Ohio State Football: Report Card Grades for the Buckeyes' 1st Game

Tim BielikSenior Analyst ISeptember 4, 2011

Ohio State Football: Report Card Grades for the Buckeyes' 1st Game

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    So far, so good for Ohio State.

    Even though Akron is one of the worst, if not the worst team in FBS college football, Ohio State still looked good to be able to shutdown the Zips 42-0 on Saturday.

    In the past, Ohio State has made some bad teams look good under Jim Tressel, not the case with Luke Fickell's debut.

    But how did the team grade out with their season opener?

    Here is a look at the positional grades for Ohio State in game one of the Luke Fickell era.

Quarterbacks: A

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    Both Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller made some big plays, at least for the first part of the season, the Buckeyes will operate with a two-QB offense.

    Miller was the guy most fans wanted to see, but Bauserman stole the show with three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown, showing a good command of the offense.

    Miller's first drive was not very good due to a dropped pass and a poor snap from Mike Brewster. But he led two scoring drives and set up freshman Evan Spencer with this point catch-of-the-year.

    Overall, not bad, although it's easy to torch Akron's defense as well as these two players did.

    Toledo will be a better gauge of how good these two passers really are.

Running Backs: B+

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    When you can gain close to 200 yards rushing with your fourth and fifth-string running backs, you know you have good tailback depth.

    Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith were all Ohio State had with Jordan Hall and Dan Herron under suspension, and Jaamal Berry resting a hamstring injury.

    But Hyde and Smith showed what kind of changeup each can be with their power running, compared to the other backs who are more of speed backs.

    Hyde in particular was a force, showing the power that he had at about 240 pounds as well as some great speed.

    Smith was good as well getting a touchdown, but his fumble inside the Akron five yard line keeps this grade below an A.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A+

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    Evan Spencer's incredible catch, which happened to be his first of his career, does enough to make this grade an "A" on his own.

    But Jake Stoneburner's record-breaking day of three TD receptions puts this grade over the top into A+ range.

    Verlon Reed and Devin Smith also had good catches, but we saw little of Corey Brown as he only had one catch in the game and left early after cramping up.

    Ohio State did not throw the football too often with a pair of new QBs to break-in, but they did throw more than expected and when they did, their receivers made plenty of good plays.

Offensive Line: A

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    The suspensions of Mike Adams and Corey Linsley did little to stop the offensive line from being dominant.

    Although, most of that was probably due to the fact that Akron was just not very good on defense.

    But the Zips defensive line which is the strength of their defense failed to get to either quarterback and got pushed around all game.

    The only negatives up front was a facemask call against JB Shugarts and Brewster's botched snap to Braxton Miller.

Defensive Line: A+

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    Even without Cameron Heyward, Ohio State's defense looks like its in good hands, especially with how dominant their defensive line was.

    Their line was blowing open holes for linebackers to come up and make plays, and created a few sacks by among others–Darryl Baldwin and Michael Bennett, who each were playing their first career college games.

    Ohio State's defense goes to another level when their defensive line dominates, and they have the athletes up front to be one of the best lines in the country.

    If they can continue to get that type of production every week with the talent in the back seven of the defense, the Buckeyes will be just fine when it comes to shutting teams down.

Linebackers: A

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    Whether it was Andrew Sweat stuffing runners and picking off Clayton Moore, or freshman Ryan Shazier's explosive burst to make a sack, Ohio State's linebacking corps was all over the place on Saturday.

    This was a much maligned unit after Dorian Bell and Jonathan Newsome left the team when it once seemed like this could be the greatest strength of the team.

    Etienne Sabino and Storm Klein each had good games as well in their first ever start for the Buckeyes on Saturday.

    In certain situations, Tyler Moeller will move to LB which means Ohio State will keep a fresh rotation of talented, athletic backers in the game to cause havoc for opposing offenses.

Defensive Backs: A-

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    Ohio State had two key secondary players, including potential All-Big Ten candidate Travis Howard, suspended for the opener.

    But nickel corner Dominic Clarke (wears No. 5 now instead of No. 28) started and was fantastic, breaking up multiple pass attempts by Clayton Moore and the Zips.

    C.J. Barnett also almost forced another turnover before a challenge simply declared the attempt an incompletion.

    What Saturday's game showed among other things in the secondary, is that Ohio State may have one of the best nickel corners in the country in Clarke and Barnett.

Special Teams: C

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    Just like a year ago at this time, the special teams miscues are of a little concern. 

    This time, it centers on the field goal kicking, as Drew Basil did not make a field goal on two attempts–one of which was negated by an Akron penalty.

    In addition, the Zips did manage to rip a big return late in the second half, which was something that plagued Ohio State's special teams several times last season, including on the opening kickoff at Wisconsin.

    That type of thing doesn't have much of an impact against bad teams like Akron, but it could make all the difference in the world against teams like Miami and Michigan State in the coming weeks.

Overall Grade: A

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    As a whole, this was as good a debut for Luke Fickell as you could have, especially given the circumstances of having three additional players being suspended for the opener.

    Those three players, Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey (DB) Brown should be back for next week's game against Toledo, which should be a little tougher test for the Buckeyes. In addition, Berry should be back for that game according to what his teammates at RB have said.

    Another thing to watch will be how the two QBs do against a team that is certainly much better than Akron and who will be better the next time.

    But nevertheless, Ohio State fans should feel content about what they saw out of their team in the opener of this season.

    For a few days, fans can forget about the pain of the offseason and focus on football once again.

     

     

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