From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about records, the ones that have been broken, the ones that could be broken, and the ones that will never be broken. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”Broken Records” articles here.
Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Which Ohio State record would you like to see broken this year?
LGHL’s summer content theme this week is Broken Records, and when it was first presented to us, or I first gave it any thought, two things jumped out rather quickly: 1) Ohio State football has some impressive (to say the least) records. And 2) I don’t see any of them falling in 2023. But the latter does not mean I expect OSU to stink this season. In fact, I am rather optimistic about the upcoming campaign.
That being said, if you just look at the player names and the years in which many of these Ohio State records were set, then I think it becomes easier to at least understand why I feel this way (about records), even if you do not agree. Most of the passing records belong to Barrett, Haskins, and Stroud, all certified Buckeye legends. Rushing records? How about names like Archie, Eddie, and Zeke? Certain receiving records might be within reach, but then you jump over to the defensive side of the ball and see a lot of Spielman, Cousineau, Vrabel, and Sensibaugh — guys who played in Columbus 20, 30, even 40 years ago.
While I am optimistic about the upcoming season, I also want to be reasonable when it comes to player expectations. Whoever wins the starting quarterback job will be unproven, meaning fans should not expect Stroud-esque production right away (if ever). In the backfield, OSU boasts a million running backs, making it easy to spread the wealth... if they get solid blocking from a revamped offensive line. As far as the receiving stuff goes, I have a feeling that Marvin Harrison Jr. will be mentioned often this week, so I will let others lead the Marv charge. That leaves defense. And it is on that side of the ball that I want to see records fall in 2023.
**Side note: I did not mean to rhyme just now, but that was a hot bar!
Some of the Ohio State defensive records are just insane. Many were set in a different era when offenses were far less sophisticated and/or teams ran the ball 50 times per game. Case in point: Marcus Marek’s total career tackles record of 572. I mean, c’mon. The highest total for a player who saw action after 1990 is 408 (Steve Tovar). 572 will stand the test of time forever, no doubt in my mind.
Gene and I are talking about records we personally want to see broken, but I still want to avoid sounding like a delusional homer here. Which is why I had to avoid all career total records. Few Buckeyes are starting for 3+ years, and if they do, they are not putting up numbers like Sensibaugh, Marek, or Vrabel. Single game records seem fun, but also fluky, and as much as I might want J.T. Tuimoloau or Jack Sawyer to rack up five sacks against Penn State or TTUN, there is that whole ‘reasonable’ thing I mentioned earlier.
So pretty much by default, I ended up looking at team defensive records. And I asked myself: What do I want from Jim Knowles and the Ohio State defense? Furthermore, what do the Buckeyes need to be successful and potentially win games in spite of their offense? The answer to both questions was the same... Sacks.
OSU has struggled to get to the opposing quarterback in recent seasons, bottoming out with just 34 sacks in 2022. Even in today’s game, with air-it-out offenses becoming more and more prevalent, that (34 sacks) is not going to get it done. There can certainly be a chicken or the egg argument here, but minimal pressure on the opposing QB has often resulted in big play after big play being given up by the Buckeyes’ secondary. And those big plays have been Ohio State’s Achilles heel.
Which is why Larry Johnson and his guys up front need to be better in 2023. And I certainly want them to be better. In fact, I want them to be so much better that they break the program’s team sack record of 54 set in 2019. Given what we’ve seen recently, 54 sacks might not seem reasonable. But I believe that this current d-line group is the most talented one we’ve seen in Columbus in many years.
Tuimoloau, Sawyer, Hall, Williams... the list goes on and on. And playing in front of what is expected to be a much-improved OSU secondary, there should be ample opportunity for the big dogs to eat. Also, don’t forget about the Knowles factor.
Prior to his time in Columbus, Knowles was known as a guy who could create pressure with odd looks and aggressive blitz packages, as evidenced by his Oklahoma State defense racking up 55 sacks in 2021. I don’t think he forgot to coach, and he certainly has access to far better talent in Columbus, so I am expecting a bounceback season in 2023. Something along the lines of 55 sacks, maybe?
It might be coincidence that Knowles’ Cowboys totaled exactly one more (sack) than the Buckeyes’ team record, but that is exactly what I want, Gene. And I think that this record, unlike many, many others, is one that is actually within reach.
As Josh outlined at the top, many of the records compiled throughout Ohio State history are likely unattainable today for a variety of reasons. Single-game records are fluky, and its highly unlikely the Buckeyes will ever pick off eight passes in one game again like they did against Chicago in 1938. Career records like Mike Vrabel’s 36 sacks and J.T. Barrett’s 104 passing touchdowns will probably stand the test of time because guys who put up big numbers like that don’t stick around long enough to reach those sorts of career totals.
The best chance for any Ohio State records to be broken in 2023 would have to be of the single-season or single-game variety, but even many of those are incredibly lofty goals, which is to be expected at a school that has had so much NFL talent walk through its doors over the years.
I don’t see Kyle McCord or Devin Brown breaking Dwayne Haskins’ 4,831 single-season passing yards record — not by any lack of talent on their own, but simply because that year’s Ohio State team could not run the ball to save its life, and I would hope McCord/Brown aren’t asked to shoulder that sort of load this year. J.K. Dobbins’ single-season rushing record of 2,003 yards will be tough to beat as well, both because its an impressive number and because I don’t trust this offensive line.
The obvious guy I looked to first for any sort of potential record-breaking is Marvin Harrison Jr., who is an absolute freak of nature who should be capable of doing big things in 2023 ahead of being the first wide receiver off the board in the 2024 NFL Draft. Still, even as the top dog at the position, Brian Hartlines room might be too loaded for Harrison Jr. to break either of Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s single-season records of 95 receptions or 1,606 receiving yards.
I do, however, think there is one record that Harrison Jr. is capable of breaking even with all the talent around him — albeit a bit more specific. I think Harrison Jr. could potential break the single-season record for most 100-yard receiving games, which is currently owned by David Boston with nine. If Ohio State plays 15 games — in an ideal world — I think Harrison Jr. could actually do this rather easily.
In a season where the Buckeyes played 13 games, missing the Big Ten Championship Game and coming just shy of playing in the national title game, Harrison put up seven 100-yard games. His biggest performance (yardage wise) of the year came against Penn State, wherein he hauled in 10 passes for 185 yards. It was one yard greater than his seven-catch, 184-yard performance against Arkansas State, where he also added three touchdowns to the ledger. Harrison Jr. eclipsed 120 yards in a game on five separate occasions, and even passed the century mark in the Peach Bowl against Georgia.
If McCord ends up winning the quarterback job, which would be the odds-on favorite at this point, he and Harrison Jr. have built-in chemistry as former high school teammates. The wide receiver room is loaded, but Harrison Jr. is the best guy in the room and a dependable safety blanket for a new starting quarterback that has plenty of experience throwing him the rock. At 6-foot-4, he’s a pretty easy target to hit, and he is open more often than not even despite the double teams and extra attention thrown at him.
I could easily see Harrison Jr. putting up 10-plus 100-yard games this season. I also dont think its too far-fetched to believe he could break Terry Glenn’s record of 17 touchdown receptions in a single season, as Harrison Jr. came awfully close last year with 14 TDs even without a B1G title game or national title game to play in. At a program that has had superstar after superstar take the field at wide receiver, Harrison Jr. has a chance to put his name in the record books as one of the best of the best.