Ohio State Football: 2013 Midseason Report Card

By Kyle Rowland on October 10, 2013 at 9:15a
44 Comments
Grade: A+

Ohio State has come to the midway point of the Chase. Not unlike NASCAR and Indy Car, the Buckeyes are taking a pit stop during the seventh week of the season to regroup, make adjustments and keep inching along toward the finish line.

The 6-0 record and top-5 ranking are a surprise to no one. But none predicted the way Ohio State’s arrived at its bye week. Kenny Guiton’s heroics, the emergence of the receiving corps, stout defensive line play and an underwhelming secondary. Just like everyone predicted in August.

With back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, the Buckeyes are on pace to reach their first Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. They only have one ranked opponent remaining on the schedule: undefeated No. 18 Michigan. Ohio State’s strength of schedule checks in at 84th in the country.

The second half of the season will include scoreboard watching and plenty of blowouts in favor of the Buckeyes. In the final year of the BCS, it will be a mad dash to the finish. Multiple unbeatens could spell disaster for Ohio State. But the Rose Bowl isn’t a bad consolation, now is it?

Offense

Braxton Miller has been inconsistent in three games this season.

Tom Herman and Ed Warinner’s hold on the offense has produced magnificent returns since their hiring. Braxton Miller is as dynamic as quarterbacks come, and Guiton happens to be a backup that could start for teams that are ranked in the top 25. The resurgence of the offensive line after years of languishing and a lack of production is perhaps the biggest development in the Meyer era.

But this season’s bright spot is the arrival of the wide receivers. Zach Smith spent an entire offseason preparing his unit to become more relevant in the gameplan. The past two seasons didn’t feature the pizazz Buckeye Nation is used to when watching the wideouts. Through the first half of 2013, that notion has changed.

Philly Brown and Devin Smith have distinguished themselves as legitimate playmakers, while Evan Spencer and Chris Fields’ production has soared. The quartet claims 17 of Ohio State’s 36 touchdowns. The passing game includes 19 total touchdowns, on pace to break the school record of 33 set in 1995.

Consistency has been the key variable. The wide receivers and tight ends show up in the box score each Saturday. The tight end position alone already eclipsed last season’s totals. Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett have combined for 14 receptions, 138 receiving yards and a touchdown.

The biggest surprise about the person getting the ball to the receivers is that it’s plural, as in persons. Miller’s three-game absence gave way to Guiton building on an already improbable legend. His six touchdown passes in a game – he set it in one half – and the 90-yard scoring strike to Smith at Cal are school records that should stand for a considerable amount of time. Now, after Miller’s unsteady performance at Northwestern, head coach Urban Meyer is once again talking about Guiton being inserted into the game for a few series.

But don’t discount Miller just yet. Yes, he had three turnovers at Northwestern, two of them costly. Every game isn’t a pretty picture, though. Mixed with Monets and Rembrandts is a Rorschach Test that can’t be deciphered. This is still the same quarterback that was the Big Ten’s offensive player of the week in his return from an MCL sprain. And on the game-winning drive Saturday, Miller was a perfect 4-of-4 passing.

He’s completing 65 percent of his passes for 609 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.

There’s no bickering from fans when the running backs take a handoff. Few teams in the nation can afford to neglect the conference’s leading scorer and someone averaging more than 100 yards rushing per game. But that’s exactly what the Buckeyes did two weeks ago against Wisconsin, when Jordan Hall received a grand total of one carry.

The very next week, Dontre Wilson, considered to be Ohio State’s biggest playmaker, got fewer carries, as in zero. The sole reason was because Carlos Hyde gave the coaches no choice. In consecutive wins against ranked opponents, Hyde has amassed 295 total yards and three touchdowns.

Six running backs have at least 10 carries, and all six are averaging more than five yards per carry. As a team, the Buckeyes have rushed for nearly 1,700 yards in six games, an average of 281 yards. That’s good for the 12th-ranked rushing attack in the country.

Making everything move is the Big Ten’s top offensive line. Big things were expected of the unit that engineered so much during an undefeated season in 2012. Right tackle Taylor Decker was the only new starter, and Game 1 produced some worry. But after getting his first start out of the way – and avoiding Khalil Mack the rest of the season – Decker has been more than adequate.

Injuries kept the Group of Five from establishing the cohesion they and Meyer would have liked to see during the spring and fall camp. It hasn’t been an issue in the regular season, though. Ohio State’s quarterbacks have been sacked just eight times this season, generating one of the best per-game averages in the nation for the O-line.

