Earlier in the week I gave a few of my final thoughts on the Ohio State defense from what I had seen of them this spring. Now it's time to do the same thing for the offense.
Final Spring Thoughts on the Offense
By Tony Gerdeman
Unfortunately, there are so many more unknowns regarding the offense that my probability of being wrong is as high as ever.
So no, in reality, nothing has changed.
Ceilings, Basements, and Everything In Between
Right now the comfortable assumption is that Joe Bauserman will start at quarterback against Akron on September 3rd.
Jim Tressel is a conservative guy and most view Bauserman as the safest choice. He knows the offense and has played more than the other three candidates, so it's not an outrageous thought.
Photo by Jim Davidson
But from what I saw this spring, Bauserman did anything but solidify his spot as the Buckeyes' number one quarterback.
I'm not saying it shouldn't be him, I'm just saying I saw enough from all four quarterbacks to know that this thing won't be settled anytime soon, and it probably won't even be settled when the season starts.
Sometimes the safest choice is the guy with the highest basement, rather than the guy with the highest ceiling. After all, the defense should be fine, and the running game looks promising. As long as the quarterback doesn't screw anything up, the Buckeyes could certainly come out of this five-game stretch undefeated.
But what happens when the guy with the highest basement also has the lowest ceiling? The reason he is the "safe choice" is because they know exactly what they are going to get from him, and they can prepare accordingly.
Think of it as a crawl space. There's really no mystery as to what you can fit in there, as opposed to a basement, where you can store everything - but not know where any of it is immediately off-hand.
Joe Bauserman is the known entity. Braxton Miller, Taylor Graham and Kenny Guiton are the unknown entities, but 29 more practices this summer will greatly reduce the mystery.
So do you go with the guy who has the highest basement, but also the lowest ceiling? Or do you go with the guy who has a higher ceiling, but also might have a secret sub-basement or two?
The summer workouts will determine how deep those basements go. They already have a pretty good idea about the ceilings, because that's why they were recruited in the first place.
The only thing we really know for a certainty right now is that we don't yet know everything. Joe Bauserman may very well start the opener this season, but the job has been far from won.
They Were There All Along
Much of the talk this spring was about running backs Jaamal Berry and Rod Smith, and I know that I did my share of it.
We saw flashes of Berry last year, and he was always productive and constantly on the verge of a big play. Yet his touches were limited in 2010.
Photo by Jim Davidson
We all expect that to be different in 2011with the suspension of Boom Herron. It is assumed that Berry's carries are going to be greatly increased in 2011.
The fact that he didn't disappoint through the bulk of the spring only fanned the flames of anticipation.
Rod Smith, as I have said before, grows more legendary by the day. Nine months from his first actual carry as a Buckeye, don't be surprised if you see a baby boom in Ohio.
The biggest complaint people have had with Smith is that they're not sure if he is more reminiscent of Eddie George, Beanie Wells or Robert Smith.
Nothing I saw this spring makes me think the excitement that these two players have generated is unwarranted. However, given the way the spring closed, I think many of us have forgotten just how good Boom Herron and Jordan Hall are.
The second half of the Big Ten schedule last year saw Herron average 137 yards rushing per game. This spring he was consistently the best back on the team, but his five-game suspension has basically made him the forgotten man, or at least the "disregarded man".
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jordan Hall, splitting time between tailback, slot receiver, and returner extraordinaire, was expected to see a diminished role carrying the ball this upcoming season because of his busy schedule. After seeing him in the Spring Game, you have to wonder if a team looking for an offensive identity can afford to not make him a part of it.
Jaamal Berry and Rod Smith are going to be fantastic players, but that doesn't mean there aren't already fantastic players in front of them.
I don't know if Boom Herron is going to simply step back into the starting role he's accustomed to when he returns, but I absolutely know there's a role waiting for him on this team when he comes back, and Jordan Hall may well turn out to be the offense's Most Valuable Player when the season is over.
Not bad for a couple of players that many are looking past in order to see what else is new.
There's a Problem With the Reception
Other than the situation at quarterback, the extreme lack of proven receivers for the Buckeyes has been "Hot Topic 1b".
It would be one thing if those unproven receivers had caught everything thrown their way this spring, or even 80% of everything.
Granted, that may have in fact happened, but that would mean that they caught every single pass that the media never saw, because they absolutely dropped a ton while we were watching.
Fortunately, they did better during the Spring Game when there were actually people in the seats, so maybe shaky hands are solidified by having spectators.
Despite the worries, there are some very promising young receivers on this Buckeye team. Philly Brown got time as a freshman last season, and finished with eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. You might scoff, but that's actually an above-average finish for a Buckeye freshman receiver.
If it weren't for Brown's drops, there'd be very few people doubting that he would be taking the next step this season.
Unfortunately, drops are kind of serious. That's one of the reasons redshirt freshmen Verlon Reed and T.Y. Williams have a cautious pessimism attached to them at the moment.
Photo by Dan Harker
Reed is still learning the position, but improved as the spring went on. Williams is getting less raw by the week, and needs to stop letting everything else get in the way of him simply catching the ball.
Chris Fields had three receptions as a redshirt freshman himself last year, and that followed a fantastic spring and summer.
That doesn't really bode well for four second-year receivers (James Louis being the fourth) who have yet to look as good as Fields in practice, yet will be relied upon just as much as he is.
Despite the dreary tone, however, these are still receivers. They catch footballs just about every day of their lives. It's what they do, so even though they've all battled with consistency in practice, that doesn't mean that those battles will continue.
The process is on-going for each of them. They just need their natural abilities to start extending to their hands a little bit more.
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