The Buckeyes could be the Big Ten's best team in 2012.
By: Athlon Sports | 5/29/12, 5:59 AM EDT
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#6 Ohio State
Big 10 Leaders PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Urban Meyer, (First Season) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Tom Herman, Ed Warinner | DEF. COORDINATOR: Luke Fickell, Everett Withers
Urban Meyer wants to unleash a highly aggressive version of his spread on the Big Ten, and he has tabbed young innovator Tom Herman as his new offensive coordinator. Look for the Buckeyes to challenge defenses vertically as well as horizontally with Braxton Miller doing his best Denard Robinson impersonation. Miller led the team in passing and rushing last season after wresting the quarterback job from Joe Bauserman, and his upside remains lofty. Kenny Guiton provides OSU with a legitimate backup with a similar skill set.
The running game should be formidable with a focused Carlos Hyde getting help from Rod Smith and true freshman Bri’onte Dunn. Also, Jordan Hall will fill the so-called Percy Harvin role as a ball-carrier and receiving threat who can split out wide.
Hall and tight end Jake Stoneburner should aid a developing passing game that Meyer dubbed the worst in the nation a year ago. Wideout Philly Brown finally is showing some polish, and freshman Mike Thomas emerged in the spring. Devin Smith has big-play capability but is just a green sophomore.
The offensive line is thin and will miss Mike Adams and Mike Brewster. Still, Jack Mewhort is ready to man the left tackle spot, Corey Linsley is a natural fit at center, and Andrew Norwell should continue to develop at guard. Plus, the Buckeyes are blessed with one of the best blocking fullbacks in the country in senior Zach Boren.
Will Ohio State Have the Best Record in Big Ten?
Shutting down the run and then going on the attack is Luke Fickell’s approach, and it has served Ohio State well over the years. Longtime co-coordinator Jim Heacock is gone, but Fickell has plenty of chess pieces.
Last season, the Buckeyes were relatively slow at linebacker, and the back end of the defense sometimes got caught out of position at key moments. Those problems are being addressed and, moving forward, can be overcome by the presence of one of the nation’s best defensive lines.
Defensive end John Simon and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins are potential All-Americans, and there is a plethora of experience to join them up front. Active defensive end Nathan Williams is poised for a big season provided he can recover from a nasty knee injury. Plus, OSU’s top-10 signing class is headlined by several top-flight defensive linemen, including 5-star prospects Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington. They didn’t come to Columbus to sit on the bench.
Etienne Sabino will try to steady a linebacking corps that also features athletic marvel Ryan Shazier. The secondary returns five players with starting experience, most notably outstanding cover corners Bradley Roby and Travis Howard.
Michael Brewster, OC
The four-year starter was the leader of the offensive line for the majority of his career, capping his decorated career as the 2011 co-Jim Parker Award winner given to the team’s most outstanding offensive lineman.
Braxton Miller, QB The sky is still the limit for this mega-talent, and the coaches believe he’s a perfect fit for the spread.
John Simon, DE His will, strength and quickness make him a nearly unstoppable force, especially on the outside.
Bradley Roby, CB Perhaps the Big Ten’s best all-around corner and a huge key to the success of the defense.
|Sept. 1st||Miami (OH)|
|Sept. 29th||at Michigan State|
|Oct. 13th||at Indiana|
|Oct. 27th||at Penn State|
|Nov. 17th||at Wisconsin|
The kicking game should be in good shape with Drew Basil back to handle placements while Ben Buchanan logs his third season as the punter. Basil was 16-of-19 on field goals last year and didn’t miss a kick of less than 40 yards. Hall will be the featured return man, and OSU has plenty of hungry athletes to play on the coverage units.
NCAA sanctions will prevent the Buckeyes from playing in the Big Ten Championship Game or going to a bowl, but it’s clear Meyer wants to lay the groundwork for Ohio State’s quick return to prominence. And he’s got the manpower and schedule (eight home games) to make it happen. It should be an interesting ride that will build to a climactic finish when Michigan pays a visit on Nov. 24.