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2011 Preview – Ohio St. Buckeyes



OHIO ST. BUCKEYES (Last Year = 12-1, T1 in Big 10)



2010 IN REVIEW

Heading into the 2010 season was pretty much national championship or bust for the Buckeyes. The 2009 season ended with a Rose Bowl victory and an 11-2 record which was good enough for a top-5 ranking at the end of the season. Offensively, Ohio St. brought back the mother load with 9 starters including guys like QB Terrelle Pryor, RB Brandon Saine, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, WR DeVier Posey and possibly the best offensive line in the nation. Defensively, Ohio St. brought back a ton with guys like DE Cameron Heyward, DT John Simon, LBs Brian Rolle & Ross Homan along with CBs Chimdi Chekwa & Devon Torrence. With practically your entire team back from an 11-2 season, how can you expect anything less than a Big 10 championship and a shot to play for all the marbles?

Ohio St. opened the season ranked #2 behind defending national champion Alabama and cruised to a 6-0 start which propelled them to #1 in the nation after the Tide lost at South Carolina. Unfortunately for Ohio St., their 7th game was a road contest in Madison where Wisconsin beat Ohio St. 31-18. Ohio St. simply couldn’t keep up with John Clay while Terrelle Pryor was a bit off. Ohio St. destroyed the rest of their schedule except for a close call on the road against Iowa and did manage to land a BCS bowl berth despite Wisconsin getting the nod to play in the Rose Bowl. Ohio St. went to the Sugar Bowl and handed Arkansas a 31-26 loss to finish the year at 12-1 and ranked #5 for the 2nd straight year.

But that’s just a brief overview of what happened on the football field. What happened off the gridiron is where the real fun begins with Ohio St. Before the Sugar Bowl, rumors started swirling of Ohio St. players getting benefits from a tattoo parlor in exchange for autographs and other memorabilia. It later came out that some Ohio St. players were selling things given to them by the university. Players involved were QB Terrelle Pryor, WR DeVier Posey, RB Dan Herron, OT Mike Adams, and a defensive player. Suspensions were handed down in the form of a 5-game suspension, but those suspensions were to start at the beginning of the 2011 season. HC Jim Tressel himself was suspended for the first 2 games of the 2011 season, but things got a lot worse when Tressel denied knowing anything about these activities which he was lying about. Things got so bad that eventually Pryor left school entirely and is now going to be eligible for the NFL supplemental draft, while Tressel himself RESIGNED from his head coaching duties! There are reports that the tattoo scandal has been going on for close to a decade and that Tressel was aware of the improprieties. DC Luke Fickell has taken over as interim head coach for the 2011 season.

OFFENSIVE PLAYERS LOST

Obviously QB Terrelle Pryor is a tremendous loss. Pryor had gotten significantly better has he’s progressed through Columbus. Last season he completed 65% of his passes for 2,772 yards including 27TD to only 11INT. He also rushed for 754 yards with a 5.6ypc average. It’s a huge loss. This was going to be a senior QB with 36 career starts who would have EASILY set the record for all time passing yards at Ohio St. had he come back this season. Ohio St. is certainly a machine no question about it, but Pryor was tremendous so how can they not regress a bit if not more? RB Brandon Saine is gone too, but Dan Herron was the starting RB. Leading WR Dane Sanzenbacher is gone which I think is pretty important. I thought Sanzenbacher was a great receiver for the Buckeyes. He caught 55 passes for 948 yards & 11TD. That’s an amazing 17.2ypc average! Ohio St. also loses both their offensive guards in LG Justin Boren and RG Bryant Browning. Boren was a 3-year starter and was 1st Team All-Big 10 last season! It’s worth mentioning that RB Dan Herron (1st Team All-Big 10 in 2010), WR DeVier Posey (Honorable Mention All-Big 10 in 2010) and LT Mike Adams (1st Team All-Big 10 in 2010) will miss the first 5 games due to suspension.

