2007 Ohio State Preview - Offense
Ohio State Buckeye Offense
Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know:
You don't get better after losing
Ted Ginn, Anthony Gonzalez, Antonio Pittman, and, oh yeah, some
quarterback who won a Heisman and owned Michigan. While many
will predict doom and gloom, the offense might crank out close
to as many yards as last year when it was 26th in the nation as
long as Chris Wells holds up and becomes the running back
everyone's expecting him to be, and new starting quarterback
Todd Boeckman is merely above average. The receiving corps is
talented, but untested, while there's plenty of reason to be
excited about a line that'll field one of the best starting
fives in the nation. Tackles Alex Boone and Kirk Barton and
guard Steve Rehring will be first day draft picks. Welcome back
to Tressel ball with more running and fewer shots taken down the
Passing: Todd Boeckman
2-3, 19 yds
Rushing: Chris Wells
104 carries, 576 yds, 7 TD
29 catches, 383 yds, 5 TD
Star of the offense: Junior OT Alex Boone & Senior OT
Proven receivers, proven quarterback
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior QB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C Jim Cordle
Best pro prospect: Boone
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Boone, 2) Barton, 3) OG
Strength of the offense: Tackles, running back
Weakness of the offense:
Projected Starter: By merely being
competent, 6-5, 235-pound junior Todd Boeckman won the
starting job this spring and now he'll finally get his shot to
start. He certainly knows the offense, having been around as a
backup for the last several seasons, and he has the tools with a
huge arm and excellent mobility for a player of his size. While
he won't be asked to throw 40 times a game, he'll have to limit
his mistakes and will need to simply keep the offense moving.
Being a spectacular Heisman-caliber playmaker won't be a must
for the offense to succeed.
Projected Top Reserves: Boeckman's big, sophomore
Rob Schoenhoft is even bigger. At 6-6 and 240 pounds,
he's a big bomber with a next level arm that can get the ball
off in a hurry. Not as mobile as Boeckman, or as experienced in
the system, he's still a good option who's spent enough time on
the scout team to be a good option if needed.
6-2, 210-pound redshirt freshman Antonio Henton is
the wild-card. Unlike the other two quarterbacking options,
Henton is a real runner with the explosiveness to take off at
any time, and by design. Not just a runner, he has a good,
accurate arm that should make him a dangerous dual threat once
he gets the starting job. It just might not happen until 2009.
Watch Out For ... Boeckman to be tremendously
effective. He's not going to throw for 2,542 yards and 30
touchdowns with six interceptions, or be the playmaker Troy
Smith was, but he'll be a good game manager (to use the hip term
for a passer who doesn't screw up).
Strength: Arms. Boeckman and Schoenhoft can make
every throw in the book. Henton has enough of a gun to be able
to make any play needed. If the offense wants to air it out, the
quarterbacks will help.
Weakness: Experience. It's one thing to be a good talent and a
nice prospect, but it takes a special quarterback to make a team
one of the elite of the elite. Troy Smith put the Buckeyes on
his back at times, especially against Michigan. It might take a
while for someone else to have that sort of magic.
Outlook: The spotlight will be on as Boeckman will
have to replace a legend, but even the most optimistic of
Buckeye fans isn't expecting him to be Troy Smith. The overall
situation will be fine as long as Boeckman isn't asked to carry
the offense by himself. He'll have one or two games against
lousy teams when he'll look like a world-beater and will get
everyone fired up, but there will also be one or two games when
he'll have to make the one key play to carry the team when
things are tight. Can he do it? You could do a lot worse than
Schoenhoft and Henton as backups.
Projected Starters: The expectations for
sophomore Chris Wells have reached almost unrealistic
proportions after an impressive 576-yard, seven touchdown season
as Antonio Pittman's backup. A top-shelf recruit two years ago,
he has 6-1, 230-pound size, breakaway speed, and the strength to
pound the ball inside. He started to take on a bigger role as
last year went on, scoring a touchdown in six straight games
before the Florida fiasco, highlighted by a 52-yard scoring dash
against Michigan. Now he has to prove he can be a 20-carry back,
and he has to show he can hang on to the ball.
Paving the way will be 6-0, 234-pound senior Dionte Johnson,
the son of former Buckeye great and New York Giant, Pepper
Johnson. Purely a blocker, he likely won't get any carries, but
he should see a little work in the passing game.
