2018 NFL Draft: Jalyn Holmes, DE

Jalyn Holmes is another underrated DE prospect, but with a lot of upside due to his skill set.  He was on the second team while playing for the Buckeyes, but when he entered the field, he never wasted an opportunity to make a play.  He may sit behind a veteran this season, but he is like a sponge.  He will be an able body that will take time to develop, but his measurables are good to see.  Time will only tell, but he has a high ceiling and tons of potential.

Draft Projection:  3rd Round

2018 NFL Draft: Sam Hubbard, DE

Sam Hubbard, a former Safety that blossomed into a DE while at Ohio State.  His projections are all over the place and he is certainly being slept on.  At 6’5″, 270 lbs he is a load on the edge, and he will certainly make a team happy after the draft.  Nimble for his size, he uses his speed to get past slower Tackles with ease.  The draft is unpredictable, but a team is likely to take a chance on him.

Draft Projection:  1st-2nd Round

2018 NFL Draft: Billy Price, C

Billy Price continues another streak, the Buckeyes ability to send NFL ready O-Linemen to the NFL.  Price was next in line at Center after Elflein’s departure, but what increases his value is his leadership qualities and his versatility.  Non-Ohio State fans may not know that he was the RG the year before taking over the starting Center duties, so he is able to move around if needed.  Price was injured during the combine, but he recently received a doctor’s note that stated that he will be ready for camp with no limitations, which could improve his draft stock, but you never know.  He is a born leader with a mean streak.  Whichever team takes a chance on him, won’t be disappointed.

Draft Projection:  1st-2nd Round

2018 NFL Draft: Denzel Ward, CB

Denzel Ward is looking to continue the streak of sending another talented prospect into the NFL, and with Ward, he certainly fits the bill with his skill set.  Measuring at 5’11, 183 lbs Ward is going to be a terror at the next level.  He moves with fluidity and he can shadow opposing WR’s with his athleticism.  He could be a day one starter, but in the right situation, he can thrive in the slot before eventually moving to the outside.  Ward is projected to be the first Buckeye off the board in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Draft Projection:  1st Round

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!

 

 

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 Basketball: Contenders

With 11 minutes to go in the first half, the Ohio State Buckeyes went down 20-10 against Minnesota during the Big Ten’s Super Saturday.  The best player in the Big Ten, Keita Bates-Diop, was struggling from the floor, and the OSU defense couldn’t handle Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy and his game down low.  However, through their slump, the Buckeyes stayed committed to playing physical basketball and taking advantage of every opportunity.

The very first points on the board came off a steal that led to an easy transition dunk for Bates-Diop.  This was a preface of things to come, because, even though at times they weren’t getting the ball in the hoop, the Buckeyes continued to force turnovers.  In fact, they ended the game with 10 steals and 22 points off of 15 Minnesota turnovers.

Ohio State’s second made shot was a transition layup that was set up by a Sweet n’ Low bounce pass from CJ Jackson to Kam Williams.  This was another fast scoring opportunity made possible, not because of outstanding offensive playmaking, but because they were playing smart, tough Ohio State basketball. The Buckeyes finished with 11 assists.

The third score for the OSU came after CJ Jackson missed a 3 pointer from the corner.  He followed his miss and came up with an offensive rebound that put him right next to the hoop with a wide open shot.  Jackson’s floater put his team ahead 6-2.  OSU finished with 12 offensive rebounds.

Unfortunately, after a few layups underneath to make the score 11-10, the shots stopped falling.

The Golden Gophers went on a 9-0 run and took their ten point lead.  This left the fans that had made the long trek up to NYC wonder whether it looked like, perhaps, the Buckeyes didn’t have the magic.  Maybe they were having an off day, or this talented Minnesota team was just finally finding their stride again.  Maybe Ohio State had been overachieving for the last few weeks, and they were finally falling back to earth.  Either way, OSU was struggling and their opponent was surging.

Of course, we all watched the game so we know how it ends.  The Buckeyes saved the first half doing the same things that they had been doing through the first 9 minutes of the game.  They kept forcing turnovers, they kept making good passes, they kept getting rebounds, on both the offensive and defensive ends, and eventually, someone’s shot went in.

All of the sudden the floodgates opened to reveal the January Buckeyes once more.

Steal, pass, score;
block, pass, pass, score;
inside, outside, score;
steal, pass, miss, offensive rebound, put back, score;

Ohio State took the lead and then took a commanding lead and then they started dominating.  A 10 point deficit turned into a 12 point lead and the score was 34-22.  A 24 to 2 scoring run in which the Buckeyes dominated every facet of the game– shooting, defending, rebounding, passing– and they did it with Keita on the bench for 5 minutes.

This team believes it’s one of the best teams in the country.  After taking care of business at Rutgers, holding off a late surge from Northwestern, and obliterating Minnesota in Madison Square Garden, they come home with an 8-0 conference record and a top-15 ranking.  Their four-game homestretch, starting tonight with Nebraska, comes at the perfect time, giving the Buckeyes an opportunity to flex their muscles against the middle of the Big Ten in preparation for what could be a Top-10 matchup at Purdue on February 7th.

Chris Holtmann has put this team in a position to do something that they haven’t done since the 2012-2013 season: hold a top 10 ranking in January.  If they win their next four games, they will own a 21-4 record, including a 12-0 start to conference play.  Four games is a tall task, especially with the physicality of the Big Ten, but Ohio State has shown that it has the coaches, players and drive to do it. The next step is Nebraska, and then Penn State and Indiana and Illinois.

Keita Bates-Diop has come back down to earth after his four-game “prove-it” tour, but Ohio State hasn’t.  The Buckeyes are still dominating teams, still proving that they are not just “the surprise of the season” as every major sports publication is dubbing them.  They want everyone to know that they aren’t overachieving.  They are contenders.

Their next step is Nebraska, but this Buckeye team has its sights set higher.

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