Last week I covered the awesomeness that is the Silver Bullet defense (line, linebackers, and secondary). I strongly believe that the defense alone is good enough to win nine games this season- regardless of what happens on the other side of the ball.
Nine wins is good at a lot of schools, but for Buckeye fans that is a borderline bad year.
To have a great season, and more importantly for Coach Fickell to secure a long term contract, the Scarlet Assassin offense will need to step up to win above and beyond nine games.
In this regard, “Scarlet Assassins” is an appropriate nickname for several reasons; most importantly because they will move against their opponents slowly and meticulously before delivering the fatal blow.
An eight minute fourth quarter drive capped off by Zach Boren leading Carlos Hyde into the end zone for the game icing TD has a nice ring to it.
Slow and meticulous or the greatest show on turf; as always, the line will be the key to success on offense.
Here is player by player look at the two-deep.
The story of the offensive line is relatively simple. From the first day of practice the starting group has been set. The coaches clearly like what they see with this group and so do I.
Everything is not sunshine and smiles, however, as there are currently three true freshmen on the second team and the suspension and subsequent return to the field of Mike Adams is looming in the background.
Depth aside, the line should be solid, particularly when paving the way for a great set of running backs. The real trick will be protecting a new quarterback leading a young and inexperienced passing attack, which will likely take a game (or ten) to get rolling.
Here is a look at the starters and the backups.
#78 Sophomore, LT
6’5” 308 lbs.
Replacing Mike Adams during his suspension was a major question mark heading into camp. Norwell’s ability to answer that question conclusively from day one has been reassuring. Only a sophomore, Norwell played at right tackle last season and showed that he can handle the grind of playing in the Big Ten trenches.
At the same time, the move to the left side will take some getting used to. Expecting Norwell to transition seamlessly to left tackle is unrealistic, and there will be some headaches early in the year. Run blocking shouldn’t be a problem, but adjusting to the pass rush will likely be difficult for him.
It is fortunate that, like the rest of the team, he will have several games to get used to his new spot before the biggest challenges on the schedule. Instant greatness is unrealistic, but Norwell will be solid enough to give the playmakers a chance to do their thing at the very least.
#74 RS Sophomore, LG
6’6” 303 lbs.
The transformation that Jack Mewhort has undergone since arriving on campus has been impressive. He looks like a Big Ten linemen and he has the attitude to go along with it (which is good considering he will be replacing Justin Boren).
Like most linemen, his name might not be well known to the average fan right now, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good at what he does.
Only a redshirt sophomore, Mewhort is still young with room to grow, but he has proven fully capable of paving the way for Ohio State’s outstanding backs during practice.
With age and experience he will only get better, but I have a feeling Mewhort will make his mark on the field from game one and fans will grow to know and appreciate him as the year goes on.
#50 Senior, C
6’5” 305 lbs.
There isn’t much that can be said (written?) about Mike Brewster that hasn’t already been covered- repeatedly. He is arguably the most well-known member of the team, the most likely to receive post season recognition, and the most likely to be an early draft pick into the NFL.
Starting in Columbus for four years tends to create that kind of buzz for a player, at center or any other position.
Brewster passed up a chance to go to the NFL after last season, and the experience and leadership he brings to the offensive line, the offense, and the entire team will be immensely valuable throughout 2011.
#79 RS Sophomore, RG
6’5” 315 lbs.
Marcus Hall is the offensive linemen that I am most excited to see on the field.
After playing right tackle as a true freshman and sitting out last season to get his academics in order, Hall has moved down to right guard and has played there with the starting group since day one of practice.
One might worry about the position change, but I have always said that anyone good enough to play tackle (which Hall proved he could do, as a true freshman no less) can excel at guard as well. On top of his proven ability on the field, Hall has the perfect build for an interior lineman.
His frame is huge, which makes him bigger than other linemen his size without being overweight or losing his mobility and quickness off the line of scrimmage.
