11W Mailbag: Austin Mack's Role In The Passing Game, Shaun Wade's Continuous Improvement And The Impact Of Ohio State's Kicking Game

By Derrick Webb on September 14, 2018 at 1:15 pm
Austin Mack

If you're anything like Ohio State interim coach Ryan Day or the rest of Columbus for that matter, Sept. 15 has been a date circled on your calendar for quite some time.

The opponent? TCU.

The destination? AT&T Stadium.

The challenge? Finally, one with some clout behind it.

Day appeared on head coach Urban Meyer's weekly radio show on 97.1 The Fan Thursday and said, "This is the game that's been circled on their and our calendars for a long time."

As the Buckeyes head to Texas for a Lone Star sized showdown at Jerry World, I'll attempt to answer your questions in this week's mailbag.

If B1G top teams continue to struggle, does losing Saturday severely hurt our chances of making the CFP or do we still make it by winning out? — Dilly93

With Ohio State's schedule, I can't see a scenario where the Buckeyes go 12-1 and don't make it in. But stranger things have happened. I'll say this: if Ohio State indeed loses Saturday and proceeds to win out, it'd be a crime not to include the Big Ten champion in the CFP.

Will the key to this game be getting the passing game over the top going early to loosen up their defense so the running game can take over? Or using our MUCH larger OL to bully their DL and small LBs and force the running game down their throats? — RunEddieRun1983

If you can run the ball well, it always opens up the passing game. If Ohio State's offensive line can bully TCU's defensive line and linebackers, the Buckeyes' passing game will open up. With Dwayne Haskins under center and a loaded wide receiving corps, that spells trouble for the Horned Frogs. Ohio State's offensive line will play a huge role in Saturday's outcome. If they can open up lanes for running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, Haskins can pick apart the defense. When that happens, the Buckeyes have the upper hand.

Running question, what is the over/under on # of sacks between Bosa and Young? Which WR and RB shows up big? — Osurox

I'll go with an over/under of two and take the over. As of now, in my opinion, Nick Bosa is the best player in America, and I'll never bet against Chase Young either. As a duo, Bosa and Young are almost impossible to block. I'm anxious to see how TCU plans for that. I think any name in the wide receiver corps could show up. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins has a plethora of weapons to use in the passing game. If I had to pick? I'll take Parris Campbell. He's been used sparingly in the past two weeks but in a big-time game, Haskins may rely on his experience to lead the way. In the backfield, I'm taking J.K. Dobbins. He's playing in front of friends and family, which adds extra motivation. I think he has a big game.

Do we have more rushing yards or passing yards? — Tsxbuckeye

Passing yards. Haskins and company have been the Buckeyes' most impressive offensive asset so far. In the team's biggest game to date, I don't think acting head coach Ryan Day goes away from that. Haskins has shown zero signs of inconsistency, completing 42-of-53 passes over the first two weeks. With reliable receivers and backfield talent that has proven their value in the passing game, Haskins will get his chances to fling the ball around.

Does OSU have the necessary speed at the required defensive positions to keep up? — 1MechEng

100 percent yes. Ohio State's athletes are just as good ... or better ... than TCU's. When you look at the Buckeyes' depth chart, you'd be hard-pressed not to find a position group that doesn't possess an elite athlete. While the Horned Frogs are in a similar situation, the notion that Ohio State's athletes don't have the speed to keep up with TCU is ridiculous. 

What are the chances TCU shows a defensive front or something that OSU will be completely unprepared for, a la 2014 VT? I'd like to think we learned our lesson there but history seems to repeat itself at the worst times. — Cemitchell20

So you're saying there's a chance? Sure, there's always a chance. But I'd like to think interim head coach Ryan Day has prepared for whatever TCU may throw him. The Horned Frogs are known for using their 4-2-5 defense. I think the Buckeyes will see a good bit of that and, admittedly, it could challenge the way Haskins makes his reads.

Does OSU continue to go up tempo? — Hetuck

If it isn't broke, don't fix it, right? The Buckeyes have ran 87 and 73 plays over the past two weeks. What's it led to? Quick scores and an average of 64.5 points per game. I see no reason to go away from you bread and butter ... as long as it continues to work that is.

How does the o-line for the horned frogs compare to the d-line for the Buckeyes? What's your sack total for the good guys and hit me with your final score prediction. — Seattle Linga

TCU's offensive line is undoubtedly talented. But really, when you pit any offensive line in the country against Ohio State's defensive line, the Buckeyes have a real shot at doing some good things. Nick Bosa, Dre'Mont Jones, Robert Landers and Chase Young have talked extensively how they're in a race to the quarterback every play. I whole-heartedly believe them. While the Horned Frogs' offensive line should be respected, I'm taking the Buckeyes' defensive line in a comparison sense every day of the week. A sack total? I'll go with four. My final score prediction? I'll take Ohio State by a 27-14 final.

This game could possibly come down to the kicking game. How confident are you that Haubiel and Chrisman can outperform their counterparts? — Icouldnotgofor3

I think this is legit the first question or topic I've seen surrounding Ohio State's kicking game all year long. But I don't think the scenario you're talking about is out of the question. Punter Drue Chrisman has only had to punt five times this year while kicker Sean Nuernberger has only had one field goal attempt; a 21-yard try. Chrisman is averaging 48 yards per punt and Nuernberger has never missed an extra point (he's 195-for-195 in his career). If it comes down to the kicking game, I've got confidence in the Buckeyes. 

Will this be the game that Austin Mack makes a major impact and revitalizes his status as being Haskins' primary target 7:11?  Or is there so much talent and so little touches to go around that he doesn't break out yet? — John-A-Tron

I'd go with the latter. Don't get me wrong ... Austin Mack is a next-level talent and arguably the Buckeyes' best option over the middle of the field. But when you look at this receivers corps, I really think you could see a different leading receiver every single week. Against Oregon State, it was Terry McLaurin. Against Rutgers, it was Johnnie Dixon. Against TCU? Who knows. Could it be Mack? Absolutely. But I'd take the field against him.

Will we see more of Shaun Wade? Possibly at safety? — Brutus360

I think we do. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano has been more than complimentary over the past week. Monday, Schiano commented on Wade, saying "We are just going to try to find ways to get him on the field. So he can play corner, he can play in the nickel as he did this week and I think eventually he'll be able to play at the safety position. That's good for him because that's as many opportunities as you can have in the secondary to play."

That's all I need to know when considering Wade's playing time. Expect to see more of No. 24.

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