The Ohio State Buckeyes lost one of the nation’s best running backs, their starting quarterback, top wide receivers and tight end and a majority of their offensive linemen following the 2015 season, but with the departures comes opportunities for younger players to step up.
Buckeyes offensive coordinator Ed Warinner expects the offense to be balanced and take advantage of the skill players who have moved up the depth chart to seize prominent roles.
“We are striving to be balanced because we have a great group of receivers and skilled athletes and tight ends as well,” Warinner said. “We'd love to have some balance. Number one, we want to play fast, be physical and very balanced. We have the tools and the players to do that, so that will be our objective.”
Junior H-back Curtis Samuel is one of the players who has risen up the depth chart with the departure of Buckeyes standout Ezekiel Elliott, who became the No. 4 overall pick of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2016 NFL Draft back in April.
As a sophomore last fall, Samuel caught 22 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns, and carried 17 times for 132 yards with one score. Combined between receiving, rushing and returning, Samuel totaled 628 yards for the 2015 Buckeyes.
During the team’s run to the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2014, Samuel totaled 724 yards and six rushing touchdowns.
“Curtis is a very skilled athlete, a very elite player with the ball in his hands, so we are just going to try to find as many ways to use him as possible,” Warinner said. “He can do great things at wide receiver or with the ball in his hands at the running back position, so we will see how it goes. I'd love to see Curtis touch the ball 10 to 15 times a game.”
And Warinner is very much looking forward to taking advantage of Samuel’s skill set when the Buckeyes take the field against the Bowling Green State University Falcons and their first-time defensive coordinator, Perry Eliano, at Ohio Stadium Saturday afternoon.
“That's always the game inside the game,” Warinner said. “What are they going to do and how are they going to do it? Obviously, we have no idea because they have new people there as a coaching staff. It will be interesting to see what they come out in.
“History says you go with what you know, so where they have been might give us a hint to what they will do. Time will tell and we will have to wait until Saturday at noon to see what happens. We will be ready to adjust. We have a great defensive package that we practice against every day, that is very versatile and very multiple, so we think we will be well prepared.”