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Play-by-Play Analysis Mid-Season Review

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saltybuck61's picture
October 21, 2021 at 2:41pm

This is the play-by-play analysis series that I have been doing this season, with this week’s edition focusing on the cumulative scores of every player for whom I have graded snaps. I will also compare my scores to PFF’s scores for all of the players, so you can have a second opinion on the performance of these players.

Here is a link to each edition I have done this year, for those interested in re-visiting particular weeks or for double-checking my work:

Offense vs. Oregon / Defense vs. Oregon

Offense vs. Tulsa / Defense vs. Tulsa

Offense vs. Akron / Defense vs. Akron

Offense vs. Rutgers / Defense vs. Rutgers

Offense vs. Maryland / Defense vs. Maryland

This season, the biggest storyline has been the development of the defense as a whole. The Oregon game saw disastrous performances from a couple regulars, including Bryson Shaw and Tommy Eichenberg. More crucially, the defense looked confused on every snap, and few players had a good idea of where they needed to be. Additionally, every play was either Cover 3 or Cover 1, with an occasional corner blitz thrown in there. None of those coverages were disguised. Since that game, however, the defense has made some genuine strides, with players now knowing where they need to be and the coaching staff changing coverages with greater frequency. Secondary depth was also a concern before the year, especially with Denzel Burke starting at cornerback in game one.

The offense had fewer questions, but as the season went on, C.J. Stroud’s performance ended up a big topic of discussion. This is expected for the starting quarterback of the Buckeyes, but the roller-coaster of fan sentiment surrounding Stroud was fascinating to watch. The offense looked to sputter a bit at times in the first three games, but after six games, they look like the best offense in the country. Finally, the Buckeyes have too much talent on the offensive line, with six guys who genuinely deserve to start. Matthew Jones has gotten the short end of the stick so far, though he has played a lot after injuries to Thayer Munford.

To start, let’s go over the defense, as they have far more questions than the offense right now. Here is the defensive chart:

