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Rutgers RB Raheem Blackshear can exploit Ohio State’s weakness on defense

The Buckeyes gave up seven big plays against Oregon State.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Rutgers Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

In Week 1, Oregon State could not stop Ohio State’s explosive offense. But in a very surprising series of events, the Ohio State defense could not stop the Beavers’ offense. Although there was a serious talent discrepancy between the two teams, Greg Schiano’s defense gave up seven chunk plays, which made up 82 percent of their offensive production. Against a vastly inferior opponent, that’s just unacceptable. Sure, they were missing the leader of the secondary, Jordan Fuller, but that’s no excuse to give up back-to-back rushes of 80 and 78-yards. To repeat, the Beavers gained 316 yards on those seven plays, and 76 yards on their other 56 plays.

After outscoring Rutgers the last two seasons by a combined score of 114-0 and the Buckeyes currently being 33-point favorites over the Scarlet Knights according to Vegas, it would be tough to imagine a competitive game between the two. However, the Ohio State defense will be tested by another speedster at tailback in Raheem Blackshear, and they’ll need to cleanup the issues that plagued them on those seven big plays against the Beavers.

Standing at only 5-foot-9, 185 lbs., but extremely quick, Rutgers offensive coordinator John McNulty called Blackshear, “our best player,” and it’s easy to see why. In Week 1 against Texas State, the speedster touched the ball 22 times — a balanced 12 carries, seven receptions and three kick returns. On those 22 touches, he racked up 151 total yards and two touchdowns.

“With Raheem, I keep saying, he’s our best player,” McNulty said. “I guess people read that and go, ‘Oh, they’re trying to get him the ball 20 times a game,’ but if they didn’t think that, we’d be doing something wrong. I think we would be doing a disservice to all of us.”

Blackshear’s quickness and versatility was on display against Texas State. Below, he takes a toss around the left end, reads his blocks, sticks his foot in the ground and explodes through the hole for the easy touchdown. Although it looked like an easy read, his burst jumps off the screen and is extremely impressive. If the Rutgers’ offensive line can somehow create just a little space against the ferocious Buckeye defensive line, Blackshear has the vision and quickness to make them pay.

With the strength of the defense being their defensive line, teams are going to try misdirection and the screen game to beat their aggressiveness. In his press conference, Schiano noted, “On some of those screens, we didn’t exactly do what we wanted done.” When facing Blackshear, who might possess the best hands on the team, the defense will have to be wary of him in both the screen game and in the intermediate passing game.

Below, the Knights dialed up a play-action fake to Blackshear, who then slipped out into the flat and got matched up with an outside linebacker. Advantage: Rutgers. The quarterback got him the ball and the linebacker had no chance as Blackshear beat him to the pylon for six.

Overall, Ohio State should not have an issue with Rutgers on Saturday, but they need to clean up the chunk plays that they allowed against Oregon State. If they can bottle up a talent such as Blackshear, they should feel good about themselves as they head into TCU week. One should expect a defense looking to prove a point after letting up 31 points the week prior, and extend their Rutgers shutout streak to three games.