Inherit the Wind

By Ramzy Nasrallah on June 29, 2022 at 1:15 pm
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) and Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Julian Fleming (4) celebrate after a play during Saturday's NCAA Division I football game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., on November 6, 2021.
©Barbara J. Perenic | Dispatch

They're not building the whole roster out of wide receivers. Yet.

The most exciting guys at Ohio State currently are the ones who throw and catch the passes. They're producing most of the highlights, getting drafted in the early rounds and then showing up nicely at the next level.

Find out what you're good at and then do more of it sounds like something you'd read in a fortune cookie (don't forget to always add in bed to all fortune cookie fortunes) but in the Buckeyes' case, fortifying the air attack is more than a productive exercise. It's the path to every program goal.

Look at this blurb - it's from an article titled Is Ohio State WRU? Analytics Say the Buckeyes Belong in the Conversation.

There is no question that Ohio State deserves to be in the conversation as WRU. While the Buckeyes may not be able to claim the throne just yet, the future is looking bright; [Ohio State has] one of the best receiving corps in the nation and are bringing in some of the best recruits in the country for the next few years.

Hey, that sounds accurate in 2022. It's from an article we published in 2019.

Reputations are built over time and can crumble in a minute. Ohio State is objectively WRU these days and that carries both tremendous optics and championship relevance. It took a few years and a transformational position coach.

You may be old enough to remember arguments over which football program was the real Linebacker U. It was a big, heated deal - but these days DBU carries far more value. The game evolves, the players change and designations like Fullback U just don't have the same cache as they did during Prohibition.

Offenses have evolved through scheme innovation and unbalanced officiating to a point where defenses no longer win championships. They can only lose them; the offenses are way too powerful at the moment. Offense and recruiting are the current not-optionals for national championship contention.

The nation's top defense in 2021 belonged to Wisconsin, a program that requires Ohio State to be serving a postseason ban in order to win a conference championship. Georgia just won the CFP title with a unit that allowed nearly 1,000 more yards.

No one is saying Georgia's defense wasn't awesome; it was the best unit on a team that won it all with a unique combination of Tresselball and aliens at every position. Contrast that with the nation's third best defense, Minnesota, which carries a mostly alien-free roster.

The defensive coordinator for the unit that finished fourth nationally in 2021 now earns his paychecks in Columbus. Ryan Day brought him there because the defense at his program was squandering titles.

The DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR who did the most with the least now gets his shot to do the best with the most.

The fifth-best defense in the country last season belonged to Air Force - the Falcons went 10-3 and didn't win their division. The top five defenses in 2020 belonged to Army, Marshall, San Diego State, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

In 2019, Ohio State had America's best defense. Top six on both sides of the ball, actually - just like its CFP semifinal opponent. LSU, which routed Clemson for that season's CFP title, was ranked no.31 defensively. But no one had a better offense outside of Baton Rouge.

Defenses don't win championships anymore. They just have to be good enough. Resources are finite at every program - even Alabama - which means offenses in 2022 receive bigger dessert plates at recruiting time.

Anyone who watched the Buckeyes attempt to play defense in 2021 is understandably cautious heading into the 2022 season, but some of you are wary that Ohio State is accumulating more of its strength while seemingly ignoring its glaring weakness. That's not true, but it also misses the bigger picture.

Coaching has been implicated as a far bigger culprit to the Buckeyes' defensive shortcomings than talent. And as if inflation and supply chain scarcity couldn't get any worse, there are no more Bosas. Chase Young was a limited-edition. They're all out of stock.

But they're still importing plenty of aliens into Columbus, and a lot of them will play defense.

Landing 14 stars worth of receivers inside of a few days doesn't mean Ohio State is neglecting the other side of the ball. No one went to prison for the 2021 defense, you recently screamed at a barbecue. That's true. But Kerry Coombs did go to Cincinnati.

Matt Barnes left for Memphis. And even Paul Rhoades went back to high school. None of those moves are career upgrades; jail can be metaphorical. The DC who did the most with the least now gets his shot to do the best with the most.

And working for a program that launches fireworks on offense and manufactures more of them during offseason recruiting battles only gives Jim Knowles more to work with. What better place for an aspiring NFL defensive back than the collective that features the best wide receivers in the country?

You haven't even read the word quarterback yet, and we're just about finished. Winning titles at the present moment in college football is about offense, recruiting and a defense that's good enough to not derail the effort. When Jim Tressel won it all in 2002, offense and defense had opposing roles in that equation.  

That was 20 years ago. Two decades later, a cadre of freakish wide receivers will lead the way.

As for Ohio State shoring up its defense, friends, they know. They know. They're on that too.

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