I would first of all like to thank Mali and the BBC staff for giving me this opportunity to take up 10 minutes of your life and let my Ohio State favoritism corrupt all of you. I still can’t believe that I lost to the 7 year old in the tBBC CFB Bowl Challenge. I give him credit though; it’s definitely not easy. But let’s get into it….
Due to everybody’s surprise, Ohio State didn’t have the year that we all thought they would have had. Especially with an offense coming in as arguable one of the best in the country from both an O-line and playmaker standpoint. Yeah, the defense had a lot of question marks on it but it was well understood that with Urban Meyer’s track record, the defense was going to become championship caliber soon enough. Meyer never won a championship without his defense/ special teams being one of the best in the country. If you look back to the two national titles, you’ll see some of the best defenses in the country at the time.
But Ohio State’s inability to sure up that secondary issue that lingered all year (It started with Roby playing bad and then Christian Bryant’s season ending injury, along with a couple other injuries/ illnesses that came bowl season) and Tom Herman not feeding Hyde in crunch time were both ultimately the end of Ohio State’s “Chase.” Which I don’t really want to get started on the not feeding Hyde in crunch time part because it still sickens me to this day when I think about it… You are up by 7 early in the 4th Quarter in the B1G Ship and you have a guy who’s average almost 8 yards per carry on the season and you decide to put all of your chips on Braxton’s passing ability against a very good secondary? But as we all know, we can’t dwell on the past and must look forward to 2014, which I might add brings a very good recruiting class (In the Top 5 in every credible recruiting source, notice how ESecPN isn’t in there). But what else is new with UFM at the helm?
So now with both Hyde, one of the best running backs in the country, and that oh so dominating offensive line leaving, us buckeye fans are at a period of questioning in our football team. You along with many outsiders feel that Ohio State won’t have nearly as good of a team as they did last year. And with last year being THE year to win it all if it was going to be any year, right? I mean there’s no possible way that even a young stud like EZE and the rest of the stable will be able to replace Hyde’s play-making ability just like there’s no possible way Ed Warriner will be able to produce an offensive line anywhere close to what Ohio State fielded last year.
Well, I’m here to tell you all that the 2014 Buckeyes will be a better team than what we just saw this past college football season.
For starters, we have one of the best running quarterbacks in the nation returning. Yes, I said running QB for a reason.
There was such a tremendous inconsistency shown by Braxton that it was sickening for us Ohio State fans to watch. One drive, he’ll lead his team down the field with 9-10 perfectly placed passes and score (See opening drive of Penn State, and Northwestern games), the ability is there. Then you have other drives where our receivers look on a whole different page than our QB and the ball isn’t anywhere close to any receivers. And we know that it’s not because of a communication or broken route problem, it’s because either Braxton didn’t have enough touch on the pass or he drilled it too hard.
However, next year I think XBrax360 is going to ball out of control for many reasons baring any injuries. First and foremost, Tom Herman will still be at the helm and signal caller of the offense, which I think, will rely even more heavily on Braxton next year due to the absence of Hyde. Secondly, it will be Braxton’s 4th and final year at THE Ohio State University and he will want to pay everything he’s received back in ten fold to all the fans. Third, if Braxton is human like most of us (which I question that from time to time because of his playmaking ability, see Penn State TD last year) then he will want to improve his draft stock as much as possible and will try to earn those $$$. Next, Braxton will be another year older and will have that full year under his belt where he was actually comfortable with the system and really knew the playbook. Plus we could see an improvement in his passing consistency within the year. Lastly, what other option do you have but not to buy into a Heisman worthy player.
The next reason why the 2014 edition will be better than 2013 is the Silver Bullets, yes we’ll be able to use that term next year. I really love the hires Urban made when finding replacements for Vrabel and Withers. Vrabel made the D-Line one of the best part of the teams this year and will be hard to replace but Larry Johnson is anything but a downgrade. The guy has produced 7 NFL first round draft picks, is an animal on the recruiting trail and has the coaching experience that our young D-Line needs.
As far as Chris Ash goes, I think that this is a major and much needed win for Ohio State. Ash at defensive coordinator for Wisconsin posted the 15th best defense in the country in both 2011 and 2012. And you may point out, well Arkansas D was only the 75th best last year but I feel a lot of that was due to them returning no starters from 2012 and injuries/underclassmen having to step up mid season.
But with the mix of Johnson and one of the most improved D-lines last year, the front of our D will be very stout and tough to play against especially with Spence, Bennett and Bosa. While losing Ryan Shazier will be a big loss, I think we’ll see a good step up from individuals like Trey Johnson, incoming freshman Raekwon McMillan, and quite possibly that proclaimed “abusement park” Mike Mitchell.
As far as the secondary goes, I see very big things coming from Armani Reeves in replacing Bradley Roby. As the year went on, he definitely improved his coverage ability. And I think this year is the year of Vonn Bell, yes he got lost in space and got burnt by Sammy Watkins (Mel Kiper has him going 2nd overall in the NFL draft to the Rams) but the talent and play-making ability is definitely there and feel free to refer back to that Orange Bowl 1 handed INT which really changed the momentum of the whole game. Plus, I don’t think its in Urban’s nature to let another year like that to happen again from a D standpoint.
Lastly, I see the biggest reason to believe for a more successful 2014 is the receiving core. While having everybody coming back next year, we’ll also have many of sophomores ready to step up including Jalin Marshall. If you watch the tape of Hyde’s runs, you will always see Ohio State receivers blocking downfield to a T which helped Hyde’s YPC tremendously. Plus I really think in the advancement of a year in Braxton along with us having to lean on Braxton’s arm for offensive production we’ll see tremendous year for the Ohio State receivers.
In conclusion, I see Ohio State having a very good year baring any injures and going to another Big Ten Championship and quite possibly, the championship playoff. Ohio State is definitely losing a lot of talent especially on Offense and their 2 NFL ready studs on D, but there are most definitely players that are ready to step up that have the talent/ skill that it takes to compete at this level. And the reason why you feel the way you do is because of the way that continual success ruins us over time and creates a “ship” or bust mentality but I would like to encourage you all to think back to the 2011 season where we couldn’t win against half of the BIG. So by all means, we are going to be just fine and these 2014 Buckeyes could surprise you.
And if still not convinced, just trust in the process and most importantly, trust in Urban Meyer.
As always… Go Bucks!