Ohio State finds itself in a hairy predicament, one Buckeye fans are not accustomed to seeing. For all we know, and should care, winning a national championship is out of the question. Further, we hold none of the cards in the Big Ten picture. Sure, the Buckeyes will have the opportunity to knock out current conference undefeateds Iowa, and even Purdue this week. However, they do not play current conference leader Michigan State. The Bucks must rebound from a deflating loss in Madison immediately if they want to keep alive for a record-tying sixth straight Big Ten championship. I’ll review some things worth knowing below. As always, keep Tressel’s presser transcript handy.
Homan, Bryant Out for Purdue
Purdue is out its starting quarterback, tailback and wide receiver. To compensate, Purdue’s coaches have adjusted the offensive gamplan midstream to facilitate redshirt freshman Rob Henry’s adjustment to game action. The spread look, in contradistinction to what Marve had to begin the season, means Ohio State will go nickel. Unfortunately, it will be missing its key nickel piece. “Star” back Christian Bryant will miss Saturday’s game to, not injury, but cellulitis.
Ohio State freshman defensive back Christian Bryant is hospitalized at The Ohio State University Medical Center for an infection in his right foot. His father, Ronnie, told The Plain Dealer today that the infection is cellulitis, a common bacterial infection that can turn serious if left untreated.
Ronnie Bryant said his son, a Cleveland native and Glenville High grad, is doing well and is in good spirits, but that the plan is for Bryant to remain in the hospital through at least Friday unless the swelling in his foot goes down quite a bit, which could lead to an earlier release.
Family member had a bout with it several years ago. It is gross. Treatable and, in Bryant’s case, not really serious, but still gross. Seriously gross. Incidentally, Bryant noticed it last week and attributed to some garden variety swelling one might get from playing football and in tight cleats. He went to the doctor only after the Wisconsin game aggravated the swelling.
Ross Homan bowed out of the Wisconsin game early with an unspecified foot injury, prompting Jonathan Newsome to be subbed in at Andrew Sweat’s strongside linebacker position. Sweat, a more natural WILL backer, was moved into Homan’s spot. Sweat played well in the game. Newsome? Enh. Well, Homan — our best linebacker — will miss the Purdue game as well.
To be honest, the Bryant injury concerns me more for this game than losing Homan. Homan is clearly the more important player on the roster in general, but I think we’re hurting more in the secondary than at linebacker. It remains to be seen what the Buckeyes will do to gameplan for Henry and the Boilermakers. The Boilermakers feature more spread concepts now than they did to begin the season. However, they resort to more running than passing, which was not true about the 2009 Boilermakers. The Buckeyes could conceivably rely on their base 4-3 and add Bryant’s replacement, whoever that may be (Gant, maybe. I think he’s healthy now.), on certain passing situations that will allow Ohio State’s defensive coordinators to get creative with a blitz. Regardless, the injuries are starting to pile up. We’ll be on our third “star” for Purdue. No apruebo.
Lack of Depth at DL Shows
Wisconsin took a 21-0 lead early into the second quarter on a 19 play, 94 yard drive that resulted in another John Clay touchdown. It was a drive that lasted 10 minutes. In that drive, only Johnathan Hankins came in off the bench to sub in for one of the front four (Larimore). Not good.
It’s not that we didn’t know this could be an issue. It’s just that this is the first real game where it came back to haunt us. Miami was able to drive on us late in the second half, exploiting this similar design flaw. However, that was pure prevent we were playing with a comfortable lead. Against Wisconsin? Not so much. It naturally came up in the press conference. Cue Tressel:
I can remember many times we’ve talked since last February that one of the concerns was that five of our eight in our eight-man rotation were graduating or going out early, one of the two. So, yes, we were concerned about would we mature to the point where we could get into an eight-man rotation. Johnathan Hankins, I think, has been a guy that’s come along. We think Adam Bellamy‘s coming along, Garrett Goebel‘s coming along. What you get into in a ball game like this is, you know, is it the right time and the right place to put someone in? Obviously the conclusion that was drawn in that drive in particular or in that game was that certain guys played, certain guys didn’t, but that’s probably been something we’ve talked about as much as anything is that if we were going to progress to become the team we would like to be, we have to grow fast with some of the younger guys and that’s still our goal and — but are we as deep and can we rotate as much as when we had — you know, you had Thaddeus and you had Lawrence Wilson, you had Doug Worthington, you had Todd Denlinger, you had Rob Rose. Those guys all were the rotators last year and, you know, they’re rotating elsewhere right now. But that’s where we are. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Jim would tell you that he’s disappointed with the progression of Adam or Garrett or Solomon Thomas or anyone, but he just, at the moment, felt like that wasn’t the best decision.
