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Monday, October 3, 2016

Buckeyes vs Rutgers, the Aftermath

Ten Things We Learned from Ohio State's 58-0 Win Over Rutgers
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — How much can you learn from a game against Rutgers? Well, you can learn that Ohio State runs both their offensive and defensive systems exceedingly well, and Rutgers is still looking for the right parts for that same system.
I also left the game not with something that I learned, but something that I am now seriously confused about: Is the Ohio State defense better than the Ohio State offense? They are the only defense in the nation that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown, and their two passing touchdowns allowed is also the best mark in the nation.
They currently lead the nation in points allowed at 9.3, while the offense is slacking with just the No. 3 scoring offense (57.0 ppg) in the nation. There are a bunch of other numbers that I might get into in another piece, just know that there is a serious discussion to be had here. For now, however, let's stick with what we know.
What did we learn from Saturday's 58-0 win over the Scarlet Knights?
1. It is now all hands on deck.
I'm sure we have all rolled our eyes many, many times when Urban Meyer has talked about how this true freshman or that true freshman needs to play and how torn he is on the decision, yet that player never ends up seeing the field. We saw it with Sam Hubbard, K.J. Hill, and several others. Then we heard it this week with receiver Binjimen Victor.
Before the game, I heard mutters in the press box that it was more about just wanting Victor to hear his name being mentioned than actually him being a possibility of seeing the field. Yet, he did, and then we also saw Antonio Williams, who seemed like a sure thing to redshirt because he's the No. 5 running back. It looks like Meyer has finally convinced himself -- no matter how many times he had told himself previously -- that these players aren't going to be around for five years, and so why not just get as much out of them as you can and do it as quickly as possible.
The Buckeyes are going to need Williams next year, so getting him on the field this year is a good move. According to OSU's participation report, 10 true freshmen played yesterday, but they missed it by one because Keandre Jones also played. Tight end Jake Hausmann and defensive tackle Malcolm Barrow have also been mentioned as being close. Okay, so maybe it's not all hands on deck, but Meyer is beginning to show that if you can play, you will play.
2. Demario McCall is a difference maker.
Imagine being a defense that has to deal with trying to stop Mike Weber, Curtis Samuel, and J.T. Barrett for about 45 minutes, and then you have to deal with this explosive can of Jolt Cola named Demario McCall. It does not sound like fun. The next step for him, however, is to do it in the first three quarters.
Basically, he needs to show that he belongs on the big stage. The Buckeyes have run into this before over the last few years because they have such talented players and they fall in love with those players -- be it Braxton Miller or Ezekiel Elliott -- and other guys who can make plays simply don't get the opportunity because any snap without Elliott on the field is a snap that just put your offense in a worse position. I think that's how they feel when they don't have Samuel, Weber, or Wilson in the game.
Still, McCall has consistently shown that he can make plays when given an opportunity. I wonder if we'll get to see him in an important situation this season. Maybe let Samuel lead block for him on a sweep or something? Let's see what he can do when the game is still in doubt. Or as much doubt as a game against Rutgers provides, anyway.
3. The Buckeyes don’t need a go-to receiver.
Ten different members of Ohio State's receivers room caught passes yesterday. How does a defense focus on one particular receiver on a big third down when it is clear that quarterback J.T. Barrett is more than happy to go wherever the defense allows?
Curtis Samuel is the team's leading receiver -- and currently on pace for over 1,000 yards receiving -- but many of his touches are predetermined. He has shown a consistent ability to get open as a slot receiver, but do the Buckeyes need Noah Brown or Parris Campbell to step up out wide? At this point, how do we know that they haven't.
After all, the Ohio State offense hasn't faced many third-and-long situations. They are No. 110 in the nation in number of third-down situations, but they are also No. 1 in the nation with a 57.1% conversion rate. You don't have that kind of percentage if you're facing a bunch of third-and-longs.
4. Chris Worley is what he was promised to be.
He is not as flashy as Darron Lee and he never said he would be. What Chris Worley is, however, is consistent and reliable. He is where he is supposed to be and does what he is supposed to do. The walk-out linebacker spot will oftentimes be too far away from the play to involve himself, but as long as he is doing his job, then the offense is limited in where the ball can go.
With the way this secondary is playing, there isn't much joy for an offense in going outside the numbers, and with the way the front seven is playing, it's no better between the numbers. Worley affects a lot of that because he needs to be in both places. Darron Lee burst onto the scene with big plays as a redshirt freshman in 2014. Chris Worley is almost doing his workbehind the scenes, making sure everything runs as smoothly as intended. Yet when you keep track of who is peeling themselves off of the piles. No. 35 is usually in there.
5. The kick coverage issues appear to be fixed.
How about them Piranhas, eh? Kerry Coombs' group of kick coveraging dynamos were back in this game after a rough start to the season. Sure, it would have been a much better test to see how they did against an outstanding returner like Janarion Grant, who was injured for the season recently. Perhaps this was in part a result of a new kick returner, but regardless of that, the lanes were shut down and tackles were made. Here are each of Rutgers' kickoff returns: 13 yards, touchback, nine yards, 11 yards, 20 yards, 11 yards, touchback, 10 yards. Not bad.
6. Nick Bosa is already a problem.
Nick Bosa is currently tied for the Ohio State lead in sacks with two. The last time the Buckeyes were led by a Bosa in sacks, they won a national title. Watching Bosa on the field, it would be impossible to confuse him for a true freshman. If he was in a police lineup with other college freshmen, people would ask, "What is that veteran officer doing in the lineup?" He's just different and he is only going to get better and more disruptive. People will say that he can't be as good as his brother was as a freshman, but Joey didn't even get his first sack as a freshman until the sixth game of the season. Here's how both stack(ed) up after their first four games as true freshmen:
Joey Bosa: 10 tackles, 2 TFLs, 0 sacks, 2 starts
Nick Bosa: 9 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 2 sacks, 0 starts
7. Robert Landers is going to be a problem.
To be fair, he might already be a problem, but there will be a question because of his size (6-1 285) until he holds up against Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Michigan. That's just how it is going to be. He now leads the Buckeyes with 5.0 tackles for loss in just four games of increasing action. He finished with two tackles for loss in this game, with one being a sack. He's just so quick on the interior that centers and guards have trouble staying in front of him.
His sack, which happened in the first quarter, was the fifth play in a row of the possession that he was on the field as the Buckeyes' nose tackle. What that says is that he is still going full bore even when he might be winded. On that play he made a move around the left guard, and then ran into the Rutgers H-back who was trying to slip through to the other side of the line of scrimmage, then he got away from him and managed to track the quarterback Chris Laviano down for the sack. He was then given a breather because it was third and long.
The second tackle for loss showed his quickness even more. He got off the ball immediately and went right by the left guard, and then was still able to reach back and trip up Laviano on a quarterback draw as Laviano was running by him. He is basically a pass-rushing nose tackle, which is pretty rare, and fun to watch.

