Saturday, June 30, 2012

Big Expectations — Buckeye Playmakers That Must Thrive For Ohio State in 2012

By Tim BielikBlockONation.com Featured Contributor

It's no secret that Ohio State's 2011 offense was utterly abysmal almost any way you look at it: scoring, rushing or passing.

The archaic offense that the Buckeyes ran last season is gone and now Urban Meyer's "power spread" offense has arrived, meaning that the days of boring, stagnant offenses are pretty much over.

Ohio State certainly has the potential to have a successful offense based on the young athletes they have been able to bring into Columbus in recent recruiting seasons.

Among the players that will need to step up this year are Corey Brown, Evan Spencer and Devin Smith (pictured, top right).

Each of those three receivers had their moments throughout last season — and in the case of Brown, two years. They are speedier receivers that work best in space and with shorter routes instead of going deep every single time.

Brown has to become much more consistent as far as catching the ball is concerned, with several crucial drops at bad times. Smith and Spencer were both young and needed a little bit of seasoning, which this offseason can help provide this team.

Jake Stoneburner will be an important part of the offense from the TE position, although he might not be in as good of shape as he would normally be because he cannot workout with the team until fall camps due to his arrest.

He presents a major mismatch when it comes to the passing game but always seemed to be underused in the past several seasons.

This year, he will be used as much as possible, especially considering the success Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman have had developing Aaron Hernandez and — in Herman's case — James Casey at Rice.

As far as running backs go, OSU potentially has a solid one-two punch with Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde (pictured at left), if and when Hall returns healthy from a recent off-the-field injury and subsequent surgery that is expected to sideline him for at least 10 weeks.

Hall is a shifty back who can catch the ball out of the backfield and make some screen plays as well as running up the middle. His game is multi-dimensional, which allows him to do a little bit of everything.

Hyde is the typical power back that will likely be used in red-zone packages, particularly the inside zone read plays that the OSU offense will be built around. His role may be that of a faster LeGarrette Blount, in that he has underrated speed to go with his size.

Hall and Hyde will make a strong tandem as far as running backs go, as they have had a year to gain experience and they each have some decent chemistry with sophomore QB Braxton Miller.

The players are certainly there for Ohio State. The only question is whether or not they will be able to make big things happen this season in a more athlete-friendly offense.

OSU has good athletes committed to their 2013 recruiting class, but this current group of veterans and incoming freshamn will have a chance to do some big things this year.

Spoiler Alert (sarcasm off) — The forseeable future is extremely bright at Ohio State.




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Building Blocks — Urban Meyer Continues Beefing Up Stacked Defensive Line

By Luke PashkeBlockONation.com Featured Contributor

Urban Meyer has made it very clear that he plans on winning in Columbus in the trenches.

The successful head coach has wasted no time bulking up his defensive line on the recruiting trail and at this rate, the Buckeyes will have top defensive line in the nation by far.

According to Marc Givler of Rivals, Meyer and his staff managed to land highly touted defensive tackle, Michael Hill, this past week.

Hill, out of Pendleton, South Carolina, is rated as a four-star by Rivals and the fifth best defensive tackle in the nation. He is an immense, but athletic lineman who will join Joey Bosa and Tracey Sprinkle as yet another top defensive line commit in this year's class.

Add these recruits with the defensive line commits the Buckeyes have landed in the last two years and you have what looks to be one of the most dominant defensive lines ever, coming soon to Columbus.

In the past three years, the Buckeyes have landed twelve top defensive lineman recruits and this trend seems to be on the rise.

Meyer is recruiting a combination of big, athletic defensive tackles and speed rush defensive ends to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks and stuff the run.

This isn't your father's defensive line with big buffet busters that just stuff the middle. Meyer wants athletes on his defensive line and this is a great sign for Buckeye Nation because the key to national championships in college football is talent and depth at the defensive front.

Clearly Meyer knows this and his set on delivering it to Columbus.




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Thursday, June 21, 2012

OSU's 2013 "ESPN 150" Recruiting Class Targets Could Once Again Push the Buckeyes Ahead of the Wolverines

By HD HandshoeBlockONation.com Founder


No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Michigan in the last epic battle of the series. Ohio State won a thriller, 42-39.

Earlier this morning on Twitter, Ann Arbor fan Chad Pelliccioni (@cpelli) replied to my daily Days Until... tweet with apparent disbelief at the suggestion that OSU can (WILL) beat AA this November—specifically citing the current disparity between the two schools' 2013 recruiting classes:

I then replied:

Chad was adamant in his reply, that AA is ahead for good:

He is correct. AA has the No. 1 rated class according to ESPN, and as of now, that class includes 11 of the ESPN 150 to just six for OSU. Expanding the comparison to the ESPN 300, AA has 15 and OSU has 10.

