Spring opponent review: Ohio State
With spring practices now wrapped up around the country, HuskerOnline.com will take a look at where each of Nebraska’s 12 opponents in 2019 currently stands coming out of spring ball and heading into the summer.
Today we size up the Ohio State Buckeyes coming out of the spring under first-year head coach Ryan Day.
The Buckeyes will come to Lincoln for a big September home game that will be key for both programs.
We caught up with BuckeyeGrove.com's Kevin Noon for a full breakdown of OSU's spring.
Things really felt the same in Columbus this spring under Ryan Day, who served as an interim head coach last season for Ohio State when Urban Meyer was suspended.
Day has kept a lot of the same things in place in terms of how practice goes. They aren't looking to make wholesale changes with this move. You make big changes when you are trying to fix something, and they are trying to maintain something. The only big difference you are going to see is on defense, where the Buckeyes are expected to run more 4-2-5, that features a "bullet," that serves as a hybrid linebacker and defensive back. Most expect them to run both the 4-3 and the 4-2-5 depending on the opponent and the match-up.
At this point, there's no reason to blow things up in Columbus, because the blueprint Meyer put down has proven to work.
The biggest change is on the coaching staff. Overall, Ohio State hired a new passing game coordinator/QB's coach in Mike Yurcich, Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison are the new co-defensive coordinators, Matt Barnes is the new special teams coordinator and assistant linebackers coach, while Al Washingon is the new linebackers coach.
So overall, five of the 10 assistant coaches are brand new in Columbus, while Brian Hartline also became official as the wide receivers coach after serving as the interim in 2018 after Zach Smith's departure.
The Buckeyes return four starters on offense and nine on defense. They must replace their kicker, punter and returners on special teams.
On offense, wide receiver Austin Mack, tight end Luke Farrell, running J.K. Dobbins and left tackle Thayer Munford are the full-time starters the Buckeyes bring back. However, they have several guys that started games in different situations last season. Left guard Wyatt Davis took starter snaps at times last season and right guard Brandon Bowen started games two years ago before he broke his leg. They also will add Rutgers grad transfer Jonah Jackson, who as an All-Big Ten performer for the Scarlett Knights on the offensive line.
Defensively, defensive ends Jonathon Cooper and Chase Young return, along with defensive tackle Robert Landers. At linebacker, they return Malik Harrison, Tuf Borland and Pete Werner, who all logged starts a year ago. Then in the secondary, cornerback Damon Arnette and safeties Jordan Fuller and Isaiah Pryor are back in 2019.
Offensive star: RB J.K. Dobbins
After a freshman All-American season, J.K. Dobbins had a sophomore slump in 2018 but still managed to rush for 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns. With Mike Weber off to the NFL, Dobbins will be expected to take on a big chunk of the offensive load and take the pressure off Georgia transfer quarterback Justin Fields.
Spring surprise: WR Garrett Wilson
The former Rivals100 receiver was an early enrollee at Ohio State this spring, coming off a performance in the All-American Bowl where he caught two touchdown passes. Garrett Wilson had a very impressive spring, and he may not be a starter on the Week 1 depth chart, but there's no question he's going to have a big role in 2019, as Ohio State has to replace receivers like Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin.
Defensive star: DE Chase Young
Ohio State continues to reload at defensive end. After losing Nick Bosa to the NFL a year ago, Chase Young will now take on even a bigger role. A year ago Young led OSU with 9.5 quarterback sacks. They will also bring in top national recruit Zach Harrison, who's also expected to make an impact at defensive end with Young.
Biggest question: Can Fields keep the Buckeye machine rolling on offense?
The biggest question remains if Fields can just step in on offense and keep this Ohio State offense rolling at the level Buckeye fans are used to. Fields was the No. 2 quarterback in the class of 2018 only behind Clemson's Trevor Lawrence. Can he back up that rating?
Also, not having Meyer running the day-to-day aspects of Ohio State's program poses some big questions. History tells us from similar types of coaching moves at places like Miami, Nebraska and Oregon, it's very difficult to be "the guy" that follows "the guy."
Early outlook on Ohio State vs. Nebraska
Noon: "I think if you are going to circle a game on Ohio State's schedule that is not Michigan or Penn State, it's going to be that Nebraska game. A lot of people are comparing it to previous games against Purdue and Iowa, but I think that they are way off. Those games against Purdue and Iowa came out of nowhere, and Ohio State struggled there.
"There's no reason why Ohio State should not be circling the game against Nebraska. That does not mean that Ohio State is going to walk in there and win the game just because they circled it. I think the Huskers have really come a long way, especially on offense. The great question mark is what is Nebraska going to be able to do on defense against the Ohio State offense, and conversely, is Ohio State going to be able to fix it's defensive inefficiencies in time to slow down what's proving to be a powerful Husker offense."
Overall 2019 win-loss expectation
Noon: "Win them all. When you cover Ohio State, you are never going to see a year where 8-4 or 9-3 is acceptable. Fans see a schedule that doesn't have a marque out of conference game, and the expectations are the Buckeyes should be the best in the East based on talent, depth and the way the schedule shapes up. Going undefeated during the regular season is always a challenge, but Buckeye fans are always up for that challenge, and believe that they probably should run the table."