8. If he stays healthy, Dontre Wilson is saving his best for his senior season.
The health caveat needs to be mentioned first because it is real, but if he stays healthy he is absolutely just one more problem for opposing defensive coordinators to have to worry about. Against Rutgers he caught four passes for 53 yards and was a pain over the middle of the field.
Imagine being the defensive staff trying to figure out how to deal with this offense. You spend all of this time worried about the offensive line and the running game, as well as J.T. Barrett and his ability to put the offense in positive situations repeatedly. Then you move to guys like Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown and how to keep them from being mismatches. Once you get all of that figured out, you close up the books and you start to call it a night, when suddenly one of your graduate assistants says, "Oh crap, what about Dontre Wilson?"
You look around the room at a dozen faces that realize they're not going to get home as quickly as they though. "Somebody put some more coffee on," you say, taking your jacket off. "We're going to be here a while."
9. The Ohio State defense is so good that they’re stopping the Buckeye passing game too.
Urban Meyer promised to have a more balanced offense this season, but against Rutgers the Buckeyes ran the ball 53 times and threw it 36 times. And probably a third of those throws could be labeled excessive if people want to get snippy.
Unfortunately for J.T. Barrett (21-for-29 238 yards passing), the Ohio State defense is so good that not only are they limiting what opposing passing games can do, they're also limiting what the Buckeye passing game can do. If the Silver Bullets keep not allowing opponents to score, then they are going to seriously limit the amount of passing that the OSU offense will be doing because throwing the ball a bunch when you're up by five touchdowns isn't exactly cool.
Still, this would seem to be the kind of out-of-balance offense that Meyer can live with. In the past it would be out of necessity. This season it is out of sportsmanship. Although if we want to get technical, the Buckeyes averaged 7.7 yards per rush against Rutgers and 7.2 yards per pass, so throwing the ball would have actually been the more courteous thing to do.
10. Mike Weber isn’t the fastest guy, but he hits the hole way faster than most.
Mike Weber again got caught from behind on a carry that past OSU running backs wouldn't have, but he still had carries of 49 yards and 46 yards, so let's not get overly critical of a guy who averaged 10.3 yards per carry on 14 attempts and currently leads the B1G in rushing at 123.8 yards on the ground per game. That number is also good for No. 11 in the nation. Christian McCaffrey, by the way, is averaging 121.3 yards rushing per game so far this season.
Weber leads the B1G with 15 carries of at least 10 yards. That means that 22% of his carries go for at least 10 yards. He is No. 2 in the conference with four carries of at least 20 yards, and No. 1 with three carries of 30 yards.
No, Weber isn't going to wow anybody with a 40-yard dash time, but his 10-yard dash is as good as anybody's in the nation. He is automatic on short-yardage downs and there is no hesitation in his game. He hits the hole like few others. Oh, and his 7.3 yards per carry on the season is a full yard better than Ezekiel Elliott a year ago, and that's with Elliott's home run ability. That number will go down in conference play, but it's pretty clear that the Buckeyes are going to be able to run the ball on most everybody. 

