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

2018 NFL Draft: Tyquan Lewis, DE

Tyquan Lewis is another under-the-radar prospect that doesn’t wow you with statistics, but he has a motor.  He has average athleticism, but his determination and willingness to do whatever the team needs is what will get him drafted.  His ceiling isn’t as high as the others, but he is a leader and a team-first type of player.  When placed in the right system, he could blossom into a starter or a key role player.

Draft Projection:  3rd-4th Round

2018 NFL Draft: Jerome Baker, LB

Jerome Baker is a baller looking for a team to help on defense.  A bit of unknown until the Oklahoma game in 2016, he was a little bit up and down in 2017.  Without downplaying his skills and his talent, he will add instant depth to an aging and struggling LB core in the NFL.  Baker has a nice blend of skills and he proved that during the combine and he is going to be special once he gets it figured out.  He is able to play in coverage and be effective, while also being able to stop the run and get to the QB.

Draft Projection:  3rd-4th Round

2018 NFL Draft: Jamarco Jones, OT

Jamarco Jones is a stalwart at Tackle and has been a serviceable starter during his tenure at Ohio State.  At 6’4″, 299 lbs, Jones is a bit undersized, but with the right strength and conditioning program, he could grow into a bookend on an offensive line somewhere in the NFL.  A lot of scouts have Jones lower than he should be, but it will just motivate him as he grows accustomed to the NFL life at OT.  He is certainly not a day one starter, but he could blossom into one in the future.  All he needs is a chance.

Draft Projection:  3rd-4th Round

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Position Battles (Part III)

With this matchup being approximately a week away the focus will be on the defensive position battles between Ohio State and USC.  This matchup will feature Ohio State and their Top 10 defensive unit against a reinvigorated defense that has won 5 straight.

Defensive Line:

The Rushmen package that Coach Johnson has installed has worked tremendously well for the Silver Bullets.  The combination of Bosa, Lewis, Holmes, and Hubbard will be used to solely to disrupt Sam Darnold and cause chaos.  It has worked for most of the season, and why not go back to the well.

The depth and talent of the players on Ohio State’s bench are ridiculous, and most, if not all of them are starters at any other school in the nation.  That is the best part about having such a coach like Coach Johnson on to mentor them.

In the interior, Sprinkle and Jones will start the game with Hill and Landers relieving them when they get tired, and they are a pretty talented group of individuals who could all wreak havoc on the trenches.

They are 20th in the nation in total sacks and 13th in team tackles for loss.  They are averaging 2.85 sacks per game and 7.7 in total yards lost.  USC needs to control the trenches to succeed in this matchup because if the floodgates open, it’ll be a long day for Darnold.

Rasheem Green was once an Ohio State target when he was coming out of high school, but things did not work out.  Unlike Ohio State, who runs a 4-3, USC runs the opposite, a 3-4.  Rasheem Green, Josh Fatu, and Christian Rector all start for the Trojans, and they all are space eaters in the trenches.

USC is 6th in the nation in team sacks edging out the Ohio State’s unit with 3.31 sacks per game.  Running a different scheme has its advantages, but the Ohio State Offensive Linemen are one of the most talented groups that USC has faced, so it will have to be determined come gameday.

Linebackers:

Both teams have an embarrassment of riches at the LB positions.  Ohio State has Baker, Borland, and Worley as starters, with Jones, Harrison, and Booker in the wings.  Together, they make a formidable trio for defenses and they are the second level behind the Rushmen.

Baker is a potential first rounder that can do it all.  In coverage, as a spy, even as a blitzer, he will do everything he can to make an impact.  Worley and Borland play well at their new positions.  Worley moved back outside while Borland took Worley’s spot in the middle, and it has worked out pretty good.

USC has quite a formidable combination at LB, and I think they are the reason why their defense has so many sacks.  The USC linemen occupy blockers while the LB’s knife through to seek out the Quarterback.

Led by Iosefa and Smith, this unit is scary good and they could give the right side of the line fits.  They are ranked as the 56th best team in the nation in tackles for loss, but I have a feeling that they will get to Barrett a lot this game due to the inconsistency of the right side, but I do not think it will be as bad as two years ago.

They will do enough to disrupt Barrett and his decision-making process, and they will most likely take the Buckeyes backs down a couple of times in the backfield.  This matchup will be between NFL Linebackers prospects, who are trying to make it to the next level.

