a man who may never play a game he loves again have a smile on his face through everything that has happened.

 

 

2018 NFL Draft: JT Barrett, QB

The winningest QB in Ohio State history, JT Barrett is starting his journey in the NFL as an underdog.  There are questions about his ability to read defenses and work through his progression, but his intangibles are off the charts along with his leadership qualities.  The past two seasons at Ohio State have been hard on him, and the lack of a potent passing game hurt his stock.  Known as a single-read and dash player, Barrett has left a lot to be desired.  He will have to work hard to earn a spot on an NFL roster or a teams practice squad.

Draft Projection:  7th Round-UFA

2018 NFL Draft: Marcus Baugh, TE

Marcus Baugh was a highly rated recruit out of California that did not have the career that he had imagined for himself.  It may not be the ideal situation, but his last year at Ohio State lived up to his expectations after being utilized more often during the season and being the recipient of the game-winning TD to beat Penn State.  He is a solid receiver, but he needs to improve his strength and blocking, but he will be a solid contributor when called upon.  He is well-rounded and could add depth to a depleted TE group.

Draft Projection:  7th Round-UFA

2018 NFL Draft: Chris Worley, LB

Chris Worley is another underrated prospect coming out of Ohio State.  A leader at ILB, at Ohio State he played admirably during his tenure at Ohio State, which should help him secure a spot on an NFL team or on a practice squad.  He didn’t test as well as he should have, and that has been problematic for him and his draft stock.  He is a leader and another team-centric player.  It won’t take him long to adjust at the next level.

Draft Projection:  6th Round-UFA