A spring clean for the Day king - by Brent Baver

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now....It’s just a spring clean for the Day king (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)

A little deviation from the normal Q&A with Colin being on the road with Watershed.... I wanted to hit five of the bigger topics as the Buckeye’s wrap up their spring session...

Justin Fields

I guess we need to start with the new kid running the show on offense. When Justin Fields finished up at the Elite 11 QB Camp in the summer of ‘17, there was some talk that Fields was the most impressive QB to come through that camp in its 19-year history. Still, some Buckeye fans are hung up on the fact that Fields, as a true freshman for Georgia last season, did not overtake Jake Fromm as the #1 QB. Fromm finished 5thin the FBS in passing efficiency last year behind four guys perhaps you’ve heard of.....Tua, Kyler, Grier, and Haskins. Fromm’s first 20 starts at Ga? An 18-2 record, with the two L’s being a road loss to top-10 Auburn and an O/T loss in the NCAA title game to Bama. That’s not a QB you want to bench. Fields has the entire package, and the sky is the limit for this kid. Once he gets a few games under his belt, I think he will have this OSU offense humming come late September. 

The New Staff

Ryan Day sometimes looks and talks like he might be too nice for the cut-throat business he has chosen. But Day wasn’t looking like Mr. Nice Guy when he retained only one defensive assistant coach from Urban’s 2018 staff. Day made it clear that what we saw from the Buckeye defense in ‘18 was nowhere near acceptable. I was however thinking that the new hires replacing those who weren’t retained would have had more impressive resumes. But, we’ll have to see....Day obviously has a vision, and sees Greg Mattison, Jeff Hafley and the other new hires for his defense staff as the proper fits. On offense, I like the Yurcich hire as the quasi-OC, and Day has a rising star in the coaching world in WR coach Brian Hartline.

The Upside

Justin Fields of all the upside in the world, and then some. And Urban left the cupboard stocked. Chase Young can be as good as he wants to be, and after Young, this D-line can swap the next 9+ D-linemen in and out without missing a beat. With the DBs, there are so many talented guys in that unit, that an upgrade is probably inevitable. And I honestly think that the O-line with only one returning starter could be better than last year’s unit. There was talk that Rutgers graduate transfer OG Jonah Jackson might have to be moved to center when he arrives this summer, but Josh Myers appears to have put that talk to rest in cementing the center job this spring. And former 5-star recruit Nicholas Petit-Frere has had a big spring and should man the RT spot in the fall. Seeing this 2019 Buckeye team go 11-1 or even 12-0 isn’t too far-fetched. There is a reason OSU is about even with Georgia with the 3rd best early sportsbook odds to win the 2019 Nat’l Title, while the books list Justin Fields with the third best odds to win the Heisman.

The Concerns

Running Back. I stuck up for JK Dobbins as he started to catch some criticism in the second half of the ’18 season, but now I really have my doubts. Dobbins was a step slower as a sophomore after a huge freshman campaign. And injuries are again holding back Demario McCall this spring. OSU also lost (or parted ways with) Brian Snead, and I had thought Snead was a keeper. I am however hearing good things about Master Teague’s work ethic, but the tailback position is my #1 concern as the spring drills conclude.

Linebacker. The Buckeyes have a new safety/linebacker hybrid position they are calling the “bullet”. And that spot is slotted for budding star Brendon White. But is this a move caused more by necessity with OSU’s highly touted group of LBs showing that they aren’t up to the task? Hope not. I do think Malik Harrison could hit the big time this year, and that this team has a real up-and-comer in MLB Teradja Mitchell. But one thing’s for sure....this D needs way more help from their LB crew than it got in 2018.

And back to the early Vegas odds...Michigan is next after Ohio St in terms of odds to win it all, and the first ‘Games of the Year’ lines released listed UM as a 6.5 pt favorite over Ohio St. Some bettors obviously feel things will be different without Urban roaming the sidelines in The Game.

The Spring Game 

The spring game gets watered down more and more every year, and they have finally done away with tackling completely. The defenders will instead “thud-up” per Coach Day. You still should be able to get something out of watching these newcomers: QB’s Justin Fields (#1) and Matthew Baldwin (#12). H-back, redshirt frosh Jaelen Gill (#26), and the two true-frosh 5-star recruits WR Garrett Wilson (#5) and DE Zach Harrison (#33). Don’t sell Baldwin short as he would have surpassed Tate Martell, had Tate stayed. Gill is likely your next superstar at the H-back spot. And Wilson and Harrison have looked as advertised after enrolling early in January. Even without full tackling, there should be plenty of physical battles between the grown men in the trenches. How Petit-Frere and Josh Myers match up against the scholarship D-linemen will be certainly be worth watching.

—Brent Baver