BSB Midterm Gradebook: Offense

The open week comes at the midway point of the season for Ohio State, which means it's a perfect time to break down the Buckeyes' performances for the first six games. staffers take a look at each position on offense in the first part of our exams.

Ben Axelrod, Ryan Ginn, Matthew Hager and Jeff Svoboda break down how the Ohio State position groups have done through the first six games on an offense that places seventh in the nation and and first in the Big Ten in scoring (46.8 points) and 20th/fourth in yardage (492.8).

Axelrod: When a quarterback stable contains a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, how can you grade it any lower than an A-? But enough about Kenny Guiton. Whether it's been Braxton Miller or Guiton in the Buckeyes' backfield, Ohio State has enjoyed newfound success in its passing game this season and is on-pace to obliterate the program's single season record for passing touchdowns. Miller struggled a bit in the Buckeyes' win over Northwestern but looks improved mechanically from a year ago, and he should only improve as he gets healthier throughout the season.

Ginn: Despite less-than-gaudy overall passing statistics, it's hard to argue that any position has been more critical to the Buckeyes' 6-0 start as quarterback. OSU ranks eighth in the Big Ten in passing offense (212.17 yards per game), but the air attack has been efficient and complemented the run game perfectly. Both Miller and Guiton have delivered valuable performances without uprooting the chemistry of the team. The only thing keeping this from being a perfect grade is Miller's struggles against Northwestern. A-

Hager: This one is a little tough to grade. Obviously, Miller really deserves an imcomplete but I guess I'll give him a B-. I don't know if there are many people who would say we've seen the best of Miller through the first six games of the season, though that's not really his fault. He still shows flashes of brilliance but has games like Northwestern where he looks little like a Heisman Trophy candidate. Conversely, Kenny Guiton did everything asked of him and more when he was on the field. Guiton ran the option very well, threw better than most expected and led the Buckeyes to three wins. Mix Guiton's A and Miller's B- and I give them a B.

Svoboda: This almost has to be split up into halves considering Guiton played half the games and Miller the other half. I'd give Guiton, the ol' righthander, an A+ for his work. Sure, he made some mistakes, but he generally played within himself, distributed the ball with gusto and filled his role as a backup pressed into action admirably. As for Miller, he's certainly been a good player but suffers from the curse of expectations – after hearing everyone talk up his passing in the fall, the improvements he's made haven't been as much as expected, but he still gets a solid B+. Average them together and I'm going with A-.

Axelrod: Between Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall, Ohio State's backfield has showcased plenty of versatility and a plethora of productivity. With Hall nicked up and Hyde showing the form of an All-Big Ten back, it appears to be the latter's job to lose in the second half of the season, although the group still has a chance for improvement with the potential development of freshmen Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott. A

Ginn: Injury or not, OSU leading rusher and senior running back Hall has clearly been supplanted as the top ground game option by fellow senior Hyde. Without Hyde's performance against Northwestern, the Buckeyes might very well have bid farewell to their national championship hopes. True freshmen Elliott and Wilson both have room to improve but have demonstrated their explosiveness when given the opportunity. A

Hager: It doesn't matter which tailback carries the ball for the Buckeyes, whether it's Hall, Hyde or Elliott, they've been able to find success. The Buckeyes averaged 280.7 yards per game through the first six games – the 12th best mark in the nation. Ohio State has utilized shifty rushers like Hall and big, bruising backs like Hyde. They've all been tough to stop for opposing defenses, and it's hard to give this group anything but high marks. A

Svoboda: I don't see much to complain about here. Hall was leading the Big Ten in scoring through the first four games and looked as good as he has in his career, then Hyde had just a monster game vs. a Northwestern team that clearly couldn't handle his power. Add in some solid performances by Wilson and Elliott – two players who are going to shine at Ohio State when it's all said and done – and this group has been as good as advertised. A

Axelrod: There might not be a tougher group on the Ohio State roster to evaluate than the Buckeyes' wideouts. Clearly improved from a season ago, Corey Brown is turning into an awfully consistent weapon in Urban Meyer's arsenal, and juniors Devin Smith and Evan Spencer have both broken out to add options on the perimeter for Ohio State's quarterbacks. Chris Fields has added depth and boasts a nice catch-to-touchdown ratio, but OSU still lacks the true playmaker with deep speed that Meyer has been searching for since arriving in Columbus. B+

