Ohio State recruiting mailbag: What offseason coaching changes mean for Buckeyes

Have Ohio State football recruiting questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the Land of 10 Ohio State recruiting mailbag. This week, we talk about the latest developments with Ohio State’s new coaching changes, examine the expected offense for 2018 and talk all things Buckeyes recruiting.

Good Wednesday afternoon, everyone.

Thanks for your questions this week. If you didn’t get to ask a question, make sure to send one to me on Twitter ( @L10Ryan) or via email (DonnellyLandof10@gmail.com).

Let’s dive in.

I think Taver Johnson’s resume speaks for itself to a certain extent. During previous stops at Ohio State (2007-11), Arkansas (2012-13), Purdue (2014-16) and Temple (2017), Johnson sent a number of standout defensive backs to the NFL and oversaw highly productive careers during their time under him. It makes sense to me for coach Urban  Meyer to bring him back into the fold as the 10th assistant on staff.

At Ohio State, Johnson sent safety Malcom Jenkins off to the league as a first-round pick and also saw defensive backs like Kurt Coleman, Chimdi Chekwa and Jermale Hines off to the NFL. Jenkins, Coleman, and Chekwa earned All-America nods at Ohio State, and other players earned various distinctions and awards under Johnson. Johnson also saw Purdue cornerback Anthony Johnson off to the 2016 NFL Draft and helped Temple safety Delvon Randall earn first team All-AAC honors during the 2017 season.

He’s proved himself as an accomplished and successful recruiter in the Cincinnati and Cleveland areas and has also taken on recruiting duties in parts of some of the country’s most talented regions. Johnson has spent time recruiting Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, and also has familiarity with the prep schools in the Northeast region.

This is a strong question, but somewhat of a difficult one to answer. Ohio State didn’t truly see a strong influx of talent at defensive tackle in the 2018 class until later on in the recruiting cycle, when it emerged as a legitimate contender for a number of top prospects. I would look at linebacker as a position where you may see a surprising number of commits join the program in the 2019 recruiting cycle. Redshirt senior Dante Booker is the only linebacker guaranteed to leave the program after the upcoming season, but Ohio State is involved with some top prospects nationally and the linebacker crop in Ohio’s 2019 class is very strong. I think it’s a position that certainly bears watching going forward.

At this time, it seems most likely that the left tackle position will be manned by Isaiah Prince, who will replace Jamarco Jones on the left side after starting as right tackle for each of the last two seasons. Prince has a high upside, an impressive frame and plus athleticism for his position, and it would surprise me if anyone else were tasked with guarding Dwayne Haskins’ blind side.

Right tackle seems fairly straightforward to me as well. Although there’s been discussion of last year’s starting guards, Michael Jordan and Branden Bowen, getting a chance to compete for the right tackle position, I think it’s more likely that Ohio State will keep Bowen and Jordan in place. With sophomore Thayer Munford, redshirt junior Joshua Alabi, and incoming freshman Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State should have enough depth for a real competition in fall practice. At this point, Munford is my pick to man the position as the most experienced of the bunch. I have Prince and Munford as the two tackle starters, with Alabi and Petit-Frere as the top backups.

I discussed guard a little bit above, but I’d expect Jordan and Bowen to start at left and right guard, respectively, again in 2018. Jordan is set to be a three-year starter at the same position and remains a very safe pick to hold down his job. Bowen dealt with a broken leg in 2018 that ended his season early and there will be players pushing him, but I’ll bet on the redshirt junior to retain the spot he earned last fall. Still, there will be competition. Sophomores Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers, the top two guards in the country in the 2017 recruiting class, will continue to push for starting jobs or playing time. Redshirt junior Matthew Burrell and senior Demetrius Knox are also in competition for playing time and a spot in the two-deep.