As a whole, the offense is ranked 20th nationally, racking up almost 500 yards per game and scoring 47 points.

Grade: A-

Defense

Bradley Roby's play has been mysterious after an All-American 2012 season.

The summer months are spent debating all sorts of college football topics. For the Buckeyes, that centered on the defense. The unit was disappointing the first half of 2012 before developing into one of the top defenses in the country for the month of November. 

During the offseason, there was chatter about four new starters on the defensive line, inexperienced linebackers and a stacked secondary. How quickly times change.

Six games into the 2012 campaign, all has been reversed. The D-line is one of the top units on the team and by far the best on the defense. Michael Bennett is playing at an All-Big Ten level, with Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington close behind. Fourth starter Joel Hale is proving to be more than just a leader, and true freshman Joey Bosa has been one of the stars of the show.

Ohio State ranks seventh against the run, limiting teams to 86 yards on the ground per game. The highlight was holding Wisconsin, one of the top rushing offenses in the country, nearly 250 yards below its average.

Whether it’s the edge or interior, the Buckeyes seem to stop all comers.

Spence has 23 tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks; Bosa has 16 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, and fumble recovery for a touchdown; and Bennett has 12 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

The first couple games saw linebacker play that left many nervous. But the inexperienced duo of the group – Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry – has since buttoned things up. Grant is the second leading tackler on the team behind do-it-all linebacker Ryan Shazier. Grant has 35 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Grant and Perry have been impressive in both Big Ten games.

Shazier’s play is at a level not seen in Columbus since James Laurinaitis roamed from sideline to sideline. He’s tops on the team in total tackles, tackles for loss, quarterback hurries and tied for first in forced fumbles.

However, as good as the front seven has been, the secondary’s play has been almost that bad. Their D or F pulls down an otherwise solid defensive grade. Bradley Roby, Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett have played countless games together. Each has been a multi-year starter for the Buckeyes. Two other experienced players – Pittsburgh Brown and Doran Grant – also have expanded roles this season.

Still, the secondary has been torched in three of six games this season. The red light has been illuminated the past two weekends, when Wisconsin and Northwestern seemed to gain yards through the air with little effort. Meyer deemed the pass defense “alarming” earlier this week.

Roby’s lack of production has been most glaring. Not only is the defensive backfield not the strength many thought it’d be, but the unit’s best player –Roby, an All-American – has struggled mightily.

Now, they have to deal with Bryant’s season-ending injury. Brown had a forgettable first game in place of Bryant, with increased playing time for Vonn Bell a growing possibility.

The defense, and more accurately the secondary, is at a crossroads. Ohio State ranks 76th in the country defending the pass. 

Grade: C+

Special Teams

Cameron Johnston is a fan-favorite with good reason.

National Signing Day brought good news for the Buckeyes’ coaches and fans. But there was a little dose of the bad stuff. Punting commit Johnny Townsend opted not to sign with Ohio State after his homestate Florida Gators swooped in with a late offer.

It was a blow to the special teams, especially since the Buckeyes didn’t have a scholarship punter. During spring practice, placekicker Drew Basil pulled double duty. But in the summer, Cameron Johnston, an Australian YouTube sensation, committed to Ohio State.

It took five games before an opponent got a punt return yard on him, and the Buckeyes rank 17th in net punting and punt return defense. The only return was a three-yarder by Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis.

The lone blemish on Johnston’s season is a failed fake punt last Saturday. He’s put 14 of his 21 punts inside the 20 and 12 have been fair caught. He’s averaging 40 yards per boot with a long of 61.

Meanwhile, Basil has converted all five of his field goal attempts. His longest was a 45-yarder. Twelve of his 45 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks.

The kick return unit ranks 35th, averaging 23.4 yards per return, while the punt team is 22nd with a touchdown on a block at Northwestern.

Grade: B+

44 Comments

Comments

Orlando Pancakes's picture

All of that adds up to a B. Sounds about right. We are fortunate to still be undefeated while having plenty of room to improve. Besides the secondary, that says more about our potential than anything else.

ibuck's picture

Ohio State ranks 76th in the country defending the pass.
Grade: C+
 
Being in the bottom half  vs pass rates a C+?  
D seems more appropriate to me for pass defense, and yielding 29.3 points/game against 2 good teams & Cal merits C-.
YMMV

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

wojodta's picture

I think the C+ is for the whole defense not just pass defense. The run D has been solid so a C+ sounds about right.

ibuck's picture

Would you still feel that way if OSU was scoring fewer points? In my view, the prolific scoring by the offense (so far) has greatly lessened scrutiny on a defense that Urban called "alarming."

