2019 Ohio State Preview
With college football peeking its head around the corner in late August, many are left wondering what to think about this edition of The Ohio State football program. What will they look like post Urban Meyer? Can Justin Fields live up to the hype? Will Chase Young be the second coming of Nick Bosa or even better? How will the defense perform after a poor 2018 campaign? So many question marks surround the Buckeyes this season, but there's one simple answer. Aaron Rodgers once said, R-E-L-A-X. Everyone just needs to relax. There is a reason why the Buckeyes start the pre-season AP rankings at #6.
Ohio State, year in and year out, have top 15 recruiting classes in the country and this year was no different. Even with first year coach Ryan Day taking over for the legendary Urban Meyer, Ohio State shows no signs of slowing down. The Buckeyes took a little step back in recruiting this year, ranking fourteenth in the 247sports recruiting rankings for 2019 as opposed to second a year ago, but still managed to bring in three 5 stars, nine 4 stars, and five 3 stars. One five star recruit that stands out would be the number 2 overall wide receiver, Garrett Wilson. Wilson comes in as an intriguing talent out of Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas. He is an explosive freshman expected to see some playing time right away. He has to earn every minute as the Buckeyes have a pretty strong group of veteran receivers in KJ Hill, Austin Mack, and Binjimen Victor, not to mention true sophomore Chris Olave who is expected to fill in that fourth spot. If all goes as planned, Garrett Wilson should provide in ways that we’ve seen Parris Campbell and Curtis Samuel do so in recent years.
Another freshman to keep an eye out for will be 5 star recruit out of Olentangy Orange High School, Zach Harrison. The 6’5 253 pound true freshman already has elite college build for his position at defensive end. The number 12 overall recruit will have a rotational role in the already stacked defensive end position, but is expected to make an immediate impact. The man ran a 10.78 second 100-meter dash in high school as a 6 foot 5, 253 pound defensive end. Offenses, look out!
Speaking of defensive line talent, The Buckeyes (and yes I said “The” Buckeyes) have a chance to make a name for themselves on that side of the ball. Last season was a bit sketchy in every area but the defensive line. With returning talent such as Chase Young, Jonathon Cooper, Robert Landers, Jashon Cornell, Davon Hamilton, and incoming freshman Zach Harrison, with Larry Johnson at the helm, the Buckeyes have the potential to be one of the scariest defensive lines in the country.
The defense can’t possibly be any worse than last year. Ohio State gave up too many big plays, allowing record breaking runs and passes, seemingly game in and game out. If it weren’t for Dwayne Haskins having a Big Ten record shattering year, the season could of spelled disaster as they were in nail biters on a week to week basis. The defensive line is their backbone and they must make some changes to this years secondary as that was a weak point for them last year. With new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison running the show, things are expected to tighten up this year.
5 players to keep a watch for this year would be J.K Dobbins, Chris Olave, K.J Hill, Jordan Fuller, and Jonathon Cooper. Outside of the obvious names like Chase Young and Justin Fields, these players will be key to the Buckeyes success. J.K Dobbins had a “down” year a season ago even though he eclipsed over 1,000 yards on the ground. Look for him to bounce back as he should be the sole back in the backfield and not splitting carries with Mike Webber. If Dobbins gets his touches, look for him to be elite in his Junior season as we have seen flashes of brilliance from him dating back to his true freshman season in 2017. Chris Olave is a key part of the Buckeyes receiving core. If he can be 80% of what he was toward the end of the season last year, he is already a success. Olave totaled 10 receptions for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns in the final five games with two touchdowns coming against TTUN. That doesn’t seem like earth shattering numbers but given the fact that he had only 2 receptions in his first nine games, that sounds pretty good. Not to mention, TTUN had the top rated defense in the country last year at that point and, oh yeah, he also blocked a punt. I’m looking forward to see what he can bring to the table this year with a full season of target shares. K.J Hill is an obvious one. He returned to school as a veteran to lead this receiving core. K.J is one of the better wide receivers in the Big Ten and will remain so. He will find himself playing on Sundays after this season and so it’s only fitting to list the captain as a key player.
Jordan Fuller struggled last year as did the rest of the defensive backfield. If Jordan can put it all together, and live up to expectations, he can have a breakout year. He was an ESPN top 300 recruit back in 2016 with schools such as Alabama, Michigan, Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State and many other highly ranked power five programs recruiting him and he hasn’t yet lived up to the hype. I believe Jordan can have an All Big-Ten type of season with new defensive coordinator Mattison. Last, but not least, would be Jonathon Cooper. Cooper is expected to be the week 1 starter opposite of Chase Young. The Gahanna Lincoln product was highly touted out of high school and is just now grabbing the starting rotation in an abundance of talent at the defensive end position. Through no fault of his own, Jonathon has been nothing but a rotational player in his career at Ohio State but has always been expected to perform and perform well. This year will be no different for the senior and this year he will have a chance to become elite and provide a one-two punch with him and Chase on either side. Look for Jonathon Cooper to have a breakout year even with the rotation of defensive linemen.
If new head coach Ryan Day can utilize all of this talent, I can see this Buckeye team going deep this year. Ryan Day has some big time shoes to fill but has the coaching staff around him to keep the Buckeyes as a power house that they always seem to be. I predict Ohio State finishing the regular season at 11-1 with there only hiccup against conference foe Nebraska to open up conference play. That’s going to be a tough game for Ryan Day and the Buckeyes’ first conference game, not to mention , it is an away game. They will then regain momentum and finish the season strong and yet again, beat TTUN to make another trip to the Big Ten title game and a trip to the CFP. When all is said and done, I can see this team winning a title this year. That is a long way from now but the talent is definitely here in Columbus, now it’s a matter of utilizing that talent.