First, I want to be clear and positive: The Buckeyes are still exceptionally talented and are definitely good enough on offense to win a National Championship, as is their D line, which continues to improve, and I’d be way too picky if I complained about the LBs.
Sure, everyone needs to clean up a few things, and I think most people would agree that this was the worst day yet for Ryan Day (who was clearly out-coached), or Justin Field, but other teams shouldn’t count on that happening very often, so…
I still have no doubt that they can play up to a National Championship level. Granted, they’re not nearly as good as I anticipated they might be in the pre-season, but some humility might help, and I’m still holding out hope that they'll get where they need to be.
BUT… BUT… BUT!!!
It’s not only utterly embarrassing how the team has been playing in the second half, especially how they’ve been failing to adjust to what their opponents are doing (on offense OR defense), but worst of all, it’s most embarrassing to see how the coaches are allowing two overwhelmed DBs to cost the rest of the team and its championship hopes.
Sorry, but that’s exactly the case with Hooker and Williamson.
There’s imply no hiding it, and I honestly hate to pick on the guys, but it is what it is, and, I might add, I also don’t even blame them at all. It’s simply not their fault.
More about that in a second.
BTW, my criticism isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to today’s game—to me, their shortcomings were obvious from Game One—and I said so—just as it was equally obvious to me that Isiah Pryor and Jahson Wint weren’t ready to play from Game One back in 2018 (which, sadly, I had to witness in person from the 50 yard line, but now, thanks to Covid, I didn’t have to witness what we saw today up close).
But, again, I really don’t want to blame Hooker and Williamson. It’s genuinely unfair.
This is all about the coaches.
Speaking fo which, for starters, I don’t want to hear ANY of the defensive coaches, or for that matter, Ryan Day himself, explain away the horrendous play of Hooker and Williamson, whether saying that there simply were a bunch of “uncharacteristic” breakdowns (wrong—it’s totally characteristic) and/or some miscommunications and/or poor execution and/or they’ll simply get better, etc.
Here’s the reality: They aren’t good enough.
Not even close.
Check that—right now, they’re really bad—period, case closed—as in, they’re among THE very worst in the country, hands down. As in, Texas-Longhorn-bad or TTUN-bad.
The only reason they aren’t more criticized is because of how good the rest of the team is, but good football teams (such as Indiana, much less Wisconsin, Clemson, or Alabama) aren’t going to let the Buckeyes hide behind that fig leaf.
But, hey, when players are THAT bad (or if you prefer, unprepared and/or lacking in skills), you can’t blame them—you have to blame the coaches that are playing them. As always, the first job of every coach is to recognize who should be playing.
And... who shouldn’t.
These guys shouldn’t be playing. It’s that simple.
Never should have taken the field.
To that end, for years now, the D coaches have recognized that Williamson has needed to sit on the sidelines, and guess what? Nothing has changed. He and Hooker are both slow physically and mentally, and they can’t tackle, either.
Maybe Hooker will be ready to play next year or the year after, or maybe never, but the fact is, neither of these guys are REMOTELY ready to play in 2020.
My God, Hooker routinely lines up 21 yards behind the line of scrimmage and then immediately sprints into a backpedal as soon as the ball is snapped then STILL is chasing guys from behind! I mean, it practically defies the law of physics!
As for his partner in DB crimes, I don’t want to hear that he’s now a senior and so experienced—and I sure as heck don’t want to hear that, gee whiz, Coombs has such a close personal history and relationship with Williamson, or else, gee, did you know that it's Malik Hooker’s little brother?
Because that just means Coomb’s playing favorites.
Unfortunately, this clearly seems to be the case.
Our eyes aren’t lying, nor was Penix’s eyes, nor was Tom Allen’s eyes, nor is the stat line lying that shows Michael Penix nearly racked up 500 yards (a record that’s worse than any 2018 performance—think about that!) vs. OSU.
Worse, this performance happened DESPITE the D line completely shutting down the Hoosier run game as well as routinely pressuring Penix and getting in his face, as well as the fact that Indy was down by 28 points and so COOMB’s and company KNEW that the ONLY way the Hoosiers could get back into the game was by passing the ball, and for that matter, throwing long balls.
If you think my eye test is harsh, wait until the Playoff Committee watches the Buckeye tape for this game (for this whole season) and puts OSU to their eye test.
Let’s not kid ourselves here.
Already this week, ESPN has been floating the notion that even if the Buckeyes go undefeated, if they barely beat Indy and/or Wisconsin or Northwestern, then Notre Dame should probably go ahead of them in the CFP EVEN IF they lose the ACC Championship Game to Clemson (as long as it’s a close game).
I laughed at that notion, but I’m not laughing any more.
It can become a reality.
In fact, I say it will come a reality if changes aren't made.
As big a fan as I am of the Buckeyes, based on today’s game, I’d be forced to agree with the Committeee with regards to ND, but not remotely because of 20 of the Buckeye’s 22 starters. No, if I were on the CFP Committee, I’d be forced to ask myself who I trust most to stop the high-powered passing games that teams inevitably face in the playoffs, and if the only answer OSU can provide them with is…
Hooker and Williamson?
Well, jeepers, if that’s the only tandem OSU can offer, you know what the’ll think: If the Hooker and Williamson can barely hold Michael Penix to under 500 yards, what will far better QBs like Trevor Lawrence, Kyle Trask, or Mac Jones do to them?
Here’s the bottom line: The Buckeyes roster is filled with talent, and the MAIN benefit of said talent is that you have depth to explore if and when you need it.
It doesn’t just take an injury to say, “next man up.”
I’m thinkin’ that (literally) record-setting bad DB play ought to do the trick.
To that end, do NOT tell me that, bare minimum, it isn’t time to bench both Hooker and Williamson while seeing what guys like Ransom and Shaw have to offer.
Heck, Shaw looked better on a single play than anything Hooker or Williamson have done all year.
I’d also say play Proctor more, because at least the guy hits people and has his head in the game—he at least give you a darn chance.
Oh, and finally, since there should never be any sacred cows, maybe it’s time to consider that Sean Wade is an absolutely fabulous, proven nickel back, but maybe not all that special as a CB (despite his great pick today), and so, maybe it makes sense to play guys where they offer the most value.