1. The Buckeyes have depth on offense
Something that the Buckeyes haven’t had trouble with recently but had been a problem for them in the past has been depth at the skill positions on offense. It felt like yesterday that the Buckeyes were throwing to pretty much nobody but the running back in 2016. That was the season where H-back Curtis Samuel nearly had 1,000 yards rushing and receiving.
Since then the Buckeyes have done a much better job at developing their depth. The Buckeyes have been able to spread the touches on offense to give everyone experience and keep them on their toes. The last thing the Buckeyes wanted following that season was to meet their demise the same way they did to Clemson in the playoffs.
It was quite obvious that the Buckeyes would get handled by a team that had depth and the brain to figure out how to game plan against a single player. This was the truth in 2016 for sure but it was that way last season too but to a lighter extent. Opposing teams began to realize the Buckeyes’ tendencies with Haskins throwing the ball most of the time and began respecting the run less. Then again, the Buckeyes also had running backs like Dobbins and Weber to force teams to respect the run but that was only when game script would allow it.
If the Buckeyes dug themselves into a hole early then they’d have to pass the ball frequently in order to make up for lost time. Fortunately, the Buckeyes also had immense talent at receiver last season. Haskins did a fantastic job spreading the ball throughout the offense. It was great to see the Buckeyes not be a one trick pony. The Buckeyes had four competent receivers last season and they shared relatively equal production. The receiving corps was led by Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill, Johnnie Dixon, and Terry McLaurin.
There will be plenty of holes to fill though as three out of those four receivers entered the Draft following last season. Fortunately, K.J. Hill will be returning this season to help fortify this group of receivers. He was a favorite of Dwayne Haskins’ and was a staple for the offense as a reliable pass catcher. He’s a fantastic slot receiver who can do everything through the middle of the field. This is great considering the Buckeyes’ inexperienced depth are speedy receivers on the exterior who can stretch the field vertically.
Returning contributors K.J. Hill, Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack, and Chris Olave are expected to handle the bulk of the receptions this season. C.J. Saunders is also an H-back type receiver who will be involved. Tight ends Luke Farrell, Rashod Berry, and Jeremy Ruckert should have sizable roles as well. Two notable receivers to look out for are Austin Mack and Chris Olave. Mack was hindered by injury during the bulk of last season but was relatively disappointing before then.
This could finally be the year that Mack breaks out into the type of electric receiving option the Buckeyes have been expecting. Chris Olave was very impressive in his short stints on the field for the Buckeyes in his freshman season. He was especially impressive in his huge showing against that team up north when he exploded for two touchdowns and had a blocked punt. Olave followed this up with five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown to help the Buckeyes to a Big Ten Championship victory.
This group is made up of some solid receiving options that has a good mix of veteran and fresh talent. These receivers will need to establish themselves early as they will be catching passes from the first year signal caller Justin Fields. It is vital that these receivers establish trust from Fields to ensure he is comfortable in this offense. The last thing the Buckeyes need is for Fields to lose trust in his arm and his receivers early on.
As goes with their rushing defense, the Owls struggle badly against the pass. They ranked just 79th in the nation against the pass last season. However, this number was an improvement from their season prior. It’s fair to expect that the Owls will not be a lock down pass defense but that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes should take it easy.
This isn’t to say the Buckeyes should be conservative with their offense but there’s also no need to throw too much with Fields in his first outing. It would be great to see Fields air it out a few times so we can get a look at what he is capable of.