Initially, this week was supposed to be “POPS”- Pink Out Penn State for Breast Cancer Awareness. While we’ve not heard anything more about that since things changed in Happy Valley, we’re more than glad to give our support. You know… given the circumstances.
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. Read More
With spring practice well underway and the spring game quickly approaching, it is time to move from “way too early looks” at each position into some more informed analysis based on practice reports.
[Note: I apologize for not getting to the defensive backs in my “way too early looks”.]
This offseason has been a tumultuous one to say the least. The tattoo revelations leading up to the Sugar Bowl and the resulting suspensions guaranteed a shadow over the off season. The additional news concerning Jim Tressel didn’t exactly make that shadow go away.
Fortunately, time heals all wounds, and cracking pads on the field helps to speed up that process- at least for me. After some time off from writing following the Tressel news conference (which is part of the reason why I didn’t get to the DBs), my enthusiasm for football is back in full swing.
So what follows will not only be a look at the DBs for the first time, but also a review of all of the position groups with some updated thoughts based on news from practice. I apologize ahead of time if this ends up being lengthy.
My rebuttal: FOOTBALL!
My attitude this offseason has always been that no matter what happens, when the Buckeyes take care of business on the field everything else will fade into the background.
Redemption through wins.
Off field BS be damned.
Here is a look at how each position is looking heading into the spring game.
As the saying goes, games are won in the trenches. Cliche or not, a dominating offensive line can take a team to the next level. See: Wisconsin.
With three senior returning starters to anchor the line, Ohio State has the makings of domination in 2011.
Unfortunately, we haven’t reached the point in these ‘way too early’ previews where I don’t have to mention suspensions. Mike Adams, the returning starter at LT, will be serving a suspension to begin the year.
Scratch one of the senior anchors… at least for a few games.
The suspensions go a bit deeper than that for the offensive line… indirectly. With a new QB, inexperienced receivers, and a deep and talented backfield, the trenches will become even more important than usual for the Buckeyes.
Whether it is protecting an inexperienced QB for an extra second or opening holes for dynamic young runners, the offensive line will be the crucial group of players that can get the team through the suspensions without a loss.
Here’s a look at those players. Read More
And now we need to go on the road and play better than we’ve played on the road. We head to Minnesota and it will be the first time for any of us on our team to ever have seen the stadium let alone play in it, so that will be exciting for us. And it’s an evening primetime game, and our guys will get excited about that. So now we’ve got to go back to work and understand that we’re facing a veteran quarterback in Adam Weber. We had him in youth camp. I thought he was outstanding then, and 10,000 yards later I think he’s still outstanding. And I think the school career passing record for us is a little over 7,000 and he’s got 10,000, just to put it in perspective what he’s been able to accomplish and he’s a heck of a player. He’s a competitor. He’s a senior. You can just hear in his comments that he doesn’t want to hear about coaching transition or this or that, this is still the 2010 Minnesota Golden Gophers and still the same team it was at the beginning of the year who has a passion to get some good things done, and through his leadership, you can be sure that they’ll never stop, and that’s the kind of leader that you want to have. And he leads a young group of receivers who I think are getting better and better and they’ve done a good job of giving you a lot of different formation looks, a lot of different personnel groupings.
Over on their defensive side, they were very young when they began, now they’re eight or nine games into it and they’re no longer — you no longer talk when you talk about a team of so and so had this many starters returning because that’s irrelevant now because they’re going into this point in the season.
And they seem to have dialed up a little bit more of their pressure package in this last game or so than they did earlier in the year. They did a similar amount against us a year ago, so it’s not like we haven’t seen it. It’s not like it’s anything brand new, but they are bringing good pressure. I think they’re playing a little bit loose and getting just excited to go out and hit somebody and see if they can create turnovers and so forth, so it will be a great challenge for us.
Special teams, we always say, is the key when we go on the road and I think if anyone has an interest in Big Ten football and doesn’t think that the special teams had maybe the biggest impact on last weekend, Wisconsin’s fake punt was probably the turning point in that game. Michigan State’s fake punt was probably the turning point in that game. I think Iowa missed a field goal, which was big, and an extra point, perhaps. The Cleveland Browns, I didn’t see it, but the little reverse pass or whatever they did was huge in their game, and on and on and on. Missouri, I think, didn’t they bring the opening kickoff back?
So special teams is something that we’ll never stop talking about and you’ll never be able to convince me of its relative impact on the emotion of the game, and football is an emotional game. And so we’ve got to make sure that despite the fact that we’ve had to go with a lot of different lineups due to injuries in the linebacker and DB areas, we’ve got to get better at special teams, especially on the road. It’s a huge impact. Purdue found that. Go full circle, Purdue found that out, coming over here, you can’t make two big special teams mistakes and think you’re going to win in someone else’s stadium.
I apologize. It was disguised as a pooch.
It is that time again, time to go back and look at the offensive line. Hoorah!
At the beginning of the year the offensive line was a serious question mark for this team, particularly the offensive tackles. Now, heading into our week 5 match up against the mighty Hoosiers, it is safe to say that I feel… uh… better. That being said, there is still much room for improvement, but I am optimistic that the line can continue to improve each week, they are still young and relatively inexperienced after all.
