Ohio State Buckeyes: Buckeyes 2012 in review

Year in review: Ups, downs for specialists 

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A position-by-position look at a perfect season for Ohio State, wrapping up today by rewinding to look at the kicking game and a group of special-teams contributors that were stretched by injury during a roller coaster campaign.

SPECIAL TEAMS
[+] EnlargeCorey Brown
Jim Rinaldi/Icon SMIReceiver Corey "Philly" Brown became the playmaker that Urban Meyer was looking for on special teams.

  • Most valuable player: Roles on special teams just aren't handed out under Urban Meyer, though that doesn't change the fact they're valuable proving grounds for players looking to make an impression, as the Ohio State coach is so heavily involved with the kicking game. It also doesn't just apply to younger players, since it was junior Corey "Philly" Brown's explosive contributions on punt return that seemingly helped his role on offense expand as the season progressed and the Buckeyes gained even more confidence in his ability to make something happen with the football in his hands. Meyer had been somewhat critical of Brown's ability to make defenders miss early in the season, but his 76-yard punt return against Nebraska helped seal a blowout victory and signaled that the wide receiver was turning a corner as a playmaker.
  • By the numbers: Good luck finding a more successful punt return unit than the one Meyer rolled out in his first season with the program. On four different occasions with an opponent trying to kick the ball away and swing field position, the Buckeyes decisively flipped the momentum instead with touchdowns. Brown returned two punts for scores, cornerback Bradley Roby pounced on a mishandled snap for a touchdown and also recovered a ball that had been blocked by Travis Howard for another trip to the end zone in a productive season for that unit -- one that Meyer will expect even more out of next year.

Year in review: DBs lend a big hand 

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A position-by-position look at a perfect season for Ohio State, continuing today by looking back at the playmakers in the secondary who made a habit of breaking up passes and nabbing interceptions on the way to a perfect season.

[+] EnlargeBradley Roby
Kirk Irwin/Getty ImagesOhio State redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby could be a high draft pick if he leaves school early.
DEFENSIVE BACKS

  • Most valuable player: Christian Bryant might have been underrated for the contributions he made at safety, somewhat quietly going about his business and offering a reliable presence in the backend. Travis Howard played the finest, most consistent football of his career and tied for the Big Ten lead with four interceptions. But it was redshirt sophomore Bradley Roby who was the indispensable member of the secondary, transforming himself from a talented but easily distracted cover guy into an elite competitor over the last 12 months -- and developing into a potential high-round draft pick in the process.
  • By the numbers: For most of the season, the one game Roby missed with a sore shoulder didn't keep him from maintaining his spot atop the national leaderboard in passes defended. But without getting a hand on the football in the rivalry win over Michigan to close out the year and not getting a chance to play in the Big Ten title game, Roby's impressive total of 19 combined breakups and interceptions over 11 games didn't hold up as No. 1 in the country -- he had to simply settle for second.

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Year in review: Wild ride for linebackers 

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A position-by-position look at a perfect season for Ohio State, continuing today by looking back at an up-and-down season for the guys at the second level of the defense, a group that took off after a surprising midseason addition.

LINEBACKERS
[+] EnlargeRyan Shazier
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesRyan Shazier was the Buckeyes' most valuable and productive linebacker as a sophomore.

  • Most valuable player: There's not any question that Ryan Shazier was the most outstanding player at linebacker, and his numbers and various contributions might well give him a case that he was the one defender the Buckeyes couldn't live without. And while Zach Boren didn't play a full season at the position, didn't have anywhere near as much statistical production and still looked more like a fullback for a couple weeks after moving over to the defensive side of the ball, the senior's willingness to make the transition stands out by itself as invaluable to the team dynamic. But on top of that, the way he willed it into a success to stabilize a position that was already thin before getting wiped out by injuries will go down in Ohio State lore.
  • By the numbers: The math is pretty easy, given the even split of the season for Boren, who moved over to linebacker during a Tuesday practice just before the seventh game of the year and never went back. It also helps to have a nice round number, and Boren's 50 tackles would have put him on pace to be the only defender aside from Shazier to hit triple digits if he'd spent the entire season chasing the football instead of occasionally carrying it at fullback. Considering how quickly he zoomed through the learning curve and how well he was playing at linebacker by the end of the season, perhaps Boren's stats would have looked even better over a full slate. But at the rate he produced over six games, a 12-game Boren might have looked like this: 100 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two recoveries.

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Year in review: Veterans anchor DL 

December, 4, 2012
12/04/12
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A position-by-position look at a perfect season for Ohio State, continuing today by rewinding to break down a defensive line that had high expectations at the beginning of the year and was starting to live up to them by the end.

