Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Friday, October 10, 2014

Grading 2014 Ohio State Football, At The Bye

While I agree with Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer that having a bye week at this point in the season is not necessarily wanted or welcomed by the coaches, players, or fans, it does provide an opportunity to assess how Ohio State is doing after the first third of the season.  (Technically, Ohio State was at the 1/3 point after the Cincinnati game, but this bye weekend gives me a chance to evaluate the team, without an opponent to preview against.).  Let us begin with the various position groups:


  • Quarterbacks:  A solid 'B', but could rise to an 'A' by the conclusion of the season.  Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett was unenviably thrown into the starting position when projected starter Braxton Miller's shoulder injury was season-ending.  Barrett struggled immensely against Virginia Tech in week two, but has had three straight sterling performances versus Kent State, Cincinnati, and Maryland.  Will Barrett be able to continue his strong play as Ohio State continues B1G competition for the remainder of the season?  Cardale Jones has played sparingly as a backup so far this season.



  • Running Backs:  B+.  Ezekiel Elliott has seized the starting position, and looks to be in the Carlos Hyde mold of being able to wear an opposing defense down.  Senior Rod Smith figures to be a complimentary player for the remainder of his Ohio State career.  Coach Meyer has praised Bri'onte Dunn as being worthy of more playing time.  True freshman Curtis Samuel is presently battling an ankle injury.  The coaching staff seems to have concluded that Dontre Wilson is best used as a perimeter player running the ball; the same for Jalin Marshall.  Warren Ball has battled injuries this season, and gets little playing time.



  • Wide Receivers:  B-.  This position group is kind of a mixed bag.  The talent is there, but has not established itself on a consistent basis.  Michael Thomas, Corey Smith, Evan Spencer, Devin Smith, Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson - all play, yet none have seized the starting positions with a commanding performance.  Senior TE Jeff Heuerman has battled injuries, but may have turned the corner.  Nick Vannett has also played capably this season.



  • Offensive Line:  B+.  Considering where this group started, how the players were being mixed in and out of the lineup, with inconsistent results...This offensive line may be the most pleasant surprise on the team.  Losing four starters, and moving the only returning starter with Taylor Decker to left tackle, meant the offensive line was completely unsettled and incohesive.  The offensive line is only going to get better by the season's end.  Senior Darryl Baldwin has been singled out by Coach Meyer for his continuing development at right tackle.  Jacoby Boren has taken a firm grasp of the starting center position.



  • Defensive Line:  B-.  Joey Bosa is staring down a first team All-American selection after this season.  The suspension of Noah Spence has hurt Ohio State's pass rush.  Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington, and the combo of Steve Miller/Rashad Frazier have played well, but have not been nearly as dominant as expected by the fan base.  An opportunity to dominate the opposition looms when the Buckeyes travel to Penn State on October 25th.



  • Linebackers:  B.  True freshman Raekwon McMillan may have clinched the starting middle linebacker position by the season's end.  Darron Lee was the player of the game in the season opener versus Navy.  Joshua Perry has been relatively quiet on the playmaking front.  Will this group be able to step up with physical rushing opponents such as Michigan State and Minnesota on the horizon?



  • Secondary:  C.  A true work in progress.  While improving, this is the weak area of the team.  How much of it is scheme, and how much of it is personnel?  Eli Apple may have turned a corner, no pun intended, with his performance at Maryland last weekend.  This position group may improve with better performances at Penn State and Indiana.



  • Special Teams Units:  B+.  True freshman Sean Nuernberger has been better after two missed field goals against Virginia Tech in the second game of the season.  Will Nuernberger be able to come through if needed to make a game winner?  Cameron Johnston is quietly reliable at the punting position.  Coach Meyer stresses the importance of special teams as being a gateway to playing time, and the coverage units have been solid.


Conclusion:  If 2014 Ohio State football were a stock, this would be a solid buy acquisition.  Ohio State should be 7-1 heading up to East Lansing, MI, for what should be a B1G East Division elimination game.  "Should be" does not mean "will be", especially after Virginia Tech came into Ohio Stadium and defeated the Buckeyes in week two of the season.  If Ohio State can defeat a very good Michigan State team in front of a national television audience, it is not far-fetched for Ohio State to possibly emerge as a playoff participant.


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