Midseason Unit Grades

By Johnny Ginter on October 14, 2010 at 4:00p

It's hard to believe, but we've already reached the midpoint in the 2010 Ohio State football season. In what seems like eons ago, in early September, we entered into this season with wild dreams of the future: Heismans, flying cars, national championships, competent running backs, entire meals in pill form, and a comforting and surely soon to be broken promise of an increased role for the tight end in the offense.

I think going into this fall most of us felt like this team was capable, but certainly not guaranteed of a shot at a championship. There were holes to be filled and questions to be answered, to be sure, but the phrase "most talented Jim Tressel team" was thrown around quite a bit. So, six games in, it's time to evaluate just how well the various offensive and defensive units have lived to to the hype given to them at the beginning of the year, starting with one of the most maligned units over the years: the offensive line.

Offensive line

Before the season even started, it became known that the OL would be tested in terms of depth due to Marcus Hall being out with some grade problems. There were also some concerns over the left tackle spot, as Mike Adams continued to be possibly the most talented member of the LT candidates, but maybe not the most motivated. In any case, the OL entered into the season with a reputation as running game road graders, but with the struggles of the running game this notion has been flipped on its head; pass protection (typically the more difficult technique for young O-linemen to learn) is where this unit has done fairly well, but even then they've allowed a staggering 13 sacks. Most of those are more on Pryor than anyone, however, and generally he has had an incredible amount of time to stay in the pocket. The next six games will be a huge test for the OL, but as of now they have done their job very well in the passing game, and perhaps not as well in the running game.


Wide Recievers and Tight Ends

Posey was the player expected to be OSU's first 1000 yard receiving threat in a long time at the beginning of the year, but instead it's been the captain, Dane Sanzenbacher, who has stepped up and become possibly the most dangerous WR on the team. Both Dane and Posey have similar stats (respectively: 27 vs 26 receptions, 411 vs 364 yards receiving), but the primary difference between the two is touchdowns. Dane has 7, three more than anyone on the team not named Terrelle Pryor. Though Posey has had some trouble with the dropsies, both him and Dane have been very, very solid and have helped Pryor immeasurably. Most people were pretty confident of the WRs' ability, but on the other hand I think the emergence of the TE in the offense was something that almost none of us expected. Hell, even I, who wrote an article saying it would happen, was pretty surprised when it actually did. But Jake Stoneburner silenced the doubters, and before he got injured he had 9 catches for 110 yards. Even after missing two games with injury he's still 4th on the team in receptions, and when he comes back he will continue to be a huge factor in the passing game. Consistency has been the word with these guys, and Pryor is extremely lucky to have them to pass to.


Running Backs/Fullbacks

Maybe the hardest unit to evaluate, especially given how excited people were about the amount of viable backs before the season started. Brandon Saine earned top billing by having a pretty successful 2009 season (and seniorirty), but so far he has only rushed for 183 yards and 4.2 yards per carry. Take out his performance against Marshall in the first game of the year and those numbers go down to 80 yards and 2.3 ypc. Those kind of numbers would be pretty unacceptable anywhere, and at Ohio State they are almost comically bad, leading the coaches to move Saine to more of a pass catching role. Boom Herron initially started just as poorly, but I think he's shown that with consistent carries, he will improve (218 yards in the last three games, 4.6 ypc). He probably won't ever be able to be the kind of consistent running threat Tressel wants in a balanced offense, but he's a tough runner who can get yards in crunchtime and, maybe surprisingly, is the current rushing leader on the team with 355 yards. Many people have clamored for either Jamaal Berry or Jordan Hall to get more carries, and I think the coaching staff is finally starting to listen, but I also think people should be aware that neither of these guys is likely to be The Answer that everyone is looking for. For the conceivable future Pryor will remain the most effective runner on the team, and this could spell trouble, and soon, unless something changes quickly. What does raise the grade for these guys is the continued stellar play of fullback Zach Boren, who is an utter wrecking ball and maybe the most underused offensive threat on the team.



