Five Things: UCF

By Chris Lauderback on September 9, 2012 at 3:00p
33 Comments
AP Photo: Jay LaPreteBraxton accounted for 72% of Ohio State's yards (296) and 77% of the their points (24).

Whether it comes back to bite the Buckeyes at some point or not remains to be seen but once again Braxton Miller shouldered a heavy work load, rushing 27 times for 141 yards and 3 TD while tying a career high with 18 completions, including another TD, as Ohio State turned back a game UCF squad 31-16 yesterday afternoon in Ohio Stadium. 

The win improves the Buckeyes to 2-0 overall and despite not looking anywhere near dominant for the 2nd week in a row, continued improvement will allow the Buckeyes to make significant noise once conference play begins as the rest of the league appears dotted with mediocre football teams. 

No question, the lack of a pass rush, ongoing issues with busted coverages, three turnovers, 10 penalties and too much reliance on Miller are all legit causes for concern but at the same time, this is a young team adjusting to a new regime and dealing with some injuries. 

As I continue to tell myself, the bottom line is Ohio State has nine more games that serve as practice runs and player auditions ahead of when things truly begin to matter, i.e. beating That Team Up North and using it as a springboard back into the title picture in 2013. 

For now, however, let's take a look back at five key happenings in the victory over UCF. 

WHAT'S DUNN IS DUNN

With Jordan Hall still on the mend and Carlos Hyde suffering a sprained MCL late in the 1st half, the Buckeyes obviously have some issues at tailback.

AP Photo: Jay LaPreteDunn is averaging 5.0 ypc in 2012, trailing only Braxton

Needing to find a way to keep Braxton from taking as many hits, Ohio State must solve this problem before Miller is nothing but a bruised pile of awesome ahead of the trip to East Lansing.

The issue is twofold in that the lack of a respectable inside running game makes it harder for the Buckeyes to exploit the edges on top of the increasing concern of Miller’s workload.

It sounds like Hall could return this week but even if he does, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be ready for 20+ touches and if they want to keep Miller from toting it 20-25 times, that’s about what they’ll need unless another reserve can step up.

Fullback Zach Boren has carried the ball more than a few times already this season and Urban loves his versatility, but he’s nowhere near the threat Dunn can be nor would it be wise to shift him from doing what he does best, which is lead block.

Enter Bri’onte Dunn.

He took some flak today for either lining up incorrectly or running the wrong direction at the snap but with increased reps in practice, those miscues are correctable.

Further, I see no point in trotting out Rod Smith. His struggles with holding onto the ball are well documented and quite frankly, in what amounts to a throwaway year, the leftover carries should go to Dunn by default because he’s actually in the long-term plans.

Plus, Dunn gives Urban the option to at least attempt establishing a power running game between the tackles (though Brax’s QB draws up the gut are delicious).  It’s a small sample size but he is averaging 5.0 yards per carry (12/60) and could evolve into a nice complement to Jordan Hall’s scat-back body type and skill set.

If Dunn can prove serviceable, that will also give the staff a cushion to ensure Hyde has fully healed because I don’t think there’s any question the Buckeyes must be able to make defenses respect the inside running game to keep Braxton upright for the long haul.

LONG TIME COMING FOR “SHORT ASS BRAIDS”

Orhian Johnson’s roller coaster of a career reached its pinnacle yesterday. I hate to reuse a line (not really) but frankly, OJ hadn’t looked that good since the first Naked Gun.

Photo: US PresswireOJ had the juice yesterday

The senior saw tons of action at what appeared to be the nickel slot yesterday and responded with six tackles, an interception and a tipped pass that led to a Travis Howard pick.

Johnson announced his presence on the 2nd play of the game making an impressive open field tackle of Storm Johnson, setting up a 3rd down the Knights could not convert. As you’ll recall, Johnson was a bit of a bullfighter in the open field for much of the last three years so seeing him make such a difficult stop on a decent RB in space was particularly awesome.