Defensive Chart Midseason
Player + - Total Notes My Grade My Adjusted Grade PFF
defensive line              
Zach Harrison 25 3.5 21.5 He hasn't done a ton with the pass rush, but he has been out a lot and has played quick passing teams. He has also gotten a couple sacks taken off the board. 87.7 90.2 80.0
tyreke smith 18 1.5 16.5 He has consistently beat the tackle, though he hasn't played in a few weeks. 92.3 93.8 75.8
haskell garrett 32.5 11.5 21 Really good at 3-tech. He has some problems when he is forced to play 1-tech. 73.9 79.1 72.1
antwuan jackson 15.5 3.5 12 He's been nothing short of spectacular since a bad performance against Oregon, but that data point worries me. 81.6 85.3 65.6
taron vincent 15 1 14 He never really flashes for me, but he doesn't make a ton of mistakes.  93.8 95.0 64.9
javonte jean-baptiste 14 2 12 Same as I would say for Vincent, though he did flash a lot against Rutgers. 87.5 90.0 63.6
j. t. tuimoloau 19 1 18 I rarely see him make mistakes, but he hasn't flashed much lately. Definitely more of a run-stopper than a pass-rusher at this point. 95.0 96.0 58.4
jack sawyer 22 4 18 Struggled early on and got pushed around, but has been really great since the Akron game. His performance may be competition dependent. Looks like a future superstar after a little muscle gets put on him. 84.6 87.7 69.1
Tyleik williams 29 2 27 Probably the best defensive lineman on the team in limited action, though he looks gassed a lot when he's out there. Might be able to make up for Haskell's injury. 93.5 94.8 90.2
ty hamilton 10 1 9 Looks good at the 1-tech. Had his best game against a decent Maryland offense. 90.9 78.0 68.7
cormontae hamilton 2.5 0 2.5 Doesn't get a ton of playing time, and doesn't look like a physical freak, but he has a relentless motor. 100.0 65.0 60.8
jacolbe cowan 5 4 1 Had a good game against Maryland. Before that, he struggled. 55.6 62.0 47.7
Jerron cage 4 0.5 3.5 He's looked solid in limited action. He seems like he would be another good piece at 1-tech, but he hasn't played a ton. He's playing less now that Jackson has played better. 88.9 67.0 68.3
Darrion Henry-Young 1 0 1 Hasn't played much, but I thought he looked strong in the limited action he received. 100.0 62.0 73.4
Michael hall 4 4 0 His issues were almost entirely self-inflicted. An extra 25 lbs and he will be dynamic 50.0 60.0 59.6
Jaden McKenzie 5 0 5 He looks good to me.  I know they were excited about him before his injury last year, and it looks justified. Feel like he could be another Davon Hamilton as a late bloomer. 100.0 70.0 64.7
Total 221.5 39.5 182 Completely overwhelms less talented opponents. I want to see what they will do against better competition, but Larry Johnson's group is just really sound. They don't make a ton of mistakes, and that makes a huge difference.      
teradja mitchell 21 16 5 He played his best game against Maryland, but he's still pretty hit or miss. 56.7 65.4 54.7
Cody simon 23 15 8 He misses way too many tackles for my taste, but has otherwise been pretty good. He hasn't made a huge improvement from the Oregon game like the rest of the linebackers though. 60.5 68.4 68.8
tommy eichenberg 23 16.5 6.5 A horrible game against Oregon has overshadowed what has been a pretty good season since then. I've liked his growth a lot, though I would like to see him do it against a better offense. There just aren't a ton of good offenses in the B1G. 58.2 66.6 63.8
dallas gant 0.5 0 0.5 I did not chart Minnesota, which is a game that I thought he struggled in. Hopefully he can play elsewhere. 100.0 61.0 45.5
palaie gaoteote 3 4 -1 He's been injured, though I think he could be a great player here with some time. He's got the frame of a classic linebacker. 42.9 58.0 32.7
Steele chambers 22 3 19 Biggest surprise of the season. He has been excellent all year, and is starting to understand the position every week. 88.0 90.4 67.5
k'vaughan pope 3 3 0 Left the program. I thought he showed a little promise, but from what it sounds like, his departure might have been best for both parties. 50.0 60.0 53.6
cade kacherski 3 3 0 He is a pretty significant step down from the four that get themost playing time. 50.0 60.0 33.2
Reid carrico 0.5 2 -1.5 He is also a big step down from the usual four at this point, though he is a true freshman. 20.0 57.0 47.4
Ryan Batsch 2 0 2 He's played way better than expected in limited time. 100.0 64.0 66.5
Total 101.5 63 38.5 This group makes me a little nervous. They are still the biggest question mark on the defense.      
cameron brown 13.5 10 3.5 He's played well, but he had some mistakes early. He's been pretty sound, though. 57.4 65.9 66.4
denzel burke 22.5 7 15.5 Tied with Chambers for biggest surprise so far. He's been great, and this is his first year playing cornerback. Unbelievable. 77.6 82.1 70.7
josh proctor 2 0.5 1.5 He was good before he went out with an injury. He doesn't have a great replacement at this point. 80.0 84.0 75.2
Lathan ransom 10.5 17 -6.5 Missed tackles early have hurt his performance. Also, many of his negatives were from the coaching against Oregon. 38.2 50.6 60.7
bryson Shaw 8.5 11.5 -3 Hasn't been able to completely erase his performance against Oregon, but he's been fine since. Not great, but average.  42.5 54.0 61.7
marcus williamson 21.5 1.5 20 Doesn't miss tackles and is almost always in the right spot. Hard to take off the field right now. 93.5 94.8 80.8
sevyn banks 11.5 7 4.5 His score was completely changed by his play in the Maryland game, which was a great example of a game that PFF did not like and a game that I did like. 62.6 70.1 56.8
lejond cavazos 1.5 7.5 -6 He's struggled tackling, which is not a huge surprise. He has also not been great in coverage. 16.7 48.0 51.3
ryan watts 5 1.5 3.5 His interceptions are single-handedly keeping his score high. He has been fine. 76.9 67.0 63.8
cameron martinez 21 15 6 He is good in coverage, but his missed tackles are keeping this score lower. 58.3 66.6 71.7
jk johnson 1.5 2 -0.5 Had a huge hit early, but the taunting penalty knocked him to a negative 42.9 59.0 57.6
marcus hooker 1 0.5 0.5 Hasn't done much this year. Hasn't looked that great at deep safety though, either, in the limited time he has been out there. 66.7 61.0 58.0
jantzen dunn 0.5 0 0.5 I am a little surprised they put him at corner instead of safety. 100.0 61.0 64.6
demario mccall  8 1 7 He's playing pretty well at cornerback. He defends pretty well downfield, he tackles well, and he generally looks like he knows what he's doing. He's probably the fourth outside CB right now. 88.9 74.0 70.6
jordan hancock 2 0 2 Looks good in limited action, but there isn't a ton to say so far. 100.0 64.0 63.5
ronnie hickman 28.5 14.5 14 Might be the MVP of the defense, but he does still make plenty of mistakes. Often times does not get to his zone in coverage. Still, he has a nose for the football and has allowed the defense to use 2-high coverages with his versatility. 66.3 73.0 72.9
craig young 10.5 2.5 7.5 He's looked good. Another guy with great versatility. Since the nickleback is now closer to a hybrid role instead of just a corner, he is playing there. Him, Williamson, and Hickman have been so valuable in allowing formational changes. 80.0 84.0 80.8
kourt williams 4 0.5 3.5 His play and promise has allowed them to move Craig Young out of the Bullet position as well. 88.9 67.0 65.6
andre turrentine 0.5 1 -0.5 Just got his first action against Maryland, and looked fine.  33.3 59.0 53.5
total 173.5 100.5 73 While some missed tackling has hurt this group, they have honestly been better than I've expected.      
Pressure 105.5 18 87.5 They've been pretty great all year. They've played a lot of teams who get the ball out quick. When they play teams who don't (Maryland and Akron), they get sacks.      
coverage 76.5 38.5 38 The coverage has been pretty good since Oregon. The zones can still be a bit leaky, but things have improved a lot, especially since the coverages started changing more.      
tackling 41 40 1 Tackling might be the biggest problem for this defense, though much of this is on the backups.      
play calling 16 26 -10 Play-calling has been better since Oregon, but it still isn't amazing. I don't expect it to be that great, as I would imagine the playbook is still quite limited. Also, the blitzes can get punished by good teams.      

