Just because Ohio State isn't playing this weekend doesn't mean there is nothing to talk about. The Buckeyes enter their open week a perfect 8-0, but many questions still face the team. We'll be tackling a different topic each day this week, some serious and some light-hearted, but all with eye towards the Buckeyes four remaining regular season games against Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan State and Michigan.
Who has been the biggest surprise for the Buckeyes this season?
Ryan Ginn: I think the biggest surprise has to be Tyquan Lewis, who emerged in the spring after redshirting in 2013 and amassing nine tackles and 0.5 sacks in 2014. His name started popping up relatively early in the campaign to replace the combination of Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier, but even so it’s still been amazing to watch what he’s done this season. Playing opposite Joey Bosa is certainly a favorable situation, but you still have to actually take advantage of the opportunities you’re given. He’s done that with 32 tackles, nine tackles for loss and a team-best 5.5 sacks through eight games.
James Grega: We all knew that the defensive line would be one of the strengths for the 2015 Ohio State football program.
But what most of us didn’t see coming was the emergence of Tyquan Lewis as the Buckeyes' sack leader eight games into the season.
Lewis, who didn't play much in 2014, won the starting end spot opposite of Joey Bosa in fall camp by beating out the likes of Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes and has played extremely well.
Lewis has 5.5 sacks which is two more than Bosa has on the season. Yes, Bosa missed the opener and is constantly taking on double teams, but Lewis is cleaning up the mess and not all defensive ends could do it so effectively.
Lewis is also second on the team in tackles for loss with nine, while Bosa leads the pack with 11 in just seven games.
Tim Moody: Within a lineup full of known quantities it’s hard to exceed expectations, but sophomore cornerback Gareon Conley has certainly stood out for Ohio State on defense.
Conley was poor in his lone start against Michigan State last season, but won the starting job this year ahead of Damon Webb and hasn’t looked back. He had a breakout performance in the season opener against Virginia Tech with eight tackles and half a sack, and he’s now tied for the team lead with two interceptions.
Statistics don’t say it all, though, as Conley has been strong in coverage, forming a formidable duo with classmate Eli Apple, and has arguably been the best tackler in the Buckeyes’ defensive backfield not named Vonn Bell.
Apple might have the slight edge overall, but there have certainly been times this season when Conley was the best cornerback on the field.
Blake Williams: This was a tough question just because I expected so much of so many different players. One guy who I didn't really haeva feel for coming in to the season was Tyquan Lewis, but man has he impressed.
The sophomore defensive end won the job opposite Joey Bosa over Sam Hubbard, which was enough to surprise me at the time, and hasn't looked back. Lewis leads the team with 5.5 sacks. While that number has certainly benefitted from the double-teams that Bosa is facing, I didn't anticipate this type of finishing ability.
Lewis also has nine tackles for loss, second on the team to Bosa, as his quickness and raw strength have overwhlemed opponenets at times. Had you asked me before the season who would step up at end I would have said Hubbard, and while the red shirt freshman has been impressive, Lewis has been the bigger surprise in a team full of mostly known commodities.
Ryan Ginn: There are a handful of candidates here, including the early season offensive line play and tight end Nick Vannett, but my choice is true freshman Torrance Gibson. It’s unfair to pin all of the disappointment on the class of 2015’s most anticipated recruit because it’s not his fault he was battling an injury in fall camp and the first few weeks of the season, but self-sabotage to the point of not even dressing the last two games is inexcusable. He has nowhere else to go because he’d have to sit out next year too if he left and still wanted to play at the FBS level, so it’s probably time to get it together.
James Grega: It would be hard not to go with the new Ohio State kicker Jack Willoughby.
Since beating out Sean Nuerenberger in fall camp, Willoughby has yet to hit a field goal attempt longer than 40 yards.
In addition to that, coach Urban Meyer has elected to send out punter Cameron Johnston at times this season when the Buckeyes have had the ball in what used to be field goal range.
For example, down 3-0 early in the game against Penn State, Meyer elected to pass up a 52-yard field goal attempt in favor of a Johnston punt from the Nittany Lion 35-yard line.
This used to be within the range of former kickers Drew Basil, Aaron Pettrey and of course Mike Nugent. However since Basil’s departure, the Buckeyes have not found a consistent kicker and it could end up hurting them in a late game situation.
Tim Moody: When Ohio State rolled to three straight wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon on its way to the national title, the offensive line deserved as much credit as anyone. With four returning starters from that unit and a fifth-year senior filling in the final spot, big things were understandably expected once again.
Top to bottom it hasn’t been a stellar season for the O-line, though, and senior center Jacoby Boren has experienced the worst of it among the returning starters. He’s always been undersized, but he made up for that while putting together a strong display down the stretch last year.
This time around Boren has been pushed around at times, especially when opposing teams have gone to a three-man defensive front. It doesn’t help that he struggled with shotgun snaps early in the season either, especially since, you know, Ohio State never lines up under center.
He hasn’t exactly been terrible and Boren is still one of the team’s leaders, but his play certainly hasn’t been what Buckeye fans came to expect last year.
Blake Williams: Largely because of continued injury issues, I'm going to go with Dontre Wilson here. While it hasn't been the junior's fault as he battles back from continued complications from last year's foot injury, Wilson has not lived up to the expectations I had for him at the start of the year.
Wilson was noticably bigger to start this season and I thought the added muscle would translate into a better ability to run through tackles, the biggest knock on the H in his first two seasons. He's caught seven passes for 63 yards and hasn't found the end zone yet this year.
Hopefully Wilson can get more playing time following the open week and show the ability that I thought we would see throughout the season. It's a top-heavy position group but given the number of injuries to Buckeye receivers this season, Wilson needs to get healthy and realize his talents for the stretch run this season.