Two possessions later, after Ohio State turned it over on downs at midfield giving UCF a chance to seize momentum, Johnson came up huge on 3rd and goal from the 11. Channeling his inner Aaron Craft, Johnson used textbook form to deny the passing lane, batting the ball away on what looked to be a pretty well-thrown slant route to Quincy McDuffie. The play kept UCF to a field goal, allowing the Buckeyes to maintain the lead at 7-3.

Following a Boren fumble that gave UCF the ball near midfield – and a chance to take the lead - with just four minutes left in the half, Johnson struck again.

Lining up basically as a defensive end, Johnson dropped back in coverage and jumped another slant route. He didn’t make the interception, which would’ve been a hell of a grab since the ball had some hair on it but he did get his mitts on leather, forcing the ball to change trajectory and land into the waiting arms of Howard for a key interception.

The turnover proved large as the offense promptly went on an eight-play, 3:03 drive to the end zone, taking a 17-10 lead with just seconds left in the half.

Good on, OJ. It was great to see him play so well knowing the Buckeyes needed that effort and by all accounts, he’s one of the true character guys on the squad.

THE HELMET RULES

There’s been lots of talk about the new helmet rules put in place to increase player safety and that noise only heated up yesterday after Jamie Wood was flagged for a personal foul after he continued to compete on the kickoff coverage following Ohio State’s opening TD drive.

The rule in play here is obviously that a player cannot participate in a play once they’ve lost their headgear. Clearly, Wood was guilty of this infraction, competing for at least another four seconds after losing his helmet. He lost it upon engagement of a UCF blocker then proceeded to almost assist on the tackle some seven yards upfield.

I personally have no issue with that call, however I don’t think there’s any question there should have been offsetting personal fouls as the blocker essentially pancaked Wood after his helmet had popped off. As usual, the refs were slow to see what happened. The side saw the UCF player without a helmet backing away from the action, but what he didn’t see was the UCF player pancaking Wood after he’d lost his own helmet before he decided to back away. Wood’s continued participation likely made the UCF guy look that much more innocent.

While I don’t like this rule interrupting the flow of a play, I’m 100% okay with it as the intent is to keep the players safe and obviously it’s not safe to run in traffic and/or try to tackle a guy in a scrum without a helmet. I’ve read enough about concussions and NFL players’ brains turning to mush to fully accept this rule. It’s up to the officials, unfortunately, to properly monitor situations when this occurs.

Fully accepting this piece of the new helmet rules, the portion I do have a problem with is the blanket statement that a player must sit out a play if his helmet comes off.

For whatever reason, it seems like helmets today pop off “at the drop off a hat”. I’m sure some of that is due to the increased velocity of collisions but other times the helmet seemingly comes off after very minimal contact.

Galloway remarked during the telecast that 26 helmets came off during play in the B1G games alone last week. I obviously didn’t see all those instances but I’d be shocked if more than half were the result of some overly intense collision. The refs should have discretion to administer this rule when it is truly a health issue and not some fluke thing where a helmet comes off and the player is clearly unhurt.

At the same time, this is something we’re likely just going to live with because (1) putting another judgment call in the hands of the refs likely won’t help, (2) it’ll just slow down the game and (3) player safety is such a hot button that the NCAA is probably more than willing to have a rule that overcompensates for the true intent.

brax power

A week after Urbz lamented that 17 rushes were too many for Braxton Miller, the 220-lb sophomore racked up 27 carries against the Knights.

The injury to Carlos Hyde certainly didn’t help, and I certainly appreciate where Meyer is coming from, but the bottom line is this team is already woefully short on playmakers and Miller is arguably one of the top five playmakers in college football.

It’s a no-brainer that he can’t make plays if he’s dinged up but just as obvious is the fact this offense would be a sputtering mess without Miller’s magical footwork and slowly improving passing.

AP Photo: Jay LaPreteCatch me if you can. (P.S. You can't)

I think 17-19 carries could potentially be a sweet spot if the Buckeyes want to take advantage of a pathetic B1G conference, provided Braxton tries a little harder to avoid contact.

