2008 Ohio State Preview - Offense
Ohio State OT Alex Boone
Ohio State OT Alex Boone
Posted May 9, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Ohio State Buckeye Offense

Ohio State Buckeyes

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Ohio State Preview | 2008 Ohio State Offense
- 2008 Ohio State Defense | 2008 Ohio State Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Ohio State Preview | 2006 CFN Ohio State Preview 

What you need to know:
The Buckeyes are loaded with ten returning starters and the one new face to the mix, sophomore right tackle Bryant Browning, is on the verge of being a star. A shockingly balanced attack last year, averaging 197 yards per game both rushing and receiving, might lean even more heavily on the running game with Chris "Beanie" Wells a Heisman candidate working behind a durable, tough front five. The passing game gets back the dangerous receiving tandem of Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline, while QB Todd Boeckman will once again be a steady, efficient triggerman. The key will be to get more offensive scoring pop and to figure out how to mix in all the talented young backups. How will super-recruit Terrelle Pryor fit into the quarterback rotation, if at all? Can speedy tailback Brandon Saine get more carries? There's an embarrassment of riches to get excited about.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Todd Boeckman
191-299, 2,379 yds, 25 TD, 14 INT
Rushing: Chris Wells
274 carries, 1,609 yds, 15 TD
Brian Robiskie
55 catches, 935 yds, 11 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Chris Wells
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore OT Bryant Browning
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Brandon Saine
Best pro prospect: Wells
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wells, 2) OT Alex Boone, 3) WR Brian Robiskie
Strength of the offense: Experience, running back, offensive line
Weakness of the offense:
Proven backups, Consistent scoring


Projected Starter: Oh no, senior Todd Boeckman wasn't flawless in the spring game? He might be destined for backup duty, right? It might be Terrelle Pryor's offensive now. Whatever. The 6-4, 244-pound senior is a good, steady leader who has been through the ringer over the last year, took his lumps at the end, and now should be the veteran who keeps the mistakes to the minimum and keeps the offense moving. At least that's the hope, and that's why the mistakes he made in spring ball were magnified. He struggled at the end of last year throwing six of his 14 picks in the final three games, and while he wasn't asked to bomb away or carry the offense, when it came time to start throwing in the national title loss, he wasn't able to produce until it was too late. Even so, he's a big, strong passer with decent enough mobility to keep moving, and he has the size and the arm to get the eye of the NFL scouts.

Projected Top Reserves: The surprise of spring ball was the emergence of redshirt freshman Joe Bauserman, a cool, calm 6-2, 220-pound former pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirate farm system with a live arm and nice touch. He showed off excellent mobility and an accurate deep gun as spring ball went on, and even though he's 22 and fighting an uphill battle for playing time, he's on the radar now.

In case you've been in a coma for the last year, or have an extremely interesting life with plenty to do, you're now way too familiar with Terrelle Pryor, the 6-6, 235-pound superstar prospect who could've gone anywhere to play basketball, could've gone anywhere to play football, and is expected to be the next-big-thing from day one. Very confident and very talented, he's a bigger, stronger, better passing Vince Young-type who also has the smarts to handle the schoolwork and the playbook right away. In a perfect world he's able to redshirt and will be the man for the following four years, but he's more likely to find his way on the field in a running role. He's too much of a weapon to keep under wraps.

Sophomore Antonio Henton was supposed to be the sure-thing No. 2 going into the fall, and possibly a challenger to Todd Boeckman for meaningful playing time, but he chose to transfer after the writing was on the wall with the signing of Pryor.

Watch Out For ... Bauserman. It was an afterthought that the redshirt freshman was going to be the fourth man in the mix, but he showed enough throughout the off-season to be a co-No. 2. Don't hand the backup job to Mr. Pryor just yet.
Strength: Options. Bauserman won't just provide a good backup to Boeckman, but he'll also offer the possible option of redshirting Pryor.
A quarterback controversy? Boeckman won't be allowed to make a mistake. The fans are going to want Pryor, or even Bauserman, if the offense isn't rolling. Pressure comes with the territory at Ohio State, but it's never a plus to be looking over your shoulder.
Outlook: The situation is eerily similar to 2006 Florida quarterback rotation when Chris Leak was the established, steady starter, while the super-recruit, Tim Tebow, was waiting in the wings to be unleashed. Make no mistake about it; this is Boeckman's offense to run, but Pryor is too dangerous to not see a few key snaps here and there. The Buckeyes have a good backup in Bauserman to make the battle for the No. 2 job a fascinating one all season long.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Enjoy junior Chris "Beanie" Wells now before the NFL gets its hands on him. At 6-1 and 237 pounds, he brings the power in between the tackles, and he has the breakaway speed to hit the home run from anywhere on the field. An elite recruit a few years ago, he overcame a mediocre outing to start the season against Youngstown State to crank out a 1,609-yard, 15 touchdown season highlighted by a brilliant 221-yard day against Michigan State and a 169-yard, three touchdown performance against Wisconsin. And then there's Michigan. Ohio State players go from good to legendary by rocking against the Wolverines with a 52-yard scoring dash in the classic 2006 win and with 222 yards and two scores last year. He's not going to catch it much and he has to continue to prove he can hold up under the pounding and the pressure, but he's the real deal and on the short list of Heisman candidates.