I want to offer a brief explanation of the my scoring mechanism. Like PFF and MgoBlog, I use a -2 to +2 grading scale for each player on a given play (though sometimes, if a play is shockingly good or bad, I may give out a -3 or +3). They may be more thorough with regard to grading; I only grade a player if they have a direct impact on the success of a play. If a player gets blown up on the other side of the field, I won’t grade it.

To get my score, I just take all of the positive points, and divide them by the number of total points that have been awarded. Put another way, my grading is just (+)/(+&-). This provides a number from 0-100, where 50 is average. An average player would get 50 on my scale for just doing their job every play, but never really making a spectacular play in any instance.

To get my adjusted grade, I just take the difference between my grade and 50 to get a difference from the mean. Then, I multiply that number by 0.8 (the ratio of the new maximum and minimum distance from the mean and the old maximum and minimum distance from the mean [40:50 = 40/50 = 0.8]) before adding this final number to 60. In this way, I hope to get a number that can be compared to PFF’s scale, which has an average of 60. This new adjusted scale has a scale of 20-100, with 60 being the average player. If a player had less than 12 total points awarded in the entirety of the season (less than two per game) I gave them 2 points for each net point they had in my grading. So if a player was +2 for the year, and they hadn’t played much, they would get a 64 on my adjusted grade. If all of that sounds convoluted, I apologize. I was never good at explaining math with words.

TLDR: I made my own version of PFFs scale so that you could compare the two. For my adjusted grade, 60 is average, 65-75 is good, 75-85 is very good, 85 and up is excellent.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the most obvious discrepancy: the defensive line.

Some of this discrepancy is due to how I grade the defensive line, but I have been impressed with this group. PFF and I agree on most of the positions on the team, but we disagree completely on the defensive line. I have a lot of these guys rated in the 90’s, when they have them rated in the 60’s and 70’s. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, I have said this before, but I reward plays made, even if they were done in an unsound way. PFF does not do this. They focus on how well a player does his assignment. I do not. I focus on whether or not a player impacted the play in a positive or negative manner. Most of the time, this coincides with executing an assignment, but not always. This means that my grades will likely decrease for some of these players as competition improves, while PFFs may not. This will cause the grades to converge.

Also, many of the players I have rated highly don’t have many positive plays, but they rarely make mistakes either. Javonte Jean-Baptiste, Taron Vincent, and J.T. Tuimoloau are the three biggest culprits. However, because my grade is just a percentage of positive points to total points, they all score very highly. If any of them even make one bad play, that grade will tumble due to their lack of positive production. For example, if Javonte-Jean Baptiste gets blown up on a run, his score will go from an 87.5 to a 77.8. That’s a single play that could significantly lower his score. These guys are all solid players, but I expect all of them to finish in the low 80’s/high 70’s for me as the competition improves. I think PFF is too harsh on them, but like I said, I think the scores will converge a bit. These are all run-stoppers who won’t flash, but they all play pretty well.

Additionally, when grading, I rarely take points off for a player that is being read on a zone read or RPO, as those plays are designed to always make the read player wrong. However, especially early in the season against Oregon, the linebackers and the defensive ends were not on the same page at all. If the defensive lineman would stay home, the linebackers would also try to clog the middle, leading to a wide open lane to the outside. When the defensive end would gain depth, forcing a run up the middle, the linebackers too would flow outside, leaving the middle wide open. I don’t care how they choose to deal with reads, but they need to have both the outside and the inside covered. They can do a scrape exchange, where the defensive end crashes to plug the middle, and the linebacker scrapes over the top to tackle the outside option, or they can have the defensive end gain depth, while the linebacker plugs the middle. Any way you deal with this play, both have to be covered. Against Oregon, only one was covered, and the linebackers almost always got the blame. The miscommunication, however, was purely a coaching issue that seemed to be fixed after Oregon. Therefore, the linebackers have absorbed points for the poor coaching early in the year, while the defensive line didn’t take many negatives. This is also true for Lathan Ransom and Bryson Shaw, who took a ton of negatives in the Oregon game for consistently being in the wrong spot.

Finally, most points awarded are for the run game, as the pressure metric is recorded separately. I will try to incorporate that more into the grading in the future.

The two players that I like a lot more than PFF are Tyreke Smith and Zach Harrison, who have both played well this year. Early on in the year, the linebackers and safeties were so bad in coverage that short, quick passes were really effective at moving the ball down the field on Ohio State, so sacks were nearly impossible to get. That is no longer really the case. In the Akron and Maryland games, the offenses had to drop back and try to get big plays against the defense, as the short consistent yardage wasn’t there. This allowed for more sacks. Rutgers tried the short passing game with double-digit screens, but they couldn’t move the ball. Both of these guys beat the opposing offensive lineman with regularity. As the rest of the defense improves, they are going to reap the benefits. While Harrison has been good the last couple of weeks, I think he will do even better with Smith in the lineup. Smith is easily the best pass-rusher on the team. These two have only been on the field together for the Minnesota and Oregon games, where the deep passing game was not really attempted. These are two guys who should both have a huge second half. Tuimoloau and Jean-Baptiste have played well against the run, but they haven’t offered much in terms of pass rush. Tyreke Smith will make a huge difference.

Tyleik Williams is the clear surprise. I don’t think he should be starting over Haskell Garrett, but he probably should be getting time over Taron Vincent. He did look gassed in limited time against Maryland, so conditioning may be a factor. He is so dynamic though, and it would nice to see him on the field more. If it takes time for Garrett to come back from this injury, Williams will make the loss a lot easier. Garrett’s score also looks worse than expected because his game against Oregon was really rough when he was forced to play a lot of 1-technique. When he is at the 3-tech, he is still an All-American.

