Buckeye Report: January 14th, 2023
I’m trying something new here at Gridiron Heroics. Well, since we’re new everything is essentially new but this weekly update on The Ohio State Buckeyes is new to me. This time we’re covering everything new since the heartbreak of the Peach Bowl. There’s a lot to get into so here we go.
The Bears seem to be all in on Justin Fields. The Chicago Bears are choosing with the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft this Spring. Most indications are that they are going to stick with Justin Fields and build around him. As much as we love C.J. Stroud and as good as Bryce Young is, neither would be an instant upgrade and you’d have to go through even more growing pains with them if you pick on and trade Fields. The biggest factor that should influence the Bears is Fields can make a struggling offensive line look a whole lot better than Stroud or Young can.
Wide Receivers R’ Us
Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave are the first rookies from the same school to surpass 1,000 yards receiving.
The 2021 Ohio State team may have been the most loaded wide receivers room in college football history. Let’s have a look. Garrett Wilson was a first-round pick. Chris Olave was a first-round pick. Jaxon Smith-Njigba will very likely be a first-round pick. The same with Marvin Harrison Jr. Emeka Egbuka had 74 catches for 1,151 yards and 12 total touchdowns in his first year as a main contributor in his sophomore season. Julian Fleming and Xavier Johnson were big factors this season. Aside from each other (and steel does sharpen steel) these guys have a common factor.
Brian Hartline was named the offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes. Critics and fans alike have wanted Coach Day to give up playcalling and turn it over to someone else. I was one of them. I love that Coach Day trusts Coach Hartline enough to elevate him to this responsibility and if his proven track record is any indication of what his future calling plays for Ohio State will look like then Buckeye Nation has to be smiling. I know I am.
Some are worried about Coach Hartline getting this experience at a place as big as Ohio State. Those same worries were expressed when he was promoted from an offensive analyst to wide receivers coach and he’s answered the bell and raised the bar every year, both in recruiting and the play of the Buckeyes’ wide receivers.
Those worries were answered during the Peach Bowl. Ryan Day and the Buckeye offense slowed itself and stalled and crashed in back-to-back years in the biggest rivalry in sport; The Game. The Buckeyes helped a very tough Wolverine defense and it led to two horrible defeats. I was convinced this same offense that went away from Marvin Harrison in the red zone, that got too cute and didn’t attack the middle of the field, and had plenty of other failures was going to show up again against Georgia.
I was happily wrong! I don’t know what made Coach Day right the ship but he did. He has had the Buckeyes ready in every bowl game he’s coached, even the ones they lost and struggled in, they had an edge about them that was missing in The Game in 2021 and 2022. It returned in Atlanta. They gave a dominant team their best contest in a year and with a little defense would have been national champions themselves. If Ryan Day builds his offense the way he has before bowl games and lets Brian Hartline run it they will thrive.
With a revamped Ryan Day building it, and the young gun Hartline navigating it, the Buckeye offense should be a dominant force in 2023. It’s the Buckeyes betting on themselves. The expectations will be higher than ever and the patience for losses lower than ever. I was one that was wondering if the Buckeyes had fallen to Georgia the way they did TTUN if it might be time for a change. I’m glad they didn’t and even more glad to be wrong in this instance. But that pressure will only grow and likely crush down on the coaches if the results are a repeat of 2021 and 2022.
The Buckeyes’ official coaching promotions announcement.
Coach Hartline was thinking about what might have been on Monday had things gone slightly differently for the Buckeyes in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve. If the right call had been made on the targeting hit on Marvin Harrison Jr., had Jim Knowles’ defense maintained a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, or had poor Noah Ruggles made the kick. The Buckeyes likely would have had the same success against TCU as Georgia. Here is the new Ohio State Offensive Coordinator’s Tweet during the game:
A new star has joined the Buckeyes’ defense in Ja’Had Carter a transfer from Syracuse. Carter had a good year for the Orange. You can see his highlights below. From what I’ve seen, the Bucks have gotten a good player who will be a key contributor to the defense from the word go.
All-American Tackle Paris Johnson Jr. is off to the NFL…
…So is star Center Luke Wypler…
…and another All-American Tackle, Dawand Jones…
The three offensive line standouts are off to the NFL and have played their last games in scarlet and gray. They will be missed. A couple of other surprise departures are hitting Buckeye Nation. JK Johnson a star second-year player who I thought would be the next great defensive back at Ohio State is taking the Joe Burrow road to LSU. He will be missed but rooted for by his old team and all who call themselves a Buckeye.
Javontae Jean-Baptiste is leaving Ohio State for Notre Dame and will play his old team this September. Jean-Baptiste had been at Ohio State for five seasons, graduated, and decided to use his extra year from 2020 to go play at Notre Dame. I have to think if he had wanted to return he’d be a starter for the 2023 Buckeyes but wish him success at Notre Dame except when they play the Buckeyes. In his career at Ohio State Javontae Jean-Baptiste had 53 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, and a forced fumble.
It’s not all departures and sadness though as Tommy Eichenberg, the Buckeyes’ star linebacker and All-American has decided to give it one more season in scarlet and gray…
…Matt Jones will return to the offensive line much to the relief of whoever ends up as quarterback for the Buckeyes in 2023. Jones prove himself at guard and could remain there or move to center. He has reminded me of All-American Buckeye guard Wyatt Davis. It’s great to have him return!..
…Xavier Johnson’s return is another boost for the Buckeyes. Johnson’s speed and ability to run the football as well as catch should prove to be a big asset to whoever becomes the Buckeye field general…
…Starting tight end Cade Stover will give it one more year too. After bouncing around from defensive end to linebacker and landing at tight end, Stover will look to give NFL scouts more tape. His flashes of brilliance give Buckeye fans extra reasons to rejoice at his return…
…Miyan Williams’ return makes Ohio State’s running backs room one of the best in the nation. With him and TreVeyon Henderson, healthy defenses will have to watch for the lightning and the thunder running over them. Between Ohio State, the Wolverines, and Penn State and the Big Ten East will have the best running backs in the nation…
…with all of these key players returning, and most of them on offense, the new quarterback and three new offensive linemen will have lots of help in making the offense the same powerful machine that it has been known for. With all these announcements about players going pro, transferring in, transferring out, and players returning for one last ride there is a name that the time of this writing that is missing.
The man, the myth, the legend has surprisingly not made any announcement as his offensive linemen brothers have. The deadline is Monday. Rumors are swirling and the most out there one I heard is that he’s cooking up some huge NIL deals to stay for another season. I think it’s more likely to be a trolling job on all his critics and those like me who wrongly doubted him.
While I’d welcome him back and enjoy watching him have a huge year like Joe Burrow did at LSU in 2019, I think Stroud should and will declare before the deadline. My respect for him is only further elevated in that he’s taking his time and weighing all his options. Folks can think and say what they want about his games and stats but C.J. Stroud’s heart and effort can’t be questioned. He left both on the field.
So the offseason is off to a fast start for the Buckeyes and even though college football is about 32 weeks away, there will be plenty to keep an eye on, plenty to watch and plenty of reasons to love our Buckeyes. The love of Ohio and being a Buckeye is what it’s all about.