BSB Gradebook: The OSU Offense

With seven games played for the Ohio State football team and five remaining, the open week seems like a good point to look back at what we've seen so far. With that in mind, BSB is handing out grades for the OSU position groups. The offense is the first to go under the microscope, and there seems to be a consensus among why the team has struggled scoring points thus far.

There's little doubting Ohio State fans have been frustrated by the team's offense at times, and with good reason. The Buckeyes hit the open week placed ninth in the Big Ten in scoring offense (23.3 points per game) and an even worse mark of 11th in total offense (302.9 yards).

While there were some good outings – 42 points against Akron, 37 against Colorado and 27 in the opening 2½ quarters vs. Nebraska – there were also some that left observers banging their heads against the wall, such as single-digit point totals in losses to Miami and Michigan State.

OSU's rushing offense looked like a strength at times, but the team still is seventh in the league with 175.0 yards per game. The passing offense rarely has been on track, as the team's mark of 127.9 yards per game is last in the league and 115th in Division I-A out of 120 teams.

So how did each individual position group perform in the eyes of Buckeye Sports Bulletin? Read on for each staff writers grades.

It's never good to see a team completing below 50 percent of its passes, but that's where Ohio State found itself after seven games. The team's mark of 47.8 is fifth from bottom in Division I. OSU also had the rough fate of completing less than 10 passes in four games, including only one in the win vs. Illinois.

Joe Bauserman began the season as the starter but lasted only three games, and he's 40 for 86 for 492 yards, five touchdowns and an interception thus far. Included in that mark is a woeful completion percentage of 12.5 (3 for 24) in two road games.

Braxton Miller, a true freshman, has taken over and at times showed his youth. Miller is 26 for 51 (51.0 percent) while making four starts, having tossed for 403 yards, five TDs and two interceptions. He's also run for 243 yards, third on the team.

Jeff Svoboda Grade: C-
The quarterbacks have certainly been disappointing, but it's hard to ask for much more. Bauserman is a fifth-year senior who originally walked on and has really never shown the ability – or confidence – to fit the ball into the tight windows required in the college game. Miller, meanwhile, has been put into a tough situation, as he still has pages of playbook to learn and isn't exactly being put in the greatest situations in which to succeed. He's shown flashes, though, and fans should be excited about his potential in the future.

Marcus Hartman Grade: D
There is no way around it: Play from this position has been mostly poor. Bauserman followed up a strong preseason and opener against Akron by losing just about every sense of what he needs to do to succeed at the position. He threw the ball inaccurately and reached a point where he was so worried about turning the ball over he would not throw it into any tight window. Miller has played well in flashes but is a long way away from making good on the talent that made him a five-star recruit. He has battled inconsistency with his delivery and struggled to read the field, but his feet brought some life to the offense against Nebraska and Illinois.

Matthew Hager Grade: D
Most people knew there would be a drop off with the departure of Terrelle Pryor, but it was a bigger dip than was probably expected. Bauserman was clearly not the answer under center, and there were many growing pains with Miller. Miller was dangerous running the ball but defenses didn't respect him as a passer. I don't expect the end-of-season grade to be this low, but to me, the QBs were barely above a failing grade.

Ari Wasserman Grade: C
With all four quarterbacks fighting for the starting spot during fall camp not having any experience, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the position's struggles come as a surprise. Perhaps the most promising stretch of games have been the last two because Miller has shown signs of what made him one of the most highly touted prospects in the 2011 class, but as of right now the Buckeyes' offensive play-calling has been limited because of the immaturity of the freshman.

Running Back
Ohio State didn't have Dan Herron, Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry for stretches of the first half either through suspension or injury, so the depth of one of the most talented parts of the OSU team was stretched in the first seven games.

There were still some solid performances, though. Carlos Hyde leads the team with 408 yards, 5.2 yards per carry and five touchdowns as the only back to touch the ball in every game, while Hall ran for 321 yards and Herron picked up 114 in his return to the field against Illinois.

