As we do when Ohio State is facing a formidable opponent, we like to check in with a beat writer of that opponent in order to gain insights that aren’t available anywhere else.
This week, with No. 4 Ohio State and No. 15 TCU meeting in the neutral confines of AT&T Stadium, we turn to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star Telegram.
This Q & A adheres to all of the standards and guidelines of The American Q&A Society. The Qs come from me and the As come from Drew.
As always, we thank him for his insights and answers.
1. It appears the TCU offensive line still has some position battles going on, including left tackle. That would seem to be an area of concern with Ohio State’s defensive ends coming in. What is the situation on the offensive line and what do you expect from their pass protection this week?
To me, this is TCU’s biggest question mark going into the game — how the offensive line will hold up against Ohio State? TCU has split reps so far this season at left tackle between Austin Myers and Anthony McKinney. One has yet to emerge as the full-time starter in the first two games, but this isn’t something new for the program. TCU has rotated offensive linemen over the years, so there might never be a firm decision on Myers/McKinney if the coaching staff likes how each is performing.
Right guard is another position that has seen a rotation. Trey Elliott and Chris Gaynor split time at right guard against SMU. Another interior lineman is expected to return this week, too, in Casey McDermott Vai.
But the Frogs have consistently produced NFL-caliber linemen and the thought is the talent is there for a couple of these guys to continue that trend. Saturday will be a telling sign one way or another.
2. Ohio State has completed 82% of their passes thanks to an accurate quarterback, great hands at receiver, and subservient defensive backs. TCU has allowed just 40% completions. How have they done this?
TCU has a veteran, speedy secondary that has gotten the job done so far in the passing game. Jeff Gladney is a top-five cornerback in the Big 12, and Julius Lewis has played well throughout his college career when healthy. Niko Small is another fast guy in the secondary who has ability and experience. The Frogs’ defensive backs has been one of its strengths, although they were beat for a couple big plays against Southern in the opener.
3. Gary Patterson said the focus will be on stopping the run. OSU’s offensive line has a distinct size advantage, but this isn’t new for TCU. How are they able to neutralize size disadvantages with their 4-2-5 defense?
As stated with the secondary, the 4-2-5 has been successful because of speed. That’s on all three levels. Ben Banogu is a speed rusher off the edge, and TCU moved Ty Summers from linebacker to end because of his speed. It’s paid off as Summers has two sacks in two games, but he could see more time at linebacker against the Buckeyes. The Frogs get senior L.J. Collier back this week and he is more of a power rusher.
The interior line took a blow with the loss of Ross Blacklock, an NFL-caliber talent, but Corey Bethley has played well from the three-technique spot and Joseph Broadnax is a solid nose tackle. The depth behind those two has been a question, though.
4. OSU had a couple of issues with the left side of their offensive line last week. This would seem like an area for Ben Banogu and Summers to succeed. Dwayne Haskins hasn’t really faced much adversity this season. What kind of pass rush does TCU possess?
TCU has managed to get to the quarterback early on, but it’s hard to put too much into it since it’s been against Southern and SMU. But Banogu is on NFL radars and flashed against SMU by forcing a fumble that led to a defensive touchdown. He hasn’t had a breakout game yet, though, and will be looking to do just that against Ohio State.
Summers has had success in his transition to end, but expect him to get some snaps at LB this week too with L.J. Collier returning. But the biggest surprise might be Corey Bethley.
Bethley, the Frogs’ three-tech DT, is leading the Big 12 with three sacks. If he can continue to create inside pressure and rush, that will make life more difficult for Haskins.
5. Do you think Shawn Robinson is ready for a game like this? What are his strengths and weakness and what are you expecting to see from him on Saturday?
Yes, Shawn Robinson is ready for a game like this. I’ve been most impressed with his mental makeup to date — he doesn’t get fazed when things go wrong. Robinson has been inaccurate on the deep ball so far this season, but those misses haven’t seemed to impact how he handles the next play. He threw an interception last week against SMU and, on the next offensive drive, he runs in for an 18-yard TD. Robinson seems well built to handle the adversity that comes with the QB position.
His strengths have been his legs and extending plays. He’ll have to do that against Ohio State’s D-line. His weakness, as stated, has been accuracy on the deep balls.
On Saturday, I expect to see him handle the offense well and keep the Frogs in the ballgame. He won’t be perfect, but I think he does enough to keep TCU within striking distance. I don’t think TCU wins this game, but if it does, it’ll be because Robinson became a college football star that night.