The end came cruelly and in a lengthy, drawn-out fashion. Much like the 2021 season on the whole, optimism turned swiftly to angst, anger, and rage-quitting a follow-along when the Wolverines dispatched a hapless Ohio State on May Day.
Dad-joke regarding that aside, we gather today to gleefully pile dirt on the grave of one of the most disappointing seasons for Buckeye men's lacrosse in recent memory. No other way to slice it, this year was abysmal.
We will start with what was good (it will be quite short), and what was bad (pour an adult beverage). These will be broken down by position, with some stats thrown in, lots of complaining, and some thoughts on where things will go in the future. Sharpen your knives, let's desecrate this corpse.
The only good thing was one (!) offensive player. That is it. Jack Myers had himself a year. Despite limited help, barely there scheme, and a limited athletic arsenal against each team's best defender, Myers scored 34 goals, had 11 assists, and was the only player above 40 points on the year.
That's all we have to like about this season. I truly wish I was kidding.
I wanted to do postseason grades, and start off on a positive, so Jack Myers, and only Jack Myers, gets a B+.
Now, the rest.
There are a lot of excuses built into this season. Ridiculous Covid rules. Constant coaching turnover. Opt outs and transfers. But really, the bulk of the blame for the year falls on Coach Myers and co. It always falls on the leaders of a group. To be fair, some things aren't Myers' fault. No one can control everything. But you also can't hope to avoid blame when your actions have negative consequences. So here we go.
The biggest failure for Myers and the staff this year was the garbage recruiting and roster management that preceded 2021. There's no easy way to say it. There are some schematic issues that I will point out later, but those are minor compared to this.
It's been a long, long time coming, but the bottom fell out on the talent pipeline.
To me, and bear in mind it's just me, the biggest issue has to be the lack of recruiting success post-2017. The 2018 class doesn't really count, because schools had classes locked in for three years. But there's a lot to hate about how the team for 2021 was built.
Offensively, the number of top 100 guys who have washed out before playing or failed to develop is staggering. No one on the roster is able to beat a man on the dodge to start the offense. Not a single player.
Jack Myers is the best dodger, probably, but he's not agile enough to make the whole D fear him. The middies are supposed to be able to dodge well enough to make a defense rotate. None of them can. None of them are at the level they're supposed to have achieved by now.
Ohio State started/played four different top 100 middies this year. Would you honestly be able to say who they were? This is on top of the other top 100/4-star middies who have disappeared into the ether. It's not good enough, and it's not limited to ranked guys.
The other players at the midfield position have been really, really poor as well. There's not been more than one impact guy in midfield since 2017 ended. And unless two or three pop off from the 2021 class, the only hope is to bring in some players via the portal. Coach Myers brought in defenders last year, now he has to revamp the midfield entirely. Again.
Schematically, this year's team got screwed by reverting back to a system that they hadn't used in a long time. The new offense under Coach Rick Lewis wasn't poorly thought out, but it certainly wasn't adapted for the players on hand.
And for the life of me, I will never understand every OC's desire to have Tre Leclaire with the ball in his stick. It's a terrible idea, and should have never been implemented. Leclaire is an off-ball shooter, not a scorer. He needed to be away from the ball on the left side of the field (when looking towards the endline).
But they never really set him up for that. Leclaire was on the wrong side of the field a lot, offensively, and it neutered him. Add in a very poor shooting stretch in the final few games, and the Buckeyes sputtered at the worst possible time.
With the right players the scheme actually looks promising, but the staff never made any changes to get players in good positions. It was constantly trying to get square pegs in round holes. And that's a shame.
Ultimately, though, the biggest failure of the staff has been the loss of a team identity. Ohio State used to be a defensive stalwart with just enough offense to be dangerous. Now the Buckeyes are good at nothing. That's the scariest and most disappointing thing of all in regards to 2021.
