2013 Ohio State Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Ohio State Buckeye Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: It seems crazy that the Ohio State offense was 107th in the nation two years ago. More effective than dangerous, even after leading the Big Ten in scoring offense, the Buckeye attack should be far more explosive with so much firepower returning led by Heisman-favorite quarterback Braxton Miller. The backfield has a deep stable of running backs that should do even more behind a veteran line with four starters returning, with the goal being to take some of the rushing workload away from Miller to keep him fresh. The experience receiving corps has pop and explosion with Corey Brown and Devin Smith forming a potentially deadly tandem. But it all comes down to Miller, and offensive coordinator Tom Herman knows how to get big things out of a mobile quarterback.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Braxton Miller
Passing: Braxton Miller
148-254, 2,039 yds, 15 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Braxton Miller
227 carries, 1,271 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: Corey Brown
60 catches, 669 yds, 3 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior TE Jeff Heuerman
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Taylor Decker
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Jack Mewhort
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Miller, 2) OG Andrew Norwell, 3) WR Corey Brown
Strength of the offense: Miller, Experience
Weakness of the offense: Pass Protection, Passing Consistency
Johnny Manziel obviously had a special year, but did he lead his team to an unbeaten season? There's no question that he earned the Heisman – cue up the Alabama game – but a reasonable argument could be made that from an MVP standpoint, junior Braxton Miller at the very least deserved more consideration as he carried the Buckeyes at times completing 58% of his throws for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns with six picks, while leading the team with 1,271 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns averaging 5.6 yards per carry. In the biggest of big games, he hit 14-of-18 passes against Michigan, ran for 186 yards and a score against Nebraska, and did the job against the best defense in the Big Ten, Michigan State, with 136 rushing yards and completing 16-of-23 passes.
Now the goal is to make him an even more accurate passer while cutting down a bit on the carries. While he's a perfect fit for the Urban Meyer offense, and he's the team's most dangerous rushing option, he's not built like Tim Tebow and can't take that many big shots. At 6-2 and 215 pounds he's strong and isn't exactly a wisp, but defenses like to tee off on him when they get the chance. This offseason he spent his time improving his accuracy and tightened up his throwing motion, but he's still going to be at his best using his speed and quickness on the move.
When absolutely needed, 6-3, 208-pound senior Kenny Guiton came up really, really big stepping in for a banged up Miller to bail the Buckeyes out of a jam against Purdue in the thrilling 29-22 win after hitting a 14-yard touchdown pass to beat Indiana the week before. While he's a proven relief pitcher, can he step in and be the main man if Miller goes down for an extended period of time? He was supposed to be the star of the program before Miller signed on with silky-smooth athleticism and the speed to work as a defensive back or receiver at the next level, and he's a good enough passer to stretch the field a bit. At the very least he's ultra-reliable and can come in without a problem whenever needed to give No. 5 a break.
Watch Out For … J.T. Barrett. Who doesn't want to play quarterback for Meyer? The 6-1, 225-pound Texas native fits the mold with excellent dual threat skills, and he'll get a few years to learn the system and heal up after suffering a knee injury midway through last season. While he's not big, he's very fast, extremely crafty and a good enough passer to get by.
Strength: Athleticism and speed. Miller and Guiton are as quick and dangerous as any quarterback pair in the country. While the running backs will do more, either quarterback option has to be accounted for on every play; they can each hit the home run.
Weakness: Passing consistency. Miller is working on it. In terms of the Heisman race, Manziel was more efficient and more dangerous throwing the ball on the move, and while that was a function of the offense, it added even more to the Texas A&M attack. Now it's time for Ohio State to be more dangerous throwing the ball, and Miller being a pocket passer from time to time wouldn't be the end of the world.
Outlook: Miller might have the Heisman right there for the taking, but that's not up to him. It'll be his job to keep the offense moving, make the big play, and be the catalyst, but the more he can involve the rest of the Buckeye playmakers, the better. Guiton is a terrific No. 2 option who can keep the season alive if disaster strikes.
Unit Rating: 9.5
It's hard to make too much noise as an Ohio State running back with Braxton Miller being Braxton Miller, but senior Carlos Hyde proved he can be a huge part of the attack, too, serving as a 20+ carry workhorse after missing time early in the season. Very big, very strong, very fast, the 6-0, 242-pounder finished with 970 yards and 16 touchdowns averaging 5.2 yards per carry, and did a little bit for the passing game, too, with eight catches for 51 yards and a score. When he was on, he was unstoppable with 156 yards and two scores against Indiana and 146 yards and a touchdown against Michigan. There's one little problem - he was suspended after being a "person of interest" in an assault case against a female. However, the coaching staff is still saying Hyde's status depends on the outcome of the investigation.