OFFENSIVE PLAYERS RETURNING

If you count the suspended players, then Ohio St. does have quite a bit returning. RB Dan Herron ran for 1,155 yards last year (5.3ypc) with 16TD. WR DeVier Posey had 53 catches for 848 yards & 7TD while TE Jake Stoneburner caught 21 passes. The big returners for Ohio St. are along the offensive line where 3 seniors return in OC Mike Brewster, LT Mike Adams and RT JB Shugarts. Brewster was a 1st Team All-American last season and is a likely 1st Rd. Draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Adams was a 1st Team All-Big 10 player last season, but at 6’8/300lbs, is likely going in the 1st round too. Shugarts is massive at 6’7/300lbs, but played through injury all of last season. Adams will be out the first 5 games, but Ohio St.’s offensive line is the real strength here for the Buckeye offense. As mentioned above, Herron, Posey & Adams will miss the first 5 games of the 2011 season. When everyone is playing, I really like the players Ohio St. has coming back, but with no Terrelle Pryor, it makes the impact of all those players just a bit less.

FRESHMAN OFFENSIVE PLAYERS WHO COULD IMPACT

With the suspensions and the ridiculous amount of talent Ohio St. brings in from their recruiting classes, the Buckeyes could see several freshman make an impact on offense. Right away QB Braxton Miller is going to see reps. Word is that Ohio St. is likely to use a 2 QB system with Miller and senior QB Joe Bauserman. Miller is arguably the best QB in the Class of 2011. The 6’3/205lbs true frosh is both a threat with his arm & legs. Redshirt freshman Rod Smith is likely to pick up the pace with Herron suspended the first 5 games. Smith is more in the Eddie George mold at 6’3/220lbs and was one of the elite high school RBs in the class of 2010. Along the O-Line you could see a ton of freshman. TEs Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman could definitely see action as Stoneburner hasn’t been a significant pass catching threat during his time in Columbus. O-Linemen Chris Carter (6’6/350lbs) and Tommy Brown (6’5/320lbs) could see time at guard if OSU wants to see them on the field. Wideout could see quite a few freshman come to play. Redshirt frosh TY Williams is 6’5/220lbs which is amazing size on the outside. Verlon Reed is a rFR at 6’0/190lbs. James Louis is another rFR who at 5’10/176lbs is a burner who could fit into the slot rather nicely or as a #2 WR. True freshmen Evan Spencer (6’1/190lbs) and Devin Smith (6’3/190lbs) are big time recruits who could step in. It’s really an embarrassment of riches really. It’ll be really interesting to see Ohio St. going forward if eventually Williams & Smith can turn into #1 & #2 receivers while Louis settles into the slot. Add Vannett at TE and you have a MASSIVE receiver lineup with Miller at QB. Throw in Rod Smith & Jamaal Berry and in 2-years Ohio St.’s offense could be exploding.

OFFENSIVE PREDICTIONS

Ohio St. average 38.8ppg last season which ranked #2 in the Big 10 behind Wisconsin’s 41.5ppg. This was a culmination of Pryor’s maturity through the system. In his freshman year, Ohio St. averaged 27.6ppg. In his sophomore year it climbed to 29.0ppg. Last year saw a 10pt jump going to 38.8, but that number is going down this season. I don’t really care for a 2 QB system, and my guess is that if Pryor struggled as a freshman, so will Miller when he’s taking snaps. Losing Saine doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but he was Ohio St.’s 3rd leading receiver meaning Ohio St. loses 2 of their top-3 receivers and all 3 through the first 5 games. Losing Adams hurts a bit especially when you consider OSU will have 3 new starters for the first 5 games. Throw in scandal and losing your HC, and you have a recipe for disaster. Granted, this is Ohio St., so it’s not like they are going to morph into Kent St. overnight, but the offensive numbers will be down and they might go back to scoring 27-29ppg which takes you back to 2008 when the Buckeyes were 10-3 which is a disappointing year in Columbus. Keep in mind too that the last time Ohio St. scored less than 25ppg was 2004 when the squad went 8-4. Their last 5-loss season? Happened in 2001, Tressel’s first season when the Buckeyes managed a 7-5 record.