5 Things:  Rutgers


Coming into the season the offensive line was one of the biggest question marks on the team. 
Through four games the Slobs have been largely dominant though due to the nature of the position they don't get as much love as they deserve. 
Yesterday the group was dominant helping the Buckeyes rack up 410 rushing yards on 7.7 yards per carry while affording J.T. Barrett plenty of time to shred the Rutgers secondary. 
Maybe my favorite stat from yesterday, on 1st down plays Ohio State dialed up 18 rushes for 185 yards – that's a ridiculous 10.3 yards per carry – behind a charged up pack of Slobs.
After left tackle Jamarco Jones turned in another standout performance, center Pat Elflein teamed with left guard Michael Jordan to open gaping holes up the middle and right guard Billy Price appeared to have his best day so far this year (check out that pull and finish on Mike Weber's 46-yard touchdown), the starters are clicking. Yes, Isaiah Price is still finding his way but even he has improved over the first four games at right tackle. 
The real problem up front is the lack of a depth – an issue that only got worse this week with the loss of Demetrius Knox to foot surgery. Already without Malcolm Pridgeon, the line is low on depth and experience, so much so that while obviously losing Barrett at quarterback would be the biggest injury the team could face, losing Elflien or Jones in particular or frankly just about any other starting slob to injury could sink Ohio State's title hopes. 
Here's to hoping the line not only keeps progressing but stays healthy. 


