What did we learn from a glorified scrimmage against the Zips? What can Buckeye fans take from a game that was less competitive than the jersey scrimmage a few weeks ago?
COACHING: Of course it was Akron, but Ohio State looked like the tightly-wound, organized, business-like squad, we were all hoping to see. There were only three penalties, a good sign for an opening game where the score got out of hand and the weather made it tough to stay focused. Playing two quarterbacks, both extremely inexperienced, had zero negative impact on the offensive output. They appeared organized, efficient and well-drilled. On an opening day with a new head coach, new quarterbacks, new runningbacks, new wide receivers and three new starters on the offensive line, one might expect at least some minor confusion. There was none. Plays were called on time. Substitutions were crisp. Very few mistakes. AND all the credit for that goes to Luke Fickell, because if any of the above had gone sideways, HE would have received the criticism. Simply put, Ohio State looked a lot better than they had in most of Jim Tressel's openers. So far, give Fickell an A+. But, at this point that's like a sixth-grader dominating the playground basketball game before the big kids get out of school. The big kids are coming.
THE ROOKIES: "If a dog's gonna bite, he'll bit as a pup." Apologies to John Cooper, but a few pups bit, and took big bites of college football on their first day. Please tell me you didn't immediately think of Michael Wiley and David Boston flashing on their first day in the Shoe when you saw the Devin and Evan Show Saturday. Those two frosh wide receivers certainly put on a show, and just might have made life a little uncomfortable for the rest of the wide receivers not named DeVier Posey. Verlon, Chris and T.Y. all played well Saturday, but they better not get too comfortable in games or in practice. "The Catch" by Evan Spencer was as good as anything I've seen in a Buckeye uniform since Cris Carter, and Devin Smith looked like he did when playing for Massillon, although he played against tougher competition than what he saw Saturday. The "Law Firm" will be in business for years to come, as Devin and Evan are here to stay.
Ryan Shazier played well, and I'm surprised he has taken to the linebacker spot and playing upright as well as he has. He had his hand in the dirt throughout high school, and the transition to playing up can take over a year to get comfortable for some players, but Shazier looks like a natural. The sack late in the game was why Ohio State needed Ryan Shazier in this program. That was a play Ohio State fans should see more of going forward, and against real competition. I'm certain players like Ross Homan, James Laurinaitis, Brian Rolle, Marcus Freeman, Andrew Sweat, Matt Wilhelm, Cie Grant were all great players at Ohio State. None of them are Ryan Shazier coming off the edge, and he should put up huge sack numbers before he leaves Columbus.
THE QUARTERBACKS: Probably the most-watched duo of the day, and both were excellent. They won't get credit for being good, because it was Akron, but they would have caught Holy-Heck if they had played bad. Don't think for a minute there wasn't a TON of pressure on Joe Bauserman. He knows his audience, Bank that. He was two bounced out-patterns and a pick away from being booed out of the stadium, and yes, he was there for Boeckman/Pryor. Joey B. stepped up and performed, and now all he has to do to stay on the fan's good side is repeat that every week. I like seeing athletes under pressure, and Bauserman will face just as much in Columbus as he will on the road. He passed Test-I with an A+.
Braxton Miller was as good as advertised, but I think he will play a lot better going forward. He seems a little bit tentative compared to his fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants style in high school. As he gets more comfortable, he will get more creative and take more risks, resulting in more big plays. He is a Michael Vick-type player, and I'm not sure we saw that Saturday. We will.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE: I think Mike Brewster and J.B. Shugarts led their troops well and this unit played a lot better than the numbers show. There were holes missed on a consistent basis by both Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith, and neither took advantage of the opportunity to bounce plays outside and make big plays. It took Boom a while to learn that as well, but these backs gained as many yards as the offensive line knocked people back. There's a reason Hyde and Smith play behind Herron, Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry, and we saw why on Saturday. There were opportunities for big plays by both. One run over 20 yards against that Swiss-Cheese defense isn't much to brag about, and the other three would have gotten more yards. Hyde and Smith were good, but I expect both will play better going forward.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Dominant against the run, but still struggled to pressure with four. The five sacks looks good, but three came late in the game when Patrick Nicely was being protected by five kids not as talented as the students in Michael Bennet's chemistry class. Stopping the run will always be Job-One under Jim Heacock and it's really tough to find anything to criticize about his defense, but getting consistent pressure without blitzing would be one thing to look at. Loved seeing Garrett Goebel get involved in a ton of snaps and make plays. A great kid that has waited his turn to play.
THE LINEBACKERS: Andrew Sweat is ready to take his place alongside Laurinaitis, Freeman, Wilhelm, Homan, Rolle, and all the other impressive linebackers Ohio State has trotted out there this decade. He is so tough and so athletic, when combined with great football instincts, you have an All-Big Ten player on your hands. Props to Storm Klein, and he took more snaps Saturday than he has in his career to date. Klein looked like the player I thought he would be when he came out of high school, and he needs to build on this performance the rest of his career. Etienne Sabino was good, but it looks like he might be the odd man out when they go to the nickel. If Shazier ends up being ready for third-down prime time action, that cuts into more snaps, and Tyler Moeller is another player that has to be on the field. Lots of talent in the front-line for the linebackers.
THE DEFENSIVE BACKS: They blanketed receivers and they stoned the running game. Thank you for playing. Great to have C.J. Barnett out there, and he looks amazing just a year removed from major knee surgery. Dominick Clarke did EXACTLY what you have to do in major college or NFL football. When you're the Next-Man-Up, you must produce and give the coaching staff a reason to keep you on the field. He did that.
LOOKING AHEAD: Another MAC team on the horizon, but a team that can actually give Ohio State a game in Toledo. I do not expect the lay-down effort of an Akron out of a Tim Beckman-coached outfit, and the Buckeye defense should be tested next Saturday. Toledo will help prepare Ohio State for heading to Miami. Not sure Akron prepared Ohio State for anything other than seeing players perform in semi-game action in front of a live crowd, but it's good to get the first one out of the way.