Defensive Backs:

Denzel Ward leads another talented group of DB’s at Ohio State, along with Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield at Cornerback.  The definition of a shutdown corner in a long line produced by Coach Coombs, he will look to stop USC’s best playmaker on offense like he has done all season.

At Safety Damon Webb, a hard-hitting safety will patrol the top quarters along with Jordan Fuller to prevent the big plays downfield.

Collectively, BIA will be looking to prove once again that they are the Best In America by locking up USC, but Arnette and Sheffield must avoid the costly penalties that have been a problem for them this season to be successful.

Jack Jones, Iman Marshall, and Chris Hawkins lead the DB’s, and they will look to stop the Buckeye speed.  A lot of teams outside of Oklahoma and Iowa were unsuccessful in preventing the speedy WR’s from getting behind them, but they have the talent in the secondary to do so.

Like Ohio State’s starters, they will be tasked to stop a talented offense and they have the skills and the talent to certainly do so, but it is easier said then done.  Ohio State loves those crossing routes, but I feel like in order for this unit to succeed, they must stop Dobbins and Weber, and Barrett too from establishing a balance and establishing the run.

If they successfully make Ohio State one-dimensional, they will most likely have success.  If not, I think it’ll be a long day.

Position Battles:

DL:  Due to the different defensive schemes, this matchup is close.  From a talent standpoint, I will give the edge to the Buckeyes, but the production edge goes to USC.  The biggest factor will depend on which offensive line shows up.  If 2016 Ohio State shows up, USC wins easily.  If this seasons team does, Ohio State wins.  I am counting on the 2017 team to show up so I will give the slight edge to Ohio State.

LB:  Both units have a lot of talent that is starting and on the bench.  With Ohio State, they have been good, but inconsistent.  Baker tends to gamble and run himself out of position and Borland is good, but young.  USC will blitz like crazy and they have a lot of former Buckeye targets on their roster that will show up in the game.  With that, I declare this draw because there are too many variables that could swing either way.

DB:  This matchup features NFL prospects on both sides.  Ward is a lock in the 1st Round and everyone else is looking to get drafted.  Ohio State suffers from inconsistency outside of Ward, and when Arnette and Sheffield struggle, the game is almost unwatchable.  On USC’s side, Marshall and Marvell are looking to improve their draft position with a great performance against a Top 5 team and fellow conference champion.  I will give the Buckeyes the slight edge.

Special Teams:  I did not forget about this unit, but it will be an important part of the game in regards to the field position battle.  Ohio State has improved a lot over the course of the season, but USC’s unit is better in my opinion.  If USC can dominate this phase, they will be in line for an 8th straight win over the Buckeyes, but I think they finally break the streak.

Prediction:  Ohio State defeats USC 31-20

All things considered, I think the Buckeyes earn a victory in this contest.  The 7 wins in a row comment on Twitter, kind of gave the “Basic Defense” vibe and the last thing the Buckeyes need is more bulletin board material after being left out of the playoffs in favor of Bama.  I would love to see a decisive victory over USC, but I think both teams come out swinging with NFL draft positions being up for grabs.

Illibuck stays in Columbus

In Columbus, on their last home game for the season, J.T. Barrett and the other seniors on the roster looked for a perfect send-off from friends, families, and coaches before heading to Ann Arbor to cap off their rollercoaster regular season.

The game began with Ohio State taking the first possession of the game and it really did not take long for the Buckeyes to impose their will against the Illini.  Their main objective was to run into the defenses teeth and they definitely made that happen.  By the time the game ended, after all the smoke, the Buckeyes ran all over the defense and registered 325 rushing yards for 4 TDs.

Mike Weber proved that he is healthy once again and for the second consecutive game, he went over the 100-yard mark again after busting through for a 43-yarder to essentially put the game further out of reach.  Weber also notched another game where he scored multiple times.

Dobbins and Barrett combined for 84 yards, with a TD a piece.  After their day was done Antonio Williams came in for relief duty and he ran with determination and power before finishing the game with 19 carries and 74 yards.

Barrett did not have a turnover this game, but he was an effective passer as he reached 101 total passing TDs in his career.  He was 11 for 19 with 2 TDs hitting Victor and Baugh for touchdowns.  Once the game had been decided, the backups Dwayne Haskins and Joe Burrow got their chance for a few reps, and Buckeye nation got a snapshot at what should be one hell of a QB battle next season along with Tate Martell for the starting QB spot.

