Are the Buckeyes Ready to Compete with the Big Boys of College Football?
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Watching games on television, it is pretty easy to see the difference between SEC and Big Ten football. At this point in time, probably no Big Ten team would be able to stand up to an Alabama or LSU—that includes the OSU Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes are not ready for prime time yet—not quite.
Improvement has been steady by the Buckeyes. Each week they have gotten a little bit better. I repeatedly say that they are the best team in the conference, but that's not saying a great deal.
The conference is struggling at best.
One key weakness I see with the Buckeyes is the passing game. No receiver has sanctified himself as something better. We see a lot of potential but no fulfillment. Jake Stoneburner, Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Chris Fields and Corey "Philly" Brown have disappointed. No consistency has been established. They're capable, but they need to show it on a consistent basis.
It seems as if the tight ends have been the most dependable. Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett have shown more talent, catching the ball with consistency.
Buckeye backs catch the ball well, but the receiving corps must step up. Granted, Braxton Miller must improve as a passing quarterback, but there have been opportunities where our wideouts simply didn't catch the ball.
Braxton Miller must deliver the ball faster out of their breaks. Not doing so tends to frustrate wide receivers that work hard to get an open window. That window closes all too quickly when their talented sophomore quarterback doesn't find them. Reward them with the ball at the proper time or they won't work as hard on the next play.
Offensive line play is vastly improved this season. As talented as the Buckeyes have been in past seasons with Mike Adams, Michael Brewster, J. B. Shugarts, Justin Boren, Alex Boone, Steve Rehring and Bryant Browning, that crew never played up to their hype. Let's blame that on the coaching.
Jack Mewhort, Reid Fragel, Corey Linsley, Marcus Hall, Andrew Norwell and Taylor Decker have been a pleasant surprise. Who knew that they had it in them? The new administration has obviously brought in a new attitude.
They're not comparable to an Alabama offensive line, but they're getting there.
Linebackers are a matter of concern. Easily, Ryan Shazier has been our best performer, with Zach Boren doing an admirable job since coming over from fullback. What has happened to the Buckeyes at linebacker? How did the cupboard become so bare? Buckeye Nation has always been able to hang their hats on the linebacking unit. Etienne Sabino is injured, and apparently, 5-star recruit Curtis Grant is catching on with great difficulty. To be an elite football program, good linebackers are essential.
The defensive line is finally beginning to play the way fans thought they would. John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Michael Bennett, Nate Williams, Noah Spence, Garrett Goebel, Chris Carter and Adolphus Washington are probably the equivalent of an elite SEC defensive line. Depth of strength and speed is their forte. Five or six of the eight will probably play on Sundays in the not too distant future.
The secondary is quite adequate. If they only had hands instead of lobster claws, the Buckeye "faithful" would have something special. How many dropped passes does the Buckeye secondary have? Turnovers are key to winning national championships. You've got to have a "honeybadger" in your midst.
Bradley Roby is a phenomenal cover with great closing speed. Travis Howard is also a future NFL cover. C.J. Barnett and Christian Barnett are solid but undersized safeties with terrible hands. Never would they be considerations for wide receiver.
I also question the D-backs' overall speed because I have seen a few Big Ten playmakers run away from them. If Big Ten players are running away from you, SEC players will "smoke" you! I'm sure Urban Meyer is addressing that as I write.
Depth in the backfield is great. Carlos Hyde and Roderck Smith compliment each other well. Both are strong and fast with good hands. Brionte Dunn is "chomping at the bit" for an opportunity to put his skills on display. He is a beast. The backfield minus Jordan Hall is still an elite group.
Braxton Miller is growing into his role as president of the "Buckeye Nation." A lot has been thrown on the shoulders of this young man. He was thrown into the starting lineup as a freshman under less than adequate tutelage.
His success is unbelievable seeing as how he didn't have the luxury of sitting a season and observing like redshirt freshmen sensations Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and Marcus Mariota (Oregon). He is learning under fire and proving his worth.
Barring something short of catastrophic, he will be the greatest quarterback in the history of Ohio State football.
Expectations are quite high even though The Ohio State Buckeyes are "bowl ineligible." Maybe that's a good thing. Let Urban Meyer and his staff have ample time to get the kind of personnel they want on the field.
Who knows, perhaps in a season or two, the Buckeyes will once again be playing in a national title game—one that they are actually ready for.
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