History has a knack for repeating itself, and this 2021 Ohio State Buckeyes football team looks to be somewhat in the Matrix.
Rewind to 2014 where the Bucks had Urban Meyer in his third season, starting an inexperienced redshirt freshman, now most decorated quarterback in school history, J.T. Barrett. After an underwhelming opening performance in Baltimore against Navy, the Bucks came home and got embarrassed by the unranked Virginia Tech Hokies, 35-21. Barrett went 9-29 throwing the ball with three interceptions, and also ran a total of 24 times for only 70 yards.
That team was counted out by everyone and had a rough drop in the rankings, only to come back and win the title by fixing their mistakes. This 2021 team is looking to rewrite history under similar circumstances. They too looked underwhelming in game one on the road against Minnesota, and then dropped the home opener to #12 Oregon, ironically giving up the same number of points…35. This while having head coach Ryan Day in his third year, and of course the inexperienced redshirt freshman in C.J. Stroud at quarterback.
The way these teams failed is completely opposite, as in 2014 the offense was stuck in the mud, and this year the defense can’t remotely stop the run. The promising thing is that the Bucks have two games against Tulsa and Akron to get the defense squared away. This single high safety look isn’t working, especially as Oregon exposed Kerry Coombs’ man scheme by scoring three rushing TDs on the same exact play.
Fixing The Defense
There’s two ways to approach this on the defensive side of the ball. The first would be to run more cover three if keeping the single high safety, allowing players to come downhill and play free. The second way would be to reverse course on the “Bullet” position and go back to a double high safety scheme. There’s absolutely no reason that any team should be running free to the end zone of the short side of the field for the remainder of the season.
At practice this week, everyone should have to earn their spots back. The linebacker play has been slow, the defensive line hasn’t created pressure, and the secondary looks lost yet again. Coombs needs to swallow his pride and simplify the scheme, which should immediately begin to resolve these issues.
Fixing The Offense
The running game issues look eerily similar to 2018, where Dwayne Haskins never pulled the ball in read option looks. If Stroud has no intention of doing so, or if Day is telling him to give it, then quit running those plays. By making the wrong read and not pulling the ball, Stroud is essentially giving the defense an extra defender on the play.
Stretch runs and outside zones haven’t been used as much as they could be, and we haven’t even seen the counter look yet. Ohio State’s offensive line can lean on everyone on the rest of their schedule. Day needs to realize this and allow his maulers in the trenches to go to work.
Correcting the run game will help the passing game evolve. By establishing the run game early and often, it’ll create a nearly impossible to stop play action pass scheme. Also, it’ll allow the Buckeyes to play from ahead early, which hasn’t happened in their first two games.
In the passing game, the only issue is that Stroud has to be more decisive, which will come with time. Yes he’s had some overthrows but his indecision when going through progressions has to improve. It’s hard to come anywhere close to a decision that Stroud caused the loss this weekend, as he threw for 484 yards against one of the better defenses in the country.
When deciding to run, he just needs to take off. His ability to extend the play has been subpar this season, as it always seem to be a really slow roll out followed by a bad throw or toss out of bounds. We all know Stroud has speed, as seen from his 48-yard touchdown run against Michigan State last year. He just needs to use it.
Even though it was a tough loss, their 612-yard offensive performance didn’t go unnoticed. The Buckeyes only fell to #9 in the latest AP Polls, which means all things are still on the table for them. Plenty of teams in front and around them in the rankings will play head-to-head in the coming weeks, slightly clearing the way back into contention.