On the initial Haskins drive, he tried to take it past the first down marker, but he was hit hard and he fumbled the football and it was returned for Illinois’ first score of the game, effectively breaking the shutout.  He was quickly benched in favor of Barrett for one last drive and after he finished the drive, Burrow was put in and he also fumbled but was able to recover before punting the ball.

Illinois score with a younger QB after Crouch went down with an injury and he made the most of his shot because, on the first play, he rushed for a 9-yard score.  The backups got a lot of work, but they showed a lot of promise.

With the Buckeyes rolling, the game ended with a 52-14 victory as they have retained the trophy for another year.  Another bit of good news is with TTUN losing to Wisconsin, Ohio State have secured the BIG 10 East division spot for the Conference Championship Game, but the next opponent on the docket is TTUN, which should be interesting, to say the least.  For now, enjoy the win.  Go Bucks.

Battleground Columbus: The Battle for Illibuck

This matchup pits #9 Ohio State and Illinois on Senior Day, which will obviously be their last game at the Shoe and it has the makings of another emotional game.  Ohio State will be facing a team that is struggling to find their identity and also a team that still has not gotten a conference win this season, that is sitting at 2-8 overall.  The Buckeyes will not overlook this Illini team because besides this being their last home game, the Illibuck trophy is up for grabs again.

Since 2001, Illibuck has been stashed away at Ohio State, but a baller named Juice Williams upset the Buckeyes and took it away for a short vacation to Champagne.  There are many players that will ensure that chaos does not happen.  From J.T. Barrett to Damon Webb, each Senior will play their hearts out.  The underclassmen and potential early entries for the draft will also ensure that their Seniors are not disappointed in their last game at home, especially before the Game.

Ball Security Dilemma:

One thing of concern will be J.T. Barrett and turnovers.  In the last two games, he has thrown 6, yes 6 interceptions.  He has difficulties with accuracy and ball placement, but this game will present an opportunity to fix and adjust prior to traveling to Ann Arbor for the Game.

Last week, Barrett was all over the place in the passing attack, but he rarely needed to air it out because the run game was unstoppable against a normally stout Spartan defense.  The Buckeyes beat the snot out of them and routed them, and with their playoff hopes on life support, they cannot afford any more hiccups and they must win out and win the conference, but that is not what is important.  The important thing for them is staying focused and taking care of the ball, and that starts with Barrett at the helm.

This Lovie Smith led defense is surrendering 204.1 passing yards and 198.9 rushing yards per game, but they have not faced the caliber and types of athletes that the Buckeyes have on their roster.  Look for Meyer to establish the run early and often to soften the coverage for play action passes.  This will be a confidence booster and they will need all they can get.

Defenses Last Stand:

The question on everyone’s mind, and mine especially, is who will get a targeting penalty this time?  Ward, Bosa, Jones, and Arnette have been ejected for targeting and it has been a trend for this team this year.  The Buckeyes cannot afford any stupid targeting penalties, especially in the second half because another pair of gold pants will be on the line against the TTUN.

Jaylin Holmes, Tracy Sprinkle, Dante Booker, Chris Worley, Tyquan Lewis, Michael Hill, and Erick Smith will play their last game and they would love to finish the season with a conference championship, their only goal right now.  There are others like Bosa, Baker, Ward, Arnette, and Hubbard, who may leave after this season, but a lot is on the line in this game, even with an overmatched team in your way.

Illinois will have a new QB after Dudek went down with an injury, and may not be back next year. George has thrown 10 INT’s so far during his time in the fire and I am sure that the defense will force a few due to his inexperience.

Ground and Pound:

The duo of Weber and Dobbins will be featured in this contest a lot.  They ran all over Michigan State and will look to add to their momentum just in time for the game.  They all do not want to let their Seniors down in their last game at the Shoe, especially when Weber might potentially leave after this season.

Billy Price and Jamarco Jones, along with Barrett will fight alongside both RB’s for Illibuck and for bragging rights and Zone 6 will also try to explode onto the scene to put the game away early to rest for the Game.  This game is their last chance to correct any and all quirks on the offensive side of the ball to walk into Ann Arbor with added momentum and focus because the Game is always exciting and unpredictable.

