BSB's Midterm Gradebook: Offense

Ohio State has been lighting up scoreboards at a rate not seen in a few years in Columbus, and yet not all appears well with the team's offensive attack. See what the Buckeye Sports Bulletin staff writers say about that in our yearly midterm gradebook.

Quarterbacks

Adam Jardy: Ohio State fans are finally seeing the Terrelle Pryor promised to them when he signed out of Jeannette, Pa. The junior has proven that he can sit back in the pocket and pick apart opposing defenses, adding another way the dual-threat option can stretch opposing defenses. His command in the pocket has grown considerably this season and with it his numbers have improved. Pryor has already thrown for more yards at the halfway point of this season than he did during his entire freshman year and he ranks sixth in the nation in passing efficiency – one of head coach Jim Tressel's favorite statistics. The backups in Joe Bauserman and Kenneth Guiton have shown flashes of potential but remain liabilities at best. This is Pryor's team, and he finally seems capable of handling those expectations.

Matthew Hager: No one in their right mind can have any complaints about the play of Pryor in the first half of the season. The dynamic quarterback has led a rejuvenated passing attack, and the junior can still hurt a defense with his feet when necessary. A recent minor quad injury may hinder his running ability, but if his career-best passing performance against Indiana is any indication, Pryor will be fine leading the Buckeyes. What should concern Buckeye fans is the backup situation. If Pryor goes down, so do Ohio State's national championship chances. Bauserman did not look good against Illinois, and apparently Guiton has not looked good enough in practice to pass Bauserman on the depth chart.

Marcus Hartman: Grading the whole unit is a bit tricky here. Pryor is beating teams with his arm while the legs provide a fitting complement - rather than the other way around - and if he keeps doing that, the Buckeyes are going to be tough to stop all season. Pryor's still far from a finished product, but he has raised his awareness, leadership, accuracy and command of what is going on around him. But what to make of the backups? Bauserman looked solid enough in relief against Ohio and Eastern Michigan, but his ill-advised interception against Illinois leaves some concerns about his ability to take over in future moments of importance. Guiton's ability to step in is questionable at this point as well.

Jeff Svoboda: Pryor isn't the finished product, and that has to be a scary thought for Big Ten opposition. Though Pryor still makes a few misguided throws, his jump forward in the mental aspect of the passing game has been, quite honestly, stunning. It's not that I'm surprised Pryor has gotten better, it's the extent to which that has taken me aback. Add in his outstanding leadership skills and it has been an ‘A' effort for the junior. The overall grade for the unit, though, is taken down just a notch because of the backups. I like the steps Guiton has made, but I don't think he nor Bauserman could run the show if Pryor gets hurt, a scary reality glimpsed at least for a second in Champaign.

BSB's Grade: A-

Wide receivers

Jardy: The Buckeyes might want to come up with a new definition for the term "wideout" given the way Pryor is spreading the ball around the field. A total of 16 players have caught at least one pass – Pryor included – as tight ends, running backs and even fullbacks have gotten involved in the passing game. Leading the charge, however, are two solid players in Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey. The talk throughout the summer was who would step up and seize the third wide receiver spot, and it turns out there is no one answer. OSU boasts a number of options in the passing game, which makes it no surprise that the team is averaging more than 76 more yards per contest compared to this point a year ago.

Hager: One of the main questions leading into the season was who was going to be the No. 3 receiver for the Buckeyes, but with a pair of steady receivers in Sanzenbacher and Posey that hasn't been a big concern. Sanzenbacher has been Pryor's top target, leads the team with seven touchdowns and has been one of the team's most unsung heroes in 2010. Posey hasn't scored as much, but is still second only to Sanzenbacher in receptions. Taurian Washingtonhas done well as the third wide receiver, but with the emergence of Stoneburner, there has been less pressure to find a No. 3 guy.

Hartman: Posey and Sanzenbacher are both in the top 10 of the Big Ten in receiving yards, and the pair has alternated in the role of Pryor's favorite target. They have a pair of 100-yard receiving games apiece but have not hit that milestone in the same contest. Aside from Posey's forgettable game at Illinois, they have both been reliable and complemented each other well with Posey's explosiveness and Sanzenbacher's precision. As for the tight ends, Jacob Stoneburner was off to a good start before a sprained ankle knocked him out of the past two games. His ability to stretch defenses has yet to be displayed, but he was a valuable safety valve when healthy. His blocking left something to be desired. Reid Fragel has been an asset as a blocker in his place, and he is solid in the passing game.

