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THE Ohio State Preview: Offense

Batten Down Your Hatches

Syndication: Canton Repository
Darn college players get cars now
The Repository / Scott Heckel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Last year

Was OSU’s offense good last year? Let’s look at the numbers.

Yeah, ok, so not bad. Lost in all the fireworks were a couple flaws. One, C.J. Stroud was a bit inconsistent to start the season, leading some (crazy) fans to call for him to get benched. He got it figured out, but the running game was also a bit inconsistent, something that lingered all season. That perhaps led to Urban holdover Greg Studrawa to get pushed out in favor of Justin Frye (from B1G brethren UCLA) at offensive line coach.

Happy Trails

The headliners at receiver, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, are gone. They finished fourth and sixth in the B1G in receiving and were both first round draft picks, so replacing them is going to be the Big Talking Point of the season. Left tackle Nicholas Petite-Frere and left guard Thayer Munford also hit the NFL, as did lightly used tight end Jeremy Ruckert. Running back Master Teague decided to try his luck in the pros, while fellow back Marcus Crowley gave up the sport due to injury. Finally and most sadly, uber-mullet Quinn Ewers swung back to Texas.

The Quarterbacks

C.J. Stroud returns for what is likely his last season for the Buckeyes. He finished fourth in the Heisman balloting and was almost shockingly an upgrade on Justin Fields at the position. It wasn’t all rainbows - Buckeye fans were pushing for him to get benched after only throwing for 484 yards in a loss to Oregon. He’s come a long way in a short time, and is currently being bounced around as the top overall pick in the 2023 draft.

Behind Stroud is a pretty clear pecking order. Second year man Kyle McCord is the backup. He pushed for time last year and even got one start. With Ewers gone, he is the leader in the clubhouse to start in 2023, with true freshman Devin Brown being the main competition. If we see them this year in a meaningful role, someone has made a huge mistake.

The Running Backs

Lots of returnees here. TreVeyon Henderson lived up to his five star billing as a true freshman, finishing fourth in the conference in rushing. He was a big play threat all season. Under the Pair and a Spare theory, the second part of the pair will be Miyan Williams, who resembles a bowling ball with legs. They were the top two rushers on the team last year, and there is little reason to think a change is coming.

The Spare is likely Evan Pryor. A true freshman last season who played very, er, sparingly, he has the reputation of being able to catch the ball out of the backfield. We should see more of him. True frosh Dallan Hayden is the break glass in case of emergency option.

The Receivers

Here’s the straw that will stir the drink. Losing two first round receivers is usually a big problem for any program. For the Buckeyes, it may be more of a speedbump. For one, they return Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who led the conference in receiving after a particularly eventful Rose Bowl. But the biggest question, perhaps for the entire offense, is how the new guys fill in.

It feels like a lifetime ago when five star receiver and Pennsylvanian Julian Fleming spurned Penn State in favor of OSU. Now an elderly statesman going into his third season, Fleming has only had 19 catches in his career. The spring buzz has focused less on him and more on Marvin Harrison, Jr., who caught three touchdowns in the Rose Bowl. He has good football genes, at least. The final guy is Emeka Egbuka, the top receiver recruit two years ago, who had a handful of catches in spot duty last year. These are your likely top guys, with Jayden Ballard and Kamryn Babb possibly contributing as well. Four freshmen round out the roster, though it seems unlikely they will see the field much.

The Tight Ends and Fullbacks

Nathan Fielder has a new show called The Rehearsal. I give it my two thumbs up five star recommendation of the summer. If you enjoyed Nathan For You, it’s a no brainer. If you never heard of that show, then go watch it, and then watch this. The less said about it the better. One of my pet peeves is when a writer gives something a good review, then just basically tells you the whole plot of the show.

Still, you might want to know what it’s about. The premise is this: of all things in your life, from having a child to telling a friend you’ve lied to them about something for years, wouldn’t it be better if you could practice first? And wouldn’t the practice be better if everything was as realistic as possible? Football coaches try to replicate raucous atmospheres by pumping in sound and making things difficult for their players. Fielder replicates a conversation in a bar by building an exact replica of the bar and hiring actors to replace everyone involved.

Sometimes, you may practice, and practice, and then practice some more, then watch while someone else gets all the playing time. Welcome to your preview of Ohio State tight ends and fullbacks.

The Offensive Line

The Big Uglies are the other question mark for the offense. Last year, the Bucks tried to go with a four tackle and one center offensive line. It wasn’t bad, but against the more physical teams they seemed a little light up front. That will change this year, and with new OL coach Justin Frye, there is some hope the run game will look a bit more diverse.

The starters are pretty well set. Paris Johnson moves from guard to the glamour spot at left tackle, while mutant Dawand Jones stays at right tackle. Luke Wypler returns at center. The new starters will be Donovan Jackson and Matthew Jones at guard. Both have a reputation for being physical road graders, something OSU could use. Josh Fryar would be in the mix, but has been battling injury and might be a step behind. There are 16 linemen on the roster, so things could change, but those are your top six guys right now.

The Predictions

  • OSU averages over 200 yards rushing
  • The passing offense drops to fewer than 350 yards
  • They still finish first in SP+