Ginn: The growth of Philly Brown has given Ohio State quarterbacks a reliable target all season long. Brown has tallied 30 catches, 381 yards and five touchdowns in the first half of the season. He's closely trailed by Devin Smith, who recorded 23 catches for 362 yards and five scores over the initial six games. Along with the play of Chris Fields (four touchdowns) and Evan Spencer (three touchdowns), the Buckyes' receiving corps has provided no shortage of options for its talented quarterbacks. B+

Hager: This much-maligned group has come along fairly well. Last year, the passing game was often non-existent. This season, it has improved. It's far from perfect, though. Ohio State has averaged 212.2 yards through the air per game, good for 85th nationally, but the wideouts have recorded 17 touchdowns. That group only had 13 all of last season. The group's getting better but still has improvement ahead. So far, however, so good. B

Svoboda: This group is kind of hard to grade because there's only so many footballs to go around, and this is a run-first offense at the moment under Meyer and Herman. Surely, though, you have to like what Brown has provided both in the slot and outside, while Smith has added consistency to the deep-ball prowess that was so obvious last season. The depth is still a question here, though, as someone like Spencer has been fine but not great, and no one else lower in the chain has really stepped up. Fields has had a nice senior year but hasn't been used as much of late. Sometimes the Buckeyes had trouble getting open vs. Northwestern, another small knock. B

Axelrod: Another tough group to grade, it's hard to judge the dirty work that the Buckeyes' tight ends are required to perform. According to Meyer, Jeff Heuerman is one of the best blocking tight ends in the country, and Nick Vannett has added a similar option on the OSU depth chart. Neither has broken out with a big game receiving-wise, but neither has had the ball thrown their way all that much either. Some of that's on the quarterback, some of that's on the play-calling, and some of that's on the tight ends themselves. They'll need to make more plays by the end of the season to improve their grade, but for now, they remain more than adequate. B-

Ginn: It's through no fault of their own, but the tight ends just haven't had that big of an impact on the offense this season, especially in the receiving game. Sure, their blocking is valuable, but in terms of quantifiable statistics, the group hasn't produced at near the level of the wide receivers. Jeff Heuerman has caught 10 passes for 101 yards and one touchdown, and Nick Vannett has recorded four catches for 37 yards. C

Hager: It seems like every year the question is the same: Will the tight ends become a bigger part of the aerial attack? This year, not so much. Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett have combined for 14 receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown. Not stellar, but one can't overlook the tight ends' efforts in blocking. Urban Meyer has praised Heuerman for his blocking this season, and neither Heuerman nor Vannett have stood out for any negative reason when it comes to blocking. B-

Svoboda: Blocking always is an underrated part of what tight ends do, which is a shame, because I've seen poor blocking out of the tight end spot really kill an offense in the past. That's not the case this year, though, as Heuerman excels on the edge, helping allow the Buckeyes to have one of the best rushing offenses in the game. Heuerman isn't a bad receiver, either, and I still think Vannett has breakout talent that we just haven't quite seen on the field yet. B+

Axelrod: Arguably the strength of the OSU roster, the Buckeyes offensive line picked up where it left off last season, helping pave the way for the nation's 12th-ranked rushing offense. After a shaky performance against Buffalo, Taylor Decker looks improved as Ohio State's right tackle, and the only thing holding this unit back from a perfect grade would be a couple of untimely false start penalties that plagued it early in the season. A-

Ginn: Ohio State's rushing attack has helped the Buckeyes consistently move the chains, and much of that credit belongs to the players opening the running lanes. The offensive line has yielded just eight sacks in six games, and the offense has gained 89 of its 152 first downs on the ground. A-

Hager: Expectations were high for this group and through the first half those expectations were met. Four out of the five linemen entered the season as experienced seniors. To a man, they filled the bill. The newcomer, sophomore tackle Decker, struggled in the season opener against future NFL defensive lineman Khalil Mack of Buffalo but has played well since then. It's hard to find much to complain about with the OL, as expected. A-

Svoboda: It's hard not to like this group. It's not perfect – no line ever is – but it's pretty damn good, and the cast of characters (in particular, the likable Lumber-Jack Mewhort, and the self-effacing Corey Linsley) is fun as well. Decker had a rough first day but has acquitted himself well since then, earning notice on a line that also includes seniors in Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall. Even the depth has come along, looking good in early-season blowouts. A-

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