Ohio State fans are notorious for overreacting; it’s what we do and who we are. So, when the Buckeyes play as piss poor of a game as they did against Tulsa on Saturday, it requires that we noted level-headed, unbiased observers here at Land-Grant Holy Land run through some of our overreactions... which are actually completely logical and well-reasoned, but just seem a little bit out there.
TreVeyon Henderson is the best running back in Ohio State history
I’m going to start with a positive and one that might draw the ire of many a middle-aged man (a demographic of which that I fit squarely in). But, TreVeyon Henderson is the best running back in Buckeye history. In the long, storied history of OSU rushers, Henderson is just special. He set a new freshman single-game rushing record on Saturday with 277 yards on just 24 carries (in addition to three touchdowns). That puts him third all-time in the OSU record book, just 54 yards behind Trey Sermon’s 331 yards against Northwestern in last year’s Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern.
He has a combination of speed and power that is simply special. He has dashes of J.K. Dobbins, Ezekiel Elliott, and Maurice Clarett; just to name a few 21st Century comparisons.
Touchdown numero tres for Trey! pic.twitter.com/eu5i3z11yM— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 18, 2021
He is only three games into his career, and I know this was against Tulsa, but it is undeniable that Henderson is special. With as bad as the quarterback play has been, I imagine that the true freshman is going to get a lot of carries this season and he will have plenty of opportunities to wrack up a ton of yards and touchdowns.
He’s only going to be in Columbus for three years, but he’s going to set — and break — a ton of Buckeye rushing records. He was absolutely a bright spot in an otherwise brutally painful day.
Ryan Day has zero confidence in any aspect of his team
When Ryan Day became the head coach at Ohio State, he immediately brought an entirely different energy than Urban Meyer. His team was aggressive on both offense and defense, because he had confidence in his players to execute creatively designed plays.
That has slowly, but certainly, been fading over his two+ year tenure at the helm, and it is hitting rock bottom here in 2021. Obviously Day calls the plays on offense (despite what literal idiots Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman told you on the broadcast), but the head coach is also responsible for the philosophy on defense as well.
On offense, the play calls have been simple, repetitive, and cautious. The Tulsa defense (and the defenses of both Minnesota and Oregon) were able to pin their ears back because they always knew when the Buckeyes were running, and it’s clear that — despite his comments to the contrary earlier in the week — the head coach is losing confidence in C.J. Stroud (more on that later).
But, the more egregious example of the coach’s lack of confidence is on the defensive side. There were a handful of blitzes early in the game, but they were quickly shelved in favor of dropping as many guys into coverage so that they could stand flat-footed and guard grass allowing wide-open receivers to catch passes nearly uncovered. We did see more of them late in the game, but there is not nearly enough aggression on either side of the ball.
Day, and the entire staff, seems to be afraid of the worst case scenario from both the offense and the defense. So, instead of trying to maximize their talent advantage, they are attempting a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy on both sides of the ball. Not exactly what you want to see from an Ohio State team. I would much rather have a team that takes risks than one that plays passively. Because while passivity might work against lesser opponents, it is going to take an aggressive approach on both offense and defense to beat the best teams on your schedule.
It’s time to discuss whether C.J. Stroud deserves exclusivity at the quarterback position
I have been firmly in the #TeamStroud camp all season, despite a large contingent of fans calling for a quarterback switch. I expected him to be better, but I also assumed that given his inexperience, that there would be growing pains early in the season. That was, and should have been, part of the plan.
But there seems to have been no progression in Stroud’s game through the first three game, in fact, I would say that despite the gaudy numbers against Oregon, that he’s gotten progressively worse every week. He is still struggling to connect with receivers — often over throwing them — and his decision-making is that of someone with little to no confidence in his abilities.
At nearly every other position, I have been championing playing young guys (see below) and taking players who aren’t performing off of the field. I think that Stroud, as a first-time starting quarterback, deserved a little bit more leeway, but that leash has been exhausted at this point.
Day was adamant in his weekly press conference following the Oregon game that he had no inclination to make a change at QB. If he maintains that position, one of two things must be true:
1) Kyle McCord, Jack Miller III, and Quinn Ewers must all be really, really underperforming in practice.
2) Day is far more stubborn than I ever realized.