DEFENSIVE PLAYERS LOST

If you think the offense had some losses, then you must believe the defense was absolutely gutted. Ohio St. loses their top-4 tacklers, 6 of their top-8 and 8 of their top-12! To give you an idea of the losses, consider that DE Cameron Heyward, LB Ross Homan, LB Brian Rolle, CB Chimdi Chekwa, and FS Jermale Hines were all 1st Team All-Big 10 players last season! That’s right. Ohio St. had 5 defensive starters who were 1st Team All-Big 10! That’s almost like saying you could have taken the other 10 Big 10 teams and put together an All-Star defense, and still wouldn’t have had a better defense than Ohio St.! Heyward was a 1st Rd. Draft pick. Homan & Rolle were drafted. Chekwa & Hines were NFL draft picks. Chekwa was an All-American! Losing those 5 starters would be enough, Ohio St. has more. DT Dexter Larimore is gone as is CB Devon Torrence. Torrence was the team’s 4th leading tackler. What is somewhat amazing though is that Ohio St. gave up 14.3ppg last season which ranked 5th in the nation, but that was their worst average points allowed total since 2005! Despite all that firepower on defense, the 2009 team gave up just 12.5ppg which ranked 5th again nationally! Pretty cool huh!?

DEFENSIVE PLAYERS RETURNING

The big name returning is DE John Simon. The 6’2/270lbs lineman is moving from DT, where he was an honorable mention All-Big 10 selection last season to DE where he should be able to reek serious havoc with his size & speed. Despite playing on the interior, he was 4th on the team in sacks and 3rd in tackles for loss. Joining Simon at DE is senior Nathan Williams who at 6’3/260lbs, led the Buckeyes in sacks last season. Williams & Simon have the ability to be first team All-Big 10 defensive ends. The line LB returning is WLB Andrew Sweat. Immensely talented and big at 6’2/240lbs, Sweat now finds himself as the veteran of an inexperienced LB corps. FS Orhian Johnson was the teams 5th leading tackler & is the only returning starter from the secondary.

FRESHMAN DEFENSIVE PLAYERS WHO COULD IMPACT

LB Curtis Grant was the best LB in the 2011 Class so he probably steps in right away and makes an impact. At 6’3/230lbs, he’s got great size and steps into a program that suffered significant losses at LB from a season ago. Potentially joining Grant is LB Ryan Shazier. Shazier was also a highly ranked recruit who was in Columbus this spring. Ohio St. has quite a few D-Linemen coming in as freshman, but I’m not entirely sure they’ll make a huge impact. Defensive end is a no-go because of Simon & Williams so DT is the place to make an impact. Maybe Mike Bennett, but at 6’3/280lbs, Bennett probably needs to add a little more beef before he goes into the interior defensive line. CB Doran Grant was arguably the best CB in the 2011 Class and seeing how Ohio St. has no returning starters at CB, Grant could step in and make an impact. Ron Tanner could do this as well seeing how he was in Columbus this spring. Like the offense, Ohio St. has plenty of weapons to work with regarding their freshman. This is a program that simply doesn’t rebuild. It reloads.

DEFENSIVE PREDICTIONS

Ohio St. hasn’t allowed more than 20ppg defensively since 2001 when they allowed 20.3ppg! That was also the year the Buckeyes went 7-5, Tressel’s first season at the helm. With Simon moving to DE and Nathan Williams returning, I think Ohio St. might get more pressure on opposing QBs, but if you are playing a 4-3 defense that allows the DEs to rush the QB, then that leaves the middle of the field for opposing runners to get through. Ohio St. is SEVERELY lacking in that area. They lose all of their interior defensive linemen along with their top-3 tacklers who were LB, LB & SS. Like I say, Ohio St. isn’t going to morph into Kent St. tomorrow and the defense will be very good, but how can they not give up more rushing yards? The passing game could be hurt too as Ohio St. loses two cornerbacks, one being an All-American!? Essentially Ohio St. loses 5 of their front 7 and 5 of their back 7! They bring in a new HC and with the turmoil the program is in, how does that not reflect on the team? I think Ohio St. goes back to giving up 20ppg this season. It’ll be closer to 20 than to 25, but I think they get back over 20ppg allowed because the losses they are taking on are absurd.

