"The bigger the game, you’re going to have your A-pluses in there as much as you can," Meyer said. "When it’s time to go win the game, you want your best guys out there."
As Saturday’s game truly went down to the wire, with the Buckeyes needing a fourth-quarter comeback to earn a 39-38 win over the Nittany Lions, Ohio State did in fact decrease its playing contingent from most of its previous games this season. As it took the Buckeyes nearly the entire game to take their first lead and take control of the game, Ohio State’s starters and other top-of-the-rotation players took the vast majority of snaps in Saturday’s game. Only 18 players saw the field on offense while only 19 players took snaps on defense.
While at least 66 Ohio State players took snaps in each of the Buckeyes’ previous five games, only 57 total players saw the field for the Buckeyes against Penn State, with 20 of those players seeing taking the field on special teams only. While some players who had been in the offensive or defensive rotations were relegated to special teams duty on Saturday, there were numerous other players who had seen playing time in each of the Buckeyes’ last five games that did not see the field in any capacity against the Nittany Lions.
On the other end of the equation, though, many of Ohio State’s first-team players were in the lineup for the entirety of a game for the first time since the Buckeyes’ second game of the season against Oklahoma. And Saturday's game showed which players Meyer and the rest of Ohio State’s coaching staff believe belong or are at least ready to be on the field when a big game is on the line.
We take a look at everyone who did play in Saturday’s game, how much and what their roles entailed, as well as the overall snap totals for everyone who has played this season, in this week’s edition of Snap Counts.
Author’s note: All snap counts listed in this article were tracked by Eleven Warriors through film review and should be considered unofficial, as Ohio State does not release its official snap counts. The players listed with each special teams unit are the players who were on the field with those units most frequently, but exact special teams snap counts are not included because it is not always possible to identify all 11 players on a special teams unit from TV camera angles.
J.T. Barrett: 85 snaps
After playing backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins in each of its last five games (and third quarterback Joe Burrow in three of the last four), Ohio State needed Barrett – who had a career-defining night in leading the Buckeyes to a win – to play all four quarters against Penn State. Despite playing only sparingly if at all in the fourth quarters of Ohio State’s previous five games, Barrett had an exceptional fourth-quarter performance on Saturday, completing all 13 of his passing attempts in the final frame and leading the Buckeyes on three straight touchdown drives.
Mike Weber: 48
J.K. Dobbins: 39
Antonio Williams: Special teams only
Although Dobbins started his eighth consecutive game to start his Ohio State career, it was Weber – who played his season-high snap count to date – who was on the field for the Buckeyes when Saturday’s game was in crunch time.
After seeing no playing time in the second quarter, Dobbins returned to play most of the third quarter but was out of the lineup on each of Ohio State’s three fourth-quarter touchdown drives, even though Dobbins averaged more than twice as many yards per carry as Weber – who might have gotten the nod because of his increased experience in pass protection – in Saturday’s game.
Zach Turnure: Special teams only
Turnure played only on special teams on Saturday after seeing playing time at fullback in each of the Buckeyes’ two previous games against Maryland and Nebraska.
K.J. Hill: 66
Terry McLaurin: 51
Austin Mack: 47
Binjimen Victor: 37
Johnnie Dixon: 34
C.J. Saunders: 8
Parris Campbell: 3
Elijaah Goins: Special teams only
Campbell played only one offensive series in Saturday’s game before being knocked out of the game with an undisclosed injury for the second week in a row. That opened the door for Hill to play a vast majority of Saturday’s snaps at the slot receiver position, though Saunders was also worked into the rotation for occasional snaps.
McLaurin started at Z receiver but rotated with Dixon, while Mack started at X receiver but rotated with Victor, continuing the roles that each of those players have played this year.
Marcus Baugh: 74
Rashod Berry: 18
While Berry played more than half as many snaps as Baugh with the first-team offense in Ohio State’s previous game against Nebraska, the more experienced Baugh went back to playing the lion’s share of snaps at tight end – and a higher percentage of the team’s offensive snaps (87 percent) than he had played in any previous game this season – against Penn State.
Baugh and Berry were both on the field simultaneously in two-tight end sets for seven plays, most of which came in red zone situations.