Overall, AA currently has 22 recruits and OSU has 12, and with a max of 25 slots per the NCAA, that means the Buckeyes have another eight slots or so to fill (due to scholarship reductions levied against OSU from the tatgate fallout), while AA's class is nearly full. While catching and passing AA again may not happen, it is possible.

Despite the fact that I personally believe ESPN recruiting rankings are inferior to both Scout and Rivals, I decided to play along and humor my buddy Chad anyway.

Here is a list of several top recruits in the ESPN 150 (I actually included one player in the top 200) that are considering Ohio State and could indeed give OSU a legit chance at repeating what they did with their 2012 class by committing to the Buckeyes.

Players are listed below as follows:

ESPN rank // Player Name // Position

No. 23 // Robert Foster // WR

No. 26 // Dorian Johnson // OT

No. 38 // Laquon Treadwell // WR

No. 58 // Derrick Green // RB

No. 60 // James Quick // WR

No. 63 // Vonn Bell // S

No. 66 // Alex Anzalone // LB

No. 190 // Shelton Gibson // WR

I won't kid myself here, or you either. Not every player listed above is going to commit to OSU, but six or seven of them might—and if they do, the Buckeyes 2013 class, which ESPN currently has ranked No. 7, will undoubtedly soar exponentially—possibly ahead of every team up to, and including, AA.

One thing is for sure—Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer are both succeeding at a high level on the recruiting trail, and when these players meet on the field in the coming seasons on the last Saturday in November, you can bet everybody will be watching.

Despite which team ultimately wins The Game this season and beyond (cough, Ohio State, cough...), the return of the greatest rivalry in sports (conceivably comparable to the days of yesteryear when Woody and Bo were pacing the sidelines) is a win-win for every fan of college football.




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Monday, June 18, 2012

Against the Spread: Game by Game Predictions for Every Ohio State Game This Season

By Tyler WaddellBlockONation.com Featured Contributor

Beyond the Bets released its point spread projections for 798 college football regular season games less than two weeks ago, providing us fanatics and gamblers alike something to talk about. Big Ten-specific projections can be viewed here.

It has the Ohio State Buckeyes finishing 10-2 (6-2 Big Ten) and second in the Leaders division—behind Wisconsin—in Urban Meyer's inaugural season as coach.

Even if OSU was eligible for the conference championship on December 1, Beyond the Bets believes it wouldn't go.

Although Jim Tressel's style of play—"Tresselball"—was very kind to point spread gamblers, no one knows what they're now up against with Meyer at the helm.

Here's a look at Ohio State's schedule and spreads with some highly-subjective insight on whether to bet against them or not.

Week 1: Miami of Ohio at Ohio State (-27)

A year ago, the RedHawks were set to defend their Mid-American Conference championship. Instead, they backtracked, finishing with a 4-8 (3-5 MAC) and failed to beat a team with a winning record.

Miami returns standout quarterback Zac Dysert, who ranks third behind only Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Southern California's Matt Barkley in career passing yardage among active college quarterbacks. However, even he is unlikely to put up much of a fight in the season-opener.

It's difficult to bet on games like these where a blowout is inevitable, but Meyer will be testing the function of his new offense and could let loose on the Mid-American foe to find an early momentum. This is an easy one to agree with.

Prediction: Ohio State 41, Miami (Oh.) 6

Week 2: Central Florida at Ohio State (-16.5)

Central Florida ended last year as the Conference USA’s biggest disappointment, finishing 5-7 (3-5) and missing the postseason.

Coach George O’Leary is determined to bounce back with help from a trio of high-profile transfers: QB Tyler Gabbert (Missouri), RB Storm Johnson (Miami) and OT Phil Smith (Georgia Tech).

Still, it's premature to assume those three will make ground-shaking impacts as starters for the Knights, especially in the electric atmosphere of the 'Shoe. I'm taking the spread and going with Ohio State's number.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, UCF 13

Week 3: California at Ohio State (-14)

California owns one of the Pac-12's youngest, most talented offenses. Behind the arm of improving quarterback Zach Maynard, wide receiver and future high-round draft selection Keenan Allen, senior running backs Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson, and a solid offensive line, the Golden Bears could surprise many in 2012.

But it won't surprise Ohio State.

With the loss of numerous defensive playmakers, Cal could struggle to contain the many looks that Meyer brings with the spread-option. Braxton Miller could very well throw for 200-plus yards while tracking 100-plus on the ground.

