Around the-Ozone Water Cooler - How Has This Season Differed From What You Expected at the Beginning of the Year and Why?
By the-Ozone Staff
Tony Gerdeman: We knew that this season wasn't going to be normal, and though the Buckeyes may ultimately wind up with a fairly normal record, their path taken to get there would be anything but.
Since the spring players and coaches talked about dealing with adversity, how everything they had been through would prepare them for the season. Losing their coach, their teammates, having their reputation dragged through the mud, all of it would be fuel on the fire.
We were told that the stress of the season would be like a distant cry in the night—hardly even noticeable. Then in week two, when Miami went up 14-0 in the first quarter, and suddenly the Buckeyes had run into an adversity that so disabled them that they had no response.
How has this season differed from what I expected at the beginning of the year? Gosh, I don't know. I guess I expected that a little on-field adversity wouldn't incapacitate this team so completely after just one quarter of play. I thought maybe all that talk about handling adversity meant that they would actually be able to handle adversity.
There's a difference between a lack of talent and an inability to handle adversity. The Ohio State offense was facing a lack of talent against Miami, so it's understandable that they couldn't outscore the Hurricanes, but that wasn't the case against Nebraska. Faced with more adversity against the Huskers, not even a 21-point cushion was enough to get them through a rough spot.
The Buckeyes have lost three games to teams that any other Ohio State team would have beaten, and for me, that's what has been most shocking.
I do believe that the first half of the season will help prepare them for any further adversity that they will face from here on out, but as we've clearly seen, preparing for adversity and handling adversity are two very different things. One is much, much harder than the other.
Scott Dame: I underestimated the loss of Jim Tressel from the beginning.
Before the beginning of the season, I expected OSU to be 5-2 at worst at this point, with a probable loss at Nebraska, a slight chance of a loss at Miami and a 50/50 chance of getting past Michigan State.
I think the top reason for the lackluster first half of a season has been the coaching staff’s failure to develop any semblance of adequate quarterback play. There are plenty of extenuating circumstances that have made the situation difficult on the coaches, such as the departure of Terrelle Pryor, the suspensions of DeVier Posey, Boom Herron and Mike Adams (among others), and the injury to Philly Brown. But despite all that adversity, it should never be acceptable for Ohio State to be ranked No. 108 of the 120 FBS teams in total offense with an average of under 303 yards per game.
By way of comparison, the Buckeyes average 96 fewer yards per game than the FBS average, which is 399 yards per game. Further, the Buckeyes trail Houston, the top-ranked FBS offense, by almost 301 yards per game. The Cougars’ competition might not have been stellar, but they’re still producing twice the yardage of the Ohio State offense.
The Buckeyes average only 4.84 yards per play, which is nearly a full yard per play fewer than the FBS average of 5.68 and approximately 3 full yards per play fewer than the FBS leader in this stat, which happens to be Wisconsin, at 7.77 yards per play.
The passing stats are even more pathetic. OSU averages fewer than 128 yards per game; only nine FBS teams are worse.
Even when you take into consideration the loss of the suspended and injured offensive players, the Buckeyes just do not execute well enough on offense to win consistently. I believe this can be directly attributed to the inability of this coaching staff to overcome the loss of Jim Tressel. This is the reason the season has been a disappointment to this point.
Brandon Castel: How anyone answers this question will depend largely on what their own expectations were before the start of the season. That is both obvious and critical. Very rarely in Ohio State history have opinions varied so vastly across the board.
From an overarching standpoint, I wouldn’t say this year has been extraordinarily different than what I expected before the season-opener. Considering everything the Buckeyes went through during the off-season—not to mention all of their inexperience on both sides of the ball—it didn’t make much sense to expect another 10 or 11 win regular season.
That may not have sat well with some readers before the season, but it was easy to see that this team would struggle offensively without three of their key starters and with a new quarterback running the show.
Many disagreed with my official prediction of a 9-3 season—which is still possible—but this team had a lot to overcome and a lot stacked against them, including a tough 8-game stretch to start the season.
It seemed reasonable to think they could get out to a 5-2 start in their first seven games, and they would be without a 21-point collapse in the second half of the Nebraska game. If Ohio State had found a way to win that game, people would probably feel a lot different this team.
I personally didn’t expect them to go into Lincoln and win at Memorial Stadium in their first try, but I also didn’t think they would lose both games to Miami (Fla.) and Michigan State. It just seemed like this team always found a way to squeak out a victory somewhere, but maybe that was more Jim Tressel than anything else.
The one real surprising thing about this season is not that they lost three games, but the manner of those three losses. I thought they would struggle offensively, but I didn’t expect to see total ineptitude like we saw in the first two losses. I also didn’t expect to see a team come unraveled like they did against the Cornhuskers.
That being said, this team can right the ship and get back on track with a victory over Wisconsin next Saturday. Then again, I wouldn’t have expected that at the start of the year either.
John Porentas This is actually a tough question, because for me, there are two different approaches to the answer.
