Friday, June 16, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State Buckeyes
One thing has become apparent at Ohio State, and that is you never bet against Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. Of course, that was not the case when the Buckeyes fell to Penn State last season, and could not shake them in the East Division after that, but even the masters hit a bump in the road every now and then. Ohio State has a roster loaded with talent despite draft losses, and Urban Meyer can coach anyone up to make a run at titles, but will this edition overcome the Penn State problem and get back to the playoffs?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The line will once again be one of the strongest in the Big 10, as four starters return from last fall. Billy Price at C is the leader with his 41 career starts at Ohio State. Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince are both back to anchor the tackle positions, and should be two of the best at OT in the nation. Michael Jordan will also be back at OG, and started 13 games last fall, the first freshman at Ohio State to do that since Orlando Pace in 1994.
JT Barrett is simply one of the more versatile QBs in the nation playing on a championship caliber team. He has 30 starts under his belt as a Buckeye, and passed for 2555 yards last fall, while rushing for 845 more. He totaled 33 TDs last fall, and will be a featured weapon across the board once more.
Mike Weber returns after cracking the 1000 yard mark last fall as a RS freshman. He finished the season with 1096 yards rushing, and averaged 6.02 yards per carry. Demario McCall is back after his freshman season, and will be the primary backup. He has big play ability, as he averaged 5.51 yards per carry in limited duty. One thing is for certain, and that is that the Buckeyes will figure out a way to effectively run the football behind this line.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin are the only two receivers with starting experience coming back, and they have a grand total of 13 starts between them, and combined for just 24 receptions last fall. They will have to step up into much larger roles in 2017, but even the Ohio State spring guide identified this group as their most worrisome.
The Buckeyes also have to replace PK Tyler Durbin, who hit 17/21 FG attempts in 2016. Sean Nuernberger is the most likely candidate to take his place in camp.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Buckeyes will have one of the most active and deepest lines in the nation this season, as every starter from last fall returns to the lineup. Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard are back at DE this fall, and they combine for 39 career starts. Lewis led the team with 10.5 TFLs, while Hubbard finished with eight. Michael Hill and Dre'Mont Jones will be back at DT. Jones finished with 52 tackles last season, while Hill was the pile mover, and finished with three TFLs. Jalyn Holmes will rotate in at DE, and the staff is high on him. Tracy Sprinkle started the first game of last season, and was injured and lost for the season, but returns to add depth up the middle. Nick Bosa is another rotational player at DE, and was named as a freshman All-American last fall.
Chris Worley and Jerome Baker both return at LB, and Dante Booker, who was injured in game one last season, also returns to give the Buckeyes a massively talented LB corps. Baker was a beast for a kid that was not supposed to start last fall, finishing second on the team with 83 tackles, and 9.5 TFLs. Worley finished with 69 tackles. Look for Malik Harrison to see more time as well after showing a few flashes as a freshman last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The secondary will be bringing back just one starter this fall in Safety Damon Webb. He finished with 57 tackles last fall, three PBUs, and one pick, which are hardly Earth shattering numbers. The Buckeyes will have to replace Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley at CB, and Malik Hooker at Safety. That is a load of talent and production to replace, and although the Buckeyes always have talent, that group will be very green, especially early in the season against a seasoned passer like Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma.
Cameron Johnston is also gone at Punter for the Buckeyes after averaging 46.68 yards per punt last fall. Yet again, his will be very large shoes to fill, and word on who will be handling that job likely will not come down until the season opener.
2017 Schedule: 8/31 at Indiana, 9/9 Oklahoma, 9/16 Army, 9/23 UNLV, 9/30 at Rutgers, 10/7 Maryland, 10/14 at Nebraska, 10/28 Penn State11/4 at Iowa, 11/11 Michigan State, 11/18 Illinois, 11/25 at Michigan. 
Final Overview
There are only three games that I suspect will make the Buckeyes sweat in 2017, and they get two of those games at home against Oklahoma and a huge revenge match against Penn State. The only road game to worry about is the trip to play arch rival Michigan. I strongly suspect that the Buckeyes will be favored in every game they play, and could very well overcome the loss to Penn State last season and win back the East, and make a run at a national title in the process. Look for the Buckeyes to ride the wave on offense, especially if they can resolve their issues at receiver, which I believe they can, and the front seven should create enough chaos in give the secondary time to grow. In short, there is absolutely no reason to suspect that Ohio State won't be very much in the playoff conversation come November.

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