The Ohio State football season is upon us. Who on the offense can the team rely on and what are the uncertainties with the group?
How does a team with national championship aspirations replace its leading receiver, leading rusher, a first round left tackle, and a former do it all Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year? Who will be key to Urban Meyer’s fast paced attack for Ohio State?
Factory of Sadness kicks off our look into the 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes by answering all of the important questions about the offense in The Ohio State Buckeyes Offense Preview.
Most Important Player: J.T. Barrett
Who else did you expect? Barrett has his own Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award despite the quarterback shuffle that caused Barrett to have a lack of confidence early in the 2015 season.
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Barrett’s ability to strike it big in the red zone and give the Ohio State offense a true dual threat was exactly what the Buckeye offense needed down the stretch. It also proved what the best version of the Buckeyes offense looks like in the form of the Michigan State loss.
Bad play calling and a limited playbook against the Spartans kept Ohio State out of the playoff picture. Without it, we never would have seen peak Barrett leading the offense in romps over Michigan and Notre Dame.
In 2016, Barrett’s star is absolutely the biggest in Columbus. The offense will need the Barrett that Tim Beck and Ed Warinner unleashed from the coaches box (we’ll get there later, too) in Ann Arbor and Glendale.
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Most Important Player NOT Named J.T. Barrett: Jamarco Jones, LT
Part of what made Taylor Decker so good was his ability to dominate on the edge in Meyer’s power running scheme. He wasn’t just great at the point of attack, but was so good in space that Decker could simply overwhelm linebackers to let Ezekiel Elliott and company get out in space where they are the most dangerous.
Enter Jones, one of the many highly touted offensive linemen in a young group looking to make an impact. While the talent is there and he will be coached well by Greg Studrawa, it’s crucial that Jones provide the Ohio State rushing attack the push on the edge it needs to get Mike Weber and Barrett up to the second level.
Best Newcomer: Greg Studrawa, Offensive Line Coach
I told you we would get back to Beck and Warinner. For much of the 2015 season, Beck and Warinner were separated. That type of disconnect showed in the lackluster offense aside from the He-Man efforts of Elliott, exhibit A of which is the Indiana game.
After losing to Michigan State, Meyer delivered on his promise to make some changes, putting both Beck and Warinner in the booth together. That move prompted the Buckeyes to put up 42 points against Michigan and 44 against Notre Dame, both teams that were considered very strong defensive groups.
That success needed to be sustained and a new on the field offensive line coach was needed. Studrawa coached a bevy of NFL picks and All-SEC standouts at LSU.
With so much youth and inexperience along the offensive line, Studrawa becomes far more important than even Weber. Studrawa adds to the elite staff Meyer has put together in Columbus. It might be rough early, but by the end of the year, it would be a surprise if the Ohio State “Slobs” aren’t among the best in the nation.
Biggest Question Mark: Wide Receiver
Torrance Gibson’s suspension only makes this more of a mystery. While veterans like Corey Smith, Terry McLaurin, and Curtis Samuel figure to be major pieces, the same inexperience along the offensive line is present in the receiving corps.
Noah Brown impressed out of Spring Practice, but is a Redshirt Freshman who has yet to play a game in The Horseshoe. Austin Mack has talent and hype, but is a true Freshman. Johnnie Dixon carries a similar profile of talent and experience as the rest. Sensing a theme here?
Ohio State might have to run 40 times a game. Either way, no one knows what to expect from the young group of receivers recruited over the last few seasons. The only thing for certain is that we are going to find out.
Three Bold Predictions
1. Barrett leads the Ohio State Buckeyes in rushing. Weber, Samuel, and even Antonio Williams will get carries in the backfield, but Meyer knows he has his best rushing option wearing number 16.
Barrett is not going to lead the team in rushing due to a lack of production from the backfield; It’s just more of a volume issue. He’ll run the ball at least 15 times a game while the rest of the rushes get split fairly evenly between the aforementioned group. Meyer knows his talent, but he knows where his real difference makers are.
2. Michael Jordan starts all 12 games at guard. It’s telling that he beat out Demetrious Knox for the starting spot. He may struggle at first, but between Studrawa’s coaching and Meyer’s eye on the bigger picture, Jordan should be a force by year’s end.
3. Sean Nuernberger gets replaced by the start of the Big Ten season. He’s just not a good kicker. The 2015 Ohio State team didn’t have other options. This might be the end of the line for a kicker who made less than 70% of his kicks. Don’t think it matters? Ask Bobby Bowden how many nightmares he has about missed field goals.
Stay tuned for our next part of the Factory of Sadness Ohio State preview where we examine the Buckeyes’ Silver Bullet defense. Following the defense preview, will lead to our prediction for where the Buckeyes finish the season.