Ohio State faced its toughest competition of the season to date in its sixth game of the season to date against Michigan State and as a result, the Buckeyes tightened up their rotations from their first five games of the year.
While the Buckeyes still ultimately earned a convincing 34-10 win over the Spartans, they never pulled away to the point that they took all of their starters out of the game, which gave us our truest look of the season yet of which players Ohio State truly trusts to play with a game on the line.
A season-low 59 Buckeyes saw playing time against Michigan State, as Justin Fields played every snap at quarterback for the first time all season. Four of Ohio State’s five starting offensive linemen also played all 76 of the Buckeyes’ offensive snaps, while slot cornerback Shaun Wade played all 68 of the Buckeyes’ defensive snaps for the game.
Players who did not see the field against the Spartans after playing in all of the Buckeyes’ first five games of the year included backup quarterback Chris Chugunov, H-backs Demario McCall and Jaelen Gill, offensive linemen Harry Miller and Matthew Jones, linebacker Craig Young and cornerback Tyreke Johnson.
Many players who did play, though – including Fields – had career- or season-high snap counts to date as a result of the Buckeyes keeping starters on the field for 60 minutes.
We take a full look at how much playing time everyone who played got in this week’s edition of Snap Counts, Eleven Warriors’ exclusive weekly look at how Ohio State splits up its playing time in each game.
All snap counts were compiled by Eleven Warriors and should be considered unofficial. (Note: It is not always possible to see all players on special teams units from TV camera angles, so there could be players missing from those units.)
Justin Fields: 76
As aforementioned, the Buckeyes kept Fields in at quarterback until the final snap of Saturday’s game, marking the first time he has played a full 60-minute game as Ohio State’s starting quarterback. Against a defense that entered Saturday’s game as one of the nation’s top 10 defenses statistically, Fields completed 17-of-25 passing attempts for 206 yards and two touchdowns and carried the ball 11 times for 61 yards and a touchdown, but did throw his first interception of his collegiate career.
J.K. Dobbins: 57
Master Teague: 19
Marcus Crowley: 0
Ohio State continued to feature Dobbins as its clear-cut No. 1 running back against Michigan State. He played all but two snaps in the first half against the Spartans and 75 percent of the game’s snaps overall, and took advantage of his opportunity to be a workhorse, rushing for 172 yards – highlighted by a 67-yard touchdown – on 24 carries against a defense that had allowed just 55.8 rushing yards per game before playing the Buckeyes.
Teague, who played 17 of his 19 snaps in the third and fourth quarters, was the only other running back to get any carries on Saturday. Crowley briefly checked into the game late in the fourth quarter, but was only on the field for a false start before Teague returned to finish out the game; as a result, Crowley did not play any counting snaps for the first time this season.
K.J. Hill: 63
Binjimen Victor: 45
Austin Mack: 40
Chris Olave: 35
Garrett Wilson: 31
Jaylen Harris: Special teams only
Jameson Williams: Special teams only
Xavier Johnson: Special teams only
Ohio State stuck with its core five-man rotation at wide receiver – which consists of Victor and Wilson at X receiver, Mack and Olave at Z receiver and Hill as the slot receiver in three-receiver formations – against the Spartans. The senior trio of Hill, Victor and Mack all played season-high snap counts to date against Michigan State, while each of the Buckeyes’ top five receivers – the only receivers to see playing time on offense – played at least 30 snaps.
Luke Farrell: 32
Jeremy Ruckert: 22
Rashod Berry: 18
Jake Hausmann: 15
Mitch Rossi: 3
As it has all season, Ohio State continued to rotate four players regularly at the tight end position against Michigan State. The Buckeyes only used multi-tight end packages on 13 plays against the Spartans, a decline from their first five games of the year, but Farrell, Ruckert, Berry and Hausmann still all played at least 15 snaps, as each of them have in every game this year (excluding Berry, who missed the season opener with an undisclosed injury).
Rossi, a walk-on, also saw playing time at tight end for a sixth consecutive game to open the season on Ohio State’s final possession of the night.
Thayer Munford: 76
Jonah Jackson: 76
Josh Myers: 76
Wyatt Davis: 76
Branden Bowen: 70
Joshua Alabi: 6
Gavin Cupp: Special teams only
Nicholas Petit-Frere: Special teams only
Kevin Woidke: Special teams only
Alabi started his second consecutive game at right tackle after earning offensive player of the game honors at Nebraska, but was replaced by Bowen – Ohio State’s starting right tackle for the first four games of the year – after noticeably struggling on the Buckeyes’ first two offensive series of the game, on which Ohio State failed to gain a first down.
