Well, here we are. Ohio State got handed a thorough beatdown by Clemson which doubled as the first ever shutout sustained by an Urban Meyer led squadron. It wasn't pretty. Honestly, it was fucking horrifying to watch. Every gremlin that's crept around the Buckeyes all season was creeping louder than ever, announcing their presence on the biggest stage. Yet again, JT Barrett was completely flummoxed. Yet again, the Buckeyes skill position players failed to make an impact. Yet again, we left a game with a plethora of questions. Tonight, though, these questions take on a whole new sense of urgency.
The issue with Barrett is a complex one. JT performed with moxy as he always does. His leadership is not something that will ever come close to being an issue- as a military kid, he was raised to be the leader that he is. It's unfortunate that leadership cannot manifest itself in a downfield passing game.
It is obvious that Barrett has every tool in the book needed to be an elite college quarterback. The sun sets on the 2016 Buckeye Football season with JT having annihilated every record in the book. The guy's got talent. The issue the Buckeyes have run into time and time again this season is the issue of putting players and schemes around him to capitalize on his massive talent. Ohio State's offense has been an enigma and then some since former offensive coordinator and quarterback guru Tom Herman left Ohio for his own program at Houston, and later Texas. With him apparently left any semblance of offensive gameplanning. Against Clemson, the Buckeyes were held to a paltry 215 total offensive yards with a meager 127 through the air. With the voracious Tigers defense clamped down on all-world athlete Curtis Samuel, the Buckeyes were forced to attempt to get the ball into the hands of the sub-par receiving corp behind him. The hero of the Buckeyes' earth shaking win against Oklahoma, Noah Brown, was held to two receptions. Corey Brown snagged two as well. KJ Hill, one. It wasn't pretty. Going into this offseason, the Buckeyes have to take a long hard look at offensive co-coordinators Ed Warinner and Tim Beck, and ask themselves the difficult question of whether or not they are suitable fits with the program.
Urban Meyer has carved out a legendary career for himself as one of the leaders of the pack of the spread offensive system. Gamebreakers like Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow, Ezekiel Elliott, Braxton Miller, and JT Barrett have put many trophies on Meyer's mantle. With the absurdly excellent recruiting classes that Meyer reels in time after time, it's a bit of a shock to me that this year's Buckeye team underperformed to the extent that they did at skill positions. In this fan's opinion, most of that has to due with the offensive staff and the lack of development seen on the field. The Buckeyes need to bring in skilled coaches who can build players up, helping them mature into the caliber of player that their four and five recruiting stars signify. With tonight's news that the San Francisco 49ers have decided to move on from former Oregon mastermind Chip Kelly as their head coach, I think the solution to the problem is obvious. Pay. Chip. Kelly. Meyer has filled and refilled his coaching staffs with truly elite minds. I touched on Herman earlier, but the list continues for miles with other solid coaches such as Greg Schiano (current co-defensive coordinator, former NFL head coach), Chris Ash (current Rutgers head coach), and Luke Fickell (current Cincinnati head coach) by. Christ, when Fickell took the job at UC, he was immediately replaced by Billy Davis who has THREE NFL defensive coordinator jobs on his resume. Urban can get anyone he wants. He needs to want someone with Chip Kelly's expertise. Imagine JT Barrett and Curtis Samuel running Kelly's wide open spread assault. I can hear the Heisman talk already.
Another issue the Buckeyes unfortunately faced this season was their place kicking game. The normally steady Tyler Durbin completely imploded against Michigan and Clemson, paying homage to former Buckeye legend Mike Nugent's Bengals tenure by missing every damn attempt for the most part. Meyer and his recruiting staff need to place an emphasis on secial teams this offseason, and make a move on a blue chip kicking prospect.
Last but not least, I have loads of worries about the defense heading into 2017. The Silver Bullets were once again the backbone of the Buckeyes, making play after play. They are the sole reason why the Buckeyes fought their way into the playoffs. The unit looks to move into 2017 retaining some of their core- Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa are a terror to quarterbacks from their spots on the defensive line, while Jerome Baker and Chris Worley will likely return to anchor the linebacking unit. That being said, one has to wonder how the Buckeyes will deal with losing yet another sterling draft class of defensive players. Malik Hooker, by far the best player on the 2016 Buckeyes, will more than likely enter the draft and be one of the first 15 players taken. Star linebacker Raekwon McMillan, he of 15 tackles and a sack against Clemson, played out of his mind and will likely forgo his last season of eligibility to be taken in the first two rounds of the Draft. The only constants of the last decade of Buckeye football are kicking That School Up North's ass and losing dozens of players to the NFL. This will continue again, but I worry about how they can possibly bring in players who can make one iota of the impact these studs made in 2016.
All this aside, Buckeye Nation has reasons to be optimistic about the 2017 team. Any team quarterbacked by JT Barrett stands a chance. Curtis Samuel would have been a Heisman finalist if not for inept playcalling and gameplanning in the last month of the season. The Buckeyes return 2016 Big Ten Freshman Of The Year Mike Weber at runningback, and while he completely shit the bed against Clemson, he has all the tools of an elite runningback. The defense will compete despite losing another boatload of talent. It’s just time to ask some tough questions. Knowing Urban Meyer, I have no doubt these questions will be asked. It’s just hard to know if enough can be done to realistically put a playoff team on the field next season.
We Buckeye fans have every reason to be upset today. Be sad that a promising season ended short. Be angry that the offensive gameplan was another shitshow. But we are Buckeyes, damn it. Let’s sing Carmen Ohio and move on.