Spring Game: What We Learned

It is now 24 hours ahead of the annual Scarlet versus Gray Spring Game and man–there are a lot of difficult decisions that need to be made by Coach Meyer and his staff regarding the many open spots for his team on both sides of the field.

This is the annual reloading period where the coaches evaluate their players to reload and to identify the best player for the job.  A batch of forgotten, but talented unknowns will take their shot to earn a starting gig and blossom into the next Buckeye superstar.  Here are three things that stood out.

Burrow VS Haskins VS Martell:

This battle was everything that we thought it would be and it looks like it is a two-way competition between Burrow and Haskins with Martell trailing as the third Quarterback in the pecking order.

In no way am I saying that Martell lacks the talent, but Burrow and Haskins just separated themselves with a more balanced and efficient display during the game.  Tate showed that he can run the QB Option with ease and his elusiveness and speed will be another valuable weapon for the team this season if the coaches create a package of plays for him.

Burrow and Haskins made a lot of noise in the passing game this spring.  Burrow finished 15 for 22 for 238 and 2 TD’s while Haskins finished 9 for 19 for 120 yards and 2 TD’s.  Both signal-callers showed their fans what the future could look like, further adding to the fierce debate on who should be the heir to the QB Throne.

Burrow is accurate with a little less zip on the football when comparing his game to Haskins.  Haskins has the wow factor and the arm strength, but he is slightly less accurate than Burrow.  Both QB’s did a lot of switching between the first and second team offenses, but they showed that once they get into a rhythm, they can be unstoppable.  Both have poise in the pocket, but it is looking like their ability to run the offense and their leadership qualities will look like it will be the deciding factor in this battle.

A difficult choice needs to be made and it will be interesting to see what develops within the QB room.  Every one of the Quarterbacks on the roster can be a starter on another team, but we will see what happens and who gets the job.

Playmakers Paradise At Skill Positions:

The wealth of talent at just about every level on this team on offense is evident.  From the Running Back position all the way to the O-Line, they have enough baller for a three-deep depth chart.

At Running Back, they have Dobbins and Weber, the returning 1,000-yard rushers from a season ago.  Behind them, they have three stablemates in Williams, Teague, and Snead, who will join the team in the summer.  Not to mention, they have a talented bunch of walk-ons to boot.  Deep is an understatement at this position and with what we saw with Weber on that long TD run, and what Teague was able to accomplish, carries will be scarce, but the Brotherhood will continue to push each other until the fall comes.

Wide Receiver is also deep.  They returned all of their starters from last season and with the prospect of a more pass-friendly offense, they will look to make an immediate impact.  Hill, Campbell, Mack, Dixon, and Victor will be dangerous weapons this season.  Their backups also pose a threat to defenses.  Demario McCall had a game and is the projected to be the third H-Back on the depth chart.  Harris and Gardiner are huge targets that showed promise as well.

At Tight End Rashod Berry will be slotted to return as the starter, but he didn’t participate in the game due to injury.  Behind him, Hausmann, Farrell and the number one TE in last years class Jeremy Ruckert will be vying for playing time this season.

DBU Reloads Again:

Marcus Williamson has secured his spot in the rotation at Cornerback.  Aside from the TD catch by Harris, he locked him down and was disruptive for most of the game.  With Okudah out with an injury, he along with Wade, Banks, and Davis were given snaps to see what they can do, but from what I saw from Williamson, he gained traction in this battle.

Pryor and Johnson showed promise as both are fighting for the starting Safety spot opposite of Fuller.  Johnson nearly stopped Weber on his long TD run, showing the determination to not take any plays off, and he is a true freshman.

Ohio State has become DBU as of late and the tradition of having a DB getting drafted in the first round has been a trend.  With that, Ohio State has yet another loaded depth chart, but they will all find a way to earn playing time.

 

 

 

 

 

Battleground: Scarlet VS. Gray Spring Game 2018

It is about that time again Buckeye Nation–it is time to see what the future has in store for us.  The last year of the Barrett Era will usher in a new signal-caller to lead the team and boy, they are loaded at the position this year and the competition will be fierce.

In the new era, we will see what a trifecta of talented quarterbacks can do to help the team and more importantly, lead the offense during crucial moments this season.  From there most of the Wide Receivers from last season have returned for depending on whichever quarterback wins the job, for a chance to thrive in what could be a more pass-heavy or balanced offensive attack–along with a new starter at Tight End.  The O-Line retained all but two starters from last season, but the competition along the line has been another dominant storyline as well.

There are many directions that I can go, so let us get down to it.

Quarterback Proving Grounds:

The central focus and one of the most covered stories have been the pending decision for Coach Meyer when choosing J.T. Barrett’s heir.  He has a cupboard full of talent and a difficult decision is on the horizon.  Each player on the depth chart, minus incoming freshman Matthew Baldwin adds a different dimension to the offense, but they are all talented in their own way.

Dwayne Haskins is viewed by many as the obvious choice to lead the team this season after leading Ohio State to another victory against TTUN, and he did it after Barrett left the game with an injury–playing in front of a rowdy Ann Arbor crowd.  He iced the game going 6-7 for 94 yards and three rushes for 24 yards, showing that he is ready if they need him and showing his talent to get a leg up on the competition at Quarterback.