I see the Buckeyes controlling this game, but I don't think the scoreboard will reflect the on-field dominance quite as much. I'm betting against Beyond the Bets and taking California.

Prediction: Ohio State 30, California 17

Week 4: UAB at Ohio State (-38)

Since appearing in their only bowl game in 2004, the UAB Blazers have strung together seven consecutive losing seasons. This includes a 3-9 (3-5 C-USA) record in 2011, where they were outscored by an average of 17 points and were beat by at least 39 on four different occasions.

Although UAB returns some decent players at various skill positions, it lost five seniors on the offensive line and returns a defense that got to the quarterback just eight times and ranked 119th nationally in tackles for loss.

If Tressel were still the coach, I'd take UAB's line here simply because he did not like to run it up on his opponents. But he's not, and I won't; Meyer takes a completely different approach to the game and will not hesitate to put 60 on the board.

Prediction: Ohio State 48, UAB 3

Week 5: Ohio State at Michigan State (-1.5)

Beyond the Bets features Ohio State losing to Michigan State in its first road game of the season. I disagree, but its prediction of a 1.5 point differential shows that it isn't sold on the Spartans yet, either.

Michigan State loses nearly the entire passing game with quarterback Kirk Cousins and receivers B.J. Cunningham, Keith Nichol, and Keshawn Martin all gone due to the NFL draft and graduation.

Fifth-year senior Tyler Hoover will be the man in charge of plugging the middle, replacing All-American defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. At 6'7", 295 pounds, size will not be an issue. However, pass rush may be an issue.

Winning in East Lansing is never easy, but I don't think the matchups are there for Sparty. Ohio State possesses more talent at the most important positions on the field, along with a superior coaching staff.

I'm going with the Buckeyes for both the spread and outcome.

Prediction: Ohio State 20, Michigan State 17

Week 6: Nebraska at Ohio State (-5)

Ohio State owned a 27-6 lead mid-way through the third quarter of last year's battle with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. However, when Braxton Miller went down with an ankle injury, all hell broke loose.

Quarterback Taylor Martinez dissembled the Buckeyes' shaky defense with his dual-threat abilities, while Rex Burkhead took 26 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown. Both are back in 2012.

However, Miller is healthy and Ohio State now has a high-flying offensive scheme to go along with a distinguished defensive unit.

I'm taking OSU's -5. If the Buckeyes can take a 21-point lead in Lincoln with last years many limitations, there's no reason to think they can't do the same—and actually hold it this time—at home.

Prediction: Ohio State 31, Nebraska 20

Week 7: Ohio State at Indiana (+21)

Since entering the conference in 1900, Indiana has won two Big Ten titles—and the only outright championship came 67 years ago.

Poor IU—while other Big Ten schools like Ohio State and Michigan already have reached double-digit recruits in their 2013 recruiting classes, the Hoosiers finally received their first verbal commitment (a 2-star WR from Fort Wayne) for 2013 just last week.

That pretty much sums up the Hoosiers' football program. It has only sent 12 players to the NFL in the last 14 seasons and hasn't had a winning record since 2007, combining for a 13-35 record during that time.

It's the bitter truth, but Indiana isn't going anywhere and it isn't going anywhere fast (wait, what?). I like Ohio State's number here.

Prediction: Ohio State 44, Indiana 16

Week 8: Purdue at Ohio State (-16.5)

After beating Ohio State last year, coach Danny Hope and the Purdue Boilermakers feel like they're making strides to becoming more competitive in the Big Ten. This could be the year to make some noise in what looks to be a relatively weak outlook for the conference.

The quarterback position is still up for grabs, but the two guys competing are all more than capable of getting the job done. Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve combined for 232-386 (60.1 percent) passing for 2,538, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2011.

Kawann Short could possibly be the best defensive tackle in all of college football with the potential to be a top-10 selection in next year's draft. He's the anchor of a solid front seven for Purdue.

They won't win, but the Boilermakers will beat the spread here. Hope seems to know how to play Ohio State and will keep his team in the game.

Prediction: Ohio State 27, Purdue 13

Week 9: Ohio State at Penn State (+6)

Penn State's football program has enough issues right now other than just getting back to playing good football again, but even that may be difficult at this point.

The Nittany Lions' quarterback situation is a mess—an above-average receiver has yet to emerge from the roster—the defense is suffering some huge losses at pivotal positions—and Bill O'Brien has no head prior head coaching experience.

It doesn't look good for Penn State this upcoming season, and the Buckeyes playing PSU in Happy Valley may not be as difficult of a factor to overcome as it might otherwise normally be, especially in closely contested games.

