And Knowing is Half the Battle
In a perfect world, Dwayne Haskins would be back for his redshirt junior season this year and the only question about the Ohio State quarterbacks would be how many tickets would be needed for the Heisman ceremony in December.
Instead, Haskins did what anybody would have done and began the career that he went to college to pursue.
Now Buckeye head coach Ryan Day has to find a new starting quarterback. The expected eventual winner of the job is Justin Fields, but they still need to see that eventuality take place on the practice field.
There is about a two-week battle for somebody to unseat Fields, because at that point, Day would like to know who the starter is so that they can begin tailoring the reps and preparing for the season opener.
“To know the starter is a big thing because you know who’s going to be the leader of the offense,” Day said. “That’s the general of the offense. Going into training camp it’s a competition. About that second week, it’s time to start getting ready, toning things up because we’re going to start getting ready to play our first game.
“So after those first two weeks, you need to know who your general is on the offensive side. That’s somebody who’s got to speak up. That’s the one we have to follow at the end of the day.”
Will Kickoffs Change?
Under Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes employed a very effective kickoff strategy of aiming the kicks to the corner and around the 5-yard line. It forced the returner to return the ball against a coverage unit that was fairly adept at tackling them inside the 20-yard line.
This allowed Ohio State to finish near the top of the field position battles year after year.
Like any strategy, however, kicking into the corner wasn’t always flawless. Sometimes there were coverage issues because the contain guy would lose leverage. What most people remember, of course, is the kickoffs that would go out of bounds.
The advent of the new fair catch rule last year that allowed any fair catch inside the 25-yard line to be placed at the 25-yard line was a significant blow to the potential of Meyer’s chosen strategy. The Buckeyes still did it, but it’s much less effective when you can’t tackle somebody at the 11-yard line and they no longer have to go 89 yards for a touchdown.
People have wondered if the Buckeyes will continue that same kicking strategy this year now that Meyer is gone. According to special teams coordinator and co-defensive backs coach Matt Barnes, probably.
“I mentioned before if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But you know, we want to add some wrinkles here and there when we can,” he said. “But at the same time we’ve got unbelievable players. We got a really good kicker coming back. So you know, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel there. We just want them to play fast. That’ll be the biggest thing, is just get our guys running really fast. Playing extremely hard and go front the returner up.”
Scarlet Lines Run Deep
When people look at the Ohio State defensive line this season, they see Chase Young.
Young is a potential All-American and has already been talked about as the possible No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Senior tackles Robert Landers, Davon Hamilton, and Jashon Cornell are experienced, as is Young’s bookend Jonathon Cooper.
There are some young players to know about this year, however, and Young believes many of them are being overlooked.
“I feel like this year we have a lot of sleepers that a lot of people other than you guys haven’t heard about across the country,” Young told a group of reporters. “[Sophomore defensive end] Tyreke Smith will be a wicked guy coming off the edge. People don’t know about him.
“[Sophomore nose tackle] Tommy Togiai, another guy. I think inside we’re really deep right now, especially at nose tackle. And we’ve got three tech, [sophomore] Taron Vincent, he’s coming up too. I feel like we’re more deep this year inside than outside, but all in all, we’ll be really good.”
Learn Something From Everyone
Ohio State junior cornerback Jeff Okudah is now in his third fall camp at Ohio State and learning from his third position coach.
As a freshman, he had Kerry Coombs. Then last year it was Taver Johnson. Now it’s Jeff Hafley.
With a never-ending conveyor belt of tricks of the trade for football players to acquire, the learning never truly stops.
Okudah has learned plenty of football from his position coaches, but he’s also taken other things from each of them as well.
“I think coach Kerry Combs really helped develop my toughness,” Okudah said. “Being able to take what anyone gives you, you know, he’s an intense guy. Getting in your face. That style is really different from high school because I wasn’t really used to guys in your face, yelling at you, yelling at you.
“I think Taver I would say his perseverance. I know he was put in some weird situations at times with having to do things that I don’t know if he was the most comfortable with. And I know coach Hafley I’m just soaking up so much knowledge from him. And I think you take all that stuff and then you put together a final product that is this. I think it translates really well to the next level.”