Across the Board Criticism of the Buckeyes

Written September 24th, 2012 by Jim

Luke Fickell and the defense have some serious soul searching to do before starting the conference schedule.

Across the board criticism for an undefeated team? only at Ohio State!

I had a long discussion with my friends on Saturday about whether I was being overly critical of this team or not.

I don’t believe so, but the Ohio State faithful have a long and storied history of being scathingly critical of everything short of perfection from the Buckeyes.

I have always been annoyed by Monday (Sunday?) morning quarterbacks that step in and nit pick every little thing the team does.

A fan who is full of negativity (and every Ohio State fan knows plenty of them) is generally right eventually.

A perfect season has happened exactly five times since Ohio State started playing football over 100 years ago; so unbridled optimism doesn’t win very often.

If you were a betting man or woman, betting on negativity to eventually be right would definitely be the smart play.

The worst part, though, is once that bad game does occur, Mr. or Ms. Negativity can come back and say “I told you so!” which is unbelievably obnoxious to me.

So, am I turning into that obnoxiously negative fan by making a list of criticisms of a 4-0 team? Once again, I say no, but I guess that is up to you to decide.

One thing I promise not to do, however, is to come back with an “I told you so” attitude if things do go badly in a game this season.

I criticize because I genuinely want to see the Buckeyes improve and I just haven’t seen that through the first four games this season (see here for my thoughts on looking bad the week before a big game).

I expect the Buckeyes to compete for national championships every year and they are clearly, CLEARLY not championship caliber this season- at least not yet.

I view it as almost a good thing this team won’t be heading to a bowl after the regular season because I don’t know if this squad would be prepared to play against elite competition (if they were to make it through the regular season unscathed).

Good news! I don’t think the Buckeyes are going to go up against elite competition anytime before next year.

That’s right, I still think a 12-0 season is a possibility.

Why? because the Big Ten is just. that. bad.

Michigan State is one of the better bad conference teams, so this weekend will be a big test that we didn’t exactly look great warming up for (once again, I direct you here).

I am still concerned about the upcoming game in a big way, but I definitely think the Buckeyes can win.

Here are the things that frustrated me the most against UAB (and need addressed  the most) as the Buckeyes enter Big Ten play next weekend.

Coaches

  • Why did we go for a punt block early in the game against UAB? I understand and appreciate the aggression, but were we the underdogs desperately in need of momentum? No. It was UAB, relax and steamroll them the good ol’ fashion way. Interestingly enough, our punt block backfired on us and UAB immediately flipped it around and blocked a punt like you are supposed to in true underdog fashion. That turned the early momentum decidedly against the Buckeyes in a huge way which took a while to recover from. Throw in the onside kick at the start of the second half and I thought Ohio State was severely out coached on special teams in this game. I thought that was one of Urban Meyer’s focuses as a coach?
  • I understand playing conservative on defense, keeping everything in front of you and limiting the big plays, but those ten yard cushions on the edge have got. to. stop. Urban Meyer said as much after the game so I’m not going out on a limb here. When the other team is easily grabbing 5-8 yards a pop (if not more) on quick passes to the edge courtesy of those soft zones and we do nothing to respond the entire game. there is something seriously wrong with that picture. Do the coaches not trust the players in coverage? I don’t know (and it might have had something to do with Roby sitting out) but that was extremely frustrating to watch all day and it needs to be addressed.
  • Is the sloppy play and stupid penalties on the coaches or the players? UAB had 4 first downs via penalty on the day. Coaches or players? I don’t know but I am putting this one here so read into that what you will.

Braxton Miller

How dare I criticize the only true playmaker on offense right now and clearly the brightest spot on the entire team, right?

Well, here goes.

  • By biggest criticism of Braxton Miller is that he has got to get better at managing drives. Our third down conversion rate is pathetic (3/10 against UAB and 25/66 on the season) and it is killing our ability to do anything on offense. The worst part is that a lot of the third down misses are with manageable yardage (under 5 yards) and this is an absolutely correctable problem. It seems like Miller is focusing on scoring touchdowns rather than first downs which is why he launches deep balls on third and three. In place of these deep and low percentage heaves, he could just take a leisurely 3 yard stroll to the sideline, get the first down, and live to see another set of downs. Limiting your runs and the hits you take doesn’t mean you absolutely cannot scramble for first downs when it is wide open for you (ESPECIALLY when you are rolling out of the pocket in the first place). Miller needs to learn to be smart and take what the defense is giving him. Running out of bounds is a much better way to get first downs and avoid big hits than desperation heaves. Focus on first downs- not touchdowns, those will come after piling up a few first downs in a row.
  • Miller is still bad at making the hand off/keep read on the read option runs (which is why I think we saw the dreaded ‘Dave’ play pop up a few times, no QB read necessary on that one). I think the coaches told Miller to hand off more on those reads, so he did that almost exclusively at the start of the UAB game. Thankfully, it generally worked with Jordan Hall looking better, but I still don’t think Miller is truly making a read on those plays. A play that sticks out in my mind was a read option on third and short in which Miller got stuck and hesitated handing the ball off or keeping it. This hesitation resulted in getting tackled for a loss and a punt. On third and short you can’t hesitate; you have to attack and get that first down. Either give it and let the RB attack or keep it and attack yourself. In that situation he got stuck trying to make the read and it cost the team. That was an example of a bad read by Miller and of poor awareness and drive management on third down.

