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State of the Empire: Offense

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Star Wars vaccination campaign in Duisburg
Ryan Day with his captains
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The 2021 Ohio State offense. Where you take a small baby and surround him with advanced nuclear weaponry. Where will this lead? Read on...

Coaching Changes

Not much to report here. Not much, as in nothing. Everyone returns on the offensive side of the staff. There’s not even a new car smell here. The Bucks finished 2nd in the F+ on offense last year, so no one was crying out for changes, but it is a victory to keep the staff in place another year.

Quarterback

Well, this is the real trick, isn’t it? Justin Fields is off to the the Bears, and what we have now is the most goofy quartet of talent and non-experience that college football has seen in some time. With a combined zero attempted passes among the four options, predicting who will win this competition is...adventurous.

Redshirt frosh C.J. Stroud has long thought to be the leader in the clubhouse. In fact, A near five star prospect, he was the first off the bench last year and the guy most thought to be the starter this year. Ryan Day even said he was ahead, which is pretty much the same as anointing him the starter. Fellow redshirt frosh Jack Miller is the presumed odd man out. His recruiting ranking was well below the other three, though he has stuck it out and clearly believes he is in the mix.

True frosh but spring participant Kyle McCord is also in the mix, mostly because he’s a five star, big armed prospect who has talked relentlessly about not fearing competition. That’s good, because uber-recruit and uber-mullet Quinn Ewers came out of nowhere to enroll early and join the team this week. While clearly behind everyone else in practice time, he is ahead of everyone else in Pat Mahomes comparisons, and his presence will light calls for the backup quarterback every time OSU scores less than 10 points on a drive.

Running Back

Five guys, no certainty. Trey Sermon, who casually channeled Walter Payton for the latter half of the year, is off to the 49ers. Master Teague, who played a lot of snaps last year, would figure to be the guy, but there isn’t much feeling that he actually is the guy. That’s in large part because he never looked quite right last year (even if he was coming off an Achilles injury), and also the freight train that is OSU recruiting. Five star frosh TreVeyon Henderson is getting tossed around as the Next Big Thing, and even if that is premature, there are three other guys wanting a word.

Miyan Williams may be the guy most likely to bust through the top two. He caught a few carries against Clemson, and seems to be the most mentioned practice guy in camp. Marcus Crowley and Evan Pryor could be in the mix. Action and/or porn star Steele Chambers looked around the room and moved to linebacker, so don’t expect many carries for him.

Wide Receivers

At last, a position in good shape. The Bucks received an unexpected surprise when Chris Olave decided to give college another try. That gives them PFF’s top returning receiver in the country. In case that wasn’t enough, they also have Garrett Wilson who is PFF’s second best returning receiver. I’m told this is a good situation.

There are other options, too. Jaxon Smith-Njigba figures to man the slot, and he looked the part in limited time last year. Last year’s top ranked receiver recruit (and Pennsylvania kid, sorry PSU) was Julian Fleming, who didn’t show much last year but also struggled with injuries. He will probably be the first off the bench. OSU also has the top ranked freshman receiver from this year in Emeka Egbuka, as well as fellow true freshman Marvin Harrison Jr. Both have turned some heads, with Harrison not looking very freshman-like and Egbuka getting some thirsty descriptions from sportswriters. They aren’t lacking for talent in Columbus this year.

Tight Ends

This list starts and probably ends with Jeremy Ruckert, who spurned the NFL for a chance at tight end glory. Ryan Day actually said he would break the record for receptions by a tight end, though he also didn’t realize the record was 55 and not 30, so we will see.

Depth is a concern. Cade Stover is the only returning guy, and he started his career on defense. Gee Scott was a highly rated receiver who looked around the room and decided to be a tight end - this will be his first year at the position. There are a couple of freshman, but it’s probably Ruckert or bust for OSU this year.

Offensive Line

The Big Beauties have some attrition to deal with, but they also are pretty well fed and stocked. Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis skidded to the NFL, with Davis noteworthy for already punching a former teammate (Tuf Borland, no doubt as payback for him trying to cover Davonta Smith). While losing a couple high draft picks ain’t the path to improvement, the Buckeyes are in pretty good shape here.

The first step is the return of book end tackles Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petite-Frere. Munford is a special surprise, using his extra COVID year even though he had a pretty strong season and is PFF’s second best returning lineman. Breaking in a new quarterback is easier with a fifth year left tackle. Petite-Frere has had a hard time staying large enough for right tackle, but word is he discovered the patacon at El Arepazo, because his weight is good and he is primed for a great year.

The interior is less settled, but not lacking for options. Harry Miller returns, though he was up and down at guard and in his brief time at center. He is talented, and loves poetry, but was worth three or four boneheaded plays a game last season. Luke Wypler is also in the mix at center, and don’t be surprised to see both of them. Paris Johnson is almost assured a spot - he was a five star prospect the coaches loved last year, but was more of a sixth man on the line. He’ll likely be the right guard. The two guys competing at left guard are Matthew Jones and Enokk Vihami.

There may be a twist, though. The coaches love small planetary object Dawand Jones, and are thinking about a lineup where he goes to right tackle, while Petite-Frere moves to left tackle and Munford kicks down to left guard. The talk is this may be the actual lineup this year. I’m a bit skeptical, mostly because having a fifth year senior move from diva spot left tackle to dumpster spot left guard seems unlikely.

Prediction

Assuming one of the running backs hit, this is going to be a really loaded team outside of one spot, and that is quarterback. While the STARZ are high there, the experience isn’t. How does one predict this? In 2019, Justin Fields led OSU to one of their most dominant seasons ever, and he was on campus for less than a year before playing in a game. But Justin Fields is a first round pick and one of the most physically talented guys I’ve seen. Are any of these guys in his class?

I have it here that C.J. Stroud gets the first crack at the offense and his play is strong enough that we don’t fool around with anyone else. He’s the most Justin Fields-like of all four guys, and while he may suffer a bit compared to Ewers and McCord in his ability to sling it, he does have an extra year on them, which will make the difference. OSU will be a bit more efficient on offense as the run game is more reliable, but have fewer big plays. The offense will still be really good. Will it be good enough to carry the less impressive defense? Check back soon.