Projected Top Reserves: This close to
transferring, 5-10, 190-pound junior Maurice Wells will
stick around and play a key role as the backup behind the other
Wells. Decent as a freshman, he didn't exactly show anything
special that would force the offense to revolve around him. He
was all but out of the mix last year with just 171 yards and a
touchdown on 46 carries, but he'll be the number two man this
season and could see a huge role if Chris Wells can't handle the
workload. At the very least, he'll be more of a third down back
than the other Wells.
Almost certain to see time right away will be true freshman
Brandon Saine, Ohio's Mr. Football last season averaging
7.3 yards per carry with 1,895 yards and 27 scores. He's 6-1,
205 pounds, smart, and runs a 4.35. He was a state champion sprinter, and is expected to be
a home run hitter whenever he gets the ball.
Working behind Johnson at fullback will be 6-0, 220-pound senior
Trever Robinson, a decent blocker who'll mostly play on
Watch Out For ... Maurice Wells to see plenty of
work. If he plays his cards right, he can create a great role
for himself as a receiver out of the backfield and a third-down
specialist along with several carries here and there.
Strength: Breakaway speed. Both Wells can tear off
big runs, and Saine has the speed to become one of the Big Ten's
most dangerous backs. All they'll need is a little bit of room
and they'll be gone.
Weakness: Reliability. Chris Wells was out for a stretch this
spring with an ankle problem. He's never carried the workload
before and will have to show he can take the pounding. Will the
Buckeyes be happy if Maurice Wells has to be the running game
for a stretch if the other Wells is banged up?
Outlook: Antonio Pittman grew into a star, but
with the great line up front, both Wells should be able to
combine to shine in his place. Pittman might have been very
good, but Chris Wells has the potential to be truly special.
Anything less than a 1,000-yard season will likely be seen as a
Projected Starters: Lost in the spotlight
of the star receivers was a very good year from 6-3, 195-pound
Brian Robiskie, who finished third on the team with 29
catches for 383 yards and five touchdowns. He was a steady
number three target all season long, and then he came through
huge against Michigan with seven catches for 89 yards and a
score. Along with good size and decent speed, he has the
attitude to make himself into a number one receiver.
It's time for 6-0, 175-pound sophomore Ray Small to play
up to the prep hype. He gets to take over Ted Ginn's old spot at
flanker, and while he's not quite the same player with the same
speed, he can fly on the outside. After getting on the field as
a true freshman, making eight catches for 68 yards with a
touchdown coming against Bowling Green, he could be the X factor
in the passing game. He needs to stretch the field right away to
prove Ohio State still has a vertical passing game.
6-5, 250-pound junior Rory Nichol was a forgotten man
with Troy Smith working with all his other weapons, but he's a
good receiver who should catch far more than the 13 grabs for
151 yards and three scores he came up with last year. A good
blocker, he's of more use as a matchup nightmare with enough
speed and strength to muscle his way for first downs.
Projected Top Reserves: When the Buckeyes go to
three-wide sets, 6-3, 180-pound sophomore Brian Hartline
will step in. He returned from a leg injury that sidelined him
in 2005 to catch 17 passes for 256 yards and two scores, both
coming against Northwestern. He's one of the team's fastest
players and should grow into one of the team's top targets.
Don't be shocked if he's starting instead of Small.
Mostly a special teamer so far, 6-1, 190-pound junior Albert
Dukes has been lost in the receiving shuffle over the last
few years, making only two catches for 11 yards in limited time
last season. Tough and fast, he'll need to find a role behind
Small and in three and four wide formations.
6-4, 214-pound junior Devon Lyons has all the tools to
shine with size, speed and tremendous athletic ability. Now he
has to find his way into the mix after hurting his ankle in 2005
and failing to see much playing time last year. He'll start out
at split end behind Robiskie.
On the way is Taurian Washington,
a true freshman with 4.5 speed and excellent hands. He's a home
run hitter who'll likely find a niche early on as a big play
threat on the outside
6-7, 255-pound sophomore Jake Ballard was one of the
stars of spring ball showing great hands and a pounding blocking
ability. While he won't knock Nichol out of the starting tight
end job, he'll be on the field often in two tight end sets.
He'll be used as a safety valve.
Watch Out For ... things to not be all that bad. Ginn
and Gonzalez might have been fantastic, but Robiskie can play,
and he should flourish with more work coming his way. There
might be a little bit of grumbling that Small hasn't quite
looked like the superstar he was supposed to be out of high
school, but he hasn't had a real chance to show what he can do.
