Editorial: How does a team with so many elite recruits fall short?

Buckeyes
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WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – OCTOBER 20: Rondale Moore #4 of the Purdue Boilermakers runs into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter as Sevyn Banks #12 of the Ohio State Buckeyes falls at Ross-Ade Stadium on October 20, 2018 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

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They can’t physically do it, can they?

That’s the one thing nobody wants to say, or refuses to believe, about Ohio State’s deficiencies. How is it even possible that a team with elite recruits at every position, accomplished coaches and first-class facilities falls short in basic areas?

Well first, they’re 18-23-year-old human beings. Just because they’re highly-rated does not mean they are machines or mistake-proof. And this year Ohio State, through 2/3rds of its regular season, has a flawed product. 

Those flaws turned into outright failures Saturday night in West Lafayette. 

Even casual fans can be quite football-savvy and they can detect the smallest of details in scheme, play-calling, halftime adjustments, etc. And when a team struggles we sometimes blame the strategy more than the people implementing it. In my view, OSU’s problems are about inexperience and a talent deficit, more than organizational failure. But clearly the coaching staff has failed to identify solutions to problems which have persisted for two months. And by the way, they recruited the talent.

My biggest surprise is OSU’s complete inability to run the football. The middle of the offensive line cannot push anyone out of the way. Purdue’s defense ranked 92nd in the nation in total defense, and OSU could not just line up and knock them off the ball. It’s not scheme or an “extra man in the box” as we’ve heard for weeks. They just can’t win the battles up front. Zero push, and it shows up most in the red zone. Extra men in the box was not too big a problem the past couple years, it seemed. Now it’s like kryptonite. 

When the field shrinks it limits your options, and the best Buckeye option for years has been to line up and whip the man across from you. OSU cannot do that, and it’s the most stunning thing about this season so far. Michael Jordan is a good player. He’s experienced, and he’s a 6’7” Center, a giant for that position. And yet OSU cannot create enough forward lean to get a 3rd and 2 on the ground. 

Brandon Bowen was a much bigger loss last year than people realized, and perhaps if he can return this season at guard it could give the run game a boost.

With an immobile quarterback, it does change how defenses create a plan. But it’s hard to believe that plan would actually make it “harder” to run the ball? Defenses have to find a way to defend the Bucks’ passing game, which even in defeat is still ridiculously good. But Purdue didn’t mind, challenging OSU to run it and plugging up holes so Dobbins spent more time cutting (and slipping) east and west instead of North.

It’s a bye week now and that will buy OSU and it’s staff some time to heal and reset. I refuse to think OSU doesn’t have a group of linemen who can move a defense. I’m certain they exist. But unless they can start winning up front November will be a long, frustrating month.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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