With some time off between Ohio State’s Big Ten championship victory and the Rose Bowl, let’s take a look back at the Buckeyes’ season. We start with a look at the offense.
What was expected
In short: More and bigger fireworks.
Despite losing J.T. Barrett, the Big Ten’s all-time leader in total offense (12,697 yards) and touchdowns passes (104), the Ohio State offense entered the year with high expectations.
While Dwayne Haskins had only thrown 24 passes prior to the season-opener against Oregon State, he showed off a lot of natural ability and played well in the clutch at Michigan when Barrett was injured.
He also had multiple experienced options to throw to and a pair of 1,000-yard tailbacks to hand off to.
The biggest questions were at tight end, where starter Marcus Baugh was gone and little experience returned, and on the offensive line, where the all-important center and left tackle positions were vacated by the graduations of Billy Price and Jamarco Jones, respectively.
Plus, the logic went, another offseason for offensive coordinators Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson to work together to figure out how to utilize all that talent could only be a positive.
In short: More and bigger fireworks.
Haskins finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting after the best single season by a quarterback in school or Big Ten history.
The Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player has already broken single-season conference records for passing yards (4,580), touchdowns passes (47) and total offense (4,702).
He enters bowl season with the highest career passing efficiency rating in conference history (175.5, far surpassing Troy Smith’s career record of 157.1).
Parris Campbell (79 catches, 992 yards, 11 touchdowns), K.J. Hill (67, 831, six), Johnnie Dixon (30, 642, seven) and Terry McLaurin (34, 669, 11) all had big seasons while running back J.K. Dobbins has already gone over the 1,000-yard mark again (1,029) and Mike Weber has 858 yards on the ground.
The offensive line had some ups and downs with Michael Jordan, a two-year starter at guard, sliding to center, senior Malcolm Pridgeon entering the lineup at left guard and sophomore Thayer Munford taking over at left tackle.
That group finished the year strong, though, pushing around Michigan’s vaunted front four and giving Haskins all day to carve up the nation’s No. 1 defense before he threw for 499 yards against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game.
The tight ends were not much of a factor early in the season but became important parts of a more-effective running game in the last month and also contributed a little to the passing game.
Much of that depends on Haskins.
He could be taken high in the NFL draft next spring if he opts to leave school, but he has not announced if he intends to do that or to return for another year in Columbus.
If he leaves and is replaced by Tate Martell, the offense will likely take on a different look as he is a better runner but lacks Haskins’ arm strength to stress defenses outside the hashmarks.
All-Big Ten right tackle Isaiah Prince graduates along with Pridgeon, but offensive line coach Greg Studrawa was happy with the development of redshirt freshmen Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers late in the season.
Davis started the Big Ten championship game for injured senior Demetrius Knox, and Studrawa said Myers would have gone in at center (with Jordan going back to guard) if Davis had struggled early against the Wildcats. He’ll have veterans Brandon Bowen and Josh Alabi to consider at tackle — if they can hold off highly regarded freshman Nicholas Petit-Frere, who still has work to do in the weight room but brings a high ceiling.
» EARLIER COVERAGE: Myers fitting in well at Ohio State
Although Weber might leave for the NFL after considering it last year, Dobbins will be back. Brian Snead and Master Teague showed some potential as freshmen this year.
Campbell, Dixon and McLaurin are seniors while Hill is another NFL early entry possibility, but there is a solid nucleus returning at receiver including freshman Chris Olave, one of the stars of the Michigan game.
With Urban Meyer retiring, the offense could look at least a little different next season even if Haskins returns, but there certainly seems to be no lack of material for the newly promoted Day and his offensive staff to work with.
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