Football

23 Days To Ohio State Football *

This is the 78th in a series of 100 daily posts, a Countdown to College Football. (Sort of.)

Welcome to one of the least-intense weeks of the year in almost every American office.

With Independence Day falling on a Wednesday, a ton of people are going to be taking at least half of this week off.

That means you’re either on vacation, or about to have a very easy commute in to your office and a nice quiet day when you get there.

It also means we’re now exactly three weeks away from the first day of Big Ten Media Days. The Buckeyes won’t be there that day, but you’ll probably get a face full of Rutgers or Purdue or Illinois football. And at this time of year, that qualifies as exciting.

Speaking of exciting, let’s talk about a wildly underrated recruit, the first signs that the Scott Frost era is for real, an Ohio school which made a gutsy hire for its new head coach, and a key to containing the Frogs.

If you missed yesterday’s edition, you can find it right here.

Now please join us as we continue our countdown of the 100 greatest Buckeyes of The Ozone era (1996-present).

We will also preview one of the 100 most exciting games on this fall’s college football schedule, and one of the 100 things we’re most looking forward to this fall.

Plus, we’ll preview one of this season’s 100 biggest personnel matchups.


Greatest Buckeyes Of The Ozone Era

#23 Darron Lee, 2013-2015

Recruiting rankings are strongly predictive of how a player’s college career is going to turn out.

A 5-star recruit is about seven times more likely to earn all-American honors at a Power 5 school than a 3-star recruit is.

The same research found that the average spot a player is drafted into the NFL drops by more than half a round for every recruiting star he is below a 5-star.

But every once in a while, a guy whose ranking suggests “career benchwarmer” turns out to be way more than that.

Darron Lee was a quarterback for the New Albany High School team in suburban Columbus. He only earned a scholarship offer from Ohio State after an impressive camp performance and a lot of lobbying from former Buckeye assistant Luke Fickell.

At the time, it seemed like a reach. Lee was considered the 36th-best player in Ohio in his class, and the 636th-best in the nation in 2013.

He was the 22nd-highest ranked player in Ohio State’s 24-man recruiting class.

He redshirted due to injury in 2013, and then burst onto the scene as a linebacker the following year.

Lee made his impact felt – literally – in the first game of his career, delivering a monster shot on Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, and also scoring a touchdown on a fumble return.

He finished the year with 16 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and a pair of fumble returns for touchdown. The second one helped seal the win over Michigan.

His numbers regressed a little as a redshirt sophomore, but he finished his career strong with two sacks in the Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame.

Lee was a first-round draft pick by the New York Jets in 2016, and has 167 career tackles in two seasons.

Not bad for a 3-star.


Best Games This Fall

#23 Michigan State at Nebraska, November 17

When you see that a team is playing Nebraska this fall, your first question should be “when?”

This is going to be a season of transition for the Cornhuskers under new head coach Scott Frost.

He will ultimately turn the program into at least a consistent Big Ten title contender, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

The Huskers will likely start true freshman Adrian Martinez at quarterback. The combination of first-year coach and freshman quarterback pretty much screams “ugly season” and it will almost certainly start out pretty rough.

But by the end of the year, Martinez will have almost a full season of experience under his belt, and Frost will have had the opportunity to install more of his offense.

Of the Big Ten East teams, Michigan lucks out and gets the Huskers in Ann Arbor in September.

Ohio State draws them at home, but has to play them in early November.

Michigan State gets the worst matchup – in mid-November on the road.

The Scott Frost era is likely going to mean a return to national prominence for the Huskers at some point. That could all start with a win over Sparty.


What We Can’t Wait To See

#23 Sean Lewis at Kent State

Yes, we spent part of last week’s edition of Accost The Field talking about how unattractive Kent State is as a potential location for a recruiting visit.

But this year’s bad Kent State team could at least be the start of something kind of interesting.

The Golden Flashes’ program is one of the toughest spots to win in the country. It’s an unimpressive campus in a nondescript suburb of Akron, without any real history of success to sell to recruits. Convenient access to Swenson’s can only get you so far.

Yes, Ohio is a great state for high school football, but once the Big Ten teams and the top-level MAC schools grab their share of players, there isn’t a ton of talent left.

Glen Mason won 7 games there in 1987 and promptly left for the Kansas job. Darrell Hazell somehow went 11-3 in 2012 and immediately exited for Purdue.

They haven’t won more than 6 games in any other season in more than 40 years.

It’s the kind of program that people care so little about that the Wikipedia list of their seasons hasn’t been updated since 2013.

So it was time to try something different, and for once the Flashes did just that. They brought in Syracuse co-offensive coordinator Sean Lewis to be their new head coach.

Lewis is far from a sure thing. He’s a first time head coach who is just 34 years old.

As recently as 2015, he was a position coach in MAC. But that year, he was the quarterbacks coach for Bowling Green in a season when Matt Johnson in 2015, when he threw for 4,946 yards and 46 touchdowns.

He left BGSU to follow Dino Babers to Syracuse, and was part of the offensive coaching staff that pulled out a stunning upset over Clemson last fall.

Lewis could certainly end up a disaster. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to put up anything close to that level of production without Babers’ offensive mind there to pull the strings.

But last year, the Flashes scored 20 points only twice against FBS teams all season.

Whatever Lewis tries this fall, at least it’ll be something different.


Matchup To Watch

#23 KaVontae Turpin, TCU WR/KR vs. Jeff Okudah

TCU figures to have some trouble moving the ball against the Ohio State defense this fall. But if they do, KaVontae Turpin will have to be a big part of how they do it.

Turpin was an explosive player on special teams in 2017, averaging more than 30 yards per kick return and 16 yards per punt return. He scored a touchdown on both types of returns.

But for some reason that didn’t translate into big plays on offense. Turpin plays in the slot a lot for TCU, a position similar to how Parris Campbell is used by the Buckeyes.

But while Campbell averaged 14.6 yards per catch in 2017, Turpin managed just 9.6.

The Horned Frogs will likely not have an easy time putting together 10-play drives against the Buckeyes, meaning that explosive plays could be the key to the game.

Jeff Okudah is projected to start the year as the nickel back, which would put him across the line of scrimmage from Turpin a decent amount.

Okudah came on strong at the end of his true freshman season, and should be a solid contributor as a sophomore.

If he can contain Turpin, and keep him from bringing his big play ability from special teams to offense, that will bode very well for the Buckeyes’ chances.

One Response

  1. Not buyin’ it, Tom. Scott Frost will be UNL’s Harbaugh. Their ceiling as a program (outlier years not withstanding) is 9 – 3 and nothing Frost can do will change that. The lightning in a bottle that Devaney and Osborne had is long-gone and ain’t’a comin’ back. When he puts together good offenses, his defense will expose him every time. If he manages to get an above-average defense he’ll have an opportunity to improve on that 9 – 3 but even then it won’t be guaranteed because he’s just not going to have a true juggernaut offense consistently.

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