Monday Morning Hangover: Whatever It Takes
By Brandon Castel
When we asked Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman whether he was worried about Braxton Miller’s durability on Saturday, he brushed it off. Not because he didn’t respect the question, but he honestly seems to believe Miller can handle all the wear and tear his body has been taking this season.
Photo by Dan Harker
“He’s a tough kid. Some of those were misreads by him that shouldn’t have been carries to begin with,” Herman explained.
“When the QB is on the perimeter, especially one as elusive as him – knock on wood – that’s not really a big injury area. He’s going to get banged, going to get hit and he’s going to feel it in the morning, but when you get him out in space he’s got a chance to avoid some of those hits.”
What Herman is trying to say is that Ohio State is going to run Miller as much as they need to run him in order to win games. Whatever it takes each week to ensure victory will be the right amount of carries for this team.
They just have to believe Miller can handle some the hits he takes, and hope that he can learn to give up the football on some of the read plays instead of taking unnecessary hits that aren’t really helping them win the game.
More Points to Ponder
Fragel saves the day. It might go down as the biggest play that nobody is talking about from Saturday’s win over Michigan State. The Buckeyes had very narrow 7-3 lead for MSU early the first quarter when wideout Corey Brown caught a pass at the OSU 31-yard line. He made it out to the 34 before he was tripped up by safety Jairus Jones, but on his way to the ground, the ball popped loose. It was laying there on the grass for anyone to pounce on, but OSU right tackle Reid Fragel had the wherewithal – not to mention ball skills from his days as a tight end – to dive on the loose football and prevent what could have been a disastrous turnover. Fragel was also involved – along with Zach Boren – in the big block for Carlos Hyde on third down on OSU’s final drive to put the game away.
Bennett makes his return. He didn’t play all that much, probably only 15 plays or so on Saturday against Michigan State, but it was good to see Michael Bennett back on the football field. Groin injuries have a tendency to linger for weeks and weeks, so I was still skeptical that they would let him jump back in there and risk re-injuring the groin, but it looks like he’s ready to go. He was still a little rusty, I’m sure, after missing the first month of the season – not to mention a good chunk of fall camp – but Bennett could be an important guy on the D-line. He will let them rest Nathan Williams and maybe even John Simon because he can rush the passer or play the run. He can also play inside if they need him to, but right now they seem to like that rotation inside with Hankins, Goebel, Schutt, Hale and Washington.
Curtis Grant falling fast. One guy who didn’t help them on defense Saturday was sophomore linebacker Curtis Grant. He did play on special teams, and actually recovered the blocked punt by Bradley Roby, but this kid was supposed to be their starting middle linebacker. Not only has he been supplanted by senior Storm Klein – who wasn’t on the team a month ago – but now it looks like freshman Camren Williams is the No. 2 Mike linebacker. He’s been taking the second-team reps during warmups, and Grant was actually playing Sam (strongside) linebacker with the second group during warmups on Saturday. That’s not good news for Grant, who was a guy Meyer believed was critical to this defense’s success in 2012.
Where is Stoneburner? I realize it’s not Braxton Miller’s job to make sure Jake Stoneburner gets the football, but where has this guy disappeared to over the last couple weeks? Since catching a pair of touchdowns against Cal in week three, Stoneburner has exactly zero catches in the last two games. It looked like he was open a couple different times against MSU on Saturday, but Miller is not finding his 6-5 tight end, or wide receiver, whatever he is these days. Hopefully for Jake’s sake, it’s not similar to what happened last year, where he caught four touchdowns in the first two games and then only six passes the rest of the year.
Michael Thomas getting some PT. One reason Stoneburner may not have seen as many reps on Saturday was the addition of freshman Michael Thomas to the wideout rotation. Best I can tell, this was the first time Thomas has really been a big part of the WR rotation for Tom Herman and Zach Smith. Maybe that means he is finally earning their trust, because we have not heard very much about him since his strong debut in the spring.
Time for Bryant to be a Star. Watching them bring Christian Bryant down into the box to slow down Le’Veon Bell Saturday just confirmed my belief that Bryant should be playing the ‘star’ position when they go to nickel. Maybe they don’t want to switch him back and forth, but this team either needs a big hitter like Bryant at star or they need to get Doran Grant out there as a third corner. In my opinion, he is one of their best 11 right now.
Credit where credit is due. Another big reason I like Bryant at Star is the strong play of Orhian Johnson on the back end of the defense. To me, he is much more of a ‘play centerfield and make sure nothing gets behind you’ type safety than Bryant. With C.J. Barnett still battling an ankle, Johnson made a handful of big plays on the back end Saturday. The Buckeyes also got a good game out of linebacker Etienne Sabino, who had struggled in those nonconference games against the screen passes.
Martinez worries me a lot more than Bell. What the Buckeyes did Saturday against Bell was impressive, but I would be much more concerned about Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez this week. With Hankins and Goebel inside, this defense really is built to stop the power run game, but it will be interesting to see how they handle Martinez and Rex Burkhead in the open field this week.
Don’t fall asleep on kick coverage. Speaking of open field, is anyone else a little bit concerned about the kick coverage team? It’s been much better than last year, but I’m not sure Meyer and his staff are drawing up these coverage schemes with Drew Basil as the designated tackler. To his credit, he’s done a great job, but they need to get more guys around the football.
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