Special Teams - Remove your panic goggles...

Bucksfan's picture
September 20, 2010 at 5:22p

A lot's been made of Buckeye Special Teams through the first 3 games.  Despite the risk of coming off as condescending, I think Buckeye fans are too spoiled for their own good, and would bitch about the sky being blue if it were sunny and 60 degrees during a 70-0 route of Michigan in late November.

So, let's try some objectivity, shall we?

First game - Marshall.  In the same game where Marshall blocked a FG, and took it for a TD, the Ohio State kick-off coverage unit forced a fumble on the very first play of the season, which set up an early red zone TD (anyone forget that already).  FG's being blocked from long range is one thing, having the ball bounce a certain way off the block that leads to a TD is just bad luck - barely ever happens to anyone.

Second game - Miami.  Miami is Miami, and they have immense speed.  Maybe their returners are just that good.  Yes, it kept the game close.  Despite the Hurricanes' ridiculously fast and furious offense, stout defensive line, and cellophane pass coverage, Ohio State pretty much had their way with them on both sides of the ball (offense and defense).  Where the coverage unit gave up 14 points on 2 returns, the Buckeye kicking game got 15 points back on field goals.  So, from that perspective the special teams ultimately broke even and kept the game out of reach.

Third game - Ohio.  Wow, people's reactions to this one has me shocked the most.  Pointing to a kickoff return that was called back for a penalty is beyond reactionary - it's stupid.  It wasn't a kick return...it was called back.  That means it didn't happen.

So, since the bad things aren't really all that bad, let's talk about the good things that have been FANTASTIC:

Devin Barclay - 8 for 9 on the year in FG's, 14 for 14 on XP's.

Jamaal Berry - 5 returns for 140 yards, avg. 28 yards/return, incl. a 45 yd return.

Jordan Hall - 3 kick returns for 85 yards, including a 47 yd return.

Ben Buchanan - 12 punts, 49yd average.

Special teams also includes our own returns, FGs, and punts, guys.  In fact, this returning tandem is better than anything we've seen since Ginn-Holmes, the punts are covering half the field, and Barclay's accuracy is more Nugent-like than, well, say any other non-descript kicker that didn't win us a national title or a game over Iowa to secure a trip to Pasadena.

Kick coverage is one of the most fixable parts of the game.  With an offense that bringing in over 30 points into half time, and a defense that's ripping people off worse than that-other-guy-who's-not-Billy-Mays, the return woes are simply not a threat to cost Ohio State any games that they deserved to win in the first place.  The strongest team on the schedule - Miami - already proved that.  In this fan's opinion, the "special team problems" are inordinately overblown all things considered.

Comments Show All Comments

Jason Priestas's picture

Definitely. I think we have a viable return game for the first time since Ginn.

I also think it's fair to scrutinize the one called back on Posey (Julian-type) because sometimes that isn't called and he still had plenty of room.

Danny - Inside The Shoe's picture

I'm with Jason.  Our return guys have some game changing abilities, but I was at the OU game, sitting behind the endzone.  Julian Posey had a huge hole to run through, and had OU not committed a penalty on the play, it might not have mattered.

Also, while Barclay has been a great field goal guy so far, we need a kicker who can consistently get the ball inside the 10 on kickoffs.

RoweTrain's picture

I don't want to argue about this but you can't say definitively that he would have scored even if they didn't have the block in the back.  I wasn't actually there but I did see the play but as the old cliche goes, football is a game of inches.  If Bell doesn't get pushed down with an obvious block in the back, who's to say that he doesn't make J. Posey hesitate for a split second and have him choose a different route to the endzone?  We've all seen it too many times where a running lane is open but the ballcarrier chooses a different path.  If Bell is waiting for him instead of on the ground from the block, Posey could've tried to break it outside and could've been tackled (but again he still might have housed it because there are just too many variables involved).

"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

"As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football." ~ B. Miller

Bucksfan's picture

And that's exactly why it's a penalty.

RoweTrain's picture

I'm not completely sure how you took my last comment but I agree that it was a penalty and people should take it for what it was.  It didn't result in any points for Ohio and they started their drive around their 10.  The coverage teams do need improvement but it's still early in the season and I truly believe it will be taken care of by the time the more difficult games take place.

"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

"As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football." ~ B. Miller

Bucksfan's picture

I was totally agreeing with you.  A penalty is a penalty is a penalty, and kickoff return penalties are designed that way because the coverage team has virtually no advantages.  Just one hold or block from behind, even if it's 5 yards away can spring a returner for 6.

You and I are on the same page.

RoweTrain's picture

That's what I thought but internet tone of voice is incredibly hard to decipher at times.

"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

"As it stands right now, I know I am the best athlete in college football." ~ B. Miller

BucksfanXC's picture

I think both sides of this argument are correct. We shouldn't freak out too much, kick off and punt coverage has made some errors yes. BUT the other sides of the special teams have been great. And we did allow a returner to get all the way to the endzone in the Ohio game, but it was called back, so no it didn't count. But it does kinda mean the coverage problem is still there.

So, yes we need to improve the coverage units, and that is on the leadership of the team, coaches and captains, to get that unit in line. But we also need to look at the positives, that we great kicking units and the fact that we are worrying so much about one meaningless blocked FG return and a couple of long returns means we don't have much else to worry about, which is a good thing.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Bucksfan's picture

I love how you brought up the leadership part.  Apparently, B-Rolle and Jermale Hines are aching to get back on the coverage team.  There are veterans that want to hit people, and to me that's only a good thing for everyone!

Doc's picture

The BTN had a piece on this subject just last night.  The special teams for more than one B10 team have been lousy.  Iowa's cost them the game.  My fear is ours don't do the same thing.  A close game could be lost buy an untimely fubar on a kick.  This team seems loaded on offense and defense, let's hope the special teams don't cost us a trip to Glendale.

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