Ohio State football: Grading every position group after the 2022 regular season
An 11-1 season may leave the Buckeyes on the outside of the College Football Playoff picture looking in. That doesn’t mean the season lacked for quality work from the Buckeyes. We’re going to look at the 2022 season by position group, grading each collectively. Here’s where the regular season report cards fall for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
CJ Stroud has had 2 fine seasons running the offense. But if anything, he might have taken a small step back in 2022. He completed 72% of his passes last year, vs. 66% this season. His yards per attempt fell from 10.1 to 9.4. A year ago, Stroud had 10 300+yard passing games and 5 400+ games. This year, he had 5 of 300+ and none hitting the 400-yard mark. The knock on Stroud has been that he’s essentially on auto-pilot, choosing between open receivers in big chunks of space. That’s probably not entirely fair, but at the same time, Stroud didn’t really take any steps forward in 2022 — not that the results were anything less than very, very good.
Running backs: B
This group had an other solid season, as the Buckeyes rushed for 198.5 yards per game and had 5.5 yards per carry. The only real downside was that a lack of durability meant that the cast changed game to game. Miyan Williams led the Buckeyes in carries, yards and touchdowns, but even he missed 1 game entirely and had a total of 2 carries in 2 other brief appearances. TreVeyon Henderson missed 4 games and left another early in the first quarter. Dallan Hayden had a fine season, but it felt telling that in the Michigan game, with Hayden coming off consecutive 100-yard rushing games, Ryan Day gave him exactly 2 carries. Meanwhile, Chip Trayanum had 14 of his 15 carries in the biggest game of the season. Nobody had a bad year, but the constant injuries did hurt.
Wide receivers/tight ends: A-
The loss of Jaxon Smith-Njigba did hurt. One of the best returning receivers in the nation ended up with 5 catches for 43 yards. The good news is that the other guys stepped up. Marvin Harrison Jr. was superb, and Emeka Egbuka took a massive step forward as well. Those 2 combined for 138 catches for 2,196 yards and 21 touchdowns. Julian Fleming was a quality third option, and Cade Stover emerged as the best pass-catching tight end the Buckeyes have used in a few years. Ohio State was lucky to have one of the deepest receiver groups in the nation, and that saved the day after an injury that kept OSU from having a historically great WR corps.
Offensive line: A-
Ohio State allowed 8 sacks and 44 tackles for losses all season. Each is within the top 10 in the nation for least opposing big plays allowed. Ohio State went from 47th to 27th in rushing yardage and finished 11th in the nation with 5.49 yards per carry. In only 3 games all season did OSU average less than 4.9 yards per carry. Paris Johnson and Dawand Jones were an outstanding pair of tackles. As a group, the offensive line did its job pretty consistently.
Defensive line: B
Ohio State was a sieve on the run game a year ago, and that was revisited Saturday as the Buckeyes allowed 252 yards on the ground and 7.2 per carry. The good news was that OSU held opposing ground attacks to 3.8 yards per carry or less in every game except Michigan and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes lacked a massive, consistent standout. Mike Hall was excellent early, and JT Tuimoloau came on later in the year. Zach Harrison continued to show frustrating flashes of excellence. There’s room to improve here, particularly in terms of consistency.
Tommy Eichenberg helped this group play with more consistency and focus than in previous years. Eichenberg went from a questionable starter to a legitimate NFL prospect after a great season. Yes, that Michigan debacle has to go in part on the linebackers, but it’s worth noting that aside from Game 12, Ohio State played well defensively against virtually everybody else.
Ohio State’s pass defense went from 96th in yardage allowed and 50th in opposing passer rating in 2021 to 15th and 42nd. Here’s another good spot to see improvement– a year ago, opposing passers attempted 108 3rd down passes, completed 64, and gained 47 first downs. This year, on 109 3rd down passes, opponents completed 57 and gained 30 first downs. Denzel Burke had an up and down season, but veteran Cameron Brown and freshman Jyaire Brown helped pick up the slack. Ronnie Hickman and Lathan Ransom made plenty of plays, and Tanner McCalister was a good addition. Allowing 11.1 yards per attempt to Michigan isn’t the best way to close things out, but for the most part, OSU’s secondary showed significant improvement.
Noah Ruggles was 15-for-17 on field goals, and Jesse Mirco ended up 2nd in the B1G in punting average. OSU blocked a pair of punts, but the big story is the continued struggle to break a kick return. No kick return or punt return scores for OSU in 2022, which is kind of insane, given the number of big-time athletes available to handle both jobs.