Look, we don’t get to see what’s happening in practice and in the film room, so we can only speculate if the other guys are ready to play or not, but as long as they have been competent in practice, it’s probably time to at least consider making the change. Now, if the other three QB options are miles behind Stroud in terms of practice and preparation, then I guess you’ve gotta ride with C.J., but that’s just something that we as fans can’t possibly know unless the coaches tell us.
Perhaps Stroud — despite his issues — is the best option, but I think to truly know if that’s the case or not, Day and the offensive staff owe it to the team to give someone else a chance, even if it is in limited duty.
Nearly no one on this team plays with the energy being a Buckeye requires
Throughout most of the first half, Ohio Stadium felt like a mortuary. The Buckeyes had about as much energy as a dead body (and nearly as much success as one as well). This, to me, is inexcusable. I’m not a guy who thinks that the rah-rah stuff really makes that much of a difference at this level of college sports. I think that we fans often default to it as an easy excuse, because we don’t really know enough about technique or scheme to diagnose what’s really wrong with a team.
But, there needs to be some requisite level of energy and intensity to play this sport at a level befitting a program like Ohio State, and for far too much of Saturday’s game, the Buckeyes just weren’t bringing that.
Somewhat surprisingly, at least to me, we started to see more of that energy from the much maligned defense late in the first half, and they played fairly well for most of the second half. Obviously that didn’t solve all of the team’s issues, but it helped; it brought a bit of life to a unit that still seems ill-prepared and often out of position. Now the offense on the other hand was pretty lackluster save for Henderson’s record-setting performance.
Ohio Stadium’s turf is on the take from opposing Big Ten teams
I am fully convinced that a cabal of Ohio State’s 2021 opponents banded together to pay off the field turf at Ohio Stadium in order to get the faux-grass to turn against the Buckeyes. Over the last two games, I have seen more Ohio State offensive players slip coming out of cuts than I can ever remember, and not so coincidentally, we haven’t seen the same type of issues for opposing players.
In the words of C&C Music Factory, “Things that make you go hmmmmmm.”
They need to rethink both the offensive and defensive lines
Coming into the season, nearly everybody expected that both Ohio State’s offensive and defensive lines would be strengths on this team. Through three games, they have been unmitigated disappointments.
Late in fall camp, Ohio State decided to reconfigure its offensive line to “get their best five on the field,” and they ended up having four guys who normally were considered offensive tackles spread out across the guard and tackle positions.
Thus far, they have struggled on both run and pass blocking. Sizable holes for backs to run through have been few and far between, and while Stroud has only been sacked four times this season (including two today), he rarely has a clean pocket, especially when you consider that Stroud is a bit twitchy whenever he senses pressure.
On the other side of the ball, despite a veteran interior and a shite ton of young talent on the ends, the lack of ability to get any type of pressure is mind-boggling, and the size of the holes that they are giving up in the running game is unlike what you would expect from this unit.
Both lines have been more or less manhandled this season, and I honestly have no idea why. But the point is that if this is the best that they’ve got, Larry Johnson and Greg Studrawa might want to change their philosophies.
On offense, perhaps go back to playing guards at guard, and on defense if the veterans aren’t getting the job done, let the young guys have their opportunities (see below). Either way, this team isn’t going to improve without the lines getting things sorted out. They are clearly not the only issues on this team, but they are significant ones.
The defense should be comprised of underclassmen and Haskell Garrett
The Ohio State defense is not where it needs to be, that is an inarguable fact. But here’s the thing, I would much rather have the defense struggle with young guys on the field than have the defense struggle with veterans on the field.
The reason is simple, with veterans, when they make mistakes — while growth is obviously still possible — they generally come from deficiencies that aren’t going to be remedied easily.
But with youngsters, often times you see dramatic improvements with each and every opportunity to get on the field. So, I’m ok with young guys making mistakes, because they are far more likely to learn from them, and the earlier that they can get on the field means the more time that we get to reap the benefits.
Besides, the young players on the Buckeye team (save Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson) have been, by far, the most productive, reliable, and exciting on the team in 2021. The aforementioned Henderson to Denzel Burke, Cameron Martinez (see below), Tyleik Williams, Cody Simon, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and more have carried this team.
Ohio State NEEDS a youth movement, especially on defense.