Out of all of the positions on the team, the running backs are the least concerning heading into game one.
Since the end of last season, it has been no secret that the Buckeyes are loaded with runners. Spring practice and fall camp have only increased the anticipation to see what these guys can do.
With a new quarterback and inexperienced receivers, the running backs will need to be good; good enough to carry the offense.
Behind a solid offensive line, establishing the run will be even more important than usual early in 2011.
Here is a player-by-player look at the running backs and fullbacks. Read More
It has been a long and arduous off season for Buckeye Nation.
The anticipation and anxiety surrounding the August 12th NCAA hearings alone are enough to put someone on edge. How severely will the NCAA ultimately punish Ohio State for its transgressions?
We can only speculate and hope for the best.
Next up was the resignation of all-time great Jim Tressel and the resulting uncertainty surrounding Ohio State’s next head coach. Luke Fickell is a great defensive coach and an even better Buckeye, but will he be the long term answer to Ohio State’s head coaching vacancy?
We can only speculate and hope for the best.
Finally, what initially looked like a 2012 recruiting class for the ages is quickly turning into another source of concern for fans. As I have mentioned previously, it is still much, much too early to give up on the class, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a source of stress for the next several months. Will Luke Fickell (or the next head coach) be able to salvage the 2012 recruiting class before signing day?
We can only speculate and hope for the best.
Clearly there will be plenty of uncertainty and things to worry about in the coming months. If you are like me, however, you are already so sick and tired of worry and speculation that you have entered a state of comatose. Obviously, being in a state of comatose isn’t very much fun, so I have decided to switch my coping mechanism.
While this off-season has dragged on to the point that it seems like it will never end, the light at the end of the tunnel is coming into view and the season is fast approaching.
Rather than worry about things outside of our collective control, it’s time to refocus our energies on getting excited about the football season that kicks off in 65 days.
Here is a list of some things that I am most excited about for this season and beyond. Read More
The Buckeyes need to fill some pretty big holes on offense this year thanks to graduations and compounded by suspensions. Luckily, Ohio State always has ultra talented players waiting in the wings to show what they’ve got.
As a fan, you can only hope that one or more of these players can make a name for themselves and become the next great Buckeye at whatever position they happen to play. The spring game is a great chance to see what some of the young players can do.
Here are the players to watch on offense in the spring game on Saturday.
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.
This morning I was fortunate enough to sit in on a 6 AM winter conditioning session held by the Ohio State football team. It was a shirt and shorts affair with plenty of running and various other drills deviously put together by strength and conditioning coordinator Eric Lichter.
Since there were no actual football drills that took place, it is difficult to draw many conclusions regarding the team. At the risk of being borderline creepy, however, I can provide some insight on the highly scientific “look test” as well as who stood out in terms of effort.
There were several notable guests this morning as well.
Cameron Heyward fully participated in the conditioning drills with the defensive lineman without a brace on his elbow. Here’s hoping he can get back to 100% in time to work out for the NFL scouts at the end of the month.
Bobby Carpenter also made an appearance at the end of the practice, but did not participate in any of the drills.
A random Georgia coach (or something, he was wearing a Georgia pullover) was spotted walking around.
Read on for the players that stood out, the players that could use a little extra conditioning, and various other observations that I was fortunate enough to make.
Coach Tressel jokingly requested that tape not be shown of the players who “lost their cookies”, but I hope I can still write about it. Read More
The Buckeyes will be breaking in a new QB for the first five games in 2011. With a new QB throwing to an extremely inexperienced group of receivers, the running backs will be the focal point of the offense and Tressel will rely heavily on them to win games in September.
With the suspension of returning starter Boom Herron (216 carries, 1155 yards, 16 TDs), Ohio State will also be breaking in a new running back (or three). Unlike the QBs, however, the prospect of a new RB is mostly an exciting one for Buckeye Nation, particularly given the pool of talent waiting to show what they’ve got.
Fans got a glimpse of young players like Jaamal Berry (32 carries, 266 yards, 1 TD) and Jordan Hall (37 carries, 161 yards, 2 TDs) early in 2010, but once the Big Ten season was in full swing, they were relegated exclusively to special team duties.
