Ohio State Buckeyes facing a bleak future if things don’t change
by Matt Booher
The Ohio State Buckeyes are peering over the ledge of a precipice. At the bottom sits what every Buckeye fan fears – a mediocre football program coupled with year and after year of middle of the pack Big Ten Conference finishes. Think Minnesota. Purdue and, god forbid, Michigan State.
Recent flops in big games have already tarnished the Buckeyes national reputation. Along with the losses, the Big 10 has taken hits along the way. Penn State and Michigan no longer hold national cache. Ohio State, while generally respected, no longer contributes to the national power discussion. That table is now reserved for USC, Florida, Texas, and to an extent, a handful of SEC teams like Alabama and LSU. This hurts recruitment. Why play for a great program in a modest conference if you can play big games every week for some of these other programs?
The Buckeyes will always recruit big name players. NFL alumni that once called Columbus home are numerous and influential in the game of the football. See Derron Carter as an example. But a roster once stocked with blue-chip recruits two and three deep will soon become a roster of a handful of blue chippers with local Midwestern talent mixed in. But if the coaching staff doesn’t start to show an ability to develop big name talent and the type of athletic players forcing changes in the way football is played, Ohio State’s growing dinosaur reputation will soon see desirable as fans start picking through the bones dreaming of a once proud history.
Terrelle Pryor is struggling and regressing. An offense with such a talented player at QB such as Pryor shouldn’t struggle this much. The coaching staff may be trying to develop his more traditional quarterback skills such as pocket passing and checking down to his third and fourth receivers. But you can’t take a Mercedes offroading. It’s disingenuous and hurting the player.
Some might point to Troy Smith’s success in the Buckeyes offense as proof that Tressel and his coaching staff can handle the task of developing Pryor. That’s not hard to refute. But watching Pryor throw temper tantrums and exude general frustration, you have to wonder if he is putting in the work to develop. Smith started as a backup and wasn’t highly regarded as a quarterback. But he put in the work and become a great Buckeye. The coaching staff developed an offense to take advantage of his skills and the team excelled. So far with Pryor, the team looks lost with a bunch of parts not fitting together.
Generally speaking, the style of play does not fit the players. The coaches call passive zone defense schemes that don’t have quick, agile linebackers blitzing the quarterback. A ball-hawking secondary that is asked to sit back and protect against the big play. Slow, trap-oriented running plays with lineman that can’t get on their blocks fast enough. Overall, the coaches seem to be stuck in a timewarp, coaching a game that isn’t played by anyone anymore. Check out a Friday night football game throughout the state of Ohio and you’ll see more innovation coming from them than you see from the crew up in Columbus. This isn’t the conservative label…I think Tressel’s in-game management is moderate if not polite to opponents, but they just seem out of ideas.
Pryor never really played quarterback in high school. He played a game that felt more like a video game as he danced around opponents and generally racked up massive numbers. He had a national rep and wanted to stay relatively close to home. But I’m confident he didn’t think he would regress as a player and play for a team that increasingly looks more and more like a Big 10 also ran. That’s on the coaches. And its up to them to peak over the ledge, reject what they see and where they are headed, start making some changes, and revive the Buckeyes reputation as the best of the best.