The Five Most Dangerous Playmakers Ohio State Will Face This Year

By David Regimbal on August 5, 2019 at 2:45 pm
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor
© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State's defense wasn't ready for the bevy of playmakers it had to defend a season ago.

It became a near weekly occurrence to see an Ohio State opponent busting through the middle of the Buckeye defense. In 2018, Ohio State surrendered the longest pass and rushing plays in program history, and gave up 49 and 51 points to Purdue and Maryland.

That led to an overhaul on the defensive coaching staff, and new co-coordinators Greg Mattison and Jeff Hafley worked hard all offseason to plug the leaks. 

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, the Buckeyes have a number of tough playmakers they'll have to defend. Here's a breakdown of the five most dangerous offensive weapons they'll face this fall.

Michael Warren, Cincinnati Running Back

FAU could prove to be a feisty matchup for Ohio State in the season opener, but the first real test of the season comes in Week 2 against in-state opponent Cincinnati. 

Bearcats running back Michael Warren is a big reason why it'll be a tough outing.

The former Mr. Football in Ohio had a breakout season for Cincinnati last year, piling up 1,329 yards and 19 touchdowns. He's also a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, as he hauled in 25 catches for 232 yards and another score.

Warren came up big during Cincinnati's biggest games too. Against UCLA in the season opener, he ticked off 142 rushing yards and three scores in a 26-17 win. In the Bearcats bowl game against Virginia Tech, he added 166 yards and two more scores in a 35-31 win.

JD Spielman, Nebraska Wide Receiver

Nebraska got off to the the worst start in its program's illustrious history in 2018, but the team started to find its bearings down the stretch.

The same could be said for wideout JD Spielman, who struggled in September and registered just 5 yards on four catches against Michigan in Week 3. But a 10-catch, 135-yard and two-touchdown performance against Purdue launched his third-team All-Big Ten season. A week later he torched Wisconsin for 209 yards and another score. 

He finished the year with 818 yards and eight scores.

Anthony McFarland, Maryland Running Back

If you haven't blocked the game or this name out of memory, you'll remember what Maryland Running Back Anthony McFarland is capable of.

In last year's 52-51 overtime shootout, McFarland gashed Ohio State for 298 yards and two touchdowns on just 21 carries. He had touchdown runs of 81 and 75 yards within the first six minutes of the game and nearly led the Terrapins to one of the biggest upsets of the college football season.

That performance came on the heels of a 29-carry, 210-yard effort against Indiana the week before. The speedy back did a lot of damage in a shared backfield a season ago, and with Ty Johnson off to the NFL, McFarland could be even more dangerous in a primary role.

Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan Wide Receiver 

The former 5-star wideout could be on the verge of a special season if Michigan truly intends to open up its offense.

To date in his career, Donovan Peoples-Jones hasn't reached his full potential, but it's hard to blame him for that considering the scheme he's played in the last two seasons. But with quarterback Shae Patterson back and new coordinators at the helm, Peoples-Jones has a high ceiling this fall.

He registered 612 receiving yards via a team-high 47 catches and eight touchdowns last fall, but it wouldn't be surprising of all those numbers saw a significant spike in 2019.

Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin Running Back

Ohio State has to face the country's most dangerous running back on the last Saturday of October.

Jonathan Taylor, the reigning Doak Walker Award winner and unanimous first-team All-American, led the country with a preposterous 2,194 rushing yards a season ago. He had five games when he eclipsed 200 rushing yards and one when he cracked 300 (321 against Purdue).

This is the first time Ohio State faces Wisconsin in the regular season since 2016, a year before Taylor joined the Badgers. But the Buckeyes faced off against him in the 2017 Big Ten title game, in which they held him to a career-low 41 rushing yards and 2.7 yards per attempt.

Needless to say, Ohio State will see a much more mature and developed back when Wisconsin comes to Columbus this fall.

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