Ohio State football: 5 questions and concerns for Ohio State’s week off

Rondale Moore (left) of the Purdue Boilermakers runs the ball and tries to fight off Jahsen Wint of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ross-Ade Stadium this past Saturday at West Lafayette, Ind. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Rondale Moore (left) of the Purdue Boilermakers runs the ball and tries to fight off Jahsen Wint of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ross-Ade Stadium this past Saturday at West Lafayette, Ind. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Ohio State’s bye week begins with the realization long-term problems could be presenting themselves for the Buckeyes.

Or their struggles are a result of the facts of life in college football, a reality OSU has done a better job than most of avoiding since the turn of the century.

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Down years are nearly unheard of in Columbus, and Urban Meyer and his coaching staff have four regular-season games left to prevent 2018 from becoming one.

But graduation, NFL early entries and injuries might have caught up with Ohio State for the first time since 2004, the last time the Buckeyes had a full-time head coach in place and failed to win 10 games.

This much we know:

1. The back seven on defense is too young, and t he defensive line is too banged up to cover for them.

This group of defensive backs and linebackers has no seniors in eligibility, and only three full-time starters returned from last season. (One of the latter, junior Damon Arnette, missed the loss at Purdue on Saturday with an injury.)

The front lost a lot to the next level, too, but it was so deep and talented last year it was expected to remain a strength.

Then Nick Bosa suffered a season-ending injury. Tackles Robert Landers and Dre’Mont Jones have been playing hurt for weeks, too.

2. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano’s preferred high-pressure scheme has not fit as a result.

Ohio State might have been able to cover a weak back seven with a strong front or vice versa, but Schiano hasn’t figured out how to deal with both situations simultaneously.

If the defensive line were healthy, the pass rush would be much better and therefore the secondary would not be tested as much. The linebackers are much more noticeable (in a good way) when the line is playing well.

The bad start to the year also seems to have left this entire group tentative, something that could be said of the offensive line over the past month or so, too.

3. The offensive line is the biggest concern in both the long and short terms.

The backbone of Meyer’s program from 2012-15, it had been backsliding for a couple of seasons.

Even the strong units of the early Meyer years had little or no depth. Since then, Isaiah Prince and Michael Jordan had to play too soon and took their lumps as a result. This season true sophomore Thayer Munford has had to play, ready or not, and multiple veterans have had their ups and downs — apparently without anyone good enough in the eyes of coach Greg Studrawa to replace them.

Lines need time to gel, and the emphasis on the passing game has resulted in a reduction of in-game reps, making successes hard to build on and leaving fewer opportunities to overcome failures.

4. Few Buckeyes on either side of the ball play with anything resembling swagger.

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins has a cool confidence, but one man can only do so much.

When a talented team goes through a rough patch, it is safe to assume there probably aren’t enough leaders. Who is holding others accountable? That question should first be asked of the coaching staff.

Remember fiery Urban Meyer calling for players to “bring the juice” when he arrived on campus six years ago? He hasn’t been seen in a while, so maybe it should be no surprise if the team lacks enthusiasm.

Players obviously takes their cues from the head coach. If the fire is out, can it be re-lit? If so, when?

5. Ohio State is soon to find out if 14 days is enough time to reboot.

Senior receiver Terry McLaurin said the right things Saturday night : "I feel like the top, our leaders are really tough and we've just got to make sure that permeates through everybody."

Who will follow him?

The bye week might have come a week late to preserve Ohio State’s perfect record, but it still presents an opportunity for the coaches to essentially re-stage fall camp, evaluate what they have and figure out how best to use their best players to accentuate strengths and mask weaknesses.