As a downtrodden Buckeye roster is set to tassel with Toledo at Cleveland Browns stadium, as major tests lies ahead for both. Can The Ohio State University put everything behind and rebound decisively against a perceived inferior opponent? Will the Rockets continue to fly high offensively and overcome an obvious talent deficiency? This game features a number of underrated receivers and defensive linemen New York Jets fan would be wise to watch. Brent Sobleski of the TFY Draft Preview breaks it down.
Ohio State defense vs. Toledo OffenseThe Rockets have been filling the stat sheets the first two weeks of the season. Toledo’s offense is the top gainer in their conference averaging 42.5 points per game, 371 passing yards, 187.5 yards per game on the ground, total offense, with a whopping 47 first downs along the way.
Senior quarterback Aaron Opelt is the predominant reasons for this early season success. It can be argued this offensive explosion was against weaker defensive opponents, but both were from BCS conferences. Opelt in that time has gone on to lead the nation in total offense. Obviously, this upperclassmen has benefited greatly from the addition of new offensive coordinator Matt Campbell. While this signal caller has certainly been productive, as a NFL prospect he is lacking in spots. Overall, Opelt’s arm strength and accuracy are questionable. Some of this has to do with his delivery and mechanics. He also struggles to throw the ball past the left hash as a right handed quarterback. A decent athlete, this Toledo gunslinger surprised the Buffalos of Colorado with a 61 yard scamper. This will not repeated against much better athletes Ohio State possesses. Despite these shortcomings, Opelt can still sling the ball around in this system effectively enough to keep the Buckeyes on their heels, especially if Toledo finds a way to score early.
It should not be surprising to find the Rockets have some nice targets for their quarterback. Two seniors, Stephen Williams and Robin Bailey present nice targets at 6-feet-5-inches each. Williams is the better and more productive of the two and will be returning from a bruised right shoulder this weekend. Their most dynamic target is sophomore Eric Page. A small slot receiver as adept working the middle of the field with his quickness as he is beating defender over the top deep. Sprinkle in another 6-feet-5-inches tall target in sophomore tight end Danny Noble who is a converted wide receiver and has a knack for finding the soft spots in the zone. If this offense gets time to pass, they do have weapons which can cause troubles for any opposing defense.With a prolific passing attack, the run game often opens up greatly. Toledo will rotate two solid talents at tailback as well. DaJuane Collins has carried the load until this point. He has done so with good vision and nimble feet slashing his way through crevices in the blocking. This week he will be rejoined by sophomore Morgan Williams. This particular returnee comes off a two game suspension but will add even more punch after rushing for over a 1,000 yards as a freshman. Both will be crucial to the overall tone of the game if Toledo can control the clock to some degree.
Up front the Rockets possess only marginal talents but they are experienced. From left to right, the unit reads: Mike VanDerMeulen, Jared DeWalt, Kevin Kowalski, Nate Cole, and John Morookian. Only one senior is among this grouping but they combine for over 80 careers starts. This experience will help as they have their hands full against a very talented Buckeye defensive line.
Countering said offense is another talented Ohio State defense. Their strength lies in the defensive line rotation. A unit whose play was considerably better against the Trojans of USC than a week prior versus Navy’s triple option attack. Cameron Heyward is arguably the best of the bunch. Blessed with the size and athleticism to start at both defensive end and tackle, this NFL caliber progeny looks to be a perfect fit as a 5 technique at the next level. This junior prospect stands 6-feet-6-inches tall and weighs around 290 pounds. He possesses long arms and strong hands to control opposing offensive lineman. Plus, Heyward has the added intangible of displaying a non-stop motor. Doug Worthington is in the same mold physically as his teammate, but is not as consistent and has had injury issues in his career. Junior Dexter Larimore is a bull at the one technique and a handful for any opposing pivot. Thaddeus Gibson will be one of the premier 34 pass rushing linebackers when he decides to enter the NFL draft. Currently he is a bit undersized but overall very explosive off the edge. Rob Rose is another gifted pass rusher who rotates in, but has never lived up to expectations. Todd Denlinger is a nice blue collar gap plugger. Lawrence Wilson is the third senior coming off the bench, has some nice size at a 43 end, and limited pass rush ability. This unit simply comes at opponents in waves and does not stop.
Along the second level Ohio State is somewhat lacking as compared to has been seen on campus in recent years. Ross Homan is an instinctive weakside linebacker who reads and diagnoses offenses very well, often putting him in the position to make plays. Another junior, the undersized Brian Rolle has stepped up to fill the large shoes left by James Laurinatis. Rolle played extremely well early against Southern Cal and does pack a wallop even at 5-feet-11-inches tall and 221 pounds. Senior Austin Spitler rounds out this triumvirate. A versatile and hard working prospect becoming a full time starter for the first time this season. The name recognition is not to the level among the greats that have played these positions in this school’s storied history, but yeomen efforts will be displayed week in and week out by this group.
Their secondary is blessed with a lot of physical talent, but has yet to put it all together. Senior Kurt Coleman is the leader of the defense and the most experienced among this unit. This safety lacks ideal size, but will battle against the run game and has good sideline to sideline speed while covering the pass. Another senior safety, Anderson Russell, was looking to have a breakout campaign but was benched after his subpar play against the Midshipmen of Navy. Junior, Chimdi Chekwa enters his second year as a starter and flashes great athleticism and talent on the edge. He simply needs to improve in the mental aspects of playing the position. Lastly, senior Andre Amos has stepped into the other starting cornerback slot. He looks to make the most of his last year on campus. This is a unit with a lot of potential which has yet to see big returns.
Match-up: Terrelle Pryor vs. Barry Church
On the opposite side of the field, the match-ups are not nearly as intriguing. Ohio State has been lackluster on offense throughout the opening of the season. Meanwhile, Toledo is an undersized defense which has surrendered plenty of points through the first two weeks. It is a case of the resistible force meeting the movable object. Two particular talents are very interesting because they are both the best athletes on their respective squads.
Sophomore sensation Terrelle Pryor has yet to live up to expectations for the Buckeye faithful. An otherworldly physical talent at 6-feet-6-inches tall and 235 pounds while reportedly timing in the low 4.3 range with his 40 yard dash, Pryor runs like a gazelle. He also displays a very strong arm despite his awkward delivery. As a pure passer, this once elite recruit leaves fans wanting. This signal caller has yet to show the ability to be a drop back passer and read coverages properly. His overall accuracy is questionable at best. Yet the coaching staff has yet to truly take advantage of his athleticism as he continues to grow as a quarterback.
Barry Church, on the other hand, has been a standout for the Rockets since he stepped foot on campus. This defender could leave Toledo as the only four time All MAC First Team selection in conference history. Playing the Star position in Toledo’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme, Church will be found all over the field. He is used as an edge rusher, blitzing linebacker, lining up as a pure weakside defender, covering the slot, or at safety. He is always under control and is rarely seen out of position. Toledo will use this talent as a countermeasure to Pryor if he is allowed to become more of a threat as a runner or on bootlegs.
And the winner is…Ohio State.
Expect Toledo to come out strong with a built up intensity trying to gain the upper hand early. The intangibles of a neutral field and a former Buckeye assistant as the new Toledo head coach will play somewhat of a factor but not much. Eventually adrenaline wears out and Ohio State is simply too big and too powerful in the trenches for the Rockets to hold up over the long haul.
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