I don’t know what to make of that last line. Basically, Adam Bellamy, Garrett Goebel and Solomon Thomas are making good progress, just not enough to play after so many years in the program. Perhaps that came off as a little bitter, but we have to get more from the subs. Worthington, Wilson, Rose, Denlinger, Simon and Williams were all regulars during the course of a game, some more than others. That it’s only Hankins, a true freshman, now? Hmm. We are more than halfway through the season. I’m not expecting this to get better overnight.
Ah Yes, Special Teams. I Remember You.
Somewhere on my Twitter feed, likely during Wisconsin’s game with Michigan State, I believe I boasted that Wisconsin took the banner of horrible special teams from us within the conference. I think I even wished them well with it and asked them to wave that banner with pride, gusto. Well… hmm. Yeah, I got that back in spades.
Kickoff coverage came back to haunt us again. Tressel was asked about it again. We got a similar explanation, again.
Well, there aren’t any other issues, other than being in your lane and taking on blockers and everyone being where they’re supposed to be. So, yeah, they’re the exact same. What can you do? You can try to grow to understand that it just takes one guy — we always talk as a kickoff return team, make them be perfect because if there’s only one guy off, you have a chance. If you have a guy that can find that seam. You know, we had — we had probably two or three problems on that first kick. I don’t know that our number 10 guy folded and hit the crease with the velocity he should have. Our Number — I guess it would have been seven or eight guy went around the block. Our number five guy got grabbed and tackled.
I mean, there were a lot of things that were a part of that, but the bottom line is that when you’re covering kicks, there’s no excuses, they don’t care if you get pushed in the back, grabbed, held, thought you should have gone around it, thought the ball was going here or there, you have to fit. And just like when you’re playing defense, you have to fit. Kickoff, you have to fit from 70 yards away. Defense you have to fit from the line of scrimmage. We just didn’t fit. But that’s really nothing new as to when you err on kickoff return, it’s because of poor fit, and when you fit it up right, you usually can get them on the ground normally in relation to the depth and height of your kick. Sometimes you may say, I’ve got the 29 yard line, that’s too far. The kick landed on the 12, that’s pretty good. The kick landed on the three, we want them right around the 21.
If you let some creases happen, I think the average start after we kicked off for them was the 44 yard line because they had one at the zero and then the other ones after that. But our consistency with our fits and our consistency with our kicks, I mean, you guys have been there, haven’t been what we need.
Well, with Coach Haynes who was in charge of the unit and the three or four coaches who assist him is they are constantly talking about you can’t go around a blocker in that, you have to — you have to take on blockers square and two gap and so forth. As soon as you go around them, you think, well, I can go around them, I’m going to catch him. Well, you’re not going to catch him, not when you’re going a million miles an hour that way and he’s coming this way, it doesn’t happen. So you’re going to stress fundamentals, and I don’t want to — please don’t paint the picture that us having the kickoff taken back lost the game, because we still had — we still had 59 minutes and 48 seconds, so we had plenty of time to make up for that, but we’ve got to get better at that.
Buckeye fans know now the assistant coach responsible. I have not gone back to watch the game because I fear for my health, and the health of others, if I do. From what I recall, one of our guys — within proximity of Basil by one, maybe two lanes — tried to go around his block and was promptly blocked, sealed for it. Basil, our safety, came up too quick and Gilreath, our ol’ buddy, had six points to begin the game. Sigh…
Let’s End This On A Positive Note…