Defensively, I don't know what happened to make guys completely forget how to play as a unit, but that has gone from a true strength, the backbone of the team, to a definite weakness. Ohio State averaged 8.52 goals against in 2018, just 3 seasons ago. They were just above 10 goals against each of the last two years. This year, the Buckeyes shot up to almost 13 goals per game against. That's a decline on par with the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Roster notwithstanding, there isn't a whole lot the Buckeyes tried to do differently in 2021. For whatever reason, the players just didn't pick it up. In the TTUN musings, I touched on the different foibles plaguing the Buckeyes. Hopefully a 5-star pole can help solve a lot of those issues in 2022. Connor Cmiel will be SSDM #1, but after that it's a giant crapshoot. In every sense.
But that is a topic for the post-transfer era. The defense stunk, for a multitude of reasons. That HAS to be better.
I talked some about this earlier, but let's go over it again. The middies were hot garbage as a unit. That killed the Buckeyes whenever they played a unit with a pulse. And even against TTUN in game three. There is no reason for them to be that bad. Ever.
The attack went 4 deep, but everyone aside from Jack Myers underwhelmed. Myers is a stud, and we all better hope and pray he doesn't head back home to Maryland next year.
Because that is a real possibility, and I would not blame him at all. The Terps are losing Bernhardt, maybe Wisnauskas, and have Dylan Maltz returning. Lots of opportunity.
Literally every spot on the offense is up for grabs next year. Two attack spots at least, and 6 to 8 middies. Who wants in?
Justin Inacio was brilliant in stretches, and terrible too. Ryan Terefenko was a .500 guy most games when Inacio was out. Against TTUN, Inacio didn't recover until the second half, when it was far too late to stop the bleeding.
For long periods he just didn't have it. He probably needed to be at 66% to make a real difference in the team's fortunes, but it was a struggle with the new rules. Buckeyes are really in trouble next year though.
Would have been an F if Van de Bovenkamp hadn't had just a couple of good games. The goalie position has been a problem for years, and it is getting worse. Henry Blake is a legacy next year, but unless a transfer comes in, we are looking at a Wahlund return to start the season. Again.
That's trouble. Blake needs to be ready from day 1 if the Buckeyes want to turn things around. If it were me, as I mentioned before, I am going to the portal in search of Carolina's backup who was all-ACC last year.
Special teams: C
A middling grade because of the Man Up unit. Long the bane of my existence, Man Up converted 39% of their opportunities this year. Generally, 35% is an above average number, so the Buckeyes have vastly improved over previous years.
It does illustrate the difference between Ohio State's ability in the 6v6, where fluid motion and dodging are paramount, and the set zone of a 6v5, where passing is more important. I like the offensive side, but Man Down was a problem. The Buckeyes allowed teams to convert 31% of the time. Roughly 25-28% is a good defensive number. Again illustrates the problems plaguing the defense. This was probably the best team performance, however. So kudos.
The Team: F
For a program fancying itself to be a perennial top 10 outfit, which is completely achievable, this season was an unmitigated disaster for the Buckeyes. Excuses are available right and left, but at the end of the day only the truth remains.
The Buckeyes could have been so much better. They failed in nearly every respect. There was zero improvement from week to week. Fundamental aspects of the game were high school-level at best. The offense was disjointed and far too streaky. The defense was a disaster after game one. And gameplanning or adjustments were seemingly non-existent.
Ohio State lurched from loss to loss looking like they just wanted to be done. It all came to a head in the worst showing against their biggest rival. The 2021 season should show the underclassmen what not to do. Hopefully they take it upon themselves to be better than what this season showed the team to be. Preparation for 2022 starts now.
As the off-season begins, I will do my best to get some writing posted on topics of interest and potentially dredge up the Buckeye Legends series from the depths of the board. Once Memorial Day hits, the transfer/recruiting season will begin in earnest, so that will dominate the summer. September 1 is Junior Contact Day, so we will likely see a lot of action during the fall as football heats up.
Few of you will see it with all the football talk, but if you're interested, that search tool is your friend. I will try to do a fall-ball recap if there is fall-ball. Otherwise, drop some topics you want to see in the comments and I will go from there as well.