3 Up, 3 Down Heading into UCF
By Brandon Castel
Since people here at The-Ozone are just creating new columns on a weekly basis (ahem, ahem, Mr. Ed), I decide to jump in on the fun with a piece that may or may not stick around for the rest of the season.
I’ll leave that up to you guys as to whether or not it’s worth continuing on a weekly basis, but here is the first edition of 3 Up, 3 Down – a piece that looks at the good and bad for Ohio State heading into this weekend’s game.
Three Reasons to Feel Good
1. WR’s making plays.
At least publically, Urban Meyer has been obsessing over his team’s ugly first quarter and Carlos Hyde’s failed touchdown run on the 1-yard line just before half. Looking at the bigger picture, however, Meyer has to be thrilled with what he saw from his outside skill position on Saturday.
Photo by Dan Harker
Not only did Devin Smith make the catch of a lifetime – at the most opportune moment, I might add – but a handful of other guys were also heavily involved in making plays. Tight end Nick Vannett had a few a catches and Jake Stoneburner probably would have scored a touchdown if Braxton Miller’s pass had hit him in stride.
Sophomore Evan Spencer made an incredible grab near the goal line with a defender draped all over him, and Corey “Philly” Brown set a career-high with seven catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.
This was hardly the 1985 Chicago Bears defense they were facing, but it was good to see a few different guys make plays in the first game of the season.
2. OT Reid Fragel played well.
One of the biggest concerns on the offensive side of the ball was the right tackle position, where Fragel had failed to win the starting job outright away from freshman Taylor Decker. That says a lot about Decker, but also a little bit about Fragel.
There was some uncertainty about starting the season with a guy who played tight end last year as the team’s starting right tackle. He’s an excellent point of attack run blocker, but Fragel is still learning the nuances of pass protection.
Even Meyer said they had four offensive linemen who were “game-ready” heading into the Miami contest, but Fragel exceeded expectations in week one. If it wasn’t for the false start, he probably would have graded a championship performance and Meyer said he has had one of his best week’s of practice leading up to the UCF game.
3. Sabino and Howard finally turning the corner.
Photo by Dan Harker
Another bright spot for the Buckeyes on the other side of the ball was the play of seniors Etienne Sabino and Travis Howard. The duo from Miami just so happen to be former high school teammates at Dr. Krop, and both guys have been underwhelming to this point in their respective careers.
We had heard a lot about Howard turning the corner with this new coaching staff, but it was still somewhat surprising to see him play at such a high level against Zach Dysert and the Redhawks. Howard snagged two interceptions and Sabino also played some good football in the opener.
Meyer seemed to think Sabino was their most consistent linebacker against Miami, and he is going to get a chance to play in the nickel defense alongside Ryan Shazier. Not many OSU fans would have expected much from these two before Meyer got to Columbus.
Three Reasons to Worry
1. Miscommunications in secondary too common.
The Buckeyes held Miami to just 10 points in the opener, but it very well could have been 21 or more, depending on the momentum swings. Dysert had a number of receivers drop passes in key moments for the Redhawks – including two potential touchdowns – but the most alarming part of the day for OSU’s defense was the two long passes it allowed in the first quarter.
According to Christian Bryant, there was a miscommunication in the secondary, which left Nick Harwell running uncovered down the left sideline. They eventually got it fixed, but this is a problem that dates back to last season. Remember, Luke Fickell is still coaching the defense, and this secondary had some serious issues with miscommunication a year ago.
It’s nothing to be alarmed about just yet, but certainly something to keep an eye on.
2. Too many carries for Braxton Miller.
Photo by Jim Davidson
If Braxton has to carry the ball 15-20 times to pull out a narrow victory over Michigan State or Wisconsin, then that’s what has to be done. Those are must-win games by any means necessary. Certainly Meyer is never going to put Miller in harm’s way, but they also can’t coddle him for the entire season.
That still doesn’t make it OK to run him 17 times in a 56-10 win over Miami.
There is no reason for Miller to take that many hits in a game that was over by halftime, and as if Meyer needed a reminder, Miller had to come out of the game in the second half. It was only cramps, but served as a reminder that Miller does have a history that’s worth considering.
He said he wasn’t sore on Sunday after rushing for 161 yards in the opener, but they need to make sure he’s only carrying the ball as many times as he absolutely needs to. Part of that is Miller needing to understand when to keep it and when to pitch it on the option play.
3. Bennett still hurting.
It was a huge emotional lift to have Nathan Williams on the field Saturday, but this defense really needs a healthy Michael Bennett. They didn’t want to play Williams 30 snaps against Miami, but Bennett re-tweaked his groin injury during pregame.
He won’t be available this week, which means the Buckeyes will need to roll with Williams, J.T. Moore, Steve Miller and Noah Spence opposite John Simon. Spence has the most upside in the group, but he’s young.
As long as Williams is healthy, they should be OK, but Meyer said he was pretty sore after playing all those plays in the opener. It would certainly help to have a healthy Michael Bennett to plug into the rotation at strongside defensive end.
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