Urban Meyer returned to work very early Monday morning. Since then, players and coaches agree it’s been business as usual. Hopefully that trend continues as the Buckeyes get ready to face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at 3:30 Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium.
Offensively is there really much to worry about with the Buckeyes? No, I don’t think so. Rutgers is better on defense than Oregon State, but I still see the Buckeyes putting up big numbers again. The combination of the accurate, cannon arm of Dwayne Haskins, ultra-fast receivers, a two-headed monster rushing attack, and the play calling of offensive coordinator Ryan Day make this team very, very difficult to defend. Wide receiver Austin Mack said, “We have a lot of weapons in the receiving room, and the fact that Dwayne has a tremendous arm and is able to hit us in our breaks, when we need the ball and able to lead us when we need to and just run our offense clean, it’s super fun.” It’s super fun to watch, also. By the way, those ultra-fast receivers I mentioned did not drop a solitary pass last week.
Day and the Buckeyes will continue to try to give equal carries to Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins. Day wants the offense to play with a lot of tempo. If you substitute, the officials will slow the game down. When or if they substitute for one of them will come down to the number of plays in a drive and the situation. "If he just had a run for ten, and he turns around and runs the ball over here for another ten, and now you get to play four and five, and he starts to show fatigue, then that might be a time to get him out,” said Day. Weber is just 92 yards from 2,000 in his career.
Against Oregon State, Day used two tight end formations more than any game last season. Considering the success they had with it, look for more of this on Saturday. The offensive staff is very happy with the depth they have at tight end and plan to put it to good use.
Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said it was unacceptable for 82% of Oregon State’s offense to have come on seven plays. He said tackling and pursuit angles must improve. Without question, the absence of free safety Jordan Fuller (pictured) had an impact. Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint both struggled in their first career starts. Schiano seemed to indicate those big plays may not have happened if Fuller was on the field because he’s so good at making tackles in “space.” The staff hopes Fuller will return tomorrow. If he doesn’t, expect to see improvement from Pryor and Wint, but it still may be a little ugly at times. Yesterday on the coaches show on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus, Schiano spoke of how the coaches have been using cornerback Shaun Wade at safety. He said he expects Wade to have a bigger role as the season progresses. I’m going to read this to mean don’t be surprised if Wade sees time at one of the safety positions against Rutgers, if Wint or Pryor struggle.
Another area which improvement should be seen is at linebacker. Malik Harrison, Baron Browning, and Pete Werner were all making their first career starts last week. They did a lot of good things, especially Werner and Harrison, but, at times, were nowhere to be found. Oregon State had a lot of success with screen passes. Don’t think for a second Rutgers isn’t going to test this group early with the same thing. Tuf Borland played ten snaps last week. Expect to see that number increase some this week, but I’ll be surprised if he surpasses fifteen plays. The plan is to gradually bring him back.
The defensive line was dominant against the Beavers. No surprise there, but I did find it surprising when the Buckeyes went to the “Rushmen” package for the first time, they replaced Jonathan Copper with true freshman Tyreke Smith. It may have been a case of wanting a fresh pair of legs in the game, but it will, also, tell you a bit about how much defensive line guru Larry Johnson thinks of Smith. Don’t sleep on Jashon Cornell. He’s an outstanding player, who quietly goes about his business and could be a starter on most teams. When Dre’mont Jones went out of the Cotton Bowl with an injury, it was Cornell who stepped in and got most of the snaps. You didn’t notice any drop off because he’s that good.
Here are a few random things about our favorite college football team:
Greg Schiano was the head coach at Rutgers for eleven seasons and took them to six bowl games. His 68 wins places him fourth on the school’s all-time list.
Mike Weber revealed he nearly left for the NFL Draft this past spring. “It was really 50-50,” the junior running back said. A conversation with the Buckeyes’ head coach is what made him decide to stay, “I feel like the conversation I had with coach Meyer made me feel comfortable to make my decision to come back.” It’s obvious to me he made a very good choice. He looks like a much more mature, complete back. This is going to make his draft stock rise far above what it would have been if he had come out this past spring.
Offensive lineman Branden Bowen has had surgery yet again, on the leg he broke against Maryland last season. In an Instagram post, he explained his fibula had not fully healed. He said he tried to play through it, but the pain was too much. No timetable has been given on his return.