SCHEDULE

The schedule is an interesting proposition for the Buckeyes. They get a couple of home games against in-state MAC opponents in Akron & Toledo. The Zips might be the worst team in college football, so Ohio St. isn’t going to have any problems with Akron, but the Toledo game could be more interesting. I don’t think Ohio St. loses to the Rockets, but Toledo was a bowl team last year that finished 8-5 and have 18 returning starters back, 9 each on offense & defense with 14 of those starters being good enough to potentially be All-MAC team players. Ohio St. wins the game, but it’s more difficult than Buckeye fans want it to be which sets up a bad game in Coral Gables against the Miami-FL Hurricanes. Al Golden turns that program around. Although there is turmoil surrounding Miami-FL by the buckets, Ohio St. gets a tough test from Toledo and then travels to Miami where the Hurricanes are coming off a bye. Miami-FL is no slouch either when it comes to talent so I think Miami-FL gets the home win here. Ohio St. goes back home to face Colorado and I think they’ll rebound with a win before Big 10 play opens up.

Big 10 play is where it gets a little tricky. Ohio St. plays Michigan St. in Columbus to open up the season, but I think Sparty gets a win here. Michigan St. will have had an easy home win over Central Michigan the week before while Ohio St. goes through a 3-game stretch (Toledo, at Miami-FL, Colorado) that simply wears them down. After Michigan St., Ohio St. travels to Lincoln to take on Nebraska. While Nebraska will be coming off a road win over Wisconsin, I think the Cornhuskers still have enough in the tank to beat Ohio St. at home. I don’t think Nebraska loses at home this season. After Nebraska, Ohio St. travels to Illinois where I have them winning simply because I can’t believe Ohio St. goes through 4 straight losses. They have to beat Illinois because after a bye the following week, Wisconsin comes to town and Ohio St. won’t be able to stop the Badgers rush offense. They couldn’t last season so there is no chance in hell they do it this season. After Wisconsin, Ohio St. gets Indiana and a road game against Purdue. They rebound a bit against these two squads, winning both games. Penn St. then comes to town and I think Ohio St. wins this one as I think Penn St. will be coming off an emotional win over Nebraska. After winning 3-straight, Ohio St. ends the year on a down note with a road loss to arch rival Michigan. I think this is the beginning of Brady Hoke owning Ohio St..

OVERALL PREDICTION

That leaves Ohio St. at 7-5 which is what they were in Jim Tressel’s first season. It’ll be their record in the season after Tressel leaves. It’s more of a perfect storm of events really. Losing Tressel is a huge deal. He is probably the best Ohio St. coach to ever roam the sidelines in Columbus not named Woody Hayes. Tressel was definitely becoming an institution for the Buckeyes before scandal hit. I don’t think any program simply recovers from that overnight without some speed bumps. USC is 17-9 in the last 2 seasons which was a huge drop off to what they were at the height of the Pete Carroll era. I know Ohio St. is great, but even the Buckeyes weren’t as high as USC was during Carroll’s incredible run.

There is going to be some transition here. I don’t think Luke Fickell comes in and tears up the Big 10 as a HC with no head coaching experience with the loss of Pryor on offense and the absolute disaster left on defense by all the departing players. If Tressel were on the sidelines and Pryor was returning after 5 games, I think Ohio St. would have a legit shot at possibly going 11-1 or at worst 10-2, but 7-5 means that Pryor & Tressel were 3-4 wins better than Fickell & Miller/Bauserman. That seems about right.

Don’t forget too that life has an interesting way of developing drama. Urban Meyer happens to be out of a job at the moment and he’s an Ohio guy. Meyer has been pretty vocal about teams breaking NCAA rules since the scandals at North Carolina, Ohio St. and Miami-FL have come out. It simply seems like Meyer’s way to come out of retirement and take the Ohio St. job returning the Buckeyes to glory amidst tremendous trial and misfortune. Maybe none of this happens, but life’s drama seems to be working itself out in this fashion and the planets are aligning a little too conveniently. Maybe one year away from coaching will be enough for Meyer to realize he’s way too young to be sidelined forever. There are only a handful of schools that could be considered lateral moves for Meyer and seeing how Ohio St. is one of them, and given his ties to the state, it makes an awful lot of sense. Michigan isn’t opening up. Neither is Notre Dame, USC, Alabama, Oklahoma, Nebraska, or Florida St. If Meyer went back to the SEC I could see schools like LSU & Georgia being potential suitors. Even Texas could possibly be in the mix, but none are a better fit than Ohio St. given the current circumstances.

The most interesting part of Ohio St.’s 2011 football season might be what is happening off the field in the shadows than on the field under the bright lights.

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August 21, 2011 - Posted by | Ohio St, Predictions, Previews

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