Joe Burrow was the backup to Barrett, but an unfortunate injury to his hand gave Haskins the nod as the backup while he recovered.  Burrow has been on the team a year longer than Haskins, but he is fighting to live out his childhood dream of being the starting Quarterback at Ohio State.  While he doesn’t have the arm strength like Haskins does, he is as accurate with his passes.  He isn’t as shifty as Martell, but he can move when he needs to do so.

Finally, Tate Martell is a bit of a dark horse in this competition because he possesses most of the traits of the previous two players, but he is definitely faster and more shifty runner that is similar to J.T. Barrett.  He is also accurate and throws accurate passes downfield.

All in all, whoever wins helps the team the most.  During the game, they will give the audience a show despite the potential for bad weather, but it will be fun.  Either way Coach Meyer goes, the offense will become more balanced.

Trench Warfare:

Opposing defenses beware, the Buckeye Offensive Line is developing a mean streak that will serve up pancakes and extra-curricular activity if needed in between plays.  The Buckeyes returned three starters from last season but lost two key players in Jamarco Jones and Billy Price.

These losses hurt, but the depth of talent at Ohio State’s disposal cannot be overlooked and the competition is making everyone better.  Iron sharpens iron, and there are two starting spots available and 5 for the two-deep.  Which two will separate themselves from the rest of the pack and which five will serve as game-ready backups on the depth chart this season?  Even though it is just the Spring Game, it will be exciting to see these guys in action.

Defensive Turnover:

Defensive players, especially at Ohio State lie and wait for their chance to help the team and earn a starting role and this year is no different.  This year the Buckeyes lost starters at every level.  Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, Tracy Sprinkle, Michael Hill, Jerome Baker, Chris Worley, Denzel Ward, Damon Webb and Erick Smith–also featuring a few former walk-on standouts.

That is a boatload of positions to replace, but they have the talent to go unscathed.  DE’s Nick Bosa and Chase Young along with DT’s B.B. Landers and Dre’Mont Jones will give opposing lines fits.  With a talented group of younger players coming in, you will see depth along the defensive line.

Linebacker has the most questions, especially after the injury to Tuf Borland.  Upperclassmen and the younger players also will make things interesting this Spring and into the Fall.  Everyone plays fast at this position, and it is only a matter of time until someone shines like Baker did.

Cornerback is pretty much set with Kendall Sheffield, Damon Arnette, and Jeffrey Okudah, but they are searching for a fourth this Spring.  With Okudah out with an injury, Marcus Williamson has a chance to get more reps.  Shaun Wade is now healthy, and he too will be in the conversation.

Safety returns Jordan Fuller but lost Damon Webb to graduation.  Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint will compete along with the other underclassmen, which like every position at Ohio State will be a dogfight, but necessary to push each other to get better.

For the time being, all we can do is predict until tomorrow morning, but until I see it for myself, it is difficult to get a good feel for what could and could not happen so I will wait until tomorrow to do so.  For now, as a fan, I will enjoy it with the rest of you and give my projections based on what I have seen.  Go Bucks!

 

 

What If Former Michigan And Ohio State Players Joined Forces To Make Their Own NFL Team?

What has 19 national championships, ten Heisman trophy winners, 80 Big Ten titles, bitter hatred yet mutual respect, and 1,841 total wins? That, my friend, is the Ohio State-Michigan college football rivalry, which has produced a ton of NFL talent. In fact, as of the 2017-2018 season, 33 former Michigan Wolverines players and 42 former Ohio State players were on NFL rosters. Well, what would happen if all 75 of those players joined forces and created their own NFL team? Let’s find out, shall we? Without further ado, below I have constructed the best two-deep roster possible for former participants in ‘The Game’

Quarterback: Tom Brady, Cardale Jones

The Game features Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time under center. Brady is widely recognized as being one of the most clutch quarterbacks of all time and has a ton of accolades to back that up, being a five-time Super Bowl champion, four-time Super Bowl MVP, three-time NFL Most Valuable Player, and thirteen-time Pro Bowler etc.

Behind him is Cardale Jones who has proven throughout his career that he is a reliable backup.

Running back: Ezekiel Elliott, Carlos Hyde

At running back, The Game features two former Ohio State stars in Ezekiel Elliott and Carlos Hyde. Despite the fact that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for the first six games of the year, he and Hyde rushed for a combined 157.1 rushing yards per game in 2017. To put that in perspective, the Jacksonville Jaguarsled the NFL in 2017 with 140.2 rushing yards per game as an entire TEAM!

Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas, Devin Funchess, Ted Ginn Jr, Jalin Marshall, and Braxton Miller

In Michael Thomas, The Game has arguably the NFL’s best possession receiver who was sixth in the league with 1,245 receiving yards. It also has big-bodied Devin Funchess (840 receiving yards) and speedster Tedd Ginn Jr. (787 receiving yards) – both of which present big problems for secondaries.

Tight EndNick Vannett, Jeff Heuerman

Although Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman provide solid blocking and are legit receiving threats, their 21 combined receptions for 266 yards and three touchdowns last season weren’t all that impressive. However, you better believe that those numbers would increase with Tom Brady under center. 

Offensive Tackle: Taylor Lewan, Taylor Decker, Darryl Baldwin, Chase Farris, Erik Magnuson

Led by rookie Pro-Bowl Selection Taylor Lewan, The Game has a respectable set of offensive tackles. Taylor Decker started in all 16 games as a rookie in 2016, but due to him undergoing shoulder surgery had to sit out for 2017. Nevertheless, the talent’s still there.

