Game Thoughts: Navy

Ohio State received strong opposition from Navy last Saturday, before pulling away for a 34-17 victory. What stood out for each position group in the win?

PREDICTION: Ohio State 48 Navy 17. ACTUAL SCORE: Ohio State 34 Navy 17.

OVERVIEW: I thought I saw about what I expected from each position group for the most part. Didn't expect Ohio State to be held without a touchdown in the first half, but this is a brand new offense, so maybe that's not surprising at all.

QUARTERBACK: J.T. Barrett was amazing, and the player of the game in my opinion. Simply put, had he been bad Ohio State could have lost this game. But he was not anywhere near bad, and in fact he was very, very good. He's going to win a lot of games for Ohio State in his career. The arm strength is good enough. The running ability is good enough. BUT, this kid is a QUARTERBACK, not an athlete trying to be a quarterback. He is only going to get better, but there could be a few blips along the way. He is out there one year ahead of schedule, and that needs to be remembered. But the future is bright at the QB spot. For his first start, and coming a week after the injury to Braxton Miller, Barrett was tremendous.

RUNNINGBACK: The specialty guys were the story here, as Curtis Samuel, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall were too much for Navy to handle on the edge. They had too much burst, too much quickness and they gave Navy fits. Ezekiel Elliott was OK, but looked tentative and not real quick through the holes. He is not Carlos Hyde, and that is evident. But it was his first real game, and it could be nerves and the fact that his offensive line was no help at all. But he still has to hit holes and make people miss, and he really did not do that. I would hope to see Rod Smith more this week, but not sure that's in their plans. Would also like to see the QB under center, with a fullback and tailback, in third and short, and not in the gun. Hard to imagine having a smallish runningback try to run seven yards to get one yard is sound football, but that's their way. Can this group be better? Yes, for sure, as they're all very inexperienced.

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END: Loved seeing Devin Smith have success, and you could also add in the specialty guys here, because they were impactful as well. Mike Thomas and Evan Spencer are who they are, and they're average possession receivers who aren't real threats on the outside. Devin Smith can be a difference maker on the outside, simply because of his speed and burst that the other outside guys lack. Let's hope he is on the verge of a senior breakout, and his touches go up. Would love to see if he could take on an expanded role in this offense as the number-one receiving threat on the outside, because he commands coverage from the defense. The slots are all dynamic speedsters, and threats to score from anywhere on the field. Wilson, Samuel and Marshall can play their roles as well as any position group on the team. Just not many balls for the tight ends in this offense, but these guys are very talented.

OFFENSIVE LINE: In the first half they were actually much worse than even I thought they could be, and I don't have a high opinion of this group overall. They were pretty terrible early, especially the inside guys. I thought Daryl Baldwin was passable, which was better than I thought he would be. In the third quarter, this group was OK, and very good in the fourth quarter when Navy's undersized defensive front had nothing left. Pass protection was awful, and that had better get shored up this week. I was surprised at how soft they were, and seeing a 275-pound Middie split a double-team from two OSU monsters was stunning to see. Ohio State was terrible on third/fourth down, and this group bears most of the blame. They had no chance against Navy's blitz package, and that package is not Bud Foster's blitz package that comes calling this week. Things better be the fourth quarter O-line, and not the first half O-line. Period.


I'm hesitant to write anything about the defense from the Navy game, because this group did nothing they will be asked to do again this season. Players were not in their real spots, following the assignments they will be asked to follow the next 11 weeks, so it's almost not fair to try to critique anyone's play against Navy.

DEFENSIVE LINE: There were a lot of yards given up on the ground, but it's hard to find fault with this group. They controlled the line of scrimmage, and most of the yards came on the outside, when the back seven was too slow or too tentative to react. I liked seeing Steve Miller play a lot, because he's a guy the coaching staff loves. Joey Bosa, Adolphus Wasington and Michael Bennett are among the best in the country at their spots, and they will be even better when Noah Spence returns. There are zero worries with these guys at all, and they can cover up a lot of inexperience and average play from the back guys.

LINEBACKER: Not real impressed, to be honest. They had very little pass responsibilities, and basically had to run to the football on the option or the toss, and they could not do that effectively. It could be inexperience, or it could be lack of speed, but the clock is probably ticking for a few of these guys. McMillan, Booker and Hubbard are waiting to take over, and whether that happens next week, next month, or next year, it's going to happen. They needed to upgrade the talent with the 2014 recruiting class, and we saw why against Navy. This group better be a lot better this week, with more responsibilities.

CORNERBACK: There's just no way to judge these guys, even though Doran Grant and Eli Apple were very impressive running and tackling. They are on the field for pass coverage primarily, and that facet of the game starts this week. Nothing to comment on for pass defense, but the speed and athleticism was evident. They will be under the gun against teams that go three and four wide, and try to attack with the pass, and that's how they will be judged.

SAFETY: The same basically holds true with these guys, but they were called upon to cover more ground in a hurry than the corners. Really liked Vonn Bell a lot, and it's going to be hard to keep his speed and athleticism off the field. Tyvis Powell and Cam Burrows seemed a step slow and took some poor angles to the ball, but their true worth will come in the remainder of the schedule. We have to see how they hold up against a team that is not a one-dimensional running team.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The punter is great. The kicker looked very calm and had a strong leg. The coverage was very good. All of this can make a HUGE difference in close games. After Week-One, this area is a plus unit for sure.

LOOK AHEAD: Coaches always say their teams improve the most between Week-One and Week-Two, and that actually makes a lot of sense. My concern is that the game with Virginia Tech is actually Game-One, because there was not much Navy did offensively that helped Ohio State's defense prepare for the Hokies. My first thought is that this week's game will be a very tight one, going right to the wire, but I want to think about that all week before making the prediction. Not sure Virginia Tech has big time talent defensively, but they have a big-time defensive coordinator.

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