The whole room has played solid. I mentioned after the Oregon game that the team doesn’t have a dynamic 1-tech, but Antwuan Jackson has been playing better and better every week. He really struggled against Oregon at that spot, and Garrett wasn’t that much better. If he has improved though, this is a huge hole filled on the defense, and I feel way more confident in the defense as a whole. Ty Hamilton has also played well at that spot. I don’t think we will know how real the improvements of these two guys are until they play better offensive lines.

To me, the clear strength on the defense is the defensive line. The linebackers at the beginning of the year were probably the weakest group. Their recent play has me more optimistic, but they are probably the thinnest position on the team.

There are four linebackers who get regular playing time. There are the three linebackers who I would consider to be slightly above-average to good, and another linebacker who I consider to be a superstar in the making. The three above-average linebackers are Teradja Mitchell, Tommy Eichenberg, and Cody Simon, though they have different routes to getting to that grade. Mitchell and Simon have been at that level all year. I don’t feel bad when they are on the field, and they usually do their job with occasional tackling issues. Eichenberg, while at the same level, was really bad early and has been good lately. The Oregon game was really rough, but he was only kind of bad against Tulsa and really good against Maryland, Rutgers, and Akron. The upward trajectory is clear. I would give the caveat about competition level, but Mitchell and Simon haven’t had the same improvement over the same level of competition. Given that, I think his newfound success is sustainable, especially since his initial mistakes seemed to be coaching related (not getting lined up correctly, going for the wrong gap, etc). He’s big, plays fast, and now knows where he needs to go. Simon and Mitchell, on the other hand, look to have physical limitations, though I think most of that is due to injury. Even so, I would not be surprised to see him start at the end of the season again. None of these linebackers are great in coverage, which is something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

The superstar in the making is Steele Chambers. I talked about him as one of the lone bright spots of the Oregon game, and he has only played better since. PFF somewhat disagrees with me here, but they really didn’t like his early game performances, while I did. He didn’t know exactly what he needed to do, but because he played so fast and aggressive, he would often luck into plays or cause chaos. I reward that, while PFF does not. However, PFF has been grading him well over the last three weeks, which I think is entirely justified. He is the best linebacker on the team right now, and I am excited to see where his career takes him. I expect him to start as the competition improves.

The deep safeties might be in trouble without Josh Proctor, as I think he is a clear step above Lathan Ransom or Bryson Shaw. While those two have played okay since the Oregon game, they haven’t been able to erase the disaster of that game for either of the two of them, though as I said in that game, most of their issues were coaching related, and have since been fixed. They haven’t had a chance to grade well, as none of the teams that Ohio State has played since Oregon have tested them at all. Furthermore, Ohio State does not play aggressively with their deep safeties, so it will be tough for them to improve their grade. Every other group on the defense has improved since the Oregon game, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them play a lot better. They haven’t had the chance to show it yet. This is the position that I am least confident about moving forward because I have no idea what they will look like against a competent offense.

The Bullet position is also now firmly a strong safety. At least, the position that Ronnie Hickman plays is now just a strong safety. Speaking of Hickman, he has been good, not great. I agree with PFF almost exactly, which I think is lower than most people expect. While he has led the team in tackles, he has missed his fair share of them as well. When he misses, there is a big play. He always seems to be around the ball, which is great. Getting to the ball has looked pretty easy though. He hasn’t had to shed lots of blocks or make a spectacular play; he is usually freed up to make the tackle. I don’t have any issues with his play at all, and I think he is a good strong safety. He has rarely wowed me, however.

The outside cornerbacks have played pretty well, with Denzel Burke being the best of the group. He’s been good, but is not an elite cornerback. This is outstanding for a true freshman. He will give up some stuff underneath at times, even in Cover 2, but he has had no problem with coverage down the field.

Sevyn Banks and Cameron Brown have been various levels of pretty good and above average throughout the season. I think both have had higher highs and lower lows than Burke has had. Brown struggled early in the Oregon game before figuring it out. He has been up and down in some games, but he is probably the second best corner right now. Banks hadn’t looked good at all until the Maryland game, which made up almost all of his positives for his entire season. If he can keep that level of performance, he may jump the other two corners. Until he shows that consistency, he’s the third best corner.

The fourth and final cornerback that I have confidence in is Demario McCall. He’s defended well downfield and has been a willing tackler. While I would feel nervous about putting him out there if the playoff was starting tomorrow, he is more than capable of filling this spot for Big Ten play. PFF and I graded him at nearly the same level as Denzel Burke, for comparison. He has played later in games against worse competition, so take that with a grain of salt. However, his play has been genuinely good so far this year. There is a significant drop off after McCall, though JK Johnson and Jordan Hancock look like future stars in their extremely limited time. This position will certainly improve as the year goes on, however, as Brown and Banks have looked better the more they’ve played.

 The nickleback/cover safety position was one of the deepest on the team at the beginning of the year, and might be even deeper now. Lathan Ransom was the original starter, but he was moved back to deep safety to help improve the depth there and potentially start down the stretch. He was fine at the position, though like everyone else at the time he made innumerable mistakes out on the field. His move to his natural position of deep safety was the right move. This could be done because the other two players at cover safety, Marcus Williamson and Cameron Martinez, have exceeded expectations.