I like Ohio State's line here, giving the Buckeyes yet another victory.

Prediction: Ohio State 23, Penn State 9

Week 10: Illinois at Ohio State (-19.5)

Amid a coaching change and transition period, it's easy to say that Illinois will be going through a rebuilding stage in 2012. But if the Fighting Illini are ever going to win a Big Ten championship in the next decade, this is the year.

The Leaders division is up for grabs: Wisconsin doesn't look like it will be the same caliber team, Penn State could very well tread at .500, and Ohio State isn't eligible.

Coach Tim Beckman needs to be in "win-now" mode. It's unfortunate for him that he is inheriting a subpar roster, but his days of racking up the points at Toledo may rub off on quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and turn the offense into a legitimate scoring threat.

This may be one of the more difficult point spreads to predict on Ohio State's roster, but I just don't see drastic changes in year one for Beckman. I'm going with the Buckeyes' and the -19.5.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Illinois 14

Week 11: Bye Week

Week 12: Ohio State at Wisconsin (-4)

Russell Wilson may be gone, but Wisconsin won't miss a beat in 2012.

It has yet another huge, talented offensive line ready to lead the way for running back Montee Ball, who led the nation with 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns last season.

Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien will fit in nicely in new offensive coordinator Matt Canada's offense, who uses the same philosophy as former O.C. Paul Chryst did.

The defense will look a little different with names like Louis Nzegwu and Patrick Butrym missing, but should remain stout as usual.

Oh, and the Badgers are 21-0 in Madison dating back to their last loss against Iowa in 2009. Forgive me Buckeye fans, but I'm not going to let my biased integrity interfere with my wallet. I like Wisconsin's line in this one.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 20

Week 13: Michigan at Ohio State (-4)

Are you bursting with excitement yet?

Yes, Ohio State is favored at home over Mich—that team up north. This sparks some controversy, as many believe the Wolverines are favored to win the Big Ten championship this upcoming season.

Denard Robinson isn't the quarterback Brady Hoke would like under center, but right now, he's the only smart option and is arguably the best athlete in the NCAA. He'll continue to shred defenses on the ground while struggle through the air, which should be good enough to compile a 10-1 record heading into Week 12 (with a loss to Alabama).

The Buckeyes held their own and then some in last year's loss, fighting to the end in a surprising high-scoring affair (40-34). The close outcome—which was sparked by Braxton Miller's pure athleticism alone—shocked many, including Ohio State fans.

Thanks to the memorabilia-for-cash scandal in 2010, the Buckeyes are facing a postseason ban that will keep them from playing in January.

However, a regular season-ending clash with their hated arch rival in the 'Shoe screams bowl game. The atmosphere in Columbus will be like none other, glowing with an electrifying aura. This gives Ohio State a huge advantage, and it allows me to agree with Beyond the Bets that it will beat the Wolverines.

I'm taking OSU's -4 point spread in The Game.

Prediction: Ohio State 33, Michigan 28



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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Early Fuel For the Rivalry Fire: Why the Buckeyes Will Dominate Michigan in 2012

By Shane DarrowBlockONation.com Guest Contributor

There is no question that the Ohio State vs. University of Michigan matchup is one of the greatest rivalries in college sports.


Actually, let's just come right out and say it. OSU-UM is the BEST Rivalry in sports, period.

Whether it is basketball, hockey or baseball, these teams always give a little extra when it is against the other program. But the rivalry in football stands alone.

It's not simply known as "The Game" for nothing.

Here are some reasons why the Buckeyes will return to, and continue, their dominance this season.

Urban Meyer

Last year was the first year that the Wolverines defeated the Buckeyes since 2003, but with the addition of the legendary Urban Meyer, the momentum already feels like it is shifting to Ohio State.

Meyer brings in a history of success, and will implement the spread offense into a Buckeye system that is more than capable of being able to run it to a tee.

As a head coach, Meyer has a record of 104-23—that's a winning percentage of 81.8 percent. The Buckeyes have fallen a little over the last few years as the SEC has continued to run dominance on college football as a whole, but Meyer will be the one to turn that around.

He brings an SEC mentality to a historic Big Ten program. If the Buckeyes want to once again contend for a national title, Meyer is the perfect candidate to lead the cause.

Braxton Miller

Miller started nine games last season and had a very mediocre record of 4-5, but under Meyer's system he will undoubtedly shine. Even though his record may not show it, his statistics were actually very solid last year.

Miller finished the season with 18 combined touchdowns (11 through the air, seven on the ground), and had a QB rating of 133.6. He reminds me of a young Vince Young. Meyer is going to implement a system that will put Miller in a position to succeed.

