2011 PRESEASON TOP 25Ohio State Buckeyes
NATIONAL FORECAST #9
Big Ten Leaders PREDICTION #1
HEAD COACH: Jim Tressel, 106–22 (10 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jim Bollman | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jim Heacock, Luke Fickell
Technically, the offense returns seven starters, but questions abound for this unit, especially considering the team’s decorated quarterback (Terrelle Pryor), 1,000-yard rusher (Dan Herron), top returning receiver (DeVier Posey) and best blocker (Mike Adams) all are slated to miss the first five games of the season because of an NCAA-imposed suspension.
At quarterback, for example, the coaches could opt for weathered backup Joe Bauserman, hot shot freshman Braxton Miller, pocket passer Taylor Graham or dual-threat Kenny Guiton in Pryor’s absence. The quartet will compete for the job well into fall camp.
“They all have their days,” tailback Jordan Hall says. “Some days some look better than the others, but they’re all working.”
Hall could lead the Buckeyes in rushing attempts, but the depth behind him is abundant. Jaamal Berry is ready to contribute regularly, and redshirt freshman Rod Smith appears poised to take over as the team grinder with Herron out.
Up front, Mike Brewster is the centerpiece. He’ll be flanked by physical, developing players who are more athletic than past OSU linemen. Tight end Jake Stoneburner also helps in the trenches, but he should be a more viable receiving option this season given the cast of no-names after Posey at wideout.
Even with a relatively unproven defensive group, the coaches like the depth and athleticism on this side of the ball and believe the Buckeyes can improve on the totals of 23 sacks and 30 takeaways recorded last season.
Nate Williams and John Simon give the Buckeyes a pair of highly active and disruptive defensive linemen, and young Johnathan Hankins excels at plugging up the middle. Andrew Sweat and Etienne Sabino lead the linebacking corps and should lead the team in tackles.
The secondary typifies the whole defense — raw, athletically gifted and hungry. Travis Howard assumes the role of OSU’s top cover corner, and Tyler Moeller and Christian Bryant are playmakers. Safety is a bit of a concern, though, with Orhian Johnson and C.J. Barnett yet to put together a full season of consistent production.SPECIALISTS
Once again, coach Jim Tressel will have a new placekicker. Once again, the Buckeyes should be productive from this spot. This time the top leg belongs to Drew Basil, who already has proven his worth on kickoffs. Ben Buchanan is back at punter and needs to improve on a rather weak average of 41.0 yards per kick. The return game was middling last season, and kick protection and coverage units were dreadful, which simply can’t continue.FINAL ANALYSIS
This is a mystery team, to be sure, as even Tressel won’t be available on game day until Oct. 8 — and that’s when the Buckeyes visit Big Ten-newcomer Nebraska. Who Tressel will tab to run the offense is up in the air, and the wide receiver spot is, quite frankly, a mess.
Look for the Buckeyes to once again rely on an aggressive defense, work to get more consistent results on special teams and hope to find some sort of offensive identity by the time they travel to Miami (Fla.) in Week 3. The passing game could be pedestrian, but there is quality depth in the backfield. And OSU may finally have a versatile offensive line that can open holes in and out of the box.
Are the Buckeyes a BCS bowl team? It’s possible, even with all of the off-the-field drama. This is still Ohio State — it’s not as if the cupboard is bare.FANTASY IMPACT
Fantasy players looking to Columbus for options in 2011 took a hit when Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron and DeVier Posey were suspended for the first five games of 2011. In addition to the five-game suspension, the players didn’t catch a break with their first game back in the lineup against Nebraska. With essentially six weeks of the fantasy season out of the picture, Pryor, Herron and Posey each slide from a potential top-20 option at each position into the middle rounds of fall drafts.
With Posey sidelined, Ohio State will likely turn to tight end Jake Stoneburner and receiver Corey Brown as the top options for quarterbacks Joe Bauserman or Braxton Miller. Stoneburner should be one of the top sleeper picks at tight end this year. Filling in for Herron could be done by committee, with Rod Smith and Jordan Hall the ones to target in fall drafts as five-game rental