Grading the Buckeyes' Win over Colorado

Tim Bielik@bielik_timSenior Analyst ISeptember 26, 2011

Grading the Buckeyes' Win over Colorado

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    The debut of Braxton Miller as Ohio State's starting QB was pretty successful, as the Buckeyes defeated Colorado at home 37-17.

    The win may have helped to salve some of the wounds the Miami loss cut—but only really a small portion. 

    Ohio State's freshman QB did solid in his first start, and the Buckeye defense did well enough to create some problems, until late in the game when Colorado's offense found some rhythm.

    But by then, it was too late, as the Buckeyes cruised to the end of September with a 3-1 record.

    Here's the Buckeyes' Week 4 report card.

Quarterback: B

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    B is for Braxton, as in the highly-touted freshman who stepped in and did a pretty good job Saturday.

    He avoided turning the football over and had some fantastic runs and escapes that Terrelle Pryor would have been proud of.

    But he needs to work on throwing a spiral, as some of this throws looked like wounded ducks at times.

    He did single-handedly complete more passes than him and Bauserman in last week's four-completion night in Miami (although that's not exactly a celebratory accomplishment).

    Miller rushed for 83 yards but needs to run smarter against Michigan State or the Spartans may do to him what they did to Denard Robinson a year ago.

    If he can develop a better rhythm in the passing game, Miller could do something pretty good the rest of the season.

Running Backs: B+

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    Jordan Hall really does look like a big-time player, and Carlos Hyde is continuing to grow before our eyes over the last month.

    The two backs combined for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries in the win.

    While Hyde may be getting his last playing time of the season next week against the Spartans, Hall has shown he can be a dangerous runner in the past two weeks, providing a good relief for Dan Herron upon his return in two weeks.

    The backs will need to be big once again to take pressure off Braxton Miller the rest of the season.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-

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    This just in: Ohio State might actually have a wide receiver on their roster not named DeVier Posey or Corey Brown.

    Freshman Devin Smith racked up his second and third touchdowns of the season and seems to have a natural chemistry with Miller that could see these two becoming a big-time combo for years to come.

    Reid Fragel also had a pair of catches as it seems teams have tried to take away Jake Stoneburner in passing situations with Brown's injury.

    Smith, who has fantastic speed and athleticism, should see his playing time skyrocket if he continues to play well in Posey and Brown's absences and probably even when they return.

Offensive Line: C+

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    Whether it be Colorado stacking the defense against the run or Ohio State's linemen missing some assignments, Miller did have a tough time inside the pocket.

    There were times where Miller did have time to throw during the few times he did throw. 

    But a couple of times, he did not even have a chance to run as the pocket either collapsed, or a lineman came clean into Miller's kitchen.

    Another missed snap didn't help this grade.

    This group really misses Mike Adams, but they just need to get through one more game to get the future early-round NFL prospect back.

Defensive Line: A-

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    A defensive line that is still without Nathan Williams came out Saturday with much more intensity and set the tempo from the get-go.

    John Simon was simply unblockable all game long, and Adam Bellamy came up with a takeaway from Colorado's Rodney Stewart, which helped Ohio State get off to a big lead.

    They made life uncomfortable for Tyler Hansen who did get things going in the second half of the football game, when things were practically decided.

    When the defensive line plays well, the Silver Bullets elevate to a whole other level.

Linebackers: C

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    Ohio State's linebacking corps got exploited heavily in pass coverage all game long as Ryan Deehan had 71 receiving yards from his TE spot, which means someone from the back seven did not do their job well enough.

    Andrew Sweat still made some plays, but Etienne Sabino and Storm Klein have showed their youth and inexperience as neither has been able to make a major impact on this defense a month into the season.

    Freshman Ryan Shazier definitely needs to be out on the field more often though as his aggressiveness and athleticism are powerful weapons in the special teams game.

    He seems to have earned the opportunity to get some reps in the base 4-3 package or in the hybrid 3-4 set Ohio State morphs into from time to time.

Defensive Backs: B-

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    The previous statement about the linebackers not being as good as advertised seems to be the same with the defensive backs.

    The talent is there without a doubt with Travis Howard, Dominic Clarke and Bradley Roby, but the inexperience is there as well.

    Colorado's offense came in with the ability to pass the football, and they did so effectively.

    Christian Bryant seems to have supplanted Orhian Johnson as the starting safety opposite C.J. Barnett, and he had a good game as well.

Special Teams: A+

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    Ohio State's special team might have played its best game as a whole in the last two years.

    The Buckeyes forced a takeaway on a punt, Jordan Hall came within a few years of housing a kickoff return and Drew Basil made three straight field goals, including a 47-yarder.

    For as bad as OSU's special teams have been in recent games, Luke Fickell made it a priority of his team to have a strong game on special teams to spark the team, and it did.

    If they can have that type of an impact every week, Ohio State will have a better chance to win games they aren't expected to win this year.

Coaching: B-

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    For as much flack as we have given the coaches in the past few weeks, and most of it well-deserved, they were much improved coming into this past game.

    They got their players much more fired up and got them ready to play from the beginning.

    And as weird as the timing of the decision to start Miller was, it was the right move for Fickell to make going forward.

    The only thing stopping this grade from being any higher is that the offense needs to run some more short passing plays to get Miller into a rhythm in the weeks to come.

Intangibles: B+

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    Although Colorado is not exactly an elite football team, the way the Buckeyes responded should make fans breathe a little easier.

    Braxton Miller showed plenty of what he possibly can be in the future, especially if he improves his passing. But his decisiveness of either passing or running is good to see from such a young player.

    This had to be a little bit of a confidence builder because Ohio State has a massive October gauntlet to overcome with Michigan State on Saturday followed by road trips to Nebraska and Illinois, both ranked teams, and that late October home game against a Wisconsin team that seems to be untouchable right now.

    They will get the Tat 4 back, and that should really help the offense from a leadership standpoint.

    But to expect any more than two wins in October from this team is unrealistic based on the early portion of the season.

    It's not impossible for them to win three or possibly all four, but it's just not very likely at all.

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