Jeff Svoboda Grade: B+
Things have gone about as well as they could here given the personnel losses that hit at times. Herron looked like the version of himself that was the team's offensive engine in the second half of last year, while I thought Carlos Hyde showed vast improvement after getting his first extensive on-field reps at the start of the season. Hall has been steady but not the breakout player that was anticipated, dragging the grade down just a hair. Meanwhile, Zach Boren deserves credit as one of the top fullbacks in the nation and perhaps one of the best OSU has ever seen. His work is often taken for granted but is immeasurable.

Marcus Hartman Grade: A-
A revolving door of starting tailbacks has generally given Ohio State excellent production this season. Hyde has been a battering ram with speed while Hall and Herron made would-be tacklers miss on several occasions to stretch potential losses into positive plays and average gains into big ones. The only disappointment has been Rod Smith, who rushed for 74 yards in his debut against Akron but sank to the bottom of the depth chart after issues with hanging onto the ball.

Of course no review of the backfield would be complete without recognizing Boren, a junior who is playing the fullback position better than anyone in recent memory at Ohio State. He brings the total package as a devastating blocker and a viable receiving option.

Matthew Hager Grade: B
Where would the Ohio State offense be without its strong stable of tailbacks? Despite some uneven performances early in the season, the running game was the Buckeyes' top offensive weapon. Hall and Hyde did their share to lead the rushing attack in the absence of Herron. Now with Herron back, the running game should only improve. Also boosting the grade was the play of Boren, who might be the offense's most valuable player.

Ari Wasserman Grade: B+
The workload has been extra heavy this season for the running backs in Ohio State's rush-heavy offensive philosophy and all the backs used have come on strong at one point or another. It must be harder to run when the defense knows it is coming, but Hall, Hyde and most recently Herron have all made big plays in big games this year. Ohio State's offensive attack has been predictable yet this is the only position the Buckeyes seem capable of relying on. In that scenario the group has fared quite well.

Wide Receiver/Tight End
Injuries and suspension hurt here too as DeVier Posey has yet to see the field while both opening day wideouts, Verlon Reed and Corey Brown, have missed multiple games with injury. Reed's season is over, in fact, after the redshirt freshman made nine catches for 132 yards.

True freshman Devin Smith leads the receivers with nine catches, 187 yards and three touchdowns, and he is the only wideout to average more than a catch per game. Chris Fields has six snags, Brown has five, Tyrone Williams has added three in limited duty and true freshman Evan Spencer has two including a touchdown.

The most consistent part of the passing game has probably been the performances turned in by the tight ends. Jacob Stoneburner leads the squad with 12 catches and six touchdowns, and those catches have been huge given the struggles at other spots. Reid Fragel also has four grabs and is a tough blocker on the edge.

Jeff Svoboda Grade: D
There hasn't been much to be excited about here except for the big-play potential shown by Smith. It puzzles me why the Massillon Washington wideout hasn't gotten more playing time as he looks like the Buckeyes' best option so far. The sprained ankle that cost Brown a few games will likely affect him the rest of the year. He flashed a few times against Nebraska but I think we probably won't get the best of him the rest of the season. I've always been a fan of Fields but he has struggled with mental errors, while Williams needs to prove he can catch to get more time on the field. Stoneburner has been excellent but the rest of the squad is young and struggles to get open. There are pieces here but time the young kids just need time, something not on OSU's side right now.

Marcus Hartman Grade: C
Stoneburner has been the team's top pass catcher so far and has frequently lined up as the team's third receiver. He has displayed all aspects of what has had people excited about him since he signed out of Dublin (Ohio) Coffman: speed, hands and the ability to get open against linebackers and safeties. Stoneburner's blocking has improved this year, too, but Fragel's power at the point of attack assured he continues to get regular playing time, too. Freshman Jeff Heuerman also flashed potential to be a useful option in all situations.

As for the receivers, Smith has been by far the team's most dangerous option but has seen curiously inconsistent playing time. Corey Brown provided a lift against Nebraska upon returning from an ankle injury, while Fields has had an issue with penalties and not displayed much ability to get open. Reed seemed to be coming on before blowing out his knee, but Williams' issue with catching the ball have made it hard for the coaching staff to put him on the field. Spencer provided a highlight reel catch in the opener but has not had much of an impact since.

