Student News Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes
The Rutgers football team is set to take on No. 11 Ohio State this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in its first conference home game of the season. In anticipation of the matchup, The Daily Targum reached out to Colin Hass-Hill, sports editor at The Lantern, Ohio State's student newspaper, for insight on the Buckeyes. Colin was nice enough to oblige and can be found on Twitter — @chasshill — for news and updates on the Ohio State football team.
Q: I've noticed Ohio State fans have been critical of JT Barrett's play this year and many people have been calling for Dwayne Haskins to start. Is this criticism fair? How would you evaluate his play this year?
A: J.T. Barrett is a solid, experienced and consistent performer, especially in the run game, but does not possess a strong arm and is not a threat in downfield passing which leads to criticism. Though Barrett lacks threats at receiver, he has not done himself any favors, overthrowing wideouts on intermediate routes and missing potential pass catchers deep down the field. On the other hand, Dwayne Haskins possesses the best arm of any quarterback on Ohio State’s roster. He played substantial snaps in the Buckeyes’ 54-21 blowout victory over UNLV last week and flashed the arm talent. However, he is very unlikely to supplant Barrett due to his relative lack of game experience. Despite Barrett’s shortcomings, he has still proven to be a dynamic runner, leader and winner. He has started 33 games for the Buckeyes and holds many school and conference records, including the most career touchdowns accounted for in the Big Ten, which he set last week. Since Barrett arrived on campus, head coach Urban Meyer and the quarterback’s teammates have praised his mentality and this season, Barrett became the first three-time captain in program history.
Q: The defensive line has obviously been hyped up a lot this season. How has that unit performed this year?
A: Defensive ends Nick Bosa, Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes have caused havoc in every game this season, except Ohio State’s 31-16 loss versus Oklahoma in Week 2. Bosa, who is the highest-rated defensive player by Pro Football Focus through four weeks, leads Ohio State with three sacks and seven tackles for loss. He has looked unstoppable at times and seems likely to develop into a high first-round pick. Lewis, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, and Hubbard have combined for 5.5 sacks. On the interior, defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones has created havoc penetrating opposing backfields. This group is one of the most talented units in the nation. To make the next step and be in contention with the very best units, the line must dominate against the best offensive lines in the nation. Oklahoma’s line combined with quarterback Baker Mayfield’s elusiveness gave the Buckeyes their only struggles of the year.
Q: What did Indiana do so well early on against the Buckeyes in the first game of the season and has Ohio State fixed those weaknesses?
A: Indiana entered the first halftime of Ohio State’s season leading the Buckeyes, 14-13. Nothing went well on either side of the ball. Indiana’s offense picked on Ohio State’s inexperienced cornerbacks as quarterback Richard Lagow completed 40-of-65 passes for 410 yards. Ohio State’s offense struggled to find a rhythm as three-and-outs plagued the unit. Neither problem has been completely solved. Though cornerback Denzel Ward has played well, cornerbacks Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield, a junior college transfer, continue to be liabilities. Sheffield picked up multiple pass interference penalties against UNLV. Ohio State’s offense has improved as it put together longer drives that finished with touchdowns against Army and UNLV, but it has yet to prove it can have as much success against a more talented defense, like Rutgers’.
Q: What type of running back is JK Dobbins and what makes him so good?
A: Ohio State could have suffered against Indiana as Mike Weber sat out the season opener, but that wasn’t the case. True freshman running back J.K. Dobbins, who was hyped up by his teammates throughout fall camp, started in his place and exploded for 181 rushing yards, the most by any player in a debut in program history. The 5-foot-10, 208-pound La Grange, Texas, native is a slippery ball carrier who combines impressive speed and explosion with jukes and jump cuts. He doesn’t just use his athleticism, though. Running backs coach Tony Alford said Dobbins picked the offense up faster than any player he had seen in his 22 years as a coach. Though Dobbins has only played four games, he has been the Buckeyes’ most consistent playmaker as he has averaged 7.5 yards per carry and leads the Big Ten in rushing. He will be a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2018 and 2019 as he continues to mature physically.
Q: How has former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson been as the offensive coordinator?
A: When Kevin Wilson was hired in January as co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach along with co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, many people thought Ohio State’s offense, which sputtered over the second half of last season and did not score against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, would drastically change. That has not happened. The offense looks very similar in many respects as Barrett has once again struggled in downfield passing and the offense could not get into a flow against Oklahoma and in the first half of the Indiana game. The reality of the offensive changes thus far has been less drastic than many expected, given Wilson’s explosive offenses in the past.
Q: What is your prediction for the game?
A: I picked Ohio State to win 38-17 because though I believe Rutgers’ defense might give the Buckeyes some early troubles, the more talented team will pull ahead in the second half. This will be a great test for Ohio State’s offense as it has decimated lesser competition, yet mightily struggled against Oklahoma, which led to the Buckeyes’ only loss of the season.