As we come to the end of our preview of Indiana’s week one matchup against Ohio State, it’s important to take a look at what might be the biggest storyline for Ohio State this season.
How will Ohio State’s offense look under Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day?
Last year, Ohio State as a team filled with talent, but often found itself reliant upon its defense.
Offensively, the Buckeyes had no issues running the ball as the J.T. Barrett focused mostly on a read option offense. With that focus, the team ended the year ranked 81st nationally in passing yards per game, which is nowhere near the standard of an Urban Meyer coached football program.
Now heading into week one against Indiana, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and quarterback coach Ryan Day will be looking to bring a new approach and add more balance. This means developing a down field passing attack, and actually getting the most out of extremely talented wide receivers.
Quarterback: J.T. Barrett seeks to grow his legacy and utilize his experience in Kevin Wilson’s offense.
Ohio State should feel remarkably comfortable with the quarterback position. J.T. Barrett will be returning to the Buckeyes as one of the most-decorated quarterbacks in Big Ten history, and this year will provide him the opportunity to break school records and become one of the best to ever play the position in Columbus.
The biggest key for Barrett will be his performances in big games. Last season, Barrett struggled to throw the ball against Penn State, Michigan and Clemson and those performances were all very critical.
What has made J.T. Barrett so good in the past has been his ability to fake out linebackers on read option plays, but the key will now be his ability to run Kevin Wilson’s offense and find options down field.
Barrett will also need to do this without his top three receivers from last season in Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson.
Running Back: Mike Weber has the opportunity to become one of the best running backs in school history.
It’s a bold sentiment, but it’s not wrong if you look at Weber from a statistical perspective.
Weber had one of the most impressive freshman years in program history as only two other freshmen have ever topped 1,000 yards at Ohio State. Robert Smith ran for 1,126 yards and Maurice Clarett ran for 1,237 yards.
Weber saw a large amount of his success come as a result of having such talented teammates to spread the defensive focus, and that will not change this season. In addition to all of this, Weber will most likely eclipse last season’s 1,096 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, as last year he found himself with limited touches down the stretch in order to avoid injury.
Beyond Weber, Antonio Williams will most likely assume the backup role and alleviate pressure when needed.
Wide receivers: Inexperienced, but talented.
Ohio State had incredibly talented wide receivers last season that always showed spurts of great success. Unfortunately, Noah Brown never really excelled to the potential that many expected. A lot of this comes down to play calling and the passing ability of J.T. Barrett, but now without the two, Ohio State will have major holes in its offense.
With Kevin Wilson taking the reigns as offensive coordinator, the expectation is that Ohio State is going to need receivers to step up in his offense.
Looking at the roster, Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell have made plays for the Buckeyes in the past, but they lack the star power needed for this offense.
When the first game of the season rolls around, all eyes will be on sophomore Binjimen Victor and his 6’4” frame.
Victor has the size to be a major issue in the red zone, and has the route running ability to cause trouble in the short passing game.
Victor was 10th best receiver in the class of 2016, and he will be pushed on the depth chart by sophomore Austin Mack and 5-star freshman Trevon Grimes.
The other wideout to watch will be K.J. Hill, as his speed will allow him to line up on the opposite side of Victor, as a major deep threat.
H-Back: Demario McCall will be the most pivotal player in this offense.
The H-back position has always been a staple of Urban Meyer’s offenses and Curtis Samuel proved to be the most impressive player to play the position since Percy Harvin at Florida. Now, sophomore Demario McCall will have to be his replacement.
Samuel was the only player in college football to record more than 800 receiving yards and 700 rushing yards along with 15 total touchdowns. McCall will have to be able to catch the ball, carry the ball out of the backfield, and become a threat on the read option.
When Ohio State comes to town in august, McCall will be the one to watch. If he is on his game, Ohio State will be elite once again this year. With 6.7 yards per touch last season in a small workload, McCall certainly has the speed and playmaking ability to potentially match Samuel’s efforts from last season.
Tight End: If Ohio State figures out its passing attack, then Marcus Baugh will be really good.
Baugh only grabbed 24 passes last season for 269 yards and two touchdowns. This mainly stems from the lack of utilization. Baugh certainly has talent, and with Indiana really lacking a second linebacker to replace Marcus Oliver, he could be crucial in August.
Offensive Line: With the departure of Pat Elflein, there remains major questions on the line.
Billy Price will be moving to center to replace Elflein and Isaiah Prince may be without a job at right tackle thanks to a poor season last year. This mean Ohio State could have a completely new right side of its offensive line that Indiana could attempt to take advantage of early on.
We could potentially see the utilization of a freshman on the line or a rotation of more than a few guys. Either way, the line could become a weakness early on.