The Buckeyes are loaded. We know it. Michigan knows it. The media knows it. SEC fan knows it, but won’t admit it. There really isn’t much use for breaking out the traditional preview. You know about Beanie Wells. You’ve seen James Laurinaitis on First Take. You’ve heard Jim Tressel talk about phenom Terrelle Pryor. You know that the team retained 20 starters from last season. You know Malcom Jenkins and Alex Boone were honored with Laurinaitis and Wells on many preseason all-American teams. You know the Buckeyes are favored to win their third straight outright Big Ten title (which would be a first for any team in the conference.) What you may not know is what could be Ohio State’s undoing this year. What weaknesses could bring down the Scarlet and Gray?
Keep in mind that if the Buckeyes beat USC on September 13th, I firmly believe they should finish the season undefeated. But what could go wrong? Where might a team be able to find a soft spot in the Buckeye armor? Let’s take a look-
The Pass Rush–
Ohio State retained almost all of the class of ’08. Almost. The one that got away was a big one. Lauinaitis and Freeman make a ton of plays, but Vernon Gholston was the Buckeye that opposing teams game planned away from. He was a quarterback pressure machine. OSU will need someone to step up and fill that role. Cameron Heyward can create some pressure from the DT spot, but will he be quick enough on the edge? Who else can get to the QB? Lawrence Wilson and Thaddeus Gibson will get the first opportunities.
The Passing Game–
Robiskie and Hartline caught at least 50 passes each last season. After the dynamic duo it was sort of slim pickings. Ray Small caught 20 passes and 2 scores, but it seems he has lost the 3rd receiver position to Dane Sanzenbacher. Hopefully this is good news, and means that Dane has shown improvement in route running and his understanding of the offense. I like Small, but he isn’t a big threat.
Perhaps the most telling factor in the passing game will be QB Todd Boeckman’s arm strength. Last season Todd underthrew his receivers on deep balls all the time. If the Buckeyes aren’t able to throw the ball long, and I’m not talking against Youngstown State, safeties will creep towards the line of scrimmage in an effort to help with the run. Of course it all works together with…
The Buckeyes are missing only one starter from last year’s O-Line, which should be a positive. This line was abused in the National Championship game however. You expect improvement from year to year in college, and Alex Boone came to practice in better shape than he has ever been, which is a good indicator of maturity. The Buckeyes will have to be improved up front when they play the tougher teams on the schedule, as most will be studying that LSU game tape. Expect to see more blitzes ala Illinois from each opponent this year.
Yes, I know I always talk about injuries when I do any kind of preview. The biggest thing that derails any team is injuries. Look at the Indians. The Buckeyes are a deep program, and can put the second string player in at most positions and not lose much. For Ohio State to achieve their goals this season, they will need a healthy Beanie Wells. More than any other player the weight of the season rests on his shoulders.