Updated: Feb 10, 2021
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
We are back with the second installment of Devy Dumps with Lead Devy Writer for GoingFor2, Jeff Bell (@ForWhomJBellTolls). This week? We've got the title game runners-up Ohio State Buckeyes. What can you expect from them in 2021 and beyond? Who should you be watching?
Jeff – Head Coach Ryan Day is building an assembly line that will look to reshape both the NFL draft and college football recruiting landscape. He delivered one first-round pick in Dwayne Haskins during his tenure as offensive coordinator and Justin Fields is next up, opening a fresh opportunity.
C.J. Stroud is the next man up, he had no passing attempts on Ohio St’s shortened season, but displayed his athleticism on a 48-yard touchdown run vs Michigan St. Stroud’s rise is meteoric, he was unranked by Rivals in the summer of his senior year before finishing at Pro Style QB2 on 247. Jack Miller (who may be a potential eventual portal entrant) and 2021 5* Pro-Style QB3 Kyle McCord are the names behind him. Christian, do you see any way this is not Stroud’s job? What do you think about his dark horse Heisman odds (Fanduel has him at +4000)?
Christian - No, I think it is Stroud’s job. What Ryan Day is building is a two-year plan for each of his quarterbacks. Stroud’s starts in 2021. Justin Fields is one of the best quarterback prospects I have seen, Stroud has a chance to be a Heisman-winning quarterback, but not likely in 2021. There are major names that either returned to school (Desmond Ridder) or have a year of starting under their belt (Spencer Rattler) that will ultimately have advantages. I do think Miller will transfer upon his loss of the “QB battle”; Ohio State has the top quarterback in the 2022 class - Quinn Ewers - committed right now. The path for the backups is hazy, they are good enough to start (but probably not Joe Burrow-like). I’ve said it once and I’ll continue saying it: Ryan Day is going to be rivaling Lincoln Riley for the title of QBU in the next two-to-three years.
Christian - The Ohio State running back room will look a little different in 2021. Trey Sermon entered the NFL Draft and Demario McCall has left. Master Teague and Steele Chambers will return for 2021. Teague was used as the RB1A at times before ceding the lead role to Trey Sermon. He lacks the desired breakaway speed Day seeks at the position. It is assumed that Teague will retain his starting role behind CJ Stroud in 2021, but there is a chance that the room could shift to Chambers and incoming true freshman TreVeyon Henderson. Henderson is a five-star recruit and the number one running back in the upcoming class, according to 247sports. With the true freshman success we have seen across college football in the last few years, I fully expect Henderson to come in and compete for a role. Jeff, do you see Teague retaining his starting job for his final year in school? What do you expect out of the committee in 2021?
Jeff - Teague is likely getting the first shot. As you mention, I do not see anything special about his game. He has shown the ability to exploit beaten-down defenses but has not looked to be the athlete one would expect out of this program. Henderson is the future and as an early enrollee, he may already be the present. He is THE name to circle. Miyan Williams also deserves mention. He was a bit of an afterthought in the 2020 class but has excelled in the training program and came in during a huge spot against Clemson. He passed Chambers based on what we saw at the end of the season.
Photo by Associated Press
Jeff - As Heath Ledger’s Joker would say “And here we go!”. This may be the most talented position room in all of college football. Chris Olave’s return came as a shock and he will once again pair with Garrett Wilson to form an explosive starting duo. Jameson Williams has flashed but the really exciting names long term are Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Julian Fleming, and Gee Scott Jr. The 2021 recruiting class is going to keep piling on with 5* Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr. (yes, that Marvin Harrison), and Jayden Ballard. Christian, what do you see as Olave’s biggest areas of improvement? Which WR do you project most favorably to the NFL? Have you developed a favorite among the younger WRs?
Christian - Honestly, there is not a ton of Olave’s game that needs refining. Adding a little weight to absorb some of the blows over the middle may cut down on the fumbles from 2020. I would love to see him go out and claim the unquestioned WR1 for the team. Garrett Wilson can make a case for that already. Overall, Olave is one of the safer, NFL-ready WR prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. It is a true toss-up between Olave and Wilson for a next-level role. Wilson can be a dominant WR1. Olave can be super impactful in his own right, though, even if he fails to dominate the Ohio State offense in 2021. Both guys should be high-level contributors.
The thing that sticks the most about the young group is Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s toe-tap touchdown catch against Nebraska. It legitimately was one of the most impressive catches I have seen at the collegiate level. Has that impacted how I feel about the group entirely? Probably. Is that right? Maybe not. But Ohio State is going to be a powerhouse at the wide receiver position for the foreseeable future. Also, thanks for making me feel extremely old in mentioning Marvin Harrison Jr., Jeff. I’ll bet our readers are feeling that, too.
Christian - The shocking return of Jeremy Ruckert is the main thing to note here. Ruckert was widely regarded as the best blocking tight end prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft, and I can only imagine he will build on that at Ohio State in 2021. He has flashed receiving chops and a crazy catch radius, so I am extremely intrigued to see how he develops. First, Jeff, do you think that Ruckert can become a top-end tight end at the next level? Second, is there anyone else worth mentioning, in your eyes? The depth chart is entirely wide open and I don’t know how it shakes out; especially since Day’s recruitment efforts have devalued the tight end position.
Jeff - Ruckert has phenomenal hands, a trait he has displayed on circus catches in big moments against Wisconsin and Alabama. Athleticism is my primary concern. When he has been involved in the passing game, it is almost always in an open hole in zone coverage. Does he have the ability to beat linebackers or the speed to stretch the field in the seam? Those are the primary questions that need answering and I am skeptical Day’s scheme paired with a young QB will provide those opportunities. We have seen the position display a low ceiling to fantasy relevance and Ruckert has displayed base-level tools to lead to relevance at some point in his career. Cade Stover, Joe Royer, and Sam Hart fill the roster. For an offense that ran heavy 12 personnel base sets in 2020, every reasonable expectation would see a shift to 11personnel to allow the loaded wide receiver room to cycle reps.
Jeff - Early projections show the Buckeyes hovering around five or six in the nation. I am going to put my homer hat on and declare that is too low. Thayer Munford’s return bolsters what may be the best offensive line in the nation. The support system is in place to boost whichever young quarterback claims the job. The defense was exploited often in 2020, but another season with Defensive Coordinator Kerry Coombs settling in and some potential addition by subtraction with the tape guys like Tuf Borland and Shaun Wade put out during the season sets the stage for massive improvement. An early bout with Oregon will set the stage for the season, but we have seen Day’s crew own the B1G each of the last two seasons. Christian, what are your final takeaways at this point?
Christian - Well Jeff, I agree. I think with the weapons Ohio State has returning and the stability that the 2021 preseason should return, they should be borderline favorites to win the national title. Replacing Justin Fields is no small task, but I think the support system will ease the transition. The key to a second straight national championship berth will be that defense, and like you said, the addition by subtraction will be evident. I, for one, cannot wait to start touting Ohio State as QBU in November!