6-0, 238-pound senior Ryan Lukens is a former linebacker who spent most of his time on special teams and now will battle for the starting fullback job. He'll never get the ball, but he has a physical style and is strong enough to blast open some big holes.

Projected Top Reserves: This close to transferring two years ago, 5-10, 196-pound senior Maurice Wells stuck around and had a decent year as the team's No. 2 back with 367 yards and three touchdowns. His workload dropped to almost nothing in November and there's a huge talent drop-off to him from Chris Wells, but he's a reliable veteran who can catch the ball and can hit the hole early or break to the outside to crank out a big play. He'll be a third down back and a specialty option.

6-1, 217-pound Brandon Saine was a top recruit last year and came through with 267 yards and two touchdowns on 60 carries. Also a strong receiver, he caught 12 passes for 160 yards and a score. Ohio's 2006 Mr. Football, he has good size, was a state champion sprinter with 4.35 wheels, and will be worked in more and more to give Chris Wells more of a break. He's a special back who'll get a chance to show it off soon.

It'll be hard to find carries or work, but 5-10, 183-pound redshirt freshman Dan Herron is a dangerous back with the toughness to pound the ball inside and the speed to work outside. While he doesn't have the wheels of Saine or the talent of Chris Wells, he's gifted enough to get 50 touches this year.

Battling with Ryan Lukens for the starting fullback job will be linebacker Curtis Terry and 6-2, 225-pound redshirt freshman Spencer Smith. Smith is a walk-on who'll solely be used as a blocker; it'll be a shock if he gets any carries. Terry is a natural at fullback and is coming off an ankle injury that cost him all of last year, but he still might be a linebacker.

Watch Out For ... Saine. Chris Wells might be a special back who can do everything, but Saine is a faster, special back who can do everything. Wells, at least for this year, is the franchise. He's the player to revolve the offense around, and he needs to be kept fresh with more carries from Maurice Wells and Saine.
Strength: Breakaway speed and size. Both of the 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're gone. It doesn't hurt that the three combine to average around 215 pounds.
Getting the motor running. Chris Wells isn't exactly a slow starter, but it sometimes takes him a little bit to get going. He's the epitome of the back who gets better as the game goes on. It would be nice if he was used more in the passing game, but that's left to Maurice Wells and Saine.
Outlook: Chris Wells is a superstar, No. 1 overall pick type of back who can carry the Ohio State offense on his back. And he has help. Maurice Wells is a quick runner who can be a good third down back or can be the featured runner from time to time. The star in the making is Saine, the 217-pound speedster who has good power and jaw-dropping moves. This backfield is deep, fast, big and very, very talented.
Rating: 10


Projected Starters: One of the big question marks going into last year was whether or not senior Brian Robiskie could go from being a great complementary receiver into a No. 1 target. He came through every as well as expected with 55 catches for 835 yards and 11 touchdowns averaging 17 yards per catch. At 6-3 and 199 pounds, he's a big, strong target who was a consistent producer all season long. A smart player with great hands and good toughness, he's a fantastic all-around NFL prospect who'll be Todd Boeckman's main man all season long.

Junior Brian Hartline took over the starting flanker spot early on and never let go. With tremendous hands and good route running ability, he can be used in any situation and can be a reliable deep threat averaging 13.3 yards per catch with 52 grabs for 694 yards and six touchdowns. Extremely fast with 6-2, 186-pound size, he's a matchup problem. He's also a talented punt returner averaging 11.4 yards per try.

6-6. 256-pound junior Jake Ballard was the team's fifth leading receiver last season making 13 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns. A co-No. 1 tight end along with Rory Nichol, Ballard became more of a target as the season went on and got better and better as a blocker. While he won't be an all-star, he'll be dominant in two-tight end sets and a tough matchup to deal with.

Projected Top Reserves: Is junior Ray Small out of the doghouse? All spring long he was relegate to play with the backups, if he got time at all, but he reemerged in the spring game and he should be the team's best third option in the three-wide sets. He was third on the team with 20 catches for 267 yards and two touchdowns, but he can do a lot more. At 6-0 and 180 pounds, he has decent size and phenomenal speed, but he hasn't been able to put it all together and live up to the prep hype.

Is Taurian Washington ready to be a breakout star? A true sophomore with 4.5 speed and decent hands is a good home run hitter who made a few big plays throughout spring ball. He only caught three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown and saw time on special teams, but he has the talent to play a big role behind Brian Robiskie.

Sophomore Dane Sanzenbacher is a quick 5-11, 175-pound target who was an all-Ohio sprinter and showed off some flashes of promise last year catching 12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. He'll work in a rotation behind Brian Hartline with the potential to become a dangerous fourth receiver in the mix. Physical enough to not be pushed around and fast enough to blow past just about anyone, he can do a little of everything. After a big spring, he'll be used even more.