Now that the reigns are officially with him, Miller will gain the confidence in camp that will lead to success on the field. When the Michigan game comes, he will be facing a more experienced Denard Robinson, but Miller has the skills to match him throw for throw, as well as run for run.

Home-Field Advantage

Over the past decade, the Buckeyes have found a way to win when playing at the Big House. Fortunately for Ohio State, the Wolverines haven't been able to win a game in Columbus since 2000. There is no denying that the Buckeyes are a different team on their home field, and that has shown over the last 11 seasons.

Urban Meyer is going to bring in a scouting class that will be awaiting the opportunity to compete against Michigan on their home field, and I can't even imagine the adrenaline rush that will overtake those players.

I don't only think the Buckeyes will just win the game...

I think they will absolutely control and bulldoze the Wolverines on both sides of the ball.

Final Score Prediction

Ohio State 42
Michigan 24




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Spots Up For Grabs? 5 Starters Who Could Lose Their Jobs by the End of the Season

By Tyler WaddellBlockONation.com Featured Contributor

Urban Meyer released his post-spring depth chart last month, with little-to-no surprises among the list.

Although this is subject to change throughout the remainder of the offseason, it will likely be the starting lineup heading into Week 1.

That said, there are a few players who could end up losing their spot during the regular season, whether it be due to lack of production or inadequate performance.

Meyer will not hesitate to put his best 22 athletes on the field, so midseason changes to the depth chart are a definite possibility.

Here are the five most likely starters that could get "demoted" during the 2012 season.

Travis Howard, Cornerback

After receiving a two-game suspension for accepting improper benefits to begin the 2011 season, cornerback Travis Howard returned to the starting lineup with high expectations as a high-impact player.

At times he did look like an upgrade to what was a very young, inexperienced secondary, but for the most part, Howard struggled. He was susceptible to numerous mental errors and had a difficult time trying to bring down opponents during initial contact.

Unfortunately for the 6'0", 190-pound senior, Meyer is also a little unsure of his current status on the depth chart. He listed Howard as a co-starter alongside sophomore Doran Grant, who impressed as a freshman and had a good spring.

Don't be surprised if Howard is passed up by Grant at some point in 2012.

Evan Spencer, Wide Receiver

The only thing that deserves a second glance on Ohio State's post-spring depth chart is sophomore Evan Spencer starting over freshman Michael Thomas.

Not that Spencer hasn't earned the spot—the picture above alone showcases his talent level—but the fact that Thomas exploded for 12 receptions and 131 yards in the Buckeyes' annual spring game makes the decision somewhat puzzling.

To put Thomas' performance into perspective, three Buckeyes were tied for the team lead with 14 receptions for all of 2011.

Following the game, Meyer was quoted saying that Thomas was one of the team's best receivers:

"Right now, him and (Brown) are kind of our top two (receivers)," Meyer said, according to The Lantern. "I’d have to say right now our playmakers on offense—the top five, in order—are Jordan Hall, would be Jake Stoneburner, would be probably Carlos (Hyde), Philly Brown, Michael Thomas and Devin Smith."

That was less than a month before he released the depth chart.

The starting position is Spencer's—who missed the spring game with a shoulder injury—to lose for the moment.

Reid Fragel, Right Tackle

Reid Fragel dedicated the offseason to making a huge transition—changing positions, from tight end to right tackle. He's put on over 30 pounds while maintaining less than 10 percent body fat, all while still being able to stay extremely agile.

"Reid is doing great. He’s everything you could want from a tackle in our system," said offensive line coach Ed Warinner, according to TheOZone.net.

Fragel is listed as the starting right tackle, but incoming freshman Taylor Decker—who was the sixth member to join Urban Meyer's first recruiting class at Ohio State—has been pushing for the spot.

Decker has continued to impress Meyer, reports Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com. He earned a lot of praise from the two-time national champion coach throughout spring practice and will keep pressuring Fragel for the position.

Corey Linsley, Center

Making the transition from being a backup guard to anchoring the offensive line as a center is senior Corey Linsley. He has become a leader overnight and has shown significant improvement from his first three below-average seasons with the Buckeyes.

"I really didn't see myself as accomplishing too much," Linsley told ESPN.com about his career. "I wasn't putting in all the time to be a great player. I was just doing enough to get by, and thought that was good enough. Obviously, last year showed that it wasn't.

"We had a series of 5 a.m. workouts right when Coach Meyer started, and that's when it kind of clicked for me," he continued. "I had to make a decision: Am I going to sit back and relax, or am I going to take the initiative to get better, to become a better player and a better person?"

