Three days after Ohio State defeated Rutgers 56-0 in Piscataway, New Jersey, redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, a few of his teammates and three assistant coaches spoke to the media. Here are four things we learned.
Defensive ends taking snaps at middle linebacker
Early in the Buckeyes’ shutout of Rutgers, redshirt junior defensive end Sam Hubbard sprinted onto the field late, lined up at middle linebacker and forced a fumble. That might have been chalked up to miscommunication, but it happened a second time.
Early in the third quarter, freshman defensive end Chase Young lined up on the second level of the defense, between outside linebackers Jerome Baker and Malik Harrison, and blitzed up the middle.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson did not deny this as a scheme Ohio State hopes to use in the future.
“We’re just trying to build our package in our Rushmen package,” Johnson said. “We’re just trying to change it up so teams don’t get a feel for what we’re doing. So, it’s just part of what we’re doing right now.”
In the past, Ohio State’s Rushmen package has featured four defensive ends — Nick Bosa, Jalyn Holmes, Tyquan Lewis and Hubbard — in likely passing situations. In spring and fall camps, the Buckeyes discussed potentially using Hubbard as a de-facto linebacker and playing Bosa, Lewis, Hubbard and Holmes along with defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones together in certain packages. But no one ever mentioned playing five defensive ends at once.
For a team like Ohio State, there is no better time to experiment with plays and different lineups than against overmatched opponents such as Rutgers, UNLV and Army. Of course, the Buckeyes might just be showing this wrinkle to future opponents, such as Penn State, so the offense has more schemes to prepare against.
“We try to make sure teams work on what we’re doing, so we’ll give them something to work on during the week,” Johnson said. “That’s always part of the process.”
Ultimately, will this package, which adds a fifth defensive lineman onto the field, actually be used in future games?
“We hope so,” Johnson said.
Why hasn’t Demario McCall played more?
Sophomore H-back Demario McCall took an opportunity and ran with it Saturday as he played his first extended snaps of the season. Though he didn’t play until the second half when the game’s outcome was not in doubt, McCall led the Buckeyes with 11 carries for 103 yards and a touchdowns. He also snagged a 35-yard touchdown reception.
After the impressive performance, head coach Urban Meyer said he still did not believe McCall was fully healthy yet and was missing some of his explosion. Running backs coach Tony Alford agreed with Meyer.
“He’s pretty close. You’d have to ask him, but I think he’s coming along pretty well, but he’s not all the way back,” Alford said.
Though Alford said McCall was playing more H-back in fall camp after bouncing back and forth between the hybrid position and running back, the sophomore was used mainly out of the backfield Saturday.
“He’s still battling, he’s got to get better,” Alford said. “He’s still a little small in comparison to those guys and we’ve got to still work on some things as far as pass pro and some things like that. And he’s still trying to get back healthy.”
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound McCall is not only the shortest running back listed on Ohio State’s roster, but also the lightest. With H-backs Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill succeeding in the hybrid role and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber at full strength, McCall’s playing time might be sparse until he’s fully healthy and earns it with more success in garbage time.
Former highly-rated prospects easing into college game
Young, a former five-star prospect, has made a good impression on the coaching staff over the past few games as he has played meaningful snaps, including some first-team reps against Rutgers.
Young has picked up nine tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, this season. Johnson believes the 60 plays he has played in the last two games will be invaluable to Young’s development.
“This is about a growing process, just learning how to play, get them on the field, how to play at maximum speed at this level,” Johnson said. “And [Young has] done a great job. There’s some growing pains he’ll go through, but so far, so good.”
Though Young is physically imposing and listed as 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, do not expect him to play extensive snaps. Johnson likes to be cautious with his freshman linemen. Even if the Buckeyes’ foursome of starting defensive ends was not ahead of him on the depth chart, Young likely would not play much.
“The thing I don’t want to do with freshmen is put them in a situation he’s given a chance to fail,” Johnson said. “I want him to have success every time he hits the football field and I don’t want to put him in situations that the game is on the line and he is in the game. I don’t want to do that right now. His time will come.
Freshman wideout Trevon Grimes, a former four-star prospect and the highest-rated receiver to commit to Ohio State in his class, caught passes against Army and UNLV, but has not played substantially.
“He’s getting there, he’s developing,” Dixon said. “Coming in as a freshman, it’s kind of hard to pick up the college game. But he’s coming along.”
Terry McLaurin block justification
In the second half of Saturday’s game, well after the game was out of reach, redshirt junior wide receiver Terry McLaurin delivered a crushing block on junior linebacker Deonte Roberts, earning an unsportsmanlike penalty and a targeting penalty, the latter of which was rescinded.
If the officials agreed the hit was targeting, McLaurin would have been prevented from playing in the first half against Maryland. Despite that, Meyer did not seem overly concerned as he honored McLaurin as a “champion” on Monday for his effort against Rutgers. Meyer said though he does not condone the hit and had a “little talk” with the wideout, a Scarlet Knights player took a cheap shot on McLaurin earlier in the game and the Buckeyes wide receiver “carried it with him for a while.”
His teammate, redshirt junior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, agreed with the assessment.
“I thought it was a clean hit, I thought it was a real good hit,” Dixon said. “The guy cheap-shotted him earlier in the game. Something happens like that in the the game, you kind of feel disrespected as a man. It was a clean play to me. He did what he’s supposed to do.”