Football

Ten Things We Learned From Ohio State’s 56-0 Win at Rutgers

Demario McCall Ohio State Football Buckeyes

Finally got back from Rutgers and now I’m home to write this week’s Ten Things. I’ve done so much driving this weekend that I don’t really remember what we learned. It’s a good thing I take copious notes, though. Ohio State went into Rutgers and dominated the Scarlet Knights exactly as they should have, and precisely how few truly expected them to do so. In the end, they were 56-0 victors and the Buckeyes had to work to keep it that close.

Since the Oklahoma loss, Ohio State has done what they needed to do, which was expected. Even though things are looking up, nobody is truly going to buy in until they can put a large number of points on the board against a quality opponent. And that finish line will be constantly moving, because if they do it against Penn State, then clearly Penn State’s defense wasn’t as good as we thought.

Anyway, let’s digress. What did we learn from an unnecessary night game?

1. Jerome Baker needs to get right.

For a player with All-American mention in the preseason, Jerome Baker has yet to look like an All-American. He doesn’t even look like the 2016 version of himself. Last season he was a step slow because he didn’t always know what he was doing. Being such a fantastic athlete, however, his “step slow” was right on time. Now, however, he’s maybe a step fast, which has him overrunning some plays. He is third on the team with 23 tackles, but eighth in solo tackles (12), behind guys like Tuf Borland, Erick Smith, Jordan Fuller, and Chris Worley. Yes, both of Ohio State’s middle linebackers have more solo tackles than OSU’s starting Will. Last season, only Raekwon McMillan had more solo tackles (49) than Baker (45). He is not yet a playmaker, and it is negatively affecting the entire defense.

2. Johnnie Dixon has gotten right.

Hoo, boy, this is the Johnnie Dixon that we assumed we were never going to see. His career was over, and even if it wasn’t, he was never going to be healthy or consistent enough to be a productive contributor to the Ohio State football program. But, boy, were you wrong! He is tied for the Big Ten lead with two receptions of at least 50 yards. He also leads the nation in average yards per catch (28.5). Whether or not you think the bubble screens can work against a good defense, what Dixon can do after the catch should translate regardless of the opponent.

3. Baron Browning might be the No. 2 middle linebacker now.

I don’t know if it means anything, but Baron Browning played quite a bit in this game, even in the first half. Tuf Borland got the start, but Browning rotated in pretty early on. Is Browning the new No. 2? Borland has leveled off since his “debut” against Army, which wasn’t unexpected. Chris Worley could have played against Rutgers, but they held him out one more week. Will they hold him out again this Saturday? If so, I expect Borland to start again, but keep an eye on how often you’ll see Browning involved.

4. Mike Weber is Ohio State’s red zone specialist.

Remember the issues the Buckeyes were having punching the ball in with J.K. Dobbins? I think you can consider those problems over now that Mike Weber is back. Ohio State was 3-for-3 scoring touchdowns in the red zone, and all three scores belonged to Weber. The Buckeyes were in the bottom of the pack of the Big Ten in touchdown conversion percentage, but they are moving up toward the middle of the pack now. Weber’s power and vision make him an ideal guy inside the 20 because he can see seams, or carry tacklers an extra few yards — and in the red zone, every yard matters.

5. The wheel route stays undefeated.

Yeah, you saw a tremendous pass from Dwayne Haskins to Demario McCall for a touchdown on a wheel route, but that wasn’t the only wheel route they ran successfully. The Buckeyes are also basically using the wheel route as a defensive eraser. As the running back runs his route, a linebacker or two follows him, clearing out the middle of the field for a guy like Johnnie Dixon to operate. Or, as we saw against UNLV, you can have Parris Campbell running a drag route right in the vacated area for an easy completion and yardage.

6. J.T. can’t run like he used to, but he can still read very, very well.

J.T. Barrett was tremendous on the read plays once again. He was snatching the football back and heading upfield in an instant. He has never been Braxton Miller, but we do know he used to have the speed to go the distance. I don’t think that speed is still there, but everything else is. His 8.9 yards per rush against Rutgers was his best since…the last time Ohio State played Rutgers. Crap…maybe we haven’t learned anything.

7. Defensive tweaks are getting interesting.

Did you happen to notice Sam Hubbard and Chase Young getting some time at “middle linebacker” in this one? Previously, the fifth defensive linemen that the Buckeyes have used had only been on the line of scrimmage. Now, however, they moved him back into a blitzing linebacker type of role. It will be interesting to see how that progresses and how quarterbacks deal with it. Speaking of blitzing linebackers, with as dominating as the defensive line was in this game, sending linebackers was completely unfair. Expect the Buckeyes to continue to ramp up the blitzing.

8. Getting production from more receivers.

Parris Campbell had just one catch, and despite this minimal production from Ohio State’s top receiver, the Buckeyes still caught 19 passes for 342 yards and four touchdowns. What that means is there are more receivers stepping up for OSU. We now know what Johnnie Dixon is capable of. We saw Binjimen Victor again use his size on a jump ball and his speed on a deep ball. He caught two passes for 69 yards and looked good doing it. Terry McLaurin almost had a quiet night with everything else going on in the passing game, but he still led the Buckeyes with five receptions.

