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With the regular season rapidly approaching and Spring games over, the debate shifts towards next year’s performance.
Ohio State is in everyone’s thoughts as a potential contender for the national title, and here’s what needs to happen for them to achieve it.
The Buckeyes finished out last season with an 11-2 record losing to the Clemson Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl.
The 31-0 loss was rather embarrassing, but OSU showed the country that they can still play at a high level.
They had impressive wins over Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma, as well as a narrow loss at Penn State.
Urban Meyer has brought his team to impressive heights. He went undefeated in 2012 and 2013, as well as only losing a single game in the three seasons after.
Meyer combines consistent recruiting with dedicated coaching, and the results are apparent. The Buckeyes went 11-1 last regular season even after losing 12 players to the NFL draft.
The recruiting slate—defense
The Buckeyes were able to recruit the second best recruiting class in the nation. What this means is that they nabbed five five-star recruits and fourteen four-star recruits.
The Buckeyes lost Marshon Lattimore to the Saints, Malik Hooker to the Colts, Gareon Conley to the Raiders, and Raekwon McMillan to the Dolphins. Hefty losses, but Meyer didn’t lose sleep over finding replacements.
First among the recruits are two cornerbacks—Jeffrey Okudah, No. 1 cornerback in the nation, and Shaun Wade, the second highest ranked corner in the country.
They also recruited Amir Riep, Marcus Williamson, and Kendall Sheffield, all three four-star cornerbacks.
At safety, the Buckeyes grabbed Isaiah Pryor, a four-star safety out of Florida.
The Buckeyes also recruited what might turn into one of the best defensive-lines in the country. Last year, the Buckeyes ranked at sixth in total defense in the FBS, but in 2017 we will see this number go up because of the incoming class.
First is outside linebacker Baron Browning out of Texas, ranked first at his position. Weak defensive end Chase Young, the second ranked player at his position,.
Complimenting them on the line are four-star defensive tackles Haskell Garrett and Jerron Cage.
With this defensive class alone, OSU would be rated higher than most teams for recruiting, and I’m looking forward to seeing one of the absolute best defenses in the nation performing this season.
Does Barrett have what it takes?
In early January, we found out that J.T. Barrett would be returning to the Buckeyes through his Instagram, shown below:
“I’m Coming back for my senior year,” Barrett said. “Much love to Buckeye Nation and thank God for the blessings.”
There’s no question that Barrett is a great quarterback, but does he have what it takes to bring home the title?
Last season, Barrett threw for 2,555 yards on 233 completions, with 24 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He also chalked up 845 rushing yards with nine rushing touchdowns—not a small feat, and a powerful statement for the dual-threat quarterback going into next season.
That being said, Barrett struggled with accuracy, completing only 61.5 percent of his passes.
His inconsistency showed through during games against Michigan State, Michigan and Clemson where he only threw for 86, 124 and 124 yards respectively.
Will his struggles prevent the Buckeyes from reaching a national championship once again?
I don’t think so.
While the Buckeyes lose receivers Curtis Samuel, Dontre Wilson, and Noah Brown to the NFL, the upcoming recruiting class holds promise.
None of the three players boast many yards (none more than 500 yards) receiving, and looking at Meyer’s upcoming class, I feel confident that Barrett will have capable targets this season.
Wide Receivers and a new coach
First of all, the Buckeyes return three of their freshmen as receivers—Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack, and K.J. Hill. None of them got many playing time, even as the receiver corps consistently underachieved.
Now, they have a chance to prove themselves on the field. The Big Ten Network ranks OSU’s receiving corps as the third best in the conference behind Penn State and Indiana, and this is without taking the new recruits into account.
Two impact players to watch are four-star wide receivers Trevon Grimes and Jaylen Harris. Grimes is ranked the fifth-best receiver in the nation, while Harris is ranked No. 30. Not bad for an incoming class.
And now for the wildcard, or maybe secret weapon is a more apt name: Johnnie Dixon.
Dixon —the fifth-ranked wide receiver in the nation in 2014—only caught six passes in the 2016 season because of injury. He has only participated in 14 total games across his three years at OSU.
Now, he’s back and looking extremely promising. As an eligible junior, he was finally able to play in spring games, where he had six receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Dixon didn’t expect to be able to return to the team, but right after his spring game he posted on Instagram about his prospects:
Dixon might prove to be the strongest receiver for Ohio State, and I’m predicting a breakout season from him.
And there’s some icing on the cake: Kevin Wilson, the new offensive coordinator and tight ends coach for the Buckeyes, is one of the best OCs in the game, and he’s ready to test his skills in Columbus.
Wilson has a history of success for offenses. He led the Oklahoma Sooners to a historic 11-2 season and Fiesta Bowl berth. As the head coach at Indiana he brought the program from a 1-11 record to a 6-6 record by the end of his tenure five years later.
Urban Meyer knows how good he is for offenses, and he might be just what the Buckeyes need to win the national title.
Why Ohio State will win the national title game
Ohio State is one of the favorites for the national title this year, along with Alabama. Clemson no longer has the ability to embarrass OSU, and the Buckeyes are by far the better team.
I don’t see many FBS teams with the ability to beat OSU. They’ll face a challenge against Penn State, Oklahoma, and Michigan, but I think they’ll overcome those obstacles.
Add in the absolutely outstanding defensive recruiting class, and you have an all-around amazing team. Greg Schiano, now the sole defensive coordinator for the Buckeyes, led a great defensive program last year after being head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If Barrett comes into his own—which he will, considering the strength of his incoming receiving corps—and works well with Kevin Wilson, the Buckeyes have a great chance of winning the title.
Nicholai Babis is a sophomore International Studies major at Vassar College. He specializes in College Football. He is a lifelong Seminoles fan, as well as a Rays fan and a Tampa Bay Bucs fan. He grew up in Tampa, Florida. He is a co-owner of the JR report and works for Athletics at Vassar College. He is the college football contributor at the JR Report. Follow Nicholai on twitter @nibabis . Hit him up if you want to discuss CFB, NFL, golf, tennis, and more.