2011 Ohio State Preview – Offense
Ohio State C Michael Brewster
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Ohio State Buckeye Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Few places could lose a starting quarterback, leading rusher, No. 1 receiver, and left tackle and be fine. Terrelle Pryor is gone putting Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller in the spotlight. Bauserman is the safe, steady option, but Miller is the shot for the stars as the possible main man for the next four years. Dan Herron ran for 1,155 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, but he'll be out for the first five games giving Jaamal Berry, Rod Smith, and others a chance to take over the ground game. The receiving corps has bigger issues without DeVier Posey until the Nebraska game with several untested talents needing to blossom immediately, while there will be plenty of shuffling up front until Mike Adams is back at left tackle. Overall, the offense will be fine; the backups for the stars are still better than almost everyone else's starters. It just might take a little while to jell, and by then the attack gets Herron, Posey, and Adams back.
Star of the offense: Senior RB Dan Herron
Passing: Joe Bauserman
16-22, 174 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Dan Herron
216 carries, 1,155 yds, 16 TD
Receiving: DeVier Posey
53 catches, 848 yds, 7 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Freshman QB Braxton Miller and/or Senior QB Joe Bauserman
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Corey Brown
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Mike Adams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) C Michael Brewster, 2) Adams, 3) Herron
Strength of the offense: Offensive Tackle, Talented Prospects
Weakness of the offense: The First Five Games, Quarterback
State of the Unit: Say what you will about the Terrelle Pryor era, but he wasn't a bust. He might not have lived up to the immense expectations, and he didn't turn into a transcendent performer, but after all the smoke clears and after all the NCAA issues go away, it needs to be remembered that he turned out to be the catalyst and leader for Rose and Sugar Bowl winning teams. No, he didn't become an NFL-caliber quarterback, but he completed 65% of his passes with 27 touchdown throws, and he also was second on the team in rushing with 754 yards and four scores. Ohio State was eighth in the nation in passing efficiency and second in the Big Ten in total and scoring offense, and now the program has to move on.
Joe Bauserman won't ever be Terrelle Pryor. However, in a lemons-out-of-lemonade way he might turn out to be a better overall fit for the offense if, and it's a big if, the rest of the talented pieces step up and take on bigger leadership roles. Instead of the attack revolving around Pryor and the running game, Bauserman could be a very solid, very steady veteran passer who keeps the chains moving and gets everyone more involved. The 6-1, 230-pound senior won't be asked to bomb away, but he has a live arm and a quick release, and while he's a former walk-on, he has the cool, calm presence and the experience on the team to be able to handle the pressure. The former Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher in the farm system completed 16-of-22 passes for 174 yards and two scores with an interception in his limited time last season. While he might be a strong passer if he takes the job, he won't bring any mobility whatsoever.
Braxton Miller might turn out to be Terrelle Pryor. He might be even better. The star recruit was supposed to step in and be a factor for the starting job while Pryor was suspended, but now he might be the main man for the next four years if he can show the maturity to handle the pressure. At 6-3 and 205 pounds he has excellent size, strong passing skills, and the running ability Bauserman can't provide. There's no question he's a talent who can be a Big Ten star, but spotlight will be on to see if he can be ready to deal with all it takes to be the Ohio State quarterback as a true freshman.
Before Miller signed on, sophomore Kenny Guiton was supposed to be the man of the future. The slippery 6-2, 195-pounder from Houston is a terrific dual-threat option with the athleticism to move to receiver or possibly defensive back if he gets moved out of the quarterback derby. Smart, tough, and the most athletic option, he has all the tools to be a successful starting quarterback, but he has to show a spark in practices to make the coaching staff design package for him. He saw a little work last year running for 21 yards and a score while completing one of two passes for five yards.
Watch Out For … Miller. It wouldn't be as crazy a choice as it might seem to sink or swim with the true freshman. While he had some rocky moments in spring ball, he looked the part and didn't make too many immature mistakes. The future might be now.
Strength: Options. The coaching staff might want to mix and match the quarterbacks to find the right fit. Miller is the most talented all-around player, Bauserman is the steady veteran, Guiton is the dangerous X factor, and redshirt freshman Taylor Graham is the 6-4, 230-pound pocket passer. All of them can play.
Weakness: Experience. The team was planning for life without Pryor for five games, so it's not like the change is coming out of left field. However, Bauserman hasn't stepped up to become the unquestioned No. 1 man, Guiton's experience is minimal, and Miller and Graham haven't seen the field.