Offensive Guard: Andrew Norwell, Kyle Kalis, Patrick Omameh, Ben Braden

Anchored by All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell and an ultra-reliable Patrick Omameh, who started in all 13 games he saw action in last year, The Games guards aren’t so shabby. Kyle Kalis would make a solid option, too.

CenterPat Elflein, Corey Linsley,  

Pat Elflein started in every game of his rookie season for the Vikings, making the 2017 PFWA All-Rookie Team. Ironically, three years earlier, Corey Linsley made the PFWA All-Rookie Team as well and is the proven leader for the Packers up front. 

Defensive EndJoey Bosa, Cameron Heyward, Brandon Graham, Frank Clark 

I don’t know if there’s a rivalry in all of college football that has produced a better collection of defensive ends than ‘The Game’. Highlighted by pro-bowlers Joey Bosa and Cameron Heyward, the combination of those two and Michigan alumn Brandon Graham and Frank Clark recorded a combined total of 194 tackles and 44 sacks last year. 

To put that in perspective, only four out of the 32 NFL TEAMS AS A WHOLE produced more sacks in the 2017-2018 season!

Defensive TackleAdolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, Ryan Glasgow, Willie Henry 

Defensive tackle is by far the weakest of all positions for The Game. Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, Ryan Glasgow, and Willie Henry started in just 15 games combined in the 2017-2018 season.

But you better believe that with four stud defensive ends, the two that weren’t starting at their normal position could fill that void. 

LinebackerRyan Shazier, Darron Lee, John Simon, Joshua Perry, Raekwon McMillan, Curtis Grant

Despite Ryan Shazier’s late-season injury, he is included on this list because he played throughout the entire regular season, having a solid, 89-tackle season, and putting up similar numbers to fellow Ohio State alumn Darren Lee. John Simon and Raekwon McMillan would also provide respectable skillsets at that position. 

SafetyMalcolm Jenkins, Malik Hooker, Vonn Bell, Kurt Coleman

With veterans, Malcolm Jenkins and Kurt Coleman coupled with younger rising stars like Malik Hooker and Vonn Bell, The Game has a pretty good group of safeties. Ohio State has become defensive back-U over the last decade or so. 

Cornerback: Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby, Doran Grant, Gareon Conley, Eli Apple, Channing Stribling, Jourdan Lewis, Jeremy Clark

Having two cornerbacks like Marshon Lattimore and Bradley Roby on your roster would be an NFL coach’s dream come true. Veteran Bradley Roby could teach a younger and arguably more talented Lattimore a lot, and Lattimore – who led all rookies in interceptions – could put some wide receivers in check.

The verdict: 

I imagine that with Tom Brady, Ezekiel Elliott and Carlos Hyde, the stable of wide receivers, the dominance on the defensive line, and all of the play-makers in the secondary, not only would The Game win in dominant fashion versus most teams in the NFL, it would produce a team that could easily win the Super Bowl.

The NFL talent produced by The Game is by far the best of any and every other rivalry, which further iterates the fact that there’s no better rivalry in college football.

Offseason Blues: Tote Nation

Ohio State has one of the most talented groups in the nation at the running back position.  Tote Nation will return both starters from a season ago in a J.T. Barrett-less offense that will feature a new signal-caller at the helm.  With that change, the offense will look different and the sheer excitement of a balanced offense would likely result in more touches for everyone, especially the running backs.

J.K. Dobbins:

Dobbins, the starter for the majority of last season will look to retain his spot at the top of the running back depth chart, but with the surprise return of his stablemate Weber, things could get interesting this spring.  Dobbins was the workhorse for the Buckeyes en route to 1,403 yard and 7 touchdown season on the ground and had 22 catches for 135 yards and 1 touchdown receiving.

Barring an unexpected injury in the spring, I expect Dobbins to go out there this spring and win the top spot on the depth chart.  He has a lot going for him from his vision in the backfield and his ability to separate from defenders after hitting the opening with a purpose.  His running style is what separates him from the pack, but he definitely needs to improve in pass protection.  He has the basic skills necessary, but he until he can block effectively like Zeke, the sky is the limit for this kid.

Mike Weber:

Weber was in and out of the lineup for most of last season, but his presence on the field was felt by all who opposed him once he got on the field.  He racked up 626 yards on the ground with 10 touchdowns and snagged 10 passes for 96 yards.  He will try to beat out Dobbins for the starting role during the spring and try to hold off Williams and newcomer Master Teague.

Weber can be a terror if unleashed, and if the offense leans more on their tandem at running back, the Buckeyes could be as dangerous as that Georgia backfield was a season ago.  We won’t know until the season begins, but is fun to speculate about what the offense can or could look like in the near future, depending on whoever wins the quarterback job in the spring.

Antonio Williams:

Williams is a bit of a forgotten man behind two bonafide players, Dobbins and Weber, but he makes the best of his time behind the two co-starters.  He earned 57 carries and ran for 290 yards and scored 3 times in limited minutes.

Once again, he will sit behind the duo as he attempts to secure the #3 spot on the depth chart because of true freshman Master Teague was signed this past signing day, and the staff has high hopes for him.  Regardless, this should be an entertaining battle to see develop, but iron sharpens iron and we will have to wait and see.

