Ah, college football, where success isn’t measured in championships or wins, but by how the team looked on the field compared to how it looked in my dreams. Let’s take a look at how The Ohio State University lived up to my imagination. At least, let’s look at the offense. I need a stiff drink or five before tackling the defense.
What I expected: It’s tough to remember, but quarterback was a dicey position coming in the season. Justin Field got sentenced to the Bears, and there was no one on the roster who had thrown a pass. Uber-recruit Quinn Ewers decided to head in early and make some dough, putting OSU with four big time recruits and no experience. I was pretty worried here - many coaches have gotten tripped up when a great quarterback leaves.
What happened: C.J. Stroud got the job and finished third in the Heisman race. He was good. Not perfect - he only passed for 484 yards in the loss to Oregon, leading to Buckeye fans to call for his benching. To be fair, he was a bit inconsistent early due to a shoulder injury and being a freshman, but by the end of the season there was no doubt. He finished second in the country in QBR, he chased off Quinn Ewers, and it’s tough to conclude anything other than OSU upgraded at the position after Fields left. Quite the feat.
The Future: Stroud is the unquestioned Man for next season and the betting runner up for the Heisman. Behind him, OSU is still well stocked, as Kyle McCord was a true freshman who backed him up this past year, while they also welcome in top 100 recruit Devin Brown. OSU has question marks next season, but quarterback isn’t on of them.
The Running Backs
What I expected: This was another big question mark coming into the season. OSU had looked pretty gimpy running the ball in 2020 until Trey Sermon evoked Walter Payton. Master Teague was the lone returnee with experience, and no one knew what to expect from the gaggle of youngsters they had.
What Happened: Answers came quickly - both Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson made big plays against the Gophs in the first game. Those guys led the team, with Henderson getting the lion’s share of carries and playing time. Not bad for a true freshman. It wasn’t all rainbows, though - the rushing game bogged down against the more physical teams on the schedule, and seemed to get very predictable by the end of the season.
The Future: Henderson and Williams look to be a great pair. I’d like to see Williams get a little more run next season - he was much more comfortable in those tough, physical games. Henderson was a great back who reminded me a bit of Ki-Jana Carter in his ability to run through traffic for big plays. The spare is still in question - Evan Pryor will likely get the first crack. Another position that has few questions marks.
What I expected: This was the biggest no-brainer on the team. Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba were all certified Dudes, and they made up perhaps the best receiving corps in Buckeye history. Even the transfer of Jameson Williams to Alabama was more of an afterthought. They were going to be good.
What happened: Yeah, pretty much. Ohio State put up some ridiculous offensive numbers this season, and having three NFL caliber guys at receiver was a big reason why. Garrett Wilson looks to be the first receiver drafted this spring, and Olave isn’t far behind. Smith-Njigba finished second in the country in receiving.
The Future: Both Wilson and Olave sat out the Rose Bowl, which led to Smith-Njigba to set about every record you’d care to name. The other spots seem well set, with Julian Fleming, Emeka Egbuka, and Marvin Harrison Jr. looking to form a great quartet. The biggest question mark is at tight end. Jeremy Ruckert is gone, and is likely to get drafted fairly early. There is no clear answer on the roster, which makes many think Ryan Day will go for a portal option. Still, first world problems.
What I Thought: I was slightly less confident in this group than the receivers, but not by much. Returning two book end tackles and a gaggle of other guys made me think could be on of the better lines Ohio State has had. The only weird part was offseason talk that they would move returning left tackle Thayer Munford to guard so they could get Dawand Jones on the field. What was a weird idea!
What happened: Overall, it was tough to have too many complaints here. The pass blocking was quite good, and the offense put up video game numbers at times. But when they struggled, boy, they struggled. The most evidence part were games against good defenses in Oregon and Michigan, where they just didn’t show much ability to get push in the run game. They were also, uh, less than perfect trying to pass block against Aidan Hutchinson and company.
The Future: Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petite-Frere are gone, as is coach Greg Studrawa. There will be a bit of a shuffle here, though Dawand Jones returns at tackle, while Paris Johnson will finally move to the other tackle position. Lots of option at guard, and Luke Wypler was just fine at center. The real change may come from incoming line coach Justin Frye. OSU has seemed to rely on one or two run plays each season - they should start to see some more diversity there. Overall, while there is little to complain about when it comes to the offense, the main focus this offseason will likely be getting a more consistent rushing game. Ryan Day is a Chip Kelly disciple - it’s no surprise he hired a Chip Kelly assistant to come changes up a bit.