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

Hovenaut's picture

Fair across the board.
Looking forward to seeing the secondary pull things together the last half of the season. 

"Success...it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

Buckeye06's picture

I wonder if they will indeed end 8 man coverage.  Our secondary and LBers get lost too often and if we would send 5, then the back 6 will at least not have time to get lost.  I have no problem with 8 man coverage when you're in a 3rd and 15 situation and in the opponents end of the field.  When they are in the OSU redzone, I'd like them to get the pass off faster, although I understand why 8 man coverage should work in that situation (way less field to cover so 8 guys should be able to do a competant job)
 
I would give the Special teams a solid A.  A from the punter, B+ from the punt/kickoff coverage team (too many personal fouls when they don't get there, A+ from the field goal kicker (he kicks it right to the 1 yard line most of the time and hits his field goals
Offense - B+
Defense - B- (would give them a C but want to see how NW and Wisky do on offense the rest of the year)
 
 

d5k's picture

8 man coverage is fine if you don't have sieves in the middle of the field.  Grant needs to get proper depth on his zones and actually move more than 2 yards in the 3 seconds between the ball getting snapped and the ball leaving the QB's hands.

BGSUBucksFan's picture

Eleven Warriors keeps reporting that Townsend chose Florida over Ohio State, which is technically true, but wasn't it more like OSU chose Bell/Clark/etc. over Townsend? If I were the kid who got the shaft, I'd be a little upset at these reports. With that being said, I'm glad Johnston is a Buckeye.

TMac's picture

I think it's a combination of a FL kid, who always loved FL getting a late FL offer and no immediate scholarship room on NSD with late additions to the Buckeye Class. In the end it worked out pretty well as Johnson is already more than adequate and is only going to get better. 

AndyVance's picture

This theory has been disputed many times, by Coach Meyer and by the Townsend boy's Dad. Published reports at the time indicated that Townsend did indeed make the choice, and that OSU did not rescind his offer. Unless I've missed something since that contradicted both stories, that's the deal.

Spider1944's picture

Bell over Townsend was my impression as well. Oh well maybe it's best to report it this way to protect their commits. 

"There are 3 things that can happen and 2 of them are bad" - the Curse of Woody Hayes

Crimson's picture

Here's what I've gathered from reading 11W.  Townsend was offered a spot if one was available come NSD, and he would have the first available slot if there was not one available.  This would be like a PREFERRED, preferred walk-on.  Townsend got an offer without conditions from Florida around NSD, and he took it.  He loved Florida, or he wanted the certainty of having an offer; I'm not sure which.  You can even say that we chose Bell (or someone else) over Townsend, but I'm not sure if that's completely true; at the least, it's not the whole story.

tennbuckeye19's picture

Interesting note on Townsend: It looks like he's red-shirting at Florida this season, as he is yet to see any game action. They have several punters (6) on their roster, and 4 of them are freshmen,although I'm not sure of their scholarship status. Their starting punter is only a junior, so Townsend could be waiting even longer to see the field unless of course he wins the job.
Regardless of the situation with OSU's scholly's and whatever happened on Signing Day, if Townsend had come to OSU, he'd more than likely be starting for the Buckeyes from Day 1.

Earle's picture

Clearly Urban Meyer left the cupboard bare at Florida in terms of punting.  It is a tribute to Muschamp's coaching that they have been able to win any games at all with the deplorable lack of talent Meyer left him at punter.

shaggybuckeye's picture

I'm still not sold on Curtis Grant. He seems to be constantly out of place and not getting enough depth when in zone coverage. No doubt he's a beast against the run, but he seems to be a liability in passing situations.

willshire58's picture

Grant rarely plays in obvious passing situations. This does not acquit him of being poor in pass coverage, but getting proper depth in a zone on a play-action pass is difficult. Those plays are designed to displace the linebackers. He has become a good middle linebacker against the run which is almost a complete 180 from last year when he couldn't defend the pass or the run. By the end of this season, I think he will develop into a complete middle linebacker.
I've been disappointed with Perry. I can think of more times where he was out of position than I can Grant. 

