Inside the Box: Looking at the Receiver Roles, How Defensive Adjustments Halted Michigan's Chances, 2019 Secondary Could Be the Best Ever

By Jake Anderson on December 3, 2019 at 2:25 pm
Wilson, Hill, and Ruckert

Ohio State's undefeated regular season is now complete.

The Buckeyes finished Ryan Day's first full 12-game slate with a perfect record after dismantling Michigan, 56-27. It was the second-most points scored on Michigan in the history of the rivalry. 

In today's Inside the Box, we'll take a look at the different receiver archetypes, how Ohio State's adjustments were the difference, and how this year's secondary may be better than the legendary 2016 defensive backfield. 

Different Year, Same Production

Who is the best receiver on Ohio State's roster?

The obvious answer is Chris Olave, who leads the team with 705 yards, 11 touchdowns, and an outstanding 17.2 yards per catch. Perhaps you prefer a more consistent option, such as K.J. Hill, who has a team-high 44 catches on the year. 

Whichever suits your fancy, it is obvious that the Bucks have different roles for each receiver. Just like last year, which boasted a sextet of talented wideouts, Ohio State has clearly defined roles that help each wideout fit into its offensive system. 

Ohio State's Leading Receivers
Player Yards Receptions Touchdowns
Chris Olave 705 41 11
K.J. Hill 486 44 8
Binjimen Victor 480 29 6
Garrett Wilson 368 24 5
Austin Mack 273 20 3

Olave has emerged as Justin Fields' favorite target. The sophomore wideout has 41 catches and 12 plays of 20+ yards, by far the best mark on the team. Meanwhile, Hill has remained as the consistent, short-yardage target for Fields like he was for Haskins. On the other side, Binjimen Victor and Garrett Wilson are big-play players, acting primarily as red-zone targets with game-breaking potential. Austin Mack is somewhere in between all of this, acting as a reliable intermediate target. 

Each receiver has made their fair share of highlight plays, with this Fields-to-Wilson touchdown just being the latest iteration. 

Ohio State will need more big plays from its wideouts as it will be going against some of the best defenses in the nation for the rest of the way. 

Halftime Adjustments Steal the Show

Against its rival, the Silver Bullets stumbled out of the gate. 

The Buckeyes were missing Shaun Wade, of course, but Patterson and co. carved up the visitors for the first 30 minutes. The Wolverines were able to neutralize Chase Young and the rest of the Rushmen while carving up a secondary without its star slot cornerback. 

If it had not been for the most Shea Patterson fumble of all time, Ohio State may have faced a deficit going into the break. Instead, Robert Landers pounced on Patterson's miscue and the Bucks drove down the field for a touchdown, effectively pulling away from the Wolverines. 

After the break, Ohio State rebounded, returning to the stifling form the nation has witnessed all season long. 

Halftime Adjustments Made the Difference

Michigan had a success rate of 53%, per ESPN's Bill Connelly, in the first half. After returning from the locker room, it was reduced to just 40%, below the national average. 

One of the major adjustments out of halftime was how Ohio State got in the backfield. While Chase Young was statistically limited against the home team, his monstrous ability and halftime adjustments opened up holes for several different players. Defensive tackles Davon Hamilton and Robert Landers took advantage of their one-on-one matchups, combining for four tackles for loss and one sack. 

The 2019 Defensive Backfield Could Match 2016's Historic Season

When one thinks of Ohio State's 2016 season, the focus is immediately on the secondary. It was possibly the most stacked defensive backfield in school history, recording 21 interceptions and allowing under 50% of opposing pass attempts to be completed. First-round picks Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, Gareon Conley, and Denzel Ward highlighted what may be the most talented secondary in school history. 

Today, an argument can be made that the 2019 secondary is as good, if not better than that group. Through 12 games, the Buckeyes have recorded 15 interceptions this season, the sixth-best mark in the country. Potential top-ten pick Jeff Okudah leads Ohio State with three picks, and three players sit behind him with two apiece. 

It sounds crazy to say, but the numbers, for the most part, favor the 2019 secondary over the 2016 iteration. 

2019 Secondary > 2016 Secondary

It does, however, make some sense considering the draft chatter surrounding Shaun Wade and Damon Arnette. Both players have been mentioned as Day One or Two prospects. 

After the 2016 season, the Buckeyes had a major pass defense drop-off in 2017. With younger players making key contributions late in the game against Michigan, a similar decline appears unlikely. 

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