Master Teague:

Teague will be a workload and he is one heck of a player fresh out of high school.  I don’t know if you watched his senior year highlights, but wow.  He was on a different level and he will look toward his college years and develop into the player he and his coaches think he could be.

There were a ton of Zeke comparisons floating around, but I am pretty sure that he wants to be himself and that he would like to develop into a well-rounded player in the future.

Walk-Ons:

Ohio State has a few talented walk-ons on their roster in  Mitch Rossi, Amari McMahon, and Jeremiah Knight.  The running back room is filled with talent, but the walk-ons at Ohio State, regardless of position always contribute to the team.  All three players have the potential to be like C.J. Saunders and we will see where the competition takes them.

Ohio State Football: Best Player of 2018

 

With the 2017 season behind us and the 2018 season still months away, I have decided that today is a day for wild speculation.  As I foresee that there may, in fact, be many of these days over the coming months, I will be asking and answering questions that are impossible to answer (unless your name is Urban) and will be fiercely defending my completely baseless findings.  In pursuit of this goal, today’s question is a biggie: “Who will be the best player on the field for the Buckeyes next season?”

 

To answer this question, we must first establish what I mean by “best.”  Am I asking what player will be the most talented on the field at any given time?  Or is it more about who excels the most at their position relative to the rest of the country?  Perhaps the question would best be answered by choosing the player that most positively affects the gameplay of the team, like an MVP award?

 

I don’t know.  If I had known that I wouldn’t be able to get past the specifying stage of my question, perhaps I wouldn’t have even started writing this article (more wild speculation), but now I’ve begun, so I must finish.  And since I am incapable of making decisions, I’m just going to answer all three questions.

 

 

 

Who is the Most Talented Player on the 2018 Ohio State Roster?

 

There are a lot of players to choose from when asking this question.  Nick Bosa, Chase Young, Jeffrey Okudah and Baron Browning are all in the Top 10 of recruits in Ohio State History.  The Buckeyes will have 9 247sports consensus 5-star prospects on their roster next year and will boast perhaps their greatest recruiting class of all time.  Choosing the most talented player on this roster is like choosing the best of all of the bars of gold, or the tastiest of all of the Chipotle Mexican Grills, but I have to choose one and so I will choose the one that has proven it.

 

Winner:  Nick Bosa

 

Austin Mack has made some crazy catches. Isaiah Prince has stepped up on the offensive line.  Dwayne Haskins, Tate Martell, and JK Dobbins all have a shot at winning the Heisman next year, but I chose the fourth highest rated prospect in OSU history.  Nick Bosa is the highest rated prospect on the team this year and the one that has most proven what a Top 10 prospect can do.  He spent last year fighting through double- and triple-teams, freeing up the other monsters on the defensive line, and making huge plays in the backfield.  With Chase Young showing flashes of brilliance in his limited time on-field in 2018, the Little Bear might just have even more opportunities to shine this coming season.

 

Who is going to win an individual award next year?

 

This category is not quite as easy to deliberate on. Many of OSU’s best players come at positions that are stacked on the national stage.  JK Dobbins could win the Heisman, but he also might not be the best running back in the Big Ten with his counterpart at Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor, putting up huge numbers on the ground.  All of this is without even mentioning the reigning Doak Walker award-winner, Bryce Love.

 

Nick Bosa, Chase Young, and Dre’Mont Jones are all enormously talented on the defensive line.  However, with players like Ed Oliver of Houston or Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins, Clemson’s talented trio of All-Americans also back on the field, the odds of getting an individual award on the defensive line are not so great.

 

Winner:  Austin Mack

 

His path to the Biletnikoff Award does seem a little bit… well, impossible, but watching the catches he made in 2017 and listening to the way his coaches talk about him, it really is impossible… to dislike him.  Austin Mack will have to fight off upperclassmen trying to stay on the field, stand out in Urban Meyer’s run-first offense and catch passes from a brand new starting quarterback, but he has the talent and the upward mobility to be a first-round pick.  Hopefully, though, he will have a more pass-heavy offense to work with, as Dwayne Haskins looks to be the front-runner for the starting job and Ryan Day has been elevated to offensive coordinator.

 

Fingers crossed.

 

Who will be the 2018 Ohio State MVP?

 

I only have one answer to this question, and it’s at the same position as it would be on any other team: QB.  JK Dobbins will probably have a great year next year.  The offensive line should be good. The defensive line will be unstoppable and Alex Grinch and Greg Schiano are going to figure out the rest of the defense.  With all of that being said, the Most Valuable Player on this team next year is going to have to be the master and commander.

 

Winner:  Dwayne Haskins

 

I understand that we don’t know who the starting quarterback is going to be next year, but I do know that Dwayne Haskins looked the closest to being ready.  I also know that, in Urban’s Power Spread offensive philosophy, the offense runs through the quarterback.  The Buckeyes success (or failure) next year is going to hinge on the quarterback’s ability to do what the coaches need him to do and how well he can develop as the season progresses.  If Dwayne trots out there against Oregon State on September 1st, he has to be the MVP.

Offseason Blues: The Signal Callers

From the time the clock hit zeroes at the Cotton Bowl, the reality began to set in after JT Barrett’s last game in the scarlet and gray.  The end was inevitable and you could see it on his face.  Coach Meyer will be starting over in his quest for Barrett’s successor at the Quarterback position to run his offense to his liking and to the standard of previous starters.

