As we enter the 150th season of college football, Ohio State kicked things off the same way they have for the past 20 straight years: with a win in the season opener. This time around, it was a 45-21 victory over a Florida Atlantic team that was simply outmanned and out-skilled right from the very start.
For the Buckeyes, it was a day for firsts all over the field. Justin Fields made his first career collegiate start at quarterback, with Ryan Day patrolling the sideline in his first game as Ohio State’s full-time head coach. It was also the first game for a ton of new staff members, especially on the defensive side of the ball, as guys like Greg Mattison, Al Washington and Jeff Hafley all coached in their first game for the Scarlet and Gray.
It looked as though OSU was en route to an absolute runaway performance early on, as the Bucks held a 28-0 lead with 6:50 remaining in the first quarter. However, Day’s offense went cold, and it would not be until the 2:37 mark of the third quarter that Ohio State would once again find the end zone. The Buckeyes added another pair of scores in the fourth quarter, with the defense remaining solid throughout, as the team went on to win by 24 in their home opener.
It is hard to judge a team based on just 60 minutes of football, but that is exactly what we are going to do in this week’s stock market report. Let’s check out which Ohio State players excelled in their first game action of 2019, and what the team still needs to work on moving forward.
Blue Chip Stocks
Chase Young, DE: With arguably the best performance of any player on the team on Saturday, the junior defensive end was as-advertised against FAU. Despite only being credited for 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup against the Owls, Young was all over the field all afternoon as he forced his way into the backfield to disrupt a number of plays. Lane Kiffin’s squad started to double him as the game went on, which created opportunities for his teammates to get in on the action.
Young has been touted by many as the next great Ohio State defensive end like the Bosas before him, and his performance on Saturday showed no reason to doubt that. Young is going to be a matchup nightmare all season long, as the 6-foot-5 265-pound freak athlete will be coming to a backfield near you.
Jeff Okudah, CB: Much like Young’s billing as the next great OSU defensive end, Okudah is hyped up as the next Denzel Ward-type player on the Silver Bullets. He showed off his skillset in a big way against FAU, recording six tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass breakup as the leader of an impressive secondary. Okudah was flying to the ball in the opener, making a number of impressive open-field tackles and altering plays left and right.
Ohio State was missing a true lockdown corner last season. Okudah is hoping to join the company of the Ward, Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker as the next first-round draft pick in the Buckeyes’ secondary as he fills that role for this year’s squad.
Chris Olave, WR: Ohio State shared the ball pretty well in their first game of the season, but the true standout at wide receiver was none other than Chris Olave. The sophomore tied for the team-lead in receptions with four, totaling 59 yards and a touchdown. Olave is best known for his impeccable route-running, and that was put on display on his 29-yard TD reception to put the Buckeyes up 28-0.
OSU is incredibly deep at wide receiver this season, even after losing their top-three targets from a season ago. After his breakout game against Michigan last season, Olave is looking to keep the good times rolling well into 2019.
Justin Fields, QB: The five-star transfer quarterback did not disappoint in his first game action in Columbus, tossing for 234 yards and four touchdowns while adding another 61 yards and a TD on the ground. Fields scored the first TD of the game on a 51-yard scamper off of an option read, as the young QB settled into his new role as the signal caller at Ohio State against an subpar defense.
Fields clearly has a ton of room to grow. At times he checked out of plays too early, tucking the ball to run at the first sign of pressure. There were also a few instances where he took off running only to lose yardage rather than throwing the ball away. Fields is still learning the offense, and will certainly grow as the season goes on. The Buckeyes’ QB looks poised to do big things in Columbus this year.
Josh Proctor, S: If you are looking for a player to buy low and sell high on, safety Josh Proctor is your guy. Proctor came away with the Buckeyes’ lone takeaway of the afternoon, making a diving interception against FAU quarterback Justin Agner on a deep ball. The sophomore did not see the field much in the first contest of the season, but made an instant impact when given the opportunity.
Proctor will have the chance to get on the field a bunch this season, especially when Brendon White is occupying the bullet position. The ballhawking safety has already drawn the eyes of coaches leading up to the new campaign, and his highlight reel play just adds to the hype surrounding another talented member of the Silver Bullets.
Covering the Spread: Despite getting out to an almost instant 28-0 lead, Ohio State failed the cover the 27.5-point spread given by the Vegas oddsmakers, winning instead by 24. An extremely poor offensive second quarter bled into the majority of the third as the Buckeyes lost track of the offense that came so easy in the team’s first four drives.
Not covering the spread is nothing new for OSU, who have not been good at beating the odds the past few years. The Buckeyes covered in just under 43 percent (6-8) of their games last season, while going 7-7 and 6-7 against the spread in 2017 and 2016, respectively.
It is seemingly impossible to guess when Ohio State is going to keep their foot on the gas or play conservative with a lead, the latter of which we saw frequently under the past regime. Last season, a 28-3 third quarter lead against Washington in the Rose Bowl ended up a narrow 28-23 victory. A similar occurrence happened in the 2017 Big Ten Championship, when a 21-7 lead late in the second quarter against Wisconsin led to just a 27-21 win.
Buy: Zone Defense. When Ryan Day overhauled his defensive coaching staff, he hoped it with bring with it big changes to a Buckeye defense that struggled mightily a season ago. With most of the same players returning in 2019, the scheme would clearly have to be changed for a successful showing this time around. Ohio State made a huge change, switching from its traditional man-coverage scheme to zone coverage.
The zone defense seemed to work wonders for the Buckeyes, simplifying the assignments and allowing for the guys to play within themselves without having to worry about the overcomplicated schemes of yesteryear. While OSU still allowed 21 points in the game, only two of the three FAU touchdowns came against the starters, with the Bucks holding the Owls to -14 total yards in the first half.
Buy: Tight End U. Each and every year Ohio State fans are promised that the team is finally going to start utilizing the tight ends in the passing game, and each and every year those same fans that get their hopes up are thoroughly disappointed. Jeremy Ruckert will look to change that this season, as the sophomore tight end racked up four receptions for 38 yards and two touchdowns.
HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) August 31, 2019
A tight end touchdown at Ohio State?
What is this world?
Despite Ruckert being the only tight end with a reception, the Buckeyes did a great job of incorporating the position into the new offensive gameplan. Ohio State used multiple three tight end sets in short yardage situations — and even lined up under center a few times! A player with as excellent a skillset as Ruckert opens the door for more pro-style sets, and adds a whole extra wrinkle to the offense.
Sell: J.K. Dobbins’ Tough Day. The “struggles,” if you will, of J.K. Dobbins’ 2018 campaign have been well documented. Despite rushing for over 1,000 yards a year ago, the junior running back was disappointed with his performance, and is hungry for bigger things in year three. It was a bit of a slow start out of the gate, as Dobbins finished with 91 yards on 21 carries (4.3 YPC) with a TD and a fumble.
Dobbins just couldn’t seem to find much success on the ground outside of his lone score. A big part of this can be attributed to the offensive line, which had a tough go of it after the first quarter. There should not be a whole lot of stock put into it, and as the offensive line finds a rhythm and improves as we move into the season, so too will Dobbins. It may not come right away, however, as a tough defensive unit is on the horizon with Cincinnati looming on the schedule.