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Ohio State midseason player power rankings

Who are the top 10 performers on the Buckeyes at the halfway point in the season?

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Because my Grumpy Old Buckeye column falls after every game and consists almost entirely of negativity — albeit often with tongue planted firmly in cheek — Ohio State’s open week gives me an opportunity to say some nice things. I thought I’d do that by looking back at the season so far and discussing the best of the best.

To that end, I’ve assembled a top 10 list of Ohio State player power rankings based on a combination of objective statistical evidence and completely subjective observation. Your list may vary, and that’s why we have a comments section below every story — so the readers can have their say and make it a conversation.

Let’s do this countdown style.

10. TreVeyon Henderson

I know that Buckeye Nation is basically that meme with the guy with his girlfriend, who is turned around and ogling the new hotness. While Miyan Williams is that new hotness at running back because of his physical style and ability to provide energy to his teammates and the crowd, TreVeyon Henderson is still getting the job done. He’s averaging 6.32 yards per carry and has 436 yards on 69 attempts, scoring four touchdowns. He’s been a bit banged up and that’s cost him some totes, but he could still eclipse 1,000 yards with a good second half. Williams has also been knocked around a bit this year, so it’s important to have both, and the two top backs on the team are getting it done.

I nearly put Cade Stover in this slot, but no matter how many times Stover shows that it could be the Year of the Tight End, there just aren’t enough targets for him so that he can make it happen. Still, he bears mentioning because he’s been great when called upon.

9. Matthew Jones

It’s more difficult to grade offensive linemen, but for my money, Matthew Jones has been a strong performer for Ohio State this season in both the running and passing games. The interior line has been good overall at protecting the passer and getting to the second level in the run game, and they’ve handled defensive line stunts and blitzes well, but to my untrained eye, Jones has been the best of the middle guys so far this season.

8. Ronnie Hickman

Rocket has been one of the top performers on the defensive side of the ball and the best of the secondary players. He’s third on the team in tackles (23), has recorded a quarterback hurry, and has one of the Buckeyes’ four interceptions on the season. While the secondary has been the weakest part of the OSU defense — and the team as a whole — Hickman has been a consistently solid performer.

7. Miyan Williams

Chop has been a beast in 2022 and if he can stay healthy, it gives Ohio State one of the best one-two punches at running back in the country. He’s particularly effective after the offensive line has been able to soften up the defensive line and linebackers for a series or two, shrugging off tacklers, using his stiff-arm of justice to ward off defenders, and finishing runs with physicality.

Williams has 497 yards on 64 carries (an insane 7.77 yards per carry), and eight touchdowns. He’s caught only four passes for 26 yards, but Ohio State hasn’t targeted running backs much this year — perhaps saving some wheel routes for a certain team from up north?

6. Paris Johnson, Jr./Dawand Jones

Sure, this is cheating by putting two players in this spot, but it’s my column and I will skirt the rules that I have established at my discretion. The reason I’ve got these two even is that they’ve both been good — whether protecting C.J. Stroud or mauling defensive players to allow Henderson and Williams to gobble up yards and score touchdowns. Both have committed a few unnecessary penalties, but they’ve done a massive job overall, which is why the Buckeyes have only sustained four sacks on the season and rank 14th nationally in rushing offense.

5. Mike Hall, Jr.

The player Ryan Day and Jim Knowles need to keep on the field more is Mike Hall, Jr. He’s played in five games but only saw a few snaps in one of those five and even though he’s been limited, he’s been easily the most disruptive player on the defense. Hall is bulling his way through offensive lines like he’s running through a paper sign held up by cheerleaders prior to a high school game.

Despite playing a lot fewer snaps than the guys above him, Hall is seventh in tackles (13), and leads the team in both sacks (4.5, for a total of 39 yards lost) and tackles for loss (7.5 for 46 yards). He also recorded a quarterback hurry. Hey, if I was a quarterback, and I saw Mike Hall, Jr. coming after me, I would also hurry.

4. Tommy Eichenberg

While Hall has done a lot with fewer snaps, Eichenberg earns his spot in these rankings with sheer volume. The linebacker has emerged as a star in 2022, leading Ohio State in tackles, with 50 — 19 more than the next-closest Buckeye. He’s got six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks on the season. He’s also tallied three quarterback hurries and one pass breakup. One of his strengths has been to clog up running lanes, which has helped Ohio State rise to 15th nationally in rush defense.

One of the beneficiaries of Eichenberg’s play this year has been fellow linebacker Steele Chambers. Although much better in his own right this year, to my eyes, Chambers has cleaned up a lot of running backs who have bounced outside as a result of Eichenberg filling the hole they’re supposed to run through. It’s been a minute since we’ve seen a linebacker playing at this level for the Buckeyes and Eichenberg’s been fun to watch. So has Chambers, for that matter.

3. Emeka Egbuka

The second-year receiver has emerged as the Buckeye offense’s home run threat and he doesn’t have to get open deep to do it — although he does that pretty well, too. With one cut or move, Egbuka can take short or intermediate passes to the house. He leads the Buckeyes in catches (35), yards (655), and yards per game (109.2), while currently ranking second in touchdown receptions (6). He’s also been effective on the sweep, carrying four times in the first six games for 49 yards and a touchdown. He’s also a threat in the return game, although I’ve given up on seeing him take one to the house because there is a blocking infraction every time he busts a big one. There have been a couple of adventurous moments fielding punts but I’m not overly concerned about that.

2. Marvin Harrison, Jr.

Route Man Marv gets the slight edge over Egbuka in these rankings for a couple of reasons. Even though Egbuka has four more catches and 119 more yards, Harrison has more touchdowns, fewer drops, makes the tougher catches, and hasn’t had the couple of shaky moments on special teams that Egbuka has. The margin between the two is slim, but it’s there.

Harrison has been incredible, making 31 catches for 536 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns at the midway mark. He has become the primary red zone target, and when he’s covered, he’s basically still open. His long arms and strong hands have helped him win battles in the air, and he’s often been called upon to make the catch, survive contact in the air, and still get his foot down in bounds — which he has done.

1. C.J. Stroud

Some of the guys in this list wouldn’t be nearly as high on it without No. 7. Through five games, the junior quarterback has completed 113 of 160 passes for a completion percentage of 70.6%, 1,737 yards, 24 touchdowns, and just three interceptions. He leads the nation in yards per attempt (10.9) and rating (207.57). Does he miss the occasional pass or read? Sure, but everyone does, and Stroud is still at just a year and a half’s worth of college starts. He gets the ball out to his playmakers, seems to thrive when blitzed, and he’s rarely sacked. While we would all like to see him make a few more plays with his feet, his primary job is to find Egbuka, Harrison, and the rest of his weapons, and he does it.

Maybe the most important stat in Stroud’s favor is that Ohio State is 29-for-29 in the red zone in 2022, and 27 of those trips have concluded with touchdowns. While multiple players figure into that stat, it’s Stroud who handles the ball on every snap and is charged with staying out of negative plays. Only four teams in the country had a 100% success rate in the red zone after six weeks and the Buckeyes have the most touchdowns and fewest field goals of that group.

Those are my Ohio State player power rankings through six games. There’s a long way to go and we’ve barely seen Jaxon Smith-Njigba yet, so these could change. Who made your list?