Colin: I can't remember the Buckeyes losing this much talent in one season. Everybody assumes we just reload but the 1999 team was set to "reload" with Ken Yon Rambo and Reggie Germany and went 6-6. The 2004 squad featured Troy Smith, A.J. Hawk and Ted Ginn and... started the season with losses in three of their first six games. Why is this team going to be different? Or are they?
Baver: This year’s team will be better than both of those teams. Troy Smith was not ready to play QB until late 2004, while JT is ready to go right now. In fact, both 1999 and 2004 featured first-year starters at QB. Steve Bellisari was bad all three years that he started here, and was “really” bad in 1999. And need I remind you that Austin Moherman was the starting QB in the 1999 opener?
But point taken anyway. This “automatically reload” mentality of many OSU fans is over-the-top. It’s going to be ugly at times early on this season, and this team could easily lose three games, maybe more if they can’t catch many breaks. And even if the talent is every bit as good as a Buckeye homer thinks it will be, you don’t just push a button and gain experience overnight.
Colin: To sum up this team in a nutshell, we sent one of the best runners in OSU history to the NFL and have replaced him with a guy who has never played in a college football game. I mean, that has to be a drop off in production, right?
Baver: Yes, maybe a huge one. And I am taking a wait and see approach on Mike Weber. As much as I hear he is a star in the making, I still hear other whispers that he has a long way to go. I feel much better about replacing Joey Bosa than I do Ezekiel Elliott. You said “one of the best runners” in OSU history….that’s an understatement. I think you can make a strong argument that Zeke is the best back that ever came through here when you think about the run/block/catch combo he brought to the table.
Colin: I'm a big Curtis Samuel fan but sometimes it feels like when a guy gets labeled "best playmaker" that is code for, "we don't have role for him". Any concern Samuel gets lost in the shuffle they way Braxton Miller did at times last year?
Baver: Good point about playmakers and true roles. I have never thought of Samuel as an every down running back and he is certainly not a true wide receiver either. But like you, I like him too....and I am drinking at least some of the Kool-Aid. Lots of talk that Samuel was never really 100% last year, and that he is about to explode. There is so much talent on this team, yet most of the coaches point to Samuel as being the guy most likely to take the next step on the Buckeye offense and special teams.
But, if Samuel does little in these first two tune-up games, this offense could be in for some rough times ahead, against some very good defensive teams on the Buckeye’s schedule this year.
Colin: As you mention, the schedule is rough. Oklahoma game #3 is looming. What areas do we need to square away ASAP to have a shot down in Norman?
Baver: Every offensive position except QB, where OSU should be fine if JT stays healthy. The Sooners have a great secondary, and I don’t think the Buckeye WRs will be fully in sync with JT that early in the season. And Zeke wasn’t really ready in game #3 of 2014; will Mike Weber be in game #3 of 2016? I tend to doubt it. And remember OSU’s young offensive line in game #2 of 2014 against Va Tech? A nightmare. What was it, 7 sacks? Gotta get these things in order very quickly or the Bucks are in big trouble at Oklahoma.
You didn't ask about the flip side, but I now think the Bucks are in pretty good shape on defense. They will of course have their problems containing Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine, but so will everyone else on OU's schedule.