That's what we think, so with that in mind, we're asking 20 Questions when it comes to the Ohio State football team. Every day from now until the opening game week, we'll have our BSB writers answer one question about the Ohio State football team. Some will be serious, some will be funny, and none will be "Animal, vegetable or mineral?" But all should help you think about the upcoming season, hopefully in a different way than before.
Question 11: If you had to beat one team with 11 players playing both ways, which game do you choose and what does your starting lineup on each side of the ball look like?
Ryan Ginn: I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the team I’ve assembled below is the best in the history of college football, but you can find my explanation beneath it if you need further convincing.
LT Taylor Decker
LG Joel Hale
C Pat Elflein
RG Chase Farris
RT Jamarco Jones
TE Sam Hubbard
WR Darron Lee
WR Vonn Bell
QB Jalin Marshall
RB Jerome Baker
H Parris Campbell
DE Pat Elflein
DT Joel Hale
DT Chase Farris
DE Jamarco Jones
LB Taylor Decker
LB Jerome Baker
LB Darron Lee
CB Parris Campbell
CB Jalin Marshall
S Sam Hubbard
S Vonn Bell
These noble warriors will be taking on Hawaii, unquestionably the worst team on Ohio State’s schedule this season. I’ve tried to mitigate the fatigue that will come from playing both ways on short rest (five days after Virginia Tech) by mixing in some freshmen – they’re probably good at football, right? – as well as a player who is suspended for the opener. I feel bad about including most of the offensive line, as this is the most brutal assignment I can imagine, but someone has to keep Jalin Marshall alive and make this thing work. Plus, Linebacker Taylor Decker is something I think the world needs to see. The smart move would have been to stick the versatile Hubbard at linebacker, but I want to see a 265-pound safety and I bet Hawaii doesn’t.
Jerome Baker is a true freshman, but he was a standout at both positions in high school and I want to rest Ezekiel Elliott, who I picked yesterday as the player the Buckeyes could least afford to lose to injury. Hale and Farris both have experience playing on both sides of the ball at the college level, so they were no brainers. I would not want to be chased by Jamarco Jones. I saw Parris Campbell play cornerback effectively in high school, and I know some thought he’d end up there in college. Darron Lee has to be out on the field because not only does he seem like he’d be one of the best two-way players on the team but also someone has to teach Decker how to play linebacker.
Blake Williams: Love this question. Essentially I am just imagining a more sophisticated pick-up game between the Buckeyes and one of their opponents – I’ll go with Hawaii as I think it is one of the worst opponents on the schedule and it would be fun to do this for the first home game. So, who are the best/most versatile 11? I actually drew out the Xs and Os to get this right.
For starters I will take Chase Farris and Joel Hale as two of my linemen considering both have played on both sides of the ball in their time at Ohio State. Well need a center and because I think he is more versatile than Jacoby Boren, I’m going with Pat Elflein. Because the Rainbow Warriors run a 3-4 defense and their down linemen average about 265 pounds, Ohio State could get away with a smaller O-line. I trust Joey Bosa (6-6, 275) and Joshua Perry (6-4, 254) to block well enough. Plus, Bosa will diminish the negatives of essentially playing three defensive tackles with Elflein playing that side of the ball for the first time.
I’ll also take Darron Lee. Given his high school experience at quarterback and overall athleticism, I’m sure we could find a spot for him when the offense takes the field, probably at tight end. I’m going to put the Buckeyes in a 4-2-5 defense to get more skill players on the field, plus with Lee and Perry I feel comfortable at linebacker. Ezekiel Elliott will play safety and running back for me. To offset his inexperience in the defensive backfield I will take Tyvis Powell. His knack for the football and big body will translate to wide receiver. Eli Apple and Jalin Marshall fill out the remaining receiver spots and will be my primary corners. That leaves quarterback where I’m going with the man who removed himself from the competition at that position. Braxton Miller has the athleticism to play the nickel spot on defense and in this scenario I would run a scrappy, makeshift offense which plays to his skillset, plus Marshall is there to throw the ball to.
