Quarterback Justin Fields and the Ohio State Buckeyes offense have been on a tear through three games. Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati and Indiana have not had an answer in containing the transfer signal-caller. If those three teams haven’t found any resemblance of an answer in stopping Fields, then the Miami-Ohio Redhawks are in big trouble.
Earlier, we talked about what the Miami offense had to do in order to get by—notice how I didn’t say stop—the Buckeye defense.
Now, let’s take a look at who on the RedHawks defense will be the biggest impact come Saturday afternoon inside Ohio Stadium. Cornerback Zedrick Raymond is that guy, and friends, he will have his plate full on game day.
If his name sounds familiar, you might’ve remembered him from the Netflix documentary series ‘Last Chance U.’ Raymond was on the show in 2017, leading Independence Community College with four interceptions.
With 15 career starts for Miami, Raymond is the second most experienced starter on defense, and amongst defensive backs on the team, he’s the most experienced. In 2018, he started in 12 games and picked up 37 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks, an interception, and six pass breakups. His six breakups led the team, and accounted for one-sixth of the team’s total. That’ll be a big factor come Saturday, as the Justin Fields has been able to find receivers at will, regardless of who they are up against.
While last week’s game against Indiana wasn’t his best, Fields still went 14-of-24 for 199 yards and three touchdown. Benjamin Victor and Chris Olave were the leading receivers, hauling in a combined 136 yards and a score. Facing a Big Ten defense for the first time, Fields had guys in his face on a few throws. Expect the offensive line (and Fields) to have improved entering this week, but at the same time, the RedHawks aren’t anywhere close to a Big Ten defense in terms of speed. On one hand, that makes it hard to judge how well the Buckeyes have improved since last week, and improving is something OSU needs to do before they face, arguably, their toughest test in the first half of the season next week at Nebraska. On the other hand, we may see big passes and rushes get completed on Saturday.
No matter how you look at it, things don’t look too bright for the RedHawks.
Something that Fields does well is not make ill-fated throws. We haven’t seen him force throws that he should have no business throwing. In fact, when under supreme duress, he generally throws the ball away. He’s taken sacks here and there, but for the most part, his dual-threat nature enables him to spread the field and at least pull down a couple yards if he has to run out of the pocket. Great news for OSU. Bad news for Miami, who won’t be able to get a free turnover off an ill-advised throw.
When given time, Fields is near unstoppable. That’s a combination of the offensive line, the receivers and himself. If he can stay in the pocket, his receivers have the ability to burn defenders on comeback routes, allowing for an easy pass completion. Victor and K.J. Hill are two of the guys that can do that. Throw in Chris Olave, and that’s three very capable receiving options that can a) get open and b) block downfield. And that’s the scary part about this team: they can do it all. Even if Raymond is approaching the ball carrier, he could be getting blocked by a WR. Granted, Raymond isn’t a primary tackler on this defense—he has seven tackles, ranking 14th on the team—but if he needed to make the tackle, the odds aren’t looking to good when he has to sprint around the field against wideouts that can block.
Safety Sterling Weatherford, the team’s leading tackler at 20, will definitely have to flex his defensive muscle this weekend. Fields is going to throw the deep ball, he’s going to find open receivers, and he’s going to systemically wear out this RedHawks defense. Weatherford will have to be there to make tackles; if not, well, just add six points to the scoreboard in favor of the Scarlet and Gray.
Breaking up passes will be a big goal for Miami. Why? It breaks momentum. Raymond is the best on the team, and if he can interrupt a second down (and especially third down) pass, the RedHawks will be moving in a more favorable position to force OSU to punt. Granted, Drue Chrisman is one of the best pinpoint punters in the nation, so the offense may have to go the distance just for a few points. But it’s better to be in the position of having a chance to score, rather than being in a situation where you have to prevent the other team from scoring.
Ohio State will score points. And if I was a betting man, I would predict that they’ll score many points. Will they cover the 40-point spread? Depends on how well the Miami defense shows up. Especially at the cornerback position.