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Baver's Buckeye Bag 8/26/14
August 26, 2014 2:00 PM
                                                          
Let’s try to answer some of the popular questions everyone is asking….

How in the world do you replace Braxton Miller?

You don’t.  I can’t remember a time when Ohio State lost as much going from QB1 to QB2.  This isn’t so much because of “who” the backups are, but because of “where” the backups are right now compared to Braxton, a former Heisman frontrunner.  With the loss of Miller, the sportsbooks have moved their lines in games involving Ohio State, anywhere from 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 points per game.  (That includes “Games of the Year” lines).  I think JT Barrett will be a good one before he leaves OSU, but it’s hard for me to see him being game-ready at this point in his career.  And I’m not sure Barrett has 100% of his mobility back from his 2012 ACL tear.  

I’m not ruling out Cardale Jones yet.  Barrett will get the first shot, but the coaches may want to take a look at Jones at some point against Navy, regardless of how Barrett plays.  Of the two, Barrett is more accurate and appears to have better control of the offense right now.  But Cardale has an NFL arm, and although maybe not quite as mobile as Barrett, Jones moves well for a 250-pound guy.  Whether it’s Jones or Barrett, the new QB will be on a tighter leash than Braxton was.  Urban Meyer and Tom Herman will count on Dontre Wilson and the tailbacks to shoulder the load and will limit the chances of QB miscues costing them a game.

I don’t want to sell doom and gloom here; the good news is that the Miller injury will push the rest of this team.  The OSU players that talk to the media will get sick of answering Braxton Miller questions.  Winning the Big Ten is certainly still a reasonable goal.   As for the national title, it’s definitely a longer shot, but the 2002 Ohio State team showed you what can happen if you catch some breaks.    

How do you replace Carlos Hyde and 4 starters from an elite O-line? And who are the new faces?

The Bucks don’t have a tailback on the roster that can put up the numbers that Hyde did a year ago, but they still have plenty of talent and depth.  If healthy, a bulked up Ezekiel Elliott (reportedly 225 lbs) will get the first shot at TB, and Zeke should “eventually” be a good one.  Next in line is Rod Smith, who had a nice fall camp.  Smith still needs to show that he can hang onto the football and stay out of Urban’s dog house, or Brionte Dunn and/or true frosh Curtis Samuel may play into the TB mix.

On the O-line, Taylor Decker, the lone returning starter, slides from RT to LT.  He should be solid and I don’t expect much of a downgrade from Mewhort to Decker, if any at all.  Pat Elflein played pretty well in place of Marcus Hall late last year, and should be solid at RG.  As of now, it was still up in the air as to who the starters at LG (Joel Hale, Billy Price or Antonio Underwood) and at center (Jacoby Boren or Bama transfer Chad Lindsay) would be.  Daryl Baldwin is said to have made some strides at RT.  You may see some growing pains at LG and center, but O-line coach Ed Warinner is as good as it gets, and I expect this line to be solid once they settle in.

With Chris Ash brought in as “Co-Defensive Coordinator”, what changes will we see?

Although I can’t 100% confirm this, everything I hear is that Ash will ultimately be calling the shots for the Buckeye defense this year.  I wouldn’t get too hung up on titles, so Chris Ash having the “co-DC” title and Luke Fickell having the “DC” title (without the “co-“), doesn’t mean much.  I love Luke Fickell, but let’s face it…you don’t charge $80 to $140 a ticket and pay Urban Meyer $4.5 mil-plus per year, then turn around and play defense like OSU did last season.

The specific changes?  It will be more of an aggressive approach, with the corners playing tight coverage and no longer ceding the short gains.  The strong-side LB spot will now be manned by a defender more adept at stopping the pass; the top two SLBs, Darron Lee and Christopher Worley, are both former safeties.  Continuing with that theme, the nickelback will now likely be a cornerback, as opposed to a safety that often manned that spot in the past.  Ash has said that they will normally play their base defense (3 LBs, 4 DBs) on 1st and 2nd downs, regardless of the number of WRs their opponent lines up.  Lee and Worley are smaller LBs that Ash believes can hold their own in pass coverage and still be physical defending the run.

Is the Buckeye D-line really as good as they say it is?

Let’s just say “potentially”.  It had been a long time since we had seen a true-frosh DE play the way Joey Bosa did last year; probably have to go back to Vrabel/Finkes in ‘93.  Bosa is a beast.  You have Noah Spence, a probable 1st round draft pick, opposite Bosa.  There is another possible first round draft pick in DT Michael Bennett.  Adolphus Washington slides down to DT.  Washington has been slowed by injuries in the past, but he may have more upside than the other three heralded starters.  If healthy, this unit is, at the very least, the best D-line in the Big Ten.

