Much room for improvement for 2009 Buckeyes
Watching the Fiesta Bowl this year, I was one of the many Buckeye fans who watched their hopes of a Bowl win soar and crash. At that time, it really did seem to me that Ohio State had done everything right, only to lose because of some missed tackles and a dropped interception. Looking back now however, I realize that there was a long list of issues that needed to be corrected for the Ohio State team that walked into the Fiesta Bowl. I will only discuss a few of this issues, but most of them can make or break tOSU's BCS hopes.
The Passing Game
Last year, the Buckeyes' passing game wasn't much to speak of. I don't mean to hate on Todd Boeckman, but neither he nor Terrelle Pryor ever really impressed me with their passing skills (besides the bombs in the Michigan game). It seemed that every pass Pryor threw had some sort of wobble on it, although I'm glad to say that problem seemed to be entirely fixed based on his spring game performance.
This year, TP will no longer have the two Brian's to look for so it will be up to Ray Small and Taurian Washington to prove that their spring game wasn't a fluke. Aside from those two, the Buckeye WR cast is actually filled with talent, they just need some experience.
Reviving the Backfield
Not many will deny that losing Chris "Beanie" Wells was a major offensive loss. He was the major workhorse for the Buckeye offense when he was at Ohio State and rarely did a game go by without him hurdling over a defender or stiff - arming his way through a long touchdown run.
Although he was quite injury prone, he was still easily among the best backs in the country (1st round draft pick) and will be hard to replace. Much of the load will fall on Daniel "Boom" Herron and Brandon "Zoom" Saine with TP popping his fresh legs whenever the opportunity pops up. This trio of runners should have no problem rivaling any rushing attack in the country. The impact of Beanie's departure would probably only fully come if Herron, Saine and Pryor fail to fill the hole. Other than that, the problem will probably not be given much thought after the second game of the season.
The Buckeye offense in general
Most know that the Buckeye O will revolve around the much - hyped Terrelle Pryor. Mack Brown did this with Colt McCoy at UT and it turned out pretty well (ouch Buckeye fans). Ohio State however, has never really been built around the pass (even in the days of Troy Smith, Santonio Holmes and Tedd Ginn). Next year, the main issue with the offense that must be solved, is stalling. This is even more important than the passing game. Many times I have seen the Buckeyes launch drive after drive of bruising running and then have it all fall apart when their play - action bomb falls incomplete. Tressel might have to throw in some more variety (such as the option) in order to reduce the predictability of his style.
Restoring and Revamping the D
The Buckeyes have always been known for an aggressive D. Last year, I had seen flashes but the only time it showed was during the Michigan game, and we all know why that happened.
In 2009, the Bucks have to show that same aggression but also maintain that professional poise that they seemed to lose in the last 2 minutes of the Fiesta Bowl. Time and time again I see them fall apart under a passing attack, when really, they fall apart through fear of losing and fear of what they've been criticized for.
The main reason that their pass defense has always been a bit lackluster when compared to their rush defense is that they lack cohesion. This year, they had Malcolm Jenkins and next year, Chimdi Chekwa is expected to be good, but they need the pass defense to work as a unit. The prime example of this is the USC Vs OSU game that most Buckeye fans would like to forget. They couldn't handle Mark Sanchez and eventually the rush defense fell apart too.
Overall, the Buckeye defense just needs to maintain their "Michigan aggression" throughout the entire year and at the same time, remain composed and relaxed.
Summing it up...A BCS title?!
Sadly, a BCS title is probably not for the Buckeye's in 2009. I do see a bowl win, but they will not be quite seasoned enough (in my opinion) to take the Championship from the likes of Texas, Oklahoma or Florida. 2010, is the year where the Buckeyes must be feared.