Second thoughts: Kent State

A review of Ohio State's 66-0 win over Kent State gave us a chance to take a closer look at some of the freshmen who made their debuts or got their first significant snaps in a college uniform.

Yep, the Buckeyes looked pretty good on the second viewing of their 66-0 thrashing of Kent State, too.

That comes as little surprise, but maybe my biggest takeaway was how solid Ohio State was nearly all afternoon. Things can get sloppy in these kind of matchups, but the Buckeyes were on point from the beginning and remained so throughout the game even as the lineup fluctuated significantly.

Ohio State adjusted immediately to Kent State's bear front, which they hadn't seen on film but knew could be coming after the struggles against Virginia Tech, by attacking the outside with the option and passes to the tight end. The Golden Flashes did not copy the Hokies' tight coverage plan, so there were more options for J.T. Barrett in the passing game, and he took advantage of those with frequent checkdowns.

The offensive line played well, seeming much more on the same page against a couple of different looks from Kent, and Barrett remained in control when he was blitzed. His skill guys showed up in waves with only Devin Smith's big drop a glaring error. Jalin Marshall had a standout day on offense and special teams. On top of showing his open-field running ability (too bad he couldn't make the punter miss), he blocked a lot better than he has so far this season, too. He seems to see cuts early and sets them up well.

Defensively, the effort was strong no matter who was in the game. The Buckeyes played hard, and they were opportunistic.

This was very nearly two different games as the starters dominated in the first half before giving way to the reserves, including a bunch of freshmen who played in a college game for the first time.

There are not a whole lot of overarching things to say about this game as it was pretty much just a strong effort across the board with the Buckeyes showing progress in many areas and taking a step toward being a very good team, so let's get to the bullet points.

Other notes and observations:

  • Ohio State worked on a fair amount of stuff out of empty formations, helping identify where pressure would come from and giving Barrett more options to throw to.

  • Ohio State used a rub route to score its first touchdown as Marshall took the cornerback away for outside receiver Michael Thomas.
  • Ironic thing about the "bear front" being a potential problem for Ohio State? It gets its name from the Chicago Bears of the 1980s, who used it as part of their famed "46" defense. The 46 was not the formation but the jersey number of Doug Plank, a safety from Ohio State who became the eighth man in the box.
  • On the first play of its second offensive drive, Ohio State ran a play-action jet sweep and rolled Barrett to his right for an easy throw to Elliott for a nice gain. That was too hard to defend as the OLB had to step up on the run action and the DBs could not get to him. The fake and the throw both went to Elliott.

  • I thought both live and upon review Barrett just tried to force his first interception into a window that wasn't open.
  • The TD pass to Marcus Baugh was the first time they showed 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) and it was a unique formation as well with both tight ends to the left side along with the Smith, who motioned right and faked a shovel pass to draw the defense's attention.
  • Baugh also showed some ability as an in-line blocker, perhaps giving Ohio State greater personnel options against better opponents in the future. I also thought Nick Vannett blocked better this week after having some iffy moments against Virginia Tech. Chris Rock, the Central Ohio native and Michigan transfer, also got a bunch of snaps in the second half and represented himself well.
  • The offensive line did a nice job picking up a well-disguised blitz on Barrett's long touchdown pass to Devin Smith that made it 45-0, although Billy Price got run over in the process. Price also had a hard time picking up a blitzing safety on one play in the second quarter, but I thought he played pretty well overall, especially in the second half when the second-team offensive line was in and he was playing center.
  • I really was impressed by the second offensive line throughout the third quarter and into the fourth. They did some very good work right down the line. Of course the level of competition has to be factored, but everyone had his moments against a team that knew the run was coming. Even true freshman Jamarco Jones did not look out of place physically, which is notable just because he hasn't had a chance to put a year in a college weight room yet.
  • Raekwon McMillan is an impressive player all around. He plays and reacts fast, and he isn't afraid to mix it up. Very impressive to see him take on a block, separate and make a tackle.
  • Trey Johnson, in danger of being left behind with the rise of some of the freshmen linebackers, made a couple of nice plays on the last possession, first a sack and then a nice hit on an attempted screen pass.
  • After struggling against Navy, Chris Worley had a couple of nice plays in the open field backing up Darron Lee, who continues to excel both in diagnosing and shutting down plays all over the field.
  • There may come a time this season when Ohio State coaches have to decide how truly important dynamic play is to them. There are a few spots where they have gotten solid play but youngsters who were highly recruited have flashed real dynamic ability. That is something Urban Meyer says he craves, but that has not always translated to playing time. There are pros and cons here as it's tough to bench a player who does things right in favor of upside, especially if the upside brings with it much risk for mistakes (something we seem to assume is always true even if it isn't). McMillan versus Curtis Grant is an obvious example at middle linebacker. With Noah Spence perhaps gone for the season now, right end could end up being similar with Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes pushing Steve Miller. Miller has had some nice moments but doesn't do much that is special. Lewis plays downhill and can get penetration, but the best of the bunch might be Holmes. Of course it's easier to say that without having seen enough of Holmes to test him, but he's a long, tall athlete. One positive working for all three seems to be a good motor.
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