The Buckeyes are still the top candidate to win the new 12-team Big Ten.
By: Athlon Sports | 5/24/11, 1:00 AM EDT
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#9 Ohio State
Big Ten Leaders PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Luke Fickell, 0-0 (First year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jim Bollman | DEF. COORDINATOR: Paul Haynes, Jim Heacock
Technically, the offense returns six starters, but questions abound for this unit, especially considering the team’s 1,000-yard rusher (Dan Herron), top returning receiver (DeVier Posey) and best blocker (Mike Adams) all are slated to miss the first five games of the season because of an NCAA-imposed suspension.
Terrelle Pryor was expected to miss the first five games of 2011, but decided in early June to leave the team. The coaches could opt for weathered backup Joe Bauserman, hot shot freshman Braxton Miller, pocket passer Taylor Graham or dual-threat Kenny Guiton as the starter. The quartet will compete for the job well into fall camp.
“They all have their days,” tailback Jordan Hall says. “Some days some look better than the others, but they’re all working.”
Hall could lead the Buckeyes in rushing attempts, but the depth behind him is abundant. Jaamal Berry is ready to contribute regularly, and redshirt freshman Rod Smith appears poised to take over as the team grinder with Herron out.
Up front, Mike Brewster is the centerpiece. He’ll be flanked by physical, developing players who are more athletic than past OSU linemen. Tight end Jake Stoneburner also helps in the trenches, but he should be a more viable receiving option this season given the cast of no-names after Posey at wideout.
Ohio State will still win the Big Ten without Terrelle Pryor and Jim Tressel.
Even with a relatively unproven defensive group, the coaches like the depth and athleticism on this side of the ball and believe the Buckeyes can improve on the totals of 23 sacks and 30 takeaways recorded last season.
Nate Williams and John Simon give the Buckeyes a pair of highly active and disruptive defensive linemen, and young Johnathan Hankins excels at plugging up the middle. Andrew Sweat and Etienne Sabino lead the linebacking corps and should lead the team in tackles.
The secondary typifies the whole defense — raw, athletically gifted and hungry. Travis Howard assumes the role of OSU’s top cover corner, and Tyler Moeller and Christian Bryant are playmakers. Safety is a bit of a concern, though, with Orhian Johnson and C.J. Barnett yet to put together a full season of consistent production.
Mike Brewster, C A legit All-America candidate, he’ll be called on to help lead the offense.
John Simon, DL A team strongman who has developed into an all-around force up front.
Daniel Herron, RB Suspended the first five games, but offense will rely heavily on his production when he gets back in the lineup.
|Sept. 17th||at Miami|
|Oct. 1st||Michigan State|
|Oct. 8th||at Nebraska|
|Oct. 15th||at Illinois|
|Nov. 12th||at Purdue|
|Nov. 19th||Penn State|
|Nov. 26th||at Michigan|
Once again, Ohio State will have a new placekicker. Once again, the Buckeyes should be productive from this spot. This time the top leg belongs to Drew Basil, who already has proven his worth on kickoffs. Ben Buchanan is back at punter and needs to improve on a rather weak average of 41.0 yards per kick. The return game was middling last season, and kick protection and coverage units were dreadful, which simply can’t continue.
This is a mystery team, to be sure, as some key players won’t be available on game day until Oct. 8 — and that’s when the Buckeyes visit Big Ten-newcomer Nebraska. Not to mention, there's a new coach (Luke Fickell) with Jim Tressel's resignation. How will the Buckeyes respond to the changes and distractions surrounding the program? Who Fickel will tab to run the offense is up in the air, and the wide receiver spot is, quite frankly, a mess.
Look for the Buckeyes to once again rely on an aggressive defense, work to get more consistent results on special teams and hope to find some sort of offensive identity by the time they travel to Miami (Fla.) in Week 3. The passing game could be pedestrian, but there is quality depth in the backfield. And OSU may finally have a versatile offensive line that can open holes in and out of the box.
Are the Buckeyes a BCS bowl team? It’s possible, even with all of the off-the-field drama. This is still Ohio State — it’s not as if the cupboard is bare.