Ohio State’s somewhat controversial inclusion in the College Football Playoff last season ended with a thud. However, it could be that the Buckeyes were just a year ahead of schedule. Three-fourths of a rock-solid secondary and the nation’s best center will have to be replaced, but Urban Meyer has 15 starters returning, including Heisman Trophy contender J.T. Barrett at quarterback. Talent’s not an issue and after how last season ended, motivation shouldn’t be one for Ohio State either. And Beating Oklahoma for the second straight time, getting payback against Penn State and winning at Michigan better not be if the Buckeyes want a chance at playoff redemption, as well as a shot at another national title.
Previewing Ohio State Football’s Offense for 2017
If you’re guessing that the 31–0 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff didn’t sit well with Urban Meyer, you’d be correct. Meyer, who is an astonishing 61–6 so far at Ohio State, has suffered just 29 defeats in his 15-year head coaching career, and the Clemson loss was his first shutout. He wasn’t going to stew on it for the entire offseason without making changes.
Sure enough, play caller Tim Beck left to help out Tom Herman at Texas, paving the way for Meyer to hire former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson to be his new offensive coordinator. That has fueled excitement in Buckeye Nation, which expects the offense to get back to a dynamic level.
Ohio State averaged 39.4 points and 459.2 yards per game but struggled down the stretch against Michigan State, Michigan and, of course, Clemson. Veteran quarterback J.T. Barrett couldn’t get in sync with green receivers, and the line broke down in pass protection.
There’s still every reason to expect a resurgence, though, with Barrett — and his 26–4 record as a starter — back behind center and Mike Weber just coming into his own as a running back after a quiet 1,000-yard rushing season. Youngsters J.K. Dobbins and Demario McCall look ready to add to the weaponry, while Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Binjimen Victor are among the wideouts who could emerge.
The line will miss the excellence and leadership of Pat Elflein, but Billy Price, who has logged 41 straight starts at guard, will move to center to replace him.
Previewing Ohio State Football’s Defense for 2017
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Loaded up front and highly athletic in the back end, the Silver Bullets will be coming after people this season. The approach will be professional with Greg Schiano in control of the defense and longtime NFL assistant Bill Davis tutoring the linebackers. Chris Worley will shift inside to replace the departed Raekwon McMillan, the team’s leading tackler the last two seasons. Worley and outside backer Jerome Baker had a penchant for logging top performances against elite teams.
The line will be ferocious. Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard return, bringing 18.5 TFLs from 2016 with them, and position coach Larry Johnson also can rotate in pocket destructors Jalyn Holmes, Nick Bosa and Jonathon Cooper. Inside, OSU has the same wealth with seniors Michael Hill and Tracy Sprinkle able to rotate with Dre’Mont Jones and Robert Landers, who were freshman sensations last year.
The secondary is rebuilding with corners Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley and safety Malik Hooker all off to the NFL. However, there are plenty of rangy and talented defensive backs left on the roster.
Previewing Ohio State Football’s Specialists for 2017
With the Buckeyes breaking offensive records and sending scads of players to the NFL, many fans may forget that Cameron Johnston was one of the best punters in program history. Johnston’s booming leg and uncanny ability to pin teams deep will be missed. Youngster Drue Chrisman, though, could be an asset in his own right. Sean Nuernberger will have every chance to win his placekicking duties back after giving way to walk-on Tyler Durbin and a hip injury last year.
Last year’s Buckeyes deserve credit for growing up quickly, finding playmakers on each side of the ball and advancing all the way to the College Football Playoff. However, a bad taste remains from the goose egg Clemson fed the Buckeyes and the fact that Meyer’s men didn’t get to play for the Big Ten championship. Therefore, there is emotional fuel for 2017. What remains to be seen is if the line can hold up, the receiving corps can develop and new defensive heroes can emerge.
NATIONAL RANKING: 2
BIG TEN EAST PREDICTION: 1
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