Jamarco Jones: 85
Michael Jordan: 85
Billy Price: 85
Isaiah Prince: 85
Demetrius Knox: 82
Matthew Burrell: 3
Thayer Munford: Special teams only
Malcolm Pridgeon: Special teams only
Brady Taylor: Special teams only
Kevin Woidke: Special teams only
Ohio State used the same offensive line for all but three plays on Saturday, with Jones taking every snap of the game at left tackle and Jordan at left guard, Price at center and Prince at right tackle doing the same. Knox was briefly replaced in the lineup by Burrell after being flagged for a holding penalty in the third quarter, but returned to the lineup on the Buckeyes’ next possession and played every other snap of the game – in just his second career start for Ohio State – at right guard.
Nick Bosa: 50
Tyquan Lewis: 47
Jalyn Holmes: 40
Sam Hubbard: 38
Jonathon Cooper: Special teams only
Ohio State changed its defensive end pairings for Saturday’s game, as Bosa started opposite Lewis while Hubbard spent most of the game playing opposite Holmes, but the Buckeyes nonetheless continued to rotate their top four defensive ends in and out of the lineup throughout the contest. The four defensive ends were all on the field simultaneously for 18 snaps in the Buckeyes’ Rushmen package, even though Ohio State kept its defensive tackles on the field – in a change from previous games – on some plays in its nickel defense on Saturday.
Cooper and Chase Young, who rotated in for occasional snaps with the starters and played extensively as the Buckeyes’ backup defensive ends in their last four games, did not see any playing time on defense – with Young seeing no playing time at all – against Penn State.
Dre’Mont Jones: 46
Tracy Sprinkle: 30
Robert Landers: 16
Michael Hill: 5
Jashon Cornell: 3
Jones, who played a majority of the Buckeyes’ defensive snaps on Saturday as their 3-technique defensive tackle, played more snaps against Penn State than he had in the team’s previous four games – two of which he missed with a leg injury – combined. Sprinkle started at nose tackle and likewise played more snaps than he had since the Oklahoma game, although Landers was on the field more than Sprinkle when the game was on the line late in the fourth quarter.
Cornell checked into the game to play one defensive series at 3-technique in the second quarter, while Hill – in just his second game back from suspension – played one series at nose tackle in the third quarter. Davon Hamilton did not play any snaps on either defense or special teams for the first time this season.
Jerome Baker: 69
Chris Worley: 48
Dante Booker: 44
Malik Harrison: 14
Tuf Borland: 7
Baron Browning: Special teams only
Justin Hilliard: Special teams only
Keandre Jones: Special teams only
Pete Werner: Special teams only
Baker was in the lineup at weakside linebacker for every one of Ohio State’s defensive snaps on Saturday. Booker was a consistent presence in the lineup at strongside linebacker when the Buckeyes played in their base 4-3 defense.
Worley, now back to being fully healthy after missing time with a sprained foot, returned to the starting lineup at middle linebacker for the first time in five games. Harrison checked into the game as the second nickel linebacker when the Buckeyes put their Rushmen package in the game in opposing passing situations, except for the final defensive series of the game, when the Buckeyes opted to play Worley over Harrison with the game on the line. Borland, who started the previous four games in place of Worley at middle linebacker, replaced Worley for one second-quarter defensive series on Saturday but did not see any defensive playing time in the other three quarters of the game.
Denzel Ward: 63
Damon Arnette: 59
Kendall Sheffield: 42
Jeffrey Okudah: Special teams only
Amir Riep: Special teams only
Marcus Williamson: Special teams only
Ohio State deployed its usual three-man cornerback rotation against Penn State, with Ward and Arnette playing most of the snaps with the base defense but Sheffield also rotating in off the bench. All three of those cornerbacks were on the field for each of the Buckeyes’ 26 plays in nickel formations on Saturday, with Arnette sliding inside to play slot cornerback.
Jordan Fuller: 69
Damon Webb: 69
Erick Smith: Special teams only
Jahsen Wint: Special teams only
Fuller and Webb each played every one of Ohio State’s defensive snaps at safety on Saturday. That limited Smith, who rotated in and out of the lineup with Fuller earlier in the season, to playing only on special teams for the first time in a game he has appeared in this season, not including the two games for which he was suspended.
True freshman safety Isaiah Pryor did not play a single snap on defense or special teams, marking the first game in his Ohio State career that he did not see the field in any capacity.