5-8, 197-pound senior Jordan Hall will be the team's Percy Harvin being used as a runner, receiver, and do-it-all guy as both a running back and in Urban's H position. Banged up throughout last year, he was given a medical redshirt even though he finished third on the team with 218 yards and a score while catching three passes for 31 yards. If he can get past his foot problems and stay healthy, he'll be a darting, quick-cutting playmaker for the offense who could be a devastating weapon.
While Hyde is the best bruiser in the backfield, 6-3, 238-pound Rod Smith can also provide some pop to go along with his phenomenal speed. Part of the Indiana state champion-level 4x100 relay team, he can turn on the jets as both a runner and a receiver, averaging 6.7 yards per run with 215 yards and two touchdowns while catching two passes for 55 yards and a score. Also adding speed and power is sophomore Bri'onte Dunn, a 6-0, 222-pounder who'll see time as a kick returner and should get the ball in a variety of ways. Very, very close to bailing on the Buckeyes for a school that runs a pro-style attack last year after Meyer took over, now he'll play a bigger role.
Watch Out For … Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson. The 6-0, 210-pound Elliott came up with 50 touchdowns for his St. Louis high school team last year with excellent rushing skills and the hands and quickness to be a deadly third down receiver.
Strength: The logjam. Ohio State has an embarrassment of running back riches considering the best runner on the team is the quarterback. Smith brings tremendous speed and power, Hall might be even more dangerous than Mr. Miller, and Dunn would be a starter and featured back just about anywhere else.
Weakness: Urban Meyer. Hyde sort of broke the mold, and there are too many good backs to not get the ball, but for the most part, Meyer's running backs are an afterthought. He never seemed able to find the right back at Florida, and while that's not a problem right now at OSU, the quarterbacks are the star of the show.
Outlook: The Buckeyes finished tenth in the nation and second in the Big Ten in rushing because of Miller, but with so many talented backs, there will be more work to go around and different, funky alignments to get as many good runners involved as possible. Here's the best part; now Miller doesn't have to carry the ball.
Unit Rating: 8.5
Hit the big play, keep the chains moving, and block. That's what the Ohio State receivers have to do, and there's more than enough talent for Braxton Miller to work with led by senior Corey Brown, who finally started to live up to his tremendous prep hype with a team-leading 60 catches – 30 more than the No. 2 target – for 669 yards and three scores. While he didn't hit any home runs and only averaged 11.1 yards per catch, the 6-0, 187-pounder has the speed to get deep. "Philly" was the team's top recruit a few years ago with track star wheels – tearing off a 21.4 in the 200 – but he grew into a good all-around receiver last year highlighted by his 12-catch day against Michigan State and with eight grabs for 95 yards and a score against Michigan.
6-1, 198-pound junior Devin Smith has the talent and skill to be a No. 1 receiver, but he has found a very, very nice niche as a devastating deep threat averaging 20.6 yards per catch with 30 grabs for 618 yards and a team-leading six touchdowns. Known mostly for his game-winning 40-yard touchdown catch to beat Wisconsin two years ago, he blew up both Indiana and Cal last year to change around both games. While he disappeared for long stretches and didn't score in the final five games of the year, he should be great with Brown doing most of the heavy lifting.
6-2, 205-pound junior Evan Spencer had a lot of promise and potential after a great 2012 offseason, but he only caught 12 passes for 136 yards. A reliable midrange target, he should blossom in the No. 3 receiver role if he's not pushed out by sophomore Michael Thomas, a 6-2, 199-pound nephew of Keyshawn Johnson with dangerous deep speed and tremendous production, leading all California prepsters two years ago with 86 catches for 1,656 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Senior Chris Fields is one of the team's most experienced receivers with regular starting time a few years ago, but he only caught four passes for 55 yards and a score last year. He has decent hands and is shifty, but he's just a part of the rotation, while 6-1, 200-pound redshirt freshman Frank Epitropoulos will find time right away in the rotation, likely behind Smith. He's a deep threat and good route runner.
Tight end Jake Stoneburner is gone after finishing third on the team in receiving, but 6-6, 250-pound junior Jeff Heuerman is more like a true tight end than a big receiver, like Stoneburner. He caught eight passes for 94 yards and a score, and while he's a good athlete who could be a dangerous target, he's a decent blocker, too. He'll be backed up by 6-6, 255-pound sophomore Nick Vannett, a big receiver who can stretch the field catching nine passes for 123 yards.