The age-old argument, of who should and shouldn’t be starting will die down, but for how long will the silence last?  Barrett started due to his ability to flatly win ball games, no matter how pretty or ugly the win was achieved, he won them with his style of play.

Now, we are looking at a changing of the guard that places four new hopefuls that are looking to succeed Barrett and catch Coach Meyer’s eye.  It will surely be a battle and it will be fierce, but may the best man win.

Dwayne Haskins

Haskins has the inside track in this quarterback battle, often spelling JT Barrett and earning the primary backup spot for the entirety of the year.  He did pretty well and opened some eyes during both, mop up duty and during the TTUN game where he rocketed a pass through defenders, for a sorely needed first down conversion while Barrett sat out with an injury.

Haskins has the arm strength, which is why I’d say half Buckeye Nation fans were adamant and just downright negative about Barrett remaining the starter.  He is a decent runner, but he isn’t as fleet-footed as JT, but there will be no need for that many QB runs this season because Haskins can fling it with accuracy and velocity.  Barrett is now out of the picture (God bless his heart) and now hopefully Haskins learned from him during his time there.

The offense under Haskins will be scary if he figures it out early and with a full complement of Zone 6 returning for one more go, along with both Tote Nation stars, the balance will return to Ohio State.  It will only be a matter of time.

Joe Burrow

Burrow is a bit of a wildcard in this equation.  He led early as for backup duties, but an injury to his hand cost him in the end.  There have been rumors about a potential transfer, but nothing has been confirmed, yet.

Like Haskins, he can throw and is just as accurate, but during spot duty, he was up and down during those games.  He isn’t terrible, but this spring game will be fun and it will tell a lot about both competitors.

Personally, I don’t think a transfer is in the cards just yet, and even if he becomes the backup, he will stay until he graduates, then becoming a graduate transfer would be in the cards.  This is just my opinion, so don’t shoot the messenger and I have no inside knowledge, just thinking logically.

Tate Martell

Martell is another wildcard in the quarterback competition.  His skill set is pretty similar to JT, being a dual-threat, but he can throw better.  Tate is shifty and he is deadly accurate when he is set or on the run, which makes him the dark horse this spring.

Martell went out on a limb and pretty much guaranteed a CFB Championship game berth next season.  I think if the teams gels quickly, it is definitely possible, but with CFB, you never truly know what will happen.  They all just need to focus and play hard every single game, and whatever happens, happens.  The goals are set and it is up to the team to put their nose on the grindstone and work for what they want to achieve.

Matthew Baldwin

Baldwin will be the new kid on the block and he will most likely see a redshirt year, to be honest.  He suffered a major injury during the playoffs, and I am positive that the injury would not be completely healed.

After viewing his Hudl footage, this kid is a beastly addition to a talented quarterback room.  He can throw from everywhere on the field and is deadly accurate.  I was in awe and I was pleased that the coaches took him over Emory Jones, who was committed until things happened.  Things happen for a reason, but we got another gem in the rough.

Conclusion

This battle is far from over, but this year’s competition will be one to watch because the future of the program is at stake.  You cannot go wrong with any name in this talented quarterback room, but one will win out in the end.

Each signal-caller brings an arm and accuracy, with decent mobility with the exception of Martell and Baldwin.  The passing game and balance will be the focus this year, with fewer quarterback runs.  It will be an exciting change for the team that is looking for a new leader.

 

Ohio State Football: The Sinister Six?

Parris Campbell

Terry McLaurin

Johnnie Dixon

KJ Hill

Binjimen Victor

Austin Mack

 

Six names. Six pass catchers.  Six young men that spent all of last year running around the field decked in Scarlet and Gray, waiting for passes that would never come.  Not one of them was in the Top 80 in receptions last year, or in the Top 100 in receiving yardage or yards per game.  On an Ohio State team that was tied for third in the country in Passing Touchdowns, there was not one receiver that a generic college football fan would recognize, not one receiver that would be worth a look until at least the 4th round of the NFL Draft.  So today, I am going to examine our beloved “Zone 6” from recruitment until now and see if it isn’t more of a Sinister 6 (for those of you who don’t know, the Sinister Six are a group of Spiderman bad guys that teamed up and then got their butts whooped one-by-one).

 

Parris Campbell
RS Senior – 4 Star, 22nd WR (class of 2014)
H-Back – 6’1″, 208 lbs.
2017 – 40 rec, 584 yds, 3 TDs (10 car, 132 yds, 1 TD; 9 kick ret, 329 yds)
Career – 53 rec, 704 yds, 3 TDs (14 car, 186 yds, 2 TDs; 30 kick ret, 913 yds)

 

Terry McLaurin
RS Senior – 4 Star, 36th WR (class of 2014)
WR-Z – 6’1″, 204 lbs.
2017 – 29 rec, 436 yds, 6 TDs
Career – 40 rec, 550 yds, 8 TDs

 

Johnnie Dixon
RS Senior – 4 Star, 9th WR (class of 2014)
WR-Z – 5’11”, 195 lbs.
2017 – 18 rec, 422 yds, 8 TDs
Career – 25 rec , 477 yds, 8 TDs

 