Prediction:

Ohio State picks up where they left off in the running game and finely tunes the passing attack to prepare for TTUN.  Barrett throws at least one pick in the game, but has 3 TD’s to Zone 6 and a rushing TD.  The RB’s run wild and salt the game away and combine for 180 yards and 4 scores en route to a 56-6 thrashing of Illinois.

Ohio State defeats Illinois 56-6.

Recap: #9 Ohio State (6-1, BIG 10 4-0) @ Nebraska (3-4, BIG 10 2-2)

First Half

The Buckeyes won the toss and deferred, which gave Nebraska the first offensive possession of the game.  On the opening kickoff, the Special Teams unit began the game with another error with another free-kick out of bounds penalty that put Nebraska at their 35-yard line.

The Buckeye defense then stepped out on the field and forced a Nebraska punt, but their offense was pinned inside of their 5-yard line.  J.T. Barrett relied heavily on the run game but was also 4-5 despite the windy weather conditions, but J.K. Dobbins scored his 5th TD of the year on a 52-yard sweep toward the left side of the line and broke free with his speed and a well-timed stiff arm before marching into the end zone.

Nick Bosa barely missed an opportunity for another strip sack, but the defense turned Nebraska away once again, but on the ensuing punt return the Buckeyes were flagged for holding which negated the good field position.

With that penalty, the Buckeyes begin another drive in less than desirable field position, but Barrett was ready this drive.  He was 2-3 for 20 yards and he showed the willingness to air it out with a deep shot that fell incomplete.  He was more effective on the ground rushing for 18-yards to convert on a 3rd down before scampering for 6 yards for 6 more points.

The Buckeye offense is clicking after scoring on 96-yard and 85-yard drives.  Nebraska looked more efficient and engineered a drive into Buckeye territory, but a questionable holding call shuts the door on a scoring opportunity before another punt.

Barrett took the field position and drove another 80 yards for another score, this time to K.J. Hill for 16-yards on a drag route.  The Buckeye defense then stuffed another 3rd and short and got Nebraska to punt again.

On this long, 71 yard drive, Ohio State came out with another balanced attack where he mixed it up between Weber runs and with bullets to Victor before airing it out for 31-yards to McLaurin on a great corner route putting the Buckeyes up 28-0.

Stanley Morgan Jr makes his first catch of the game nearly midway through the second quarter for 8-yards.  Shortly after Big Play Baker ruined a swing pass to Ozigbo and got a huge lick in on the running back.  J.D. Spillman nearly scored on a 30-yards but was brought down by a shoelace tackle from Jordan Fuller.

J.D. Spillman nearly scored on a 30-yards but was brought down by a shoelace tackle from Jordan Fuller.  Fuller was targeted a lot on the Nebraska drive but was turned away while attempting to pick on him on a 4th down attempt.

Barrett took shot after shot, showing patience in the pocket and he found his receivers before taking it in the end zone for another rushing TD to put the Buckeyes up 35-0 with a little over a minute left in the half.

At the break, Ohio State leads 35-0 holding Nebraska to 116 total yards of offense and just 5 first downs.  Ohio State ends the half with 366 yards of offense and 22 first downs.

Second Half

Barrett continued the onslaught after taking another long drive for a score with a 9 play 75-yard drive.  He found Baugh for a big gain before hitting Berry on a corner route to add to the lead.

Nebraska beat the zone defense for a big-play by J.D. Spillman, who has had been the lone playmaker for the Cornhuskers for a 77-yard score.  He has 5 catches and he has been hurting the Buckeyes and has 143 yards so far.

The theme of the game is long, extended drives from the Buckeyes.  Barrett had another that ended this 75-yard drive with a pass to Marcus Baugh for an 18-yard score after beating man coverage.

The Buckeyes surrendered their first pass interference penalty after Sheffield was caught grabbing at the jersey.  Not a bad mistake, but at least the improvement is evident.  Afterwards, Ozigbo took a screen for 35-yards to the Buckeye 20.  Morgan made a nice grab after a mistimed jump by Ward to make it 49-14.

Barrett responds with a 15 play, 66-yard drive, that chewed up the clock before finding Hill for another red zone TD for what should be his 5th and final TD of the game.  He should finish with 325 yards and 5 TD’s on 27 of 33 attempts and 2 more TD’s with 48-yards on the ground.

Burrow and Haskins made appearances late in the 4th to get some valuable reps.  Amir Riep seals the deal with an interception with no time remaining.  The Buckeyes head toward a bye week before hosting Penn State at home.