25 September 2011
Luke Fickell just improved his resume in my mind. When you look back at Miami you have to think this team was just not prepared. Miami gets handled by Maryland in their opening game. They come back after the Ohio State game and get beat on their home field by Kansas State. Last week I saw the poorest tackling performance that I can remember from an Ohio State football team. This week it was back to its old self. Missed tackles were few and far between. Hitting and wrapping was the order of the day. That is a coaching staff getting its ship righted.
Overall this was the best performance of the year. In all phases of the game the Buckeyes clicked. This was the best special teams performance we have seen since 2009. We used to see the Buckeyes have a weapon in the punter. We are seeing that again with Ben Buchanan. How many punts does he have already this year where he pinned the opponent inside the 10? Basil seems to have found his line. The best part was seeing the coverage teams finally playing disciplined, staying in their lanes and shutting down kick returners. The kicking game is so much about field position, and playing field position can win you games. I don't care how well your kicker is kicking the ball, if you are not getting good coverage you lose the field position battle. Speaking of weapons, Jordan Hall is looking like the kind of kick returner who will have teams kicking the ball away from him. Heady play by Chris Fields on the one punt that kicked off one of the Buckeye blockers. Fields reacted immediately. What I loved was how he looked up to see where the coverage was, see if he had time to try to make a play or if he should have just fallen on it. Chad Hagan stood out on the coverage team.
The offensive game plan was perfect for a freshman starting his first game. The plan was simple. Third and short is something every team in football is looking for but especially when a young quarterback is under center. It may have seemed conservative but that is what was needed. Fans might have wanted to see the full playbook. That is not what Miller needed. Put the plays in that Miller does well, that he is comfortable with. Only those plays. I think they did a great job. I think he did a great job. Early jitters emerged on the first series but he quickly righted himself. I could not have been more irritated at the announcer who had decided before Miller stepped on the field that he was not a good passer. Miller is not a running quarterback who can throw the ball just well enough to be a quarterback. He is an athletic quarterback in the truest sense of the term. The pass he threw to Devin Smith that was wrongly called, Smith did not drop that ball until he hit the ground, was a thing of beauty and will be something we will see regularly out of Miller. Great first start.
We are seeing the beginnings of a combination with Miller and Smith. They seem to be on the same page already. We think about the great combinations in Buckeye history, Smith and Gonzalez, Pryor and Sanzenbacher, being the most recent. What do they have in common? The quarterback knows that player will get open and catch the ball. Ginn was the playmaker but Smith looked to Gonzalez when he needed a catch. Posey was the playmaker but Pryor looked to Sanzenbacher. I think we could be looking at the beginnings of the most prolific combination in Buckeye history because Smith is both a chain mover and a big play guy. I don't know who is going to be opposite him in the future. I am still not happy at the number of dropped easily catchable balls. TY Williams comes in, gets him in the perfect spot but drops the ball. I would tell the receivers it is very simple. Those who get open and catch the ball will be the first into the game.
If you would have told me that Rod Smith was the next NFL running back out of this program I would have agreed with you. If you said Carlos Hyde was the next NFL running back out of this program I would have said that could happen. If you said Jamal Berry was the next NFL running back out of this program I would have said maybe. If he can stay healthy enough to get some reps. The last back that I would have believed would be an NFL back is Jordan Hall. He is playing great. He is hitting holes like a much bigger back. He has great quick feet and his balance is like a cat. He can be a great receiver out of the backfield, something the NFL covets, and he can help your football team in the return game. Zach Boren may beat them all to the NFL. Fullbacks don't go high in the draft. Most don't go at all but they make NFL rosters as free agents. There is no better blocking fullback in college football than Zach Boren. I think he could do some damage with the ball in his hands if we would just give it to him. I hate that he will be given credit for a holding on the opening kickoff. Boren was all in that guys pads. He had him. Great job of faking it by him. I thought Rod Smith had his best game.
How many motion penalties by this line? Sophmore starters, first year starters, at three positions. I don't know how many they have but put them altogether and they don't have as many as Shugarts. That is ridiculous that he keeps jumping. That said, he is playing well. The offensive line is playing well in general. I could not be happier with the pass protection and the running game is pretty potent, especially now with Hall looking like a really special player. Norwell has settled into left tackle and he is playing so well. Yesterday he gave up a sack that was not his fault. That number 17 for Colorado has a really nasty spin move. Miller still needs to improve his pocket presence. That will come in time. Number 17 gets half the credit and Miller takes half the blame. Number 17 got Hall who was playing out at tackle some too. As solid as Brewster is and as well as Norwell is playing I still give the offensive line MVP to Mewhort. He is playing so well.
I also give credit to the tight ends. Good blocking from both Fragel and Stoneburner. I am especially happy about Stoneburner. I always questioned whether he, really any former wide receiver, can make the move from blocking on secondary players to inline blocking. With the size of receivers these days coming out of high school, so many are going to outgrow wide receiver. It is rare to see one make the transition. Stoneburner is doing it. There was never any question about him catching the ball.
Simon, Hankins, Bellamy, Goebel and Bennett are playing lights out. Bellamy was absolutely spectacular yesterday. Simon is looking like one of those exceptions. When I say exceptions I am talking about a player who does not fit the template for the positions he plays but will be an NFL success anyway. What gets overlooked is his explosion. He has a great first step and a great first three steps. He is smart and technically sound. His massive strength is really extra.
I am still very concerned about the lack of pass rush from the front four, or more specifically the Leo/Viper/Edge position. That is your sack position. That is your pressure position. I am looking at a handful of players operating out there who have all the tools but they can't get off blocks. Running free is what a pass rusher wants. I would like to see Mike Vrabel get more involved with the pass rushers. I fear it will cost the Buckeyes at some point if it does not get worked out. Right now John Simon is the best player for the position. If you want to keep Simon where he is I would say give more reps to Baldwin. He seems like he gets it better than the others who are lined up at the position. I would make sure that Adolphus Washington and Ifeadi Odenigbo are aware that nobody is stepping up and taking hold at the position.
Ryan Shazier has to get on the field somewhere. He has the best instincts of the lot. He does not take bad attack angles, something that is killing Etienne Sabino. Shazier is solid in coverage, something that will push Andrew Sweat down draft boards. Shazier is the one three down linebacker that the Buckeyes have. If there is another it would be Storm Klein. He had another good game versus the run and he is solid in his coverage drops. Fans may not be able to appreciate Klein until Nebraska and Wisconsin. Having a true middle linebacker in there in those games will make a difference. The one negative I saw from the linebackers is on the one big run Colorado had. Both Sweat and Klein over pursued. We saw that too much versus Miami.
Christian Bryant not starting until this game hurt this football team. Ryan Shazier may be the only defensive player who has the same kind of instincts that Bryant has. Bryant led the team with 6 tackles. It seemed like he had more. A mixed bag for Travis Howard. He had a couple of bad plays including the first touchdown but he had more good plays.
A solid all around performance by everyone from the coaching staff on down. A good game to get well and get ready for the Big Ten season.
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