Colin: I cannot remember a season with so many starters leaving at the same time. Is it just me or is this exodus unprecedented?
Baver: It’s absurd: OSU’s 9 guys leaving early just missed LSU’s record of 10. I remember when it first dawned on me last summer that Ohio St was going to lose a ton of guys early; I was thinking, “This could be crazy….maybe as many as 5 or 6 guys.” LOLOSU’s 6 returning starters are the fewest in the nation for 2016; no, can’t remember the Bucks ever having that few.
Colin: Along those same lines, the schedule for 2016 includes road games at Oklahoma, Wisconsin (night), Penn State (night) and MSU. Once again, is it just me or is that our toughest road slate in recent memory?
Baver: It can’t get much tougher. And will the Oklahoma game be at night? The Wisky & State Penn games are back-to-back; gonna be tough traveling to Happy Valley after playing a physical team like Wisconsin. And Sparty is again the week prior to scUM which didn’t work out so well last year.
Colin: Playing at Oklahoma so early in the season is a HUGE test for a group this young. Which position groups are you most concerned with heading into this game?
Baver: For that game? #1 concern: WR; #2: OL; #3: LB. Austin Mack and Torrance Gibson will eventually be studs, but I don’t think any wide-out will be in the groove that early in the season. O-line? 3 new starters that may or may not be able to do the job. LB? When Dante Booker replaced an injured Josh Perry last yr against State Penn, Saquon Barkley ran wild. Booker should be solid at some point, but I’m taking a wait and see approach at that Will LB spot. But, Urban has said Worley has really come on (replacing Lee) at the walk-out spot.
Colin: Which positions do you feel will be ready for that challenge so early in the season?
Baver: #1: QB (if that counts), #2: D-line, #3 ??? It’s so early, OSU is so young, and the Sooners are so good….I don’t think many of the units are truly going to being ready for OU. Thank God for Urban, as you know he will have the guys as motivated as humanly possible for the Sooners. Obviously JT is going to be ready, and I don’t think there is as much of a downgrade at D-line (from ’15) as most think. There is still plenty of experience and depth there.
Colin: When Virginia Tech beat us in 2014, the wide receiver's inexperience and inability to beat one on one coverage was a big reason why. Who do you see stepping up to make sure this doesn't happen again?
Baver: Mack is as advanced as they come for an incoming frosh. He will be a starter right out of the chute and “maybe” he and JT are in sync enough at that point to challenge Oklahoma’s D vertically. With Corey Smith and Noah Brown having caught few passes in their careers and both missing 2015 with injuries, I don’t have a lot of confidence there….at least against OU. Word on the street is that Mack is light years ahead of Gibson as a pure receiver. So, other than catching the Sooners napping with his ridiculous speed, I don’t think Gibson plays a huge role against Oklahoma. Hope I’m wrong….maybe the light bulb goes on for him in August.
Colin: Do you feel like they have got the offense play-calling situation hammered out and are we going to miss Chris Ash?
Baver: With the play calling? Yeah….maybe not Tom Herman level, but A LOT better than what we saw prior to the Michigan game last season. Ash? Yes and no. He was a great DC, but hard to see a downgrade with Greg Schiano now calling the shots on D.
Colin: How badly are we going to miss Zeke?
Baver: A lot early on, but Mike Weber will eventually be an All-Big Ten back. Love his bowling ball style.
Colin: If we didn't have J.T. , would this be a 6 loss team?
Baver: Nah….Urban wouldn’t let that happen. And I am buying the Joe Burrow hype. Loved what I read about him when OSU was recruiting him….loved what I saw on TV in the HS playoffs….loved what I saw in the spring game….and loved his demeanor in the post-game press conference. The kid “gets it.”
Colin: At this point, what is your best guess on W-L for the 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes?
Baver: 10-2. Right now, I see a loss in Norman, and 3-1 against the group of Wisky, PSU, Sparty and scUM. I do think Ohio St will be very tough for anyone to beat come November and thereafter.