Outlook: The easy parallel might be 2008 when Todd Boeckman was the safe choice even though everyone knew that Pryor was the better, more dangerous option. The situation now is different with Bauserman not quite Boeckman and Miller not quite Pryor. Miller might be more ready to roll right away than Pryor was, and since no one took the job by the horns this offseason, it'll be an interesting trial period over the first few games to see who rises up. The job is there for the taking, but Miller will likely end up being the best option, even if Bauserman finally gets his turn to run the show for a little while.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: The running game will miss Terrelle Pryor. Depending on who takes over the starting quarterback job there could still be rushing production to make up for Pryor's 754 yards and four scores last season, but the stable of running backs will have to take care of most of the work. There are plenty of terrific, talented backs waiting to shine, and after losing Pryor and Brandon Saine, more depth needs to emerge over the course of the season to go with the need for a starter to handle the workload early on.
Senior Dan Herron will miss the first five games after being suspended for his part in the tattoo scandal, and he should be rested and ready to go after earning All-Big Ten honors for his 1,155-yard, 16 touchdown season. The 5-10, 205-pound speedster has spent his career a bit under the radar compared to his predecessor, Beanie Wells, along with giving the spotlight away to Pryor, but he has been a special back leading the team in each of the last two seasons with good between-the-tackles toughness and the speed to break off big runs on the outside. While he's not the most physical of backs, he'll take a pounding without a problem while also able to swing out as a receiver catching 19 passes for 180 yards. It's a stretch to call him a workhorse, but he carried the ball 20 times or more in each of his last four games with 190 yards against Penn State and 175 against Michigan. Also great around the goal line, he scored in every game but the opener against Marshall.
With Herron out for almost half the season, it'll be up to a few relatively untested backs to show what they can do. The best of the lot should be sophomore Jaamal Berry, a 5-10, 200-pound speedster who was stolen away from Miami a few years ago and is just now appearing to be ready to produce. He came up with 266 yards and a score averaging 8.3 yards per carry, being used mostly in garbage time. Mostly a kickoff returner, averaging 25.4 yards per try, he has the burst and the straight-line speed, and now he needs the work. Over the hamstring problem that kept him out as a true freshman, this should be his job to lose over the first five games.
6-3, 230-pound redshirt freshman Rod Smith is the typical big, fast back that Ohio State has no problem getting. Not only is he a powerful runner, but he can fly and is a good all-around athlete. Part of an Indiana state-champion level 4x100 relay team, Smith has the breakaway ability. He'll combine with 5-9, 190-pound junior Jordan Hall as part of a rotation. More of a quick-cutting runner, Hall can dart through a hole and also has the hands and ability to shine as a receiver. He didn't get used much running for 161 yards and two scores, while catching eight passes for 83 yards and a score, but he'll be a much bigger factor early on this season.
Back in his starting fullback job is junior Zach Boren, a big-time blocker who can do a little of everything well. At 6-0 and 252 pounds he has prototype size to blast away for the ground game, and while he only ran once for two yards, he caught ten passes for 68 yards. While he won't carry the ball, he can do it if needed. 6-0, 238-pound sophomore Carlos Hyde is an athletic reserve out of Naples, Florida, who can cut well for a player of his size and can handle more of the rushing workload than Boren. Hyde ran for 141 yards on 24 carries, but he didn't catch a pass.
Watch Out For … Berry. A terrific recruit for the program a few years ago, he wasn't able to get through the logjam of backs to show what he could do on a regular basis. Now he'll get his shot and he should be terrific.
Strength: Talent. It's Ohio State. If you're carrying the ball for the Buckeyes, you're a big-time talent with the ability to run the ball for just about anyone. Herron is the team's best back and will be missed for the first few games, but Berry, Smith, and Hall should be just fine.
Weakness: Running quarterback … maybe. Joe Bauserman isn't a statue, but he's not Terrelle Pryor. Braxton Miller or Kenny Guiton would add flash and yards, but if it's Bauserman then the ground attack will rely on a slew of relatively untested backs. It's never a plus when the team has to replace the top three runners – Herron for five games, Pryor, and Saine - who combined for over 2,000 yards with 22 scores.