Hall and Berry represent the lightning in Ohio State’s ground attack, but the Buckeyes can also bring the thunder. Carlos Hyde received limited opportunities last season (24 carries, 141 yards), but at 6′ tall and 238 lbs. he provides some muscle in short yardage situations. Read More
Last week I updated the outlook at safety for the Buckeyes because I thought they would play a major role in stopping the Badgers offense. Two pick sixes and 28 tackles later and I would say that I was spot on in expecting the safeties to play a major role in last weeks game.
So this week here’s hoping that me highlighting the running backs will have
similar results and we will see some serious yards on the ground come Saturday.
Following the Toledo (247 net rush yards, 5.4 per carry) Illinois (236 net rush yards, 5.1 per carry) and Indiana (212 net rush yards, 4.6 per carry) games, things were looking pretty good for the Buckeyes and the run game, and then last week happened.
The Buckeyes managed an anemic 97 yards on the ground and 3.6 yards per carry against the Badgers. Not good.
Those numbers are slightly misleading, however, considering how few times the Buckeyes even had the ball an offense thanks to defensive and special teams touchdowns.
Still, 97 yards is pretty bad and questioning everything offense has been everyone’s favorite past time this week.
Reestablishing the running game against Purdue will go a long way in quieting the critics of the offense and will hopefully open up the passing game for Pryor and allow him to build some confidence and some consistency.
Long story short, running the ball early and often for lots and lots of yards this week will be good for everyone.
Luckily for the Buckeyes, Purdue is a nice opponent to reestablish the ground game against.
Purdue has given up 1004 yards (4 yards per carry) and 15 TDs on the ground so far this season. That is 163.7 yards per game and that includes a game in which they held a horrendous Northwestern team to 43 yards on the ground.
The Buckeyes should be able to establish a ground game, and if they don’t it will be very concerning (unless we don’t rush the ball because Pryor throws for 400 yards and 4 TDs, that would be acceptable).
So who will be carrying the ball for the Bucks heading into week 7?
At the beginning of the year, the running back position was a two horse race between Brandon Saine and Daniel ‘Boom’ Herron with Herron being the odds on favorite to win the starting position.
Six weeks later, Brandon Saine and Jordan Hall look to be the one two punch running the ball while Herron battles injuries for a third straight week.
Despite the fact that the Buckeyes have been splitting carries between Saine and Herron all year and have not had a true go to guy at running back, it is pretty safe to say that with Saine, Herron (when healthy), and Hall in the backfield the Buckeyes are the deepest they have been at the position since at least 2002.
Throw in the fact that Pryor has been taking quite a few carries away from the backs and racking up some yards on the ground from the QB position and you get a group of backs that lacks a true star but whose combined efforts (with Pryor thrown in) have led to respectable results on the field (172.2 yards per game, 4.4 yards per carry).
So as a group, the backs have been respectable, but individually there has been some disappointments, particularly with Boom Herron.
Herron missed the entire Indiana game two weeks ago and only carried the ball twice against Wisconsin last week before re-injuring his ankle, making the 241 yards and 5 TDs he has for the year a little easier to swallow. Still, he has only been averaging 3.7 yards per carry and his longest rush has only been 18 yards, leading many fans to believe that Brandon Saine is the best option for the Buckeyes at RB regardless of Herron’s health.
Herron’s performance so far this year has definitely been disappointing, and his injury problems are not helping his cause, but I am not ready to give up on him just yet. Even though Herron will not play against Purdue, when he is able to get healthy and back on the field I expect that he will be a major part of the rushing attack employed by the Buckeyes. Whether or not he regains his position as the starter is another matter.
For now though, Herron is out and that leaves Brandon Saine as the main man carrying the ball for the Bucks against the Boilermakers.
Saine is currently the leading rusher on the team with 349 yards (followed closely by Pryor’s 333 yards). He has no touchdowns so far this year, but what has fans excited and clamoring for him to be the starter is the 5.5 yards per carry that Saine has been racking up.