Sticking to the trenches, let's talk interior defensive line play for a second. 
Loaded at defensive end and with pass rush specialists specifically, the question along the defensive front was how the Buckeyes could replace last year's interior run stopper Adolphus Washington and to a lesser degree Tommy Schutt especially after injury claimed Tracy Sprinkle in the season opener and blood clots ended the career of Donovan Munger back in April. 
Michael Hill continues to start at one defensive tackle spot and has been decent but his backup Robert Landers grabbed my attention with a big game against Tulsa and yesterday not only did Landers again step up, his strong play was complemented by the other starter at defensive tackle, Dre'Mont Jones. 
Robert Landers continues to do work in a reserve role along the defensive interior.
Jones, a redshirt freshman out of Cleveland St. Ignatius was Ohio State's 2nd-leading tackler yesterday as he flashed not just a run stopping ability up the gut but also slid down the line on a few occasions beating his blocker to the spot. It was frankly the first time this year Jones jumped out at me multiple times in a game – not that I'm pretending to be a D-line scout. 
For his part, Landers logged another two TFL, one a sack on a 2nd and 8 play in the 1st quarter leading to a Rutgers punt and two series later he made a spectacular play on 2nd and 11, bull rushing his man into the backfield before quickly throwing himself laterally right to bring down quarterback Chris Laviano for a 1-yard loss. 
Bigger challenges are obviously yet to come so the jury is still out but I'm optimistic about what we're seeing from the youth along the defensive interior. 


I don't mean to look ahead but OMG what if J.T. Barrett comes back next year? 
Anyway, what a performance yesterday from the captain. In the midst of him breaking the school record for career touchdown passes what continues to impress me most about Barrett isn't his physical talent but instead his mental approach to the game along with the incredible leadership he provides. 
The dude is basically Derek Jeter in shoulder pads. Now, even if you're a Yankee hater, I hope you're smart enough to understand just how big a compliment it is to say that. 
Did you see Barrett accept the game ball in the locker room after the game? Jeter-ish. 
How about the calm and controlled way he led the Buckeyes to a touchdown right before the half via a textbook 2-minute drill? Reminded me of Jeter in his heyday - controlling the tempo and tenor of things while keenly aware of everything happening around him. 
He quickly yet calmly directed the offense, lining everyone up and spiking the ball when he had to while in between carving up the Rutgers defense with three completions to Curtis Samuel and a 17-yard run to put Ohio State up 30-0 at the break. 
The guy looks like a man on a mission out there playing with just the right balance of urgency and control. 


If you follow 11W, you know we're all in on Demario McCall. I touched on his talents and how Ohio State will lean on him in coming years after the Bowling Green game when he ran for 6.8 per carry and added a 36-yard touchdown reception and he was back at it yesterday. 
With Ohio State able to empty the bench early McCall received a career-high 10 carries and he responded in kind with a career-high 85 yards including 20-yard touchdown run and a 39-yard flash and dash that ended just shy of the goal line. 
Turn and burn: Demario McCall gets to the edge with no trouble.
The dude has amazing speed, easily getting to the edge and once he turns up field he's a nightmare for anyone attempting to make an open-field tackle. 
If you aren't yet on the bandwagon, jump on now before it's too late. With all the talent around him it will be hard to a legit factor in 2016 but the Demario McCall Experience will be in full effect in 2017 and you'll want to be very clear about how bullish you were on him before it happens. 
Just imagine how fast he'll look if decides to switch from a meh number like 30 to a single-digit next year. (Maybe I'm just scarred from the Lydell Ross days.)


I wasn't expecting such a lopsided game yesterday. I thought something more like 49-17 and while I was obviously way off, it wasn't because I didn't know the game was a total talent mismatch. 
The reality is that I thought there could be a chance Ohio State came out a little bored to play a noon game against a bad team (former coach or not) recently crushed by injuries following a bye week on the heels of an emotion road win versus Oklahoma. 
Instead, though the Buckeyes did start a little slow, they came out with intensity and purpose – something last year's star-studded roster sometimes struggled to do. 
Yes, this team is loaded with young guys still needing to prove themselves but I thought the overwhelming success realized in the first three games could still end up triggering a bit of complacency. 
As such, props to the staff and players. They do look way more hungry and excited to play than we saw at times from the 2015 crew. The joy in winning appears to be back in spades and it is fun to watch. 

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