Marcus Williamson in particular looks like an entirely new player from last year. PFF and I both have him as the highest rated member of the back seven. His tackling ability has added so much versatility to his game, and it’s allowed them to use this position as a linebacker/corner hybrid – kind of like what they initially had in mind with the Bullet position, which as I mentioned before, is now a strong safety. Shaun Wade played the slot corner a bit like this in 2019. Against Maryland, Williamson routinely lined up as a 4-3 linebacker, in a similar position to Darron Lee. His play has been a revelation for the team, and is allowing them to change up their looks defensively. I can’t stress enough how good he’s been, and how important he has been to the overall structural changes of the defense. He is my pick for the defensive MVP at this point for his positional flexibility alone, which has allowed the defense as a whole to get the best players on the field. Having said that, I will admit that he hasn’t been playing as much as a guy like Hickman or Garrett, so I have no issue with someone thinking that Williamson as defensive MVP is ridiculous.

Cameron Martinez has also been a pleasant surprise. His athleticism was obvious in high school, but switching sides of the ball is a challenge. However, between him, McCall, and Chambers, they are making it look easy. I have him currently rated as an above average to good nickleback. He’s phenomenal in coverage, but struggles tackling. This is not surprising at all for having just started playing defense. It will take more time and experience, but he has all the makings of a spectacular player on this defense. Right now though, he shouldn’t be used like Williamson or Young due to his shortcomings tackling. The coaches did put him out there in more situations like that against Maryland, and he performed better than expected. He’s just more of a pure cornerback body than a hybrid. He will still have a role, as he is the best cover guy at this position.

Speaking of Craig Young, he just recently moved to this position when it became the new hybrid spot. He’s really impressed me the last couple of games with his uncommon athleticism and excellent positional versatility. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play more, but the two guys ahead of him are going to be hard to supplant. I almost expect him to play more than Martinez in conference play, though, as many Big Ten teams will be far more run-focused than passing focused, and Young has played well enough to earn that opportunity.

Overall, the defense has improved tremendously since the first two games. The improvement of basically ever player and position group tells me that the issue wasn’t the players as much as it was the coaching. The technique wasn’t the problem either; they were just consistently confused and didn’t communicate well between position groups, which led to busts that weren’t reliant on individual players. The added scheme versatility and disguising of coverages has helped significantly as well, as teams no longer can tell exactly what Ohio State is going to be in before the snap with consistency. They won’t be a top-tier unit at any point this year, but if they continue like they have been, they will be a good, solid unit that you can rely on to give you a consistent performance. They won’t stop a team like Alabama, but they won’t get run over either. They will be able to give the offense a chance to win the game. With the best offense in the country, that will be enough.

Here is the running chart for the offense:

Run Chart Midseason
Player + - Total Notes My Grade Adjusted Grade PFF
Offensive line              
nicholas petit-frere 28.5 8.5 20 The hype about him is justified. Consistently performs in the run game. 77.1 81.7 86.6
thayer munford 16.5 8.5 8 Solid option, but he was certainly more effective at tackle. He has been injured a lot though, in his defense. 66.0 72.8 72.7
luke wypler 21 19 2 He's usually either way up or way down. Inconsistency is a concern for me. 52.5 62.0 72.5
paris johnson jr.  31.5 17 14.5 He's turned a corner in the past couple of weeks. 64.9 71.9 75.0
dawand jones 29 21.5 7.5 He was really up and down early in the season. He's playing with more consistency. 57.4 65.9 86.4
matthew jones 25.5 3.5 22 Best player on the offensive line this year, and one of the best in the country. 87.9 90.3 86.5
harry miller 4 1 3 Looks decent back from injury, but the starters are playing a little too well right now. 80.0 66.0 65.5
enokk vimahi 4.5 4.5 0 Probably the guy that stands out the least out of the two deep. Doesn't do anything too bad, but doesn't do anything great either. 50.0 60.0 74.8
toby wilson 7.5 0.5 7 Always grades well for me. I might be too nice in giving him points for doing his job, but he seems to get the job done. 93.8 74.0 55.6
Donovan jackson 5.5 0.5 5 He will challenge for a starting spot next year. With both guard spots open, Matt Jones, Harry Miller, and Jackson will all have a shot. 91.7 70.0 78.1
josh fryar 5 0.5 4.5 Big body who moves well. Not a ton to dislike.  90.9 69.0 68.7
Total 152 78 74 A high performing unit. The starters are especially good at pass blocking.      
C.J. Stroud 8 7 1 Day does not like to risk his starting QB in the run game. He does have some ability to scramble. 53.3 62.6 55.6
Kyle McCord 1 0 1 Probably the weakest of the QBs in terms of running called runs.  100.0 62.0 63.8
jack miller 1.5 0 1.5 Probably the best runner of the QBs from what I've seen. Looks comfortable on reads. 100.0 63.0 63.8
miyan williams 8 1.5 6.5 Looked good running early. He isn't as good of a pass blocker as he should be. 84.2 73.0 80.6
Treveyon Henderson 34 13 21 Lives up to the hype as a true freshman. His talent amplifies both his good decisions and his bad decisions. 72.3 77.8 86.4
master teague 15 5.5 9.5 Playing the best football of his career if you ask me. 73.2 78.6 77.1
evan pryor 2 0 2 Shows promise in very limited time so far. 100.0 64.0 55.7
marcus crowley 10 0.5 9.5 He rarely misses the correct hole. Hasn't had much pass blocking opportunity. 95.2 79.0 75.5
Total 79.5 27.5 52 Running backs are great. I've been a little too hard on Henderson due to how I grade. He shouldn't be punished because his misses mean more lost yardage than a less talented back.      
Chris Olave 14.5 0.5 14 He's blocked a lot better than I would have expected. Most of this is after the catch. 96.7 97.4 70.3
garrett wilson 16.5 2.5 14 Great after the catch with some key blocks, though he occasionally will miss a block. 86.8 89.4 65.4
jaxon smith-njigba 15 2 13 Another guy who is great after the catch. Blocking has been good too. 88.2 90.6 52.7
julian fleming 0 0 0 I don't have anything charted for him due to time out.  50.0 60.0 57.0
jeremy ruckert 34.5 9.5 25 He's blocked pretty well, though his roughest game was against Oregon by a long shot. 78.4 82.7 66.7
cade stover 10.5 3.5 7 I have thought he's blocked well this year. 75.0 80.0 62.3
mitch rossi 11.5 1.5 10 Best blocking tight end. 88.5 90.8 70.9
gee scott jr. 3 2.5 0.5 Really like his game, especially receiving. If he can improve his blocking, he will be a star in the offense. 54.5 63.6 49.7
emeka egbuka 6.5 1 5.5 Most of his impact has been in the return game, but he's been good after the catch in limited action. 86.7 71.0 58.9
marvin harrison jr. 0.5 0 0.5 I am surprised he hasn't gotten more playing time, though you can't take off any of the starters for a long period of time. 100.0 61.0 62.0
jayden ballard 0 1 -1 Very few blocking opportunities. 0.0 58.0 61.0
sam wiglusz 2.5 0 2.5 Great blocker. Supposedly tough to guard in practice, which doesn't surprise me. 100.0 65.0 62.3
Chris booker 3 0 3 Very effective blocker and good special teams player. 100.0 66.0 80.5
Total 118 24 83.5 Best position group on the team.      
Protection 43.5 24 19.5 Stroud's quick release makes this look worse than what it would be otherwise. 64.4 71.5  
Play Calling 33 9 24 Spectacular. Just completely overmatches everybody with base plays and their counters. 78.6 82.9  

