Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Friday, April 14, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – Wide Receivers Preview

“In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest.” ~ William McKinley
 
I have to give some props to President McKinley.  Born in Niles, Ohio, McKinley was the last American President to have served in the military in The Civil War, so McKinley certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to defeats and victory.

To say that the 2016 Ohio State football season ended with a thud is an understatement.  While I certainly believed Clemson was capable of defeating Ohio State in The 2016 Fiesta Bowl, I never thought Ohio State would be so thoroughly outplayed, and, let’s be honest Ohio State fans, outcoached.
 
As badly as I felt about that loss on New Year’s Eve, the Ohio State coaches and players felt the sting of that loss much more so.  Dramatic overhauls along the coaching staff, combined with early departures of players for the 2017 NFL Draft, have Ohio State with questions to answer as spring football began in Columbus on March 7th.




For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 15th, 2017. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.

1st – Wide Receivers

Players Lost:  WR Noah Brown (early entrant to the 2017 NFL Draft), WR Corey Smith, WR Alex Stump (transfer to Vanderbilt at the beginning of 2017 spring practice), WR James Clark (6th year transfer to Virginia Tech for the 2017 season)

Returning Players/Incoming Players: K.J. Hill (Redshirt Sophomore), Parris Campbell (Redshirt Junior), Terry McLaurin (Redshirt Junior), Johnnie Dixon (Redshirt Junior),Binjimen Victor (Sophomore), Austin Mack (Sophomore), Brendon White (Freshman), Trevon Grimes (Freshman), Jaylen Harris (Freshman), Elijah Gardiner (Freshman)

A few things to keep in mind for this position group…

  • Stop me if you have heard this before ~ Parris Campbell is having an outstanding spring, and Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer is raving about it.  Excuse me if I have some well-deserved guarded skepticism about Campbell until the regular season commences.
  • Here is another one ~ Johnnie Dixon is healthy, and able to participate.  As this article points out, “This isn’t the first time Dixon has been healthy during the spring with hopes of contributing the following fall. To this point, though, his body hasn’t been able to hold up or sidestep setbacks for long enough to see the field.”
  • The player who I believe has demonstrated the most consistency within the wide receiver corps is K.J. Hill.  Hill scored the first receiving touchdown of the 2016 season, and may receive opportunities at both wide receiver and the ‘H’ Back positions for the Buckeyes.
  • Terry McLaurin has had a solid spring, but to this point, McLaurin has not been able to consistently produce upon the field as a wide receiver.  McLaurin’s career statistics = 11 receptions for 114 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
  • Binjimen Victor seemed to emerge during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, but is seemingly holding himself back with inconsistent performances and effort.  When asked what Victor can accomplish as a football player, Coach Meyer stated, “Anything he wants…That’s how good he is. He’s not good yet, that’s just how talented he is.”
  • Austin Mack was the talk of the program last season as an early enrollee freshman, but Mack was only able to contribute with 2 receptions in 2016.
  • Brendon White enrolled early for 2017, but may wind up moving to linebacker down the road.  White’s probable contributions in 2017 will probably be on the special teams units.
  • Trevon Grimes is coming off an ACL injury that may limit his participation in 2017.  Even if Grimes is able to play this season, it would not be surprising if the coaching staff decides to ease Grimes into the lineup throughout the season.
  • Jaylen Harris and Elijah Gardiner are not yet on campus, and it remains to be seen if either will be able to contribute in 2017.
  • The optimist in me is excited about the arrival of new coaches in Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day, to spur the Ohio State offense to expand beyond its self-imposed conservative approach.  The pessimist in me sees the returning talent, and knows that Campbell, McLaurin, and Dixon have all had opportunities in the past, and none of the aforementioned players were able to do much with those chances.
The 2016 Ohio State football season did not end on a positive note.  Spring practices in 2017 can show the Ohio State coaches, players, and fans that the 2017 season will not end in a similar fashion. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – Offensive Line Preview

"In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest." ~ William McKinley

I have to give some props to President McKinley.  Born in Niles, Ohio, McKinley was the last American President to have served in the military in The Civil War, so McKinley certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to defeats and victory.

