Stock Up/Stock Down: Ohio State Offensive Play Calling Improves, Kickers Put on Blast

By James Grega on September 19, 2017 at 10:10 am
Kevin Wilson

After a week of skepticism about Ohio State's offense and its quarterback, the Buckeyes put up 586 yards of offense in a 38-7 victory over Army on Sept. 16. 

While the win was against an inferior opponent in terms of football talent, the offense had a different feel and tempo about it, which should give fans and those around the program optimism for the rest of the season. 

Not everything went smoothly for the Buckeyes against Army, but we are going to focus on the positives first in this week's Stock Up/Stock Down. 

Stock up

Ohio State's Offensive Play Calling

Over the last year or so, it has become clear that J.T. Barrett struggles at times to make accurate throws downfield and read complex coverages. So it should come as no surprise that Ohio State's offensive brain trust made things a little easier on Barrett against Army by playing to his strengths, calling a variety of zone read and run-pass option plays. With the Black Knight secondary playing zone coverage and taking the blueprint of Indiana and Oklahoma by dropping as many as eight men into coverage, the Buckeye offense got the ball out of Barrett's hands quickly on multiple occasions, letting their receivers make plays in space. 

The RPO scheme might not come with the glamorous 50-yard touchdown passes deep down the middle of the field that fans might want, but you can't argue with its effectiveness. Ohio State scored on six of its nine drives, punted just twice and didn't turn the ball over. It also opened up running lanes for running back J.K. Dobbins, who rattled off 172 yards on just 13 carries. 

Tuf Borland - Ohio State redshirt freshman linebacker

Stepping in for an injured Chris Worley, redshirt freshman Tuf Borland came in for the Ohio State defense and played arguably the best game of any Buckeye defender this season. Borland collected 12 tackles in relief against Army and was named Ohio State's defensive player of the game for his performance in his first meaningful playing time as a college athlete. 

Whether or not Borland gets more time with the first-team defense will largely depend on the health of Worley, who Meyer said Monday is questionable for Saturday's game against UNLV. The biggest question for Borland remains his pass defense. There is no questioning his ability to diagnose and stuff a run play, but his pass coverage is a skill that has yet to be tested in a game situation. The contest against the Rebels could be the perfect game to see what he can do, though, while allowing Worley to get healthy for the Big Ten schedule. 

Erick Smith - Ohio State senior safety

After looking out of place for most of the Oklahoma game, Erick Smith rebounded in a big way against Army. The senior Glenville High School product collected nine tackles and prevented a pair of would-be Army touchdowns. 

Smith laid out to break up a long pass that looked destined for six points in the first half before making a shoe-string tackle on an Army kick return in the second half that also likely would have been a touchdown for the Black Knights. 

While it's unlikely Ohio State stays with the 4-2-5 look on defense that it used against Army, Smith might have earned himself an extra chance to compete with Jordan Fuller at safety after playing poorly against the Sooners. 

Purdue Football - #BROHMBALL

This is the second week in a row that Purdue is on this list, and for good reason. 

After nearly beating Louisville and pulling some tricks out of the bag against Ohio, the Boilermakers took to SEC territory and thoroughly whooped Missouri, 35-3, on Saturday. Now the Tigers aren't exactly the cream of the SEC crop, but if you thought Purdue would be a few plays away from defeating the reigning Heisman winner and being 3-0, you're lying. 

The hype train is real in West Lafayette, Ind., as reports indicate that Purdue fans are ready to sell out Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time since the end of the Joe Tiller era. 

While it's unlikely the Boilermakers defeat Michigan on Saturday, the confidence surrounding Jeff Brohm's team is skyrocketing right now. Should the upset happen, dare I say it, Purdue has a chance to contend for a Big Ten West title. I don't see that happening but regardless, #LetsPlayFootball. 

stock down

Ohio State Kickoff Team

Urban Meyer hasn't been one to beat around the bush in his time at Ohio State. If someone or a unit isn't playing well, he usually calls it like he sees it (we all remember the 'clown show' remarks about the wide receivers in 2012). 

Meyer voiced his displeasure with Ohio State's kickoff team on Monday, and did not hold back on his opinion of the unit. 

"Kickoff coverage is a mess right now. We don't have a kicker that can kick the ball," Meyer said. "If you noticed, one almost went out up in the seats."

Blake Haubeil was given the first opportunity by the Ohio State coaching staff to handle kickoff duties. Walk-on Bryan Kristan was also given a shot on Saturday. Neither performed well, and Meyer said placekicker Sean Nuernberger might get the next chance against UNLV. 

In addition, poor angles by the kickoff coverage unit almost led to a touchdown by the Army return team in last week's win. This is a unit that Ohio State and Meyer take a lot of pride in. We could see some new faces on it if the struggles continue. 

Nebraska Football 

The complete opposite of Purdue right now, there isn't a Big Ten team that is trending in a more downward spiral than the Cornhuskers (Yes, Illinois is bad, but we expected that). 

Nebraska wasn't the favorite of many to win the Big Ten, but some thought that with the addition of Tulane transfer quarterback Tanner Lee, the Cornhuskers could at least contend for the Big Ten West. Instead, Nebraska is 1-2 and just a few plays away from being 0-3 after holding on to beat Arkansas State in overtime in Week 1. 

The offensive line struggles to keep Lee upright and can't create many holes for the run game, which isn't a good combination. Mike Riley is firmly on the hot seat. If the Cornhuskers can't salvage the final three quarters of the season, they might be searching for another coach for the 2018 season. 

Michigan's Passing Game

For a long time, I was of the impression that Wilton Speight, with his size and strong arm, could be a late-round NFL draft pick.  I am laughing at myself after watching a few clips from Michigan's first three games. 

Speight has struggled to find a rhythm so far this season and his already young wide receiving corps took a hit when it was revealed that freshman phenom Tarik Black might miss the rest of the season after suffering a foot injury. 

If there is a coach that can fix a quarterback and a passing attack, it is Jim Harbaugh, who made Jake Rudock into an NFL draft pick in just one season. With Black out, however, the Wolverines will need fellow freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones and others to step up and help Speight get back on track. 

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