The first thing to go over with the offense is the offensive line, which has performed wonderfully to this point in the season. All of the starting linemen have performed very well, with Matthew Jones being included in that statement. Matthew Jones has been the best lineman on the team by my grading and by PFF’s grading, and he needs more time.

If it is true that Jones is the backup center, I think that may be the best spot for him to slide in full-time, as Luke Wypler is the lowest rated starter. He’s been roughly average by my count, while PFF has him as a good center. With all of the other starters having performed much better, it seems like he would be the odd man out. This is especially true since Matthew Jones came in as a center.

If there is one spot I disagreed with PFF, it would be with Dawand Jones. He was inconsistent early, but his highlights are unbelievable. He’s improved as the season has gone on, and Paris Johnson Jr.’s emergence over the last couple of games have made the right side of the line really strong. Dawand Jones’ biggest issue is that he will make big mistakes that will ruin whole drives, which is not really the case for any of the other linemen. Nicholas Petit-Frere will sometimes make a mistake, but it usually results in a gain of only 2 instead of 8, while Dawand Jones will sometimes make a mistake that will result in a drive-killing sack. Since his negative mistakes have been somewhat circumstantial in nature, I expect that his grade will increase as the season goes on, as I have thought he has played well despite his somewhat mediocre grade. The other thing that hurts him (as well as the whole line) is C.J. Stroud throwing the ball quickly. Over the last couple of years, Justin Fields would just sit in the pocket and wait for someone to flash wide open. While this did result in a lot of sacks, the offensive line had more plays to demonstrate their excellent pass-blocking abilities, which I think have been the strength of Studrawa’s offensive line units. With Stroud getting rid of the ball so quickly, it is tough to credit them with better protection numbers, as he doesn’t seem to need the time that Fields needed to find the open guy. Finally, their individual grades are mostly run-blocking grades, where the protection metric is their pass blocking grade as a unit. I should include grades for pass-protection as well, but it is hard to do at times. I will make a commitment to doing more of that in the second half of the season.

Nevertheless, they have all done well blocking the run. The running backs have all been effective, leading to a strong rushing attack. Treveyon Henderson, Master Teague, and Marcus Crowley are all rated about the same, while Miyan Williams is just a step behind. I think all four of these guys are good to very good running backs, but all of them for different reasons.

Miyan Williams is a great, pure runner and is remarkably slippery. On top of that, he’s big enough to always be falling forward, which is ideal for a running back. He may have the best skillset for a classic in-between the tackles running back on the team. His biggest issue is with the passing game, where he appears to struggle a bit with pass protection. Furthermore, he doesn’t present the same receiving threat that the other three have. So while he is excellent while running the ball or forcing unsound play on play-action, he isn’t a guy that you want out there with standard passing. This can be improved upon (see Teague’s development in this area for an example), but it might prevent him from getting the ball as much as he was initially. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him splitting the carries pretty evenly with Teague until his pass blocking improves.

