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Baver's Buckeye Bag, OSU v Navy - by Brent Baver


Baver’s Buckeye Bag 8/26/14  - OSU v Navy 

 

Let’s try to answer some of the popular questions everyone is asking….

How in the world do you replace Braxton Miller?

You don’t.  I can’t remember a time when Ohio State lost as much going from QB1 to QB2.  This isn’t so much because of “who” the backups are, but because of “where” the backups are right now compared to Braxton, a former Heisman frontrunner.  With the loss of Miller, the sportsbooks have moved their lines in games involving Ohio State, anywhere from 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 points per game.  (That includes “Games of the Year” lines.)  I think JT Barrett will be a good one before he leaves OSU, but it’s hard for me to see him being game-ready at this point in his career.  And I’m not sure Barrett has 100% of his mobility back from his 2012 ACL tear. 

I’m not ruling out Cardale Jones yet.  Barrett will get the first shot, but the coaches may want to take a look at Jones at some point against Navy, regardless of how Barrett plays.   Of the two, Barrett is more accurate and appears to have better control of the offense right now.  But Cardale has an NFL arm, and although maybe not quite as mobile as Barrett, Jones moves well for a 250-pound guy.  Whether it’s Jones or Barrett, the new QB will be on a tighter leash than Braxton was.  Urban Meyer and Tom Herman will count on Dontre Wilson and the tailbacks to shoulder the load and will limit the chances of QB miscues costing them a game.

I don’t want to sell doom and gloom here; the good news is that the Miller injury will push the rest of this team.  The OSU players that talk to the media will get sick of answering Braxton Miller questions.  Winning the Big Ten is certainly still a reasonable goal.   As for the national title, it’s definitely a longer shot, but the 2002 Ohio State team showed you what can happen if you catch some breaks.  

Click here for Braxton Miller Highlights. 

How do you replace Carlos Hyde and 4 starters from an elite O-line? And who are the new faces?

The Bucks don’t have a tailback on the roster that can put up the numbers that Hyde did a year ago, but they still have plenty of talent and depth.  If healthy, a bulked-up Ezekiel Elliott (reportedly 225 lbs) will get the first shot at TB, and Zeke should “eventually” be a good one.  Next in line is Rod Smith, who had a nice fall camp.  Smith still needs to show that he can hang onto the football and stay out of Urban’s dog house, or Brionte Dunn and/or true frosh Curtis Samuel may play into the TB mix.

On the O-line, Taylor Decker, the lone returning starter, slides from RT to LT.  He should be solid and I don’t expect much of a downgrade from Mewhort to Decker, if any at all.  Pat Elflein played pretty well in place of Marcus Hall late last year, and should be solid at RG.  As of 8/25, it was still up in the air as to who the starters at LG (Joel Hale, Billy Price or Antonio Underwood) and at center (Jacoby Boren or Bama transfer Chad Lindsay) would be.  Daryl Baldwin is said to have made some strides at RT.  You may see some growing pains at LG and center, but O-line coach Ed Warinner is as good as it gets, and I expect this line to be solid once they settle in.

With Chris Ash brought in as “Co-Defensive Coordinator”, what changes will we see?

Although I can’t 100% confirm this, everything I hear is that Ash will ultimately be calling the shots for the Buckeye defense this year.  I wouldn’t get too hung up on titles, so Chris Ash having the “co-DC” title and Luke Fickell having the “DC” title (without the “co-“) doesn’t mean much.  I love Luke Fickell, but let’s face it…you don’t charge $80 to $140 a ticket and pay Urban Meyer $4.5 mil-plus per year, then turn around and play defense like OSU did last season.

The specific changes?  It will be more of an aggressive approach, with the corners playing tight coverage and no longer ceding the short gains.  The strong-side LB spot will now be manned by a defender more adept at stopping the pass; the top two SLBs, Darron Lee and Christopher Worley, are both former safeties.  Continuing with that theme, the nickelback will now likely be a cornerback, as opposed to a safety that often manned that spot in the past.  Ash has said that they will normally play their base defense (3 LBs, 4 DBs) on 1st and 2nd downs, regardless of the number of WRs their opponent lines up.  Lee and Worley are smaller LBs that Ash believes can hold their own in pass coverage and still be physical defending the run.

Is the Buckeye D-line really as good as they say it is?

Let’s just say “potentially”.  It had been a long time since we had seen a true-frosh DE play the way Joey Bosa did last year; probably have to go back to Vrabel/Finkes in ‘93.  Bosa is a beast.  You have Noah Spence, a probable 1st round draft pick, opposite Bosa.  There is another possible first round draft pick in DT Michael Bennett.  Adolphus Washington slides down to DT.  Washington has been slowed by injuries in the past, but he may have more upside than the other three heralded starters.  If healthy, this unit is, at the very least, the best D-line in the Big Ten.

But I am not sure it is as deep as people think it is.  Backup DT Donovan Munger should be a star before he leaves here.  Tommy Schutt, Chris Carter and Michael Hill are also solid backup DTs.  But you don’t have that depth at DE, with Steve Miller being the only backup with legit playing experience.  Bosa and Spence have to stay healthy, and you unfortunately have Spence missing the first two games, serving a suspension.

Tell me about Navy and Saturday’s matchup.

The last time the Bucks faced Navy (2009), it wasn’t pretty, with OSU stopping a late two-point conversion to hang on.  Navy still runs their flexbone triple option and it’s still “not fun” to defend.  QB Keenan Reynolds runs the Navy offense and put up big time numbers last year (1,346 rushing yds & 31 rushing TDs).  As mentioned, Ash wants to play his base defense (3 LBs, 4 DBs) most of the time, and against Navy’s option, you will see the Bucks in the nickel even less often. 

The Bucks need to get Dontre Wilson going on offense, and a tailback (be it Zeke, R. Smith or whoever) needs to step up.  It will certainly help matters if Barrett shows Navy that he can throw the ball downfield.  Otherwise, the Navy defense will make sure Wilson doesn’t kill them on the edge.  I am not totally buying the hype that this OSU LB core is better than last year’s when Ryan Shazier was around.  If the Buckeye defense doesn’t play fundamental, assignment football, the Navy option attack will surely put points on the board. 

I expect this Buckeye team to be sky high for this one, wanting to show the rest of the nation that they are a national contender without Braxton Miller.  In the end, I think the Bucks make enough big plays and play “good enough” defense to get it done.

Prediction: Ohio State 38 Navy 21.

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