Field Goals/Extra Points
Sean Nuernberger (kicker)
Drue Chrisman (holder)
Liam McCullough (long snapper)
Rashod Berry (blocker)
Matthew Burrell (blocker)
Jonathon Cooper (blocker)
Michael Hill (blocker)
Thayer Munford (blocker)
Malcolm Pridgeon (blocker)
Brady Taylor (blocker)
Kevin Woidke (blocker)
Munford, who was removed from the kicking unit after giving up a blocked field goal against Maryland, returned to the unit in a new spot on the line on Saturday. Hill was added to the place kicking unit for the first time this season. Those two players replaced Joshua Alabi and Chase Young, who were added to the place kicking unit for the first time this season at Nebraska but did not play in any capacity against Penn State. The rest of the place kicking unit’s personnel remained intact from the Nebraska game.
Sean Nuernberger (kicker)
Baron Browning (gunner)
Elijaah Goins or Austin Mack (gunner)
Justin Hilliard (gunner)
Keandre Jones (gunner)
Jeffrey Okudah (gunner)
Amir Riep (gunner)
Erick Smith (gunner)
Zach Turnure (gunner)
Pete Werner (gunner)
Jahsen Wint or Marcus Williamson (gunner)
Nuernberger took over as Ohio State’s kickoff specialist on Saturday, replacing Blake Haubeil, who did not attempt any kickoffs for the first time in any game this season. The rest of the kickoff unit’s personnel remained the same as the Nebraska game for the first half, but Mack and Williamson replaced Goins and Wint for the second half after the Buckeyes allowed multiple long kickoff returns – including a 97-yard touchdown to Saquon Barkley – in the first half.
There will likely be some new faces on the kickoff unit in Ohio State’s next game at Iowa, as Meyer said after Saturday’s game that the Buckeyes would "have to make serious changes on personnel" in an effort to remedy the kickoff coverage issues that plagued the Buckeyes on Saturday and have plagued the team all season.
K.J. Hill (returner)
Parris Campbell or Antonio Williams (returner/blocker)
Tuf Borland (blocker)
Johnnie Dixon (blocker)
Jordan Fuller (blocker)
Elijaah Goins (blocker)
Malik Harrison (blocker)
Justin Hilliard (blocker)
Keandre Jones (blocker)
Jeffrey Okudah (blocker)
Zach Turnure (blocker)
Campbell fielded the first kickoff return of the game for the Buckeyes and was on the field for Hill’s return on Penn State’s second kickoff of the game, but left the game after that, moving Hill into the primary returner role while Williams entered the game as the secondary kickoff returner (but did not actually return any kicks). Goins replaced Austin Mack as a blocker, but the rest of the Buckeyes’ kickoff return unit remained the same from the Nebraska game.
Drue Chrisman (punter)
Liam McCullough (long snapper)
Tuf Borland (upback)
Sam Hubbard (upback)
Jonathon Cooper (upback/wing)
Malik Harrison (guard)
Zach Turnure (guard)
Jerome Baker (wing) or K.J. Hill (gunner)
Austin Mack (wing) or Elijaah Goins (gunner)
Terry McLaurin (gunner/wing)
Jeffrey Okudah or Denzel Ward (gunner)
After the Buckeyes attempted no punts in their previous game against Nebraska, Cooper and Mack made their season debuts on the punting unit against Penn State. The rest of the players who took the field on punts against the Nittany Lions had previously seen playing time on the unit this year, with Chrisman, McCullough, Borland, Hubbard, Harrison, Turnure, Baker and McLaurin all being regulars on the unit.
K.J. Hill (returner)
Damon Arnette (rusher/blocker)
Dante Booker (rusher/blocker)
Jonathon Cooper (rusher/blocker)
Malik Harrison (rusher/blocker)
Justin Hilliard (rusher/blocker)
Keandre Jones (rusher/blocker)
Terry McLaurin (rusher/blocker)
Kendall Sheffield (rusher/blocker)
Denzel Ward or Damon Webb (rusher/blocker)
Pete Werner (rusher/blocker)
Unlike previous games this season, in which the punt return/block unit varied greatly throughout the game depending on game situation and field position, Ohio State kept its personnel consistent on that unit on Saturday. The only noteworthy in-game change came on Penn State’s first punt of the fourth quarter, when Ward replaced Webb in the lineup. That change paid off, as Ward became the first Buckeye to block a punt this season.
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