2008 Opponent Preview: Ohio State

Ohio State Offense:
Todd Boeckman is firmly entrenched as the starter, but the depth behind him is dropping off. However, Ohio State fans aren’t exactly mourning the departures of Robbie Schoenhoft and Antonio Henton, as God Himself arrives on campus in the form of one Terrelle Pryor. Pryor may start out as the primary backup over Joe Bauserman, and run a second unit of offense that will take advantage of his ability to throw and run.


Ohio State Quarterbacks Passing 2007
Name Comp Att % Yds TD Int Yds/Att
Todd Boeckman 190 298 63.76 2372 25 14 7.96
Robbie Schoenhoft 17 25 68.00 129 0 0 5.16
Antonio Henton 3 6 50.00 57 1 0 9.50
Ohio State Quarterbacks Rushing 2007
Name Att Yds TD Yds/Att
Todd Boeckman 56 63 0 1.13
Antonio Henton 9 41 0 4.56
Robbie Schoenhoft 10 32 1 3.20

Boeckman is a game manager who will neither win nor lose games for his team. If the running game is consistent (and, barring catastrophe, it will be), Boeckman should be in position to not screw things up for the Buckeyes. I am actually surprised to see that he had positive rushing yardage last year, but I guess the OSU O-line was good enough to keep his jersey clean. Pryor will likely come in for the Bucks in a Tebow-like freshman role, but with a more speedy, less physical style.

True junior Chris Wells is the conference’s best chance for a Heisman trophy going into the season. Behind him is sophomore speedster Brandon Saine, who will get looks in a hybrid RB/slot role in OSU’s “pony” formation, also known as a pro-set, but I guess it’s far less cool without a fun nickname. Senior Maurice Wells is the primary backup to the tailback position. Dan Herron provides a bit of depth before he will likely have to step up next year.


Ohio State Running Backs Rushing 2007
Name Att Yds TD Yds/Att
Chris Wells 274 1609 15 5.87
Maurice Wells 103 367 3 3.56
Brandon Saine 60 267 2 4.45
KC Christian 5 31 0 6.20
Joe Gantz 3 3 0 1.00
Dionte Johnson 1 -1 0 -1.00
Ohio State Running Backs Receiving 2007
Name Att Yds TD Yds/Att
Brandon Saine 12 160 1 13.33
Maurice Wells 10 47 1 4.70
Chris Wells 5 21 0 4.20
Trevor Robinson 3 10 1 3.33

Chris Wells is really, really good. He is a tough back with speed. Saine is a speedy back who provides a change of pace and the opportunity for big receptions out of the backfield. With a couple capable backups, the Buckeyes will have a dropoff if Wells goes down (obviously, he’s a Heisman candidate for a reason) but still have decent production.

The Brians Hartline and Robiskie, a redshirt junior and true senior, respectively, are the starters at wideout. Ray Small is the third receiver, but the true junior has had disciplinary issues this offseason, and it remains to be seen if he can get completely in line, or whether he will serve a suspension of some sort. Junior Jake Ballard and fifth-year senior Rory Nicol are the main tight ends for the Bucks.


Ohio State Receivers 2007
Name Rec Yds TD Yds/Rec
Brian Robiskie 55 935 11 17.00
Brian Hartline 52 694 6 13.35
Ray Small 20 267 2 13.35
Jake Ballard (TE) 13 149 2 11.46
Rory Nicol (TE) 16 84 0 5.25
Dane Sanzenbacher 11 82 1 7.45
Taurian Washington 3 46 1 15.33
Devon Torrence 4 31 0 7.75
Brandon Smith (TE) 3 30 0 10.00
Ohio State Receivers Rushing 2007
Name Att Yds TD Yds/Att
Ray Small 4 49 0 12.25
Brian Hartline 6 46 0 7.67
Dane Sanzenbacher 1 9 0 9.00

Everyone relevant returns (with Small’s status still up in the air), and it gets to a point where it just isn’t fair. The top few wideouts had good yardage for each catch, and the tight ends were a little bleah, which is to be expected in a system that doesn’t throw to the tight end particularly often. This should be an area of strength for the Bucks, and they will look to build depth this year, as they will be losing several players.

Four linemen return (if we’re keeping score, that is EVERY offensive starter back except for one). At left tackle, true senior and recovering(?) alcoholic Alex Boone returns for his final go-round with the Bucks. The left guard will be true senior Steve Rehring. Redshirt junior Jim Cordle will start at center, and right guard will be manned by 5th-year senior Ben Person. At right tackle, the situation is a little unclear following the departure of Kirk Barton. True freshman Mike Adams was expected to be the starter, but he suffered a shoulder injury in spring practice, and is expected to miss at least the first couple games. Bryant Browning, a redshirt sophomore, is the new projected starter.

With four returning starters, most of them holding multiple years of some starting experience, the only possible weak link along the Buckeye offensive line is at right tackle. The uncertainty following Adams’s injury is a bit of relief for opposing fans, though not much. As long as Adams (should he return) and Browning are not completely incompetent, the Mike DeBord meme of “run left” should be an effective offensive strategy in Columbus. Boeckman’s blind side will be protected adequately, and without major mistakes, the OSU offensive line should approach impenetrable. Backups along the offensive line include top-ranked freshmen JB Shugarts and Mike Brewster.

Offensive Analysis:
Ingredients: Ohio State’s entire offense from last year. A new right tackle.
Procedure: Give one year additional experience. Prune right tackle, replacing with the new one. Unleash on the Big Ten. Profit.