KJ Hill
RS Junior – 4 Star, 16th WR (class of 2015)
H-Back – 6’0″, 198
2017 – 56 rec, 549 yds, 3 TDs (6 kick ret, 150 yds; 26 punt ret, 144 yds)
Career – 74 rec, 811 yds, 4 TDs (7 kick ret, 156 yds; 26 punt ret, 144 yds)

 

Binjimen Victor
Junior – 4 Star, 12th WR (class of 2016)
WR-X – 6’4″, 195
2017 – 23 rec, 349 yds, 7 TDs
Career – 27 rec, 413 yds, 8 TDs

 

Austin Mack
Junior – 4 Star, 9th WR (class of 2016)
WR-X – 6’2″, 215
2017 – 24 rec, 343 yds, 2 TDs
Career – 26 rec, 358 yds, 2 TDs

 

Ohio State Basketball: Becoming the Hunted

On Sunday, January 7th 2018, the Ohio State Men’s Basketball team defeated the top ranked Michigan State Spartans. When asked about the upset, OSU’s coach, Chris Holtmann, responded, “It is hard to win on the road, especially when you have that kind of number by your name. You get a different look from teams.” That ‘number’ he was referring to was the tiny 1 that could be seen next to Michigan State’s name throughout the game’s broadcast, and the point he was making was that, when people know you’re the best, your opponents play you harder.

Coach Holtmann knew this fact from experience, himself watching his own Buckeyes give the AP’s number 1 ranked team in America all it could handle, and then some.

From the beginning of the season, when they were selected by some to finish as low as 14th in the Big Ten (out of 14), this undervalued and overlooked team had been playing with a chip on their shoulders.

In fact, when asked whether OSU’s quick conference start surprised him, Senior Jae’Sean Tate told the press that he and the other players “always remind ourselves that we were last picked in the Big Ten… and I think that has really been a key to our success.” This slight drove them to become a team that played with ferocity—that played their tough and scrappy game no matter the opponent.

They were hunters.

As far as any of their opponents knew, this was a team of misfits—a roster filled to the brim with walk-ons, transfers, busts and guys who just couldn’t stay healthy; but from the beginning of the season, they started proving people wrong.

In an early season matchup against a tournament-level Butler team, they showed flashes of dominance that belied their humble exterior, but a last second comeback by the Bulldogs kept OSU in the shadows. Another opportunity for some notoriety came in the ACC-B1G Challenge, but, once again, a late-game collapse against the now-ranked Clemson Tigers stole the spotlight away. They had some losses, but they were hunters still.

Luckily, after missing two other opportunities at signature wins against Gonzaga and UNC, their prey had finally arrived. It came in the form of the aforementioned Spartans, a team on a 14-game win streak, standing atop the College Basketball world. Ohio State went into that Sunday night showdown the hunters, but they came out the hunted.

A home game against Maryland in which they were down by 9 at the 11 minute mark of the 1st half proved that they were no longer a team that would be overlooked.  At the end of the game, Maryland’s Coach Turgeon said, “We knew we weren’t getting the same shot that Michigan State got at the start of the game,” and so the Terrapins came out swinging. The Buckeyes didn’t have that same fire to start off, the way they had against the Spartans, but after a quick timeout by Coach Holtmann, Maryland got buried, going from up nine to eight down in less than 4 minutes, and that was pretty much the end of the game.

After surviving their first test as the hunted, the Buckeyes had to go on the road against Rutgers, a physical, defensive team that had just barely failed to do what Ohio State did in knocking off Michigan State.  This time, though, the Buckeyes would have no home crowd. They would be playing on regional television in a game that Rutgers would surely be up for after such a great performance in the previous week.  However, once again, the Buckeyes were up to the challenge, beating Rutgers 66-46. Holtmann said after the game that they “are going to have some people that will play with a different edge” and that they would “see if we are good enough to manage that.” Another test passed. Another hunt escaped.

Of course, for all of their impressive defensive statistics, Rutgers is currently 1-5 in conference and tied for 12th in the standings. Tonight, the Buckeyes face off against a much better team in their arena and on their court. Northwestern, a team that made the tournament last year and then had the nerve to return 4 starters, has been slumping for the better part of this season, but they do have the talent to compete with Ohio State. The game between these teams is going to be Big Ten basketball at its finest, and the Buckeyes are going to have to grind it out.

OSU has proven that they have the goods to play with the big boys. They have proven that they can come back at home and take care of the conference’s not-so-good teams on the road. Now they’ve got to take it one step further to prove they deserve to be at the top of the Big Ten. They have to beat a good team on the road when that team is preparing specifically for them. This is just the next test of many to come as they seek to close out the season strongly.

Tonight they have a chance to pass another milestone for this once-unheralded Buckeyes team and to add to their tournament resume, only this time, they’re the ones with the number by their name.

Scarlet Letter: Saying Goodbye To A Legend

Dec 29, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) celebrates after the game against the USC Trojans in the 2017 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As the clock reaches zeroes and the confetti pours down from above, an Ohio State legend gallops into the sunset after his final game donning the scarlet and gray.  It is surely, a bittersweet moment amid an average performance by JT Barrett, but the emotions of this final moment will vary among the fan base.

Two sides of the same coin, the intensity of the arguments can be felt across the nation, and it suddenly turns Buckeye fans against each other, when we should be celebrating his accomplishments and what he has done for the team–instead of nitpicking at his flaws.