Linsley took the latter, which has proven to pay off so far. He's listed as the current starter over freshman Jacoby Boren—who was the early favorite—and sophomore Brian Bobek—who apparently is now seeking to transfer, possibly to WVU.

Still, his track record isn't clean and the position is still up in the air. Many expect Linsley to keep his role on lockdown throughout the season (switching centers is always difficult on a quarterback), but the possibility of a change is not out of the question. He'll have to continue working harder than ever to maintain his spot.

Corey "Philly" Brown, Wide Receiver

Probably the least likely to lose his job among Buckeyes starters is Corey (Philly) Brown, who is listed as the "H" receiver on Meyer's post-spring depth chart.

This is the same position former college standout (and current NFL standout) Percy Harvin held during Meyer's tenure at Florida.

Big shoes to fill, right?

Harvin recorded 133 receptions for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns during his collegiate career as a Gator in the same spread-option offense. Brown, who finished 2011 with 14 receptions, 205 yards and a touchdown, had a great series of spring practices and is a "playmaker" in Meyer's eyes.

If Brown can immediately step in and live up to his title, he will have no problem holding down his starting position over junior receiver Chris Fields.

On the other hand, if he struggles to make the big plays that are expected of him, Meyer will not be reluctant to shake things up and throw other guys into mix. Even if Fields doesn't pressure Brown for the spot, others like Verlon Reed and Michael Thomas will.




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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fine Tuning: 5 Things Braxton Miller Must Do to Adapt to the Spread

By Luke PashkeBlockONation.com Featured Contributor

As soon as the hiring of Urban Meyer was announced, I'm sure Braxton Miller was jumping for absolute joy. The system Miller was asked to perform last year was atrocious and completely unfit for Miller's skill set.

One of the many positive things Meyer brings with him is his trademarked spread system that focuses on putting his best players in the best positions to succeed—especially his quarterbacks.

Now the sophomore field general will be placed in the perfect system for his talents and should adapt quickly and well. This being said, Miller still has some work to do in order to put major points on the board in 2012.

Make Quicker Decisions

Meyer's spread offense is built on quick-hitting passes that require almost muscle memory reaction from the quarterback. The field general must know where his receivers are, where they will be and where he must put the ball in a flash.

Despite an excellent freshman year, Miller struggled to make quick decisions and often preferred to extend plays rather than get the ball out quickly.

This won't fly in the spread system, and Miller must know that. The better Miller knows his reads and is able to put the ball where it needs to be, the better this type of offense will be.

Read the Defensive End

The zone read is a staple in Meyer's offense. It is one of the most commonly run plays in his system and possibly the most important one. In order to see success from this certain play, the quarterback must read the defensive end precisely and effectively. This play does not work if the quarterback makes a misread.

Miller is a fantastic runner don't get me wrong, but sometimes the best plays he'll make next year will be when he leaves the ball with his running back. If Miller can develop effective decision making in the zone read, it will open up holes all over the defense and keep them on their heels.

Make the Right Decision Out of the Option

As stated before, Miller is an excellent runner.

We know he can drive a defensive coordinator crazy with his legs, but he must also kill defenses with his mind. Throughout his first season, Miller hardly ever pitched the ball on speed options and this sometimes hurt the Buckeyes offense.

The speed option is another commonly run play in Meyer's system, and if this offense wants to see great success, Miller must improve his decision making in the option game. Strictly running and ignoring the pitch will make the play one dimensional and easily stoppable.

If Miller really wants to march down the field, he must trust his running back and pitch the ball when necessary.

Make Accurate, Short Passes

Although Miller did have an excellent freshman season at Ohio State, he has plenty of room to improve in the passing game. He showed potential in a mostly pathetic passing attack last season, but struggled greatly at times with his accuracy and placement.

In the spread offense, accuracy in the short passing game will be paramount.

Miller must be able to connect on the quick-hitting passing routes with precision in order to avoid turnovers and "third and longs," and move the ball on all downs. When throwing quick screens, Miller must be able to place the ball in the best position for his receiver to run after the catch.

Difficult throws to grab completely kill a screen before they even start.

Although these may be viewed as the "little things," they will be the difference in this offense being a great unit or a mediocre one.

Distribute the Ball to All of His Weapons

Braxton Miller is an excellent player and clearly the main attraction on this offense, but he cannot be the only attraction. The sophomore quarterback is an absolute competitor and gamer, and has already shown the ability to completely take over a game and this is easily his greatest attribute.

However, at times, it appeared as if Miller would rather do it on his own rather than put faith in his teammates.