It’s no easy chore to try to get such an instinctive player to think more in the run game but if he can be a little more selective on when to go for extra yards, he’ll increase his chances of surviving 12 games.

Unless I’m seeing things, there have been a few times at the end of runs this year where he’s tried to lower his shoulder and take on a defender coming at full speed. Other times, he’s tried the spin move in heavy traffic or with more than a few defenders in backside pursuit, meaning that he likely would’ve made one guy miss but that still wouldn’t have greatly altered the max yards of the play.

Like you, I appreciate his mentality as a football player but he could better help his team by trying to avoid a few hits in this manner. He needs to embrace that his coaches and teammates will not frown on such an approach. If anything, they will see it as a sign of growth as Braxton realizes just how much he means to the long-term success of Ohio State football.

Additionally, with the receivers showing growth (incredibly impressed with their downfield blocking but that’s another story), I’m all for letting Miller attempt more passes. He tied his career high with 18 completions yesterday and if Herman/Meyer are going to continue with not trying to stretch the field vertically, I’m fine with increased bubble screens and other short-intermediate routes that come with a high completion percentage.

Hopefully, the return of Jordan Hall will help this problem take care of itself but personally, I don’t see Hall being the game changer some are expecting. I like his game and think he’ll undoubtedly add another dimension, but the bottom line remains that Braxton is far and away the most dangerous playmaker and needs the ball in his hands the majority of the time for Ohio State to win games. Managing the number of direct hits he takes is the key.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

Urban made it clear that he doesn’t recruit kids to redshirt them and that proved true when 14 true freshmen saw the field against Miami.

In a game against a tougher opponent, not as many saw the field but there’s no question a few of them are evolving into legit rotational guys or starters that will only get better with the seasoning a high volume of repetition provides.

Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington were fairly quiet along the defensive front yesterday but they did see plenty of snaps, taking advantage of both Michael Bennett and Nathan Williams being held out of the lineup. 

The two that jumped out yesterday were David Perkins and Jamal Marcus. Two of the final guys to commit to Urban’s first recruiting class in Columbus, the pair of freshman linebackers made some noise on special teams.

They both had two stops and I love how they run down the field with their hair on fire. Perkins grabbed my attention first, blowing up Rannell Hall as he struggled to collect the kickoff on the last play of the first half. Perkins brought the wood then executed a pretty fresh WWE-inspired celebratory move.

After Braxton led the Buckeyes on a scoring drive to start the 2nd half making it 24-10 good guys, Marcus got into the act beating his teammates down the field and making a nice open field stop on Hall, forcing UCF to set up shop at their own 16-yard line. Marcus did a nice job of flying down the field but then breaking down so he could be in a tackling position instead of overrunning the play.

Just minutes later, after a Sabino INT led to another Miller touchdown, Marcus and Perkins teamed up to once again stop Hall at the UCF 16-yard line.

Maybe not game-changing plays in the grand scheme of things but it’s great to see a pair of true freshmen always being the first guys down the field and making such important plays. That point is further enhanced when you harken back to the last few years of Buckeye kickoff coverage.

And as we’ve seen in years past (Brian Rolle, anyone?), dominant play on special teams can often be a prelude to bigger things to come. With the current state of LB play in Columbus, I’ll gladly put on my rose-colored glasses and expect Perkins and/or Marcus to do great things on defense in the coming years.

33 Comments

Comments

Dean's picture

I don't think the policy behind forcing a player to sit out a play after his helmet comes off is that the player is presumptively hurt or needs a rest; rather, I think the point is that they don't want the player to rush in putting the helmet back on and put it on improperly.  Annoying, yes, but not a terrible rule.

William's picture

0 players were injured last year in the Big 10 from losing their helmet while staying involved in play on the field. It's a stupid rule that teams are going to start using to their advantage.

Seabass1974's picture

Hmm, maybe football should be played without any pads at all. It would slow the game down and players wouldn't feel invincible under all that armor they wear.