The overall grade is mostly a reflection of how well the tight ends have played.

Matthew Hager Grade: D
Much like the quarterbacks, this unit was not a pretty sight. The suspension of Posey made this group one of OSU's youngest and most inexperienced – and it showed. Wideouts did not catch passes against Miami (Fla.) or Illinois and were not that notable on the field in games they did make catches. What helps this grade was the play of Stoneburner, who had become one of the tight ends Ohio State has had in years.

Ari Wasserman Grade: D+
Much like the quarterback position, Ohio State's wide receiver corps had little-to-no experience heading into the season. With Posey out 10 games this year because of NCAA violations, the Buckeyes have had to replace their top target with guys who haven't had much time on the field. Through seven games Stoneburner, a tight end, has been the team's saving grace because he has hauled in six touchdown receptions, but the receivers have left quite a bit to be desired.

Offensive Line
Suspensions hit hard here, too, as Mike Adams, Corey Linsley and Marcus Hall all missed time. The Buckeyes finally got Adams back vs. Nebraska and things have looked up since that point, as the team ran for 243 yards against the Huskers and 211 a week later against an Illinois team that had to know what's coming.

Those two performances were bounce-back efforts from a tough effort against Michigan State in which the Buckeyes couldn't get on track on the ground and gave up nine sacks.

Jeff Svoboda: Grade B+
The Michigan State game keeps this from being a better grade, but all in all, the line has been very good when it comes to run-blocking. The addition of Adams has been huge as the first-team All-Big Ten tackle has not only dominated his man, but his return allowed some reshuffling of the line to get it to an optimal state. Linsley, Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell have tremendous potential and have all been very good. Brewster had trouble with MSU's blitzes – as most centers would have – but has been really good otherwise. There have also been far too many false starts but that looked to be cleaning up as the games went on.

Marcus Hartman Grade: B
A group with high expectations has been good but not great so far this season. The Buckeyes pounded hapless Akron and paved the way for the running backs with nothing else working against Miami and Illinois, but they were overwhelmed by Michigan State and inconsistent against Toledo. Pass protection was also poor against the Fighting Illini, who seemed much more worried about getting up the field than protecting the line of scrimmage.

Brewster has had a tough job dealing with a multitude of new players around him, but the senior seems to have done a good job trying to hold everything together. Despite an effort to add bulk in the offseason, he still struggles to root out powerful defensive tackles. Left tackle has been stellar all season, first with Norwell and then Adams. Norwell looked more comfortable on the outside than at guard, but he has been solid there the past two games. Mewhort is also having a strong first season as a starting guard, while Linsley has displayed good power as a run blocker in limited chances. Hall's move to guard had its ups and downs before he was suspended for the Nebraska game. At right tackle, Shugarts has had a disappointing season so far. He has been solid blocking for the run but struggled against the elite pass rushers on the schedule, and the negative effect of his numerous false start penalties are magnified by the team's inability to recover from first-and-long situations they often have created.

Matthew Hager Grade: B-
Uneven would be a good way to describe the linemen so far this season. The line had some good games and some notable bad ones. Michigan State in particular abused the line and sacked OSU quarterbacks nine times. Other than that very noticeable blemish, however, the group was not that bad. The return of Adams was a big boost, but the Buckeyes had to have expected Brewster and Shugarts to play a little better.

Ari Wasserman Grade: B
This position group was supposed to be the strength of the offense this year and with the senior presence of Brewster and Shugarts the line has played quite well through seven games. Though there have been some hiccups with pre-snap penalties, excellent games against Nebraska and Miami proved they can hang in there with anyone. However, with the loss of Adams for the team's first six games, there were times where the line seemed overmatched, particularly against Michigan State and its blitz scheme. But the Buckeyes' offensive game plan of running the ball more than most teams wouldn't work without a competent line, so for that they pass the test.

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