If you want to check out TCU, the Buckeyes’ opponent after Rutgers, you can watch them tonight against SMU on ESPN2 at 8 PM.
No major changes to this week’s depth chart.
Steady improvement is the way to describe former OSU defensive coordinator Chris Ash’s two years as the head coach at Rutgers. In 2016 the Knights went 2-10 and finished dead last in the Big Ten East. Last year they were 4-8, but rose to fifth in the East, finishing ahead of Indiana and Maryland. Following that path of improvement to this year and one would think a bowl game is a reasonable expectation. But, there is no margin for error on the schedule.
Their coaches admit the goal of the offense last year was to hang onto the ball as long as they could to hold the score down. This year they feel like they have a legitimate college offense. They are led by true freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski. Against Texas State last week, he went 20-29 for 205 yards and a touchdown, but, also, threw three interceptions. Offensive coordinator John McNulty calls running back Raheem Blachshear the team’s best player. He’s another of those do-it-all type of backs, who had twelve carries, seven receptions, and three kick returns last week. McNulty likes those “chunk” plays, so look for him to figure out ways to attack Ohio State’s safeties deep, if Jordan Fuller does not play. He feels their biggest challenge this week will be the noise and atmosphere at the Shoe and trying to keep everyone on the same page.
The Scarlet Knights have a veteran defense, but there is a decided lack of depth. Last week they lost Tijuan Mason, the top back-up at their “jack” defensive end position. But, the bigger concern is the news from yesterday that top cornerback Blessaun Austin is out with the shoulder injury he suffered against Texas State. Austin is a legitimate NFL prospect and will be missed. How much will he be missed? His back-up is a true freshman.
What Do I Think?
Sitkowski had plenty of time to throw last week against Texas State. He’s dealing with an entirely different animal this week in Ohio State’s defensive line. Rutgers’ offensive line is going to be better than Oregon State’s. They’re not known for giving up a lot of sacks. That being said, I still think Bosa, Young, and company will harass the young quarterback into bad throws and mistakes. I, also, don’t think the Knights will approach the 218 rushing yards they ground out last week and will find it difficult overall to move the ball. All of this is, of course, dependent on the Buckeyes correcting the problems that plagued them against Oregon State.
The feeling among the Scarlet Knight faithful is their defense needs to pressure Dwayne Haskins. With the probability of them starting a true freshman cornerback against that group of OSU receivers, it is almost imperative they put pressure on Haskins. I don’t see that happening often enough to slow down this Buckeye offense for an entire game. The lack of depth on this unit for the Knights combined with the fast tempo Ohio State wants to play with on offense will wear down Rutgers’ defense. Throw in that big, mean offensive line beating on them when the Buckeyes run the ball and I think it is going to turn into a long day for Chris Ash’s defense.
The Buckeyes have beaten Rutgers 56-0 and 58-0 in their last two meetings. I’m not convinced the Buckeyes can shut them out for the third year in a row, but you can bet they’re going to put up a lot of points again this week. Chris Ash has certainly improved the Scarlet Knight’s program. But, they’re not THAT improved to where they will be able to stay with OSU for a full 60 minutes. The Buckeyes are going to cruise again this week.
A good many years ago, I was shooting a story on a local high school football player where we interviewed his parents. During the interview with the dad, he said something about his son had won “a buncha accoloids,” but needed to do well in the classroom as well. It took my reporter and myself until we were about halfway back to the station, before we realized he meant “accolades.” A couple of Buckeyes won some “accoloids” this week for their performances against Oregon State.
Dwayne Haskins was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for his 313 yard, 5 touchdown performance. Both are the most ever for a debuting quarterback at OSU. Haskins was, also, named a Manning Award Star of the Week. The Manning Award is given out by the Sugar Bowl Committee and is the only quarterback award which takes into consideration bowl performance.
For his two sack, two fumble recovery, and a touchdown day against the Beavers, Nick Bosa has been named the Bednarik Award National Player of the Week. Bosa, also, had four tackles on Saturday. The Bednarik Award is given by the Maxwell Football Club in Philadelphia to the nation’s outstanding defensive player.
“Used To Be” Report
A few “used to be” Buckeyes made debuts with their new teams last week. Here’s a look at how they did.