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

William's picture

You mean like rugby? Which has nowhere near the amount of head injuries. Hogwash, half the players these days just know how to spear or throw their shoulders into someone, they don't know how to tackle.

lamplighter's picture

^^^^^
Maybe the way to stop using the crown is to take away face masks

JKH1232's picture

Well, also, it encourages kids to get helmets that fit.  I'm pretty sure that a lot of helmets come off because they're too big- and helmets that don't fit well don't protect well.  So, if the rule does nothing other than convince peope to wear helmets tight enough to stay on, it's done its job.

Seabass1974's picture

I like the helmet rule and the sitting them out. Last season alone it seemed like every other play a helmet was coming off. Are these kids not strapping it on and think it's cool to lose their helmet? We all have played football at some level, some of us more than others and I never once lost my helmet. In my hardest collision I did have my helmet pop up and my chinstrap got strung up on my nose but never came off. I don't know how these kids keep losing their helmets but it's actually quite annoying.
 
 

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

cinserious's picture

I started noticing this last year. Every game nowadays you see like ten helmets popping off. Maybe its the new style helmets. The NFL you don't see this happening nearly as much.

"Get him a body bag, Yeah!"

NoVA Buckeye's picture

The OJ in Naked Gun that you're referring to has exhausted his eligibility, but I agree that he looked very impressive on Saturday.
 
What you did leave out was Howard Island making its State of the Nation address thus far this season.

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

They lose their helmets because they think its cool. Charles Woodson started all that crap when he was in Oakland by always leaving one strap un-buttoned as a fashion statement. I agree with the rule, once it starts pissing off coaches, equipment managers will be more strict with helmet fitting.  It is annoying, but I'm convinced a lot of these kids think its cool, extra TV face time because whenever a helmet comes off, the camera man follows it.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

Hoody Wayes's picture

If my helmet's off and I can prevent a TD, I'm finishing the play.

SPreston2001's picture

In no way do I think players think its "cool" to have their helmets pop off lol. Most of the time when your helmet gets popped off its because you got blew up (ask Kurt Coleman today) so I dont think they want that embarrassing attention. I really think the helmets come off because players arent taking the time to properly tighten & fasten their chin straps. Some of them like their helmets to fit loose so that plays alot in helmets popping off. But I do think the sitting out a play rule will end up costing a team when players start trying to rip off helmets to make another player sit out the next play...

Crimson's picture

This.  You're going to see a lot more people trying to rip off helmets.  Incentive is there.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I saw that one - ouch!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

D-Day0043's picture

We are going to see players trying to rip opposing players helmets off so they have to sit out a play. I understand the penalty for trying to resume play after losing your helmet, but making a player sit out a play doesn't solve anything. If anything it is going to encourage more of it. Clemson's quarterback had to come out of the game 3 times on one drive against Auburn.

SPreston2001's picture

Sometimes I wonder who the hell comes up with these rules and if the people deciding on them ever played a down of football in their life lol.

D-Day0043's picture

I know... It's the wussification of America...

Buckeye Chuck's picture

I'm wondering if we're already beginning to see this to a small extent. Maybe I'm noticing it more because of the new rule (actually, I'm pretty sure I am), but it does seem like helmets are coming off more than they used to. The advantage of having a Braxton Miller out of the lineup for even one play speaks for itself.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

Seabass1974's picture

That would be a penalty and the player doesn't have to sit out in that situation. 

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

BuckeyeFanInBoulder's picture

Is that definitely in the rule book?  I hope so.  If you get caught trying to rip Braxton's helmet off on 2nd and 9 so he has to sit out on 3rd and whatever when the game is on the line, that should be a 15 yard personal foul / automatic first down.

nickma71's picture

Jamal Berry in this offense anyone? What can you do....*shakes head*

pjtobin's picture

Wood got his helmet knocked off ,pancaked, choked, then got up and tried to make the tackle. Then flagged. No problem. That's football. Can anyone tell me why Basil was in on the tackle?

