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Bold Prediction: Ohio State will block six or more kicks in 2023

I think the Buckeyes will get after it on special teams this season.

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

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 making predictions that may or may not be reasonable, in fact, some might say they are bold. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”Bold Predictions” articles here.

It’s hard to believe, but here we are in our final “theme week” of the 2023 offseason. We’ve been tasked with making a bold prediction. Sometimes you can make a bold prediction based on what has come before and projecting what might happen based on those past performances. I tried to do that last season by suggesting Jaxon Smith-Njigba would win the Heisman Trophy, but that didn’t work out too well as JSN suffered through a season plagued with injuries.

This year, I’m not going with numbers or trying to project some kind of forecast. I’m just going with my gut, because it can’t be any dumber than my brain. So here goes...

Ohio State will block at least six kicks in 2023. I think at least three of those will be punts, so look for the Buckeyes to block a minimum of six combined punts, field goals, and PATs this upcoming season.

Parker Fleming’s special teams unit blocked two punts in 2022, which tied the Buckeyes for 14th place in the country in that category. Ohio State also blocked two kicks last season. That was tied for 36th in the nation. The Buckeyes got close a number of other times, both on field goals and punts, which makes me think that they’re going to start paying off some more of those opportunities in 2023. (Yes, I know I said I was going with my gut rather than stats, but that doesn’t mean I can’t throw some in.)

Based on blocking four a year ago, perhaps six doesn’t seem like that bold of a prediction. That’s especially true when you consider that four teams — Notre Dame, Central Michigan, Middle Tennessee, and South Carolina — blocked six or more kicks (sans punts) alone. The Irish also blocked seven punts a year ago. South Carolina blocked five punts, and Middle Tennessee and Central Michigan each blocked four punts. That means those particular four teams were dialed in on special teams.

But that’s not normal. Most teams get one or two of each per season or are better at blocking one type of kick than they are at the other.

Ohio State has fast, athletic, hungry players on special teams. It should be expected that they get to a few every season. But to block at least three punts and six total kicks will require an improvement on special teams under Fleming. It’s certainly possible to improve by that much when you’re talking about the talent Ohio State has available. It’s a place were players can make their mark and earn more snaps at their preferred positions.

Sevyn Banks is a player who made his mark previously as a special teams player. Lathan Ransom managed to block a pair of kicks last year, so he might be the guy to watch, or at least to lead that category. Young defensive backs and receivers are the most likely candidates to get to the ball before it’s kicked past the line of scrimmage, and Ohio State has no shortage of those.

If six blocks is not that bold of a prediction, how about Ransom getting four of them? I think that’ll make this take sufficiently spicy, and we’ll check back at the end of the season to see how I did.