After watching the offense surge and regress throughout the entire season it is difficult to decide to what degree momentum is with Buckeyes heading into the offseason. While there are myriad calculations regarding the success, or lack thereof, of the Ohio State offense this past season, all of them disintegrate into analysis of the upcoming campaign.
So without further ado, here is some unnecessarily early analysis:
The quarterback position is settled for the foreseeable future (read: two years) but that does not mean it is without queries. Terrelle Pryor is probably the best athlete I have seen in an Ohio State uniform (Antoine Winfield is a close second). But his passing polish is totally lacking.
I know he was injured during the Fiesta Bowl, but Pryor’s passing can only get better, right? If he makes a significant improvement, he becomes team's best running back with a legitimate passing option. Honestly, it is hard to envision Vince Young when thinking about the possibilities.
Even with that kind of talent under (or slightly set back from) center, it still matters who lines up at running back. As great as Beanie was whenever he left the offense you could see a noticeable drop off.
It was not until the Fiesta Bowl that I noticed Herron having the same success as Wells was, and that took some time. Beanie's absence now allows the offense to revolve around interchangeable parts, namely Herron, Saine, Berry, and Hyde, and therefore (hopefully) avoid the drop off from player to player.
A lot of folks have written off Saine because of his injuries and his precipitous slide down the depth chart this season. It is easy for many to forget that the coaches preferred him ahead Herron and Maurice Wells in 2007 and I find it foolish to dismiss him out of hand.
I am not saying he will start, as Herron appears to have that firmed up, but I would be stunned if he were not in the mix. (For what its worth, I still view him as the most talented returning tailback.)
This is a curious analysis. Despite Robiskie’s nice week at the Senior Bowl I was never enamored with the wide receiver corps over the last two seasons. If there is a strength of this unit it is that the coaches are free to insert any combination they feel like.
In 2008, Robiskie and Hartline were the “proven” wide receivers and the staff was loathe to tinker with them, but the duo lost the taste for making plays somewhere around the USC game.
Only 44 percent (70-of-160) of the Buckeyes receptions return this season and I am including catches by Pryor and Lawrence Wilson (I do not remember that one) in that calculation. When you look at the percentage of yards returning it is even less (37 percent).
That means that Ray Small is the most experienced receiver heading into the 2009 season. Still, the Buckeyes are not short on talent. Personally, I would like to see Posey as the main guy with Small and Thomas playing on the opposite side. I know Sanzenbacher has done everything asked of him but he is a possession type of receiver.
In my mind, Posey is talented enough to take over the possession role as well as add some big plays. Small add Thomas would give the Buckeyes a speedy element on the edge they have not had in a few years and that Sanzenbacher does not seem to provide.
I would like to sing the praises of Taurian Washington, Devon Torrence, and/or Jake Stoneburner but we have not seen these guys yet.
There are only 53 collective starts returning to the offense in 2009 and the majority of those belong to the offensive line—35 of 53 (39 if you count Jake Ballard as OL)—and that number would increase if you consider Justin Boren’s starts at Michigan. But as much as we would all like to believe that the offensive line is going through addition by subtraction, there is not much empirical data to confirm this hope.
Interestingly, Bryant Browning has more starts under his belt than any other offensive player yet most people I talk to believe he will be relegated to a back-up role in ’09. Justin Boren is a known quantity and I will assume that he takes over the vacant guard spot but are Adams and Shugarts ready to hold down the edges of the line? Brewster is the only member of the offensive line that I feel Ohio State can count on.
Let’s assume that the starting lineup (L to R) is Adams, Boren, Brewster, Cordle, and Shugarts. On paper and based on recruiting rankings, that is one hell of a line. Up the middle—G,C,G—looks like a very productive trio. But what does the two-deep look like? What happens if the Buckeyes are dealt the same injuries as 2008?
MY BEST GUESS AT THE 2009 OFFENSIVE STARTERS
(Returning Starters in Bold)