Ohio State Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Illinois Game
The Ohio State Buckeyes are two wins away from a slightly improbable perfect season as they defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 52-22 on Saturday.
Ohio State gashed the Illini defense for 567 yards of total offense, and sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller had another big game with three touchdowns.
OSU heads to its bye at 10-0 with a road trip to Wisconsin and a home game against Michigan standing between the Buckeyes and a perfect 12-0 season.
Here are grades for all 22 starters from the Buckeyes' latest win.
QB Braxton Miller: A
When you put up 299 yards of total offense and three touchdowns against anyone, it's a pretty good day. For Braxton Miller, it's just an average afternoon.
Miller, as usual, started slow but picked things up later and had a better afternoon throwing than in recent weeks.
His Heisman hopes may need losses by Kansas State and Notre Dame, but he should still at least be invited to New York City in about a month. He's earned that right.
RB Carlos Hyde: A+
Carlos Hyde's breakout season continued on Saturday with another three-touchdown performance, rushing 18 times for 139 yards.
His long was only 24 yards, which means he was consistently ripping solid chunks of yardage on the leaky Illini defense.
Hyde's production has been a very pleasant surprise because he doesn't remind you of the prototypical spread back: compact, fast and elusive. But he has proved he can play great football and continues to do so.
WR Devin Smith: D
Devin Smith seems to have hit a wall in recent weeks, this week only catching one pass for nine yards.
He still is the team's leading receiver with 514 yards on the season but only 57 on three catches in the last three weeks.
WR Corey Brown: A
Corey Brown bounced back from a quiet game against Penn State and torched the Illinois secondary for 79 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
Brown is the leading volume receiver on the Buckeyes and looked like it again on Saturday, making two big catches of over 30 yards, including his fourth-quarter touchdown reception.
He showed on Saturday that he not only can catch a lot of passes, but like his counterpart Smith, can make the big plays as well.
WR Jake Stoneburner: C
Stoneburner hauled in just one pass for 24 yards on Saturday, a week after ripping Penn State for a big 72-yard touchdown.
He has already set a career-high for receiving yards in a season and is six catches away from most catches in a season.
Stoneburner's career may be a bit of a "what if?" type of career, as he had so much potential coming out of high school and has not fully lived up to it.
TE Nick Vannett: B+
As good as Jeff Heuerman has been this year, Nick Vannett is starting to show that the Buckeyes have plenty of tight end depth.
Vannett caught a pair of passes for 45 yards, including a 31-yard reception, all of which are highs in his short career.
Heuerman and Vannett may prove to be a very capable duo at TE, each showing they have the ability to make big plays in the passing game.
LT Jack Mewhort: B; LG Andrew Norwell: C; C Corey Linsley: B+
The Ohio State offensive line has continued to play well in the running game, but it allowed four sacks on Braxton Miller.
Most of the problems in pass protection have been on the left side.
The offensive line was awful last season, but it has been very good this year considering the patchwork reshuffling that happened up front in the preseason.
RG Marcus Hall: A-; RT Reid Fragel: B
The right side of the Buckeye offensive line continues to play good football, namely guard Marcus Hall who has had a great season.
Reid Fragel is continuing to play better at the RT spot, keeping true freshman Taylor Decker on the sideline.
DE John Simon: A; DE Nathan Williams: A-
John Simon, as always, is a playmaker up front, but the Ohio State defense as a whole just plays with more of an edge when Nathan Williams is in the game.
Simon made only one tackle in the game, but it was one of the Buckeyes' two sacks on the afternoon.
Williams continued to create havoc off the edge, recording a TFL and three other stops.
DT Johnathan Hankins: A-; DT Garrett Goebel: B-
Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel did not exactly have a big game stat-wise, but their presence was felt very strongly in the run defense.
Illinois averaged just 2.3 yards a run, only 74 total for the afternoon.
That combination is so good at eating up the middle of offensive lines and played one of their better combined games on Saturday.
LB Ryan Shazier: A
Ryan Shazier is an expert at being around the play and then putting an end to things.
Shazier once again led the Buckeyes in tackles with 14, including 11 solo stops and two TFLs. He has been the silver lining in an OSU linebacker group that has had all sorts of problems this year.
The scary thing is that he is only a sophomore, which means he may still get even better.
LB Zach Boren: B+
Zach Boren has handled the surprise move from fullback to starting linebacker very well, and he's become reliable pretty quickly.
Boren was right behind Shazier in tackles with eight, three solos, and helped to control the middle of the defense.
The offense has continued to put points up since Boren's switch. His presence has done wonders for the defense, which looks much better in past weeks than it has for most of the season.
DB Orhian Johnson: B
Orhian Johnson stepped in as the nickelback for most of the game with Illinois running a spread, and played very well in his time on the field.
Johnson had a pass breakup and six tackles, some of which also came on kick coverage.
He had to leave the game late in the first half due to injury. Luckily, he will have extra time to get healthy during this bye week.
CB Bradley Roby: B-
Bradley Roby had a pretty quiet day, not being challenged very much by Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase.
Roby only had five tackles and did not have a pass breakup against the Illini.
He did get close to blocking a couple of kicks, something he has done a few times this year already.
CB Travis Howard: A
Bradley Roby had a quiet day, but his teammate on the other side of the defense had a busier afternoon.
Travis Howard recorded yet another interception, giving him seven for his career.
He also recorded three tackles to go with his long interception return at the end of the first half.
S C.J. Barnett: B-
C.J. Barnett continues to play solid football, rebounding from his disastrous start to the season.
He made six tackles and helped to keep the top on the Illinois offense, not allowing a play of greater than 12 yards all game.
When 12 yards is the longest gain of the afternoon, that's a pretty good indicator of a good defensive day.
S Christian Bryant: B+
Christian Bryant would have had a great day, but he dropped an interception early in the game which would have only made it better.
Bryant, who like Barnett has been playing well of late, had four tackles and a pass breakup.
The safeties have rightfully come under fire for most of the season for their poor play. In the last few weeks, they have helped to turn themselves around, Bryant included.
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