Saine has been finishing runs better than anyone on the team, and he has consistently continued to move forward after contact, sometimes for many yards.
Saine has also recorded the only 100 yard game for a running back so far this season, racking up 113 against Indiana in the first start of his career.
It would be nice to see Saine break 100 for the second time against Purdue (a few TDs would be nice as well), especially considering he will most likely be getting a majority of the carries in the game since Herron will be watching from the sidelines.
Backing up Saine against Purdue will be true freshman Jordan Hall. Hall has looked pretty good in limited action so far this year, gaining 103 yards in just 25 attempts (including many classic Tressel garbage time carries right into the middle of a waiting defense).
Many people (including me) expected Hall to take a red shirt year, so the fact that he has seen the field this early in his career indicates to me that he has been impressive in practice and has a bright future for the Buckeyes. I expect Hall to see the field quite a bit against Purdue (assuming we can stay on the field on offense for more than five minutes) and it will be interesting to see what he can do with the increased playing time.
Another option at RB for the Bucks this week will be Jaamal Berry. Berry has yet to see the field this year, but there has been much speculation on the interwebs about Berry burning his red shirt and getting into the game against Purdue.
Berry has been battling injuries for most of the year, and without these injuries he would almost certainly have seen the field already. Tressel has nothing but praise for Berry and he is possibly the most exciting young back on the Buckeyes roster so it would not be a surprise to see him get on the field.
However, given the fact that it is already halfway through the year, unless another back goes down, I think that Tressel will keep Berry on the sidelines and wait until next season to unleash him.
To summarize, Purdue can expect large doses of Brandon Saine on Saturday and I expect him to break 100 yards and to get into the end zone for the first time this year.
Boom Herron is out for the game but not for the count and I still think that he can be a solid #1 option for the Buckeyes, or he could be a solid change of pace for Saine, either way, the team is going to be better when Herron is healthy.
In Herron’s absence this week and in any future weeks, Jordan Hall will get an increased opportunity to carry the ball. Hall has been impressive in limited action so far and it will be interesting to see what he can do if he is given more carries outside of garbage time.
Finally, the wild card at this point is Jaamal Berry. Will he redshirt? Will he play? If he does get in will he live up to the huge hype that he had coming out of High School and that Tressel has only made larger by heaping praise upon him repeatedly? Was that last question a run-on sentence?
At least one of these questions will be answered this weekend.
This post is going to be a brief look at the rest of the positions that I have not covered yet on offense. I would like to go over them more in depth, but I am running out of time.
So, if you are craving in depth, take a look at my previous entries covering:
For the rest, look here. I guess I will start at the top.
The QB story at Ohio State begins and ends with #2. He has recieved so much coverage over the past two years that I will keep this brief. Terrelle Pryor can run, but can he improve as a passer? If he can, things will be awesome. Even if he stays the same as a passer (all indications are that he has improved drastically) things will still be pretty sweet.
Redshirt sophomore Joe Bauserman (#14) and true freshman Kenny Guiton (#13) are the backups. I don’t have much to say about them. Guiton is probably a year or two away from being ready to play and Bauserman is servicable but unspectacular.
A pair and a spare, that is what to look for here.
#1 Daniel ‘Boom’ Herron (redshirt sophomore) and #3 Brandon Saine (junior) are the pair looking to replace the departed Beanie Wells. Herron performed admirably in limited action last year as a redshirt freshman (89 carries, 439 yards, 6 TDs) while Saine spent last year off the radar for the most part due to injuries.
Herron reminds me a lot of Antonio Pittman while Saine has great straight line speed and the ability to break tackles, but he doesn’t have much in the way of elusiveness.
I look for Herron to be the main guy this year, but Saine looked good in the spring and it wouldn’t be surprising if both backs saw extensive action this year. I think the two compliment each other nicely and I expect the pair to eclipse 1000 yards easily. If either does so individually it would be a mild surprise.
Battling to be the spare are #4 Jaamal Berry (5’11″ 195 lbs.)and #29 Jordan Hall (5’10″ 190 lbs.) who are both true freshman.