Jordan Hall looked better and broke 100, so that was one encouraging thing from this week.

Receivers

  • Catch the ball.

Defense

  • Are we thinking too much instead of just playing? The soft zones that I mentioned certainly didn’t help anything here, but missed tackles, over pursuing (looking at you, Shazier) and bad angles (looking at you, safeties) were still an issue all day. I just don’t know what is going on  and I don’t know how to fix it. Thankfully, I don’t get paid to know those things and hopefully the coaches have a better idea. We will see how things go against Michigan State’s ridiculously one dimensional offense on Saturday, but this is an area of huge concern; particularly given the quality of play that Ohio State fans are used to.

I think that’s about it… at least that’s it for the things I can remember off the top of my head without re-watching the game.

Did I miss anything? Am I off base?

I’m still looking forward to going 12-0, I just hope we can start seeing a bit more improvement from week to week- any improvement at all would be nice, in fact.

While this season won’t be capped off by a bowl game, it is the warm up for a championship run next year.

Without improvement between now and next season that championship run will be next to impossible, especially if the defense doesn’t get things figured out in a hurry.

They are young. New coaches. New schemes. Yada. Yada.

Let’s start seeing some improvement from week to week, pretty please.

5 Comments

  1. MattNo Gravatar
    September 24th, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. I am having trouble thinking about how poor and weak our linebackers look. Maybe I took it for granted when we had James Lauranitus, A.J, Andy Katz, Bobby Carpenter, even Rolle. It seems like Grant, Shazier, and Klein just look slow and have absolutely no power when they hit people??? Our d-line will improve, but with all the hype they had pre-season, I expected a d-line on par with a few years ago when we had Thadius Gibson and Cameron Hayward… I’m just gonna tell myself they aren’t as motivated with the bowl ban and that they are young… The offense will improve with more reps, I don’t worry about them because I know Urban is on their case. It’s Fickell who I worry about????

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  2. ErictBBCNo Gravatar
    September 24th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    This pretty much sums up my thoughts. Good rundown Jim.

    My only comment would be on Braxton Miller’s drive management. I agree it needs to improve, but I think it’s a little strong to criticize him for trying to find balance between running and not running with the coaching staff telling him to run less.

    Yes it’s a problem right now, and he’s not making quality decisions, but it’s a learning process. Give him time to readjust his thinking to what he’s seeing and what the coaches are saying. He has to get to the point where it’s instinctual again, and that will take more than a couple games to sort out.

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  3. buckeyefanindaphilsNo Gravatar
    September 24th, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Good writeup, Jim, you’re right on. I especially remember Miller foregoing a sure 1st down by keeping on a rollout left at the end of the 1st quarter, and instead, heaves the ball down field for a bad incomplete. As far as your other criticisms, these same problems have been there all season. I havent seen any real improvement. Tackling is taught from PeeWee ball on. Do we really have to teach it to upper classmen? And, if the coaches are teaching it, it doesnt seem to be having an effect. Having said that, how does a team that barely beats UAf**kingB move UP in the AP? Blows my mind. No disrespect for UAB, they were well coached and ready to play.

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  4. JeffNo Gravatar
    September 24th, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    catch the ball…..grumble grumble…catch the ball….grumble grumble grumble…catch the god *beep*…$%@#$$#!#$%!#$#!#%…ball…oh yeah…and we stink at beating a team that gets steam rolled also..back to the ball catching..how can our receivers go and make these awesome grabs in critical moments…but fall to catch a 5 yard pass…is their a instructional manual that when your open you must look like a idiot and drop a easy pass or something did I miss the memo? please for christ sakes..how many drives on 3 and 5 did they drop the ball..i mean just flat out drop it like it had baby oil on it…they was wearing GLOVES! ok we all know who I am talking about…I am done venting. but my god..! UAB was giving up almost 600 yards a game and 45 pts….and they made us look STUPID…poorly coached and out classed AT HOME! MSU is going to look at this and say this is a blue print to beat us. just bore us to death with 8 yard corner passes…if something doesn’t change…i tink I will pull the rest of my hair out. NO pun intended. Anyways, yes yes and more yes on all thoughts. *sigh* going to have to wait till year two to see any real progress, but looking at year 3 until Urban has completely righted the ship.

    *on a side note* I don’t see fickle staying past year 3. He is a good guy, just not the coordinator I think we need. He just doesn’t have the moxie we need on the side lines. I want a pissed off pumped up old guy that played d-line and wants us to crush that offense…he just to passive.

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  5. charlesNo Gravatar
    September 24th, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    i’ve been saying forever that fickell’s retention was a gift, and he may not be employed for long. you can’t tell me we don’t have athletes that can play on his side of the ball. granted, they’re not AJ, Cam, or otherwise. but still. i think we’ll know better in about 2 games what the rest of this season holds for the bucks.

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