Outlook: The ground game will be more than fine. All the good, talented backs will combine forces to put up big numbers while waiting for Herron to come back, and while "Boom" might not blow up against Nebraska in his first game off suspension, he'll be fresh for the second half of the season. The stable of backs will crank out yards, but the team won't run for the 2,861 yards and 27 scores it did last year.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: With the tattoo scandal playing a role, the Buckeyes will be missing more of the receiving production of last year, at least for the first five games. Only one of the team's top six receivers from last year will be back before the Nebraska game, and that includes running backs Dan Herron and Brandon Saine, and the top returning wide receiver to start the season only made eight catches.
Senior DeVier Posey didn't quite build on his strong 2009 and he didn't quite blow up as expected, but he still finished second on the team with 53 catches for 848 yards and seven touchdowns averaging 16 yards per catch. He went for over 100 yards three times, but more than being explosive, he was steady. At 6-2 and 210 pounds he has excellent size to go along with the raw NFL tools with a 33-inch vertical, 21.5 speed in the 200, and the make-up to be a starter at the next level. While he doesn't have the greatest hands, and it would be nice to see what he could do with a better passer pushing the ball down the field, he'll be the No. 1 target when he comes back from suspension.
Needing to become a major factor with Posey out of the equation in the first five games, all eyes will be on sophomore Corey Brown to live up to his tremendous prep hype. The 5-11, 182-pounder was the team's best recruit last year and he saw a little time in every game catching eight passes for 105 yards and a score and running for 27 yards on two carries. Lightning fast, he set records in the 200-meter dash tearing off a 21.4 in high school, and now he has to start stretching the field.
6-0, 180-pound sophomore Chris Fields saw a little bit of time catching three passes for 22 yards in mop-up time. With good hands and shifty speed, he should be a key part of the slot rotation, while 5-10, 180-pound redshirt freshman James Louis was taken away from Florida last year and should be terrific with the ball in his hands. Expected to be deadly on the move, he'll get used in a variety of ways.
Redshirt freshman Verlon Reed was a high school quarterback but has the athleticism and speed to potentially become a dangerous deep threat receiver. The 6-0, 190-pounder could be a smaller version of Posey, while 6-5 228-pound redshirt freshman T.Y. Williams is the team's biggest target. A knee injury kept him down in high school, but he bounced back to be just fine by his senior year. Now he'll likely combine with Brown for one of the starting spots and could become a major matchup problem with the speed to get deep and the size to muscle his way past smaller defensive backs.
The coaching staff said it was going to get the tight ends more involved in the passing game, and that came true as junior Jake Stoneburner finished fourth on the team with 21 catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns despite missing a few games in the middle of the year dinged up. He wasn't a big part of the mix for a long stretch, but he closed strong with three grabs in each of the last three games. At 6-4 and 245 pounds he has great size and has big receiver skills. Adding even more size is 6-8, 260-pound junior Reid Fragel, who poses a nightmare of a matchup problem averaging 13.1 yards per catch making nine grabs for 121 yards and a score with most of his work coming in the first half of the season. While he only made two grabs over the final six games of the regular season, he came up with a big 42-yard play in the Sugar Bowl.
Watch Out For … Brown. Either Brown or Fields has to become a major factor right away with Posey out. Brown has the upside to become a No. 1 target and can stretch the field, but if he's not great right away, then Fields, Louis, and/or Williams have to shine.
Strength: Week Six. The young receivers need a little bit of time and need a little bit of work to become comfortable, but halfway through the year this group should be rolling just when Posey comes back in the mix. The overall talent is undeniable – most schools would love to have OSU's backups – and the situation should be great just in time for Nebraska. But …
Weakness: Weeks One through Five. The OSU receivers will be fine, but the quarterback situation isn't exactly steady and the young receivers have to show they can produce when the lights are on. The Buckeye passing game wasn't always smooth when Pryor was under center, and it could take a while before everything starts to click.
Outlook: The Buckeye wide receivers have loads of talent and should end up being fine in time, but losing leading receiver Dane Sanzenbacher and his 55 catches and 11 scores will be a problem and not having Posey for five games will be tough. Even so, there are plenty of speedsters, lots of four and five-star talents, and two excellent tight ends in place. As long as a few big plays are there now and then until Posey comes back, everything will be fine.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: The Buckeye offensive line has been fine, but it wasn't elite-level special last year and has to undergo a bit of patching. The guards have to be replaced, but there are several excellent options ready to fill in the gaps and a few All-America, next-level talents to work around. Like other units, OSU's line will be in a bit of a holding pattern for five games, but also like other units, great players are waiting to show what they can do.
