11W Mailbag: Michael Jordan's Move to Center, Brian Hartline's Impact on Receivers and Other Key Components

By Derrick Webb on August 31, 2018 at 1:15 pm
Parris Campbell looks to lead the Buckeyes to a win over Oregon State Saturday.

Finally, a seemingly longer-than-normal offseason is coming to an end. Ohio State kicks off its 2018 season with a 12:07 p.m. matchup against Oregon State in Columbus on Saturday.

We know you're anxious for the game to start, so we won't waste any more of your time. Let's get to your questions in this week's mailbag.

Where does Shaun Wade fit into the mix in the defensive backfield? — BUCKEYE3M

As soon as Wade arrived on campus, many people expected him to blossom into a first-round NFL draft pick. Even after being plagued with injuries last year, I still think the potential is there. While he's listed as the backup to starting cornerback Kendall Sheffield on the Buckeyes' depth chart, I still think we'll see Wade quite a bit this year. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said the team will stick with Jeffrey Okudah, Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette in its three-man rotation at the position. But he also noted how excited he was about the youth the Buckeyes have there. Wade, a redshirt freshman, fits that description.

Was moving Michael Jordan to center relatively late in the process more a function of (Malcolm) Pridgeon's development, or staff concerns about the other center candidates? — RBurgundy4

While Pridgeon's development certainly made the transition easier to put into place, I think Jordan was moved to center for two reasons: he brings experience to the position which Brady Taylor and Josh Myers did not have, and the move fits the formula of success we've seen in years past. 

After Pat Elfein and Billy Price move from guard to center and then turn into Rimington winners, there's no reason Michael Jordan can't do the same. At 6-foot-7, 312 pounds, he's massive to say the least. He's also a first-team All-Big Ten player and has never missed a game in his collegiate career. Health, experience, leadership. Its a trifecta that's worked for the Buckeyes under Urban Meyer, who's made it a point to discuss how critical he thinks the center position is. If something's not broke, why try and fix it?

Urban can return to team activities after Oregon State (but not be on the sideline).  Does the offense look different from Game 1 to Game 2, when Urban presumably can have a big say in the gameplan(s)? — Avail31678

First and foremost, I don't think there's any question Urban isn't having some type of effect on this Saturday's offensive game plan. That's just me, but I can't see that happening.

Acting coach Ryan Day told us Monday that "the plan to win is never going to change. What we have done in the spring is really what we're doing now. Are there a couple tweaks? Yes. But the culture's the culture. It's four to six, A to B, competitive excellence and the brotherhood. The plan to win has never changed. So that's the culture here and the plan to win is always going to be here at Ohio State."

As Day alluded to, from Game 1 to Game 2, I think we'll see some tweaks. But I don't think anything major is in the works and if there is, I don't think it's revealed until the Buckeyes travel to Texas for their Game 3 matchup with TCU.

In your opinion, which true freshmen, if any, see playing time on Saturday? — Darnell

Tyler Friday and Jeremy Ruckert come to mind. The coaching staff has already expressed their intent to play both as soon as Saturday. Josh Proctor is another that's interesting. He's behind Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint on the safety depth chart. However, I don't believe that position is locked down yet. If Ohio State sticks to its script and rotates players at that position until they find the best possible option, I think Proctor gets playing time.

As for who will make the most immediate impact, I have to go with Ruckert. He's got the best chance to start at some point out of the three, and the Buckeyes can always use an extra pair of pass-catching hands.

How many snaps will Ruckert get this weekend? — Seattle Linga

As a follow-up to the previous question, I'm guessing anywhere between 15-25. Could be more, could be less. But that's what my gut says.

The combination of no Urbs, an interim head coach with no defensive background, and a new Co-DC seems like we might end up seeing more defensive changes than offensive. Do you agree and if so, where should we be looking to notice them? Or is the other OSU so bad we won’t bother? — OSUBias

I tend to think Schiano is pretty much sticking to what he knows. While Ohio State does feature several new position coaches on the defensive side, Schiano made it known that the changes put in place must match the philosophy of the program. Also, this Saturday in particular, I don't think any glaring differences will be evident. I picked the Buckeyes to win 48-0 and I truly believe this defensive unit has the chance to put up a goose egg.

How do you think the change to Brian Hartline will impact receiver play? — Sightlygrain6

If the receivers don't play better under Hartline, I'd be shocked. Put simply, I feel like Hartline has more knowledge of the position and has already gained the trust of his players. And, of course, a big reason for all of those things is that he's been a receiver at the highest level possible.

This week, team captain Parris Campbell said of Hartline, "He's been in our shoes." I think that goes a long way in understanding what's needed at the position and how to play it. Plus, this receiving corps is one of the most experienced position groups on the team. If Hartline has any sort of impact, it's a positive one.

What issues, if any, do you anticipate Coach Day will have filling in for the head man on Saturday? Or do you expect having a loaded roster and, maybe more importantly, a veteran coaching staff around him will cause these first couple games to run extraordinarily smoothly? — Bringthejuice

I don't think coach Day will have any major problems filling in for Meyer against Oregon State or Rutgers. His biggest switch will be calling the plays from the sidelines. Your second question answers the first in my mind. With Schiano at his side, as well as guys like Bill Davis, Larry Johnson, etc., Day will be just fine. By 5 p.m. Saturday, he'll be 1-0 as a head coach.

How many plays, if any, do you expect Tate Martell to get? If he does, will it be garbage time towards the end of the game? Or, on an important drive, with game on the line? — LW O-H

Day was very adamant about Haskins being the starter and the coaching staff has said it doesn't have specific packages for Martell to be a part of. If we're talking about Saturday by itself, I think Martell sees maybe a quarter's worth of action. I don't think it's outlandish to expect to see him early against Oregon State, but I also wouldn't be surprised if it comes after Haskins and company have the win in hand. Either way, I'm excited to see him behind center at some point.

Despite a couple of new faces, is there any reason to hope for improved linebacker play this season? — GareBear

The linebackers are an unkown heading into Saturday. Will Tuf Borland see the field? How will Pete Werner react to getting the start? Does Baron Browning play well enough to keep his starting gig, even if Borland does return? I'm anxious to see all these questions answered.

But to answer your original question, I think there's reason to be hopeful. I'm a guy that really likes Malik Harrison, and I think Browning will fit in just fine. Obviously, if Borland is back, the Buckeyes are better. But if Werner plays as well as the coaches have said he is, and Harrison and Browning do their jobs, I definitely think this year's linebackers have the potential to be better than last year's.

What is the over/under on sacks for Bosa and Young? Best guess at total rushing yards by Dobbins/Weber? Will Day open it up, or will he hide stuff for TCU? — Osurox

I love these types of questions. For Bosa and Young, who are very good as we know, I'm going with an over/under of two sacks this weekend ... and taking the over. As for Dobbins and Weber, I think Ohio State establishes the ground game early as the duo combine for over 200 yards rushing. As for Day, I think he gets the win and goes into cruise control. You're right, showing anything too advanced wouldn't be a good move, considering TCU is two weeks away. 

View 17 Comments