COLUMBUS, Ohio – The midseason report cards are in for Ohio State.
Technically, the regular season wasn’t split exactly down the middle for the Buckeyes. But given how unevenly the stakes were distributed on the schedule, let’s consider this week’s off date a convenient way to break the season into two ahead of the crucial stretch run.
Now that the caveat is out of the way, on to the good stuff: It’s time to honor Ohio State’s Midseason MVPs.
QB J.T. Barrett
Senior J.T. Barrett has piled up so many record-setting performances over the last five weeks, it’s getting tough to remember that there was a time when questions were being raised about whether he should remain Ohio State’s starting quarterback. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes never wavered, and now it’s crystal clear why no change was considered in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Barrett has been on a monstrous tear since the loss to Oklahoma, which once again brought out the skeptics about his accuracy, his ability to throw the deep ball and if he was running the football too much in big games. He capped off his ridiculous run heading into the bye week by accounting for seven scores in the blowout at Nebraska, giving the most productive touchdown-producer in Big Ten history 26 scores seven games into his final campaign in Columbus.
He’s playing the finest football of his career, and while some may still doubt him until he validates his performance against stiffer competition like Penn State, Barrett is showing why he’s the guy to lead the push for a championship. And if he does deliver another gem against the Nittany Lions? Don’t count out a chase for the Heisman Trophy.
DB Damon Webb
There are worthy candidates at every level for the Silver Bullets, but Damon Webb has earned the nod for the all-around effort he’s provided while helping lead a young secondary after a rough start. The Buckeyes didn’t have an easy go of it replacing three first-round draft picks in the defensive backfield, but Webb has provided steady leadership to help bring that unit back to a level the program has gotten used to the last few seasons. He’s also taken his own game to a much higher level.
The senior leads the Buckeyes in tackles, including 1.5 for loss. He’s also been part of 3 turnovers for a defense that puts a huge emphasis on takeaways, nabbing a pair of interceptions and recovering a fumble.
There is a strong case to be made for junior Jerome Baker, who’s also been a do-it-all athletic weapon at linebacker in what will surely be his last season with the Buckeyes. And any one of the havoc-wreaking defensive linemen, paced by Nick Bosa, have statistics to back up their candidacies. But those guys have more veterans around them to lend a hand, which is why Webb is getting the nod here.
KR Parris Campbell
Ohio State has been searching for a spark in the return game, and Parris Campbell has been downright explosive when given a chance to flash his speed on that unit. All that’s missing so far is a touchdown, but it might be just a matter of time.
The junior has had only eight chances to return a kickoff this season, but he’s averaging 39 yards per attempt and has an 82-yard burst to his credit. The safest bet for Ohio State opponents right now is just to try to boom it through the end zone and force a touchback, because letting Campbell get to his top speed is a recipe for trouble.
There aren’t many other viable options for this award right now, which is driving Meyer crazy given his pride and involvement with the specialists. Ohio State needs to shore up the placement on kickoffs, nail down some details with the field-goal unit and cut down on penalties – and that’s not even the complete list. Count on the kicking game being a priority on the practice field heading into the Penn State matchup.
The hype was real.
Thanks to Mike Weber’s nagging hamstring injury, J.K. Dobbins was pressed into the starting lineup for the first game of his career on the road – a night game against a conference opponent. By the time he was done carving up Indiana, the freshman had racked up 205 total yards while backing up all that praise he’d been receiving during training camp.
Even with Weber back in the fold, Dobbins has left no doubt that he needs to remain a featured part of the Ohio State offense. His electrifying 52-yard touchdown run on Saturday against Nebraska sent him into the break with 5 touchdowns. And with 775 yards rushing, he’s well on his way to becoming the fourth freshman in school history to rush for at least 1,000 yards.
Imagine what the hype might look like for his sophomore season, let alone what it could be next week when he gets back to work on his incredible rookie season.