Jeff Svoboda: First of all, this is an amazing question from the mind of Ryan Ginn. Second of all, I think picking which game to do this for was maybe a bit much, but for fun's sake, I'm going to pick Illinois. Couldn't you imagine Tim Beckman losing to a team with 11 guys? Plus I'd want the extra practice you'd get picking this game over Hawaii, which only has a five-day turnaround.
Anyway, this exercise has to start with the lines. The hard part is merging the fact that there's five offensive linemen that would have to play with the fact there's only four defensive linemen, so who can block well enough while also being useful on defense?
My answer to that is Sam Hubbard. He's the consummate football player, and he's played enough positions I feel like he can be useful both as a linebacker and perhaps a guard or center on offense. Really, there's no great answer here, but let's mark down we're putting him on the interior line and also using him as the weakside linebacker.
As for the rest of the lines, I think it's great that Ohio State has some players who have played both ways in their careers. Billy Price and Chase Farris have done just that, as has Joel Hale, so we can slot Price and Hale as the other two interior OL and have Farris at one of the tackle spots. Taylor Decker used to play basketball and was a good athlete, too, so we'll put him at offensive tackle and defensive end as well, where he'll be joined by Farris. Hale and Price are the interior guys, and they can be pretty good at that.
So that's five guys, so what about the skill positions? Quarterback is intriguing; do you stick Cardale Jones in there and figure he might be useful at a linebacker spot, or do you have Darron Lee there considering we know what he can do at LB and also keeping in mind he played quarterback in high school? Or does Jalin Marshall get the nod, considering he was a prep QB as well and can also play corner in a pinch?
That's a lot of options, but I'm going with Lee. He's a stud at linebacker, so you don't have to worry there, and his prep quarterbacking abilities likely means he can at least go out there and do a capable job. Plus he's a super competitor, which I've heard is pretty important to have in a quarterback.
That leaves five spots -- the skill positions on offense, plus a linebacker spot and the defensive backfield. I think Raekwon McMillan is a good guy to have, as he can rule the middle of the field on defense and also run the ball OK, as we saw last year a few times when he had the ball in his hands.
I'm still gonna take Marshall, who can play wideout and corner. The same can be said of Gareon Conley, who played both ways in high school, so those are my two corners. Malik Hooker is a 6-2, 205-pound safety right now who also played offense and basketball in high school, so I'm taking him. And my final choice is Vonn Bell, who is a high-level safety who we learned can catch last year when he made a Big Ten-best six interceptions. I don't really have a tight end, but I think this can work if we go four-wide for the game.
So that's my team. I feel like the defense would be pretty strong, but the offense could be a disaster. There are some good playmakers like Marshall and Conley, but I sacrificed a bit at quarterback and running back in order to help the defense. And frankly, Hubbard on the line has the potential to be a problem simply because he's not that big and has never played there before, but I thought that was safer than having Jacoby Boren playing linebacker.
Would it win? Probably not. But it might be fun to see it happen.
Question 1: Who Will Start At Quarterback For Ohio State?
Question 2: If Ohio State swapped coaches with the other team for every game, what would its regular season record be?
Question 3: How noticeable will the loss of Tom Herman be?
Question 4: If Ohio State could bring back one player from 2014 for this season, who would it be?
Question 5: More all-purpose yards: Braxton Miller, Dontre Wilson or Curtis Samuel?
Question 6: Aside from Michigan State, which Big Ten team should Buckeye fans be most worried about?
Question 7: Seven Buckeyes made 1st or 2nd team All-Big Ten last year (four are back). How many make it this year?
Question 8: What kind of leash will the starting quarterback have? (Or to put it more clearly, what kind of performance would it take for the starting quarterback to fully lose that job – not just be subbed out for a series or two?)?
Question 9: How many true freshmen will have their redshirts pulled this season? Who will they be?
Question 9: Which player can Ohio State least afford to lose to injury?