JT Barrett has done so much for the university, and yes, while championships are the goal, sometimes the season just plays out differently, leading to the team underachieving, but that is football for you.  Sometimes it does not go your way.  Do not let the lack of championships obstruct your view of JT and his accomplishments because he has done more in his five-year stint at Ohio State than most players that played the position.

He has more wins than any other Buckeye signal caller, after besting Art Schlicter’s age-old record for wins with his 44th win as a starter against 6 losses, and he was the only Buckeye to go 4-0 against TTUN.  As mind-boggling as it has been through the years with his ups and his downs, his strengths and his weaknesses, he still managed to win.  It wasn’t always pretty, and he always took over when he had to, but he flat out played to win.

Unfortunately, a small portion of the fanbase is unwilling to appreciate his efforts often pointing to the Iowa game, where the offense under Barrett struggled mightily as they were blown out by 31 points.  This 31 point loss was the deciding factor that put eventual Champion Alabama in over Ohio State.  Ever since that loss, the appreciation was not the same for Barrett or the team.

This is what is so frustrating about our fanbase–they are too spoiled and they expect too much to the point to where it is unrealistic and unattainable.  You cannot expect Ohio State to win every game, you cannot expect the home teams to just lay down just because your Ohio State, and you cannot expect them not to give you their best shot when you come around because you are a brand name in CFB–a blueblood program.  Iowa definitely dished out the haymaker or knockout punch in the beginning, and it all just went downhill from there, but the team fought tirelessly until the end.

Yes, the playcalling caters to Barrett’s strengths and they are semi-conservative.  There is no pop or explosiveness to the offense.  He was inaccurate and inconsistent, the playcalling was limited and uninspiring, they forgot about their RB’s, and they often called nothing but short passes and RPO’s that often lead to Barrett rushes for the rest of the season.

I get it, I fell in love with the Buckeyes in 2006 during my first enlistment in the Air Force coming in from Guam, during the Troy Smith era.  They had so much excitement and explosiveness on offense, it was always a treat to watch them shred teams with their unpredictability.  I miss it, but it is a different era, different Quarterback.  Hopefully, the next man up will provide the same spark on offense, but we need to take the time to appreciate his accomplishments and achievements during his time as a Buckeye.

There is no more need for slander because he is gone.  He has done too much for us to go out with negativity like I have seen.  He is a Buckeye, he was a great leader, a competitor, a winner, and a legend.  Let JT Barrett ride off into the sunset in peace.  Send him off on a high note and let his memory bring you joy instead of pure vitriol for what he failed to do and just focus on the positives.

I know that this won’t change the overall perception or view of Barrett, but I have had enough of the negativity.  It was fun while it lasted, but the next man up will take over another deep and talented offense.  Thank you JT for all you have done, God bless you and I hope that you succeed at the next level, whether it is as a player or a coach.  Go Bucks!

J.T. BARRETT RECORDS 
Big Ten
45 – Touchdowns responsible for, season
7 – Freshman of the week awards, season                                                                                      9423 – Total Yardage, career

Ohio State
233 – Completions, season (2016)
529 – Completions, career
6 – Touchdown passes, games (2 times)
34 – Touchdown passes, season (2014)
69 – Touchdown passes, career
177.2 – Passing Yards per game, career
18 – 200-yard passing games, career
169.8 – Passing efficiency, season (2014)
3,772 – Total yards, season (2014)
314.3 – Average total offensive yards, season (2014)
245.7 – Average total offensive yards, career
7 – Touchdowns responsible for, game (BGSU, 2016)
45 – Touchdowns responsible for, season (2014)
100 – Touchdowns responsible for, career
11 – Games gaining 200 yards total offense, season (2 times)
26 – Games gaining 200 yards total offense, career
7 – Games gaining 300 yards total offense, season (2014)
14 – Games gaining 300 yards total offense, career
1 – Games gaining 400 or more yards total offense, season
11 – Most wins by first-year starting QB
189 – Rushing yards by a QB, game (Minnesota, 2014)
86 – Longest rush by a QB (Minnesota, 2014)

BARRETT’S CAREER TOTAL OFFENSE STATS

YEAR G-GS Rush Pass TOT AVG
2014 12-12 938 2834 3772 314.3
2015 11-5 682 992 1674 152.2
2016 12-12 847 2428 3275 272.9
Totals 35-29 2467 6254 8721 249.2

CAREER BESTS
Completions……………………… 28 at Penn State (10/22/16)
Attempts…………………………… 43 at Penn State (10/22/16)
Yards Passing……………………. 349 vs. Bowling Green (9/3/16)
TD passes…………………………. *6 (2x) last vs. Bowling Green (9/3/16)
Longest Completion……………. 80 vs. Navy (8/30/14)
Yards Rushing…………………… *189 at Minnesota (11/25/14)
Rushing Attempts………………. 30 vs. Michigan (11/26/16)
Longest Rush…………………….. *86/TD at Minnesota (11/25/14)
Rushing TDs……………………… 2 (6x) last at Wisconsin (10/15/16)
Total Offense…………………….. 409 vs. Cincinnati (9/27/14)
Total Touchdowns……………… *7 vs. Bowling Green (9/3/16)
*Indicates school records; ^School QB records

 

Urban’s Two Car Garage

With Mike Weber hinting at a return for one more year with the Scarlet and Gray, we can now officially continue one of the most interesting debates of the 2017 season: can Mike Weber and JK Dobbins co-exist in Ohio State’s offense or will 2018 turn into a Fast and Furious style race to the finish? Conventional wisdom tells us that a team can never have too much talent, however, as we saw with the JT vs. Cardale debacle in 2015, the outcome of games is not based on how much talent is on the roster, but on how that talent is managed.

