Sunday, September 6, 2015

#Buckeyes Preview 9.6.15: Ohio State @ Virginia Tech #Hokies

By @jddisantis

This Labor Day get the family time out of the way early because Monday night the National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes will try to avenge their only loss of last year by traveling to Blacksburg for a showdown with the Virginia Tech Hokies.   There is no shortage of storylines attached to the Buckeyes and their first test of the 2015 season.  Here is a breakdown of four areas of this game that I will be watching closely as the Buckeyes will attempt to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 14.

1.   Who’s under center?:   Everyone has heard the age-old-adage, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks.”   Well, that’s not the case for the Buckeyes.  In the 2014 season we saw something that movies are made of as Ohio State had TWO quarterbacks go down to injury yet their third string QB, Cardale Jones, stepped up and won the Big Ten Championship, National Semifinal and National Championship with a combination of size and arm strength reminiscent of JaMarcus Russell.   With 2-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Braxton Miller moving to WR, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones have been battling it out this summer for the starting job.   After watching Cardale in the final three games of last year many fans forget that J.T. Barrett was himself a Heisman contender before getting injured late in the season. 

Urban Meyer said that both quarterbacks will play in this game and reports have said that he will notify Barrett and Jones on Saturday who will start, although he will not tell the team until Monday night before the game.   Both men have been very humble during this process and have shown 100% support for the other so whatever the outcome I don’t anticipate any animosity towards the other.  Personally I would go with Barrett (who was recently named a team captain) but how could you argue with either player. 

2.  How badly will the recent suspensions hurt Ohio State?:   This offseason four Ohio State players received one game suspensions for “violating Department of Athletics policy.”  It is believed that the violations involve marijuana and academics.  The biggest impact the Buckeyes will be missing is potential #1 overall pick in next year’s NFL draft, junior defensive end Joey Bosa.  Sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, senior WR Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson will also be missing in action against the Hokies.  With WR Noah Brown down for the year with a broken leg the suspensions of Marshall, Smith and Wilson hurt even more.  We can expect to see a healthy dose of newly transitioned Braxton Miller to make up for the loss along with the emergence and continued growth of WR Michael Thomas. 

Redshirt sophomore Sam Hubbard will be starting in place of Joey Bosa, with Jalyn Holmes getting time as well.  Despite not playing all last year Hubbard was compared to J.J. Watt by former assistant coach Kerry Coombs and coach Meyer has mentioned that he thought about burning Hubbard’s redshirt year because he knew Hubbard was an NFL caliber player who won’t end up staying for four years.  Hubbard had two sacks in the spring game and exhibited the type of talent that has coaches excited to see what he can do on the main stage.  The Buckeyes may not have Joey Bosa out there Monday night, but they just might have the next best thing.   

3.  Braxton Miller’s switch to WR/H-back:  This offseason was filled with rumors and questions about the two-time Big Ten Offensive POY.  Will Braxton compete for the starting QB at Ohio State?  Will he transfer to Oregon or FSU to play QB there?  All of those questions were answered when Braxton Miller said he would be staying at Ohio State and make a transition to WR.  This was a great business decision for Miller as his potential at QB in the NFL was minimal but as one of the best athletes in college football he will have an opportunity to showcase that athleticism and playmaking ability at a different position.  Due to his recent injuries I think many fans have forgotten just how dynamic a playmaker Braxton Miller is and he should get ample opportunities to remind the nation Monday night against the Hokies. 

4.  Michael Thomas vs. Kendall Fuller:  One of the best battles you will see this opening weekend and maybe all year will be between Ohio State’s top wide-out Michael Thomas and Virginia Tech’s All-ACC cornerback Kendall Fuller.  We’ll have to wait and see if Fuller is going to follow Thomas throughout this game but they will definitely see a lot of each other.  Fuller is a fluid athlete who has football in his DNA as all three of his brothers have played (two are currently playing) in the NFL.  Michael Thomas also has NFL DNA as he is the nephew of former NFL wide-out Keyshawn Johnson.  Thomas is a technician at the position and will try and use his 6-3, 210 pound frame to his advantage against the smaller, faster Fuller.  Kendall Fuller is being touted as a sure fire first rounder while ESPN’s Todd McShay has Michael Thomas ranked as his #1 WR on his big board.  Keep your eyes on these two players as this battle will surely have game, and draft implications. 

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