Preview 2017: Ohio State Buckeyes
Previewing and looking ahead at the Ohio State Buckeyes season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Ohio State Offense
It wasn’t always sharp, it wasn’t always consistently good, and it ended the season with a crashing thud, but the offense still finished 13th in the nation in scoring with a balanced attack that came through more often than not.
And now the Buckeyes have one of the best offensive minds in the game leading the way in new coordinator, beleaguered former head man Kevin Wilson.
The man – for all of his faults – made Indiana’s offense amazing. He’ll get OSU going again after the Clemson disaster.
It starts with veteran QB J.T. Barrett running the show again. No, there’s no quarterback controversy, and yes, Barrett is better than you think – or how he looked late last year.
He’ll get to operate behind a quietly amazing line that just might grow into the best in the Big Ten. Billy Price is a next-level center, Jarmarco Jones is a next-level left tackle, and if the right side can be consistently okay, look out.
They’ll pave the way for super-soph Mike Weber, who won’t have to carry the rushing load on his own with more options than last season. They’ll have to handle the offense early on until the new receivers are ready to rumble – the top three wideouts have to be replaced.
Biggest Key To The Ohio State Offense
The passing game has to do more, and it starts with the receivers. With Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown, and Dontre Wilson gone, the opportunities are there for the behind-the-scenes guys to step forward.
The pass rush should be excellent at times as the line goes on – more on that in a moment – and Barrett has proven he can be deadly when he gets time to work. Now it’ll be up to Binjimen Victor, Parris Campbell, Terry McLauren, and a whole slew of talented options who have yet to really show what they can do. This area isn’t a concern, but it’s going to be the one potential problem area on the depth chart.
What You Need To Know About The Ohio State Defense
Once again, the Ohio State defense has to replace a slew of NFL stars, and once again, it’ll be more than fine. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was able to fill in the gaps last year, and the Buckeyes finished sixth in the nation and third in scoring D. Expect more of the same, and even more from the defensive front.
Ohio State might have lost a ton of talent in the back seven, but the pass rush should be devastating with the top five sackers returning. The defensive end rotation is the best in America, with four all-star, next-level starters who’ll boost up the pedestrian 28 sacks of last year.
While there isn’t a sure-thing star in the interior of the line, there will be a regular rotation of good options. It’s not a concern area in any way, but it might take a while to be settled.
The linebacking corps loses Raekwon McMillan in the middle, but Chris Worley will likely move to the inside and Jerome Baker should shine on the outside. There might not be a ton of experience among the backups, but there’s plenty of talent.
For yet another yet, the Buckeye secondary got gutted, and for another year, the talent level restocked the shelves in a hurry. There isn’t another Malik Hooker, but Damon Webb is a good-hitting safety, while Denzel Ward needs to be come the team’s new star corner.
Biggest Key To The Ohio State Defense
Get and stay physical. There weren’t any problems stopping most running games – the Buckeyes only allowed more than 100 rushing yards six times – but the teams that ran well made things tougher than they needed to be.
Wisconsin chose the Ohio State game to be Wisconsin again when it came to getting ultra-physical up front. The Buckeyes won, but they got pushed hard, allowing a season-high 236 yards.
The Clemson debacle? 205 rushing yards, and the way-too-close call against Michigan State? 207 from the Spartans, who blasted away up front to take control of the game early on.
From what’ll be a jacked-up Indiana team – going against former head coach Kevin Wilson – to Oklahoma and its amazing offensive line, to Army and its option attack, the run D might be tested over the first three games.
Ohio State Will Be Far Better If …
The offensive line can keep Barrett upright. Sack stats are a bit misleading when it comes to Ohio State since the quarterbacks move so much, but it was telling last season. The Buckeye line was terrific at times, but it still allowed 28 sacks.
Penn State had its second-best pass rushing performance of the year against OSU with six sacks, Clemson came up with three, and Michigan almost pulled out the win in Columbus helped by eight sacks.
