Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State and Urban Meyer seem like a match made in heaven as the Buckeyes went 12-0 in his first season at the helm. Ohio State was facing sanctions and not able to participate in a bowl so a National Championship was not to be. Ohio State is eligible this year and they have numerous pieces back from 2012.
Urban Meyer has made a habit of turning bad programs into good ones and good ones into great ones. His tactics have been questioned by many but one cannot argue with the results he produces.
With all the talk about Johnny Manziel and his attempt to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner and Teddy Bridgewater being the best pro prospect, Braxton Miller is the forgotten man. Miller had amazing numbers last year throwing for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns while running for another 13 and adding 1,271 total yards on the ground. Some wonder whether Miller has a game that translates to the NFL and I say it has to. Look at past quarterbacks like former Heisman winner Troy Smith, he stayed in the NFL for six years and had a decent career. Terrelle Pryor is in his 3rd year and is a backup for Oakland who is important to that offense. Miller is just under 6’2” and can throw the ball well so I say based on the success of past Buckeyes who had questions moving to the next level that you have to take Miller seriously. He may not have the best arm, he may not have perfect mechanics but he makes good decisions with the football. You can have all the talent in the world but half the game is mental and if you don’t have it upstairs you will just be spinning your wheels and your playing days are over before you know it. Speaking of playing days that are over, what to do now with Carlos Hyde being dismissed from the team. Hyde had 970 yards and 16 touchdowns a season ago, numbers that you don’t just replace automatically. Rod Smith assumes the starting role but that is a downgrade for the running game and we all know how important the running game is in the Big Ten.
Best Draft Prospect: Braxton Miller QB 3rd Round 2015 (possible he declares this year but unlikely unless Ohio State is playing for a National Title).
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Corey Brown is another player that flew under the radar but he is very elusive after the catch and this is what makes him so dangerous in the open field, catching the football or returning it. Corey Brown will see his draft status shoot up as a result of his return ability which resulted in a pair of touchdowns in 2012. Brown isn’t the only wide receiver on the team that will see his profile rise because of additional special teams work. Devin Smith has almost half as many catches but had only 41 yards less and had 6 touchdowns receiving to only 3 for Brown. Smith averaged over 20 yards per catch and he will be the kickoff return specialist. I like the starters and I have them both listed as 3rd/4th round prospect for their respective draft classes. The depth beyond Brown and Smith is a little fuzzy and Ohio State can ill afford an injury to one of these players. We are hearing that tight end Jeff Heuerman will be more involved in the passing game and this is a good thing. Heuerman only posted 8 catches a season ago and he has all the tools to excel and possibly take his talents to the next level. At 6’4” 255 pounds he seems to have the attributes you are looking for as a tight end/h-back in the league but he needs more work on his resume. Jordan Hall was hurt last season and he will be back in the fold as well as a hybrid type of back. This looks like a team without a true big time #1 target but there are enough talented starters to spread the ball around too, once again Ohio State just needs to avoid injury.
Best Draft Prospect: Corey Brown WR 3rd/4th Round 2014 and Devin Smith WR 3rd/4th Round 2015.
The offensive line is returning four starters and all of them are seniors. We should see three getting drafted and a camp invite/ undrafted free agent opportunity for the other. Jack Mewhort is the left tackle and he currently grades out as a 4th round prospect but tha t could rise as the third or even second round could be more likely since Mewhort is fast for his large 6’6” frame. Mewhort is a little slower off the snap but has good upper body strength and balance. Mewhort is a terrific all-around athlete he just won’t wow you, he is the type of player that is very pro ready but there is not a lot of upside, what you see is what you get. Guards Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall are both late round selections (Norwell for sure with Hall being a fringe prospect). Norwell could even make the first or second All Big Ten team. Both players are built more for the running game then they are for pass protection. Hall tends to struggle with arm extension and lets opponents get too close to his body and he loses leverage, a problem I have seen quite frequently on tape, he just needs some coaching to become more consistent. Pat Elflein and Tommy Brown are the young guards who provide stability and depth, this may be the deepest position along the line as these players are starters on nearly any other Big Ten squad. Corey Linsley will be the center and should receive a camp invite while young Taylor Decker inherits the starting role at right tackle and is only a sophomore, a player we will hear from in the future.
Best Draft Prospect: Jack Mewhort OT 4th Round 2014.