When considering this season I find myself looking at two completely different aspects of the program, the on-filed aspect and the off-field aspect.
Off the field, this season has been a series of shockers with one surprise after another, all of them bad. I have not been accustomed to that in my years of following the Buckeyes, but sadly, suddenly I am. That is certainly something I never expected that to happen. Once the season began I really expected the off-field crap to end until the NCAA made its announcement on the original violations. Instead we have been treated to additional suspensions and additional blunders by administrators that have left me shaking my head.
On the field, it's a mixed bag. I expected the Buckeyes to miss Terrelle Pryor sorely and they have. I did not expect Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller to be as ineffective as they have been. Bauserman teased us with a decent game against Akron, then reality caught up with him. Miller has made plays with his legs but has been too prone to turnovers and has been marginally effective at best in the overall passing game . I didn't expect either Bauserman or Miller to be great, but I expected more than they have shown.
The same is true of the wide receivers. I didn't expect anyone to step up and make us forget about DeVier Posey or Dane Sanzenbacher, but I did expect more production in the passing game, and some of what is lacking can be laid at the doorstep of wide receivers who at times have trouble getting off the line scrimmage, at times don't read defenses, and at times can't shake defenders. It doesn't matter how great your hands are if you can't do those other three things, especially in a season when the quarterbacks are inexperienced.
I expected the offensive line and tight ends to be good, and they have been, especially since the return of Mike Adams. Jake Stoneburner and the tight ends have lived up to or exceeded expectation.
I did think the running backs would be better, but the return of Boom Herron has been a real positive as has the development of Carlos Hyde. Herron delivered the minute he stepped on the field, and Hyde has gotten better game by game. Hall has been about what I expected as a running back, but has disappointed some in what I assumed would be his role as a home run hitter. A little of that can be put on the doorstep of the ineffective passing game since I expected to see him produce as a receiver as well as a runner. I expected Boren to be very good. He is actually better than I expected. The lack of production from Rod Smith and Jaamal Berry has been disappointing.
The defense has been very good at times, but has been inconsistent. I expected it to be good, but did not expect the inconsistency. One bad quarter (the first) against Miami and another bad quarter (the fourth) against Nebraska have been huge factors in two of the three losses.
I've been pleasantly surprised by the play of the young defensive backs. Going into the season I thought the DBs might be vulnerable, but the young guys, particularly Roby, have been a real plus.
The linebackers have been about as I expected. I thought the defense would get more production out of Tyler Moeller, but his lack of production has been more a function of matchups and weakness at the other linebacker positions that any failing on his part. I expected the linebacking to be better in the second half of the season now that guys like Sabino and Klein have been on the field some. We'll see how that works out.
Up front, I thought the young defensive line would be effective and would improve throughout the season. They have actually been more effective than I thought they would be in the early going, so that's a bit of a surprise on the upside.
I am not surprised by the coaching, though I am a bit pleasantly surprised by Luke Fickell.
I've always had faith Jim Jim Heacock, and he and his entire defensive coaching staff have delivered. Heacock's defenses have always been sound and have improved as the season goes on. I see that in this year's squad. The inconsistencies in the defense have been more a function of inexperience on the field than coaching. You just can't coach experience no matter how hard you try.
Offensively, I've always thought that the only one that could make Tresselball work was Jim Tressel. That has proven to be true. I expected that the offensive staff would have to grope for an offensive identity as they tried to find out what the Buckeyes could do or not do on game days, and that has also happened. I also think that that process has been complicated by the lack of progress in the passing game. I have trouble finding a quarterback or receiver that has progressed the way that Carlos Hyde has progressed as a runner, Roby as a defender, Mewhort and Linsley at linemen, or Klein as a linebacker. I think the coaches have been waiting for the light to go on for players at QB and WR, but that just hasn't happened.
On a trip to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl one year I ran into former OSU coach and offensive coordinator Chuck Stobart. Stobart had been retired several years by then and we began to swap war stories as we watched the Buckeyes practice. He shared with me that in his 40+ years as a coach he had had two quarterbacks that he called coach killers. They were players who looked good in practice but simply could not get it done at game time. One of those was a quarterback he had had at Tulsa whose name escapes me, the other was Steve Bellisari.
Stobart said it was extremely difficult to know whether to give up on those players or hope the light would go on like it does so very often for inexperienced players. I think the current coaching staff has had that problem at quarterback and wide receiver, and that has left them at times looking pretty foolish. The combination of inheriting a Tresselball offense without Tressel along with complete unknowns at quarterback has made coaching the offense a miserable task.
Luke Fickell has done OK. I've been a bit critical of him for not making an offensive hire instead of hiring Vrabel, but as I think it through, the idea of revamping the offensive staff (and the offense) on short notice is just not reasonable. I have been impressed with his ability to hold the team together after the losses and rally them at Illinois. He has half a season left to continue that trend, and I find myself a little surprised to now be thinking that he can pull that off.
Wow. That was way too long. Editor! Editor! Tighten this up!
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