Watch Out For … Jalin Marshall and Corey Smith. Marcus Baugh is one of the nation's top tight end prospects with great receiving skills and NFL upside after he beefs up a little bit, and James Clark isn't exactly chopped liver - he'd be the No. 1 receiver recruit at most places with Florida state championship track speed
- but Marshall and Smith will be the immediate factors. The 6-0, 190-pound Marshall was a dangerous high school quarterback with special athleticism as an Ohio state championship long jumper and dangerous deep speed. The 6-1, 190-pound Smith is a great-looking JUCO transfer out of East Mississippi CC with great hands and the versatility to work in any receiving role.
Strength: Speed and experience. The Buckeyes are loaded with state championship sprinters and track stars. Brown and Smith can rip up secondaries deep and come up with big play after big play, and the rest of the corps can move, too.
Weakness: Proven veteran backups. The situation really isn't that bad with a loaded group of prospects waiting to show what they can do, but consistency is a bit of an issue across the board and more is needed from other targets outside of Brown and Smith.
Outlook: While there might not be a Calvin Johnson-like 6-4 NFL No. 1, the corps looks and plays the part with excellent deep speed and great athleticism across the board. This might be a little more of a looks-like-Tarzan-plays-like-Jane unit, but Brown and Smith form a terrific 1-2 punch and there are more than enough athletes across the board to add a few options.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Four starters return to a good offensive line that was great for the ground game but struggled in pass protection with the mobile Braxton Miller scrambling around. The best of the bunch is 6-6, 319-pound senior left guard Andrew Norwell, a former tackle prospect with great size and an excellent frame for the outside to go along with the strength to power away in the interior. An all-star, he's the one the offense works behind for the hard rushing yard, while 6-7, 308-pound senior Jack Mewhort is back at left tackle after seeing time throughout his career at both tackle spots and guard. Suspended last offseason and technically released from his scholarship, he got out of the doghouse and back up front where he was a key part of the good run blocking unit. An all-star guard, he's going to be better at tackle.
Back at center is 6-3, 297-pound senior Corey Linsley after taking over for Michael Brewster and doing a decent job. The former backup is a good, strong leader up front after serving as a key backup and swing tackle and guard doing a little bit of everything. An all-star in the middle, he's one of the team's strongest players and doesn't get moved.
6-7, 315-pound sophomore Taylor Decker is the lone new starter up front getting the call at right tackle in place of Reid Fragel. Very tall with a perfect frame for a pass protector, he was a special teamer and backup last year in his apprenticeship. Athletic, he'll eventually be a left tackle and could take over the job next year after Norwell graduates. Working as a backup at both tackle spots and likely to fight Decker for the starting left tackle job next year is junior Darryl Baldwin, a 6-6, 307-pound former defensive tackle who's still learning on the fly but has the strength and tools to be a blaster. While he seems like more of a guard, he's athletic enough to work on the outside.
6-6, 315-pound senior Marcus Hall shifted around throughout the first part of his career before settling in at right guard. One of the biggest blockers on the Buckeye line, he can engulf his man at times, but he has to keep his weight in check. The one-time star recruit isn't all that strong on the move, but he's a sound veteran who can move to the left side if needed.
Watch Out For … Evan Lisle. He might not have been the nation's best tackle recruit, but he's not that far off. A given to come to Columbus after playing at Centerville High, a feeder for the Buckeyes, he has 6-6, 290-pound size with the ability to get a little bigger. With phenomenal technique and great quickness, he'll become a whale of a pass protector.
Strength: Experience. With four starters returning along with several good backup options, the line should be dominant at times for the running game and more consistent overall. There are at least three all-star options in Norwell, Mewhort and Linsley, and Hall might not be far behind.
Weakness: Pass blocking. Yes, it was because Braxton Miller danced a lot and ran to try to make things happen, but the line couldn't seem to keep him upright allowing a 30 sacks after giving up a whopping 46 two years ago. The pass protection improved, but it was still the third-worst in the Big Ten.
Outlook: While there's talent, size and experience, there's still a little bit of an adjustment period going on. The line in this offense has to be quick and athletic, but that's not exactly this group. It's going to be a good, sound unit for the ground game, but it might be a bit overrated because of the returning experience. It'll be a good line, but not an elite one.
Unit Rating: 7
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