Center is the most intriguing position and the most difficult to predict, in my opinion. Redshirt senior Brady Taylor arrived on campus just in time for four straight years of elite-level center play from Rimington Trophy winners Pat Elflein and Billy Price. Burrell has mostly been pegged to play at guard, but Ohio State has frequently shifted guards to center if it helps get the five best linemen on the field. Even incoming freshman Matthew Jones, the country’s No. 1 center in the 2018 class, is likely to get a crack to compete at the position. Taylor is the safe pick here, but I’m going to go out on a limb and give the nod to Burrell to take over the position in his fourth year on campus.

I think this question is probably a little overly critical of an Ohio State offense that has ranked outside of the top 15 scoring offenses in the country just once in the last five seasons. However, I do understand frustrations with a scheme that seemed to feature the quarterback run as a crutch, particularly on inside runs with quarterback J.T. Barrett in short-yardage situations.

Meyer has spoken at length over the last two years about a desire to move his offense away from such a heavy dependence on the quarterback run. Many of his actions have seemingly been consistent with that desire. Meyer has recruited pro-style quarterbacks in the 2016 and 2018 recruiting classes. Both offensive coordinators, Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson, have excelled at running spread offenses with minimal reliance on the quarterback run, and instead incorporated West Coast and Air Raid passing concepts to get the ball to playmakers in space.

Yet, when the Buckeyes would take the field on Saturdays, it seemed that the offense would constantly default to running the ball with Barrett in tight situations. So what gives?

My honest view is that Meyer genuinely does want to get away from his career-long reliance on running the quarterback frequently, and the moves he’s taken have been in step with that plan. However, Meyer had a redshirt senior quarterback and leader of his team whose biggest strengths were his abilities to run the football and identify seams and mismatches as a runner. Not coincidentally, that same quarterback seemed to struggle with passing the ball downfield with consistency at times and was much more comfortable when he was running the football.

You could make a convincing argument that trying to turn Barrett into a pocket passer would have been bad for the 2017 Ohio State Buckeyes, even if that scheme would have been better for the future of the program. This is an argument that should be resolved this fall. If Meyer sticks with heavy doses of the quarterback run despite Haskins’ relatively limited athleticism (in comparison to Barrett or projected backups Tate Martell and Joey Burrow), then the play is just in his DNA and he may never be able to go away from it. If Meyer actually does transition to a balanced offense with a passing scheme suited to Haskins’ strengths, then we can look back and say he did have a legitimate desire to transform the offense and he simply had to wait until the personnel fit the scheme.

I don’t think it’s going to be much of a battle, if I’m being honest. I think after the way Haskins has performed on the field against Michigan (and in mop-up duty, to a lesser extent) and the flashes he’s shown throughout practices, it’s impossible to keep him away from the starting quarterback position. His arm talent, field vision and anticipation as a passer give Ohio State a chance to modernize its passing game overnight and challenge once again for national championships. Burrow is a talented quarterback who’s contributed heavily to the program during his time at Ohio State, but I think he’s more of the same as Barrett stylistically. Ohio State fans seem hungry for a change in offensive style and less reliance on the quarterback run, and based on the moves he’s made, Meyer seems inclined to pursue that direction.

I think the expectations next season are the same they’ve been every year for Meyer at Ohio State. Fans and folks within the program alike expect to compete for and win a national championship and a Big Ten championship going into every fall. They expect more top-5 finishes and top NFL draft selections every single season. That is the standard every year at Ohio State, and with a team that returns the majority of its contributing players from the 2017 season, the Buckeyes will expect to meet that standard.

Now, I don’t think Meyer “has to” make the playoff or win a championship or anything of that nature. Ohio State is, and should be, overwhelmingly confident and happy with the job he’s done in Columbus. He’s the second-best coach in college football today, but has the unfortunate coincidence of overlapping with the best coach to ever hold a clipboard in any sport. Meyer just landed a two-year extension and his second consecutive top-2 recruiting class. He’ll coach at Ohio State for as long as he wants to coach at Ohio State at this rate.

The post Ohio State recruiting mailbag: What offseason coaching changes mean for Buckeyes appeared first on Land of 10.

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