The biggest question mark will be at left tackle where All-America, top-50 caliber draft pick talent Mike Adams will be out for almost half the season. He could've and probably should've left early for the next level, but when he comes back to the mix he'll be ready to take back his job after doing a strong job. At 6-8 and 308 pounds he has excellent size and a tough frame to get around, but he has to be an even more consistent pass protector and has to do more to bury his man on a regular basis. The big key when he comes back is his health after suffering shoulder and knee injuries earlier in his career, but he'll be rested and ready to go for Nebraska.
Until Adams is back, it'll be an open battle for the starting left tackle job with 6-5, 315-pound sophomore Marcus Hall and 6-5, 320-pound freshman Tommy Brown each getting a chance. Hall has the talent to be an all-star, but he has to shake off the rust after missing almost all of last year with academic issues. A star recruit, he has elite run blocking skills and the potential to be an NFL pass blocker with a little more work. When Adams is back, he might take over the left guard job and could move there if other left tackle options emerge. Brown is a big, ready-made recruit who was a terrific high school defensive lineman as well as a blocker for the offense. Smart and tough, he'll be able to handle the workload right away.
Back to anchor the line is All-America center Mike Brewster, a four-year starter in the middle who has become everything the program was hoping for when he was the second biggest recruit in the 2008 class behind Terrelle Pryor. The Orlando native has 6-5, 293-pound size, 36 games of experience, and the athleticism to be good on the move to go along with his rock-solid technical skills for the ground game. He'll likely be a second round NFL Draft pick next year, and then it'll likely be time for sophomore Eric Kramer to step in and take over. At 6-4 and 270 pounds he's not all that thick, but he's an athletic prospect who can play almost anywhere on the line if needed.
6-7, 300-pound senior J.B. Shugarts is back to his starting spot at right tackle where he has held down the job for 23 games. It's possible that he moves over to the left side until Adams is back, but he's a right tackle who's decent in pass protection, but not an elite blocker. Good for the ground game, he'll be one of the key veterans the team will work behind early on. Bringing more size is 6-3, 322-pound sophomore Ivan Blackman, who didn't see any time last season but has the bulk to step in at either right tackle or guard. Not a left tackle, he won't likely be up for Adams' spot early on.
Justin Boren was a bruising guard who became a key part of the offense after transferring over from Michigan, and there should be an open casting call for his spot. Hall will get a long look for the job if he doesn't get the call at left tackle, while 6-6, 303-pound sophomore Jack Mewhort will get more work after spending last year as a key backup behind Bryant Browning at right guard. Excellent in his little time on the field, he's versatile enough and talented enough to shine at either guard spot. 6-5, 302-pound sophomore Andrew Norwell saw 11 games of work as a true freshman as a key backup at right tackle, and he could end up getting an early look at left tackle in place of Adams or could work again as the No. 2 right tackle.
Looking to step in at right guard is sophomore Corey Linsley, who spent last year working behind Brewster at center and could be a key backup once again if he doesn't win a starting job. At 6-2 and 310 pounds he's built for the interior and he's great at getting off the ball in a hurry. Mewhort will also be in the mix for this, as well as the left guard job, and 6-5, 320-pound freshman Tommy Brown could be an interesting option with smarts and the toughness to handle the job. While Brown would be a killer defensive tackle, he'll start out on the offensive side.
Watch Out For … lots and lots and lots of shuffling. There are plenty of great pieces to work with, but the Buckeyes will have to scramble a little bit for five games, and then they'll have to do even more after Adams comes back.
Strength: The core. Adams will be a starting NFL right tackle. Shugarts is a more-than-fine college right tackle, and Brewster is a veteran quarterback for the line who should be on the short list for the Rimington. There are plenty of great blockers to fill in the gaps … eventually.
Weakness: Guards. No, the guards aren't a major weakness, but they're a question mark with Boren and Browning gone. Mewhort, Hall, Brown, Linsley, and Norwell are all extremely talented prospects, but they have to be great right away to allow the new starters in the backfield time and room to work.
Outlook: The OSU has had plenty of excellent parts over the last several years, but it hasn't been a killer front five. The rushing production has been there and the pass protection has been better than the stats appear – Terrelle Pryor took a lot of hits trying to make things happen – but the line should've been a bit stronger. That's nitpicking because the standards are so high. As long as the left tackle situation is settled for a few games before Adams shows up, all will turn out fine.
Unit Rating: 8
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