A Beautiful, Terrible Thing

By Ramzy Nasrallah on May 15, 2024 at 1:15 pm
Oct 21, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Ty Hamilton (58), defensive end Jack Sawyer (33) and defensive end JT Tuimoloau (44) celebrate during the NCAA football game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium.
© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

You've probably heard about the stacked roster Ohio State is rolling with this season.

The Buckeyes only had four players drafted last month largely because they were able to hang onto 11 high-end players who wanted to improve their draft position for a grand finale season. Half of their starters could be cashing capital-P paychecks this season instead of what they're getting to stay.

Ohio State's 2023 quarterback, condescendingly referred to as Honda while throwing in the general but imprecise direction of Maserati is now under center at a PT Cruiser football program. And Maserati's backfill appears to be quite good, too. You've heard about the stacked roster.

Diversity and mix of its collective experience and upside is inspiring. This is what Ohio State-level football programs should do every season. Lean in, here's the reason why: Because they can.

Every roster in the sport contains question marks, but this one has so many sure things on both sides of the ball it's hard to rank Ohio State's personnel outside of the top three nationally - unless you're trawling the internet basin for clicks from a notoriously reliable clicky fan base.

But you don't have to disparage OSU's depth for that. You could inflict damage instead.

Shhhhhhh stop it.

All anyone needs to hear about in May about the 2024 Ohio State football team is that it still needs offensive line depth and consistent development, especially after the performance in Arlington. The Buckeyes haven't had competent special teams in ages - let's not pretend restructuring that operation is an automatic fix.

After being spoiled for north of a decade with steady if not exquisite quarterback play, 2023 was a giant leap backward. The Buckeyes had an otherwise stifling defense couldn't get off the field on the 3rd downs when it absolutely had to get off the field.

For the third year in a row, the Silver Bullets laid down for the entirety of the 2nd half of the Michigan game. That's what people need to hear in May, with sincere apologies to readers who crave sunshine pumping during the months containing more than 28 days.

Joel Klatt works for the company which owns half of the B1G Network. If you're searching for the right metaphor, Klatt adulating the roster of a team he's going to do color for on several Saturdays is not like Ronald McDonald gushing about how well-constructed Big Macs are.

That's because Klatt's employer takes the most interesting conference matchups every Saturday and moves them to noon. He is Early Bird gushing about Egg McMuffins.

Instead of being provocative and ranking the Buckeyes' talent, like, sixth nationally, Klatt manufactured some unsolicited but highly flammable bulletin board material for every Ohio State opponent and non-opponent from which to draw inspiration.

It could have been worse. He could have taken it even further.

My aunt can become my uncle. All it takes is a phalloplasty and a fun Thanksgiving dinner revelation.

As a beleaguered and long-time member of The Offseason College Football Takes Industrial Complex I can understand why Richard Johnson would make audacious statements six full months ahead of the meaningful football games the Buckeyes have been mostly losing since Urban Meyer ran out of gas. I just don't appreciate it because I want him to be right.

Split Zone Duo is a popular college football podcast, where these kinds of takes are to be expected. But Klatt, ugh, Fox is B1G State Television in these football wars. It should be helping instead of hyping.

Last season ended as it did, and as comforting as it might be to look ahead to next season - the Cotton Bowl catastrophe happened. A third straight loss to Michigan happened. The biggest reupholstery in program history that didn't involve a head coaching change happened. They were as necessary as they were desperate.

The latter descriptor is an important one. Desperate moves often misfire. Ohio State's desperation moves all carry strong optics, with maybe the exception of Will Howard. He's fine. Fine just might be good enough to avoid telegraphed interceptions and missing wide open guys in Ann Arbor. That was almost the entire margin for error in the only game that mattered.

But forgive me for not being anxious to rush toward crowning a team that's 0-0 this season and 0-9 in program goals since the pandemic because it made positive moves with its roster during the annual Make Positive Moves with Your Roster portion of the calendar.

This offseason behavior should be an annual tradition, and next time they need to figure out how to build out what Meyer used to refer to as the heart and soul of the program. That would be the offensive line. The defensive line should be fine. This suggests otherwise:

No, On3 I do not agree. Defensive lines are only as good as their alignment and rotations over a 15-game season. Here are my rankings for Most Maddeningly Inefficient and Misaligned DL/DE Rotations since the 2019 ended:

1. Ohio State

That's the list, I don't care about other programs enough to be scientific or do more research. Lock Larry Johnson and Jim Knowles in a room with no catering until they figure out how to do this properly. That list might be the worst one.

Hey, maybe one more -

Barry Sanders aside, quarterback and offensive line cohesiveness matter - and neither of those units will show up on any of these premature adulation lists for good reasons. As for the two explosive and seasoned tailbacks, the familiar one hasn't made it through a season yet without missing significant time for injury rehabilitation.

The other will share the load with him, which seems to be an important part of the value proposition which brought him north. But we still don't know how that room is going to acclimate to a new position coach and new faces. We're talking about the C-word, here. Not that one. Chemistry. No one does offseason lists for that.

It's a safe bet staff matriculation and Ryan Day only holding down one job on game days will deliver a holistic makeover and upgrade to Saturdays, provided he doesn't get his micromanagement itch back. This should result in less clenching and more punching during the defining moments of the season.

Tony Alford's staleness, Perry Eliano's detachment and Parker Fleming's comprehensive ineffectiveness will all be replaced by something else. It's a big season for Keenan Bailey and Justin Frye. Ohio State hasn't seen staff upgrade like Chip Kelly for Corey Dennis since Fred Pagac Sr. took over Bill Young's defense after 1995.

See, that's worth adulating. A first-time head coach finally making difficult and important staff changes by importing seasoned talent instead of promoting a guy who just happened to be in the room. For me, this is as exciting as Caleb Downs defecting from Tuscaloosa.

Adulation is an elixir which creates a false sense of security. There is an antidote, though.

Queue up the wayback machine, when Ohio State was written off from title contention following its third loss over a four-game span. The current losing streak is far more devastating and stretched out, but it still exists. Disrespect is helpful. Condescension is helpful.

Back when Jim Harbaugh got a multi-game suspension - no, not the second time, the time before that - Michigan's season was declared over before it began because the walls were closing in. No one had ever heard of Connor Stalions, and that's important.

Because Harbaugh sitting out the first four games of Michigan's joke nonconference slate - Ohio State gets to enjoy one of those this season - created a safe environment for confidence boosting. His staff ate throughout September in games where their unconventional scouting and reconnaissance wasn't needed.

It gave the Wolverines a safe dose of adversity to overcome. That suspension was a gift.

By the time he got sidelined again, they were unstoppable.

Of course the systematic cheating gave them tailwinds, but by the time Stalions lost his parking spot at the football facility the Michigan vs. Everybody mindset was so ingrained it was showing up on hats and tee-shirts. This didn't begin with the Stalions revelations. It began the previous offseason.

Which a year later is being "won" by the Buckeyes, a team which hasn't won jack shit since the pandemic. This is adversity. And that should be the story of Ohio State's offseason.

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