Ohio State sits less than a month away from the College Football Playoff and a Dec. 31 showdown with Clemson, making this an exciting time in Columbus.
With that in mind, what better time for an Ohio State mailbag? There are some good ones in this bunch, so let’s get started.
@rmginn can torrenance Gibson start practicing with the team once the semester is over?
— Justin (@justinmolenda) December 6, 2016
This has been a popular question from Ohio State fans recently, and with good reason. Few things pique the interest of fans more than untapped potential. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Torrance Gibson happens to be the poster child for that phenomenon.
A 4-star quarterback and top-100 player in high school, Gibson was considered one of the jewels of the 2015 recruiting class. He quickly drew attention by offering to switch to wide receiver before his first season even started in an attempt to make a quick impact. Instead, he battled injuries and readiness and redshirted in 2015.
He looked set to fight for wide receiver reps in 2016, but prior to the season he was suspended by Ohio State — the school, not the program — for the fall semester. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer made it clear he disagreed with the suspension, but there was nothing he could do. Gibson hasn’t been enrolled, nor has he been allowed to practice.
That won’t change when Ohio State’s autumn semester ends in mid-December. Gibson won’t be able to return when that semester ends, but instead when the new one begins. He still has to apply for reinstatement, so that’s another hurdle. Coincidentally, the spring 2017 semester begins Jan. 9 — the day of the CFP national championship game.
Gibson won’t be playing, though, if Ohio State makes it. In addition to it being logistically impossible, he hasn’t played football in months. The Buckeyes have better options at receiver and on special teams than someone who hasn’t practiced since August.
His next day of practice, should everything work out, would come when Ohio State begins spring practice in 2017.
@rmginn Clemson D line against our O line concerns me, especially outside rushers against Prince. Warranted or overreacting?
— Eric Bronstein (@ebronste) December 5, 2016
Yep, that’s warranted. I don’t see how anyone could look at the box scores from the Penn State and Michigan games and not be concerned. Those teams combined to sack Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett 16 times in those two games. Michigan, which finished with eight sacks against the Buckeyes, ranks second nationally in sacks. Clemson is third.
With that being said, Meyer and his staff have a month to figure out solutions, be it through planning or development. Futhermore, Ohio State still got the win against Michigan and probably should have won at Penn State. However, there’s absolutely reason to believe the Clemson defensive line will be a massive problem.
@rmginn What is the one area Ohio state can exploit against Clemson?
— Brandon Ebert (@BEbert3585) December 5, 2016
This might be an odd answer given that Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is a Heisman Trophy finalist, but I think OSU’s secondary could have a field day. Watson has been uncharacteristically turnover-prone this season. He’s racked up 15 interceptions in 13 games so far. For comparison, that’s 10 more picks than Barrett has thrown.
The last person a quarterback with an interception problem wants to see is Ohio State safety Malik Hooker. The third-year sophomore set a program record this season with three interceptions returned for a touchdown. He has plenty of successful teammates, too. The Buckeyes rank fourth nationally in interceptions (19), first in pick-sixes (seven) and first in interception return yards (443).
@rmginn what sense do you get from the staff regarding the development of the WRs, viewed more as coaching letdown or player letdown?
— Jared Duncan (@buckeyefan686) December 5, 2016
Meyer was asked after the Penn State loss if he was happy with the coaching at wide receiver, and I think his answer was an interesting one. “Those who know me — probably you guys don’t know me that well — very rarely is that answer yes, because I’m always challenging, pushing, trying to get them better and better,” Meyer said.
The answer was a creative way to show dissatisfaction with the result more than with the people involved. Meyer essentially said the reason he wasn’t happy is simply because he never allows himself to get complacent.
However, I think both sides deserve to own this problem. Zach Smith coaches a room comprised entirely of 4-star recruits, a luxury few position coaches in America enjoy. The reality is that few of them have proven to be reliable targets.
At the same time, part of that blame belongs to the players. Smith can’t play for them. He can’t catch for them. The diminished impact is ultimately something both sides will have to answer for in order to solve it.