Even though Ohio State has only played five games so far, the season is almost over. The regular season is already over now that the Michigan game has been canceled. With the season almost to an end and no game this weekend, I thought it would be interesting to take a sneak peek at what to expect from the Buckeyes in 2021.
Going into the 2019 season, there was a lot of unknown, mainly on offense. Ohio State had a new head coach, lost multiple receivers and a talented but unproven quarterback would be the starter. Even with this, the Buckeyes still were a quarter away from making the BCS Championship game. Before the 2020 season, the offense was relatively the same, so championship expectations were extremely high. The only concerns were from COVID-19.
So, what is the situation going into 2021?
The most significant difference in 2021 will be the loss of QB Justin Fields. It is almost sure that Fields will be entering the NFL Draft as a potential top-five pick. That stats show that Fields may be one of or THE best QBs in OSU history. Furthermore, a regular-season allows the backup QBs to play at the end of games. This year, both backup quarterbacks have barely played. We had an idea of what to expect from Dwayne Haskins and Fields, but there is nothing to go off of from Jack Miller and CJ Stroud, besides their high school tape.
Miller is a four-star pro-style quarterback from Arizona and Stroud is a four-star pro-style quarterback from California. On 247 Sports, Miller was ranked 13th in pro-style QB rankings and Stroud was 2nd. The first quarterback reps in a game went to Miller against Nebraska. He didn’t attempt any passes but ran for 23 yards and a touchdown (he also went in against Michigan State but did not attempt a pass or rush). On the other hand, Stroud played against Michigan State last week, where he had a 48-yard rushing touchdown. Between these two performances, we haven’t seen a single passing attempt from either quarterback. With only the Big Ten Championship and bowl game(s) remaining, it seems that we won’t see these quarterbacks again until next year’s spring game.
Outside of Fields, OL Wyatt Davis and WR Chris Olave are all expected to leave early for the NFL Draft. Those in their final season include CB Shaun Wade, DE Jonathon Cooper, RB Demario McCall, LB Baron Browning, LB Pete Werner, LB Tuf Borland, LB Justin Hilliard, RB Trey Sermon, CB Marcus Williamson, OL Nathan Brock, OL Thayer Munford, TE Jake Hausmann, TE Luke Farrell, DL Haskell Garrett, P Drue Chrisman and PK Blake Haubeil. What stands out the most is the loss of the entire linebacking group and both kicking specialists. These two groups will be the toughest to fill.
After looking at who will be leaving, you are left with strengths in the secondary, offensive line, running back, wide receiver and defensive line. Yes, there are still losses in those groups, but enough starters remain. Outside of those positions, there is minimal experience throughout. Luckily, Ohio State has the second-ranked recruiting class next year, behind only Alabama. Still, this means a lot of inexperienced players will be relied on for big plays.
I know this is Ohio State and there is no reason to worry. However, I don’t think there is much reason for me not at least to be concerned. I would expect Ohio State to rank outside of the top-5 in the early AP rankings due to the many question marks. Of note, the Buckeyes play Oregon and Penn State at home and away against Indiana and Michigan. Both Penn State and Michigan are back-to-back at the end of the season, so there will be plenty of time to grow. Overall, I have high hopes, but I know for sure my level of interest in the Spring Game will be the highest it’s been in the past few years. Go Bucks!