The Buckeyes do lose top sack artist John Simon and his 9 sacks from a season ago and there are questions along the line. Ohio State has the horses but they there are no returning starters along the line and only four along the defense that ranked 34th nationally a season ago. Ohio State had that “bend but don’t break” mentality and while they weren’t awful when you watched them you felt like they were capable of much more. Noah Spence looks like the one future prospect out of this group but we only have one season to go on and he is one of the keys to the defense. In limited time last season Spence made 12 stops and a sack but he is a plyer you can tell will produce when given a chance and now is his chance to shine. Ohio State is hoping he is the breakout star on defense along the line. Joel Hale and Michael Bennett have the task of patrolling the interior of the line, an area where Ohio State is usually very stout but they have questions after the natural ability of Jonathan Hankins is goner. Hankins is a perfect example of a draft pick that made 55 tackles with 4 for loss last year with 1 sack but he was capable of so much more and the “lazy “ label was attached to him. Ohio State needs to generate some pressure and not rely solely on their linebacker group which as usual is very good and most likely the strong suit of the defense.
Best Draft Prospect: Noah Spence DE 4th Round 2016.
Ryan Shazier is the leading tackler from a season ago and he is one of the four starters back in the fold. Shazier is currently projected as a 2nd rounder and one of the top outside linebackers in the draft class. 115 tackles with 17 for loss will be enough to garner a lot of attention but what helps most is the two new starters that both show a lot of promise meaning Shazier will have some room to operate. Curtis Grant is n the middle and in Joshua Perry a, a sophomore on the strong side, we have another potential star in the making for 2016. Many will see the linebackers as a weak corp with a pair of new starters but again both are very capable and this unit should be solid and get better as the year goes along. I still feel this is going to be the strong suit of the defense as there is a ton of versatility with the starters and backups
Best Draft Prospect: Ryan Shazier 2nd Round 2014.
While the linebackers will turn out to be the strong point of the defense it is Bradley Roby who is th best individual draft prospect on defense and for the entire team at this point. Roby is currently the top corner for the 2015 class and should be the top corner taken even if he declares this season with Louchiez Purifoy of Florida being the only corner I see who currently has a chance to be selected in front of him at this time. We have some late breaking development regarding Roby as he has now been suspended from the team for a battery charge. While running back Carlos Hyde was flat out released from the team Roby was just suspended after an altercation at a bar where he did not leave when asked to do so. At th time of writing this review it was not announced how long Roby would be suspended but this will have a direct impact on his draft status. I don’t feel this is enough to deter him from entering the draft but it could push him down the board and cost him a chance at being the first cornerback taken and he was likely to be selected in the #$8 – #17 range overall. Roby stands just a hair under 6’0” but he is expected to post a sub 4.4 time and has amazing ball skills and the best closing speed in the class. The only concerning factor is the number of balls he had his hands on where he did not make an interception. Roby consistently has good position and breaks passes up but he should have had about 3 or 4 more interceptions last year and frankly missed some easy opportunities to get a turnover. Doran Grant and freshman Cam Burrows will be the other corners contributing but the other point about the secondary is the strong play of senior safeties C. J. Barnett and Christian Bryant. Barnett grades out as a 3rd rounder while Bryan t should be selected in the 6th or 7th round. They do not have the freakish athletic ability as some of the younger linebackers but they are solid proven players that will ensure the Buckeyes do not give up a ton of yards through the air. This will further cause teams to try and run on the Buckeyes, again showing how the play of the defensive line must step up in order to ensure the defense is not on the field for an extended period of time.
Best Draft Prospect: Bradley Roby CB 1st Round 2015 (Likely to turn pro after 2013, looks like he will be the first corner off the board).
The return game should be in more than capable hands with Jordan hall returning and Devin Smith and Corey Brown available remember I did highlight a pair of returns for touchdown that Brown had last season. The biggest question comes in the kicking game. Ohio State is usually very strong kicking and punting the football and with Drew Basil handling both duties this is not a luxury area as in seasons past. As long as Ohio State is strong on coverage teams this should not be an area where they lose games on the field.
Best Draft Prospect: Jordan Hall 7th Round WR/PR 2014.
Ohio State has only one road game before October but the October 5th game at Northwestern could be dangerous for Ohio State as Northwestern matches up well. Wisconsin and Penn State are home games with the annual game with Michigan on the road to close out the regular season.
Ohio State has been seeing players getting drafted over the last few years but not in the first few rounds. That should change with the best corner available this year a Buckeye and Braxton Miller available to come out this year or next.