“I looked around and saw everybody I wanted to be here with.”
Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette on returning for his senior season via Joey Kaufman, The Columbus Dispatch
Damon Arnette had a chance to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft, but the cornerback decided it was best for him to return to Ohio State for his senior season. It wouldn’t have been hard to blame Arnette for wanting to leave, as the Buckeyes were just coming off a season when their defense severely underperformed, allowing 25.5 points per game. Arnette was picked on by opposing offense, with the cornerback allowing completions 67.4 percent of the time he was targeted, according to Pro Football Focus.
So far the decision has looked like the right one for Arnette, who has been one of the brightest stars on Ohio State’s defense in 2019 through three games. The signature play of the young season for Arnette came on Saturday, when he picked of Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown, which was the fifth-longest interception return in Ohio State history.
One of the biggest reasons for Arnette’s decision to return to Ohio State was because of the addition of Jeff Hafley to the coaching staff. Hafley spent the last seven years as an NFL assistant, with coaching defensive backs being his speciality. If anyone could prepare Arnette for his senior season, as well as to help him improve his NFL stock, it would be Hafley.
With the coaching of Hafley, Arnette is seeing the action slower on the field. Arnette isn’t taking all the credit for his improved play though, as he credits the defensive line for putting pressure on the quarterback to help set up his long interception return for a touchdown. Even though it has taken Arnette a little longer than he anticipated to play at the high level he is playing at now, it’s better late than never.
“I think Malik has a chance to be one of the best in the country. I tell him that. I’m honest. I think he has the ability, but you’ve got to exercise that ability every day.”
Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington on linebacker Malik Harrison via Nathan Baird, Cleveland.com
Last season the Ohio State linebackers were a heavily criticized group, but one linebacker who didn’t deserve the criticism was Malik Harrison. The Walnut Ridge product recorded 81 tackles, three sacks, and 8.5 tackles for loss in 2018. The senior linebacker has been even better in 2019, with 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and six tackles for loss through just three games.
The biggest reason for Harrison’s improvement has been a change in the coaching staff. Last year the Ohio State linebackers were coached by Bill Davis, who looked to be out of his element with how he prepared the Buckeye linebackers. This year Al Washington replaced Davis and the difference has been immeasurable. Washington is connecting with the linebackers much better than Davis did, which is showing with their preparation and performance on the field.
Harrison has plenty left to prove in his final season in Columbus. Not only is Harrison and his fellow linebackers looking to return the linebacking unit to dominance, but Harrison is also looking to prove his talents to some of the doubters. A number of national publications barely mentioned Harrison when they listed some of the best outside linebackers in the country, which is looking to be a huge oversight early in the season.
“We wanted to change the culture and what people were already making assumptions about us before the season had even started. You know, as far as we’re a young team and we lost a lot of guys.”
There were plenty of questions being asked of the Ohio State offensive line prior to the season. With four new starters, not much was known about the group that not only would be responsible for protecting new quarterback Justin Fields, but also to open holes for running back J.K. Dobbins.
Prior to the Indiana game, the Hoosiers felt like they would be able to find some success attacking the right side of the offensive line. Right guard Wyatt Davis and right tackle Branden Bowen were more than up to the task. All the Buckeye offensive line did was clear the way for Dobbins and Master Teague to rush for 100 yards each.
Davis and the rest of the offensive line have given Fields time to get comfortable in the pocket, which has allowed the rest of the offensive to develop chemistry quickly. The Buckeyes have one of the most explosive offenses in the country because they have the ability to hurt teams through the air and on the ground. The offensive line is where it all starts at, and while there may have been some doubters heading into the season about what this group is capable of, they are proving those who didn’t have confidence in the offensive line wrong.
“Just because we’re not getting the ball doesn’t mean much. It’s just how the game goes. When we’re out there, we just got to do our job and just our 1/11th when we’re on the field and try to help.”
In the season opener against Florida Atlantic, it looked like Ohio State was focusing more on the tight ends this year. Jeremy Ruckert caught two touchdown passes in Ohio State’s 45-21 win over the Owls. The first game of the year was a bit of a mirage, as in the two games since, no tight end on the roster has caught a pass.
Even though the tight ends haven’t been looked to in the passing attack over the last two games, the group isn’t frustrated with their lack of targets. Luke Farrell, Rashod Berry, Ruckert, and Jake Hausmann are all getting plenty of playing time, with the quartet all having played at least 20 snaps. Numerous times the Buckeyes have been using two tight ends instead of a third wide receiver, with at least two tight ends being on the field for 22 snaps this season.
The contributions of the tight ends might not be showing up in terms of catches, but they are making a big difference in the running game. Ohio State’s tight ends have been valuable with their blocking, which has allowed the Buckeyes to rack up 271 yards per game on the ground through three games.
How the tight ends work together, as well as their lack of selfishness, has really helped Ohio State’s offense flourish this season under new starting quarterback Justin Fields. The group knows their opportunities will come, and until then they’ll do whatever they can to help the team continue to accomplish their goals. With the hard work the group has put in, don’t be surprised if they come up big in a critical spot at some point during the season for the Buckeyes.
STICK TO SPORTS
- Ryan Day has a good reason for wearing blue on Thursdays.
- The 2019 Women’s World Cup champions will play Sweden at MAPFRE Stadium in a friendly on Nov. 7.
- A plan has the former Neil Avenue Elementary School and Open Air School to be turned into a commercial hub for a variety of businesses.
- NBC is trying to reboot The Office for their Peacock streaming service.
- Sean Penn tattooed Chris Farley’s initials onto David Spade’s arm.