To say that the 2016 Ohio State football season ended with a thud is an understatement.  While I certainly believed Clemson was capable of defeating Ohio State in The 2016 Fiesta Bowl, I never thought Ohio State would be so thoroughly outplayed, and, let's be honest Ohio State fans, outcoached.

As badly as I felt about that loss on New Year's Eve, the Ohio State coaches and players felt the sting of that loss much more so.  Dramatic overhauls along the coaching staff, combined with early departures of players for the 2017 NFL Draft, have Ohio State with questions to answer as spring football began in Columbus on March 7th.




For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 15th, 2017. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.

2nd - Offensive Line

Players Lost:  C Pat Elflein, OL Evan Lisle (transfer to Duke for 2017 season), OL Kyle Trout (transfer to Cincinnati for 2017 season), OL Tyler Gerald (left team at beginning of 2017 spring practice)

Returning Players/Incoming Players: LT Jamarco Jones (Senior), LG Michael Jordan (Sophomore), C Billy Price (Redshirt Senior), RT Isaiah Prince (Junior), G Demetrius Knox (Redshirt Junior), C Brady Taylor (Redshirt Junior), OT Kevin Feder (Redshirt Sophomore), OT Joshua Alabi (Redshirt Sophomore), G Matthew Burrell (Redshirt Sophomore), OT Branden Bowen (Redshirt Sophomore), C Jack Wohlabaugh (Redshirt Freshman), G Gavin Cupp (Redshirt Freshman), OT Malcolm Pridgeon (JUCO Redshirt Junior), G Josh Myers (Freshman), G Wyatt Davis (Freshman), OT Thayer Munford (Freshman)

A few things to keep in mind for this position group...

  • Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer was very blunt and direct about the current status of the offensive line after the spring practice on April 4th.  Pointing out recruiting misses, and how true freshmen should not be starting at Ohio State, are part of the reason why I have listed this position group as the second position group that I am concerned about heading into the 2017 season.
  • Demetrius Knox is presently starting at right guard.  Considering the hype that surrounds true freshman Wyatt Davis, it will bear watching if Knox is the starter when Ohio State travels to Indiana on August 31st.
  • While I understand the logic of moving Billy Price from guard to center, I wonder if there was any thought of promoting Brady Taylor or Jack Wohlabaugh to center after the 2016 season.
  • Am I the only one surprised that Malcolm Pridgeon has not been more of a factor along the offensive line?
  • Going back to the first bullet point, the stated recruiting misses paint a different perspective of former Ohio State offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Ed Warriner.  On one hand, Warriner has been credited with the development of players such as Taylor Decker, Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, and Andrew Norwell.  On the other, Warriner was on the staff when Ohio State was able to land talented recruits such as Matthew Burrell and Branden Bowen; neither Burrell or Bowen have been able to emerge as starters yet.  Did Warriner have a poor eye for talent?  That does not make sense, as just about every major program in the country wanted those same players.
  • If Ohio State has another inconsistent year along the offensive line, could Greg Studrawa be on the hot seat?  After all, that would make two straight years of poor offensive line play, and Studrawa would be the common denominator in those years.
The 2016 Ohio State football season did not end on a positive note.  Spring practices in 2017 can show the Ohio State coaches, players, and fans that the 2017 season will not end in a similar fashion.


Friday, March 31, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – Defensive Backs Preview

"In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest." ~ William McKinley

I have to give some props to President McKinley.  Born in Niles, Ohio, McKinley was the last American President to have served in the military in The Civil War, so McKinley certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to defeats and victory.

To say that the 2016 Ohio State football season ended with a thud is an understatement.  While I certainly believed Clemson was capable of defeating Ohio State in The 2016 Fiesta Bowl, I never thought Ohio State would be so thoroughly outplayed, and, let's be honest Ohio State fans, outcoached.

As badly as I felt about that loss on New Year's Eve, the Ohio State coaches and players felt the sting of that loss much more so.  Dramatic overhauls along the coaching staff, combined with early departures of players for the 2017 NFL Draft, have Ohio State with questions to answer as spring football began in Columbus on March 7th.




For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 15th, 2017. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.