Treveyon Henderson is easily the most explosive, but because of the way I grade, every mistake he makes with missing a hole is a big one. I may remedy this in the future, because it doesn’t seem fair. When he misses a hole, he misses out on a 20 yard gain, while if Teague misses the same hole, he only misses out on a 10 yard gain. Therefore, Henderson has a bigger negative as he left more on the table. Is this fair? Probably not. I didn’t catch it until I did the cumulative ratings, so I am glad that I will be able to make this change soon. He’s the best overall back on the team, as he is effective as a runner, blocker, and receiver. Also, he can turn any play into a touchdown. However, I would like to see his vision and patience improve before I can call him the best running back in the country. He is a future All-American.

Master Teague III is playing the best football of his career if you ask me. Pass protection is no longer a liability for him, which it was last year (watch the Alabama game for proof – Trey Sermon’s departure might have been a bigger issue for the pass game than the run game). He’s a good option as a safety valve in the passing game as well. With his size and his speed, corners have almost no chance of making that open field tackle. He has improved his patience significantly, though he still has a long way to go there. This has led to his YPC being similar to what it was in 2019, even without the threat of the QB run that Fields provided and the increased competition from playing primarily in competitive situations. The physical strength and speed has never been his issue, but he is re-gapping a lot better this year. Furthermore, he is probably the best running back at not getting tackled for a loss, which makes him an ideal short yardage guy. I like Master Teague III a lot more than most Ohio State fans, as the physical talent is there, and it seems like he has a great attitude and an excellent work ethic. If he develops his patience and vision, he will be special, though he has been at the school for a long time now. With him being a fifth-year senior next year, he needs to figure it out now.

Marcus Crowley has made almost zero mistakes. His biggest issue is that he doesn’t have the physical abilities of the other three. He isn’t as fast as Henderson or Teague. He isn’t as quick as Henderson or Williams. He isn’t as strong as Teague or Williams. He is just about flawless though, which makes up for all of that. He never really misses a hole, and really gets the most out of what the offensive line gives him. He won’t rack up positives because of his physical limitations, but he will rarely get negatives because he is a really excellent running back and football player. The biggest issue for him is that he is unproven as a pass protector due to coming in to games late. The depth of this group is probably the most impressive on the team, with the exception of the wide receivers.

The receivers have been spectacular this year, as was expected. Here is their reception chart:

Receiver Chart Midseason
Player Uncatchable Spectacular Difficult Routine Notes PFF PFF TE Overall
Chris olave 9 3/6 6/8 16/17 Nothing short of spectacular. He had bad luck early. He may even have a better second half than a first half. 83.7  
garrett wilson 4 1/5 7/9 19/19 Automatic on the routine catches. Stroud's favorite target. Justifies the first round hype. 79.4  
jaxon smith-njigba 6 2/3 3/5 15/17 Does not look out of place with the other two future first-rounders, which is the biggest compliment I could give. 77.3  
julian fleming 1     2/2 Looked pretty good early, but it's hard to say with his injury. 74.2  
jeremy ruckert 1 0/1 2/6 8/8 I expected him to be better in one-on-one situations. Not an easy target if he is targeted. 57.2 61.5
cade stover 1 0/1 0/1 3/3 Doesn't contribute a ton in the receiving game, and that's fine. 62.9 63.8
miyan williams       3/3 Solid checkdown option. 61.6  
Treveyon Henderson       6/6 Hasn't been much of an option until the Maryland game. He looks dynamic when he is out there. 75.4  
Gee Scott Jr.     2/4 2/2 Plays really hard, which doesn't show up in this charting. I do think he has the ability to be dynamic. 82.2 72.7
mitch rossi 1     1/1 Scored a touchdown, but definitely primarily a blocking fullback. 53.2 65.8
Master Teague         Only targetted on a swing pass, which is actually how I like to see him be used. 55.9  
Emeka Egbuka       4/4 Great kick returner. Will be a great receiver when he gets his shot. 69.3  
marvin harrison jr.       1/1 Not as much playing time as I would have expected. 57.1  
jayden ballard   0/2 1/2   Has more targets than I would have guessed before the year. 45.4  
sam wiglusz         No targets yet, but has blocked well. 59.2  
chris booker       1/2 Looks good when he's out there. 65.4  
marcus crowley       1/1 Hasn't been used much in the passing game, which is fine. I am curious to see how he looks there. 65.4  
evan pryor         No targets 56.8  
Total 23 4/9 22/36 82/86 Lived up to expectations if you ask me.    

The tight ends are the more interesting group here, as I have provided their blocking, receiving, and overall grades from PFF. The run chart has their blocking, while this chart has their receiving and overall grades. With the exception of Gee Scott, I have thought the tight ends have blocked great, especially Mitch Rossi, whom I expect will receive more playing time in the second half based on the last couple of games. Their receiving has been almost the opposite, with Gee Scott looking really good, and the rest of them being less than impressive.

