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Urban Meyer looks to revamp Ohio State’s passing game after 2016 struggles

The head coach also is looking for improved play from the offensive line, who allowed 25 sacks last year.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

“The season was unfortunate to end like that because that’s not -- I believe we were a year ahead of schedule. I did not envision that at the beginning of the season.”

- Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer via Patrick Murphy, Bucknuts

The last time Ohio State lost to Clemson it forced Urban Meyer to take a hard look at his team and make some changes. Those changes worked out pretty well as the Buckeyes went on to win the first-ever College Football Playoff the next season. Meyer is hoping that the embarrassing loss to the Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl might wind up having the same effect in 2017. Following the loss to Clemson in the 2014 Orange Bowl, Meyer shook up the defense. After this year’s loss, Meyer is looking to change how the offense operates.

Gone after Tim Beck and Ed Warinner and coming in are former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson and NFL quarterbacks coach Ryan Day to try and get the Buckeye offense rolling again. Not like it is all bad on the offensive side of the football though, as Ohio State has ran for the most yards in the country over the past five years. Where the Buckeyes need to get better is in the passing game. Having quarterback J.T. Barrett returning for his senior season, along with a more experienced wide receiving corps, Ohio State certainly has the tools to rebound quickly.

“They said they wanted me to come in mentally ready to play as a freshman. And they’ll get me physically ready.”

- Ohio State defensive back Jeffrey Okudah via Doug Lesmerises, Northeast Ohio Media Group

It’s not all that often that a true freshman sees significant playing time in his first year at Ohio State, and it’s even more rare to see one start. While players like Ezekiel Elliott, Vonn Bell, and Raekwon McMillan did see a good amount of playing time in their first season in Columbus, they weren’t really called on to start during their freshman campaigns. Offensive lineman Michael Jordan was called on to start last year, but that was more of a necessity because of the depth issues on Ohio State’s offensive line. The 2017 season could see a true freshman start in the defensive backfield. Some of that is because of the exodus of talented defensive backs to the NFL over the past two years, but most of it is because he is extremely talented.

Jeffrey Okudah is Urban Meyer’s second-highest ranked recruit while he has been in Columbus, falling just behind defensive end Noah Spence. Okudah possesses the size that is similar to Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, both of whom are headed to the NFL. While Okudah just recently arrived in Columbus for winter workouts, he is already in the mindset of being on the field for Ohio State when the Buckeyes open the season on August 31st against Indiana. Even though he knows that he still has work to do to catch up with some of his more seasoned teammates, Okudah believes he’ll be expected to shutdown the opponent’s top receiver. If he continues to progress and not only physically, but mentally, the cornerback from Texas will be making plays early and often in his freshman year.

“There’s a plan here that you just have to follow. I knew I could go to the league here, and [cornerbacks coach Kerry] Coombs is going to work my tail off and push me to be the best person I can before I get to the league.”

- Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade via Austin Ward, ESPN

Jeffrey Okudah isn’t the only incoming freshman who has the talent to make some waves in the Ohio State defensive backfield this season. Cornerback Shaun Wade is coming to Columbus as a five-star recruit, and was ESPN’s top-ranked cornerback in this recruiting class. Wade committed to the Buckeyes two years ago after Ohio State took home the national title, and even though there was interest from all the big programs around the country, Wade never wavered on becoming a Buckeye.

Wade enrolled at Ohio State early, which will allow him to participate in spring practices. The competition for the cornerback spots is expected to be heated with not only Denzel Ward coming back, but also signees Kendall Sheffield, Amir Reip, and Marcus Williamson in the mix. The cornerback from Florida has dreams of moving on to the NFL, and with players like Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, and Marcus Lattimore either already in the league or on their way to the lead, there is no reason to think the same isn’t in the cards for Wade. Much like Okudah, expect to be hearing Wade’s name a lot for at least the next three years for the Buckeyes.

“I think when Trevor is engaged, I think he’s as good as anybody. There’s moments where he can get out of sync, and as long as we can get him back in and he lets us coach him and get him back into the fold of what we’re trying to do, he’s very effective.”

- Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta on Trevor Thompson via Nicholas McWilliams, The Lantern

So far this season there hasn’t been a lot about Ohio State’s men’s basketball team to get excited about. In a year that has been filled with injuries and inconsistent play, the lone bright spot has been the play of Trevor Thompson. The Virginia Tech transfer is averaging nearly a double-double in his second season in Columbus. After averaging 6.6 points per game last year for the Buckeyes, this year Thompson is averaging 10.6 points per game, and is also averaging a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game.

Last night against Rutgers, Thompson recorded his second straight double-double by scoring 15 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in the 70-64 win over the Scarlet Knights. The double-double was the ninth of the season for the junior. Thompson’s growth hasn’t gone unnoticed by opposing players and coaches either, with Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino going so far to say that Thompson is the most improved player in the Big Ten this year. While there are still occasional mistakes on the court from Thompson, there is no question that he has been Ohio State’s best player so far this season.