Ohio State football: Will Marcus Baugh or Rashod Berry be impact players at TE?

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26: Marcus Baugh
COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26: Marcus Baugh /

With Ohio State football looming, Part II of our mailbag answers whether the Buckeyes will get production from the TE & will Joe Burrow lose his backup gig? Plus more!

After having Kevin Wilson dominate part one of our Ohio State football Mailbag Preview, it’s time to take a look at all of the questions surrounding the Buckeyes offense in part two. There’s still time to get your questions addressed by our team by emailing us or reaching out on social media @Fansided, or tweet me directly at @NorthCoastJoeR.

Can Ohio State get the tight end involved in the passing game?

It seems like the tight end spot has been the lost man in the Ohio State attack for a few years. Marcus Baugh led the way in 2016 with 24 catches, 269 yards, and two touchdowns, including one incredible highlight reel grab against Penn State. A.J. Alexander saw plenty of time as the back up at the position, but he is out for all of 2017 with a knee injury.

Converted defensive end Rashod Berry, who played tight end in high school at Lorain High, and freshman Luke Farrell, will both back up Baugh. While Farrell is more of a true tight end, there is no denying that Berry’s athleticism could be on full display at the position. At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Berry brings plenty of potential behind Baugh, who is nursing his own off-season injury. All you need to believe that is this video of Berry during the Buckeye’s dunk contest.

Last season for Indiana, true tight end Danny Friend only had seven catches and 65 yards. It’s not exactly like Kevin Wilson emphasized getting the tight end the ball.

Related: 5 reasons Ohio State will crush Indiana in Week 1

What Wilson wants to do is make life easier for the ground game. It’s not unreasonable to think there will be a few more two tight-end sets to take advantage of their athleticism at the position. Coupled with the lack of returning production at wide receiver, there is more opportunity for the tight ends to get more involved. It’s just not likely to be a featured part of the offense.

Any wide receivers that are burners so we can open up the box?

Kevin Wilson won’t force the deep ball for the sake of forcing the deep ball. But, there are some options out wide to break the game wide open. If you’re looking for speed at the skill positions on offense, Ohio State has plenty of it. The potential to get some room by threatening deep is there.

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According to Ohio State’s leader boards, Paris Campbell leads the receiver group with a 4.26 40 yard dash. Yes, that is FOUR POINT TWO SIX. Terry McLaurin posted a 4.36 time and Johnnie Dixon a 4.37. While they didn’t make the top of the charts, K.J. Hill and Binjimen Victor aren’t exactly slow.

The most likely way that Wilson opens the box is by forcing defenses to cover sideline to sideline.

By keeping defenses from stacking the box, it opens running lanes for Mike Weber, J.K. Dobbins, and J.T. Barrett. It also allows a player like Demario McCall to get open looks through the seam and out of the slot where his elusiveness can bust a game open after the catch. Ohio State can stretch the field horizontally and be just as effective as stretching it vertically. When the Buckeye play makers get the ball in space against an outnumbered defense, that’s when big plays happen.

Will the wide receiver corps step up enough to make a run at the College Football Playoff?

I’m going to take some liberties with the question and change it to “Will the wide receiver corps step up enough to win the Big Ten?” Remember, 2014 is the only season during the Urban Meyer era that won the Big Ten. Disappointing losses to Michigan State and Penn State have prevented the Buckeyes from even making the trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. So, let’s take it one thing at a time.

As for the wide receivers, there is plenty of potential, but the leading returning receiver is Marcus Baugh with a whopping 24 catches and 269 yards. Heading into Indiana, the depth chart doesn’t offer any clues as to who exactly will step up at the position. The only real familiar faces are Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell.

The talent is there. It’s not by accident these players ended up at Ohio State as part of some of the best recruiting classes in the country. If this position group is going to go anywhere, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor are going to take them there. Both players are big targets for J.T. Barrett that can cause match up issues on the outside, freeing the likes of Parris Campbell and Demario McCall in the slot.  That seems like that best way for this group to get the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title.

What should we expect out of the Offensive Line?

For starters, an enormous amount of size. Center Billy Price, preseason All-American Billy Price, is the “smallest” of The Slobs at 6-4, 312 pounds. Former 6-7, 312 pound sophomore tackle Branden Bowen is now the starting right guard to pair with 6-foot-7, 310 pound returning starter Michael Jordan at left guard. Isaiah Prince (6-7, 310 pounds) and Jamarco Jones (6-5, 310 pounds) return at the tackle spots. That’s a lot of girth up front.

While losing Pat Elflein will hurt, sliding Billy Price inside to center will help mitigate that departure. Otherwise, Jones, Jordan, and Prince all should show improvement from 2016, using the Clemson games as motivation to get better. Greg Studrawa has a strong track record and with another season working with the unit, there should be marked improvement.

Additionally, I think Kevin Wilson’s scheme will help out the offensive line. Tim Beck and Ed Warinner never seemed to get the offensive moving the way Tom Herman did. Under Wilson, the group should thrive. A more steady tempo and more creative play calling should help the line out. It’s also worth saying that collective success of the offense means fans and critics will spend a little less time finding flaws and instead celebrating victories.

Should Joe Burrow be worried about his spot after his hand injury?

Yes, actually. Not to hit the panic button, but Dwayne Haskins is essentially J.T. Barrett with a better arm. Joe Burrow‘s broken hand will keep him out of practice for at least a month and likely out from serious activity for another after that. That leaves Haskins and true freshman Tate Martell as the quarterbacks behind Barrett.

If Haskins is able to show something in limited action before Burrow returns, Urban Meyer would be hard pressed to bump Haskins down the depth chart. Burrow himself showed flashes in mop up duty in 2016. Why wouldn’t Haskins be able to do the same? The talent is there. The opportunity is there. At the very least, it will be interesting to watch.

What about Mike Weber? Will he be the started in Week 1 and beyond?

J.K. Dobbins is locked in behind Weber as the number two back. He has impressed in camp and will see plenty of carries against Indiana given Weber is nursing a hamstring injury. Those tend to linger in running backs, even if coach Tony Alford says Weber will be 100 percent ready to go.

Even with the early hamstring injury, Weber should still be the lead back in Columbus without stifling Dobbins’s growth as a player. J.T. Barrett ran the ball 205 times last season compared to Weber’s 182. There are plenty of carries to go around in the backfield.

Next: Ohio State Mailbag preview Part I

The reason for that is that Kevin Wilson doesn’t run the quarterback very much. Richard Lagow only ran the ball 41 times in 2016 and Zander Diamont 39. Nate Sudfeld ran the ball 46 times in 2015 and 36 in 2014. The quarterback run just isn’t a pillar of the Kevin Wilson offense. Instead, there’s been a 1,000 yard running back each of the last three seasons in Bloomington, including a 2,000 yard season from Tevin Coleman and two 1,000 rushers (Jordan Howard and Devine Redding) in 2015.