Other than that, the Buckeyes did not make any substitutions on their offensive line for the remainder of the game. Munford played every snap at left tackle, even after limping off the field slowly following a third-down stop by Michigan State’s defense in the first quarter, while Jackson, Myers and Davis also played every offensive snap for the first time this year at left guard, center and right guard.
Chase Young: 63
Tyreke Smith: 28
Jonathon Cooper: 24
Zach Harrison: 14
Javontae Jean-Baptiste: 9
Young played more than twice as many individual snaps as any other defensive end against Michigan State, as he was on the field for all but five of Ohio State’s defensive plays against the Spartans.
Cooper made his second start of the season after missing the first four games of the year with an ankle injury, but did not play after Ohio State’s first defensive series of the third quarter in Saturday’s game. Smith, who had missed the Buckeyes’ previous two games with an injury of his own, played the most snaps opposite Young against the Spartans, while Harrison and Jean-Baptiste also rotated in for their share of playing time.
Perhaps most interestingly, Harrison also lined up at nose tackle for two plays in pass-rushing packages on which the Buckeyes deployed a three-man defensive line. The true freshman also recorded two tackles – including one split sack with Young – on his first two plays in the game as a traditional defensive end.
Jashon Cornell: 33
Davon Hamilton: 29
Robert Landers: 22
Haskell Garrett: 19
Tommy Togiai: 14
Antwuan Jackson: 9
Jerron Cage: 4
Ohio State relied more heavily on its starting defensive tackles against Michigan State than it did in any of its previous five games, as Cornell and Hamilton both played season-high snap counts to date against the Spartans.
Landers and Garrett played the most snaps behind the starters as the second-team defensive tackles against the Spartans – with Landers also playing three snaps as a nose tackle in three-man pass-rushing fronts – while Togiai also rotated in for occasional playing time at nose tackle over the course of the game.
All but one of Jackson’s nine snaps against the Spartans came in the second half of the game, while Cage’s only playing time came on the Buckeyes’ final defensive series in the fourth quarter.
Malik Harrison: 55
Pete Werner: 50
Baron Browning: 41
Tuf Borland: 40
Brendon White: 17
Dallas Gant: Special teams only
Justin Hilliard: Special teams only
K’Vaughan Pope: Special teams only
Jahsen Wint: Special teams only
Ohio State shortened its linebacker rotation to its five most experienced linebackers against Michigan State. Harrison started at weakside linebacker, Werner started at strongside linebacker and Borland started at middle linebacker, while Browning rotated in for snaps at both Will and Mike linebacker and White saw some playing time in the second half at Sam linebacker.
White also played five snaps as a fourth linebacker/second safety – the truest form of the bullet position that we’ve seen yet – in the Buckeyes’ third-down pass-rushing package that utilized a three-man defensive front. The Buckeyes also utilized a 4-2-5 nickel package for six plays in Saturday’s game in which Harrison and Browning were the only linebackers on the field while Josh Proctor was in the lineup as a second safety.
Shaun Wade: 68
Jeff Okudah: 59
Cameron Brown: 35
Damon Arnette: 33
Marcus Williamson: 9
Sevyn Banks: Special teams only
Marcus Hooker: Special teams only
Amir Riep: Special teams only
Wade was the lone Buckeye to play every defensive snap against Michigan State, as he was on the field for all 68 of Ohio State’s defensive plays. While he primarily plays as a slot cornerback, Wade lined up all over the field in Saturday’s game, even lining up along the edge of the defensive line on a couple of plays.
Okudah played every snap at outside cornerback until the final defensive series of the game, for which he was substituted out for Williamson. Arnette played every snap at outside cornerback until he suffered a wrist/hand injury on the second-to-last defensive play of the first half; Brown replaced Arnette in the lineup for the rest of the game.
Jordan Fuller: 59
Josh Proctor: 15
Fuller played every snap at safety until the final defensive series of Saturday’s game, for which he was replaced by Proctor. Fuller was seen limping after intercepting a pass (and returning it for what would have been a touchdown if not for a questionable illegal block penalty against Browning) on his final play in the game, so it’s unclear whether he would have been able to play on the last defensive series, though several other starters were also substituted out of the game at that point.