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

NYC Buckeye's picture

Rod smith fumbled again yesterday in mop up duty didn't he?  Man I was so wrong bout him, I thought he was going to be a star...
I have to say, even with the issues on the line and sometimes secondary, I really like this defense, they are exciting to watch.. It feels different from Ohio state defenses of the past... They capitalize on opportunities, force turnovers, and sway momentum (as opposed to just holding sturdy)...  I think we will see different guys stepping up and making plays each week...

Cobrakai's picture

I agree with you there, I thought he was going to be the one to step into Boom Herron's shoes.  When he holds onto the ball he seems to be a pretty elusive guy to tackle, although admittedly a lot of his touches last year came at the end of games that were already decided.  Its too bad, I don't see how a guy can play running back throughout high school and college and still fumble the ball so much, you'd think it be  a relatively easily problem to correct with proper coaching. 

OSUBias's picture

The intent of the helmet rule is good, maybe just not the execution. Helmets have been popping off more and more frequently for the last 3-5 years. I disagree with the comments that it's usually someone getting blown up. That is certainly sometimes the case, but not all the time. Maybe the players wear them looser than they used to, maybe it's the speed of the game. Either way, I notice a lot of guys have the chin strap up in the middle of their face after plays these days. You know when that doesn't happen? When you have your chin strap on right and your helmet fits right.
I doubt helmets are going to start getting "ripped off" by the opposition to get the benefit of having a player sit out. That'll more than likely result in a facemask or unnecessary roughness penalty.

Slider...you stink

D-Day0043's picture

Like I mentioned above, Auburn was ripping Clemson's quarterbacks helmet off. I watched them doing it. The equipment guy kept tightening his chin strap as tight as he could get it. When he would take off on a run and Auburn was piling on to tackle him, they were ripping at the sides and back pulling his helmet off. That is when It hit me that defenses were going to exploit the rule.
What does that do to the rythm of a drive when the quarterback has to come out for a play and the back up has to come in cold. The play is almost certainly going to be a run because they are not going to let the back up quarterback throw cold. Therefore it is an advantage to the defense. Of course teams are going to do it if they can get away with it.

BuckeyeFanInBoulder's picture

I hate the SEC.  It shocks me absolute zero that they would be the first ones to exploit this.

vtbuckeye's picture

If it is caught by the refs (a big if), then it should be a 15 yard personal foul, automatic first down and make everybody who was ripping at the helmet sit out the next play!  If you are caught ripping at the helmet/facemask of a player when they are down/in a pile, then you should have to sit out the next down.  Could you imagine if one safety, one d-lineman, and a could line backers were all forced to sit out the next play because they were ripping at the opposing RB/QB's helmet. 
 

DallasTheologian's picture

What I want to know is when they are actually going to let someone stay on because the helmet was ripped off by an opposing player. It is obvious that players are attempting to rip helmets off now. There was a blatant one in the the scUM game. There was a game last week where a running back came out of the game, and you could read his lips saying "they were all trying to rip my helmet off." That is how people get hurt.

flipbuckeye's picture

I'm 99.7% sure I saw a UCF player blatantly trying to rip off Braxton's helmet on one play too.

stantmann's picture

I saw that too a few times... it would be flagged as a personal foul if officials see it

cinserious's picture

Softening up Braxton's appoach on runs is a double edged sword. We all would like to see him slide or sidestep out of bounds more often like a typical NFL qb, but with the coaches trying to mold such an unfinished product with footwork, reads, throwing mechanics, etc. I don't know if he can handle that aspect of quarterbacking right now. He has alot already on his plate  and this yr already starting out behind the 8-ball because of the poor coaching he's gotten last year. He's so elusive that he really doesn't get hit more than a pocket passer and when he does, it's usually not a bone-jarring blow. At this point, you cant really hold Braxton back too much on his running style, but the spin-moves in traffic definitely have to stop!

"Get him a body bag, Yeah!"