2009 Opponent Preview: Ohio State

Ohio State Offense


Terrelle Pryor supplanted Todd Boeckmann from the starting position at Ohio State by the middle of last season, and will retain the starting role in 2009. It’s the backups that are more iffy with the loss of Boeckmann. Joe Bauserman is a 500th-year redshirt sophomore who played baseball a few years before coming to Ohio State. True freshman dual-threat Kenny Guiton will provide some depth.

Ohio State QBs Passing 2008
Name Comp Att % Yds TD Int Yds/Att
Terrelle Pryor 100 165 60.61 1311 12 4 7.95
Todd Boeckmann 57 93 61.29 620 5 2 6.67
Joe Bauserman 3 6 50.00 22 0 0 3.67
Ohio State QBs Rushing 2008
Name Rush Yds TD Yds/Rush
Terrelle Pryor 139 631 6 4.54
Joe Bauserman 3 16 0 5.33
Todd Boeckmann 23 8 0 0.35


If Pryor goes down, the Buckeyes are Screwed-with-a-capital-S. Bauserman can throw the ball, of course, but Ohio State is going to have to rely on the playmaking ability of Pryor without a Beanie Wells-esque back. The top of the QB chart is very high, the depth is scary bad.


Beanie Wells bolted for the NFL after a junior year that was beset by injuries. Redshirt sophomore Dan Herron and true junior Brandon Saine will take over as the principal running backs, with a few players providing depth. Jamaal Berry, an incoming freshman, is a 5-star recruit, but will start the year in the doghouse after being arrested on a felony drug charge this spring.

Ohio State RBs Rushing 2008
Name Rush Yds TD Yds/Rush
Chris Wells 207 1197 8 5.78
Dan Herron 89 439 6 4.93
Maurice Wells 39 129 0 3.31
Brandon Saine 26 65 1 2.50
Marcus Williams 2 11 0 5.50
Joe Gantz 1 3 0 3.00
Ohio state RBs Receiving 2008
Name Rec Yds TD Yds/Rec
Chris Wells 8 47 0 5.88
Maurice Wells 6 42 0 7.00
Brandon Saine 3 37 0 12.33
Dan Herron 6 29 0 4.83


Herron should probably become the featured back, as he’s the slightly bigger and tougher of the two main options. Saine, on the other hand, is the speedier guy (who may excel in spread sets more). The Buckeyes will likely go for a bit of a thunder-and-lightning setup. If Berry is able to clear up his legal issues and participate this fall, he could be the heir apparent for OSU.


“The Brians” are gone, and Dane Sanzenbacher will be the Designated White Receiver in Hartline’s stead. Ray Small is a slot option who has been in and out of the doghouse several times during his Ohio State career, and his status is unclear at this point. Sophomore DeVier Posey will likely step up and become the other wideout starter. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s WR Taurian Washington has been a ghost in Columbus. At TE, Jake Ballard will be the key option to not use.

Ohio State Receivers Receiving 2008
Name Rec Yds TD Yds/Rec
Brian Robiskie 42 535 8 12.74
Brian Hartline 21 479 4 22.81
Dan Sanzenbacher 21 272 1 12.95
Ray Small 18 149 0 8.28
DeVier Posey 11 117 1 10.64
Brandon Smith (TE) 8 79 0 9.88
Jake Ballard (TE) 5 73 0 14.60
Rory Nicol (TE) 6 60 2 10.00
Lamaar Thomas 4 29 0 7.25
Ohio State Receivers Rushing 2008
Name Rec Yds TD Yds/Rush
Brian Hartline 3 17 0 5.67
Ray Small 1 -1 0 -1.00


Ohio State has been just fine replacing starting wide receivers en masse several times over the past few years, but the talent level in the wings this time around doesn’t appear to be quite as high as it had been in those reloadings (both Brians were NFL picks). If Small can keep his spot on the team, the receiving corps is much better, so Ohio State fans should root for him to get his ass in gear. The OSU tight end position rarely sees the ball, so expect Ballard to mostly block.

