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Ohio State’s wide receivers are still learning how to play with Justin Fields

The differences between quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields have Ohio State’s wide receivers still working on chemistry with their new quarterback.

NCAA Football: Florida Atlantic at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“Dwayne was much more of a pocket passer. Justin is still a pocket passer, but he gets out the pocket. Even when he scrambles he still looks to throw so we just have to get open for him.”

Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave on quarterback Justin Fields via Stephen Means,

Whenever you have a new quarterback enter the system, there is going to be some growing pain. Justin Fields looked great in his first start for Ohio State, but there is still work for him and his receivers to do to get on the same page. There are some style differences between himself and last year’s starter Dwayne Haskins, which will take the wide receivers some time to adjust to.

The biggest difference between Fields and Haskins is that Fields is a dual-threat quarterback instead of a pocket passer, which is more of what Haskins is. Last week Ohio State didn’t have any completions when Fields scrambled outside the pocket because they weren’t exactly sure what Fields was going to do with the football because he does have the ability to run the football. When Haskins would scramble outside the pocket, the receivers knew he was doing so to give them more time to get open.

Unlike last year when the coaching staff tried to make Haskins more comfortable as a runner, this year they are trying to make a scrambling Fields more comfortable in the pocket. The good news is Fields and his receivers have time to work on their chemistry, so if the same plays happen mid-season, we are likely to see them executed a lot better. The pieces are definitely there for the Buckeyes, now it’s just putting them together.

“The approach Coach Washington has in helping me prepare, I feel like that played a big role. I watched a lot of film and just prepared ... I feel real comfortable, just in the defense and just playing, I’m not thinking. I just feel comfortable.”

Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning via Dan Hope, Eleven Warriors

A lot was expected from linebacker Baron Browning when he committed to Ohio State as a five-star recruit in the 2017 recruiting class. Browning’s first two years in Columbus haven’t quite lived up to expectations so far, with the Texas native recording just 37 tackles.

Luckily for Browning he still has time to rebound from his first two disappointing seasons with the Buckeyes. In the first game of the season against Florida Atlantic, Browning was on the field for 36 snaps, recording four tackles and a tackle for loss. One big change has Browning excited for what the rest of his career at Ohio State has in store for him.

The change at linebackers coach from Bill Davis to Al Washington has Browning feeling a lot better about what he can do on the field for the Buckeyes. Even though Washington is new to the Ohio State program, the relationship between Browning and Washington is a lot stronger than the one Browning had with Davis.

Browning was listed as a co-starter with fellow linebacker Tuf Borland on the depth chart, and saw just as many snaps as Borland in the season opener. If Browning continues to progress under the teachings of Washington, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Browning see more snaps than Borland as the season moves along. No matter how the snaps are distributed, it’s good to see Browning playing with more confidence on the field.

“We’ve emphasized running to the football. Our pursuit to the football really helps eliminate (big plays), because if he makes one guy miss, someone else is right there. If he misses, someone else is right there. It’s kind of like a swarm to the football. You’re not going to make all 11 guys miss unless you’re Barry Sanders or something.”

Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah via Joey Kaufman, The Columbus Dispatch

Last year the Ohio State defense was plagued by their inability to defend the big play. Even though it has only been one game, the Buckeyes looked a lot better at keeping their opponent in front of them in the season opener. Florida Atlantic didn’t record a play of more than 20 yards until the third quarter when they completed a 26-yard pass. The coverage was good from the Buckeyes on the completion, Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant just went up and and got the football over the smaller defender.

After allowing 67 plays of 20 yards or more last year, Ohio State’s defensive coaches are emphasizing running to the football to try and defend against the big play. There are strength in numbers when it comes to tackling their opponent, and even if the first defender doesn’t bring the opponent down, chances are the next wave of Buckeyes will do so.

Ohio State will face a big test to see how far their defense has come along when they host Cincinnati this week. Last season the Bearcats recorded 72 plays of at least 20 yards, which was 25th best in the country. Even though Cincinnati had only two plays of 20-plus yards in the season opener against UCLA, they have some tremendous offensive weapons who can break a defense. Running back Michael Warren II is tough to bring down, and if the Buckeyes know if the defense isn’t at the top of their game they could be in trouble on Saturday afternoon.

Even though Ohio State’s season has started, it doesn’t mean the black stripes have stopped coming off helmets. A couple of offensive linemen saw their black stripes removed yesterday, as Enokk Vimahi and Dawand Jones “officially” became Buckeyes.

Vimahi was a late commit from Hawaii, where he was the No. 2 prospect in the Aloha State. The offensive guard isn’t expected to have an immediate impact in the scarlet and gray, as he is planning on going on a two-year mission trip following this season.

Jones was also a late commit to Ohio State from Indiana. The offensive tackle is an absolute unit, measure 6-foot-8 and weighing in at 360 pounds. Jones was a three-star prospect out of Indiana, and seems a little more like a project, so it isn’t crucial to get him on the field early. If offensive line coach Greg Studrawa can work his magic with Jones, the Buckeyes could have a tremendous talent playing on the offensive line in the future.