As I said, I am excited to see Hall back on the field; he will provide a huge boost to the line and the offense.
#76 Senior, RT
6’7” 300 lbs.
J.B. Shugarts will be entering his third season as the starting right tackle. He has a proven track record in the trenches and will be a leader along the line with Mike Brewster (and Mike Adams eventually, completing the Block O trio from the 2008 recruiting class).
Despite his experience, I have one major concern with Shugarts and that is blocking speed rushers on the edge. He struggled mightily with this last season, which was at least in part due to issues with his feet.
With healthy wheels, the problem should be diminished somewhat, but with a new starter on the left side for five games and an inexperienced quarterback, blocking the edge rush is one of my top concerns heading into the season.
#75 Senior, LT
6’8” 320 lbs.
Mike Adams is on the second team as he serves his five game suspension. Having a player like Adams as a backup is a luxury and a problem.
It will be nice to have two experienced players at left tackle in Norwell and Adams, but Adams obviously can’t play until game six against Nebraska.
You can’t ask for a better time for the return of one of your best players, but until that time doesn’t provide depth despite repping with the second team during practice. This means that in reality the second string tackle will either be walk-on third stringer Eric Kramer- or the entire line will need to be reshuffled.
Forgetting about the suspension for a moment, Mike Adams is a prototypical left tackle and a legitimate first round talent if he can put it all together in his final season.
When he gets back on the field (and he is very likely to earn his starting spot back) the team will be better.
#55 Freshman, LG
6’5″ 320 lbs.
Tommy Brown enrolled early in the spring and spent time at right tackle. For the first few practices of camp he continued to play there, but by week two he had moved to left guard with the second team were he continues to play.
Brown reminds me of fellow tackle-to-guard mover Marcus Hall. From the position change as well as the fact that he is simply bigger than most other human beings.
Playing guard takes some of the harder aspects of the college game (speed and footwork) out of the equation for Brown, and when it comes to moving people off the line of scrimmage, he should do just fine.
#51 Freshman, C
6’2″ 280 lbs.
Brian Bobek is next in line to carry on the All-American torch that Ohio State has established at center over the past decade or so (LeCharles Bentley, Nick Mangold, Mike Brewster).
Center is one of the more learning intensive positions on the entire field, and playing behind Brewster this year will help out tremendously in preparing Bobek for the starting role, which he will likely move to full time next season.
In the mean time, Bobek anchors the second team offensive line, which will provide him with great experience as he prepares to lead the line in the future.
#71 RS Sophomore, RG
6’2″ 310 lbs.
Many people thought Corey Linsley would push for one of the open guard spots this season (and he did in the spring), but a rumored two game suspension is likely keeping him on the second team during camp.
He is built for the inside, with his greatest strengths being a low center of gravity and outstanding explosion off the line of scrimmage.
Providing solid depth behind Marcus Hall at right guard will be highly valuable, particularly since it would allow Hall to move back out to tackle if needed (this season or next) with little to no drop-off on the inside.
#73 Freshman, RT
6’3″ 305 lbs.
Antonio Underwood’s move to right tackle is one of the more surprising bits of news out of camp. Most people assumed he would be an interior linemen in Columbus, and if he was going to make a move it would be to the defensive side of the ball.
Underwood at tackle reminds me of Bryant Browning. Underwood has above average footwork and quickness, but he still looks out of position on the edge, just like Browning.
The move is largely one of necessity, however, and you work with what you’ve got (have I mentioned the Buckeyes need offensive tackles in the next two recruiting classes? that was a rhetorical question, I have).
I wouldn’t be surprised if, like Browning, Underwood did eventually move down to his more natural position on the inside. As mentioned above, I would be more comfortable moving Marcus Hall to tackle rather than relying on a true freshman that is seemingly playing out of position.
On the optimistic side of things, Underwood could surprise and excel on the edge, and either way, with any luck he won’t be forced into duty this season outside of mop-up action.