Svoboda: No single third wideout has "stepped up", but you have to like the variety Ohio State has had in the passing game. The Buckeyes have received nice contributions from the running backs and tight ends, while backup wideouts Washington, Corey Brown, Grant Schwartz and Chris Fields have added some nice production at times. Still, this is the DeVier and Dane show. The two have 26 and 27 catches, respectively, while the next-best full-time wideout total is at four. Sanzenbacher has stepped his game up to another level while Posey has been very good except for an off-day at Illinois.

BSB's Grade: B+

Running backs

Jardy: It comes as a surprise to me that Dan Herron is proving himself the team's top running back. I've never thought the back who goes by "Boom" was a true game-breaker, but he has proven his physicality and taken the opportunity handed to him as senior co-captain Brandon Saine has really struggled. The coaches have tied some of the problems with the rushing attack to the play of the offensive line, but to me that does not explain some of the problems I have seen when Saine in particular is running the ball. Youngsters Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry have certainly shown flashes and could get more time as the season goes on, but it is looking more and more like the Herron show – with liberal doses of Pryor mixed in for good measure – as the Buckeyes try to bring home another title.

Hager: The productivity is not what the unit – or Ohio State fans – probably would like, but the Ohio State rushing attack isn't bad by any means. The Buckeyes are averaging 248.5 yards per game, good for 20th in the nation. Herron looks to have taken the top tailback spot, and while that means less carries for Saine, he has proven to be a threat in the passing game as well. Hall, Berry and Carlos Hyde have all shown flashes of talent when on the field, and fullback Zach Boren's effort can't be ignored. Justin's younger brother can block, catch the football and leap defenders.

Hartman: Saine started with a bang but has since fallen on hard times as his instincts have at times to betrayed him when holes were there but he missed them. Herron has picked up the slack the past couple of weeks thanks to an improving ability to run to daylight. Though he lacks the size to be a great inside runner, Herron runs hard, makes quick cuts and looks poised for a productive second half. Of the three young backups, Berry has looked the most like a difference maker because of his acceleration and ability to make people miss, but sometimes that gets him in trouble. He has been the most effective in limited opportunities, but that probably owes at least a little bit to facing lesser more backups. Hall is ahead of him on the depth chart, but his best work has been done on punt returns. Hyde has surprising elusiveness for a 238-pounder.

Svoboda: I've always liked what Saine brought to the table, but it's hard to deny his mojo isn't working this season. Kudos to the coaching staff for continuing to find ways to get Saine involved, but the senior captain's demise as a rusher has been an unfortunate reality. Moving on from there, Herron has added a little bit of shake and burst to his game even if he's still not the most wildly talented back in the world. Hall, Berry and Hyde have been impressive in limited uses as well.

BSB's Grade: B-

Offensive line

Jardy: The struggles in the run game come back to the line, which appears to have taken a step backward in run blocking as it has taken two steps forward in pass blocking. Injuries have not made a serious impact on this unit, with just one starter missing the majority of one game after J.B. Shugarts' foot injury forced freshman Andrew Norwell into the lineup early against Indiana. The amount of experience is evident on this unit, and we have seen flashes that show the line remembers how to run block with the best of them. If those flashes become more consistent, we will be looking at one of the best lines in coach Jim Bollman's tenure in Columbus. Until then, we still have to wonder about the upside of this unit.

Hager: The line is always much maligned, but I think the unit has been at least solid this season. Mike Adams has taken control of the left tackle spot and has clearly improved since last season. The four others starters have not regressed, either. Michael Brewster and Shugarts are veterans now, and despite the occasional miscue or false start, both have fared well. Shugarts' nagging foot problem could be an issue during the second half of the season, but fortunately for OSU, Norwell has not looked lost in his time on the field. Finally, guards Justin Boren and Bryant Browning have anchored the line and played well.

Hartman: This is a group of which much was expected because of a combination of talent and experience not seen around here in several years, but the results have been mixed. When everyone is on the same page, the Buckeyes offensive line has shown flashes of domination, but too many mental lapses and miscommunications have led to breakdowns both in the running game and pass protection. While Pryor has had good time on a majority of his dropbacks, that he has been sacked 11 times still cannot be ignored. The offensive line has not had an easy job by any means considering the threat posed by talented defensive fronts from Miami (Fla.) and Illinois, but, again, expectations play a role here.

Svoboda: I might be more lenient than the average grader, but I'm going to give the line a passing grade. The Buckeyes haven't lined up and pushed people off the ball all that often this year, but that's not really a reasonable goal all of the time in football these days. A few lost one-on-one battles and a few miscommunications have hurt, but I think the line has been good enough. The deal has been to protect Pryor and help spring him for the occasional big run. They've accomplished that goal pretty well. Certainly, there is a need to get better, but reports this unit has been a disaster are overrated.

BSB's Grade: B


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