In this week’s Mailbag, we tackle the questions that are on everyone’s minds.
No, not Game of Thrones stuff. If you want that, fast-forward to the last 20 minutes or so of this week’s Buckeye Weekly podcast.
The quarterbacks are once again a topic this week following the departure of Matthew Baldwin.
The Ohio State defense is also discussed, as it will likely be every week until they are on the field actually answering these questions.
Then there are also some questions about the NFL Draft, backups who may be good enough to start, who will get redshirted this year, and team chemistry.
If you have anything you want addressed in next week’s Mailbag, leave it in the comments, post it on the message boards, email me, or hit me up on Twitter.
Do you think Marcus Williamson and Amir Riep are talented enough to start here?? — @DrewOSU42
Amir Riep was fantastic in the spring game, and you can say what you want about the spring game, but he showed me something. He’s done that throughout the spring as well. I do believe Riep can start at Ohio State. Unfortunately for him, he is playing the same position right now as Shaun Wade. And Jordan Fuller may be there as well this fall. Regarding Marcus Williamson, I know Kerry Coombs and Taver Johnson were very high on him as a possible nickel solution, but he’s been injured throughout his career, so I can’t answer this question.
Do you agree with Larry Johnson attending the draft? — @SlippyField
Of course. I know there is a small segment of Buckeye fans who can’t forgive Nick Bosa for leaving the team, but if his coaches and his teammates had no problem with it, why should anybody else hold him to a higher standard when they’ve never even met the guy? His teammates were thrilled to see him back at the Rose Bowl, which should tell you all you need to know. Plus, any time a school’s coach is seen during the NFL Draft, it helps recruiting.
Which frosh will burn their redshirt this season? — HINYG8
With the rules now allowing players to see four games of action without burning their redshirt, it makes this question a bit more difficult. For instance, Nicholas Petit-Frere was the backup at right tackle last season, but only played in two or three games, so he ended up redshirting. Somebody like 5-star offensive lineman Harry Miller could be in the two-deep at guard and redshirt as well. In looking at the freshman class, only Garrett Wilson jumps out at me as somebody who will definitely play more than four games this year. I assume Zach Harrison will, and I assume Cade Stover will see some time on special teams. Does Ronnie Hickman get time there as well? There should be more than this who will play, but these are the four likeliest, and Hickman may be a stretch.
We know Fields would be more mobile than Haskins (as would this ottoman my feet are on)…but without a decent backup, does that change the usage philosophy for Day? — @zidaya
I know the common wisdom here is that Ryan Day will limit Justin Fields’ running now that they are down to just two scholarship quarterbacks. (That number will soon be three again, by the way.) But it’s not like they’re going to ask him to run the ball 12 or 15 times a game. And asking him not to run would be limiting his full potential. They will need to show read option with Fields keeping the ball or else defenses won’t slow down when crashing on the running back. The Buckeyes won’t need to show it a lot, just enough to keep a defense honest… and paranoid.
They probably can’t call 20 read-option plays and then blame the opposing defense for making Fields keep it 18 times. In the past, Urban Meyer and offensive coordinators would almost claim that their hands were tied on the large number of QB runs because the defense kept making the QB keep it. If you don’t want the quarterback running the ball, the offense always controls that ability. I think Fields will still run the ball, but they’ll probably limit the number of spots where that can happen by a third or so.
Is our team chemistry impacted by the portal? Is Garrett Wilson feeling bad to see his friend leave? — LUVDABUCKS
I’m sure it sucks for some players to see friends and teammates transfer out, but I don’t think it has any impact on team chemistry. The team last year LOVED Joe Burrow — and still do — but I don’t think anybody would say that chemistry was a problem last season. Generally, positions are so compartmentalized, that when somebody transfers, the path to playing time just opened for more players, which makes them happy.
And while somebody like Garrett Wilson may be sad to see his buddy Matthew Baldwin leave, Wilson has his own status to worry about. Players are kept busy and they have to work hard to keep from being passed by somebody else. Teammates have also seemed to take to Justin Fields. Those relationships are forged during the offseason, and he’ll be here for every bit of it. Heck, the transfer portal may actually be keeping chemistry from getting bad at some places. Who knows what the chemistry would have been like last year if Burrow had stayed and Dwayne Haskins had struggled. Once guys are gone, it becomes out of sight, out of mind because players are more worried about the task at hand.
There are many upper-class vets on the defense. Aside from Fuller, which guys are stepping up as leaders? I see a couple that could be candidates, but not sure. — Smartwater
A small, yet vocal segment of the population of Buckeye fans won’t like it, but any time leadership is mentioned or asked about on defense, coaches and teammates talk about Tuf Borland. Borland was a captain last year as a redshirt sophomore and his teammates look to him for leadership. Chase Young has done a nice job of helping lead the defensive ends, as has Jonathon Cooper. Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton do what you need your fifth-year seniors to do. Brendon White may be a bit quieter, but he is leading by example in that he does whatever is asked, and makes himself valuable through his versatility. If I was to pick the three likeliest captains from the Ohio State defense, I’d go with Jordan Fuller, Tuf Borland, and Jonathon Cooper.