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6 offensive takeaways from Ohio State’s 2016 season

Despite a passing game that sputtered at the wrong time, there was a lot to like from Ohio State’s offense this season.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Weber is really, really good.

Weber’s first season as Ohio State’s featured running back didn’t end as perfectly as Ezekiel Elliott’s, but it’s still hard to be anything but ecstatic about the redshirt freshman’s performance this year:

All in all, Weber became just the third freshman in program history to top 1,000 yards, and he did it while averaging a strong 6.0 yards per carry. He also showed a willingness to block that has become a staple from any starting running back at Ohio State. Weber’s combination of speed and power should be put to good use behind new-Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who orchestrated massive seasons from star NFL running backs Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard during his time at Indiana.

Urban Meyer still doesn’t care much for featuring tight ends.

Folks were calling for a Marcus Baugh breakout-season after his great performance in the spring game, but Meyer’s history with tight ends indicated that Baugh would likely not meet his lofty statistical expectations. Sure enough, he finished the year with fewer than 300 receiving yards and just two touchdowns.

This is in no way an indictment on Baugh’s ability as a tight end; he’s a fantastic talent:

His two touchdowns this season were two more than all Ohio State tight end’s scored in 2015. Last season, Nick Vannett caught just 19 passes for 162 yards and didn’t score a touchdown ... yet he was selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft and was the third tight end off the board. There will be several NFL teams that could use a 6’5 255 pound tight end with Baugh’s abilities, especially with another season under his belt.

Holy hell, Curtis Samuel

We knew Samuel was good going into this season, but I don’t think anyone expected him to basically drag the Ohio State offense to an 11-2 record. J.T. Barrett and Weber were great in their own right, but it’s hard to think of another player in the country that was more feared than Samuel.

Urban Meyer’s never-ending search for a Percy Harvin clone has come to an end:

Sure, Harvin was more explosive, but the similarities are still startling. Samuel gained over 100 total yards or scored a touchdown during every game this season. That is remarkable. His highlights include:

  • Converting his 22 touches into 261 total yards and three touchdowns against Bowling Green in the season-opener.
  • Gaining 178 total yards and scoring two touchdowns against then-No. 10 ranked Nebraska.
  • Providing some of the lone offensive-sources of excitement against Penn State and Clemson.

But there’s no debate about what Samuel’s most-shining moment was. There’s a chance he returns for his senior season, but if not, thank you Curtis for one of the iconic moments of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry (special mention to this work of art):

The Slobs need some work, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism.

First of all, it’s not easy to replace 3/5 of an offensive line. With that said, the Buckeyes’ o-line needs some work. They were exposed against Michigan and Clemson, as they allowed a combined 11 sacks and averaged just 3.54 yards per carry.

It wasn’t all bad. Pat Elflein’s move to center couldn’t have gone better, as the senior captain was awarded the Rimington Trophy, annually awarded to the nation’s best center. Also guard Billy Price, a first-team All-American this season, will return for the 2017 season and will move to center.

The Buckeyes should also welcome back starters Jamarco Jones, Michael Jordan and Isaiah Prince. While all will need to improve, the fact that the team can go into the 2017 season with 4/5 of their offensive line assured is great news. The end of the season left a sour taste in the mouths of many, but don’t forget this unit helped spark the nation’s No. 12 ranked rushing attack in yards per game.

The wide receivers need some work, but there is talent there

Noah Brown put on one of the most dominating displays by a wide receiver in Ohio State history during the Buckeyes’ trip to Norman:

His behind-the-back catch was almost undoubtedly the catch of the year, but he also came up big in clutch moments against Wisconsin and Michigan. Brown wasn’t as consistently involved in the offense as many would’ve hoped, but he still tied for the team lead in with seven touchdowns and finished second in receptions and yards.

The rest of the wide receivers had their ups and downs. Dontre Wilson capped off his career at Ohio State with a career-high six touchdowns. K.J. Hill showed flashes of becoming a go-to deep threat. Parris Campbell was electrifying as a returner and his blocking would’ve made Evan Spencer proud.

In the end, the unit didn’t make enough big plays or consistently create enough separation to make a difference down the stretch. Still, Michael Thomas and Devin Smith didn’t become marquee receivers over night, and the Buckeyes should welcome back the majority of their receivers in 2017. Keep an eye on rising-sophomore Binjimen Victor, who earned more playing time against Clemson and appears poised to be a playmaker.

The J.T. Barrett Experience

Yes, Barrett has regressed since his electric redshirt-freshman campaign that saw him finish fifth in the Heisman voting. But it’s pretty tough to make an argument that he isn’t already a top-three Ohio State quarterback of all-time and he showed plenty of reasons why this season.

Exhibit A: Wisconsin

Other than perhaps Oklahoma or Nebraska, the Wisconsin game was Barrett’s finest-game of 2016. He scored not one, but two go-ahead touchdowns against the Badgers in the fourth quarter or later. Despite these scores, it was a non-touchdown that I felt was possibly his greatest play of the game:

Facing a second-and-long from his own territory, Wisconsin dropped eight defenders in coverage which took away all of Barrett’s initial reads. He bought some time, reset his feet, and unleashed a gorgeous 45-plus yard throw that couldn’t have been placed better. Ohio State would tie the game with a field goal shortly after.

Exhibit B: Nebraska

Barrett picked apart the Corn Huskers, as he completed 26 of his 38 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns. For at least one Saturday, the Buckeyes passing game was as explosive as they come, as five different receivers had receptions of 15-plus yards. Still, Barrett’s most memorable play came on a pass that traveled less than 10 yards in the air:

Barrett would later throw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Samuel on the first play of the second half and the route was on. 62-3 wins over top-10 opponents don’t come around very often and Barrett spearheaded the massacre.

Exhibit C: Michigan

Barrett is now 3-0 against the Wolverines and will look to become the first Buckeyes’ quarterback to ever go 4-0 against Michigan after he declared his intentions to return for his senior season. His performance during the 2016 edition of The Game wasn’t perfect, but he came through when it mattered and drove down the field twice during the fourth quarter to put Ohio State in a position to send the game to overtime.

Barrett’s best play came midway through the fourth quarter with the Buckeyes searching for any sort of offensive momentum. No stranger to embarrassing the great Jabrill Peppers, Barrett took off on a run straight down the throat of the Michigan defense and encountered the Wolverines’ premiere playmaker at mid-field. Barrett would step out of bounds at the Wolverines’ 22-yard line.

Oh yeah, and the spot was good, actually.

Tune in next week for our defensive takeaways from Ohio State’s 2016 season.