OSU Cocktail Party Preview
Your patience has been rewarded, fair citizens of the Empire. After week upon week of wading through the institutional slop of lesser parties, you’ve arrived at the big shebang. Grab a craft cocktail from our mixologists (or a cold High Life from Ted’s garage fridge, if you prefer), a candy Buckeye on a toothpick, and let’s light this candle.
About Last Season
Ohio State beat Michigan and Notre Dame in the same season, which we hadn’t had the chance to do in about 10 years. A season can scarcely get better than trouncing those two loathsome rivals with vigor. Ezekiel Elliott once again proved to be a force of nature, running for 2027 yards and 23 touchdowns. Joey Bosa, Joshua Perry, and Darron Lee dominated offenses. The former’s reputation for doing so resulted in a season of double and triple team blocking, which opened the door for Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard to emerge as the stuff quarterbacks’ nightmares in their own right. To top it all off, the Buckeyes sent a record-setting class to the NFL draft.
The Cardale Jones/J.T. Barrett saga played out just about as poorly as possible, in retrospect. For reasons known only to God and himself, Urban Meyer backed Cardale as the starter from the get-go. After a dominating revenge outing against VaTech the big man seemed to go to sleep for the next two months. The offense never clicked with him as the signal caller. Barrett’s limited reps in games didn’t allow him to find a groove, either. Then offense sputtered and stalled, nearly faltering in the face of teams like Indiana and Minnesota. Shortly after being named the starter to replace the struggling Jones, Barrett decided to play roulette with his life and career by driving under the influence. Add in a loss to Michigan State in one of the worst offensive games of Urban Meyer’s tenure and the season that was to be became the season that could have been. To top it all off, the Buckeyes sent a record-setting class to the NFL draft.
Recalling what I said about last year’s NFL draft class, this section will sadly be rather short. For all but the most detail-oriented fans and Buckeye faithful, the list of names on the field this year will be a tad unfamiliar. Save for J.T. Barrett, Curtis Samuel, Marcus Baugh and perhaps Corey Smith, the Ohio State offense will feature a cast of very young skill position players looking to make their mark. Senior center Pat Elflein returns to anchor the offensive line. Juniors Billy Price and Jamarco Jones are expected to lend a veteran hand. Former QB and star athlete Torrance Gibson has transitioned fully to wide receiver (AKA the "anti-Gardner"), and he joins Dontre Wilson, Parris Campbell, and freshman Austin Mack in a fight for field time.
The big question is the running back slot. Senior Bri’onte Dunn was widely predicted to replace Zeke, but he didn’t play in the spring game. As a result, we saw a lot of RS freshman Mike Weber (Michigan fans, I know you remember him). Could he be the next Zeke? Time will tell, and he has no shortage of competition.
The downside should be apparent from the above. On the plus side, the team has a ton of talent. The talent is young, though, and the lack of experience will be visible early against tough teams, especially Oklahoma. Also, your humble writer still fears that Tim Beck has the reverse-Midas touch.
We have another Bosa! But he’s a true freshman, so you won’t see him much—if at all. Though the D-line isn’t blessed with a ton of depth, it does feature a bunch of guys who’ve seen significant playing time already. With the elder Bosa missing field time last year (thanks BS targeting rule), Sam Hubbard got good reps against quality offensive linemen in the Fiesta Bowl. Tyquan Lewis—last year’s sack leader—returns and will likely remain as the weak side DE (he did not play in the the spring game). Juniors Michael Hill and Tracy Sprinkle will anchor the interior. All have been regulars on the field for the Buckeyes in the past, as either substitutions, replacements, or as part of the "Rush-man" package.
The linebacking corps should remain strong. While replacing Darron Lee and Joshua Perry are gone, Raekwon McMillan remains to anchor a unit that will see veterans Dante Booker and Chris Worley step into the mix.
The secondary is anyone’s guess. Malik Hooker will fill the critical SS spot, and Gareon Conley brings some experience to the CB position. That said, replacing Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, and Tyvis Powell (the Kiffin-Killer) is a nearly impossible task in one off-season.
It’s also worth noting that Chris Ash’s departure to Rutgers resulted in the hiring of Greg Schiano as the defensive coordinator. Fan emotions are mixed at best.
The Special Teams
We still have Cameron Johnston and Sean Nuernberger to handle punting and kicking respectively.
Dontre Wilson looks to be the PR guy…which is only slightly better than erstwhile Fumble-your-Buckeye-dreams-away expert Jalin Marshall.
Michigan at home, and an early warmup slate that includes BGSU(CKS), Tulsa, and Rutgers.
The early slate also includes Oklahoma on the road in week three. We also have to travel to Beaver Stadium, where I’m sure the fans will engage in some novel form of intimidation like, say, dressing in all white.
If you’re talking to an OSU fan (and you should be)…
Woody, Urban, Archie, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan again, national titles, recruiting.
Rain, Tim Beck, Rain’s effects on Tim Beck, the Cardale Jones saga, how much we miss Tom Herman, or Coldplay. Because nobody likes Coldplay.