The Ohio State Buckeyes football team is entering a new era. A new coach, a new quarterback, new defensive coordinators. However, one thing that isn’t new, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.
With the new changes on OSU’s staff and a new year of football coming up in a few short weeks, we caught up with Patrick Mayhorn from Land-Grant Holy Land who filled us in on the 2019 version of the Buckeyes.
Q: How will the offense look with Justin Fields at the helm? (he’s going to be the starter, right?)
A: In terms of massive changes, there won’t be any. Ohio State is still going to be pass first as long as Ryan Day is the head coach, and Fields is a very capable passer, so they won’t have to cover his arm and use him exclusively as a runner. They will, however, allow him to run more than Dwayne Haskins did, and that should mean at least a few more read options and RPOs than we saw in 2018. And yes, Fields will be the starter.
Q: Ryan Day was the head coach to start the season in 2018, and he’s now the main man with Urban Meyer retiring, do you think things will be steady as she goes for OSU and the staff? Or will there be growing pains to some extent without Urban there?
A: The only place I could see growing pains is at spots where Day chose to keep a Meyer assistant in place, like Greg Studrawa and Kevin Wilson with the offensive line, or Tony Alford with the running backs. Sometimes incumbent assistants struggle to work with a new coach, and a coach who happens to be younger than them, though I wouldn’t expect it. In general, I think it’ll be business as usual for the Buckeyes, and any growing pains won’t be the result of a coaching change but rather of a fairly young roster.
Q: J.K. Dobbins is the first OSU RB to break 1,000 yards rushing as a true freshman and sophomore, is he poised for his biggest and best season yet?
A: I certainly think so. He struggled a lot in 2018 because he was a step slower and his offensive line struggled, but he seems to be back into 2017 shape this season, and his line seems to be better. Having Justin Fields as a rushing threat will help a lot too, as having J.T. Barrett did in 2017, and I think all that could combine to help propel Dobbins to a great season.
Q: What are realistic expectations for the Buckeyes in 2019?
A: Well, the expectations at Ohio State always seem to be playoff or bust, but I’m not sure I fully buy into that this year. The team is young at key spots on the offense, and I think that a two loss season would be both realistic to expect and encouraging if the Buckeyes can get there.
Q: How is the defense coming along with former Michigan assisatant Greg Mattison as co-defensive coordinator?
A: The defense is modernizing, and while it’s hard to say anything definitive on its improvements at this point, I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen from Mattison and his co-DC Jeff Hafley. Hafley wanted to install a 4-2-5 system, and Mattison’s bullet position pairs perfectly with that, which makes me think they’ll be far more successful than the last defensive brain-trust at Ohio State.
Q: Jim Harbaugh said that The Game, Michigan-OSU, defines the season, do you agree with that?
A: Oh for sure, especially with both teams consistently entering that game in the top five in the last few years. I expect it’ll be a similar story this season with both teams set to spend the year firmly inside the top ten. Even when the level of competition isn’t as high, The Game is always enormous, and winning it can be the difference between a successful season and a failed one in the eyes of just about everyone involved.
Q: Speaking of Michigan-OSU, who do you find to be the more talented team on paper at the moment?
A: The more talented team is still Ohio State. Michigan’s recruiting has been very, very good under Jim Harbaugh, but it isn’t yet on Ohio State’s level. However, as we’ve seen in years past with Ohio State, that immense talent can go to waste if the coaching isn’t elite (see: Purdue 2018, Iowa 2017), and if Ryan Day doesn’t have the team prepared for Michigan, the slight talent difference won’t matter, because Jim Harbaugh, Josh Gattis and Don Brown will have Michigan ready.
Q: Who do you find to be the most talented player on the Ohio State offense, and defense?
A: Offense: Chris Olave. This is a bizarre answer, admittedly, but I think he’s the second coming of Terry Glenn. He’s one of the smoothest and most athletic receivers I’ve ever seen, and his potential and talent level is absolutely sky-high.
Defense: Jeff Okudah. He’s set to be a lockdown corner this season after two years in the wings, and I think he’ll reach the levels that Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward did before him. He’s long, fast, and physical, and looks like a future top ten pick.