Friday Skull Session

By poguemahone on October 22, 2010 at 6:00a

  Quarterbacks. Quarterbacks everywhere. It seems that more and more teams are getting away with quarterbacks who lead (or nearly) lead the team in rushing week after week, as the Washington Post notes. Between record-setting outings from guys like Denard Robinson and Taylor Martinez, running quarterbacks are all the rage in college football these days. The timing of this article is a tad strange, as both Martinez and Robinson have been slowed lately by more competent defenses. That doesn't necessarily diminish just how effective mobile quarterbacks have been this season, a year in which 3 of the top 11 rushers nationally are quarterbacks. This weekend's opponent, Purdue, boasts yet another scrambling wunderkind:

Coach Danny Hope knew redshirt freshman Rob Henry wasn't ready to sling the ball around like former Boilermakers Drew Brees or Kyle Orton, but he knew his young quarterback was the fastest player on the team. Purdue used a bye week to tweak its spread offense and shift to a run-based approach featuring liberal use of the zone-read option play.

The results have been stunning. Henry rushed for 132 yards in an upset win at Northwestern, then ran for three touchdowns in a victory over Minnesota. Purdue is one of three unbeaten teams in conference play heading into Saturday's game at No. 11 Ohio State.

Okay, "wunderkind" might be a stretch, but the point stands: Henry has impressed as a runner in his first couple games directing the Boiler offense. Where he has not impressed is - stop me if you've heard this one before - as a passer, going 19/38 for a touchdown and two picks since Purdue's offensive overhaul. If this kid really is one-dimensional, Ohio State should have no problem stopping him Saturday. Now if we can just block Ryan Kerrigan for more than a second...

  This reads way too mch like an especially depressed (read: schadenfreude-laden) UFR. For the last recap of the Wisconsin game anyone outside of the Badger State wants to read, the Dispatch's Ken Gordon recounts the Tale of the Tape. Much of it is stuff we already know: the Wisconsin offensive line beasted it, manhandling the Ohio State defensive front in a way it hasn't been since USC '08 (Gordon says it was the worst he has ever seen, which might be a stretch), the kick coverage was eye-gougingly terrible, and Orhian Johnson is showing us why the coaches went with CJ Barnett at the start of the season. The biggest point of interest in this recap is this (after the break):

[The front four] got physically dominated, period. Dexter Larimore, Cameron Heyward and Nathan Williams rarely fought off blocks and made plays. John Simon fared a little better. I found it interesting that early on, Heyward moved inside for a few plays, clearly trying to beef up the middle. Later, OSU opened a series with Jonathan Hankins and Larimore on the field at once for maximum bulk, in place of Williams, the lightest lineman. That seemed to work, but then Williams came back in and the problems began again.

I noticed the personnel switch when it happened, but I didn't notice any immediate drop in Wisconsin's production, and since I haven't the stomach to re-watch the tape, I'm forced to conclude Gordon might be on to something here. I'll admit, I was slightly worried when the season began that the overall undersized nature of Ohio State's defensive line might come back to haunt them. At the time, I thought overall depth might be able to keep enough fresh legs on the field that running games like Wisconsin's (or Iowa's) wouldn't push them around too much. On average, this is the lightest defensive front Ohio State has had since 2007, a season which featured excruciatingly long offensive possessions by teams like Illinois and LSU, who consistently got themselves into 3rd-and-manageable, then plowed ahead for an all-too-easy first down with Juice Williams (shudder) and Jacob Hester. But it isn't just a lack of bulk that's killing the Buckeyes: 290-pound Cameron Heyward couldn't defeat a block to save his life at times against Wisconsin, so technique is also an issue, although one that is far more correctable than something like size.

So how does Ohio State remedy this weakness? In my estimation, there are two teams remaining on the schedule with offensive lines that could very well generate similar success: Iowa and Michigan. It should be noted that UM's struggles in the Big Ten are not as a result of its offensive line, which has allowed one sack and paved the way for 450 yards of offense, on average, against Michigan State and Iowa, two of the conference's better statistical defenses. Personnel changes - situational or otherwise - may not be necessary now, but if a team like Purdue, Penn State or Minnesota finds a way to move the ball on the ground against the Buckeyes, they may be warranted.

 Speaking of those terrible awful no good coverage units... The Cleveland Plain Dealer informs us that more changes to the kickoff coverage units are essentially inevitable. Remember those returns by the Hurricanes? Here's the breakdown of how the personnel has changed since then:

The Buckeyes are one of five teams in the country to allow two kick returns for touchdowns. On those two returns, five of the OSU coverage guys, along with kicker Drew Basil, were the same, and five were different. 

