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Big Ten Football 2020 Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

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Big Ten Football 2020 Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

2020-10-21 10:18:26


-by T.J. Inman, Contributing Writer; Image: Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. (Image Source: Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)

Bloomington, IN—The 2020 Ohio State Buckeyes at a glance:

Head Coach: Ryan Day

Entering his 2nd year as Ohio State’s Head Coach

Overall Record: 16-1

Last Season: 13-1 (9-0) First Big Ten East

Buckeyes Returning Leaders

Passing: Justin Fields (238-354 passing (67.2%), 3,273 yards, 41 TDs, 3 INTs)

Rushing: Master Teague (135 rushes, 789 yards, 5.8 YPC, 4 TDs)

Receiving: Chris Olave (49 receptions, 849 yards, 12 TDs)

Tackles: LB Pete Werner (64 tackles, 39 solo, 3 PDs, 2 FR)

Impact Newcomers for the Buckeyes

Oklahoma transfer RB Trey Sermon

Biggest Questions Facing the 2020 Buckeyes

1. With a conference-only slate, can anyone stop the Buckeyes from going undefeated?

2. Can Justin Fields win the Heisman without the help of his All-American RB?

3. How do the Buckeyes replace Damon Arnette, Jeff Okudah, and Chase Young on defense?

Program Preview

Any doubts there may have been on whether or not Ryan Day was ready to take the reins from Urban Meyer heading into last season appear to have been silenced. Day casually took over the program and led the Buckeyes to a steamrolling of the entire Big Ten conference slate, including their 56-27 route of the school they like to call “that team up North.” Day will have to replace first and second-round NFL Draft talent Jeff Okudah, Chase Young, JK Dobbins, and Damon Arnette, but that’s something they’ve grown used to. It always helps when you have Heisman candidate Justin Fields to trust in. After letting a lead in the CFP semifinal turn into a 29-23 defeat to Clemson, the Buckeyes will be hungry heading into 2020.

Offensive Preview

Ryan Day is confident in the development of dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields, who has lived up to his 5-star recruiting ranking and then some. His vision and footwork have improved, and he’s opted into this season for a run at the Heisman Trophy. There’s no uncertainty at the quarterback position.

Fields may feel a little less comfortable, though, when looking in the offensive backfield alongside him. He lost his trusty counterpart JK Dobbins and will instead rely on Master Teague and a new face, Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon. Sermon amassed over 2000 yards and 25 touchdowns with the Sooners but is unproven in the Big Ten. Establishing the run game will be important for Fields’ comfort: as great as he was last year, he did have 266.8 rushing yards per game to rely on if he was struggling, which may not be the case this year.

When Fields looks downfield at his receiving corps, he’ll also see many new faces. Only Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson return production greater than six catches from last season. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, however, is that they’ll have eight former Top-100 recruits battling for time at the receiver position.

Protecting Fields will be three starters from last season’s Joe Moore Award finalists, an award given to the best offensive line unit in the nation. Additionally, filling in the two holes along the line will be two former five-star recruits, Harry Miller and Nicholas Petit-Frere, who narrowly lost the position battle last season to Jonah Jackson.

Defensive Preview

After Urban Meyer’s departure, Ryan Day wanted to focus on simplifying Ohio State’s defense. Complicated coverages and reads were eliminated, and the Buckeyes focused instead on their biggest asset: their highly touted athletes. These athletes were allowed to roam more freely and focus on explosive plays. The change couldn’t have gone better. The Buckeyes were ranked first in pass defense, total defense, total defense per play, and had no defensive ranking outside of the top 15. They’ll look for similar results this season while replacing stars Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette, and Chase Young.

This season’s defensive strength will likely lie in the linebacking core. Only Malik Harrison is gone, and Baron Browning seems a perfect fit to replace him. Pete Werner, Tuf Borland, and Teradja Mitchell will round out the core linebacking group and all have off the charts talent. Werner is the team’s leading returning tackler and played the most snaps out of any returning player.

Since 2013, no defensive unit has more sacks than the Ohio State Buckeyes. Two Bosas and a Chase Young will help, but all three are in the NFL now and the torch will have to be passed to Zach Harrison and Jonathan Cooper, who is returning from an injury that forced him to redshirt last season.

The biggest holes to fill will come in the defensive secondary. Jeff Okudah, Jordan Fuller, and Damon Arnette headed to the draft, while Jahsen Wint and Amir Riep were dismissed from the program after kidnapping and rape charges. Returning cornerback coach (2012-2017) Kerry Coombs will take over duties with the defensive secondary. He’s developed a reputation as one of the best secondary coaches in the nation, coaching five NFL first-rounders in his time with the Buckeyes and coaching every starter from 2012-2017 straight to the NFL. He’ll likely start his rebuilding process around Shaun Wade, who could have gone to the NFL last season but opted to return and improve his draft stock.

Special Teams Preview

Ohio State always seems to do the little things well and that extends to the special teams game. Two seniors will lead the bunch this year: kicker Blake Haubeil and punter Drue Chrisman. Haubeil went 13-15 on FG attempts last season while Chrisman saw over a third of his punts travel more than 50 yards.

To read more from Sammy Jacobs and his staff at, click here.


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