Throw in the three from Michigan State and the two from Wisconsin, and in the two losses on the year and three of the closest calls, OSU allowed 22 sacks – and six against everyone else.
Best Ohio State Offensive Player
QB J.T. Barrett, Sr. – No, it’s not his fault Ohio State lost to Clemson 31-0. He wasn’t great, but there were a whole slew of problems in the disaster – mainly a jacked-up eventual national champion turned its game up three notches. However, it was an ugly finishing kick to last year, completing just 44-of-87 with a score and three picks in games against Michigan State, Michigan and Clemson.
But he also ran for over 100 yards against both the Spartans and Wolverines.
He was the distributor last season, in charge of spreading the ball around and getting the playmakers involved more in a quicker tempo. It didn’t always work well, but he found ways – two words: Wisconsin game – to get the job done.
There will be calls to for Joe Burrow, Tate Martell or Dwayne Haskins the first time Barrett has a subpar performance, but he’s the veteran leader who’s been through the wars. It might not always be pretty, but the First Team All-Big Ten veteran is the guy the team needs in place with all the new receiving talent to work with.
2. RB Mike Weber, Soph.
3. OT Jamarco Jones, Sr.
4. C Billy Price, Sr.
5. TE Marcus Baugh, Sr.
Best Ohio State Defensive Player
DE Tyquan Lewis, Sr. – The 6-4, 265-pound pass rusher earned First Team All-Big Ten honors and could’ve gone off to the NFL a year early and been an instant millionaire. Now he’s a part of a jaw-dropping group of defensive end talents – and he’s the leader.
While his tackle total went down from 54 to 29, he came up with eight sacks for the second year in a row and was a consistently dominant force in the backfield. And the scary part? He’ll be in a rotation with Nick Bosa, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes – he’ll always be fresh for the key moments.
2. LB Jerome Baker, Jr.
3. DE Sam Hubbard, Jr.
4. DT Michael Hill, Sr.
5. DE Jayln Holmes, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
WR Parris Campbell, Jr. – Curtis Samuel did a little bit of everything, from rushing for 771 yards and eight scores, to catching 74 passes for 865 yards and seven touchdowns. Now the Buckeye offense needs to find someone to be that same sort of Swiss Army knife.
Campbell is going to give it a try. The 6-1, 208-pounder is little bigger, but he’s every bit as fast with elite track star speed. He caught 13 passes for 121 yards and ran for 54 yards and a score, but now he showed off his flash averaging 28 yards per kickoff return. Get ready for him to crank up into a statistical star.
The Ohio State Season Will Be A Success If …
The Buckeyes get back to the College Football Playoff. Of course, the season stinks if Ohio State doesn’t win the national title, but to be realistic, just getting into the CFP is amazing no matter what. Winning the Big Ten would be nice, but after last year, who cares? Penn State got a t-shirt, Ohio State got a chance to play for the national title – as ugly as that was. Make it three trips in four years, and that’s sensational no matter what.
Key Game To The Ohio State Season
Sept. 9 vs. Oklahoma – This is the game that, for all intents and purposes, got Ohio State into the College Football Playoff. Beating Wisconsin in Madison helped, and of course beating Michigan was a massive deal, but at the end of the day – or the regular season – the dominant win in Norman set the tone that helped an 11-1 team that didn’t win the Big Ten get in.
Beat OU, look good doing it, and 11-1 might be enough to get the Buckeyes back in. Lose, and there’s no margin for error the rest of the way. That’s a lot of pressure with games at Nebraska, Iowa and Michigan.
2016 Ohio State Fun Stats
– Red Zone TDs: Ohio State 40-of-62 (65%) – Opponents 15-of-40 (38%)
– Rushing TDs: Ohio State 33 – Opponents 8
– 3rd Quarter Scoring: Ohio State 134 – Opponents 35