Joe Burrow led his 25th ranked LSU Tigers to a 33-17 drubbing of #8 Miami. The Tigers ran out to a 33-3 lead and never looked back behind Burrow’s 11-24 for 140 yard passing performance. Note to Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham: obviously we take our football pretty serious up here above the Mason-Dixon Line.
Remember when Sam Hubbard tackled Trace McSorley AND Saquon Barkley at the same time last season? Former Buckeye Darius Slade may have done him one better against UTSA Saturday night. A UTSA running back stepped up the block the 6-4, 265-pounder, who was rushing the passer. Slade hit the running back so hard, he forced him back into the quarterback and caused a fumble, which Slade recovered himself. The fun begins right around the 3:28 mark of the video. Slade transferred to Arizona State just before the beginning of the 2017 season.
Among others, Antonio Williams rushed for 47 yards and a touchdown in North Carolina’s loss to Cal. Wayne Davis assisted on three tackles as James Madison lost to North Carolina State. Offensive tackle Kevin Feder made his first career start for Kansas against Nicholls State.
When New Orleans acquired Teddy Bridgewater from the Jets, that pretty much sealed the fate of J.T. Barrett. He was cut, but then signed to the Saints’ practice squad. Others, who were cut and then signed to practice squads, are Cardale Jones (Chargers), safety Damon Webb (Titans), and linebacker Chris Worley (Bengals).
Cornerback Doran Grant had a very good preseason, but was cut by the Bears. He has not been re-signed. Tight end Marcus Baugh was cut by the Raiders and not re-signed, as was receiver DeVier Posey by the Ravens. Posey is going to workout for the Bills in the coming days.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, among former Buckeyes being cut, is veteran linebacker John Simon. He started all nine games he played in last year for them, but was not viewed as a good fit for their new 4-3 defense. He recently visited with the Jets. In other Colts news involving former Buckeyes, the team has placed defensive end Tyquan Lewis on injured reserve.
Center Billy Price (Bengals) and linebacker Jerome Baker (Dolphins) are listed as rookie starters for Sunday’s openers.
In the month of August, Buckeye fans everywhere saw the bang-up job of reporting the sports media did on the Urban Meyer/Zach Smith story. Well, here are a few others who have distinguished themselves in the past week.
After his Wolverines lost to Notre Dame Saturday night, the Big Ten Network’s Braylon Edwards, a noted “Michigan Man,” went on a rather amusing Twitter tirade. He ripped specific players, the offensive line, the offense in general, and called Michigan football “trash.” Like most Buckeye fans, I thought the meltdown by an entitled Michigan alum was hilarious. His bosses at BTN did not and correctly suspended him. Bray-Bray apologized and said he was “inebriated”, but he stood by his assessment of the program. I don’t disagree with his feelings on the state of Wolverine football, but when you work in the media you can’t attack a program like he did and you REALLY can’t attack players. That’s a big no-no.
ESPN’s Mark Jones decided to bash a program on Twitter as well. After doing the play-by-play for the Auburn-Washington game (a Washington loss), Jones tweeted, “Washington Huskies took one on the chin. Where’s Montana?,” in reference to their supposedly weak schedule. This isn’t the first time ESPN has attacked Washington’s non-conference schedule. They have made a habit of it recently, but it isn’t very smart for one of their people to attack a team on social media. Jones has been removed from doing games involving the Huskies. Way to take a tough stance ESPN!! By the way, Washington, also, plays North Dakota and BYU in their other non-conference games, while Clemson has Furman, Texas A&M, and Georgia Southern. As young folk like to say, just sayin’…
Our final distinguished media member for the week is Jonny Miller of WBZ radio in Boston. After ranking the Buckeyes fifth on his AP ballot the week before they played Oregon State, he dropped them to 25th after they hung 77 points on the Beavers. And people wonder why I am COMPLETELY against allowing the media to choose which teams make the playoff. According to Eleven Warriors, Miller has covered baseball full-time for the last 40 years. Really makes sense for him to have a ballot, doesn’t it? Hopefully he won’t have one for long after this.
Yesterday was “National Read a Book Day,” so here’s a reading recommendation for you. “Ohio State ’68: The Year That Saved Ohio State Football” is the best book on OSU football I’ve ever read. It is a riveting look inside the school’s 1968 national champions. The stories of how Woody Hayes recruited Rex Kern and the other “Super Sophs” is fascinating. When you’re finished, you’ll understand why his players loved and hated Woody. Can’t say enough good things about this book.