Ohio State football practice is now underway. Before you know it, you’ll be putting off Saturday mowing and doing it on Sunday during the Browns games instead.
We have already gone through 80 things to look forward to this Buckeye football season, which is a lot. You might think that there is nothing else to look forward to, but you would be wrong. There is still so, so much more to get excited about.
What are we not looking forward to, however? Writing two final introductions.
Why don’t just get to the content?
20. Quarterback consistency.
Dare to dream, right? J.T. Barrett has tons of experience and great numbers for an Ohio State quarterback, but he finished the season with 337 yards passing total over the Buckeyes’ final three games last year. Averaging 337 yards over the final three games should be the more likely outcome this season. More than anything else, Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day will attempt to bring consistency to the offense, which means yards and points against the best defenses the Buckeyes face. Anything less than that would be a disappointment.
19. Wyatt Davis living up to the hype.
Wyatt Davis didn’t have a great start to fall practice, having to repeat the first drill I saw him do on Thursday. It reminded me of another 5-star player making his OSU practice debut four years ago. It was Joey Bosa and his first hour of practice was not going very well. Defensive line coach Mike Vrabel reminded him several times that this was no longer St. Thomas Aquinas. Bosa turned out pretty good. Wyatt Davis still has a long way to go, but once he gets his footing, he might just keep it.
18. Seeing if Haskell Garrett can get into the rotation.
If ability to run in the sand well is any indicator of future results, then freshman defensive tackle Haskell Garrett looks like he’s going to be a good one. He moved well in the sandpit in the little bit that I saw. It is still going to be very difficult for him to break into a defensive tackle rotation that is already seven or eight deep with Jashon Cornell, Robert Landers, Malik Barrow, Dre’Mont Jones, Davon Hamilton, Mike Hill, Tracy Sprinkle, and Dylan Thompson. Thompson isn’t yet back on scholarship, but after a career full of injuries and academic difficulties, they have to be keeping him around for some reason, right?
17. Young players making a name on special teams.
Urban Meyer always says that you’re not going to see time on offense or defense until you contribute on special teams, which means there are going to be a number of young players earning their stripes in the kicking game this season. Meyer loves talking about how the gunner on punts is one of the premier positions a Buckeye can play, so it will be interesting to see if any of these fast skill players can get involved there. Terry McClaurin and Parris Campbell did very well in kick coverage last year. Devin Smith was an all-time great in punt coverage in 2014. Who steps up in 2017 to earn Meyer’s praise on a random Monday press conference this season?
16. The Bye Week.
Is there anything better than the bye week? No Ohio State game for you to write about. No early mornings driving through game traffic on 315. No 16-hour Saturdays to cover just one game, or eight-hour car ride back home. No night games that get you back to a hotel at 4 in the morning that you then have to leave by 9 in the morning just so you can get home at a decent hour on Sunday. So peaceful. Just you, a couch, and 14 hours of football that you only have to watch. Sigh. You’re probably getting weepy just thinking about it right now, aren’t you? Everybody loves bye weeks.
15. Davon Hamilton continuing his growth into a dominating defensive tackle.
While everyone is understandably focused on the Rushmen, or the continued advancement of Dre’Mont Jones, or the return of Tracy Sprinkle, don’t forget about redshirt sophomore Davon Hamilton. Hamilton had some very good moments last year as a redshirt freshman and is due for many more good moments in 2017. You will probably see him more at nose tackle than you did a year ago, but he brings some playmaking ability to a position that doesn’t usually have it. Just watch.
14. An offense that can throw a screen pass to a running back.
This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the last successful screen pass thrown to an Ohio State running back. It was back on November 15, 1997. Stanley Jackson dropped back on third-and-5 and dumped a perfect pass to fullback Matt Keller, who then rumbled 22 yards for a first down. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no guarantees that this is going to happen, nor have I spoken to anybody who is even talking about it, but you have to assume this offense will at least be capable of it, right?
13. The Buckeye defense chasing the Army triple option.
It’s always fun watching fast linebackers defending the triple option, especially when the pitchman gets involved. When the Buckeyes host Army, you’ll get to see Dante Booker, Chris Worley, and Jerome Baker running from sideline to sideline. And then when the Army quarterback pitches the ball, you’ll likely be seeing a safety coming in to either clean everything up, or whiff and be the cause for a sizable gain. Playing against the triple option does no good for the Buckeyes. It takes them out of their normal preparation and puts them at risk for injury. Like when Rocky Balboa agreed to fight Thunderlips. Yeah, it was a good show, but it put his championship in jeopardy.
12. Rashan Gary vs. Jamarco Jones.
Come on, you know you’re looking forward to this one. This is up there with last year’s matchup between Jabrill Peppers and Curtis Samuel. Wait…that one wasn’t very competitive. This one should be much more interesting than that one. Rashan Gary will receive more attention than anybody else on Michigan’s defense, and Jamarco Jones will have an opportunity to put that attention inside a birdcage and then throw a blanket over it for the night.
11. And any of eight different Buckeye defensive ends against Mason Cole.
Michigan offensive lineman Mason Cole began his career at left tackle before moving to center, but he is back outside now and will be matched up against a relentless rotation of ransackers when the Buckeyes come to town. If the Wolverines are going to defend their turf successfully and come away with a win, Cole will need to be a constant roadblock. As quarterback Wilton Speight showed a year ago, it only takes a couple of successful pass rushes for him to make a bad, bad throw. The Buckeye defensive ends will stay fresh. Will Cole?