We got a glimpse of what this offense is like without Terrelle Pryor leading it and to say it was ugly is like saying Joey Chestnut is only kind of good at eating hot dogs. That dude will make or break the season for the entire team, and so far he has been terrific. 15 touchdowns, only 3 interceptions, 1349 passing yards, and a 68% completion rate combined with 354 rushing yards means Pryor is playing about as well as anyone could have possibly hoped so far. What really jumps out at me is his decision making, which seems to have improved immensely in the offseason, in addition to a better sense of timing. With that said, it should be noted that he played his worst game against team on the schedule as of yet, and upcoming games will determine if this new TP is here for good or if he's simply learned to beat up on the EMUs of the world. The main backups, Bauserman and Guiton, have not been terrible in garbage duty, but Bauserman did throw an ugly interception and Guiton has only one pass attempt total. If Pryor goes down for good at some point, "screwed" probably isn't a strong enough word.


Defensive Line

Like the RBs, there was a lot of hype with this unit, particularly centered around one Cam Heyward. Heyward unfortunately has not had the Suh-like season we hoped he might've, and although he does have 4.5 tackles for loss, so far he's only notched a half of a sack. With that said, it would be wrong to say the d-line is doing a poor job. They're currently allowing only 78 yards rushing per game, and in the last few games have stepped up their pass rush as Nate Williams has become a force (1.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 1 interception). The interior of the line remains strong, as Simon, Larimore, Goebel and Hankins will not likely be anything less than very good throughout the year. The ends need to become more consistent, especially Heyward, but despite not being as good as last year's line, the DL is anything but a liability and continue to do a good job up front.



The combo of Homan and Rolle is just straight up spectacular, no bones about it. Both of these guys are smart, savy, and fast, lead the team in tackles with 37 for Homan and 30 for Rolle, and they both make tons of big plays. Andrew Sweat has also been playing well when he rotates in, and truthfully there isn't a lot to say about these guys other than they do a consistently terrific job. Rolle occasionally gets lost in the flow of the game, but that's rare. Overall this might be the most complete unit on the team.


Defensive Backs

A M*A*S*H unit. So many players have gone down and dramatically changed the face of the DBs; CJ Barnett and Tyler Moeller are both out for the season, and various nicks and bruises have caused almost everyone else to miss at least some time. As a whole I think there has been more skepticism about the DBs than any other unit than the RBs, but two things need to be pointed out: this is still a group that is very, very good at taking the ball away from the other team (4 different guys have at least one interception), and despite the injuries, players have stepped up and competed when they needed to. Two very good passing attacks in the form of Miami and Indiana were more or less taken care of, and despite some lapses against lesser opponents, Christian Bryant and Jermale Hines have stepped up their games in their new increased roles. Chekwa and Torrence continue to play well, and overall I think the DBs have done remarkably well considering the losses they've had to deal with.


Special Teams

This one is weird. Everybody and their mother would've given these guys an F through the first three games this year due to poor coverage and blocked punts/field goals, but during the last three games the team seems to have turned things around somewhat and are allowing fewer yards per return and flying to the ball much better. In kick returns, the Buckeyes are averaging a pretty decent 26.8 yards, and a lot of this is due to Jamaal Berry, who has been electric. Another thing that has been overlooked in the hoopla surrounding the coverage problems is the very steady play of Devin Barclay, who is now 34/34 on extra points and 11/12 on field goals. The placekicking spot was a huge area of concern in the offseason, and it is pretty nice that we haven't had to worry about it. Overall, I wouldn't say that we can call the special teams "fixed," but there has been a ton of improvement in a few short games, and there's no reason to think that won't continue.


Offensive MVP

No-brainer here. Terrelle Pryor has literally accounted for 60% of the teams' total offense, 1703 yards out of 2795. He has cut down on the number of poor decisions, has displayed the ability to keep the team in games with both his feet and his arm, and showed last week against Indiana that has can be just as dangerous as a pocket passer as he can be rolling out or improvising. This year he seems to be much more mature and confident in his abilities, and if this team is going to win a national championship, it is going to be on his back.

Defensive MVP

This one is much harder. Before the season most people would've said that Heyward would have this one locked up, but that hasn't been the case. Truthfully, Tyler Moeller was probably having the best year out of anyone before he got hurt (19 tackles, an interception, a sack, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles), but in his absence I think the award has to go to maybe the quietest guy on the team, Ross Homan. Homan is a rock, and exactly the kind of guy that can hold the defense together no matter what happens with the personnel. He leads the team in tackles, has a sack, an interception, a forced fumble, and 2 tackles for loss. He's smart, almost never out of position, and a terrific leader on the field. Definitely deserving of the midseason defensive MVP.


