NEPD Staff Writer: Jonny Frayne
Ohio State finally got the chance to make some headlines for the right reasons when they took to the field to take on Akron in their season opener.
Amidst the controversy surrounding the program, new head coach Luke Fickell entered the game without a number of key players, most notably senior wide receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and star running back Dan Herron, all suspended.
Had they been facing a more talented team than Akron, coming off a one win season, they might have struggled but the Big Ten powerhouse
easily prevailed, winning 42-0.
Though without starting left tackle Mike Adams, the Buckeyes dominated up front led by top prospect – #50 C Mike Brewster 6-5 305.
Coming out the same school which produced Nick Mangold, Mike Brewster looks to have a bright future. The senior showed why he is on the Rimington Trophy watch list with his play against Akron. Aside from an errant snap, Brewster looks to possess the tools of an NFL center.
He is quick off the ball which gives him time to position his feet and seal the defender and this opened up holes in the running game early against Akron. He played with good leverage allowing him to anchor after initial contact. What was also impressive was his athleticism and he showed he can get to the second level on the opening touchdown, taking a linebacker out of the play. He will face much tougher opposition than Akron this season so it will be interesting to see whether Brewster can dominate against more polished defenders.
#76 T Jake Shugarts has tremendous size at 6-7 and looked powerful in the run game as well as using his long arms to hold defenders off in pass protection. Again, he needs to play against better competition for a more accurate evaluation.
Another key cog in Ohio State’s offense was #11 TE Jake Stoneburner 6-5 245. The Buckeye tight end has already caught more touchdowns than he did during the entire season last year, grabbing 3 touchdowns against Akron.
Too quick for linebackers and too big for DB’s, he can create mismatches in the passing game as he showed on his first touchdown, using his size to overpower the Akron cornerback. The junior may want another year to round off his game and improve his blocking but he looks to be an intriguing prospect. Expect to see a lot of Stoneburner this season due to the inexperience Ohio State possesses at the quarterback position.
Fellow underclassman #44 FB Zach Boren 6-0 252 showed his ability as a lead blocker, bursting through the hole and locking on to linebackers in the run game. He blocked multiple defenders on one play, taking on a linebacker then moving to the next defender as the play advanced showing which was impressive from an awareness and positioning standpoint.
On defense a player who stood out for me was #42 LB Andrew Sweat 6-2 238. Sweat excited the home crowd with a big TFL on Akron’s opening drive and he went on to collect another stop behind the line of scrimmage.
An experienced linebacker, Sweat displayed his good instincts by diagnosing a screen play and forcing an incompletion. The senior looks solid in coverage and produced a highlight reel play in which he didn’t give up on a pass and made a great catch before getting his feet inbounds – showing great athleticism. He’s the kind of player you want on your defense and should progress to the next level.
Fellow linebacker #43 Nathan Williams 6-3 255 had a relatively quiet game. I would have liked to see him rush the passer more but on the plus side he showed he is very capable of dropping into coverage which is important as he projects to a 3-4 outside linebacker in the pro’s.
Having experience of playing stand up linebacker will be a big advantage in that he won’t have to transition from defensive end. On one occasion Williams made a great play in space defending a quarterback scramble, breaking down well for a man of his size. Look to see Williams be used more as a pass rusher in the coming weeks.
While Ohio State dominated Akron they are still yet to answer the many questions surrounding their program and we will only find out the answers, as well as get a better idea of evaluating talent when they play tougher teams such as Miami in week 3.