Who must emerge for the Buckeyes on offense?
COLUMBUS — Jim Tressel used to say that September is for pretenders and November is for contenders. His thoughts on August, however, weren't so well documented.
Urban Meyer on the other hand was overheard telling his players on Monday that when they kick the ball off for real on August 30 that he wants them to be the best team in America.
For that to happen the Buckeyes will need to put these next 22 practices to good use, and if all goes well, Meyer and his coaching staff will get everything done that they set out to do.
As far as being at their best on offense, however, they will need the emergence of a few key players to make that happen. If the following five players step up and fill the needs of the Ohio State offense, then the Buckeyes will very likely put another dozen or so hurtings on opposing defenses.
1. Tony Underwood, Junior Left Guard
Right now if there's a position on the football team that keeps Meyer up at night it's left guard. The Buckeyes are rotating four players in at that position, and as the old saying goes, "If you've got four left guards, then you ain't got one." Underwood missed last season with a torn ACL, but ran with the ones through most of spring, rotating a few times with senior Joel Hale, who was the starting nose tackle a year ago. Chase Farris was also a name that Meyer mentioned, and he's always shown promise at guard, but has had to deal with injuries and being shuffled back and forth between offense and defense. Billy Price might be the sleeper of the group. They love his strength, and if he starts slipping behind in the three-way battle for center, then he could get an even longer look at left guard. All of this would become moot, however, if Underwood could be the guy who steps up and eases everybody's concerns. He's always been just on the cusp of being a starter, and right now they need him off of that cusp and in the game.
2. Ezekiel Elliott, Sophomore Running Back
Photo by Jim Davidson
Every offensive coach that is asked about the running back situation will tell you that there is no clear-cut starter right now, yet they would all also tell you that Ezekiel Elliott would likely get the first reps in practice. Elliott did nothing this spring to think that he didn't deserve the spot at the top of the depth chart, and there is no reason to think that fall camp will be any different. He is simply a very talented and complete tailback, and if the Buckeyes can get everything out of him that he has to offer, then the offense's completeness will mirror Elliott's. An outstanding running game makes life easier for every other group on a football team. Field position and time of possession are a defense's best friend, and that comes from having a solid running game. If Elliott can emerge as nearly everyone expects him to, that will also help the OSU passing game, which needs as much help as anybody is willing to give.
3. Dontre Wilson, Sophomore H-Back
The Buckeyes certainly need an outside receiver to emerge, and we'll get to that in a second, but first we have to talk about Dontre Wilson, who is the popular pick to lead the Buckeyes in receiving this season. Life as a running back made his transition to receiver a little slowed, but it will make his life as a slot receiver one to certainly watch. With his speed, quickness and agility, if he can become the Buckeyes' top target this season, then he will be doing so against linebackers and safeties for the most part, which should be very little trouble for him. As running backs coach Stan Drayton will tell you, for this offense to be at its best, they need an H-back that is a threat from everywhere, including the running game. Wilson should be that threat, if he can handle it. If he can, then Ohio State will have yet another star looking to shine.