Football The Rivalry

Buckeye Football Weekend Mailbag: Looking Toward 2018

Dwayne Haskins Ohio State Football Buckeyes


Rather than save the second half of last week’s Midweek Mailbag for this week like an intelligent person, I thought I’d go ahead and get it out of the way now.

The topics this time around range from Ohio State recruiting to Michigan watching, and everything in between.

If you have any questions you want addressed in a future Mailbag, hit me up or just put them in the comments below. Thanks.

How many sign on the early signing day. — Crabapple Buck

This is one of the questions I’m planning on asking Urban Meyer if we get to see him before the December 20 early signing day. A month or so ago, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said that he expects each of his commits to sign on the first availability because if they don’t, they must not be all that committed. Ohio State is in a bit of a different boat, however, with some of the more national guys they are working on. For some guys — like quarterback commit Matthew Baldwin — they are still playing in the playoffs, so official visits might be tough to get through before their seasons are over. Baldwin, however, is one of those guys planning on signing and enrolling early, which will give him a head start heading into next season. 247Sports has actually added an icon of a sunrise peaking over the horizon now next to players that they know of who are signing early.

What do you see for the Fall 2018 OL 2-deep? Any shuffling? Replace just two? – asante

One of the 64 million-dollar questions for Ohio State heading into 2018. The good news is that there are options. I expect Isaiah Prince to move to left tackle, and then at right tackle you’d have a battle between Josh Alabi, Branden Bowen, and Thayer Munford. The guards don’t necessarily need to change, but you’ll still have guys like Bowen, Matt Burrell, Malcolm Pridgeon, Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers, and Gavin Cupp vying to make things interesting. Billy Price thinks it will be Brady Taylor at center, so that’s good enough for me. Jack Wohlabaugh will also hope to make it interesting. Urban Meyer complains about his depth right now, but it’s going to be pretty good next year because there are more than just five decent options here.

What will be the biggest news story heading into spring ball? — TnBuckeyeMan3745

The quarterback battle. I plan on writing about it at least three times a day for the 100-odd days between the end of the season and spring football. I don’t exactly know how I’m going to accomplish it, however. Maybe a daily power rankings based on nothing but internet speculation. Perhaps I’ll go back over the games this season and show play-by-play how each of Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow, and Tate Martell would have been better for the Buckeyes than J.T. Barrett. I haven’t thought about how I’m going to actually get it all done, but I’ll get it figured out.

If Shea Patterson is as good as he can be, is Michigan the favorite in the B10 next year if he does indeed go there and plays right away? — @Matty_Fatback

To catch you up to speed, Michigan is in need of quarterbacks, and so Jim Harbaugh has been working very hard on Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson. Patterson was at Michigan this weekend and it looks like he’ll end up a Wolverine. There’s no definitive answer yet on if he will be immediately eligible, but right now he would still have to sit out a season. If he doesn’t, he gives Michigan a quarterback who threw for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns in just seven games as a true sophomore before getting injured this year. He played in Ole Miss’ final three games last season, which gives him 10 career games played. In those 10 games, he has thrown for over 300 yards seven times, and over 400 yards twice. As to why Michigan isn’t just okay with Brandon Peters, Dylan McCaffrey, and incoming freshmen Joe Milton and Kevin Doyle, you can do the math on that one. Talent and experience is always better than youth and mistakes, and Patterson gives the Wolverines a lot of what they need. What does this mean for Brandon Peters? Nothing good, but the competition should make him better. Does that make Michigan the favorite? No, because their schedule is just too difficult.

Where do you see the LB situation playing out next year? If Borland is the likely starter at MLB, who else will start and where? – Buckeye Vet

This is another tough one for me simply because of the number of options, but there are definitely concerns as to why the position regressed as a group this season. Perhaps we can chalk it up to the differing teaching styles of Bill Davis and Luke Fickell, and maybe now that the linebackers are accustomed to these styles, they can begin to progress and improve once again. This is also a very versatile group, which could see guys moving from spot to spot. If you’re asking for my pre-spring three-deep, I would probably go this way. (Watch out for all of the ORs.) If you’re asking me to make a guess as to the starters this far out, I’ll put those guys in italics. I can’t pick an italicized guy at the Will, however. It’s just too wide open.

