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THE Official thread of THE Ohio State Buckeyes

slowkidzslowkidz Posts: 14Member

Surprised to see no talk about Braxton being out, or the red-shirt Freshman QB J.T. Barrett taking over the helm for the scarlet and grey this season. What once held talks about potential CFB Championships has now turned into discussions about their chances of even making the playoffs. Should be an interesting season and I'm hoping they kick it off right against Navy this weekend.

Go Bucks!!

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  • slowkidzslowkidz Posts: 14Member

    Ohio State football: Question marks for 2014

    The biggest question for this season was one that the Buckeyes and their fans never wanted to consider: What would happen if Braxton Miller were lost for the season because of an injury? Well, time to find out about that, as well as some other issues percolating before Ohio State takes the field for the season opener on Saturday against Navy:

    OFFENSE

    Is J.T. Barrett up to the job?

    Braxton Miller going down for the season was the nightmare scenario for the Buckeyes, and it happened before he played a game. The timing of his injury and his slow return from shoulder surgery in February was a blessing in one sense — it gave Barrett and Cardale Jones plenty of reps. But now Barrett will be thrust into action before anyone expected. The Buckeyes are counting on him to maintain his poise and let his supporting cast do most of the heavy lifting. But growing pains are inevitable. The hope is that it doesn’t cost the Buckeyes games.

    What’s the timeline on the offensive line?

    Entering the preseason, this was the No. 1 question on the team. Coach Ed Warinner worked magic with the offensive linemen two years ago, and the Buckeyes think this line will be fine eventually. But with lone returning starter Taylor Decker switching from right tackle to left tackle, every spot on the line is a bit of a question mark. Don’t be surprised if the coaches mix and match at the start of the season until settling on five players they think have the right chemistry.

    Who replaces Carlos Hyde?

    Short answer: No one. Hyde was a special player running behind a special line. Ezekiel Elliott has bulked up and shows considerable promise, but don’t expect him to run for 1,500 yards like Hyde did. Rod Smith hopes his senior season will finally produce the results his physical talent indicates he has. Curtis Samuel has drawn wows, and Bri’onte Dunn had a strong camp.

    Who provides dynamic plays?

    Even before Miller was hurt, he expressed the hope that he could be less of a playmaker as a runner and more of a distributor passing the ball. Receivers such as

    Michael Thomas and Corey Smith have waited for their chance. Devin Smith needs to show the consistency a four-year starter should have. Evan Spencer also could be poised for a big senior season. Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall have big-time talent. The Buckeyes don’t need all of them to have big years, but some must.

    Can freshmen contribute?

    Other than Pat Elflein and Wilson — and Wilson was more near-miss than home run — no freshman on offense contributed much last year. Meyer has vowed to make sure players from this year’s recruiting class get their chance. Samuel looks the most ready to have an instant impact. Receiver Johnnie Dixon also could. Perhaps an offensive lineman — Jamarco Jones,

    Demetrius Knox or Marcelys Jones — could be a factor.

    DEFENSE

    What’s new?

    Scheme, attitude, co-defensive coordinator, line coach, four starters in the back seven — it’s a long list of what’s new. Coach Urban Meyer demanded a major makeover after enduring a 2013 season in which the Buckeyes grew progressively worse against the pass (they wound up 110th nationally). Chris Ash was hired from Arkansas to be co-defensive coordinator and work alongside Luke Fickell. It is Ash’s aggressive scheme Meyer wanted, and it has the players buzzing. It demands press coverage, an attacking front and the desire to challenge every throw.

    How good is the front four?

    The consensus among national analysts is that Ohio State has the most talented front four in the nation. Michael Bennett, Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence are the first team, but it’s the next group that includes Tommy Schutt, Michael Hill, Steve Miller, Tyquan Lewis and Rashad Frazier that provides standout depth. Spence is suspended for the first two games, so Miller, Frazier and others should see action.

    What is a ‘walkout’ LB?

    It’s new to the OSU defense in the Ash remodeling, featuring hybrid linebacker/strong safety athletes Darron Lee and Chris Worley. Playing usually to the strong side of the offensive formation, it allows the defense to swing from run-stop to a nickel (extra defensive back) look in the midst of play, if needed. Lee and Worley have shown a propensity to get to the ball.

    Will new safeties make a big difference?

    Tyvis Powell, who was used in the nickel back spot last season, now will run the show at strong safety. Vonn Bell and Cam Burrows are competing to start at free safety. Bell was one of the elite members of the 2013 recruiting class who inexplicably didn’t make his first collegiate start until the Orange Bowl, despite the loss of Christian Bryant at the end of September and the faulty play of the safeties from that point. Ron Tanner and touted freshman Erick Smith are trying to get on the field, too.

    Will cornerbacks play cushion coverage?

    No. Last year, the cushion was the norm, but press coverage is the base scheme now. “We want to challenge every throw,” Ash said. Competition, meanwhile, has been fierce. Senior Doran Grant, the only returning starter in the secondary, is solid on one side. Armani Reeves, Gareon Conley, Eli Apple and freshmen Damon Webb and Marshon Lattimore are competing for the other spot.

    SPECIAL TEAMS

    Who will replace Drew Basil as the kicker?

    Basil didn’t get a lot of field-goal attempts — coach Urban Meyer isn’t a big fan of three points when seven is an option — but he was reliable. Freshman Sean Nuernberger has a big leg but obviously is inexperienced. The other option is senior walk-on Kyle Clinton. It’s possible that Nuernberger will kick field goals and extra points and Clinton will handle kickoffs. The Buckeyes like to kick those high and just inside the goal line in hopes of pinning opponents inside their 20.

    Can the return game create some sizzle?

    The Buckeyes were pedestrian in both areas last year. They averaged 22.7 yards on kickoff returns and 8.1 on punt returns, with only one touchdown. They also made costly mistakes — Corey Brown’s muff of a punt in the Orange Bowl being the biggest. Ohio State thinks that with candidates such as dynamic Dontre Wilson, Curtis Samuel and Jalin Marshall, the return game should be more explosive.

    Who will provide the kick blocks?

    Meyer came to Ohio State with a well-deserved reputation for having punt-block units that could change games. Bradley Roby was the best at that the past couple of years. He’s in the NFL, so who replaces him in that capacity? Receiver Jeff Greene, who is 6 feet 5 and can jump well, could make an impact blocking field goals and extra points.

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