Five for Friday: Biggest Surprises from the First Half of OSU's Season
by Tony Gerdeman
Even in a season where Ohio State was expected to be 6-0 at this point, that doesn't mean things have gone exactly as expected. Braxton Miller has missed time with injury, and Kenny Guiton stepped in seamlessly. Four different Buckeyes have led the team in rushing in OSU's six games this season, and none of them were Miller, who led the team with 1,271 yards rushing last season. The tight ends haven't been as involved as we expected, but then did we truly expect them to be?
And that's just the offense.
The loss of Christian Bryant was certainly a surprise, but doesn't really fit the tone of my meaning. The lack of big plays allowed has absolutely been a surprise. Even though you still aren't happy with Ohio State's tackling, there are only two teams who have allowed fewer runs of 10+ yards than the Buckeyes (Michigan State, Alabama).
However, there are a few surprises even bigger than the ones I've already mentioned, and I have listed them below.
Photo by Jim Davidson
1. Joey Bosa. While this list is not in any order, if it was, Joey Bosa would probably still be at the top. Urban Meyer said earlier in the week that nobody could have imagined that Bosa would end up a starter as a freshman, but here we are. Granted, that role as a starter came because of an injury to Adolphus Washington, but once Bosa was inserted, the defensive line has not come close to missing a beat. Don't forget, it was Bosa in the starting lineup against Wisconsin when the Buckeyes were stoning the Badgers. As Rob Ogden and I talked about on our podcast this week, if you take Ryan Shazier out of the equation, Joey Bosa might very well be the defensive MVP of the Buckeyes to this point. Meyer said that Bosa's future at Ohio State is kind of “silly”, and I think that's a very serious statement.
Photo by Dan Harker
2. No home runs from Dontre Wilson. Considering the way he started his career – with a couple of near misses – it's very surprising that Dontre Wilson's long run to this point is just 26 yards. Of course, not getting a single carry against Florida A&M has a little bit to do with this, but I'm not sure how much that game counts anyway. Wilson has touched the ball just six times over the last three games, and he's averaging nine yards per touch in that span, but the opportunities just haven't been as plentiful as I thought they'd be, especially after his game against California where he had 107 yards of total offense. It also hasn't helped that teams aren't kicking the ball to him in a position to return it very often. Meyer and Tom Herman have both said in the last week or so that Wilson needs to become more of a complete player in order to see the ball more consistently, I'm guessing he also needs to be more secure with the ball when he has it. I still expect that home run from him, but I just wonder how many good pitches he's actually going to see in each game.
Photo by Jim Davidson
3. Bradley Roby's troubles. I am probably the biggest Bradley Roby apologist out there, and I know it. I think he's a fantastic defender, and a complete cornerback, but there's no doubt there have been issues this season. I could tell you that his issues against Bryce Treggs and California were due to pinpoint passing and that his coverage was fine, but I know you won't believe that. I could mention that his coaches have essentially had to apologize for the unwinnable position they put him in against Wisconsin, but I know you're not interested in hearing it. They knew the Wisconsin situation was going to be tough to handle, but they had enough confidence in him to know that he'd limit the damage as much as he could. The result was a win over the Badgers and a stifled running game. The damage to Roby's reputation, however, is probably irreparable for Buckeye fans. After all, many still consider Nate Clements a failure for one bad game during an All-American career. That all being said (remember, I'm a Roby apologist), Roby's struggles overall in coverage have been surprising this season. His spot was one of two or three on defense where it was expected there would be no issues this season, and while I expect it to tighten up, it's still been an area of concern over these first six games. Urban Meyer said that Roby's had a lot of distractions during the offseason, one of them occurring in an Indiana bar. Perhaps now that he is immersed in the football season, those distractions will finally melt away and you'll again get to see the Bradley Roby that you've come to expect. Not that you'd forget about the Roby you've already written off, of course.
4. The run defense. Leading up to the Wisconsin game, the real unknown of the Ohio State football season was just how effective the run defense would be against a quality team that was determined to run the ball. Well, they ended up being so effective against the Badger running game that Wisconsin altered their game plan entirely and attacked the Buckeyes through the air. Ohio State is currently sixth in the nation against the run, allowing just 86.2 yards rushing per game. The Buckeyes' opponents have carried the ball 20 more times than Alabama's opponents, but gained six fewer yards. Urban Meyer is pretty happy with the run defense right now, but has challenged his defensive staff to stay as vigilant against the run, while also improving the pass defense. We'll see how that goes over the second half of the season.
5. The lack of a freshman impact. Despite the current notoriety of Joey Bosa, Urban Meyer said this week that he was surprised at how many freshmen are redshirting this season. He said that if a kid is good enough to get into a rotation, then they're going to play him. However, he has also said this season that he doesn't want to waste a year of eligibility just to get somebody some snaps in garbage time. It's a fine line to walk, but one that is usually determined by the readiness of the individual player. I think everybody expected receiver Jalin Marshall to be on the field this season, but an injury in camp slowed him down, and basically gave the staff a reason to hold him out. Even Dontre Wilson's lack of an impact at this point would probably be considered a surprise given the glimpses we've seen. So far only three freshmen have scored for the Buckeyes, and one of them is Bosa. Ezekiel Elliott had two scores against Florida A&M and Wilson had one against San Diego State. In fact, Elliott and Wilson are the only two freshmen on offense who have touched the ball. Defensively, six freshmen have tackles, and one of them is Wilson. There are plenty of names out there with high expectations attached to them, but we'll have to wait just a bit longer to see those expectations begin to be realized. Meyer said he still expects the 2013 class to be great, and since he sees them every day, there's no reason to doubt this.
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