After a 77-10 rout of the Bowling Green Falcons on Saturday, the Ohio State football team appears to be ready for the challenges ahead in 2016. Here are five takeaways from the game.
Samuel the workhorse for OSU
Earlier in the spring, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer named junior H-back Curtis Samuel as his No. 1 playmaker. Known for his speed and agility, Buckeye fans got a glimpse Saturday as to why Meyer had faith in Samuel.
Touching the ball 22 times, the junior picked up 261 all-purpose yards and three total touchdowns. Although the day was a chance to see how redshirt sophomore Noah Brown and redshirt senior Corey Smith would perform at wide receiver after season-ending injuries last season, Samuel was the leading pass catcher on Saturday.
Redshirt freshman Mike Weber was the leading rusher on the day, receiving 19 carries. Samuel was the second leading rusher on the day, handling the ball on the ground 13 times. Weber will be facing stiff competition with Samuel playing at such a high level.
“It’s a great feeling to be one of the first people out there to touch the ball. I have to keep my mind right,” Samuel said. “I just want to ball out and make opportunities for my team.”
One thing is certain after OSU faced Bowling Green; Samuel really is a playmaker.
J.T. Barrett has matured
When redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett first appeared for the Buckeyes in 2014 to replace the injured Braxton Miller, Barrett helped lead the team to the College Football Playoff. Although the offense succeeded under the then-freshman, the workload of former running back Ezekiel Elliott was thought to have carried the team through most of the season.
Barrett was considered immature as a player and needed time to develop. The game against Bowling Green Saturday is a testament to just how far he has come as a player. Misreading a route early in the first quarter, Barrett gave up a pick-six to Falcons linebacker Brandon Harris.
“Throwing an interception for a touchdown we don’t like that,” Meyer said. “But rebound, let’s go, and he went right back and said that’s on me.”
Barrett went on to complete 21 passes on 31 attempts and toss six touchdowns on 349 yards, adding another score on the ground. The seven touchdowns he was responsible for set a new record for OSU. All of this was accomplished with more than six minutes left in the third quarter.
After finishing fifth in Heisman voting in 2014, Barrett makes for a compelling player who just may find himself on voters ballots this year if he can continue with this kind of production.
The Silver Bullets are fast and have depth
Redshirt junior defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle sustained what appeared to be a serious right knee injury in the first quarter. OSU fans’ worst fears were confirmed by Meyer at the press conference following the game, as it was announced that the early indication is a patellar tendon injury, most likely requiring surgery.
“Tracy’s been my roommate since we first got here. Me and Tracy, we were real close during recruiting,” junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis said. “I love Tracy to death. That’s my brother. When he went down, it was the worst thing. He’s family to me.”
Although the loss of Sprinkle might hurt in the long run, the Buckeyes regrouped quickly and had little drop off without their primary defensive tackle on the field. Much of the reason for the success can be credited to the depth Meyer and the rest of the OSU coaching staff has talked about all spring.
As for the speed of the defense, the ability of Buckeye defenders to chase down ball carriers and undercut routes to prevent receptions was showcased throughout all four characters. On two occasions, redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker used his speed to track down the ball and come up with an interception.
“Greg Schiano, who has coached at the highest level in football in the pros, and his comments to me about the things Malik can do,” Meyer said. “He can do whatever he trains to do.”
Holes filled up quickly by linebackers and secondary defenders, preventing long carries by Bowling Green. Although a few players showcased potential weakness in coverage and pass rushing, the speed of OSU’s defense quickly made up for the miscues. The Buckeyes’ coaching staff definitely were right in saying this team is faster than last year’s.
Mike Weber has the potential to succeed at OSU
After the recruiting saga that went with Weber, the debut of the Detroit native was delayed after a meniscus tear in his knee resulted in a redshirt season in his freshman campaign. In the spring of 2016, Weber had many expectations to meet from his coaches, and that’s exactly what he did.
OSU running backs coach Tony Alford called Weber’s parents on Wednesday to share the news that their son was going to be the starting running back for the Scarlet and Gray.
In his first game as a Buckeye, Weber rushed for 136 yards on 19 carries. Although he failed to score, Weber showcased a punishing running style, especially on his first carry. After being tripped a few yards from the line of scrimmage, Weber barreled into the defender in front of him, flattening the would-be tackler. The crowd erupted in cheers.
Meyer spoke highly of his tailback, but extended the challenge to Weber of running a bit more like departed Ezekiel Elliott. Lofty standards for a guy appearing in his first game, but a good showing for the redshirt freshman nonetheless.
The secondary can depend on more than Gareon Conley
Although the only returning starter for the OSU secondary was redshirt junior Gareon Conley, the Buckeyes looked sharp throughout the afternoon. Bowling Green struggled to create any offense through the air, and Hooker came up with two big interceptions.
True freshman cornerback Rodjay Burns took full advantage of his time on the field, picking off Bowling Green backup quarterback James Morgan and returning the ball 75 yards for a touchdown. The Buckeyes surrendered just 175 yards through the air.
“We have a lot of talent,” junior cornerback Damon Webb said. “We’re just trying to get guys as much experience as we can and get guys on the field because we have a lot of talent, and we want to show it.”
The longest pass the Falcons could muster all day was 17 yards, a testament to the swarming secondary play OSU enjoyed. They may not have the likes of Eli Apple, Tyvis Powell or Vonn Bell. But the Scarlet and Gray may just have a dominant group of cornerbacks and safeties for 2016.