Midseason Gradebook: Ohio State Offense

The Ohio State offense was far from a work of art for the first half of the season, especially from a statistical viewpoint. We rate the performance thus far of the Buckeyes quarterbacks, running backs, offensive linemen and wide receivers.

With six games in the books, the Buckeyes rank a respectable 33rd in the country in rushing offense and a middling 54th in pass efficiency, but it gets much worse from there.

Overall, 80 teams have averaged more total yards per game so far this season, and the Buckeyes are 105th in passing yards and one notch below that in sacks allowed.

Injuries and lineup shakeups have a lot to do with those numbers.

The bell cow, tailback Chris Wells, missed all of three games, and one of its most talented and experienced linemen, guard Steve Rehring, was out for most of four contests.

Mix in a new quarterback with the passing of the torch from senior Todd Boeckman to freshman Terrelle Pryor and there is one more reason for an uneven performance, but there is enough of a sample size to judge the results regardless.

Read now as the Buckeye Sports Bulletin staff hands out midterm grades.


Quarterback
Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel tells us Pryor is his own biggest critic, something various statements the youngster himself has made to the media since taking over the starting job for the fourth game of the season would seem to support.

He almost went to painstaking lengths to point out he made mistakes in that fourth game, a 28-10 win over Troy, and after his toughest test yet, the 20-17 win at Wisconsin last Saturday night, he decried his making "young plays" such as missing an open receiver or holding the ball too long in the pocket. Still, he has had a hand in eight of Ohio State's last nine touchdowns.

His predecessor, Todd Boeckman, had his highs and lows as well, but ultimately lost the starting job as a result of his own inconsistency in making the right decision and Pryor's prominence both athletically and in the decision-making department.

For a freshman, Pryor has been fantastic, but we get the impression he would not want his age to be taken into account.
BSB midterm grade: C+

Tailbacks and fullbacks

The Ohio State coaching staff talked all spring and summer about how it loved the depth of its backfield, while fullback required a few search parties to locate a suitable starting candidate.

The difference between Wells and his fellow tailbacks remains great, however, at least in part because of just how good the big Akron native happens to be.

He is the best Buckeye running back when it comes to anything those players are asked to do, and with him out, the overall production of the group suffered.

Daniel "Boom" Herron played admirably in his place, but Maurice Wells and Brandon Saine have struggled to contribute in limited chances.

Where fullbacks are concerned, converted tight end Brandon Smith has been solid both as a blocker and the occasional option as a receiver out of the backfield, and special mention goes to Curtis Terry for his work as a short-yardage specialist.

The trio of fullbacks – which also includes Ryan Lukens – has not played badly but has ye to reach the level of contribution offered by Dionte Johnson, Tyler Whaley and Trever Robinson last season.
BSB midterm grade: B-

Wide receivers

This group was the object of Tressel's criticism early in the season, and starters Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline both admitted to having sub-par games when the Buckeyes flirted with losing to Ohio in the second week of the season.

Those two are on pace to fall well short of their production from a year ago, but Ray Small and Dane Sanzenbacher are already close to their full-season 2007 numbers and have combined to give Ohio State a threat at No. 3 receiver that was not present much last season.

Additionally, true freshmen Lamaar Thomas and DeVier Posey have made some appearances and been mentioned by coaches as potential contributors.
BSB midterm grade: B-

Offensive line/ tight ends

Since tight ends are still rarely targets in the passing game but are known to win the Jim Park offensive lineman of the week award on occasion, we will grade this group together.

Like the rest of the offense, the linemen entered the season with huge expectations.

However, the running game took some time to get going, and Ohio State is currently last in the league in sacks allowed. Coaches and players alike have said consistently both before and after games that this group needs to step up, and the head coach has even taken it upon himself to try to light a fire under the group.

Even as the running game averaged more than 210 yards per game the last three weeks, some of that has been attributed to Pryor's taking over at quarterback and the return of Wells. At tight end, Rory Nicol and Jake Ballard have done their usual good work as blockers but still must be starving for some catches (a combined six so far).
BSB midterm grade: C-


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