Five games in to the season, and the Ohio State script is running pretty much as we expected--an explosive offense, a defense that's better than it was last year, and a 5-0 record that has the Buckeyes right in the thick of the Big Ten title chase and a spot in the National Championship game.
HINT...our grades are going to be pretty good, but let's get to it.
Quarterbacks, A+: Last year, when Kenny Guiton had to come in for an injured Braxton Miller, the initial thought was 'welp., it was fun while it lasted'. Think about it--Guiton was so unimpressive in 2011 that he was benched in favor of inexperienced freshman Miller and...wait for it...WAIT FOR IT...Joe Bauserman. But Guiton played well last year, and this year, when Miller went down early in week two, he stepped in and ran OSU's offense seamlessly. With Miller and Guiton, the Buckeyes have one of the best one-two quarterback tandems in college football.
Running Backs, A: It's pretty tough to nitpick a rushing attack that has over 1,400 yards in five games with a yards per carry average of over six yards a clip. For me, anyway, the most surprising player has been Jordan Hall, who until the Wisconsin game had played lights out every week. He currently leads all backs with 427 yards and 8 scores so far. Every back on the roster that has carried the ball 10 times or more has rushed for over 5 yards per carry average, with the exception of Miller. And with the return of Carlos Hyde last week, the rushing attack just got better and deeper.
Receivers, B+: At this time last year, the OSU receiving corps was a lot more unsteady. This year, it's consistent, productive, and is capable of making a big play. Starters Philly Brown and Devin Smith have been vastly improved, and freshman Dontre Wilson, who also doubles as a running back at times, has provided an every down big play potential that didn't exist in this offense last year. The tight end position, which was practically non-existent last year, already has more catches in five games than they did all of last year, lead by Jeff Heuerman's 10 catches.
Offensive Line, A: A productive offense begins with the offensive line, and Messrs. Mewhort, Norwell, Linsley, Hall, and Decker have been impressive. Taylor Decker struggled early in the season, but he seems to have found his sea legs. As a unit, the line has only given up 7 sacks, and they anchor an offense that is averaging 48 points a game, 6.3 yards per carry, and 7.4 yards per pass attempt.
Defensive Line, B: For a unit that has four new starters, there really isn't much to complain about from this group. DE Adolphus Washington has been hampered by an injury, and you could make an argument that the interior push and perimeter rush hasn't been as strong as anticipated, but still they've been the anchor on a defense that's only giving up 17 points a game, which is good enough with an offense like this. Tommy Schutt's injury has also hampered this unit getting to full potential, but freshman Joey Bosa has played well, and Michael Bennett has really stepped up his game.
Linebackers, B: If we were only grading Ryan Shazier here, it would be an A, but that's not to say Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry have been subpar. Speaking of Shazier, he's putting in another solid season, leading the team in solo tackles, total tackles, and tackles for loss. Grant's play has really picked up, and last week, Grant and Perry played a large role in throttling a Wisconsin rushing attack that had been unstoppable up until that point.
Defensive Backs, D: It's funny how perceptions change over the course of a season, isn't it? When fall camp started, it was widely assumed that the secondary would be the strength of the defense that saw six new faces in the front seven, yet through five games, it's been the biggest weakness. The first crack in the armor showed out at Cal, where freshman Jared Goff threw for 371 yards. After a slumpbuster against Florida A and M, Wisconsin's Joel Stave...Joel Stave...came in and threw for nearly 300 yards while picking on pre-season All American Bradley Roby all night. With the loss of S Christian Bryant for the rest of the season, this group is really at a crossroads, and somebody needs to step up and start making some plays.
Special Teams, A: Drew Basil is perfect on field goals and PAT's this year, and looks much better than last season. Both the kick and punt return coverage units have been excellent this year, giving up only 19 yards and three yards per return this season, where last year it was 50/50 on whether or not they'd give up a touchdown. And new punter Cameron Johnston is averaging over 40 yards net per punt, and over half of his punts have pinned opponents inside their own 20.
Coaching, A: Seriously man, it's Urban Meyer. Like it would b anything but an A.