9. The safeties are solidifying.

Even though Erick Smith wasn’t permitted to travel for this game, the safeties didn’t miss a beat against Rutgers. Jordan Fuller led the Buckeyes with eight tackles — with several of those those being the “big hit” variety. Fuller came to Ohio State as a cornerback, but he has turned into a physical safety with some tremendous range. Damon Webb only had one tackle, but he directed traffic well and also had an interception. He played about a half before giving way to the second unit. Fuller has started every game this season, so even though he is — or was — rotating with Erick Smith, the job has seemingly been Fuller’s from the outset. This might be the time where he takes advantage of the added opportunities and makes the most of them.

10. It’s amazing what can happen when OSU plays against man coverage.

After the game, I asked Urban Meyer if this was the most man coverage they had seen this season. He admitted that he hadn’t thought about it like that, but it probably was the most man coverage his team has seen. In case you missed it, it was also the best the Buckeyes had looked at the deep ball all season. I’ll have a deeper story on this angle on Monday, but I asked Johnnie Dixon and Binjimen Victor about seeing man coverage and they both told me it’s bad news for the defense when they seen man. They believe they are too talented — fast, athletic, etc — to be shut down via man coverage. The fact that the downfield game was so successful and prevalent the one time they faced an entire game of man coverage is not a coincidence. But yes, they will still have to do it against a very good defense before we’re all going to buy in.

7 Responses

  1. OSU has a LOT to clean up. They are the second worse team in the Big Ten in penalties. And the offensive line is one of the worst offenders. Guys are jumping offside, holding … they are a mess. Barrett has a lot of records but still can’t lead an open receiver more than half the time. He’s left at least 10 TD’s on the field by missing open receivers who had beaten their coverage. Penn State is much better right now and so are Wisconsin and Michigan.

  2. Is it time to maybe lock down the positions and let the chosen starters gel for the next coupLe of games? Too many moving parts …. Will be an issue when things get tough

  3. #5. Burrow threw the wheel route pass to my McCall iirc

  4. Good read and you caught some things I didn’t even realize! One very disappointing trend that just keeps rearing its ugly head are boneheaded penalties. OSU must be one of the worst teams when it comes to not shooting themselves in the foot.

  5. HA! I’m not the least bit surprised by Johnnie Dixon. When he arrived at Ohio State I got to watch him work and he was electrifying. ONLY bad knee’s kept him from being written into Buckeye history as a wideout. By far the best “feel good” story from Ohio State in the last 5 to 10 years. LOVE that young man.

    Sorry. I’ve never bought the Parris Campbell hype train and nothing from this game changed that. I don’t think he should ever be utilized down the field. For whatever reason he becomes Roberta Duran……………..Hands of Stone. Scary speed, average elusiveness but a tremendous return specialist. That’s where he fits. He just doesn’t have the hands for the H-Back job nor the elusiveness of a guy like Curtis Samuel who could find open seams one a 12″ ruled that was 1″ wide. Said it at the beginning of the year, and I’ll say it again. That H-Back position should be manned by Damario McCall. I know that Damario wants to be a tailback, but lets be realistic. He’s not a hammer for a power running game, although he’s good for a few hits the gut to force the defense to stay honest. What he is is electric He’s got the wiggle of Curtis Samuel, hands that are just as good and the real potential to be even more dangerous in the open field.

    Very pleased with the progress of that young secondary. They have 4 weeks worth of work to get ready for a real opponent. I’m not stupid enough to bet against them getting there. THRILLED with the defensive line play. That unit has a hat for every season and they wear each of them like they were born with them. That unit has been consistent since opening day and it’s not likely to change. The concern is the linebackers. Sorry sports fans but, that unit misses Luke Fickell. For years the one thing we could rest easy about was that the Buckeye linebackers were going to be dominant. Luke leaves and that unit has gone to hell in a hand basket. There’s just too much experience and too much talent for that group NOT to be among the Nations very best units. Disappointing. They blew chunks against OU and haven’t done much in the way of getting better since. Maybe Davis just doesn’t know how to adjust for multiple styles of offense. In the pro’s you basically know from week to week the garbage you’re going to get. At the College level you have to know your guys and be capable of getting them ready to face as many as 12 completely different offenses throughout the year. That takes a whole different work ethic and ability to instruct the changes. Can he get there in a couple years? Who knows. This year he’s in the category of dead weight along with Zach Smith. Smith can’t develop a passing tree and Davis can’t teach Collegiate linebackers.

    You’re incorrect Tony! If the Buckeyes were to put out that level of performance against Penn State, you wouldn’t hear a peep from anyone with something bad to say.

    Next week is a new kind of test. Maryland has a pretty decent ground game, but, their passing game seems to have run out of gas. They’re still a hard nose team and they’ll be ready to rumble. If the Buckeyes can put the kibosh on their rushing attack Maryland will struggle to find points. The Buckeye pass defense has changed their fortunes in 3 weeks. Granted they haven’t faced a good passing attack since OU but, you can see that technique has gotten a lot better (glad I didn’t turn on Coombs) and, it’s helped having Schiano on the sideline. Even against bad passing teams they looked more prepared to compete. Can the Buckeye defense stay strong for 4 quarters against an opponent who will fight them for 4 quarters? We’ll see next week. Maryland isn’t potent but they are fighters. The Minnesota game showed they don’t know what the word quit means. This game is a very good test to start seeing where this Buckeye team is at. Should be a fun game.

  6. What’s with the look on Meyers face?
    It does not look like he likes what he sees. He seems to fade away as if he was not there. If I was tobguess, he is still feeling the beat down ou, looking at the progress and thinking ahead.

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