Keandre Jones OR
Baron Browning OR
Justin Hilliard OR
Pete Werner
Dallas Gant

Tuf Borland OR
Baron Browning OR
Justin Hilliard

Malik Harrison OR
Dante Booker OR
Peter Werner OR
Baron Browning

Would love some info/assessment of players who caught my eye on special teams. Justin Hillard (always around the ball); Pete Werner (looks like a hitter and seems fearless); Keandre Jones (speed on speed); Okudah was a beast. Also curious about some other players. Jack Wohlabaugh was supposed to be an up and coming center prospect–is he? Jerron Cage at DT, his brother was a starter at ND and he was supposed to be better than him. — Boo Bah Buckeye

Justin Hilliard seems to be as healthy as he’s ever been, he’s just been in a situation where there’s a bunch of veterans in front of him this season. Can he make a push at the Mike with Tuf Borland already established there? Can he make a move at Will? As I mentioned above, I’m completely up in the air as to what will happen there. Hilliard has a tremendous attitude and the staff loves what he has given them on special teams. He always looks great at linebacker in the very little bit we have gotten to see him there in practice.

Urban Meyer didn’t want Pete Werner redshirting this year, if that tells you anything. They also had him playing the Sam this year, which requires linebackers to cover more ground, if that tells you anything else. Werner could end up anywhere and do well wherever that ultimately ends up being. Meyer is a big fan. Keandre Jones told me at the bowl game last year that he can play any of the three linebacker spots. He’s like a bigger version of Jerome Baker. The question with all of these linebackers, however, is if they have regressed over the last year like the guys in front of them.

In terms of Jeff Okudah, get excited. There’s not much else to say. Actually, what I will also add is don’t overlook any of the other freshman cornerbacks either. It is rare for freshman corners to play for Kerry Coombs, and much of that was due to depth and need on special teams, but they all received great experience this season. Shaun Wade will bounce back just fine from his redshirt season, don’t worry. Jerron Cage was making some strides earlier in the season, but I never really talked to Larry Johnson about him after the early part of the season. And if I had, Johnson would be his typical proud coach self telling me everything that Cage does that pleases him and not telling me anything that doesn’t. I believe Cage was working at the nose this season, but where he ends up next season will be based on need and the depth chart.

Do you think michigan will make the playoffs next year? I also hate you! thanks! — @TonyR35

Michigan fans say they hate me — and many of them do, but at least five or six of them tolerate me, which is nice. Will they make the playoffs? It’s obviously going to be very, very difficult because of road games at Notre Dame, Northwestern, Michigan State, Rutgers, and Ohio State. That’s basically four rivalry games and a game against Northwestern that can get crazy when these two teams get together. Home games against Nebraska and Penn State will be winnable, but can’t be stumbled into. It’s hard to imagine a more difficult schedule for any Big Ten playoff hopeful next year. Is it a schedule where two losses can be forgiven? I think so, provided one of those losses isn’t in Columbus.

Why are OSU beat writers so invested in Michigan’s roster decisions? Thanks. — @ShawnLMartin

Because we all grew up as fans of The Simpsons.



12 Responses

  1. I think you are missing a key point about next year. Martell will be the starting QB as Burrows will transfer and Urban’s offense requires a QB who can run.

  2. I love JT but can’t help but thinking we will be a better team next year with either Haskins or Burrow at QB. We just can’t afford to waste all of our receiver talent and allow teams to clog the box like we have so much this year.
    I just hope that we can beat USC with JT having one of his good passing games.

  3. Tony, why are some Michigan trolls so obsessed with what Ohio State beat writers tweet and write about? For a guy that says OSU writers care about UM too much, this D-Bag spends an inordinate amount of time tweeting at and talking about OSU.

  4. I don’t get the Patterson thing. Not playing in a bowl game would be a bonus for him. It sounds like he doesn’t care about anything but getting to the League anyway. Oh well, looking forward to seeing him lose in Columbus next year…

  5. The QB spot will certainly be interesting. Haskins was great after J T went down in the TTUN game. He seems to have the edge, but you never know. I am very impressed with Haskins as a passer. Who wouldn’t be ? With Haskins throwing to our speedy receivers, the Buckeye offense could be really potent. If the Buckeyes continue to run a lot of option plays, Haskins will have some learning to do.

  6. Justin hilliard looks a step faster than everybody else at the linebacker position, especially the Mike. If he is fully healthy, it is very hard to imagine he is not a more effective Mike than tuff borland, no disrespect to tuff. Thoughts?

    1. There’s a reason it was Tuf this year and not Hilliard. Tuf can’t rest though. Gonna be a bunch of guys fighting.

      1. Switch spots Jones and Werner.
        Werner will be starting!!

  7. No mention of Pridgeon in OL discussion – wonder if he comes back?

  8. Thanks Tony for the mailbag updates. Are you assuming Booker, Baker, and Knox will all pass on their last season of eligibility? wondering if any thought is being given to move Michael Jordan to LT? Also Shea Patterson from Ole Miss, curious as to why he would leave if he is the established QB? Thanks!

    1. Booker and Knox should return. Baker likely won’t. Ole Miss just got hammered by the NCAA, so players are leaving. Jordan could possibly move outside. They’ll figure out the best five and then where to go from there.

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