I don't think this is a result of a lack of trust in his teammates as much as it is how competitive he is. But if he puts too much on his shoulders, this offense will fail.

Like a point guard, Miller must spread the ball all over the field and get his numerous weapons involved throughout the game.

This offense is very versatile and focuses primarily on attacking the defense from every angle and stretching them to the max, and if Miller facilitates the ball while also dominating with his legs, the end zone will become very familiar to this offense.




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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ranking The Top 5 Buckeyes That Must Step Up For Ohio State In 2012

By Tim BielikBlockONation.com Featured Contributor

With the 2012 season just a few months away, Ohio State has a roster full of plenty of talent, though most of it is unproven at this point.

They do seem to have new life under Urban Meyer and a chance to be a really good football team with a modernized offense.

The question for this team is whether or not their young players are ready to step into the spotlight and make the types of plays that they need to win at this level.

Here are the five Buckeyes who need to step up the most this season.

5. Corey "Philly" Brown, WR

For Ohio State's new offense to work this season, they are going to need some help from the wide receiver position.

The passing game was absolutely unwatchable for most of last season, as there was poor blocking from the offensive line as well as the receivers not being able to get open.

Junior Corey Brown needs to be a guy who steps up and makes the big plays this season.

He came in as a freshman in 2010 and hasn't quite lived up to the lofty praise gifted to him after high school.

Now he looks like he is in an offense that is more suited to his skills. Because of that, this is without a doubt his make-or-break season.

4. Jack Mewhort, LT

New offensive line coach Ed Warriner led a massive reshuffling of the Ohio State front line by moving junior Jack Mewhort over from guard to left tackle after the spring.

Mewhort has the size and athleticism to make the transition over to left tackle pretty well.

He will have a huge job ahead of him to help keep Braxton Miller upright.

His status for the early part of the season is somewhat in doubt after he was suspended because of his arrest on a misdemeanor charge of obstructing official business.

He should be good to go the rest of the season, but Mewhort has a huge job ahead of him when he comes back.

3. Curtis Grant, LB

At the beginning of spring football, Urban Meyer singled out former blue-chip linebacker Curtis Grant as not only the starting MLB on the defense, but gave him the keys to the defense without ever starting a game.

Grant's performance, in Meyer's words, will either make or break the Ohio State defense.

He has the potential to do that and more because of the size and instincts he came into college with.

Grant has a great front four in front of him led by John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, along with a stud OLB in Ryan Shazier to make life easier for him.

But Grant will need to be strong right from the start.

2. Jake Stoneburner, TE

Jake Stoneburner for the longest time has been a tremendous mismatch that Jim Tressel and his former offensive coaching staff failed to utilize properly.

That won't be the case under Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who have a history of getting big seasons out of their tight ends.

Stoneburner poses an amazing mismatch from the TE position and Meyer will find a way to get him the ball as much as possible.

The question is if Stoneburner is finally ready to accept the challenge and be the big playmaker this offense needs in order to succeed.

1. Braxton Miller, QB

The player who has the most expectations upon him this season is an extremely obvious one.

Braxton Miller needs to grow quite a bit this season after showing plenty of flashes last year since most of the offense's successes are dependent on his dual-threat ability.

He will have to prove he can make the big throws while at the same time continue to run as well as he did last season.

He looked much better throwing the football in the spring game back in April, completing 24-of-31 passes for 258 yards.

If he can build off of that and become a much better passer, Ohio State's offense will make a dramatic leap in 2012.




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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Urban Meyer's 5 Biggest Challenges at Ohio State for 2012

By Tyler WaddellBlockONation.com Featured Contributor

Urban Meyer has dominated his opponents at every school he's coached; the two-time national champion carries a 104-23 record (81.9 percent) heading into his first season with Ohio State, which is second behind Boise State's Chris Petersen as the current leader in winning percentage.

However, his debut in the Big Ten isn't guaranteed to be a walk in the park. The Buckeyes are coming off their first losing season in 23 years, one in which the offense was stagnant and the defense underachieved.

Although the NCAA-imposed postseason ban alleviates any major pressures to win, the Ohio State football program is used to winning and expects Meyer to get it right back to the top as the best team in the conference.

With an almost entirely new coaching staff, offensive playbook and way of life, Meyer and the "most talented team in the Big Ten" are striving for improvement every day and look to stay extremely competitive in the Leaders division.

But for he and his team to continue doing so, he'll have to get past these challenges that lay ahead.

It seems as if it's a perfect "us against the world" type of situation, where Ohio State and the football program just can't do anything right for the moment.

