Indiana football is all set to take on Ohio State tomorrow afternoon in Bloomington. To get a better idea of the Buckeyes, we reached out to our friends at Land Grant Holy-Land to talk some ball.
Here’s what they had to say.
What should we know about Kyle McCord and Devin Brown?
To be completely honest with you, I don’t know. We have seen precious little of either of them so far in their collegiate careers. Head coach Ryan Day admitted that when Justin Fields left, he hadn’t gotten C.J. Stroud enough in-game reps to prepare him to start.
And while that worked out fairly well for the Buckeyes, Day didn’t seem to learn his lesson as Kyle McCord threw 20 passes last year and Devin Brown threw 1. So, all we can really go on is the fact that they were both five-star prospects coming out of high school — depending on the recruiting service — and they both have similar skill sets.
Many people perceive Brown to be a better athlete than McCord when it comes to making plays outside of the pocket, but I’m not sure that is the case. While I think that is true to a certain extent, I think that has more to do with the fact that McCord is much more of a steady, consistent pocket presence than Brown is at this point.
The coaches have praised McCord for being cool and calm under pressure and being the guy who always makes the right decisions. I don’t think that he is as naturally talented as either Fields or Stroud, but I don’t know that he has to be. If he can just make the right reads and get the ball to OSU’s playmakers without turning it over, I think that’s more than enough to get the Buckeyes to where they want to be.
What progress do you expect to see from the Buckeyes’ defense in year two under Jim Knowles?
I imagine there will be a fairly sizable step forward for the Ohio State defense, not only because that tends to be the trend in the second year of a new coordinator’s tenure, but perhaps more importantly because the Buckeyes have been able to restock the defensive talent shelves over the last few seasons. Thanks to some poor hiring decisions, OSU went through a bit of a slump in terms of defensive recruiting.
It was partially because of bad hires and partially because of good hires turning into better opportunities for those coaches elsewhere. But now, the Buckeyes have a defense peppered with highly recruited defensive talent that finally has enough experience to be competitive at the Big Ten level.
On the defensive like, they have five-stars J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer and top-100 players Michal Hall Jr., Jason Moore, Kenyatta Jackson, and Omari Abor (although he is currently injured). At linebacker, they’ve got five-star sophomore C.J. Hicks (who will likely be the first LB to rotate in to OSU’s two-linebacker set) and returning first team all Big Ten selection Tommy Eichenberg.
In the secondary, five-star Sonny Styles (who is in his second year in Columbus, but is only 18 after reclassifying) will start at safety with top-100 true freshman Malik Hartford competing to start alongside him and returning starter Lathan Ransom.
At corner, after a sophomore slump, former All-Big Ten pick Denzel Burke and former top-50 recruit Jordan Hancock will be the starters with Ole Miss transfer Davison Igbinosun also heavily involved.
So, while talent doesn’t automatically equal success, the Buckeyes have addressed the issues at defensive coordinator they had a few years ago and also appear to have replenished the talent to a level that matches up with what OSU fans expect on that side of the ball.
Who are the stars worth circling on a depth chart on both sides of the ball?
The big names on offense are obviously wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, with a healthy Julian Fleming probably mixing in there as well. Running back TreVeyon Henderson is expected to return to his 2021 All-Big Ten status.
But keep an eye out for true freshman wide receiver Carnell Tate. He appears to have broken through during the offseason and, despite all of the talent in that room, will be a big part of the offense this year.
On defense, I think the guy to watch is Styles. I expect Tuimoloau, Sawyer, Hall, and Burke to all have great years, but if Styles is as electric and impactful as seemingly everyone around the program thinks he can be, then he could be very, very special.
Does Ohio State have any apparent weaknesses going into 2023?
Oh sure, while I won’t say that quarterback is a weakness just yet, it is certainly an unknown, but the success of the Buckeye QBs will, in large part, be determined by how things go with the team’s biggest weakness, the offensive line.
OSU lost three starters to the NFL and didn’t really have a treasure trove of talent to back them up. This year, they will rely on a San Diego State transfer to play left tackle, a right tackle who has started one game, and a second-year center who has never taken a snap as a collegiate player.
While the returning guards were both all-conference selections last year, if the other three can’t match that level of play, that could pose a big issue for the Buckeyes this season, especially since I expect Tom Allen to throw every exotic blitz package that he can come up with at them on Saturday.
What does success look like for Ohio State this season?
First, they have to beat Michigan. No matter what happens after that, if OSU loses to their rival for the third-straight year, there will be a very vocal portion of the Buckeye fandom that will be calling for a change at the top.
Beyond that, I think this is a team that expects to win a national title this year. After being essentially a field goal away last year, despite being picked by many to finish third in the Big Ten East, everyone inside the program (and many who follow it) feel like that is the step that needs to happen following the last two campaigns.
This might be controversial, so I apologize to all Hoosier fans, but I’m going to go 53-13. I think that the Buckeye defense is going to be for real this year and even though I expect Allen to throw everything that he possibly can at OSU’s rebuilt offensive line, there are just so many weapons at McCord’s disposal, I can’t see them not scoring a considerable amount of points.