Final grades for unusual OSU season


By Jim Naveau - jnaveau@limanews.com



Like the teacher who took too long to grade your papers, here is one final Ohio State grade card for the 2018 football season as a whole.

Maybe things could have been a little bit better but overall the final grades were pretty good.

OFFENSE: A

It might be a long time until Ohio State fans see a quarterback who can throw the football as well as Dwayne Haskins did this season. He passed for 4,381 yards and his 50 touchdown passes led the nation.

How amazing is 50 touchdown passes in a season? Here are the career totals for some other OSU quarterbacks: Bob Hoying 57, Terrelle Pryor 57, Joe Germaine 56, Troy Smith 54, Braxton Miller 52 and Art Schlichter 50.

Fifth-year seniors Parris Campbell (90 catches), Johnnie Dixon (42 catches) and Terry McLaurin (35 catches) combined for 31 touchdown catches and led what might have been the deepest receiving group ever at Ohio State.

OSU’s running game had a thousand-yards rusher, J.K. Dobbins (1,053) and almost had a second one in Mike Weber (954) in a pass heavy offense. But the running game often left something to be desired.

The Buckeyes rushed for fewer than 100 yards in two games and were held under 120 yards on the ground in three other games. Their average of 171.3 yards rushing per game was seventh in the Big Ten and 63rd nationally.

The offensive line heard some criticism because of those rushing numbers. But maybe the bottom line is Ohio State ranked eight nationally in scoring (42.4) and second in total offense (535.6).

DEFENSE: B-

Maybe the key word for Ohio State’s defense this season was “pursuit.” It spent the whole season in pursuit of answers, in pursuit of the right lineup, and in too many cases it was chasing an opposing ball carrier or receiver as he sprinted toward a huge gain.

The Buckeyes’ defense allowed seven touchdowns of 75 yards or more and six of those were on running plays. It allowed 39 plays of 30 yards or more.

Despite the season-ending injury to Nick Bosa, the defensive line performed well, led by Chase Young (10.5 sacks) and Dre’Mont Jones (8.5 sacks). But the back seven was a different story.

Other than Malik Harrison, Ohio State’s linebackers either did not play up to expectations, were being used questionably by now-departed defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and linebackers coach Bill Davis, or a combination of both of those things.

After having six defensive backs – all underclassmen – selected in the top two rounds of the NFL draft the last three seasons, the talent dropped off in that area this season. No OSU defensive back left early for the NFL this year.

Brendon White emerged as a strong tackler at safety late in the season, but the question is why did it take so long for him to get his chance?

SPECIAL TEAMS: A

Drue Chrisman is as good as any punter Ohio State has had in this century and a long time before that. Blake Haubeil took over the kicking duties the second half of the season after Sean Nuernberger was injured. He was 10 of 13 on field goals and was probably a little more accurate on long kicks than Nuernberger.

Kick coverage was solid, led by McLaurin, who coach Urban Meyer singled out as one of his best special teams players ever. Chris Olave’s blocked punt for a touchdown was one of the turning points of the Michigan game.

OVERALL: A-

The minus next to the A, of course, is for the Purdue game, a 49-20 loss that defies explanation.

Ohio State finished the season 13-1, which made it one of only three FBS teams to win at least 13 games this season. The other two played for the national championship.

So, by Ohio State standards was it a great season that could have been just a little better or was it an almost great season? Arguments could be made either way.

Whatever the verdict on that question, OSU did have enough talent, coaching and focus to overcome significant adversity to get those 13 wins.

It lost possibly the best defensive lineman in college football when Bosa’s season ended in the middle of the third game.

It survived the turmoil of Meyer being suspended, receivers coach Zach Smith being fired, questions about Meyer’s health and his announcement before the Rose Bowl that he was going to retire. Not every team could have pulled that off.

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By Jim Naveau

jnaveau@limanews.com

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

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