Football The Rivalry

Michigan Mini-Mailbag – Peppers as a Buckeye; Wrinkles; Containing Explosive Butt; More

Ohio State - Michigan Mailbag

I’m the kind of guy who can run a Michigan Mailbag every week of the year because I’m endlessly interested in this rivalry.

Despite that interest and desire to run a bunch of Mailbags, it’s already Wednesday and I’m just getting to my first one. I’ve got enough submissions for two or three more, but probably not enough days to get it done. Still, if you’ve got something you want to add, feel free to email me or tweet me or respond in the comments below.

In this edition we will look at Jabrill Peppers as a Buckeye, Demario McCall’s possible role in this game, Jake Butt, and wrinkles.

What position would Jabrill Peppers play if he went to OSU? — @JDMorrrrrrrris

More than likely, he would be at H-back on the offensive side of the ball. That being said, I’ve always wondered what kind of defensive back he could have been at Ohio State. Would the coaching of Kerry Coombs or Chris Ash made him a better DB than he ended up being at Michigan? He has struggled in coverage throughout his career, but perhaps that changes if he signs with Ohio State.

Still, I wonder where he would play. It wouldn’t be linebacker. He’s not just going to sit behind Darron Lee for two years and then maybe compete with Chris Worley this year. As a true freshman in 2014, he’s not playing in front of any of Doran Grant, Eli Apple, Tyvis Powell, or Vonn Bell. Is he beating out Gareon Conley in 2015? I don’t believe so, but that’s because I’ve never seen Peppers be all that great at corner.

Maybe he’s the nickel last year and the starting free safety this year. But again, man coverage has never been his thing, and that’s exactly what OSU’s free safety calls for.

Offensively, however, he would fit right in and would have fit in instantly. I don’t know what kind of pass catcher he is, having caught just 10 passes — offensively or defensively — in his career. I’m pretty sure he’d be a natural, however. Imagine the difficulty of having to deal with two slot players like Peppers and Curtis Samuel, either of whom can line up at tailback while the other is in the slot. It wouldn’t be fun for defenses, but Urban Meyer would have loved it.

A handful of submissions centered around the same question every year — what kind of wrinkles will we see from the Ohio State offense. So let’s address that.

What kind of wrinkle will we see? I don’t know. I think we’ll see more of the run/pass option stuff that we saw a little bit of against Michigan State. It looked a little awkward, but could pop up again. I think the biggest wrinkle may simply be moving Curtis Samuel into and out of the backfield in order to get the matchup they want. I am assuming Michigan will want to have All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis on Samuel in the slot, which Ohio State will likely notwant. So I expect to see Samuel motioning quite a bit. He’ll motion from the slot into the backfield and then be picked up by a linebacker or a safety after that. Or then motion out away from where he came and get matched up with a cornerback who isn’t Lewis.

The Buckeyes have to get advantageous matchups with the motioning. Also, while it won’t be a wrinkle, the Buckeyes will need to get some plays out of their receivers who won’t be manned up against Lewis or Channing Stribling. Those are two great cornerbacks. Michigan doesn’t have any other great cornerbacks. Stribling will likely have to deal with Noah Brown and Parris Campbell at X, so this would be an opportunity for Terry McLaurin or James Clark to make a big play down the field against either an inexperienced cornerback or a safety stuck in a bad matchup.

How will Buckeyes try to defend Jake Butt? — MikeO

I assume he will be matched up with Chris Worley or Damon Webb for most of the game, which makes this an area of concern for the Ohio State defense. Keep in mind, Jake Butt is averaging just three catches per game in B1G play for 33.5 yards, so it’s not like he’s been unstoppable. That being said, he’s going to be a target down in the red zone, which is a strength of the Ohio State defense. Butt could negate that strength, and end up breaking the Buckeye defense when they only intended to bend.

Quarterback John O’Korn only looked Butt’s way once last week, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be their No. 1 option in the passing game this week. Butt’s career high is eight receptions. I could see that happening in this game if O’Korn is given time to throw. The key, obviously, is to not give him that time.

Would like to see more explosive plays from our offense and Demario McCall is a true HR threat, will we utilize him? — Urban Cowbuck

No. Next question. Oh, this is the final question? Then I better expound.

I just don’t see it. Would he add another explosive threat to the offense? Yes, but we already know that Urban Meyer doesn’t have complete trust in Demario McCall yet, and if you’re not trusted in this game, then you’re not getting near the football.

For the most part, this game is about running the ball, because whoever runs for more yards generally wins. Putting McCall in the game means taking out Mike Weber or Curtis Samuel, which instantly puts the Buckeye offense at a disadvantage.

We’ve seen what happens when Meyer is concerned about holding to the ball — it stays in J.T. Barrett’s hands. It does not get put into a true freshman’s hands who Meyer has already said needs to learn to tuck the football away.

I think this game is too important to too many upperclassmen for Meyer to allow a true freshman to have a negative impact on it. If anybody is going to fail on his watch, it’s going to be the veterans and the leaders.

Or maybe Demario McCall will be the wrinkle that I didn’t mention above. Who knows?