The five holdovers out there Saturday were senior safety Aaron Gant, redshirt freshman cornerback Dominic Clark, junior safety Nate Oliver, sophomore walk-on defensive back Nate Ebner and sophomore linebacker Jon Newsome

The players out there for the Wisconsin return who weren't out for the Miami return were senior running back Brandon Saine, sophomore running back Jordan Hall, freshman running back Carlos Hyde, junior walk-on linebacker Tony Jackson and redshirt freshman safety Jamie Wood.

Now look, I'm not going to pretend I know anything more about football than Jim Tressel and his staff. I don't. If I coached the talent JT does while JT coached Northwestern, he would beat me 777-0. That being said, I can't help but notice that the new guys flying down the field are three running backs, a walk-on linebacker, and Jamie Wood, who has yet to make a dent behind a clearly-struggling Orhian Johnson. People have been clamoring to get more starters out on the field for kickoff coverage, and while that idea may have some merit, being a starter didn't prevent Andrew Sweat from screwing up on special teams on numerous occasions. I don't know. I suppose that my pre-conceptions of depth at safety and linebacker - the former of which has been wrecked by injury - are starting to come apart, because if we were really that deep, you'd think the staff would be able to find someone who can make a tackle while doing all the other things coverage unit guys need to do.

 Hey, guys! Basketball news! Wait, where's everyone going? Come back! This was covered in Buckshots, but the first USA Today Poll was released yesterday and the combination of the second Thad Five and veterans like William Buford and David Lighty lifted Ohio State to 5th in the preseason poll. Basketball rankings are more or less pointless in the end (and thank God, too) but nevertheless, it serves as a good indication of where national expectations are for this team. What I'd like to know is, what are our expectations? I know opinion on Thad soured after Ohio State's second consecutive disappointing Tournament run (and I will maintain that The Villain was fouled by UT on that last shot until I'm laying on my deathbed), but what are your thoughts? There are some veteran line-ups in the Big Ten - Michigan State, Purdue come to mind immediately - that will almost assuredly give this team trouble, but outside of them, only Illinois and Wisconsin start this season ranked. Is 23-25 regular season wins a reasonable floor?


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Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Tress would beat you by 259 field goals? I'm nervous about Purdue. I wouldn't be if we didn't have so many stupid injuries.

Speaking of men's hoops, someone did a game-by-game break down of the season giving us his view point of which we were likely to win and which we were likely to lose. Can we anticipate the same awesomeness this year?

Poe McKnoe's picture

We should be able to pass on there's that.  Purdue has played us tough the past 2 years and some before that.  This isn't a gimme.  They've got a mobile quarterback, but I don't know if he can run and PASS.  That's the key for Purdue.

Brady's picture

The dominance showed by the Wisky O-line was really disturbing.  I have never felt as helpless watching a Buckeye defense as I did on Saturday night.  It felt like I was watching the Browns on Sunday and you never want to be compared to the Browns.  I hope that we can chalk that game up to a dominant Wisconsin line (maybe the best in the country) and the defensive front can return to form for the rest of the season.


blazers34's picture

Seems like we have been recruiting a lot of d-line tweeners lately.  love the athleticism, but sometimes you just need bulk

Natty Light's picture

 yeah, ever since we got lit up by florida's "team speed" I think Tress has been going after the more athletic linemen, including offense. 

sad thing is there were probably 10 people on here posting how we needed to come out with heyward, larimore, hankins, simon as our front 4, with maybe williams on the edge too. 

They had an extra tackle in a lot of the time, and had a huge size advantage on the inside.

Poe McKnoe's picture

What they need to do is get after it like the LSU defensive line does.  I don't doubt that our defensive coaches know how to teach technique, but our players always have a problem with explosion.  Doug Worthington had some of the best technique in the NFL draft last season, but didn't (couldn't?) play with aggressiveness or explosion.  Some of Heyward's NFL breakdown says he's not quick off the ball.  I don't know if it has to do with the keys that the lineman have to read or not, but there's a generally lack of pinning your ears back and stopping the play...thus the sad sack lack of sacks.

That...and getting off blocks.

slippy's picture

Gonna be nice to have a basketball team that knows how to pass the ball this year.

Leanenaud's picture

I don't question the talent on either side of the ball so much, even though last week's game makes me think otherwise. Perhaps Tressel lacks the ability to get teams fired up in big time situations. Maybe if he'd bitch slap a few players and drop an ef bomb in the locker room prior to the game he'd turn some heads.

BuckeyeSki's picture

Get out there and hit the man in front of you right in the F&*#$@ MOUTH!! ...and so forth

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

Leanenaud's picture

Right?! Bielema has that sweet tatoo, so there was no need for a pep talk.

Brady's picture

I would pay big money to be a fly on the wall if that ever happened.


dmurder's picture


That would be great...! Halftime would sound something like this.

