We are now embarking on a new era in Ohio State football. One where a Buckeye quarterback isn’t necessarily the first option inside the 10-yard line.
With J.T. Barrett’s departure, I got to thinking about what this was going to mean for touchdown production in 2018. We all know that Dwayne Haskins won’t be running the ball like Barrett between the 20s, but what happens inside the red zone?
In the Urban Meyer era, Ohio State quarterbacks have scored an average of 13 touchdowns per year. The high mark was 18 in 2013 with Braxton Miller, and the low mark was 10 with J.T. Barrett and Joe Burrow in 2016. Keep in mind that with Miller — and Barrett in his younger days — not all of those touchdowns came inside the red zone.
Understandably, this has me wondering how things are going to shake out when it comes to scoring touchdowns. Rather than wonder quietly to myself, I thought I’d do like I do when I’m on public transportation — just talk it out to no one in particular.
So here’s my predicted leaderboard for the Buckeyes this year, as well as a targeted touchdown number for each.
1. Mike Weber
J.T. Barrett led the Buckeyes with 12 touchdowns last season, but right behind him with 10 was Mike Weber in limited touches. Weber scored a touchdown every 10 carries last season, but that average should drop this year with increased touches. His overall number of touchdowns, however, will rise, especially if he is now the short-yardage choice for Urban Meyer. Prediction: 12
2. J.K. Dobbins
Mike Weber expects to get carries in short-yardage situations, but that doesn’t mean J.K. Dobbins is going to be treated like a precious flower. He is still going to be involved in every single area on the football field. He has worked on his strength and his wind. The former will help his goal-line numbers and the latter will help his home run totals. Prediction: 11
3. Austin Mack
Austin Mack only scored twice last season while splitting snaps with Binjimen Victor at the X receiver position, so including him in the No. 3 spot here seems pretty foolish. However, I am expecting continual growth from Mack, and I think he will become a legitimate red zone option. It also doesn’t hurt that his roommate is Dwayne Haskins, which is the main reason I’ve got him No. 3 here. Prediction: 7
3. Parris Campbell
I’m pretty sure I think Parris Campbell should be No. 3 all by himself on this list, but they seem to like him more between the 20s than after them. He’s a threat from everywhere, and I believe he would be exceptionally effective with more carries. He is too fast and too talented to only score four touchdowns like he did last season. If he has progressed in the deep passing game like everyone says, he could end up at the top of this list. Prediction: 7
5. Dwayne Haskins
A leopard can’t completely change his spots, so Urban Meyer is still going to run the quarterback at the goal line. You know this. I know this. And Dwayne Haskins knows this. He is preparing for this. At 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, he’s about nine pounds shy of Eddie George’s listed height and weight back in college, so he’s got usable size. Does he have the necessary drive? They’ve worked on that and will continue to work on it. We’ll find out in September. Prediction: 6
Bonus: Terry McLaurin
Terry McLaurin scored six touchdowns last season, so I would expect similar numbers this year. Not exceeding the six touchdowns from last year could be a product of more scores going to Austin Mack and Parris Campbell than we saw a year ago. Prediction: 6
Bonus: Binjimen Victor
Binjimen Victor scored seven touchdowns last season, emerging as a talented red-zone target. He has gotten stronger, which should make him an even more consistent receiver in the end zone. He still needs to produce against the best, however. Prediction: 6
Bonus: Johnnie Dixon
Johnnie Dixon caught 18 passes last season, and eight of them went for touchdowns. That’s pretty remarkable, but don’t expect that kind of ratio this year. The Buckeyes would prefer more consistency this year for the explosive Dixon. Eight touchdowns was nice, but six of them happened against Penn State, Iowa, and Illinois. He didn’t score in OSU’s final five games. Prediction: 5
Bonus: K.J. Hill
Don’t forget about K.J. Hill just because he’s going to be one of three or four H-backs getting meaningful snaps. Hill did lead the Buckeyes in receptions last year, after all. He only scored three touchdowns last season, but with a more pass-oriented read-option attack this year, that number from a year ago should go up. Prediction: 4
Bonus: Demario McCall
This one could go way up thanks to special teams, but Demario McCall is going to do some things. I’m just not sure how many of them will end in the end zone. I’m thinking at least four. Prediction: 4
Bonus: Tate Martell
Tate Martell is going to be involved and he is going to score, that’s just what he does. I originally didn’t have him on my list, but to think he’s not going to score at least three touchdowns seems odd to me. Prediction: 3