Over the course of the last 6 months, we have all been witness to the unfolding of a new saga. On one end of this story, we had the grisly veteran with a growling v8 under the hood. Here was a guy who had replaced an all-time great and was fresh off a somehow under-the-radar 1000 yard freshman season, but who was battling a preseason injury. On the other, we had an untested, yet highly rated true freshman powered by an imported prototype hybrid V12 engine, who had fought his own injury troubles to get onto the field. It was under these circumstances that Ohio State’s season began, with JK Dobbins thrust into the limelight, an inexperienced starter with no veteran backup options. Dobbins exploded onto the scene, with 29 carries and 181 yards in his first ever start. This freshman revelation led many to wonder what the coaches were going to do with Weber when he returned from injury. Was he going to lose his starting job or would he be slotted back in and pick up where he left off in 2016?

When Mike Weber returned to the lineup, it was immediately apparent that he was not being used in his former role. He still wasn’t 100%. And so, as the weeks continued along and the games in which he didn’t play (or was severely underused) piled up, a lot of fans forgot about Mike Weber as we were being wowed by this young, prancing colt in JK Dobbins who was galloping up and down the field. What we were seeing in Weber was a young man with a rugged and classic style of running who had been outshone in his first year as a starter by the versatility and game-breaking ability of Curtis Samuel and now in his second was being overshadowed by a true freshman that seemed like he had electronic traction control and lightning in his shoes.

Of course, the season didn’t end after the UNLV game, and Weber returned during the cupcake section of the Buckeye’s schedule.  In these games, it seemed like Urban, Kevin Wilson and Tony Alford were content to use the two backs in the exact same role, just trading them out every quarter to make sure they both had fresh legs in the 4th.  However, they were still growing into their own roles in the offense. Dobbins was able to create plays in the run game, and opening up holes for quarterback JT Barrett while in scoring position. Weber found his yards in between the tackles and in short yardage situations, including on the goal line. These new roles showed in the statistics, as Dobbins averaged 85 yards per game and had 4 touchdowns over the first 3 games of the Big Ten Schedule. In the same time frame, Weber averaged 61.7 YPG and added 4 touchdowns of his own. Bam! Ohio State had found its offense on the backs of two horses at tailback, one that could weave and one that could roar, and a quarterback that would take anything the defense would give him. What we thought we were seeing was a clearer definition of roles, however, both the Penn State and the Iowa game proved that no one really had any idea what this Ohio State team was. What these games did seem to show, each in their own way, was that Dobbins was becoming the clear number one tailback and Weber was once again fading into the background. This all lasted about a week until we were all once again proven wrong.

In the Michigan State game, the entire country saw what this Ohio State offense was supposed to look like under Urban Meyer and Kevin Wilson: a three-headed rushing attack with JT Barrett, JK Dobbins and Mike Weber pounding the front seven of opposing defenses along with weapons on the outside to keep the defensive front honest. It was an offense in which you could try to reign in the horses, but one would always break free. The Spartans could attempt to stop Dobbins, and so they were gashed by JT. Then they tried to stop JT, and Weber was able to run free like a stallion down the middle of the field, breaking touchdown runs of 47- and 82-yards. Both Dobbins and Weber had a great game, Dobbins as an every down type of back and Weber as a change of pace battering ram with surprising, yet elite top end speed. All Ohio State got out of it was a 48-3 victory over a Top-15 team. This was the team everyone was expecting when Kevin Wilson was hired in the offseason.

The Illinois game saw Mike Weber take another step forward in production, once again outgaining Dobbins in a blowout, however, after playing reasonably well against Michigan, something seemed to change for the coaches. After averaging 10+ carries and 100+ yards as well as more than 1.5 TDs per game over the last 3 games of the regular season, Weber had 4 carries for 6 yards in the Big Ten Championship and 5 carries for 18 yards in the Cotton Bowl. Granted, Wisconsin had one of the best defenses in the country in 2017 and USC sold out to stop the run game, but even so, JK Dobbins had 17 carries for 174 yards against Wisconsin and 13 carries for 39 yards against USC. The coaches had apparently made up their mind about what Mike Weber was and is.

Basically what we’re talking about are two completely different runners, like two different sports cars. JK Dobbins is an Italian import– a Ferrari– agile with some freakish off the line get-up-and-go. Like the Ferrari, he takes the corners extremely well and can excite you every time he fires that engine up. Mike Weber is a classic American muscle car– a Mustang– powerful and gritty, but when you open it up, fast as the wind. He was built for the quarter mile and he’ll fly if he’s got room to go, but he’s not as fancy as the Ferrari in the corners. And now, with Demario McCall and the newest model, Jaelen Gill, looking like they’ll be pushing for touches, along with Antonio Williams and the highly touted freshman tailback class that the coaches brought in for 2018, Urban’s garage is getting smaller and smaller. The problem is, Ferraris are made by a racecar manufacturer with racing technology, while Mustangs are made by a truck manufacturer. Unfortunately for Mike Webber, it looks like Urban is going to try to ride his Scarlet Ferrari to a National Championship in 2018.