3rd - Defensive Backs

Players Lost:  CB Marshon Lattimore, CB Gareon Conley, S Malik Hooker

Returning Players/Incoming Players:  S Damon Webb (Senior), S Erick Smith (Senior), CB Denzel Ward (Junior), CB Damon Arnette (Redshirt Sophomore), S Jordan Fuller (Sophomore), CB Rodjay Burns (Sophomore), CB Joshua Norwood (Redshirt Sophomore), S Wayne Davis (Redshirt Freshman), S Jahsen Wint (Redshirt Freshman), CB Kendall Sheffield (JUCO Sophomore), CB Jeffrey Okudah (Freshman), CB Marcus Williamson (Freshman), CB Shaun Wade (Freshman), S Isaiah Pryor (Freshman)

A few things to keep in mind for this position group...
  • For the second year in a row, Ohio State is facing the challenge of replacing three starters from the secondary.  In 2016, it paid off handsomely, as Ohio State had players such as Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker emerge as superstars to combine with Gareon Conley to form arguably the best secondary in college football.  All three players are projected as high NFL draft picks; it is not improbable that all three will wind up being selected within the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
  • To the best of my knowledge, the above listed returning players are listed in terms of competed minutes.  In other words, Damon Webb is the most experienced returning player on Ohio State's roster.  Even with Webb's experience, Webb could very well lose his starting position to other talented players within the secondary.
  • The incoming freshmen are going to bear watching this spring, and well throughout the season.  Players such as Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade were considered the very best at their position across the country.  Kendall Sheffield is a JUCO transfer who has already impressed, with his black stripe being removed from his helmet.
  • While other players on the roster may have more publicity and accolades, sophomore cornerback Rodjay Burns certainly made the most of his limited playing opportunities in 2016.  Burns will probably have opportunities to contribute in nickel packages and on special teams in 2017.  It is my sincere hope that the Ohio State scoreboard will have this type of display whenever Mr. Burns makes a big play.
The 2016 Ohio State football season did not end on a positive note.  Spring practices in 2017 can show the Ohio State coaches, players, and fans that the 2017 season will not end in a similar fashion.

Friday, March 24, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – 'H' Backs Preview

"In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest." ~ William McKinley

I have to give some props to President McKinley.  Born in Niles, Ohio, McKinley was the last American President to have served in the military in The Civil War, so McKinley certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to defeats and victory.

To say that the 2016 Ohio State football season ended with a thud is an understatement.  While I certainly believed Clemson was capable of defeating Ohio State in The 2016 Fiesta Bowl, I never thought Ohio State would be so thoroughly outplayed, and, let's be honest Ohio State fans, outcoached.

As badly as I felt about that loss on New Year's Eve, the Ohio State coaches and players felt the sting of that loss much more so.  Dramatic overhauls along the coaching staff, combined with early departures of players for the 2017 NFL Draft, have Ohio State with questions to answer as spring football began in Columbus on March 7th.




For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 15th, 2017. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.

4th - 'H' Backs

Players Lost:  Curtis Samuel, Dontre Wilson

Returning Players/Incoming Players:  Demario McCall (Sophomore), Parris Campbell (Redshirt Junior), Eric Glover-Williams (Redshirt Sophomore), Johnnie Dixon (Redshirt Junior), K.J. Hill (Redshirt Sophomore), J.K. Dobbins (Freshman)

