Ohio State Football: 5 Things the Buckeyes Learned from Last Year

Tim Bielik@bielik_timSenior Analyst IMarch 5, 2012

Ohio State Football: 5 Things the Buckeyes Learned from Last Year

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    Ohio State certainly had a season to forget in 2011 when not only did they see their great coach and star QB leave the program in addition to NCAA sanctions, but they had their first losing season since the 1800s.

    Just about anything that could go wrong for the Buckeyes did go wrong as they regressed at times during the season and saw their Big Ten dynasty disappear in the blink of an eye.

    They had lost games in ways they almost never did before: getting physically dominated, poor clock management and failing to hold on to big leads.

    But with a new era and a bright future under Urban Meyer—even with this year's postseason ban—there is much the Buckeyes can take from last year and improve.

    Here are five lessons they will try to carry with them.

1. The Offense Has Nowhere to Go but Up

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    Ohio State's offense last season was, to put it politely, dreadful.

    Except for their performances against Akron, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan, the Buckeye offense was extremely anemic and rarely ever showed flashes of brilliance.

    So out went the unpopular Jim Bollman and Nick Siciliano, and in came Tom Herman and Ed Warriner.

    OSU's new offensive coaching staff should be more effective at getting much more out of the talent that is there on offense. But in reality, it's almost impossible for them to be worse.

2. Carlos Hyde Can Be a Feature Back

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    With Dan Herron suspended to start the season, Ohio State needed to find themselves a dependable back to help carry the load.

    They may have found themselves that guy in big Carlos Hyde.

    The powerful back rushed for 566 yards and six touchdowns, including a 104-yard game in the loss at Nebraska.

    He may be an odd fit in Urban Meyer's spread offense, but Meyer is the type of coach who knows he needs to get the ball into the hands of his best players.

    The Buckeyes have always been a power running team, so there should be a place for Hyde to run wild next season in this new offense.

3. Don't Be Afraid to Let Freshmen Have Big Roles

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    One of the few bright spots on Ohio State's disappointing defense last season was the emergence of explosive freshman LB Ryan Shazier.

    Shazier quickly became a fan favorite with his high-speed play and aggressive mentality that eventually earned him a starting spot.

    He looked like the Buckeyes' best linebacker for most of last season, which was surprising because he was filling in for a junior starting alongside a redshirt junior, Etienne Sabino, and senior Andrew Sweat.

    Meyer likes to play freshmen if he feels they can play and have a huge impact. He will have a huge potential group of freshmen from a top-five recruiting class to find new playmakers from.

    Time will tell if he can find one that has as much of an impact as Shazier or Braxton Miller had a year ago.

4. Luke Fickell's Return to the Defense Will Help Immensely

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    Ohio State's defense did not have the same type of aggressive play last season than it had when Luke Fickell was just in charge of the defense.

    With his return to the role of defensive coordinator along with the arrival of Everett Withers, the Buckeye defense could very quickly be a dominant force once again.

    Fickell was good at dialing up big blitz packages and creating pressure and turnovers.

    He will have a much more experienced defense to work with along with an incredible group of freshmen in the front seven like Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington.

    Simply put, Fickell's presence on the defensive side should help get the Silver Bullets back on track.

5. Braxton Miller Needs Help Offensively

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    Braxton Miller proved multiple times last season that he had the ability to make plays at the end of games, including in the win over Wisconsin and sending the Buckeyes to overtime at Purdue later on in the season.

    However, he really did not have much help when it came to his receivers or his offensive line.

    And unlike with Terrelle Pryor, he did not have a Beanie Wells to help bail him out and keep the attention off of him.

    Meyer and Herman should really help Miller improve dramatically based on the fact that they have a great track record in developing quarterbacks.

    But Miller will need some offensive line help as well as one or two receivers to become dependable go-to targets in the spring and fall practices.

    If he doesn't have either, then it will be hard for the Buckeye offense to make a great leap in terms of explosiveness and efficiency.

    Follow me on Twitter @bielik_tim for the latest college football news and updates.


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