Comments Show All Comments

Matt's picture

I agree with almost all of these rankings, except I'd probably drop the Linebackers to an A-, as they've looked somewhat flat footed in pass protection over the middle. 

I'd also give teh DBs the benefit of the doubt and give them a B+, given the extent to which teams have tried to pass on OSU without any consistent success.

Homan is probably the right pick for defensive MVP.  I think Nate Williams is hot on his heels, however.

Chris Lauderback's picture

Yeah, it's hard to argue against Homan but I'd personally give the nod to Williams.

BuckeyeSki's picture

You guys beat me to it, so I'll just agree. Williams is def. deserving, but VERY hard to go against Homan.

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

dan_isaacs's picture

I'd go with Williams.  That dude is in on everything within 5 yards of the LOS.  He's chasing down RBs on the opposite side.  He's scaring the shit out of QBs.    Homan is diesel, don't get me wrong.  But a lot of things flow from the pressure Williams gets.  Especially in last weeks game, he stood out like nobody else.

Dan Isaacs

texbuck's picture

I tend to think that people are a little harsh on the offensive line and running backs this year.  Ross over at Along the Olentangy has pointed out that a lot of our opponents this year have been focused on stopping our running game and forcing Pryor to beat them with his arms/legs, which he's obviously done.

Granted, a top-teir line and some Alabama-quality running backs would probably be doing more with what our guys have been given so far this season.  I mean, in the last three games after Purdue harbor last year, teams knew we were going to consistently run and we were still able to grind out yards.

Overall, though, I would give the line about a B+ and our running backs a B or B-.

anchorman's picture

Iwould give the Dline an A-. Heacock and Fickell aren't blitzing a lot and there is only so much those guys can do!

Natty Light's picture

Jamaal Berry for offensive MVP

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

special teams....B-..........................................

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

special teams....B-..........................................

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

Johnny Ginter's picture

devin barclay is an A. the return game is an A. buchanan is at least a B. the kick coverage has gotten better from being a straight F. a B- might be somewhat generous, but i think i gave legit reasons for it

JakeBuckeye's picture


Did anyone hear today about Michael Irvin saying that the Miami football team needs more thugs on their roster?

anchorman's picture

Michael Irvin has obviously done way too much crack!

iball's picture

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

ERIC OSU's picture

Heres the post-game wrap by the ddn. You absolutely gotta love the fact this kid REALLY wants to be at/ and a part of Ohio State.  You can just tell my his mannerisms that he cant wait to be a buckeye.  Brax is gonna be a special individual when its all said and done.


BigRedBuckeye's picture

Like most graders reviewing a (non-anonymous) subject's performance, expectations have to play a role in the grading process, and so I would change two of your grades:

I would lower the D line's grade to B/B+; the lack of sacks has been frustrating, but they have been beastly against the run. The most frustrating part is that this D line does get an effective pass rush. They just seem to be a step late in closing the deal, which usually results in an incompletion rather than a sack.

I would raise the D-backs/secondary grade to at least an A-. We all thought this would be a weak point of the team, and many supposed conoscenti are still holding on to weird naysayings about the unit and especially Mr. Chekwa. In my book, however, a player must actually do something wrong to deserve naysayings, and until I see truly costly mistakes from him, or the unit as a whole, I cannot agree with such a low grade/set of opinions. I mean, if someone had told you at the beginning of the season that half way through we would be 13th in the country in total pass defense, T-4 in interceptions, T-8 in passes defended, and have allowed only 2 passing plays over 30 yards long, AND, AT THE SAME TIME, rank T-85th in Sacks, and T-67th in TFLs, I think most of would have laughed and said "Impossible, no way this Secondary holds up that well unless we are dominating at the D-line." Well, we aren't as dominant as we thought we were rushing the QB, and yet we still rank among the best teams defending the pass, and that INCLUDES OVERCOMING HUGE injuries...so I have to give the Secondary at LEAST an A-, if not an A.

And we'll drink to old Ohio, 'Til we wobble in our shoes! 

dan_isaacs's picture

Facing a lot of 3 step drops.  Not much time for the DL to get to the QB.  The pressure shows up in the INTs and yards.  We didn't sack Chappelle, but boy howdy did we shut him down.  :)

Dan Isaacs