shaggybuckeye's picture

True Grant isn't in on obvious passing downs often and play-action is designed to pull the backers in , but he seems a bit slow to react and drop back after the fake. I agree that his development from last year is great, and that by the end of the year he should be pretty a solid MLB.
I haven't really focused in on Perry much as for some reason I have a fixation on Grant. I tend to watch him most plays so that is probably why I find more fault with him. Truth be told I was a DT that spent all of his time in the backfield(or trying to get there) so coverage still confuses me a bit.

d5k's picture

I think it depends on personnel of the offense too.  If they don't go 4 wide we might stay in nickel on 3rd down especially if it is 3rd and medium.  Grant seems to have his feet in cement in pass coverage still although he is filling his gap just fine in the run game.  He's at least a decent replacement for Boren at this point if not an all conference type guy.

Spider1944's picture

Against Northwestern, credit Perry for NW not getting that pivotal fourth and one. He was huge in getting to the ball and forcing Colter to stop his plunge and back in because he had to hang on to the ball. 
At the game I thought it was a fortuitous spot. But watching replay when I got Home I thought it was not such a bad spot. Thanks to Perry.
 GO BUCKS!!! Bring on the Hawkeyes! 

"There are 3 things that can happen and 2 of them are bad" - the Curse of Woody Hayes

willshire58's picture

I should have said that my beef with Perry is with him in pass coverage. I have no complaints about the run defense, save Noah Spence could use another 15-20 lbs of muscle.

ChazBuckeye's picture

I agree with everything except this...

"In the final year of the BCS, it will be a mad dash to the finish. Multiple unbeatens could spell disaster for Ohio State. But the Rose Bowl isn’t a bad consolation, now is it?"

This is one year that I would disagree with this last sentence.  If it were like 2009 season when OSU went to the Rose Bowl and beat Oregon, then I'd agree because OSU would have one or two loses.  If OSU goes unbeaten, I can't agree with the Rose Bowl comment.  It wouldn't be a bad consolation prize if OSU wasn't unbeaten.  I think a result like this above may make me puke uncontrollably for hours if we attain the goal of a second unbeaten record two years in a row and still can't go to the NC game.  

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

TMac's picture

ABSOLUTELY - that wouldl be a tough nut to swallow.(25-0) Thankfully there is much football to be played between now and December, and we have seen many an undefeated favorite lose unexpectedly every year. The Buckeyes just need to concentrate on taking care of their 7 games with an unblemished record!

okiebuck's picture

Without a number of teams losing; it's going to be a long shot for us to get to the NC game with our schedule; but an Ohio State - Stanford Rose Bowl would be one of hell of a consolation game.
 

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

Ahh Saturday's picture

Four of these teams need to lose, and theses are the games where a loss is most likely:
Alabama: LSU, @Auburn, SEC championship game
Oregon: @Washington, UCLA, @Stanford, PAC 12 championship game
Stanford: UCLA, @Oregon St, Oregon, @USC, ND, PAC 12 championship game
Clemson: FSU, @SCAR, ACC championship game
FSU: @Clemson, Miami, @UF, ACC championship game
 
Two things should be clear from looking at the list above: First, each team above us will have good chances to drop a game.  Second, if two teams from that list get through their seasons undefeated, they will have earned their ticket to the BCSCG.  No sour grapes here.
 

d5k's picture

It is possible, and happens most years, that one of those teams (or us! gasp) will lose a game that isn't on that list.

Ahh Saturday's picture

You are right, of course, which is why I wrote "most likely" games for them to lose rather than "possible."

Clinger76's picture

You can already take two of those teams out of the way since they play each other. Secondly, I think if Clown(ey) decides to ever Show up this season, he can single handedly bring down Clemson and Taji Boyd. Fla St will lose to Clemson, we are in!! Clemson hasn't faced a defense YET this year! Ga doesn't have one, that's the only reason they won that game. I rooting for Alabama to lose to LSU. I think it'll all pan out in the end if we just stick to "The Chase".

Our Honor Defend, I will fight to the end for......O-HI-O!!

BuckeyeQ6's picture

Second, if two teams from that list get through their seasons undefeated, they will have earned their ticket to the BCSCG. 