But I am not sure it is as deep as people think it is.  Backup DT Donovan Munger should be a star before he leaves here.  Tommy Schutt, Chris Carter and Michael Hill are also solid backup DTs.  But you don’t have that depth at DE, with Steve Miller being the only backup with legit playing experience.  Bosa and Spence have to stay healthy, and you unfortunately have Spence missing the first two games, serving a suspension.

Tell me about Navy and Saturday’s matchup

The last time the Bucks faced Navy (2009), it wasn’t pretty, with OSU stopping a late two-point conversion to hang on.  Navy still runs their flexbone triple option and it’s still “not fun” to defend.  QB Keenan Reynolds runs the Navy offense and put up big time numbers last year (1,346 rushing yds & 31 rushing TDs).  As mentioned, Ash wants to play his base defense (3 LBs, 4 DBs) most of the time, and against Navy’s option, you will see the Bucks in the nickel even less often.  

The Bucks need to get Dontre Wilson going on offense, and a tailback (be it Zeke, R. Smith or whoever) needs to step up.  It will certainly help matters if Barrett shows Navy that he can throw the ball downfield.  Otherwise, the Navy defense will make sure Wilson doesn’t kill them on the edge.  I am not totally buying the hype that this OSU LB core is better than last year’s when Ryan Shazier was around.  If the Buckeye defense doesn’t play fundamental, assignment football, the Navy option attack will surely put points on the board.  

I expect this Buckeye team to be sky high for this one, wanting to show the rest of the nation that they are a national contender without Braxton Miller.  In the end, I think the Bucks make enough big plays and play “good enough” defense to get it done.

Prediction: Ohio State 38 Navy 21

--Brent Baver

2014 Captains
August 25, 2014 1:15 PM
                                                          
In Coach Meyer's press conference after practice today, he announced the 2014 Ohio State football captains.  Braxton Miller was the top vote getter in spite of the fact that he will be sitting the entire season on the sideline.  Also from the offensive side of the ball is Jeff Heuerman, who ironically was also injured this spring but is expected to be back for the Navy game.  On defensive the captains will be Doran Grant and Curtis Grant, perhaps making on of the few times we have two captains the same year with the same last name (may need to look that one up).

Meyer was also asked if Miller would get a special pass to allow him to travel to away games without counting against the travel squad and he confirmed that Braxton will not get such a privilege.

OSU And North Carolina Agree To Cancel Games
August 13, 2014 9:30 PM
                                                          
Wouldn't you know it, as soon as the Tarheels get competitive, the Buckeyes lose them from their future plans.  North Carolina is ranked in the pre-season top 25 this year and is schedule for to play a home-and-home series in 2017 and 2018.  Today the announced was made the series has been canceled.

North Carolina  said in their news release, the cancellation was a result of the Big Ten moving to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016. The Tar Heels have already filled the void in their schedule with the California Bears.  Ironic that the Pac-12 canceled the series of games with the Big Ten when they expanded their conference schedule and now they are replacing the B1G for the ACC.

A replacement team for Ohio State's schedule should be announced soon, according to athletic spokesman Jerry Emig.

Ohio State and North Carolina have agreed to cancel their gridiron series set for 2017-18. Expect more OSU scheduling news soon. Very soon.  — Jerry Emig (@BuckeyeNotes) August 13, 2014

In 2016, the first year the Big Ten moves to a nine-game conference schedule, Ohio State's nonconference slate includes Oklahoma, Tulsa and Bowling Green. 

Trivia Time: Michigan Games and Bowl Games
August 12, 2014 2:00 PM
                                                          
If it is trivia, it must involve our own Buckeye 50 Jack Park, Joe Hylton.  Joe-S-U shared this one with me over a Tommy's Pizza last week.  How many times did Woody, Earle, Cooper and Urban combined, beat both Michigan and win their bowl game in the same season?  The answer -- 6 times.  Why is that significant?  Coach Tressel did it 6 times during his 11 year coaching tenure.

Alumni Donors May be Playing A New Tune Next Donation Campaign
August 6, 2014 12:15 AM
     













                                                     
Steven Smith wants to support Jon Waters by protesting future donations from alumni. Maybe you can save your money here and donate it to Craig Krenzel's Pelotonia team.

"Fans, if you would like to show the University your displeasure at their handling of the Jon Waters dismissal, feel free to send every handout solicitation card filled out as above, completely empty.  We have heard that much of the band alumni are pulling their support from the university in protest.  The rest of the alumni should follow suit."

-- Steven Smith

OSU Shows Up 6th On Pre-Season Coaches Poll
July 31, 2014 2:00 PM
                                                          
After finishing last season with two loses, the coaches (or whoever voted for them) rewarded the Buckeyes with the 6th position in the first 2014 poll.  Of course Alabama lost their last two games AND lost their quarterback and still managed to be voted 2nd.  Go figure.

The College Football Playoff committee will ultimately decide which four teams deserve to play for the national title at the end of the season, but this poll provides a starting point for the analysts to have something to talk about.

Defending champion Florida State will start the season at #1 and probably deserves the ranking.  Alabama is #2 and even though they lost their last two games, they do have more wins against top 10 teams in last five years (14) than all but 5 FBS schools have against Top 25 teams.  Oklahoma, who beat the Tide to end last year comes in at #3.  Oregon will look to get back on top of the Pac-12 this year and start the year at #4.  Auburn finished last year in the championship game and will start this season at #5.

2014 Ohio State Football Preview (pre-fall camp)
July 27, 2014 8:00 PM
                                                          
Part Three of Three: Linebackers, DB’s and Season Outlook

LB: 

Lots of questions here.  Similar to the O-line, you may have a new guy filling each of the three spots.  Josh Perry slides from SLB to WLB to (try to) replace Ryan Shazier.  Curtis Grant Is likely your #1 MLB headed into fall camp, but is being pushed by true frosh Raekwon McMillan.  You may see split duty there.  Darren Lee from New Albany had a huge spring and currently sits atop the depth chart at SLB.  The Bucks should get stronger play out of the MLB position, but you can make an argument that Ryan Shazier was the only quality LB the Bucks had last year, and he is now in the NFL.  The progress of Perry, Grant, McMillan and Lee will be key to the Bucks success on D this year.

DB:

Senior cornerback Doran Grant should challenge for All-Big Ten honors this year.  Opposite Grant, you currently have a battle between Armani ReevesGareon Conley and Eli Apple for the other starting spot.  Reeves struggled at times in 2013 but had a great spring.  Conley can fly and Apple can bring the wood.  Tyvis Powell is the clear #1 at strong safety and Vonn Bell is likely the #1 free safety, even though he missed most of the spring with a knee injury.  Cameron Burrows is the favorite at the nickel spot, but if Bell struggles, you could see Burrows at FS.  This unit only returns one starter (Grant), but it’s hard to imagine that this unit could drop off from last year’s; last year wasn’t pretty.  

Season Outlook:

Four main keys to the season in my opinion (in no particular order): (1) Braxton’s Health, (2) Progression of the O-line, (3) Dontre Wilson hitting superstar status, and (4) Linebacker play.  As for the defense overall, one has to think Chris Ash will improve this group, even if the talent level is down from a year ago.  If he doesn’t, this Buckeye team won’t make the new 4-team playoffs.  The more I look at the Va Tech game, the more concerned I become, with no Noah Spence and a new O-line facing a tough Hokie defense.  The battle against Sparty in East Lansing should decide the division in the newly formed Big Ten East.  In the end, I think this is a 10-2 or an 11-1 team.  Hope I am wrong; I think this has to be an undefeated  Ohio State team to make the playoffs.  I don’t think 11-1 or 12-1 is going to cut it for Ohio State. 

2014 Ohio State Football Preview (pre-fall camp)
July 26, 2014 8:00 PM
                                                          
Part Two of Three: The Trenches and Special Teams

OL: 

One has to have faith in Mickey Marotti, who may just be the best O-line coach in the country.  He has his work cut out for him this year with there being a new man at each of the five spots on the line.  Taylor Decker is the only returning starter from ’13 and slides from RT to LT.  Antonio Underwood looks like the #1 LG, but things could change in August.  The center position is between Jacoby BorenBilly Price and ‘Bama transfer Chad Lindsay.  Pat Elflein is the clear #1 at RG and the RT position currently has 5th year Sr. Daryl Baldwin trying to hold off Evan Lisle and possibly others.  I think Marotti will get these guys to where they need to be, but it may be a rough ride early on.

DL:

The best D-line in the country?  Phil Steele thinks so.  But this is a line that underperformed at times in 2013.  The potential is certainly there with Joey Bosa at one end and Noah Spence at the other.  Spence is suspended for the first two games, but that duo, health permitting, should approach the 20-sack mark between them in 2014.  Michael Bennett is the #1 or #2 DT on NFL draft boards for 2015.  Then you have Adolphus Washington at the other DT spot, and should Adolphus stay healthy (which hasn’t happened in the past), he probably has as much potential as any of the four starters.  The depth behind these guys is strong at DT and not so much at DE.

ST:

What a great find the Bucks got in Cameron Johnston.  He should be one of the top two punters in the Big Ten this year.  You have to have some concern with the FG kicking job, where Drew Basil made 17 out of 21 FG’s over his last two years here.  With Basil gone, the job is between true frosh Sean Nuernberger and Kyle Clinton.  I can’t believe that the Bucks will have the same red zone success they had with Carlos Hyde, so having a quality FG kicker becomes more critical.  Dontre Wilson is your #1 KR, with Curtis Samuel and James Clark  as possibilities as well.  Corey Smith appears to be the frontrunner for punt return duties, with true frosh Johnny Dixon and redshirt frosh Jalin Marshall also in the mix. 

2014 Ohio State Football Preview (pre-fall camp)
July 25, 2014 7:00 PM
                                                          
Part One of Three: The Skill Positions

QB: 

You no longer have Kenny Guiton to bail the Buckeyes out if/when Braxton Miller goes down, so keeping Braxton healthy is imperative if Ohio State is to make a title run this year.  As much as OSU fans like to bash him, Miller is on pace to leave Ohio State as their career leader in passing yards and to finish 2nd (behind only Archie) in career rushing yards.  Other than maybe Florida State and Oregon, just about every other football program in the nation would gladly welcome a healthy Braxton Miller running their offense.  But, he has to stay healthy.  If he doesn’t, you will likely see Cardale Jones, who has yet to take any meaningful snaps in a Buckeye uniform.  Urban will have to limit Braxton’s carries in the games in which they can afford to do so.

RB:

The Buckeyes are still pretty deep at the tailback spot, even after graduating Carlos Hyde, but there is no single back on the roster that is going to perform the way Hyde did last season.  But you have to like the potential of Ezekiel Elliott, who reportedly has bulked up to the 225 to 230 pound range.  Elliott is your clear #1 on the depth chart at TB right now, and the pecking order behind him is a bit unclear.  Rod Smith’s academic troubles in the spring will likely drop him down on the depth chart.  The 2nd team job may be between Brionte Dunn and true frosh Curtis Samuel.  Warren Ball could be in the mix as well, and looked more than adequate in the spring game.  

WR/TE:

Sophomore Dontre Wilson will once again be the #1 H-back (hybrid) and his progress will be key for the Buckeye offense this year.  Not that he performed badly as a freshman, but with Hyde gone and a new offensive line, Ohio State really needs Wilson to become a star this year.  As for the true wideouts, on paper, this year’s group is not on par with the great WR’s that have passed through Columbus the last 15 years.  You’ve got Devin Smith as your top (pure) WR and then probably some combination of Evan Spencer and 2013 redshirts Corey Smith and Mike Thomas.  Jeff Heuerman may be the best TE in the conference and you could certainly do worse than having Nick Vannett as your #2 TE. 

 -- Bbaver

Braxton Miller Included on Initial 2014 Walter Camp Watch List
July 18, 2014 8:00 PM
                                                          
The watch list for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, given annually to the top performer in college football, was released today.  The list consists of 50 players (33 offensive, 17 defensive), headlined by last year's winner, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.  Included on the list is Ohio State's senior quarterback Braxton Miller.

"We are proud to continue the great work of Walter Camp and recognize the best college football players in the nation," said Walter Camp Football Foundation president James Monico, per the official release. "This watch list is a great start to what is shaping up to be another exciting year of college football."

Winston will try to become the first back-to-back Walter Camp winner since Colt McCoy (Texas) in 2008-2009 and the second since Archie Griffin (Ohio State) in 1974-1975.

Moore Makes Decision to Leave Football Team
July 17, 2014 3:30 PM

It appears there is one more roster slot available to the Buckeyes.

Team officials have confirmed fifth-year senior tight end J.T. Moore is leaving the Ohio State football team.  He needed to make this decision as he is experiencing chronic knee injuries. He played in a total of 31 games during his career, including every game last season.

Moore was part of the 2010 class and came in as a 4-star defensive end and made a more to tight end prior to the start of 2013, used for run plays and special teams. He had 10 career tackles.

Happy Birthday Coach
July 10, 2014 10:45 AM

Be sure to drop Coach Meyer a line today as he turns 50.

Fall Tidbits/Thoughts
July 9, 2014 9:00 PM

Ohio State Football 52 Days 'till Navy, Brent is  already thinking football.

  • The OSU vs Navy line is ranging anywhere from 17 to 19.5 pts depending on the sportsbook. The Bucks last meeting with Navy was 2009, where the Bucks were a 22-pt favorite, and saw the Buckeyes hold onto a 31-27 win. The extra time to prepare for Navy’s option attack will probably be needed with redshirt frosh (SLB) Darren Lee, a converted safety, spending most of the game on the field when the Bucks are on D. You also have Josh Perry playing a new linebacking position (moving from the strong side to the weak). And in the middle, we may see the first true frosh LB, Raekwon McMillan, in the starting lineup since Katzenmoyer 18 years ago. (18 years? My how time flies, huh?) McMillan will battle Curtis Grant in August for the #1 job at the middle. Navy QB Keenan Reynolds ran for 1,346 yds and 31 TD’s out of their option attack last year. (The 31 TD’s is not a typo). Could be interesting, although Navy will probably have to score 38+ pts to win this one.
  • As has been the case with preseason talk from prior years, the rotation on the Buckeyes D-line may grow this year. While this may be the case down the road, the DE spot for the opener against Navy is a bit concerning. Noah Spence has to sit out the first two games of the season with his carry-over suspension from last year. That likely makes Steve Miller a starter in the opener. That probably makes Tyquan Lewis the 2nd teamer at one DE spot and possibly Rashad Frazier the 2nd teamer at the other spot. Lewis, as a redshirt frosh, hasn’t played a down yet and Frazier is a former walkon. There is however an abundance of talent at the DT spots that has allowed the coaches to move Billy Price, Chase Farris and Joel Hale over to the O-line.
  • The O-line is probably Ohio State’s biggest concern headed into 2014. Only one starter returns in Taylor Decker, and Decker will have a bit of a learning curve switching from RT to LT. The only other starter being penciled in right now is Pat Elflein at RG. Antonio Underwood is likely the starter at LG heading into August, but is battling Joel Hale for that job. For now, Daryl Baldwin is battling Evan Lisle at the LT spot. The center job appears wide open between Jacoby Boren, Billy Price, and Alabama transfer Chad Lindsay. Regardless of who settles into each spot, Buckeye OL coach Ed Warinner is about as good as it gets. Given time, I’m pretty confident Warriner will get this line where it needs to be
  • The fight for the open CB spot opposite Doran Grant should be a good one in August, with Armani Reeves, Gareon Conley, and Eli Apple each in the mix. Reeves, who took a beating from OSU fans last year, supposedly had a great spring, and never relinquished his role with the ones. Conley, a redshirt frosh, is one of the fastest players on the team. Apple, another redshirt frosh, is the biggest hitter of the three. The guess here is that Reeves holds onto to the starting role.
  • Most in the know say new co-DC Chris Ash will likely be calling the shots for the Buckeye defense this fall, with Luke Fickell providing “input”. What does that mean? For one, a more aggressive approach. You won’t see nearly as much of the soft cushion that often afforded opposing WR’s plenty of wiggle room in 2013. Does that mean you will see the Buckeye D give up more big plays in ’14? Probably. Interesting to see that CFB guru Phil Steele projects OSU to give up roughly the same amount of PPG in ’14 as they did a year ago. His line of thinking? Scheme upgrade and a talent level downgrade, possibly. The Bucks do lose two 1st round NFL draft choices from that side of the ball and have 3 new starters in defensive backfield. Youngsters are going to have to come of age quickly.
  • With the flurry of recent verbal commitments, the Buckeyes now have 12 slots filled for the ’15 class. How big will the class be? After attrition and early draft entrees, look for 20+ to sign next February. The top name on the Buckeyes’ board right now has to be Chesapeake, VA defensive end Josh Sweat. ESPN had Sweat as their #2 overall prospect for 2015, and that was before Sweat reportedly measured, 6’ 4 ½”, 240 lbs, and ran a 4.46 at The Opening (the elite Nike camp in Beaverton, Oregon). Yeah, sick. Sweat has been garnering Jadeveon Clowney-type hype over the last few months. OSU DE commit Josh Cornell ran a nice 40 himself at The Opening, 4.76….weighing somewhere around 270 lbs.




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