A few things to keep in mind for this position group...
  • My rationale for placing the 'H' Back position in this high of a priority lies in the following statistics ~ Curtis Samuel played 'H' Back in 2016, and accounted for 1636 yards running and receiving, plus a total of 15 touchdowns.  That is an awful lot of offensive production that Ohio State will need to replicate, with Samuel off to the NFL.
  • Demario McCall would seem to be a leading replacement candidate for the 'H' Back position heading into the 2017 season.  Having seen McCall play in high school, and watching McCall's performance as a true freshman in 2016, McCall certainly has the agility and shiftiness that the 'H' Back position would value.  So far in spring practices, McCall has played running back exclusively, and not at 'H' Back.
  • Could Parris Campbell be the starting 'H' Back?  Campbell was a high school running back, and was moved to wide receiver when he arrived on campus in 2014.  While Campbell has had some moments as a kickoff returner, Campbell has not emerged as a consistent receiving option. Playing 'H' Back would allow Campbell to play a position that could get the ball into his hands quicker on jet sweeps and other perimeter plays.  Based upon the link above, and through other media reports so far about Ohio State spring football, Campbell has been lining up in the slot position.
  • Eric Glover-Williams made a move from the secondary to the offense for 2017.  Glover-Williams could be another option at 'H' Back, in many of the same ways Campbell could be used.
  • K.J. Hill may be another option.  Hill did not carry the ball as a runner in 2016, but accounted for 18 receptions and 1 touchdown in 2016.
  • Johnnie Dixon has had an injury-plagued career up until this point; could Dixon be an option at 'H' Back?  Dixon only carried the ball one time for 5 yards and a touchdown in 2016, and added 6 receptions.
The 2016 Ohio State football season did not end on a positive note.  Spring practices in 2017 can show the Ohio State coaches, players, and fans that the 2017 season will not end in a similar fashion.

Friday, March 17, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – Special Teams Preview

“In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest.” ~ William McKinley

I have to give some props to President McKinley.  Born in Niles, Ohio, McKinley was the last American President to have served in the military in The Civil War, so McKinley certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to defeats and victory.

To say that the 2016 Ohio State football season ended with a thud is an understatement.  While I certainly believed Clemson was capable of defeating Ohio State in The 2016 Fiesta Bowl, I never thought Ohio State would be so thoroughly outplayed, and, let’s be honest Ohio State fans, outcoached.

As badly as I felt about that loss on New Year’s Eve, the Ohio State coaches and players felt the sting of that loss much more so.  Dramatic overhauls along the coaching staff, combined with early departures of players for the 2017 NFL Draft, have Ohio State with questions to answer as spring football began in Columbus on March 7th.




For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 15th, 2017. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.

5th – Special Teams

Players Lost:  P Cameron Johnston, PK Tyler Durbin, PR Curtis Samuel/Dontre Wilson

Returning Players/Incoming Players:  P Drue Chrisman (Redshirt Freshman), PK Sean Nuernberger (Redshirt Junior), PK Blake Haubeil (Freshman/Possible Grayshirt), KR Parris Campbell (Redshirt Junior)

A few things to keep in mind for this position group…

  • Former Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel famously stated that “the punt is the most important play in football”, and was ridiculed by college football fans for such a statement.  After losing Cameron Johnston to a probable NFL career, Ohio State fans are going to see what kind of a dependable weapon Johnston provided over the past three seasons.  The pressure is squarely upon redshirt freshman Drue Chrisman to provide the same type of steady performance that Johnston gave Ohio State from 2014-2016.
  • Walk-on Tyler Durbin had a solid year at placekicker and kickoffs in 2016, until having challenges versus That Team Up North and in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl against Clemson.  Think about how the positive momentum was completely lost after Durbin missed the field goals against Clemson in The 2016 Fiesta Bowl.  Sean Nuernberger is the logical candidate to reclaim the placekicker position, but incoming freshman Blake Haubeil might be able to make this a battle in fall camp. What may swing the job to Nuernberger is the possibility of grayshirting Haubeil in an effort to save a valuable roster spot this season.
  • Parris Campbell has made more of an impact as a kickoff returner than wide receiver up until this point.  Campbell averaged nearly 28 yards a kickoff return, and nearly broke one for a touchdown against Indiana in 2016.
  • Who will emerge as the Ohio State punt returner in 2017?  Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel both manned the position in 2016, but neither return in 2017.  Demario McCall is a logical candidate, after fielding three punts in 2016.  Could another player possibly be in the mix?
  • Coverage units for both kickoffs and punts are always worth watching, as these are the units of players who are looking to elevate their standing in the eyes of the coaching staff.  Look for several redshirt freshmen, redshirt sophomores, and true freshmen to earn valuable playing time on these very important units.  For all of the fans who believe special teams are overrated, these are the units where big momentum-changing plays often take place, and could impact a game either positively or negatively for the Buckeyes in 2017.
The 2016 Ohio State football season did not end on a positive note.  Spring practices in 2017 can show the Ohio State coaches, players, and fans that the 2017 season will not end in a similar fashion.