Every day for the entirety of the Ohio State football season, we will be asking and answering questions about the team, college football, and anything else on our collective minds of varying degrees of importance. If you have a question that you would like to ask, you can tweet us @LandGrant33 or if you need more than 280 characters, send an email HERE.
Running back depth?— David Cole Grey (@greycole05) August 18, 2022
Can the O line block late to kill the clock in tight games?
How do the LBs all get snaps?
Does the Defense improve to even average to help out the offense?
Question 1: Running back depth?
On his radio show today, head coach Ryan Day said that TreVeyon Henderson will be the starter — no surprise there — Miyan Williams will be the backup (I would imagine that he gets at least six to eight carries during non-garbage time on Saturday), true freshman Dallan Hayden will be third, and then Arizona State transfer Chip Trayanum will be the emergency, fourth-string option.
Trayanu, played two years at RB at ASU, but the Ohio native came to Columbus to be a linebacker. I would imagine he is in the mix for a backup slot in the LB rotation, so it would have to be a pretty ugly situation for him to jump back to offense.
Question 2: Can the O line block late to kill the clock in tight games?
I wrote about the offensive line earlier this week (check out the link below), but in short, I would expect a different attitude and level of production out of that unit this year. In fairness, in 2021, the Buckeyes had the third-best yards per carry average in the country, and they were generally very good in pass protection; they gave up only 17 sacks all season — good for 14th nationally. However, the issues arose when the team needed the line to clear the way in high-pressure, short-yardage situations.
Former position coach Greg Studrawa thought that it would be a good idea to have an entire starting line — save the center — made up of tackles. When you are as talented as Ohio State is, you can get away with playing two interior linemen dramatically out of position against the majority of teams, but when it comes to the best competition that you will see all year, that is generally not a great idea.
I think that new o-line coach Justin Frye getting guys back into their proper positions will be a huge improvement in and of itself. The players also have spent the past nine months hearing about how they are soft and incapable of winning at the line of scrimmage. Based on their comments during training camp, those storylines really bothered them and they are looking to prove them wrong.
So, we won’t really know if there has been a major improvement in that department until they are tested in a close game — which may or may not happen on Saturday — but I feel pretty confident in saying that they were an above-average offensive line last year who will be improved this year, and has the potential to be the best in the country if they can get things figured out.
Question 3: CB Depth?
This is an easy one: There is no CB depth. Ohio State only has six scholarship cornerbacks on the roster; that’s the definition of “Not great, Bob.” Fortunately, despite some early camp concerns, it appears that everyone is pretty healthy and ready to play on Saturday. I still have my doubts as to whether or not the coaching staff will be willing to let Cam Brown and Jordan Hancock shoulder a normal workload given the injuries that they are coming off of, but we will see.
Obviously, Denzel Burke is penciled in as one of the starters and, as long as he is healthy, Brown should be the other. If injuries were not a concern, I would guess that Hancock would get a decent amount of run, but it’s hard to predict that at this point.
During camp, new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles told the media that when it comes to the secondary, he prefers to keep the best guys on the field as much as possible, because it’s important to give them as many chances to see what the offense is doing from the backend as possible.
I think that JK Johnson will also get on the field on Saturday, but whether that is in crunch time or not likely depends on how much Knowles wants to rotate guys and the health of players ahead of him on the depth chart.
True freshmen Jyaire Brown and Ryan Turner round out the official CB room and likely won’t see the field until games are decided in hand. Safeties Jantzen Dunn and Cam Martinez also have gotten some reps at corner during camp, but that was likely done mostly in case the injuries that Burke, Brown, and Hancock were dealing with proved to be more long-term than they now appear to be.
Question 4: How do the LBs all get snaps?
This one is a bit tough to answer, because we don’t really know yet how Knowles is going to deploy his linebackers. The assumption is that he will play with two traditional backers in a 4-2-5 scheme. While that might change depending on opponent, even against a run and tight end-focused offense like Notre Dame, it appears that hybrid safety/linebacker Kourt Williams will be called upon to come up and fill in a traditional LB spot.
So, much like how Knowles wants to limit the rotation in the secondary, I would imagine that Steele Chambers — clearly the best linebacker on the team last year — and co-captain Tommy Eichenberg will be the bulk of the snaps. Trayanum will probably be the backup to Chambers (interesting that they are both converted running backs) and veterans Cody Simon and Teradja Mitchell will factor in behind Eichenberg.
I think that when OSU goes with a traditional three-linebacker set, Mitchell will get the call at strong-side, but I just don’t know how often that will be in Knowles’ defense. We could see some of it on Saturday and against Wisconsin and Iowa, and maybe even Penn State, Michigan State, and TTUN; or we could not see it at all. It is really all a guessing game to how the new defensive coordinator is going to play things this season.
Question 5: Does the Defense improve to even average to help out the offense?
I think that the defense was decidedly average last season. Depending on the metric, they were okay when looking at the entire swath of college football. The problem with that of course is that Ohio State doesn’t compare itself to the widest possible cross-section of the sport; they are compared to a tiny handful of teams including Alabama, Georgia, and Clemson. And in that respect, the defense was well below average in 2021.
However, perhaps it is my scarlet and gray colored glasses, or simply being swept up in the preseason hype, but it just feels as though the players and the new defensive coaching staff have figured something out. We know the talent is there, the recruiting rankings prove that; but will the scheme and execution be there when it matters most? I think it will.
For two years, I have been beating the drum that the OSU defense needs to be more aggressive and flexible. Use the athleticism of the players on the roster to put offenses into uncomfortable situations and tailor what you run to the talent you have in the room.
For far too long, the defensive coaching staff tried to fit round pegs into square holes because they were tied to a defense that had worked in Columbus before. But times change, talent shifts, and it is incumbent on the coaches to adapt in order to put their current players in the best situations to succeed.
I don’t think that the previous defensive staff did that nearly enough, but I think this new one already has.