Strength: Tight ends. Why throw to the tight ends
when you have Ginn and Gonzalez to get the ball to? That'll
change up this year as the new quarterback will rely on his big,
steady targets to keep things moving. Nichol and Ballard are
Weakness: Backups. The Buckeyes might take it easy for a little
while until they figure out who can actually play when the
lights are on. Finding reliable one and two receivers will be
tough enough, much less hoping to find options for three and
Outlook: It's time to put it out there; the corps
wasn't that great last year. Ginn and Gonzalez were fast,
and they were able to run for days thanks to the time Troy Smith
got behind his line. Once Ginn was gone from the BCS title game,
no one else stepped up and showed an ability to give Smith
another option. While Gonzalez got most of the blame for not
being able to get open, Robiskie didn't catch a pass and no one
else did anything, either. This year's group will be fine. On
talent alone, it's better than most of the Big Ten receiving
corps, but it'll have to be consistent.
Projected Starters: The left side isn't
better than Michigan's, but it's not all that far off with the
return of juniors Alex Boone and Steve Rehring,
who'll both make all-conference teams. The 6-8, 325-pound Boone
is a rock of a tackle with first-round draft pick upside if he
can have one more consistent year. His massive size makes him
tough for pass rushers to get around, while he has the feet to
stay with the speed defenders. Considered by some to be the best
Buckeye line prospect since Orlando Pace, all eyes will be on
him this year.
Rehring is a huge 6-8, 329-pound blocker who can play tackle or
guard. Out two years ago with pneumonia, he came back roaring as
a star guard who showed off quickness and a blasting ability to
open up holes. He'll be a ten year starter on some NFL offensive
Also ready to earn all-star honors will be 6-6, 310-pound senior
Kirk Barton at right tackle. A rock on the line for the
last three seasons, he's one of the nation's elite pass blockers
and has been as steady as any blocker in the game. While he's
not the NFL prospect that Boone is on the other side, he's
growing into a top 50 pick.
While he won't get the attention of the other top players on the
line, 6-4, 285-pound sophomore Jim Cordle is a rising
star at center taking over for Doug Datish. A foot injury kept
him out of his true freshman season, but he came back to be a
nice reserve and a great practice player. While he's not all
that big, he tremendously quick off the ball and is able to
attack well on the move.
The other new starter will be 6-4, 315-pound junior Ben
Person at right guard. A quality reserve over the last two
seasons behind T.J. Dowling, he knows what he's doing and will
hardly play like a newcomer. He's a mauler of a blocker who
should be helped greatly by playing next to Barton.
Projected Top Reserves: Working behind Rehring at
left guard will be 6-5, 295-pound junior Kyle Mitchum,
who's mostly seen time on special teams. A tall blocker who's
not as much of a banger as a technician, he's almost like a
tackle playing at guard. He won't make many mistakes.
Working behind Barton at right tackle will be 6-5, 300-pound
junior Jon Skinner, a superstar recruit who started to
grow into a decent player as the year went on. One of the team's
most versatile linemen, he can play either guard or tackle spot
and could see starting time inside and out over the next few
years. At least that's the hope, considering he hasn't lived up
to expectations yet.
Watch Out For ... NFL scouts to be drooling over the
Buckeye lines. The skill players might have had all the next
level types buzzing around the program last year, but Boone,
Rehring and Barton might end up being better pros than any of
the 2006 draftees. They're really that good.
Strength: Tackle. The interior will hardly be
chopped liver and should blast open mile-wide holes, but one of
the team's biggest strengths is on the outside with Boone and
Barton manning the spots. They'll give the new quarterback
plenty of time to work.
Weakness: Backups. They're not horrible, but they're unproven.
You were a superstar high school player if you're on the OSU
two-deep, but the Buckeye line is littered with more top high
school prospects than anywhere else. Now some of the overhyped
backups like Mitchum and Skinner have to start playing up to
their former press clippings.
Outlook: The Buckeye offensive line was overrated
in past seasons, but not last year. Did you notice how much time
Troy Smith had to throw on just about every play? You could've
stood back there and waited for Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez to
break open with the time the tackles provided. Yes, they were
overwhelmed by Florida's speedy defensive front, but that was
hardly the team's biggest problem in that game. There are three
potential first round draft picks and a good anchor in Cordle to
work around for the next several years.