Ohio State Defense:

Defensive Line:
First-rounder Vernon Gholston is gone, but the remainder of the line returns intact. True sophomore Cameron Heyward mans one of the end positions, and redshirt junior Todd Denlinger is one of the tackles. The other tackle position may have a bit of unrest, following redshirt junior Doug Worthington’s DUI/sketchy registration arrest. If he doesn’t return (which he almost certainly will be the Michigan game), 5th-year senior Nader Abdallah, with whom Worthington split starts last year, and redshirt sophomore Dexter Larimore look to get more playing time. The pass-rushing defensive end spot will likely be filled by redshirt junior Lawrence Wilson, with redshirt sophomore Thaddeus Gibson challenging.


Ohio State Defensive Line 2007
Name Tackle TFL Sacks
Vernon Gholston 37 15.5 14
Cameron Heyward 33 10 2.5
Doug Worthington 24 2 1
Nader Abdallah 19 3 1
Dexter Larimore 16 5.5 2
Todd Denlinger 13 3 1
Thaddeus Gibson 11 3 1
Alex Barrow 5 0 0
Robert Rose 4 1.5 1
Lawrence Wilson 2 1.5 1
Bryan Gray 2 .5 0
Brett Daly 1 .5 0

Vernon Gholston was the primary pass-rusher last year, and provided a speedy threat that the Buckeyes didn’t really get from elsewhere. With him gone, there may be a little less pressure on the quarterback, but the run defense form the line should be about the same. One thing that surprised me was the lack of overall tackles from the D-line. However, the DL generally allowed the linebackers to get the tackles. With another year of experience, they should improve slightly, but it may be hard to replace a first-rounder like Gholston.

James Laurinaitis is back for his true senior year, and Marcus Freeman is a redshirt senior who will flank him on the strong side. Larry Grant is gone from the weakside, and will be replaced by redshirt sophomore Ross Homan. Austin Spitler, Tyler Moeller, and Brian Rolle will play backup roles.


Ohio State Linebackers 2007
Name Tackle TFL Sack Int
James Laurinaitis 121 8.5 5 2
Marcus Freeman 109 9.5 1.5 0
Larry Grant 51 9.5 5 1
Austin Spitler 26 2.5 1 0
Ross Homan 12 2 0 0
Brian Rolle 11 .5 0 0
Tyler Moeller 8 0 0 0
Ryan Lukens 4 0 0 0
Jermale Hines 3 0 0 0

Laurinaitis was the Big Ten defensive player of the year and Bronko Nagurski award winner in 2007, and Freeman was a second-team all-conference. This unit will be strong from those two, but there is a big dropoff from the starters to the backups (as should be obvious with players of their caliber). Homan is unproven on the weakside, and he redshirted last year after playing a limited role as a true freshman. The linebackers were strong last year, and, barring injury, should continue to be this year.

Defensive Backs:
Ohio State returns all four starters in the secondary. Corner Malcolm Jenkins is a headliner. The senior has been first-team all-conference the past two years, and will be a high draft pick this spring. Redshirt junior Donald Washington starts at the other corner, having started all of last year and much of 2006. The safeties are led by junior Anderson Russell at the free position. The other spot is Kurt Coleman, who started each game last year as well. The primary backup at corner is Chimdi Chekwa. Jamario O’Neal is the first safety off the bench, though the backup situation at free safety will have to be worked out somewhat with the departure of Eugene Clifford.


Ohio State Defensive Backs 2007
Name Tackle TFL Sack Int
Kurt Coleman 64 3.5 1 0
Anderson Russell 63 7 3 0
Malcolm Jenkins 47 5 0 4
Donald Washington 39 2 1 1
Chimdi Chekwa 30 2 0 1
Jamario O’Neal 14 2 0 0
Eugene Clifford 8 0.5 0 0
Nick Patterson 6 0 0 1
Marcus Williams 6 0 0 0
Aaron Gant 6 0 0 0
James Scott 5 0 0 0
Andre Amos 3 0 0 0

Just like the other positions on defense, there is good strength among the starters, but little proven depth. The dropoff from the starters, therefore, should be fairly substantial. However, the starters in this situation are so good, that as long as there isn’t a problem with injuries, the secondary should be very strong.

Defensive Analysis:
Ohio State’s defense, as should be expected with all the starters they return, has a very strong first unit, but a dropoff to the backups. If the team doesn’t have a lot of injury problems, they should have a lot of success on that side of the ball again this year. With the pass rush of Gholston off to the New York Jets, the pass defense should be a little weaker this year, and there may be more blitzing from the linebackers and secondary. However, with the strength of the units, that may not leave as many passing lanes as one may expect.

Special Teams:

Seniors Ryan Pretorius and AJ Trapasso return for their senior seasons at kicker and punter, respectively. Somewhere in Ohio, there is a secret laboratory that pumps out good kickers.


Ohio State Kicking 2007
Name FGM Att % Long XPM Att %
Ryan Pretorius 18 23 78.26 50 48 49 97.96
Utah Punting 2007
Name Punts Yds Avg
AJ Trapasso 53 2199 41.49

Ohio State should be solid on special teams, like usual. For their final season, expect Pretorius and Trapasso to have another good year.

Overall Analysis:
Ohio State is full of seniors, and is probably one of the most experienced teams in the country. On top of that, factor in that they’ve played in the last two championship games, and there’s a good chance they make it back, and perhaps even win this time. After 2008, they lose nearly everyone, but this should be a fun year for Buckeye fans.

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3 Comments so far

  1. footymcgavin says...

    I REALLY don’t think the OSU secondary pulled in 2500+ interceptions, or 700+ sacks, or 400+ TFLs…

  2. Tim says...

    That’s what YOU think. Fixed.

  3. andrew says...

    holy crap they’re loaded…

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