Jeremy Birmingham/Land of 10
J.T. Barrett has the support of coach Urban Meyer.

Ohio State mailbag: What changes need to be made after a bad loss?

Ryan Ginn

Have Ohio State football questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the Land of 10 Ohio State mailbag to talk all things Buckeyes. This week, we’ll discuss whether Ohio State should cancel its football program in the wake of the loss to Oklahoma. 

Let’s get started!

Of the 40 or so questions I received this was pretty much the general theme of all of them (though there were a lot of specific ones, and we’ll get to those too).

I wrote after the loss that everything should be on the table, including a switch at quarterback, and I stand by that. But here are the biggest priorities in my mind:

  • Giving Kevin Wilson more freedom, which I’ll discuss below
  • Trusting the running backs in big games
  • Doing whatever it takes to fix J.T. Barrett’s hesitations and hitches
  • Playing the young wide receivers
  • Finding a way to improve linebacker play, which was fundamentally poor vs. Oklahoma
  • Getting a backup quarterback on the field to see what you have there
  • Picking one safety to play opposite Damon Webb instead of rotating Jordan Fuller and Erick Smith

The first one is the biggest, though. This offense looks like it did at the end of last year, at the beginning of 2015 and at certain points of 2014. It looks very little like what Wilson ran at Oklahoma and Indiana. There have been three offensive coordinators at Ohio State during those years and only one coach. It’s hard to completely overhaul the offense — and the Buckeyes don’t have any reason to — but they need to use tempo more frequently and faster, trust the tight ends (a staple of past Wilson offenses), run the quarterback less than the running backs and fix the red-zone play calling.

Yeah, I think so. It’s ultimately his offense and he’s the one with the power to prevent running the quarterback more times than the running backs.

I don’t think they’d bench Barrett at that point because they’re going to ride with him until the end, but if the loss came because he was hesitating on throws or outright missing them, then it probably would be deserved.

If you’re talking pressure on Urban Meyer to replace Barrett, I think it would get pretty loud but that he’d ride out the storm. If it’s the other kind of heat … no. I think one look at a list of potential candidates to replace him should fix any feelings of ill will.

It doesn’t seem like it so far, which in one sense is understandable given the lack of depth and the low production of past years. However, there’s talent there, and Wilson has had success in the past using tight ends in his offense. And, as an opposing coach pointed out to Pete Thamel, it’s one of his preferred ways to attack opposing defenses. But no, at this point I don’t expect them to be any more involved this year than in the past.

The evidence is pretty clear at this point that it’s his offense, no matter who is calling the plays. As I mentioned earlier it’s probably too much to completely rip out the offense, but Wilson should have more of an impact on what Ohio State’s offense looks like than it seems that he does.

I’m lumping these two together, but yeah, I think so. At least to some extent, especially over the next four games. With the older receivers, they mostly are what they are at this point. Parris Campbell can have drastically better production than in past years if they use him in more of a hybrid role, but I’m not sure some others will have much of a different impact.

With Jeffrey Okudah, I don’t know if he deserves to replace a starter, but I’d like to see him get some reps at some point in what should be a few comfortable wins in a row. Might as well find out what you have in some of the young guys at those two positions because very few starters have done enough to be comfortable. As former coach John Cooper — bless his heart — once said, “If a dog is going to bite, he’ll bite as a pup.”

It’s a mix of both. Barrett can play, and it’s insane to completely write him off because of struggles that are ultimately solvable. But it would be silly to say it doesn’t help to be throwing to Michael Thomas or handing the ball off to Ezekiel Elliott. That’s true of every quarterback, though. To some extent, they’re all a reflection of the talent around them. But talent alone can’t save you. He’s made enough good throws and enough key plays when he’s needed to for me to be comfortable saying that Ohio State would not have won as many games over the last four years had he played college football somewhere else.

To me, it’s the back seven and the linebackers, in particular. It was astonishing to see the number of times Baker Mayfield hit a receiver over the middle without a defender within 5 yards of him because the linebackers bit on every fake Mayfield threw their way. Given the talent and experience at that position, it’s certainly not something I saw coming. And while Barrett wasn’t great, I feel comfortable assigning some of that blame elsewhere. The back of the defense is on its own in the blame game, especially considering the pressure the defensive line puts on opposing quarterbacks.

Nope. And I don’t think him not heeding their advice will have an impact on their school choice.

If there’s enough time left, I think Meyer will turn them loose. If it’s for a series or two at the end, history has shown Ohio State will use running backs to run out the clock.

It won’t be anything dramatic at the top. As is the case every year, they’ll evaluate where they’re at with the position coaches. And then they’ll see what they have at quarterback and hopefully turn loose the class of 2017.

It’s not, but your unflinching support for a fellow Knox is noted, as always.

This is a question for Birm, but I’m answering it anyways. Individual game results don’t matter very much in recruiting. The pitch the next morning simply changes to “Look how much we need you!”

Here’s what Jaiden Woodbey had to say to Birm after the game. “Things were great,” Woodbey said. “It always is. I’m thinking if I can learn the defense, that I can come into Ohio State and have a shot to start next year.”

I do, incredibly enough.

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