As aforementioned, Proctor also played six snaps over the course of the game as a second safety in the Buckeyes’ 4-2-5 nickel package, all in 2nd-and-long or 3rd-and-long passing situations for Michigan State’s offense.
Field Goals/Extra Points
Blake Haubeil (kicker)
Drue Chrisman (holder)
Liam McCullough (long snapper)
Luke Farrell (blocker)
Joshua Alabi (blocker)
Wyatt Davis (blocker)
Gavin Cupp (blocker)
Jerron Cage (blocker)
Nicholas Petit-Frere (blocker)
Kevin Woidke (blocker)
Jake Hausmann (blocker)
Ohio State did not make any changes to its place-kicking unit against Michigan State from its first five games of the season.
Blake Haubeil (kicker)
Josh Proctor or Xavier Johnson (gunner)
Justin Hilliard (gunner)
Amir Riep (gunner)
K’Vaughan Pope (gunner)
Sevyn Banks or Jameson Williams (gunner)
Marcus Hooker (gunner)
Dallas Gant (gunner)
Cameron Brown (gunner)
Marcus Williamson (gunner)
Jahsen Wint (gunner)
Ohio State rolled out the same lineup for its kickoff coverage unit against Michigan State that it used in its previous game against Nebraska.
K.J. Hill (returner)
Austin Mack (blocker)
Mitch Rossi (blocker)
Xavier Johnson (blocker)
Jake Hausmann (blocker)
Justin Hilliard (blocker)
Jaylen Harris (blocker)
Dallas Gant (blocker)
Binjimen Victor (blocker)
Amir Riep (blocker)
Jahsen Wint (blocker)
In a move likely made with a priority on ball security over big-play potential, Ohio State turned to Hill – its most sure-handed receiver – to handle return duties on all three of Michigan State’s kickoffs on Saturday instead of Demario McCall, who was the Buckeyes’ primary kickoff returner for their first five games of the year.
Mack, Rossi and Victor replaced Steele Chambers, Rashod Berry and Cameron Brown on the kickoff return blocking unit from Nebraska.
Drue Chrisman (punter)
Liam McCullough (long snapper)
Tuf Borland (upback)
Jake Hausmann (upback)
Luke Farrell (wing)
Malik Harrison (guard)
Dallas Gant (guard)
Jordan Fuller or Austin Mack (tackle)
Justin Hilliard (tackle/gunner)
Chris Olave (gunner)
Cameron Brown or Jeff Okudah (gunner)
Every player on the punting unit against Michigan State had played on that unit in at least one previous game this season. Fuller and Brown started the game with the punting unit but were replaced by Mack and Okudah for Chrisman’s final punt of the game.
K.J. Hill or Garrett Wilson (returner)
Cameron Brown (rusher/blocker)
Chris Olave (rusher/blocker)
Justin Hilliard (rusher/blocker)
Dallas Gant (rusher/blocker)
Austin Mack (rusher/blocker)
Shaun Wade (rusher/blocker)
Xavier Johnson (rusher/blocker)
Sevyn Banks (rusher/blocker)
Amir Riep (rusher/blocker)
Jahsen Wint (rusher/blocker)
Like on kickoff returns, Hill replaced McCall as the Buckeyes’ lead punt returner for the Michigan State game, but Wilson was also deployed as the punt returner for two of the Spartans’ seven punts. Neither of them actually returned a punt in Saturday’s game.
Field Goal/Extra Point Block
Jeff Okudah (blocker)
Chase Young (blocker)
Damon Arnette or Cameron Brown (blocker)
Jordan Fuller (blocker)
Jashon Cornell (blocker)
Pete Werner (blocker)
Shaun Wade (blocker)
Tuf Borland (blocker)
Malik Harrison (blocker)
Davon Hamilton (blocker)
Haskell Garrett (blocker)
Ohio State used the same kick-blocking unit against Michigan State that it previously used against Miami (Ohio) with the exception of Teradja Mitchell (who was unavailable to play in Saturday’s game) and Sevyn Banks, who were replaced by Borland and Wade. Young, who previously blocked a field goal against Cincinnati, came closer to blocking two separate field goals against the Spartans, just narrowly missing both.
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