Even though we are now just one week away from the Ohio State Buckeyes taking the field for the first time in 2017, it is difficult to move past 2016 just yet.
Given the offensive struggles last season even though they weren’t exactly expected, it’s only natural to worry the same may be possible this year. One of the areas of greatest concern from those outside of the program is the receiving corps.
According to receivers coach Zach Smith, however, it wasn’t just a receiver problem, it was an offense problem. A problem that he insists has been resolved.
“They underperformed like the whole offense did,” he said of his receivers last year. “The offense was out of sync. I don’t think any position group played well at all, to be honest with you, and that’s on us as a coaching staff. There’s games where we played really well, like Nebraska and some other games, and there’s games where we just didn’t play great.
“I think it was just a little dysfunction all together. One player doesn’t make a catch, one player doesn’t make a throw, one player doesn’t make a block, and it just kind of feeds off each other. It just wasn’t a great culture, and I think that’s the biggest thing you see right now is a different culture on offense. Whether it’s the wideouts, running backs, tight ends, whatever, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a different culture offensively.”
Holmes, Sweet Holmes
Senior defensive end Jalyn Holmes has yet to start a game as an Ohio State Buckeye, but he is still considered a starter. As part of Larry Johnson’s four-man rotation at defensive end, Holmes played as much as “technical starters” Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis last season.
Without starting a game, or having a last name like “Bosa” to garner attention, Holmes flies under the radar for most people, but he shouldn’t.
“He brings a lot,” Larry Johnson said. “First of all, Jalyn’s very talented. You watch the video tape from last year, you saw him do things that you go ‘Wow!’
“He’s just kind of overlooked and they worry about other guys. He did some things really well for us last season. He can rush the passer, he’s got combination of speed and power, he can play inside and play the run. So he’s just an ideal guy. And at 275, he can jump inside and play three technique.”
Pure Football Speed
Ohio State had a pretty productive rotation at cornerback last year as well. Like with the starters at defensive end, cornerback starters Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore received more attention than Denzel Ward, who was the third man in the rotation.
As cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs has said repeatedly, he would have never put Ward on the field if he wasn’t as good as Conley or Lattimore.
Ward is finally starting to get some of the attention that he deserved last season. For the most part, though, the topic usually centers around Ward’s speed. He is arguably the fastest Buckeye on the team.
Just how fast is he?
“He’s really fast,” Coombs said. “I mean he’s ridiculously fast. Gareon was the fastest guy of the four first rounders on-the-field play, but he didn’t run the fastest 40 times at the Combine. So, I don’t really put a lot of stock in that, I don’t know how all of that works.
“I know this — Gareon — and the best evidence is when you are the ‘5’ on kickoff. You find out who that guy is and they close to the ball. You see some electric things. So Gareon was, Denzel was. That’s kind of the progression of guys at that position. But Denzel is incredibly fast. He might be the fastest one of all of them. I don’t know how to measure that.”
Quarterback Conveyor Belt
With quarterback Joe Burrow’s injury, the talk of transferring from fans and media didn’t take long to begin. The thought being that if you’re out of the race for an extended period of time, you’re never going to be able to catch back up. And once you are passed by, it’s time to move on.
That it will actually happen is very doubtful, but there is no doubt that quarterbacks are just different than every other position when it comes to transferring. Only one quarterback can play at a time, so if a guy is stuck behind a starter with multiple years of eligibility remaining, it’s almost assumed that he’ll be transferring.
That same thought process also has people wondering how a school can keep landing talented quarterbacks every year. At some level, they have to know that there’s a pretty good chance that they aren’t going to be able to win the job. So how is Ohio State able to sign Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins, and Tate Martell in consecutive classes, and then have 5-star 2018 prospect Emory Jones looking to do the same?
“I think it’s like that at every position here,” quarterbacks coach Ryan Day said. “When you’re playing for the national championship and you’re competing at the highest level, that’s what young men want to be a part of. We don’t make any promises. When you come to Ohio State you get a chance to compete with three or four other quarterbacks in the room. Guys want to be part of national championship drives and be developed at the highest level, so that’s why they continue to come.”