Anytime you fu#k$ng lineman wanna show up let me know get your a#s in gear.

Bollman I have been carrying your a#s forever, you better not let me down mother fu$k$r.

What in the fu%k were you guys thinking on that opening kickoff?

Now, get your sh%t together, and lets slap the Sh#t out of these guys, and so forth, and what not.

"We have always had the best damn band in the land, now we have the best damn team in the land"- Jim Tressel 1-03-03

buckeyedude's picture

I don't think that works. Dick Rod does that every week, and it hasn't helped TTUN.



gravey's picture

Hey... lots of us like basketball.

I don't think we've been recruiting athletic linemen because of FL, LSU.  If the coaches made the assessment that our d-line speed was lacking in those games, we've got bigger problems than bulk.  If anything, those games should have reinforced the notion that having a couple of massive run-stopping 300 pounders in the middle is ideal....especially given the way we use the D-ends. 

Still, we haven't had the high quality fellows in there like we did early in Tress' tenure (Coop?).  The NFL had 4 or 5 of those guys for a while...Scott, Peterson, Anderson.  Pitcock is the only guy in recent memory; and he didn't hold up well those big games.

I think Big Hank could be the answer, but he's still a (big) baby.  Let's hope we find some more, because we need to beat power teams and spread teams.

ATL Buckeye's picture

We are quickly becoming a basketball school anyways, so any diversion from Tressel's lack of game-planning & scheming is always welcomed. We have a basketball coach who knows his Xs and Os and utilizes the talent to the utmost of their ability. They play several defensive sets and Matta is huge at setting up offensive plays probably better than 90% of coaches out there (just look when the team comes out of timeouts). The Big Ten is quickly becoming the league where elite players come to. No SEC, PAC-10, or Big 12 biases here. It's time Matta gets his due as one of the better ones around. I still do not understand for the life of me how we have 3 legit WRs with speed, the fastest TE in the nation, and some game breakers at RB, and somehow find a way not to utilize those players. If Thad were coaching the football team, a NC would be all but assured by now. No unthinkable losses to Perdue and Wisky (although give Tress credit for that Oregon win in the Rose...not sure how he pulled that one off).

Matt's picture

Congrats, you win today's stupid post award!

ATL Buckeye's picture

Really Matt....I think you missed the point when comparing the 2 coaches. One makes the most of their talent, while the other squanders it. It is that simple. I love my alma mater, but will never sip the Tressel cool aid until I see better play calling. I don't buy into SEC teams being better then us, but their coaches make better offensive calls.

JakeBuckeye's picture

Hahah. That's kind of funny, because Matta is actually regarded as an amzing recruiter, but mediocre coach by most buckeye fans. What has Matta done that Tressel hasn't?

Just for the record, I think both have done amazing jobs, but really?

slippy's picture

Have you watched our basketball team?  Depending on the personnel we play 97% zone (and only one zone) or 97% man to man.  Matta has the same adjustment problems the football team does (read: lack thereof).  Look at the Tennessee game last year.  Had no answer for their offense.  Didn't try anything new.

buckeyedude's picture

What kind of "plays" does a defensive coach call? IMO, the game last week was lost because our supposed "best defense in the land," couldn't stop Wisky's run game. Period.

The offense, for all of it's warts, battled back valiantly, but the OSU D couldn't stop the Wisconsin O. End of story.



JakeBuckeye's picture


On another note, is hell week finally over? Can't wait to finally get back on the field.

JakeBuckeye's picture

"We are quickly becoming a basketball school anyways"

For the record, this has got to be the stupidest line I've heard all week. Great week-capper after a pretty solid weak for ridiculous quotes from buckeye fans.

Kyle's picture

I can't help but come back to that remark Heacock made in the pre-season about this group being the best crop of defensive lineman he's coached.  They were simply owned at Wisconsin, and even factoring that out have not racked up the sacks and tackles for loss we all thought they would.  Heyward, while solid, has not put up the type of production you'd expect for a NFL first rounder or a guy who said he wanted to be better than Ndamakung Suh.  Its easy to pile on after a loss like Wisconsin but I think this dline has underperformed all year.


As for basketball, I think OSU is very talented and has some quality returning experience but the big questions are who steps up at point guard, who is the team leader; the go-to guy when they need a score, and how do the young guys mesh with the veterans.  OSU could be very good by the end of the year, but for now I'm somewhat skeptical of such a lofty ranking with so many questions.

slippy's picture

We hear similar stuff every year.  Last year Thad was 'unblockable.'  You and I would look good against this offensive line.  That's why I never believe anything I hear from practice reports.

KenK's picture

I'm still trying to figure out why. to bolster a less-than-adequate coverage unit, we bring in three running backs. Really? I know that RB's are supposed to fast & shift, but... 

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".