Countdown To THE GAME 2015

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.

Friday, March 10, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – Tight Ends 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.

6th - Tight Ends

Players Lost:  None.

Returning Players/Incoming Players:  Marcus Baugh (Redshirt Senior), A.J. Alexander (Redshirt Sophomore), Jake Hausmann (Redshirt Freshman), Luke Farrell (Redshirt Freshman), Kierre Hawkins (Redshirt Freshman)

A few things to keep in mind for this position group...
  • It was somewhat surprising, but very reassuring, that Marcus Baugh did not declare for the 2017 NFL Draft.  With the departures of Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown, and Dontre Wilson, Baugh enters into the 2017 season as Ohio State's leading returning receiver with 24 receptions in 2016.  While Baugh has had his share of off the field disciplinary issues during his time in Columbus, Baugh has been [knocking furiously on wood] keeping on the good side of Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer.  Here is to hoping that Baugh's good behavior continues.
  • A.J. Alexander contributed four receptions in 2016, but was largely used as an extra blocker.  Alexander's most famous play in 2016?  "The Spot" versus That Team Up North, as J.T. Barrett's head was stopped by Alexander's...posterior.
  • Jake Hausmann, Luke Farrell, and Kierre Hawkins were all redshirted in 2016.  It will bear watching to see which player, if not players plural, emerge during spring practice.
  • As stated up above, Baugh is the only tight end on the roster who has played substantially.  Considering how the Ohio State passing offense will be under immense focus, and the possibility that the tight end position may be a considerable element of the offense, as new Ohio State offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Kevin Wilson has historically involved the tight end in his offenses, this is why I have ranked tight end in this position of importance.  On the first day of spring practice on March 7th, it was revealed that Baugh underwent a procedure that will limit Baugh's participation in spring drills.  It will be so important for Baugh to not only stay healthy, but other tight ends to emerge by the time the season begins on August 31st at Indiana.
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 3, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – Linebackers 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 begins 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.

7th - Linebackers

Players Lost:  Raekwon McMillan, Joe Burger, Craig Fada.  While Burger and Fada were primarily special teams contributors and backups, both will be missed.  McMillan declared early for the 2017 NFL Draft, and leaves a gaping hole at middle linebacker.

Returning Players/Incoming Players:  Jerome Baker (Junior), Dante Booker (Redshirt Junior), Tuf Borland (Redshirt Freshman), Baron Browning (Freshman), Nick Conner (Redshirt Sophomore), Malik Harrison (Sophomore), Justin Hilliard (Redshirt Sophomore), Keandre Jones (Sophomore), Pete Werner (Freshman), Brendon White (Freshman), Chris Worley (Redshirt Senior)

A few things to keep in mind for this position group...
  • It is a far cry from the days when Ohio State needed to switch Zach Boren from fullback to linebacker in the latter stages of the 2012 season.  Ohio State has been recruiting linebacker well over the past seasons, with Raekwon McMillan the latest player who will project as a high NFL draft pick.
  • The speculation on who will be manning the crucial middle linebacker spot is going to bear watching all spring.  Could it be Dante Booker?  Christopher Worley?  Baron Browning as a true freshman?
  • Chris Worley filled in capably for Dante Booker at outside linebacker, but perhaps Worley may be best suited in the middle, calling out the signals for the defense.  Worley made key plays throughout 2016, such as this interception at Michigan State.
  • Tuf Borland and Nick Conner are two names who fit the darkhorse profile.  Neither were recruited with as many of the accolades as some of the other linebackers, but could one of those players fill the middle linebacker spot?  Conner had a banner spring game back in 2015, but redshirted in 2015, and was not a factor in 2016.
  • Justin Hilliard has battled injuries since arriving in Columbus.  Could Hilliard finally make a move at middle linebacker?
  • The 'X' factor in the whole linebacker equation is new linebackers coach Bill Davis.  Taking over for Luke Fickell, Davis may want to mix and match players to see which of them best fits what he is looking for at the position.
 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, February 24, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – Running 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 begins 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.

8th - Running Back
Players Lost:  Technically, no running backs have been lost, but H-Backs Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson both carried the ball for Ohio State in 2016.  Wilson carried the ball only 16 times for 78 yards and 1 touchdown, but Samuel wound up with 97 carries for 771 yards and 8 touchdowns.  Nearly a thousand yards of rushing, and several timely touchdowns, will be lost heading into 2017.

Returning Players/Incoming Players:  Mike Weber (Redshirt Sophomore), Demario McCall (Sophomore), Antonio Williams (Redshirt Freshman/Sophomore?), J.K. Dobbins (Freshman)
A few things to keep in mind for this position group...
  • Mike Weber returns for his redshirt sophomore season after rushing for 1096 yards on 182 carries and 9 touchdowns.  Weber heads into 2017 as the starter, but should be prepared for other players to supplement the rushing attack as the season progresses.
  • Demario McCall played sparingly as a true freshman in 2016, but impressed with 270 yards on 49 carries and 3 touchdowns.  McCall will be given first crack at the H-Back position, but could also factor into the running back rotation.
  • The battle for carries between Antonio Williams and J.K. Dobbins should be intense this spring and summer.  Williams played against Rutgers in 2016, with 6 carries for 28 yards, but did not play again during the 2016 season.  The reason I have a question mark next to Williams' eligibility is I thought I read that Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer was going to try to get a redshirt for Williams; I am guessing more information will be available once spring practice begins.  Dobbins enrolled early, and will be eager to impress the coaching staff this spring.  Look for either Williams or Dobbins to emerge as the primary backup to Weber by the conclusion of spring practice.
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, February 17, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – Quarterbacks 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 begins 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.

9th ~ Quarterback

Players Lost:  Stephen Collier.  Collier missed the entire 2016 season due to injury, then announced at the beginning of 2017 that he was retiring as a player.  If you have not read Collier’s letter to Ohio State fans, you are truly missing out.  It is entirely possible that a transfer may take place after spring practice concludes on April 15th, but it would be surprising.

Returning Players/Incoming Players:  J.T. Barrett (5th Year Senior), Joe Burrow (Redshirt Sophomore), Dwayne Haskins (Redshirt Freshman), Tate Martell (Freshman).
A few things to keep in mind for this position group…
  • In the words of Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer regarding J.T. Barrett…, “He’s our quarterback.”.  Barrett has already set so many Ohio State passing records, but with a big year in 2017, it will be difficult for other quarterbacks to break them.  With new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson on staff, look for Barrett to make a big leap forward as a passer, back to the form Barrett displayed in 2014 as a redshirt freshman.
  • The big battle to watch will be at the backup quarterback position.  Joe Burrow played well in limited spot duty in 2016, and recently addressed transfer rumors.  Dwayne Haskins redshirted in 2016, but earned rave reviews throughout the bowl practices from his teammates.  As for true freshman Tate Martell, all Martell has accomplished in his high school career is go undefeated and was named the Gatorade National Player Of The Year.
  • How do I think it will all shake out?  I have not the foggiest idea.  I do know that watching the quarterbacks battle will be one of the highlights for fans during the upcoming spring game on April 15th in Ohio Stadium.  With so much talent, and such tremendous coaching on hand to guide and nurture this talent, this is why I ranked the quarterback position ninth in overall concerns heading into the 2017 season.
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.