I completely agree with this statement, but at the same time at 13-0 (off a 12-0 season) we would have earned it as well.  Someone gets absolutely screwed by the system this year and it's probably us.  Fortunately this cannot happen after this year unless there are 5 undefeateds, which is highly unlikely.

celtic020's picture

The fake punt really pissed me off.  Not because of the call, I thought the call was great and the protection blocked a seam the size of the Red Sea down the middle of the field and yet, our Australian ran to the sideline where all the defenders had been blocked to!  Gotta teach that Aussie some semblance of direction!   BUT, he is a legit punter and I think we're all pleased with this unit so far. 

Breakawayspeed's picture

On the failed fake punt:
The execution on that was terrible!  NW's punt return team never saw a fake punt.  Johnston simply caught the ball and ran.  On a fake punt you need to take a step forward... like a regular punt....and then run.  He simply took off running....fooling no one!

okiebuck's picture

Agree with TMAC that we have to focus on winning out; but I think (as much as I hate to say it) we will need some style points as well.

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

TheShadow's picture

 I has been pretty obvious the OSU secondary has not lived up to expectations thus far this season, but I would be curious to see some stats that help shed light on the issues. It may not be possible to determine how many yards are given up due to soft coverage, but it would be interesting to see how many yards have been given up thus far by the secondary due to missed tackles. Just curious.

Breakawayspeed's picture

I would think the problem is due to one or a combination of the following:  Scheme, talent or coaching.  Im just not sure what's to blame.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I'd give the defense roughly a B- because of they've performed well in all other components besides pass coverage that go into overall defensive impact:

  • Rush defense (30 percent of "grade"): 95 * 0.30
  • Pass rush (20 percent of grade): 83 * 0.20
  • Causing turnovers (15 percent of grade): 87 * 0.15
  • 3rd/4th down defense (15 percent of grade: 96 * 0.15
  • Pass coverage (20 percent of grade): 50 * 0.20

Total grade = 82 percent = B-. 
Lately, the pass rush has been showing flashes of greatness. Get it up above 90-percent and get the pass coverage up above 70-percent and the defense will be in A- territory. Well, give this offense and special teams an A- defense and skies the limit!
[edit: I probably should have added tackling as a category, too; but the tackling has been excellent in rush defense and not so much in pass defense, so it might be double counting to create a separate category for it].

spqr2008's picture

Cameron Johnston is my favorite player on this team, because how is his fault that the coaches called a fake punt when he was punting so well, and also, he has been just deadly at pinning opposing teams back inside their 10.

irishfury's picture

Jim Tressel we know this is you.  How you been coach?

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

I know our defense has been poor against the pass and I will not excuse it.  However, I will say that our staff has been quoted as focusing on the run in the past few games.  I doubt their concerns were much different than ours coming into the season - "how will our brand new front 7 do against B1G offenses and the running attack."  I think our defensive focus has been dedicated to the run and the results show this and that we've been effective in stopping the run.  In focusing on the run, we have put our secondary in man coverage and on an island and they have not performed anywhere near our expectations.  If the coaches feel confident in what the front 7 have shown against the run, I think this bye week is the perfect time to readjust the defensive focus.

Nick's picture

Yes no more drop 8 let's get some blitzes in there and use guys like Jamal Marcus and Ryan Shazier off the edge

TheBadOwl's picture

Shazier is good off of the edge, but I'd rather use him as a spy or blitzing up the middle. I'd love to see a four-man front with Spence and Marcus on the edges and Bennett and Bosa in the middle on passing downs.

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

36buck's picture

Based on past teams and what we expect at osu, our pass defense is a D and borderline F.  The LBs are clueless in pass coverage and the DBs aren't much better. No other way around it.  

Bags5150's picture

Urban said on his call in show today that the fake punt was designed to go up the middle.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth~Mike Tyson

pjtobin's picture

Two dudes on espn both said that TOSU are playing like a championship caliber team. I was shocked! They didn't run us through the mud. And gave credit to both Whisky and NW. I am glad that national media is starting to recognize us as a real threat. And if UFM can get our d to play the pass plays better, we can hang with anybody. Go Bucks!!

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

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Wow, and last week Mark May gave one of his "helmet stickers of the week" to Carlos Hyde. What the heck is going on over at ESPN?

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Good summation of the buckeyes Kyle, I give you an A+.  The third sentence in the second paragraph seems out of place though, not sure what you meant by that relative to the other two sentences.  Yeah, bringing Johnston onto the team was a great move on the part of the coaching staff, heck of a kicker and even though he did not get the first down on the fake punt he looks like he has some "quicks" to him.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes