Despite being a very talented team, the 2018 edition of the Ohio State Buckeyes still has questions up and down the line.
Granted, some of the questions aren’t quite as dire at some positions as they are at others. For instance, nobody is losing sleep about the Buckeye running backs, but there are still questions that could stand to be answered.
Even with Urban Meyer still floating aimlessly in administrative limbo, the expectations for Ohio State still involve a conference title and a playoff berth.
In order to better their chances of reaching these goals, I’m going to give you one thing I’d like to see from each position group.
Today we’ll stick with offense. Tomorrow the defense.
Last season, J.T. Barrett said one of Dwayne Haskins’ problems was that he would try to fit the football in places that maybe it shouldn’t go. Barrett compared Haskins to Cardale Jones in that regard. What I would like to see from Haskins is not for him to dial that confidence back, but simply make sure the decisions he makes are the right ones. Barrett had concerns about Haskins’ decision making in that he trusted his arm maybe too much. Nobody wants Haskins to lose that trust, but maybe a little discretion wouldn’t be a bad thing. If Haskins can meld decision making with his ability to throw the ball, he could be the perfect weapon for this offense.
J.K. Dobbins caught 22 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman last season. I would like to see him even more involved in the passing game this season. If he does get established as a regular receiving threat, defenses will then have to pay attention to him even more, which could then open up the middle of the field for the tight ends and H-backs. I won’t even get into the allure of the J.K. Dobbins wheel route. We all know that Ohio State can’t throw screen passes to running backs between the tackles, but getting him involved on the edges will only help the offense this season.
The deep passing game has been the Holy Grail for the Ohio State offense since it disappeared following the 2014 season. To use the deep game as one thing I’d like to see is a huge cop out, which is why my choice here is Parris Campbell’s usage in that deep passing game. We have talked about it quite a bit over the last month about how much time Campbell has spent improving this aspect of his game. Having an H-back who is also a deep threat puts the defense in all kinds of difficult situations. Do they put one of their two starting cornerbacks in the slot? That then opens up things on the outside. Or does the defense keep the corners out wide and put a nickel on Campbell? Regardless, he is a mismatch for defenses, and if he has added the deep game to his repertoire, then the opponents are in some serious trouble this year.
From talking to Ohio State fans, there is a certain level of excitement about freshman tight end Jeremy Ruckert. There are concerns about his ability to block, as is the case for all true freshmen. And as we’ve seen, most tight ends at Ohio State redshirt as true freshmen in order to develop the strength to hold up at the point of attack. While Ruckert also needs to develop that strength and ability to block, the rest of his skill set may already be college worthy. Due to the new redshirt rules, we will see him on the field this year, but if he’s going to be featured throughout the season, it may require more two tight end sets in order to get it done. Redshirt sophomore Luke Farrell has established himself as the starter and perhaps he will be the guy on the line of scrimmage this year while Ruckert and/or Rashod Berry are split out a little bit or lined up as an (NFL) H-back. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson wants to see more 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends), and with Ruckert and Berry, perhaps they have the complementary weapons that can make an impact this season.
If you’re just asking me for one thing I’d like to see from the offensive line, it comes down to the center position getting solidified and Thayer Munford being set at left tackle. I am of the belief that there are enough options at center that they’ll eventually get that figured out. For me, Thayer Munford solidifying himself as a trustworthy left tackle is the one thing I’d choose to see happen during fall camp. If he becomes a rock and Dwayne Haskins can trust him, he will stand longer and stronger in the pocket and he won’t hear phantom footsteps. If Munford can’t hold up, however, the entire offense could struggle.
For me, it usually comes down to ball security on punt returns. Kick returns aren’t the turnover threat that punt returns are. K.J. Hill was a solid punt catcher last year, but if that role now belongs completely to Demario McCall, there has to be a concern there until we find out how reliable McCall is. The expectations are high for his ability as a returner, but first he needs to be able to know when to catch the punt, when not to, and how to do either in the matter of a second or two.