3 game time decisions Ohio State football may face – Doug Lesmerises
COLUMBUS, Ohio – In Ryan Day’s first season as the Ohio State football head coach in 2019, the playing time decisions were pretty obvious.
Justin Fields was the quarterback and JK Dobbins the running back. Once senior Branden Bowen beat Nicholas Petit-Frere in camp on the right tackle, the offensive line locked. KJ Hill was the slot receiver and the receiver’s two outer spots rotated. The two best tight ends Luke Farrell and Jeremy Ruckert played tied and a lot.
In defense, All-American Chase Young was constantly on the field and five other defensive enders turned fairly evenly to the other side and as Young’s backups. Defensive tackles went smoothly at six depths; Pete Werner and Malik Harrison played the outside linebacker, and Tuf Borland and Baron Browning shared the middle; and in high school, the Buckeyes leaned on their four starters in Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette, Shaun Wade and Jordan Fuller.
Honestly, pretty easy. Probably the most difficult call was the reduced role of Brendon White, a starting security at the end of 2018 who saw his place evaporate with a shift to a single security defense, and as his playing time fell. Below his expectations, he ended up being transferred to Rutgers.
But there weren’t any real decisions about a player who started out in a role, and the Buckeyes decided they had to go in another direction. There could be a few decisions like the one approaching for Ohio State during this truncated season, which will feature eight regular-season games, likely the Big Ten Championship game, and then the supposed college football playoff spot for the Buckeyes. .
Saturday in Maryland was to be the fourth game of the season, but was canceled due to a COVID outbreak among the Terrapins. So it’s a week off, and maybe it’s time to make decisions at three positions.
A year ago Josh Proctor played 123 snaps and Marcus Hooker played 82. (As always, the numbers are provided by the hard work of the Eleven Warriors instant count board.) In the playoff semifinals against Clemson, when the Buckeyes played two saves more often, they paired Proctor with Fuller. Hooker only played on special teams that night.
But in the offseason fight to replace Fuller, Hooker has won and played 162 snaps this season, while Proctor has had 81. But Proctor has a supporting role as a strong safety or cornerback in some of the looks of nickel defense, while Hooker only plays deep security.
So when there’s a deep defender as the last line of defense for the Buckeyes, a position both can play and have played, it’s Hooker almost all the time when it counts. I wonder after last week.
Hooker missed tackles on two big plays, including a direct hit to the running back when the Rutgers quarterback acted like the ball had passed over his head. Lots of Buckeyes were duped, but a tackle from Hooker would have kept the run at something like a 15-yard gain, when instead it went to 66.
“He sneaked in there,” Day said of the fleeing Rutgers, noting that the scythe had tricked the OSU’s defensive fins. “And free security has to be the ultimate eraser out there. (Hooker) did good things, he did good things, but yeah, this guy, if we don’t do that tackle it’s okay, and that’s what happened in this situation.
In 2018, Ohio State struggled with safety, when the Buckeyes played two safes again on most snaps, and Isaiah Pryor started eight games before being replaced by White for six. last. Pryor was also eventually transferred to Notre Dame. The question of security then? Give up the big games.
The Buckeyes have an idea of Proctor, so a change wouldn’t be a leap into the unknown. You might not expect a change just yet, but eventually I’ll be looking for more separation at the deep security point, with Proctor maybe having more of a chance. Then the Buckeyes can decide on the best guy for the spot. Right now, I’m not sure nearly all Hookers are still the way to go.
2.back corner half
The Buckeyes lost Cameron Brown to a season-ending injury in Week 2, and the result was a long look at backup cornerback Tyreke Johnson in the second half against Rutgers. Wade and Sevyn Banks are the starting outside corners and Marcus Williamson is the starting corner, but with Brown outside, the fourth corner, or main save, is unclear.
They gave Johnson a chance to grab that, as he played 50 snaps against Rutgers after playing a total of nine snaps in the first two games. I’m not sure he did much with it. Brown played 39 snaps in the first two games, so he had a real role as a non-runner. If the Buckeyes want someone to do it now, maybe it should be real freshman Ryan Watts, who showed something in 22 shots against Rutgers in his first action of the season.
The Buckeyes are thin around the corner, with just five upper class students (Wade, Banks, Williamson, Brown, Johnson). Watts, Lejond Cavazos and Cam Martinez are the real freshman options. There isn’t enough depth to let go of someone. But Johnson didn’t seem to be playing with much confidence, so I’d like to see Watts, the No. 202 rookie in the 2020 class, for more.
Day said freshmen need to be prepared to play because a COVID diagnosis for a high school person could force them to act. But I think Watts might deserve to play more, even without that.
“I think we understand why it’s hard for these guys to put them in the game when they haven’t had the heavy lifting,” Day said. “You’re going to have to smile and put up with it. The only way to learn is to make mistakes. It’s going to be hard, but you have to live with it.
“It’s good to see Ryan there, I hope we get Lejond back into the mix. But we still have to prepare these guys. Good games, bad games, the only way for them to improve is to get better. We need to train better, but playing will also be important.
3. Go back
Master Teague is a more efficient running back than Trey Sermon, and through three games I don’t think anyone can dispute that. Teague played 108 snaps, Sermon 92. Teague carried the ball 47 times for 211 yards, while Sermon had 36 carries for 172 yards.
Teague doesn’t have a lot of movement, but after a tough first week he’s been hitting the holes with more determination over the past two weeks. Day congratulated him for all that. Sermon continues to leave yards on the pitch, and while Day isn’t a coach at criticizing players or groups of positions, he didn’t bite very hard when asked to see an improvement in Sermon.
“I think he gets better with every opportunity,” Day said. “It’s been a while since he’s played and he hasn’t had a spring or preseason, but I think he’s improving. Hopefully he can continue to take the plunge as we move into the next few games. “
The Buckeyes have stuck with a running backing rotation throughout the season in 2018 that didn’t really benefit either Mike Weber or JK Dobbins. Will they continue this year? Sermon is a transfer from Oklahoma who missed the end of last season with an injury. But it is his lack of vision that seems to hold him back more than anything.
I would start leaning more into Teague for meaningful litters. So far, they have essentially alternated the series. I guess this won’t continue for the entire season, unless Sermon starts showing more than he has so far.
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