This is especially worrying for Jeremy Ruckert, who came in as a guy that was expected to be an immediate receiving threat. He hasn’t been a guy who has been able to get contested catches, when that is probably the number one reason that a tight end would get targets in this offense. The receivers, while all excellent, are not big body guys. A big body receiver with an ability to catch contested catches would be really nice piece to have for Ryan Day. Ruckert seems to fill this role based on his recruiting profile, but he hasn’t shown it much this year, generally getting shut down in man-to-man coverage due to a lack of physicality, and getting passes broken up far too often. With this being the case, it is hard to justify him getting targets, as he doesn’t offer any benefit over the three wide-receivers. He is certainly a good receiver, but the ability to get contested catches would make him a genuine weapon that could be used at any point of the field. Right now, they have to scheme him open instead of allowing him to erase one-on-one coverage. Hopefullly, he improves in this metric, because his blocking has been quite good. His versatility would make it impossible to take him off the field.

The wide receivers have frankly been ridiculous, and almost impossible to find a flaw with. Honestly, they are a little boring to talk about because they really don’t show many flaws, but they are fun to watch. The only thing I can really say is that they are as good as advertised. Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba will all finish over 1,000 yards, which doesn’t make any sense. The routes are strong, the ability after the catch is excellent, they all have great hands, and they have blocked pretty well. The young guys look pretty good too. Fleming looked sharp before his injury. Egbuka has been great. I am a little surprised Marvin Harrison Jr. hasn’t gotten more targets, but he has looked great according to the coaches. This whole group has made the quarterbacks’ jobs much easier.

Here are the charts for the quarterbacks:

CJ Stroud Chart Midseason
CJ Stroud Perfect Good Scramble Pressure OK Batted Throw Away Inaccurate Bad Read RPO Read Option Score Weighted Score PFF Notes
Oregon 9 23 1 2 5 0 0 8 3 5/5 0 75.0% 75.0%   He's the real deal. Will be a Heisman Finalist.
tulsA 1 12 0 2 3 0 1 3 1 3/3 1/1 72.2% 70.0%   Day decreased the degree of difficulty after some early misses. I may have missed some hand-offs on the RPO. May also need to add a weighted score.
rutgers 5 14 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 2/2 5/6 90.5% 88.9%   Elite. About a perfect game.
Maryland 7 18 1 2 5 0 0 0 0 1/1 2/2 100.0% 100.0%   Another near perfect game. It's becoming a trend.
Total 22 67 2 6 14 0 1 12 5 10/10 6/7 83.5% 83.1% 90.8 Getting close to the best QBs in college football already.

Due to a formatting issue, McCord and Miller's tables will be at the end. C.J. Stroud has been an entirely different player since his injury, but he played well even before then, to the point where I would have described him as the best quarterback in the Big Ten before his shoulder healed (though, when looking at the rest of the quarterbacks in the Big Ten, wasn’t saying a whole lot).

Some of that early success was due to the talent around him, but even when the arm strength and downfield accuracy was affected, he could still read and process the defenses better than any quarterback I can remember at Ohio State at the same age, and that includes Justin Fields. I’ve said this a few times before, but the biggest reason why he was so frustrating to watch early in the year is because he was doing so much right and constantly finding open receivers, only to miss the throw, which is maybe the easiest part of the position. Brock Huard talked a lot about his anticipation, which is another advanced aspect of his game.

All of this is to say, even if Stroud gets injured again, I think his performance is sustainable, and that he will have the best shot at the Heisman of any recent Ohio State quarterback since Troy Smith. Without a clear top competitor and games against top ten teams coming up, he will have shot if he continues at this pace (though that is a big assumption). If there might be an issue that Stroud faces, he might be fooled into a bunch of turnovers with how quickly he processes things. I don’t know if he will know what to do with a lot of disguised coverages and complex looks. Indiana will be a decent test, with Penn State, Michigan, and Iowa all being good tests as well. If all goes well in those games, the biggest obstacle would be Treveyon Henderson stealing votes away from him. If I had to bet, Stroud would be my pick for the Heisman at the end of the season over every other player in the country. Corral will have the stats, but not the team success. 

For the offense as a whole, this is probably the best Ohio State offense I have ever seen in the last two decades so far. The bad news, of course, is that the defenses are going to get a lot better, and those games will tell us a lot about this team. For now though, I think this offense has everything it needs to win a championship. 

Jack Miller Passing Chart Midseason
Jack Miller Perfect Good Scramble Pressure OK Batted Down Throw Away Inaccurate Bad Read RPO Read Options Score Weighted Score PFF Notes
Akron 1 5 0 0 1 0 1 0 0   1/2 85.7% 87.5%   Genuinely looked excellent, though it was Akron.
Rutgers 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0   2/2       Late garbage time.
Maryland 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1   0/1 50.0% 33.3%   Fine
Total 1 5 0 0 2 0 1 0 0   3/5 77.8% 72.7% 69.8 Like his willingness to run and command of the offense.
Kyle McCord Passing Chart Midseason
Kyle McCord Perfect Good Scramble Pressure OK Batted Throw Away Inaccurate Bad Read RPO Read Option Score Weighted Score PFF Notes
Akron 0 10 0 0 1 0 1 4 1 4/5 0 62.5% 58.8%   Based on this performance, a good step or two down from an injured Stroud, let alone a healthy one.
Rutgers 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1/1 66.7% 66.7%   Not much to take from it. Lots of holding calls which I thought were questionable.
maryland 0 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/1 100.0% 100.0%   Played well in this game. Took a sack that wasn't his fault.
total 0 12 0 0 2 0 1 5 1 4/5 1/2 63.2% 60.0% 57.7 Looked more calm against Rutgers and Maryland. Akron game was great experience.

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