It has been an interesting ride for the line (and the fans) to get to week five. # 75 Mike Adams (who I tagged to win the starting left tackle job in the preseason) was suspended for the first two games, leaving the job open for #55 Andrew Miller. Now Adams is back from suspension, got the first start of his career at LT against Illinois, and there is a magical OR on the depth chart between Miller and Adams heading into this weekend. I expect both Adams and Miller to continue to get playing time and to spell one another. Basically we are right back where we were at in the preseason.
On the other side of the line, #64 Jim Cordle won the starting job at right tackle, suffered an ankle injury somewhere around the USC game and will be out of action for at least a few more weeks, leaving the position by default to #76 J.B. Shugarts (who I also tagged as the starter in the preseason, making me wrong on both accounts). When Cordle comes back from injury, I would guess that the RT spot will get the magical OR on the depth chart as well, reverting the competition at RT back to the preseason as well.
Like I said, interesting ride.
Normally, you would think that open competition at both tackle positions heading into week five would be a bad thing because no one has separated themselves from the pack. That isn’t the case for the Buckeyes. I would attribute the lack of a clear starter at the tackle positions to surprisingly solid play across the board rather than frustratingly poor performances.
I think the offensive line surprised everyone with how well they played against USC in week two against elite competition. Week three was a so-so performance for the line considering they were playing against one of the worst defenses they will face all year, which was somewhat concerning.
Then last week happened. I feel like last week was a huge step forward for the offensive line and the entire offense. The Buckeyes were able to run the ball with authority the entire game despite the fact that Illinois knew we were coming at them on the ground.
I think this success can be attributed to two things. One is that the offensive line is continuing to improve each week and I would say they are definitely starting to gel as a unit.
The second reason for our success on the ground last week was schematic. Ohio State ran a large amount of their plays out of the shotgun formation and used a lot of option read plays between Pryor and the running back. This meant that Illinois had to protect the edge on both sides of the line because they didn’t know whether the ball was going one way with the back or if Pryor was keeping it and running the other way.
The confusion this caused for the defense severely limited Illinois ability to pursue from the backside and helped to open up holes along the line. Throw in the fact that we pulled #86 Jake Ballard from the TE position on quite a few of the misdirection plays (something that I can’t recall ever seeing before) and it looks very much like Ohio State has turned a brand new page in offensive game planning.
But back to the line. They played well last week and were consistently able to get a solid push up front. No matter what the schemes, if the offensive line doesn’t move people off the line the play isn’t going to work. We were able to move people last week.
To get back to the whole competition at the tackle positions going into week 5 situation, like I said earlier, I don’t think that it is necessarily a bad thing. My worst fear in the preseason was that no one would separate themselves from the pack, leading to the situation we are in now. While no one has separated themselves from the pack so far, it is not due to poor play as I had feared, but rather because everyone has played relatively well up to this point.
The combination of Miller, Adams, Shugarts, and Cordle have performed so well that the coaches have seemingly decided to redshirt all of their young guns along the offensive line in favor of using the depth at tackle to provide a rotation across the line. Take a look at the depth chart going into the weekend.
You will notice that many of the starters are also listed at backup for other positions along the line. Andrew Miller is listed as an OR starter at LT as well as the backup at LG. Bryant Browning is listed as the backup at RT as well as the starter at RG. When Cordle makes his glorious return in a few weeks, the depth and versatility of the line will only improve and allow the coaches to use veterans as starters as well as backups along the line even more.
This weeks veteran heavy depth chart is in stark contrast to the depth chart released in the first few games of the year in which freshmen Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, and Marcus Hall were all in the two deep.
Now the freshmen are nowhere to be found, indicating two things to me. First I think it shows that the coaches would prefer to redshirt their freshmen linemen (update: Tressel mentioned on his call in show today that Hall will probably see the field this weekend). Second, and more importantly, it indicates to me that the guys in the two deep now are really stepping up their game and proving to the coaches that they can handle to load along the line.
I have spent most of my time so far discussing the tackles, that is because the middle of the line has worked out exactly as I predicted with the Killer B’s (#65 Justin Boren, #50 Mike Brewster, #70 Bryant Browning) holding it down. While I wouldn’t call their play dominant just yet, they have been serviceable, and like the tackles, the way that the interior line played against Illinois has me feeling good about the future.
So in summary, on the edge Miller and Adams are still rotating at LT, Cordle (when he returns) and Shugarts will most likely still be rotating at RT as well, and when Cordle and Miller aren’t on the field at tackle they will be providing depth on the interior. All of the tackles are playing well and it looks like they are getting better each week.
On the interior the Killer B’s have been consistent and look to continue to get better as well.
Basically, what looked to be a major question mark at the beginning of the year has proved to be a pleasant surprise (at least for now), and the line looks like they will only continue to improve.
I mentioned this previously, but Ohio State has a favorable schedule until the trip to Happy Valley and it should give the line plenty of time to continue to gel and get better as a unit and individually. It looks like the Buckeyes are in pretty good shape along the line heading into week five.