Offensive Line

Alex Boone, he of the infamous drinking exploits, is gone from the left side of the line. Also gone is guard Steve Rehring. Mike Brewster, a true sophomore, will return as the starting center. Some Guy is a redshirt junior and will play left guard. At left tackle, sophomore Mike Adams will probably replace Boone. The right side of the line is intact with redshirt junior Bryant Browning at guard and redshirt senior Jim Cordle at tackle.


The offensive line was a constant source of headaches for Ohio state fans last year, so unless something unexpected happens (I don’t believe in “addition by subtraction”), it can only improve marginally. Some Guy was going to be Michigan’s best lineman last year, so his presence in Columbus should upgrade the interior line. This should be a minor step back for the OSU offensive line (which, considering last year’s line, may be scary), but with the progress of Pryor, and less emphasis on pounding the ball, it shouldn’t hurt them too badly.

Offensive Analysis

The Ohio State offense is likely to live and die with Terrelle Pryor. The offensive line won’t be good enough to run the ball straight ahead without the threat of Pryor bootlegging off of it, so he’ll have to make plays running and passing the football if the Ohio State offense is going to have success. Lucky for the Buckeyes, he’s a very talented player. If he gets hurt, however, this could be an ugly, ugly offense to watch. The wide receivers are good, but not as much the playmakers they have been in the recent past. The running backs are good as well, but nobody’s going to worry about them leaving college early.

Ohio State Defense

Defensive Line

The Ohio State Defensive line returns every single player from last year except starting tackle Nader Abdallah. Cameron Heyward has played both tackle and end during his time in Columbus, and will be one of the starting defensive ends. He’ll be joined on the outside by linebacker convert Thaddeus Gibson, a redshirt junior. In the middle, redshirt senior Doug Worthington will start alongside the only newbie, junior Dexter Larimore. There is plenty of depth for the Buckeyes as well, with Nathan Williams and Lawrence Wilson on the edges.

Ohio state Defensive Line 2008
Name Tack TFL Sack Fum Int
Cameron Heyward 36 4.5 3 0 0
Doug Worthington 34 5 1.5 0 0
Nader Abdallah 33 6 1 0 0
Thaddeus Gibson 26 9 5 1 0
Nathan Williams 18 4 2 0 0
Lawrence Wilson 18 2.5 1 0 1
Dexter Larimore 15 3.5 2 0 0
Rob Rose 10 3 1 0 0
Todd Denlinger 7 0.5 0 0 0
Solomon Thomas 3 0 0 0 0


The DL should be very good. Only losing one starter, and replacing him with an experienced backup, is every coach’s dream. The pass rush and run-stopping abilities of the defensive line should be comparable to last year, if not even better (though last year’s pass rush was only OK). Scarier still, note that only Worthington is a senior. If this line returns intact again in 2010, they should be very, very good.


Marcus Freeman and James Laurinaitis are gone to the NFL, leaving redshirt junior Ross Homan as the only returning starter. Redshirt senior Austin Spitler is expected to take over in the middle for Laurinaitis. Junior Jermale Hines did much of his work on special teams over the past two years, but may be able to step into a role on the defense. Brian Rolle is in a similar position. Redshirt junior Tyler Moeller is more widely expected to take a starting role than those two, however.

Ohio State Linebackers 2008
Name Tack TFL Sack Fum Int
James Laurinaitis 130 7 4 0 2
Marcus Freeman 84 9.5 3.5 0 0
Ross Homan 67 6 1 0 0
Jermale Hines 31 2 0 1 0
Brian Rolle 21 0 0 0 1
Tyler Moeller 18 3 0 0 0
Austin Spitler 11 0.5 0 0 0
Etienne Sabino 6 0 0 0 0
Andrew Sweat 5 0 0 0 0
Mark Johnson 2 0 0 0 0


There are plenty of viable options for Ohio state at linebacker, though it’s difficult to predict they’ll be as good as a pair of guys who went in the NFL draft. Still, Ohio state has shown that they can find and develop linebackers, turning out stars year after year. There’s no reason to assume that, with a strong defensive line in front of them, this year’s crop won’t be at least acceptable, though to ask them to replicate the work of Laurinaitis and Freeman might be a bit much.