Berry has apparently been hindered by the lingering effects of off season surgery and Hall has taken advantage. I look for Hall to get more carries than Berry at the beginning of the year but both players are fully capable of contributing and provide a nice change of pace (both are very quick and elusive) in the backfield. There is a possibility that whoever loses the competition to be the third back will redshirt.
Also worth nothing is that Hall was a teammate of Pryor’s in high school.
Providing a big back look will be redshirt freshman Jermil Martin (6’0″ 227 lbs.) who wears #41. Martin moved to RB from fullback following Carlos Hyde’s failure to qualify academically. He may get some looks in short yardage or goal line situations, but I don’t think he will get many carries when it is all said and done.
I think that the RBs will be a pleasant surprise this year for those expecting a significant drop off following the departure of Beanie to the NFL, especially if the O-Line improves. It should be fun to see who steps up and performs on Saturday.
Fullback will be manned by a duo of true freshman younger brothers this year. #44 Zach Boren is the younger brother of Justin Boren and #49 Adam Homan is the younger brother of Ross Homan. I don’t think that OSU will utilize the fullbacks very much this year, but Tressel called the younger Boren his surprise player of fall camp and he is listed as the starter at FB going into the Navy game. At 6’1″ and 255 pounds it should be fun to watch him smash people lead blocking.
#8 DeVier Posy (6’3″ 205 lbs. sophomore) and #12 Dane Sanzenbacher (5’11″ 175 lbs. junior) are the starters, which is what everyone expected. Sanzenbacher is a slot guy in the mold of Anthony Gonzales and is the leading returner at receiver (21 catches, 272 yards, 1 TD). He has good hands and isn’t afraid to go across the middle, but he isn’t exactly a game breaker. Posey has great size and ability, but didn’t show very much last year (11 catches, 117 yards, 1 TD). He can be a great one, but I will wait and see before I label him as such.
Listed as the backups are #9 Duron Carter (6’2″ 190 lbs. freshman, which are extremely outdated numbers) and #5 Taurian Washington (6’2″ 179 lbs. junior).
First of all, good for Taurian Washington , I hope he is able to make a splash during an actual game this year after looking like a top reciever in each of the last two spring games.
Second of all, Duron Carter, WOW. He is quickly becoming one of the players that I am the most excited about watching this year. Carter has excelent size and superb hands and has impressed everyone in the off season and during fall camp. It looks like Carter might be a big time contributor right away.
I look for Posey, Sanzenbacher, Washington and Carter to be the starters in four reciever sets, with #82 Ray Small (5’11″ 180 lbs. senior) being a wild card. It doesn’t look like Small is out of the doghouse yet following some off season academic issues, but I would be surprised if he doesn’t get significant reps by the end of the season (barring further off the field issues).
I don’t want to make any predictions about the productivity of our recivers this year, as that depends a lot on how well Pryor and the offensive line perform, but the Buckeyes have plenty of players that are capable of replacing the Brians (Hartline and Robiskie) from the 2008 team, and the depth may even be improved.
There has been a lot of talk about using the tight ends more in the offense this year, which happens every off season. I will believe it when I see it. The starter is #86 Jake Ballard, who is big (6’6″ 256 lbs.) and has good hands. Ballard will be a steady presence at TE this year.
#11 Jake Stoneburner (6’5″ 230 lbs. redshirt freshman) is listed as the backup at TE and is a converted WR who could present some serious matchup problems for defenses. Will OSU take advantage of said matchup problems? Once again I’ll believe it when I see it.
If the offense looks to the TEs as much as in the past (11 catches for tight ends last year), take conselation in the fact that Ballard is a good blocker.
Also worth noting is that #92 Todd Denlinger (6’2″ 292 lbs. 5th year senior) is seeing time at TE during short yardage situations for some added muscle in the mix.
That does it for my look at the offensive skill positions. In summation, the Buckeyes are young, inexperienced, but very talented on offense.
I will try to have a post up before the end of the week on the DBs.