Do you smell that in the air? No, not the stench of NBA basketball. Wrong again, it is NOT the stench of the Browns fans trying to convince the world that Saquon Barkley is a horrible NFL prospect while touting Josh Allen as a franchise quarterback.
This smell is greatness, this smell is real life football being played in Columbus.
As I mentioned on the Sons of Schmidt, this is the first time in a long time where we have some legitimate battles to look forward to in camp. If you think about, almost every major opening over the past few years has had someone groomed for that position. Last year, you had Denzel Ward ready to step up. Billy Price had already announced he was taking over at center. Parris Campbell was the guy at H-back. There really wasn’t much drama outside of right guard and strong safety.
This year is completely different, there are around nine spots where no one is sure who is starting. That is not even counting the WRs and DTs, where rotation happens so much the starters don’t matter.
On offense, you have quarterback, right tackle, right guard, and center. On defense, you have all three linebacker spots, one cornerback spot, and free safety. Each of these positions has two or three guys who could make a case for that starting job. The competition for these starting spots is going to be insane over the next five months.
With all that build-up, it’s time to discuss which positional battle I am looking forward to the most.
Sure, most of you will say the quarterback battle. I mean, it’s hard to argue that it is not the sexiest of all the battles. Whichever QB takes the job (psst it will be Dwayne Haskins), is set up to guide possibly the most explosive offense Ohio State has had in a long, long time.
But like Tony wrote, the quarterback battle is pretty low on the list of things Urban Meyer and the fan base should be worried about. Whether it is Joe Burrow or Haskins (or Tate Martell for all of you who think he has a chance), the quarterback position will be more than okay. All three guys are very good quarterbacks who will have two elite running backs behind them and about 49 experienced receivers to throw to.
Realistically, the floor for any of the three should be set at Barrett’s passing numbers last year of 3,053 yards and 35 TDs.
So if it is not the quarterback battle, which one am I looking forward to the most? Honestly, I’m not sure. Like with much of what Tony does, I haven’t really thought this out beforehand, so here I am rambling and rumbling trying to come up with something, but in the end I just have to go with the easy way out and say the linebacker group as a whole.
Out of all the battles, this is the one where there are too many different directions it may go.
Last week, I was able to put together my depth chart with the quiet confidence only someone like Jim Harbaugh knows at a teenage sleepover. I feel like I nailed every starter (Spoiler Alert: I didn’t) except for the linebacker spots.
At linebacker, you could come up with about 10 different personnel groupings and be able to justify each and every one of them. Just think, we are around 5 years removed from seeing a starting fullback moved to middle linebacker in order to jump-start production.
Fast forward to this group now:
5-Stars: Baron Browning, Keandre Jones, Dante Booker, and Justin Hilliard
4-Stars: Pete Werner, Tuf Borland, Dallas Gant, Teradja Mitchell, and K’Vaughan Pope
3-Stars: Malik Harrison
The amount of talent in this room is remarkable. You have 10 extremely capable guys chomping at the bit.
The story lines will be there all spring and fall. Will Borland be able to hold everyone else off at middle linebacker after a pretty successful season? Will Jones finally get his shot after patiently waiting his turn? What in the heck will Urban do with Browning and his freakish ability? Will this group of linebackers completely quit playing against some random team like they did last year?
There are so many questions with this group and I’m not positive they will be answered anytime soon.
Outside of the offensive line, there is not a group that will dictate how this season goes more than the linebackers. If they can play decently and eliminate the quick outlet passes, it will open the doors for the defensive line to dominate.
I agree that finding the correct mix at LB is key- the 3 best players rather than the 3 most veteran players, for example. They don’t need to be world beaters, just sound minders of their assignments. And while the QB battle has “pigeon” quality- it’s bright and shiny so people notice it- what OSU needs regardless of choice is a dependable game manager who (hopefully) can sling it a bit. The defending national champion sure doesn’t have a stat monster at QB. OSU needs a thoughtful game plan carried out by a steady QB (at least, I’d be happy with it!).
I’m interested to see how Taver Johnson handles the talent at cornerback. It they have Arnette and Sheffield penciled in, and Okudah to rotate, then what about Shaun Wade? Dare they have four corners to rotate? It will be interesting, and if they stay at three will Wade get a legit shot – if so, should be a heckuva battle.
One thing I’m personally looking at. Can Coach Stud actually develop more than 1 guy at a time along the offensive line. If he can’t develop that unit to elite level with the amount of talent he has it’s not going to matter 1 little bit who the quarterback is. Or the wide receivers for that matter. Whoever starts at quarterback needs that offensive line to step up and play as one single unit to extend the leash the QB who does start has. If he doesn’t have the time to stretch the field no amount of arm strength is going to matter.
So it’s offensive line for me to watch.
Keep in mind, Michael Jordan has only played for Stud. He is now entering his third year as a starter. He has two guys play well at RG last year after a rough start early by Branden Bowen. Isaiah Prince matured and was very solid last season in his second year as a starter under Stud. There is definitely room for growth, but I think he did a pretty good job last year with the injuries
He actually had 3 guys play at or near elite level BY THE BACK 3rd of the year. That OLine that opened the season stunk to high heavens. There weren’t that many injuries on the offensive line in 2017, and only 1 that should have had people nervous.
I personally still believe that Jamarco Jones was not only the most consistent player on the offensive line, but was the best player they had up front.
I just can’t see Meyer starting Haskins over Burrow with the offensive philosophy he has embraced in his tenure at tOSU. He has always utilized a QB who can not only throw, but run at the drop of a hat and gain some yards doing it. Burrow seems to fit that bill. But as any of the 3 competing for the job could start anywhere else in the B1G, it’s a nice problem to have. But for my 2 cents, I see Burrow getting the nod. JMHO.
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