Is there any room for DeVier Posey? The 6-3, 205-pound star recruit would've been the team's most celebrated get if it wasn't for the signing of Terrelle Pryor. A next-level athlete with a 33-inch vertical and 21.5 speed in the 200, he's a scary-good mix of size and wheels. Smart enough to handle himself well from day one, he could see the field sooner than later. Redshirting might not be an option.

6-5, 252-pound Rory Nicol has been a big of a forgotten man in the passing game over the last few years, but he's a reliable veteran with 32 career catches for 269 yards and four touchdowns. He didn't get into the end zone after scoring three times in 2006, and he did nothing to stretch the field, but he's a good route runner and a more than willing blocker.

Watch Out For ... Washington. He won't break into the starting lineup unless he's in a three-wide formation, but he has the deep speed and the upside to be used more as a home run hitter. He should destroy most of the mediocre corners who'll match up against him.
Strength: NFL size/speed. This is Ohio State. It doesn't throw a receiver on the field unless he's fast, has fantastic hands, and has good size. That includes the tight ends.
Sure-thing backups. It's nitpicking, but there will be a problem is there's a rash of injuries. There's plenty of promise behind Robiskie and Hartline, but Sanzenbacher and Washington haven't had to do it yet in a full-time role, while Small can't seem to put it all together.
Outlook: The receiving corps came through as well as could be hoped for after losing Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez with Robiskie and Hartline growing into a nice combination. There's plenty of experience returning with promising backups who got their feet wet last year, and two excellent tight ends in Nicol and Ballard an unappreciated twosome who should be used more in the passing game. This group will be held in check by the top secondaries, but there aren't a lot of them in the Big Ten.
Rating: 8

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The Buckeyes caught a huge break when 6-8, 312-pound senior Alex Boone surprised everyone and chose to return for his senior season. A four-year starter on the left side, he's a great pass blocker with the long arms that keep all the pass rushers at a distance to go along with the power to be a dominant run blocker. He's a rock of a player who's getting more and more consistent. Considered by some to be the best Buckeye line prospect since Orlando Pace, all eyes will be on him as the possible first tackle taken in next year's draft.

6-7, 345-pound senior Steve Rehring is back to start for his third season at left guard after growing into a steady run blocker. While he's not athletic enough to be an NFL tackle, and might be considered too tall to be a consistent guard, he certainly gets the job done at the collegiate level and should have a long career waiting for him at the next level. He's a blaster of a run blocker.

Unsung compared to the rest of the stars on the line 6-4, 297-pound junior Jim Cordle is a steady center who's tough as nails and is one of the line's better athletes. He suffered a foot problem as a true freshman and played through a broken wrist last year. It'll be interesting to see what he can do if and when he stays healthy; he was good enough banged up.

6-3, 323-pound senior Ben Person is back after starting every game at right guard. A quality reserve over his first two seasons, he stepped in for T.J. Dowling and handled himself well. A mauler who was helped immensely by playing next to Kirk Barton, now he should come into his own as a steadier interior pass protector. While he's a limited talent compared to some of the other linemen, he's a hard-working veteran who won't be a liability.

The one new starter up front is 6-4, 313-pound sophomore Bryant Browning, who replaced Kirk Barton after spending last year on the special teams. Very smart and very tough, he handled himself well this off-season and improved as practices went on. He has all the tools and the coaches really like him, but he'll be in for a bit of a battle to keep the starting job.

Projected Top Reserves: Will the Buckeyes really put a true freshman at right tackle? It's possible. 6-8, 310-pound Mike Adams will get every shot to beat out Bryant Browning for the starting job with tremendous size and next level athleticism. While it was almost a sure-thing that he'd redshirt, he could quickly change his mind depending on how the early workouts go this fall.

Along with Adams, Michael Brewster is the future of the Buckeye line. Arguably the nation's best offensive line prospect this year, the 6-5, 300 pounder can play either center or guard. While Adams could see time right away, Brewster, thanks to a shoulder problem, will likely be in the mix for playing time next year.

At 6-4, 321 pounds, sophomore Connor Smith is one of the team's biggest linemen and a promising backup. A top recruit as the 2005 Ohio Player of the Year, he has the upside, but he has to see more playing time behind Ben Person at right guard.

Watch Out For ... Browning. He's the only new starter on the line and he's been able to hold his own so far in place of Kirk Barton. He'll be challenged for the starting job, but he has everything needed to be the next great Buckeye lineman.
Strength: Durability and cohesion. There wasn't one change in the starting lineup from start to finish, and with four of the starters returning, this group knows what it's doing.
Backups. It's been hard to get playing time over the last few years behind the rock-solid starting five, but it's not like several players have stepped up. You were a superstar high school player if you're on the OSU two-deep, but veterans like Kyle Mitchum and Jon Skinner never lived up to their prep hype. Now the hope will be for true freshmen, Adams and Brewster, to be the real deal.
Outlook: After two very good years, the Buckeye O line should be among the best in the nation again with four starters returning. Boone should be one of the country's premier tackles, while Rehring is an NFL-caliber guard to help form a dominant left side. There's a question about the relatively inexperienced backups, and the Buckeyes can't have the same luck with durability again, so there will be a bit of a panic if there's a rash of injuries early on.
Rating: 9