Defensive Backs

Corner Malcolm Jenkins left early for the NFL draft, along with Donald Washington opposite him. Redshirt junior Chimdi Chekwa got more than enough playing time last year to get him accustomed to being a full-time starter in 2009, and the other vacant position will be filled by senior Andre Amos, who missed much of lsst year with injury. The safeties both return, and seniors Anderson Russell and Kurt Coleman are good ones.

Ohio State Defensive Backs 2008
Name Tack TFL Sack Int Fum
Kurt Coleman 78 4 1 4 0
Anderson Russell 67 0 0 2 0
Malcolm Jenkins 57 4 1 3 0
Chimdi Chekwa 30 0 0 1 0
Shaun Lane 27 0 0 0 0
Donald Washington 22 0 0 1 1
Nate Oliver 8 0 0 0 0
Aaron Gant 7 0 0 0 0
Jamario O’Neal 3 0 0 0 0
Nick Patterson 1 0 0 0 0


Despite losing a pair of drafted players, the OSU secondary looks loaded as usual. The corners look to be the relative weakness. However, there is enough top-end quality to go along with the depth to make this a position of strength for the Buckeyes.

Defensive Analysis

The only possible weak spot on the Ohio State defense looks to be the linebackers. The DL and secondary return almost entirely intact, though the secondary took a slightly bigger hit than did the front lines. Expect this to be a standard excellent OSU defense, which we’ve become accustomed to over the years. The DL didn’t excel in getting to the QB last year, so the option-action pass might be a pretty good offensive strategy to use against them.

Special Teams

Ryan Pretorious and AJ Trapasso both depart Columbus as multi-year starters. Stepping up to fill their void will likely be redshirt seniors Aaron Pettrey at kicker and Jon Thoma at punter.

Ohio State Kicking 2008
Name XPM XPA % FGM FGA % Long
Ryan Pretorius 38 39 97.44 15 19 78.95 50
Aaron Pettrey 1 1 100.00 7 8 87.50 54
Ohio State Punting 2008
Name Rush Yds Avg
AJ Trapasso 58 2390 41.21
Jon Thoma 2 55 27.50


Pettrey was a part-timer at kicker last year, and showed off his leg on long-distance kicks. He should be very good. Thoma, however, didn’t excel in his playing time, limited though it may have been. At best, he’s an unknown quantity for the Buckeyes.

Overall Analysis

There’s a reason that Ohio State is near the top of the preseason Big-10 picks every year. Jim Tressel and company really know how to build a program, and routinely have tons of dpeth on defense. Despite losing a few key layers from that side of the ball, they should take a lateral step more than a large step backwards, with backups ready to step in, and a very strong defensive line. Offensively, the Buckeyes had trouble for much of last year, and without Beanie Wells (who, to be fair, they didn’t have for much of last year) and some of their offensive linemen, there could be more trouble on the way. Pryor is key to moving the ball for the Buckeye offense.

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1 Comment so far

  1. Rasmus says...

    Nicely done. Thanks for doing it. This season is about beating Ohio State. That’s the first monkey Rod needs to get off the program’s back. So they’ve got a great defense — we’ve got reasonable talent on offense and 11 games to make it work.

    I don’t think Pryor is going to get better — what you saw last year is what you get this year. The way he handled his recruitment has always been a red flag for me — if you can’t make up your mind where you’re going to play, how can you make split-second decisions about where to throw the ball? And make no mistake — he will have to throw it. The little I saw of him last year, he looked paralyzed in those moments.

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