After an unusual season opener against conference opponent Indiana, Ohio State (3-1) has wrapped up non-conference play and will dive into the rest of their Big Ten schedule when they take on Rutgers (1-3) on Saturday night. With dominating wins over Indiana, Army and UNLV and a crushing loss to the now third-ranked Oklahoma, here is how the Buckeyes have graded out positionally:
J.T. Barrett‘s stats look quite impressive thus far. Through four games, the fifth-year senior has thrown for 966 yards and 10 touchdowns with only a single interception. What doesn’t show up in the stat sheet has been the inaccuracy that has plagued Barrett the last two seasons – especially on deep balls. He also had quite a poor showing against the Sooners, completing just over half of his passes for 183 yards with no touchdowns and a pick.
Running Back: A
One of the biggest surprises in the young season has been the play of true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins. With expected starter Mike Weber limited to just seven total carries so far as a result of a nagging hamstring injury, Dobbins has flourished in the starter role. He has recorded 520 yards rushing and three touchdowns, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. It will be interesting to see who earns the majority of carries moving forward with Weber, a 1000-yard rusher a year ago, officially making his return against Rutgers.
Receivers + Tight Ends: C+
Outside of junior wide-out Parris Campbell, none of the Buckeyes receivers have really separated themselves from the pack through four games, with eight different guys catching at least one touchdown thus far – none with more than two. Campbell leads the squad with 322 yards and two scores. The majority of the teams receiving yards have come via the screen pass, Campbell himself having scores of 74 and 69 yards on catch-and-run plays. The unit has had a big problem with gaining separation and drops that will have to be cleaned up moving forward.
Offensive Line: B+
Ohio State’s offensive line has been extremely solid in the run game. As a team, the Buckeyes have totaled 919 yards on the ground, averaging about six yards per carry. When it comes to the passing game, however, they have been pretty mediocre. While it seems as though Barrett is given a good amount of time to throw on most plays, the team finds itself middle of the pack when it comes to sacks allowed with nine total – good for a tie at 74th in FBS.
Defensive Line: A-
Coming into the season, the Buckeyes most dominant unit was expected to be their defensive line. They have not disappointed, with defense ends Nick Bosa, Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard combining for 7.5 sacks in the early goings of the season. They have also been instrumental in the run game, with Bosa and Hubbard combining for 20 tackles thus far, including 10 tackles for a loss. Bosa also tipped a pass against UNLV that resulted in a Damon Arnette interception. The Ohio State front four, and sometimes five, should continue to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks for the remainder of the year.
One of the more surprising letdowns of this Ohio State team has been the play of its linebacker group. After losing Raekwon McMillan to the NFL Draft, the unit hasn’t looked too intimidating. Jerome Baker, after a very impressive 2016 campaign, has just not looked like the same player from a year ago. He did, however, seem to show some improvement in their latest game against UNLV, in which he recorded his first sack of the year. The Buckeyes have also been without starting middle linebacker Chris Worley for the last game and a half as a result of a sprained foot he suffered against Army.
The hands-down worst unit for this Ohio State team thus far has been their secondary. Not-so-unexpectedly, after losing corners Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore and safety Malik Hooker to the NFL Draft, the Buckeyes defensive backfield has been in shambles. Outside the play of Damon Webb, who has registered one interception and leads the team in tackles, the OSU defensive backs have looked completely lost on the field, seemingly unable to turn their heads around to play the ball in the air, leading to a ton of pass interference calls and blown coverage. If Ohio State expects to make a run at the playoffs this season, this unit will have to improve significantly.
Special Teams: A-
Parris Campbell has been very impressive in the kick return game, averaging 45.6 yards per return in five attempts. The Buckeyes’ kickoff coverage squad as looked good outside of a pair of kickoffs that went out of bounds. Kicker Sean Nuernberger has been solid as well, converting all seven field goal attempts on the year while remaining a perfect 18 for 18 on extra points. Also, interestingly enough, despite not blocking a field goal yet this season, opposing kickers have made just one field goal in five attempts against Ohio State.
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