The first game week of the season brings with it the first 2014 edition of my “Cus Words” column at BuckeyeSports.com.
After an eventful offseason that took a surprising turn toward the end, where do the Buckeyes stand heading into the Navy game?
I am curious to see the effects of Urban Meyer’s intense efforts to remake the culture of the program. Although he took responsibility, I think at least some of it is residue from the Jim Tressel era. That’s not to say it is from something Tressel was doing wrong but rather that these two coaches were not necessarily looking for the same attitude in a recruit.
I wrote for FOXSports.com after the Braxton Miller news became official that his absence need not mean all of Ohio State’s hopes for the season go down the drain, and I do believe that. But it would be foolish to ignore the fact that plenty of the questions facing this team, both before and after Miller got hurt, could go either way. That was true with or without him.
So, what could go wrong?
Well, the offensive line might not be able to protect new starter J.T. Barrett. Right tackle in particular is a question mark until we see Darryl Baldwin in action.
Running back is well-stocked with a variety of body types and talents, but will anyone be able to create as many yards as Carlos Hyde did after contact? And, by the way, the new starter at running back is likely to face contact sooner than Hyde did, so this issue becomes even greater.
Will the receivers step up as expected? That’s another big if considering Devin Smith has had a tendency to drift in and out of games and fellow senior Evan Spencer is coming off a nasty injury in the Orange Bowl. We’ve seen glimpses of what Dontre Wilson can do, but he will certainly need to be more dynamic than he was in games last season to be a major factor this year, especially if defenses pay any extra attention to stopping him. Everyone else, for all their potential, has never done anything in a college game. Continue reading →
So, Ohio State is going to play the 2014 season with a new starting quarterback despite starting an underclassman the previous season. This might seem unusual, but it has happened for the Buckeyes what seems like a rather remarkable five times in the past 50 years. The reasons have varied but don’t include the previous season’s starter going pro (at least not for positive reasons).
Braxton Miller is the first one to be replaced because of injury. He ended up being the starter in 2011 after Terrelle Pryor left school in June amid questions about additional NCAA violations (he was already facing a five-game suspension for violations previously admitted). Like Miller, Pryor became a surprise true freshman starter in 2008 after senior Todd Boeckman struggled early in the season.
You might have already known about those circumstances, but what about the three that came before? Continue reading →
Cleaning out the reporter’s notebook from another day on the Ohio State football beat…
The always interesting Tom Herman, Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, told us quarterback Braxton Miller did not throw in the morning practice but ran the offense as they concentrated on the running game.
He agreed with a questioner who asked if the reps have been good for backup quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones and added that the mental reps have been good for Miller too even though they would prefer not to be doing things this way. Live reps have been great for the young guys.
Barrett has moved ahead of Jones for the No. 2 quarterback job because the offense moves better when he is running it. He probably would have better stats, too, if you broke it all down, but that’s really the bottom line. Continue reading →
The dawn of another Ohio State football season is upon us, and 2014 figures to be an unpredictable year with so much change on both sides of the ball.
Most indications are the DNA is going to be different with the offense and the defense, one change being personnel-driven and the other caused by extreme struggles of a year ago. Both ways, Ohio State is going to have to count on a new cast of characters to carry out what is in all likelihood a plan that is at least somewhat different than it was last year, for better or for worse.
Offensively, Ohio State has the best player in the Big Ten back to trigger an attack that is probably going to look more like Urban Meyer and Tom Herman intended it to when they arrived than it has for the past two seasons. They want to have playmakers all over the field, not strictly smashing people up the middle.
Most avid fans of Ohio State football know Michigan football has long made a living off talent from the Buckeye State. Mark Dantonio has taken up the practice at Michigan State over the past seven years, too, but that’s not all.
Turns out the Spartans’ defensive strategy is a direct import from Ohio as well.
Dantonio, of course, first became well known nationally when the defense he coordinated at Ohio State was an integral part of the Buckeyes’ 2002 national championship season. Dantonio, a Zanesville native who was brought to Columbus by Jim Tressel in 2001, moved the Buckeyes from the imposing, press defense installed by Fred Pagac Sr. in the late 1990s to a scheme built around more zone concepts, though pressuring the quarterback was a key for both men. Continue reading →
The hiring of Ash also brought about a lot of talk about a unified voice among the coaching staff, something that can easily sound like coach-speak but that senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett gave more credence earlier this week when he met with reporters at Big Ten football media days in Chicago.
“We’re gonna be more aggressive, and I think that’s just Coach Ash,” Bennett said. “I think the biggest difference is we’re going to be more together. So instead of blaming people and instead of just trying to be the D-line and then the linebackers and then the safeties and then the corners, we’re the whole defense. We’re the Silver Bullets. I think that’s the biggest change that I’ve noticed. The coaches have been all about defensive unity. That’s the best thing that’s happened to our defense because you have to have everybody together.”
The Buckeyes’ nose tackle went on to say the defense, which I always thought was more plagued by allowing big plays than by the dinks and dunks bemoaned by many fans and sometimes even head coach Urban Meyer, grew apart as the 2013 season went on. That’s not surprising to learn, but it is surprising to hear such an open and honest assessment these days.
“The struggles last year through the end of the year started dividing us,” Bennett said. “Even I was subject to, ‘You know what, let whatever they’re going to do happen, as a D-line, let’s just go to work.’ That was the wrong approach to take. The D-line still ended up doing pretty well, but you have to be there for your brothers and I personally am trying to change that and make sure we include everybody. If something happens on the back end, I look at the D-line and say we need to be better so that doesn’t happen again.’”
Of course this is the time of year when everything looks rosy moving forward and it is easier to admit past mistakes (thanks in no small part to the yet-to-be-tested notion they have been fixed), but it is also worth pointing out this emphasis on togetherness strays from the “Do your 1/11th mantra” that has been preached consistently by Ohio State staffers and players on defense for the past decade or so.
There is certainly room for the two philosophies to coexist, but it will be interesting to see how this continues to develop through preseason camp and the start of the 2014 season.
So, which state (other than Ohio) has produced the most Ohio State football players over the past 30 years? You probably won’t be surprised to find out it’s Florida with 52.
But who is the best of that bunch? After all, more than half have become starters, and one quarter have been drafted into the NFL.
We narrowed it down to six candidates and gave BuckeyeSports.com readers a chance to vote for their favorite. We did the same for Buckeye football recruits from Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan, too, and you can find the stories below. Continue reading →
While Hilliard’s hop on board highlights one issue of interest in regards to recent recruiting (Ohio State in Cincinnati), Cornell’s commitment has its own significance. The 6-3.5, 270-pounder is in line to be the first player from Minnesota to pick Ohio State since Willie Mobley in 2008 and only the third since 1988 (but probably much longer). When eventual All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis signed with Ohio State in 2005, he was believed to be the first scholarship Buckeye football player from the Land of 1,000 Lakes since the great Sid Gillman in the early 1930s.