On May 4, highly-touted linebacker recruit Alex Anzalone de-commited from the Buckeyes after a ridiculous run-in with a superfan, who just happened to be a sex offender in the state of Kentucky.

This of course made national news and put an unwanted spotlight on the school and coach Urban Meyer, who had been on a recruiting tear up until then. No player has committed to Ohio State since the incident.

Just two weeks later, athletic director Gene Smith released a report that showed the university had 46 secondary violations committed through 21 different sports that included assistant football coach Mike Vrabel using smokeless tobacco on the sideline and head coach Urban Meyer wishing luck to a recruit during a non-contact period.

"It's nothing that troubles me," Smith said, according to SI.com. "It's normal operating business. It's nothing that troubles me. I've seen all the cases, we know all the cases. You look at them, and they're inadvertent mistakes."

A bit silly if you ask me, but it definitely added another target to the program's back in the eyes of the media and rival fans.

And most recently, tight end Jake Stoneburner and left tackle Jack Mewhort were arrested last weekend for obstructing official business. The two were then suspended indefinitely by the university, which could potentially be a huge blow for the developing offense.

With all this occurring within a month's time, I can only imagine Meyer's frustration. The Buckeyes need to throw everything behind them and move forward, tip-toeing into the regular season and staying quiet up until they are again bowl eligible.

Anything else would be undesired attention.

After racing to an incredibly fast start for the 2013 recruiting class by receiving verbal commitments from 13 prospective athletes, Urban Meyer is now either taking it slow or is in a rut.

On April 30, 3-star linebacker Lewis Neal de-committed from Ohio State after being offered a scholarship by LSU (which he has not accepted).

And then of course was the infamous Alex Anzalone case, as the 4-star linebacker re-opened his recruiting market just a few short days later.

247Sports.com currently has Meyer's 2013 class No. 10 overall, even though his last commitment came from 5-star defensive lineman on April 23.

Michigan ranks No. 1 with 19 total verbals—five more than second-place Alabama.

Although national signing day isn't until February, Meyer needs to continue building around his strong class by grabbing another high-profile receiver, offensive lineman, linebacker and more.

Which I expect he will do at his own pace.

With the hiring of Urban Meyer comes the offense that won him two national championships at Florida. His spread-option scheme revolves around playmakers, like Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez.

Braxton Miller, Jordan Hall and Jake Stoneburner are expected to be those guys in 2012.

However, any time there's a huge transition with the offensive playbook, every skill player needs to dedicate himself to learn it and live it.

In this particular change, the quarterback gets a lot of attention. Miller is still developing as a passer and a decision-maker, but has vastly improved since the beginning of spring workouts and has proven to be a leader.

It's the guys around him that are extremely critical to the offense's overall performance, and this is where Meyer is a little concerned.

Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Corey "Philly" Brown, Hall and Stoneburner—all Jim Tressel or Luke Fickell recruits—are expected to fill these roles to start the season. Every single one of them will need to play in sync with Miller to find an early rhythm and sustain it, while continuing to develop and get better.

It is up to Meyer and the coaching staff to get them where they need to be by Week 1.

Due to the improper benefits scandal led by former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in 2010, the Buckeyes are facing a one-year bowl ban that will even hold them back from a potential Big Ten title appearance.

This could be the season that nobody cares about, where every regular season matchup becomes meaningless because of the end result—or lack of.

But that's not the case.

“It is still my goal to hire excellent coaches, recruit great student-athletes who want to be a part of this program and to win on and off the field," said Meyer after the NCAA released the news, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Players said the Buckeyes could follow the example of Southern California, which received a tighter NCAA sanction with a two-year ban. It went 10-2 last season and are projected to be the No. 1 team to beat in 2012.

Meyer will need to maintain a high-spirited locker room throughout the regular season and continue encouraging his players—especially the seniors—to leave everything on the field and play to the best of their ability on every down.

And to look forward to November 24.

The most important—and probably most challenging—portion of Urban Meyer's to-do list for 2012 is to beat arch-rival Michigan.

And with the postseason ban in place, the mood is set just right.

The Wolverines will make a visit to Columbus on November 24 where they will play a very hungry Buckeyes team that will likely take the matchup like it's the national championship.

105,000-plus fans will gather around the 'shoe and form a January-like atmosphere, giving Ohio State the right inspiration to hand Michigan its ninth loss against the Silver Bullets over the last decade.

A victory here would allow the Buckeyes to carry an incredible amount of momentum heading into the 2013 season, where they are expected to make a title run.

It won't be easy, but a win against Michigan in his first year as OSU's head coach would be huge for Meyer.

And it could possibly start a new version of the Ten Year War.




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