DEFENSIVE LINE
[+] EnlargeJohn Simon
Greg Bartram/US PresswireOhio State defensive end John Simon had 14.5 tackles for loss in 2012 as a senior.

  • Most valuable player: The final season with the program might not have been as prolific individually as expected for John Simon, but good luck getting the two-time captain and team-first senior to complain about his numbers after helping the Buckeyes go undefeated. Simon was hampered by injuries all season long and perhaps had to carry more of the workload than Ohio State initially planned due to a roster that didn't have quite as much depth as initially thought, but he still led the Big Ten in sacks and provided invaluable leadership to help set the tone for future teams under coach Urban Meyer.
  • By the numbers: While it seemed for much of the year Simon was having plenty of chances to make big plays in the backfield slip out of his hands, he still wound up converting plenty of them by grabbing hold and throwing them to the turf during his last season with the Buckeyes. If Simon had the benefit of a Big Ten championship appearance, a bowl game or even the final week of the regular season to pad his stats, he surely would have topped the 16 tackles for loss he posted as a junior. In the end, he settled for 14.5 of them -- effectively one out of every three tackles he made went for a loss.

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Year in review: OL paves road to 12-0 

December, 3, 2012
12/03/12
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A position-by-position look at a perfect season for Ohio State, continuing today by rewinding to look at the big guys up front who opened huge holes for the rushing attack and helped keep Braxton Miller upright for the passing game.

Reid Fragel
AP Photo/Chris BernacchiReid Fragel solidified the Ohio State offensive line by emerging as a solid right tackle.
OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Most valuable player: The Buckeyes were blessed with good health across the line all season, which gave all five starters every possible chance to build a case as the standout performer for the unit. It might not even be fair to single out just one, but considering the uncertainty at right tackle dating to spring practice and the way Reid Fragel developed to not only lock down a job but excel at it, the senior gets the edge for providing the final puzzle piece in the trenches. Jack Mewhort was a monster on the other side of the line and Corey Linsley was reliable as the anchor at center, but Fragel's transition from tight end was absolutely critical for the high-powered spread offense.
  • By the numbers: If Ohio State could find the red zone, odds were good the offensive line was going to clear the way for a touchdown on the ground. The Buckeyes were relentless when getting close to the end zone on the ground, trusting the big guys to combine with either Carlos Hyde as the battering ram or Miller as the burner on the edge to beat defenses down with hard-nosed football. In all, the linemen helped deliver 30 red-zone touchdowns for an offense that scored 88 percent of the time it got inside an opponent's 20-yard line.

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Year in review: TEs offer steady play 

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A position-by-position look at a perfect season for Ohio State, continuing today by rewinding to look at the physical blockers who doubled as extra weapons in the passing game for the high-powered spread attack.

[+] EnlargeJeff Heuerman
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesBuckeyes sophomore tight end Jeff Heuerman had eight catches for 94 yards and one touchdown.
TIGHT ENDS

  • Most valuable player: The conversion of the projected starter at the position left more work for the two guys left over at tight end, and both of them were able to step up and make a mark. The receiving statistics are essentially a dead heat, and each did some notable work to help the rushing attack get rolling -- but the slight edge goes to Jeff Heuerman over Nick Vannett. Heuerman drew some of the highest praise of the season when coach Urban Meyer identified him as one of the best blockers he's ever had at tight end, and while Vannett's emergence was just as critical, it's the sophomore who gets the nod this season.
  • By the numbers: Throwing to the big targets wasn't exactly a staple of the passing game, though maybe it could become a more regular feature given the success the Buckeyes had with either tight end. Or perhaps it was the element of surprise that made them so effective. Either way, the 17 combined catches for Vannett and Heuerman averaged nearly 13 yards per completion -- and both flashed the ability to make something big happen down the field by posting plays of 32 yards or longer.

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Year in review: Steady progress for WRs 

November, 29, 2012
11/29/12
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A position-by-position look at a perfect season for Ohio State, continuing today by rewinding to look at the improvements made by the targets in the passing game and a few memorable entries on the highlight reel.

[+] EnlargeCorey Brown
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteCorey "Philly" Brown was explosive on offense and led the Buckeyes with 60 catches for 669 yards.
WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Most valuable player: The production was steady from start to finish, even if Corey "Philly" Brown could have perhaps provided more yardage with all of his catches in the early stages of the season and saved himself from some good-natured jokes from coach Urban Meyer about making a tackler miss. The junior had the last laugh down the stretch, extending receptions by juking defenders and using his speed to pull away for longer gains than he was contributing during the first month of the season. He was at his best on special teams, though, busting loose for a pair of important punt returns for touchdowns that complemented his team-high 60 grabs on offense.
  • By the numbers: After getting repeated reminders about the ineptitude of the passing game a season ago and having no problem reciting the low reception totals, Brown and sidekick Devin Smith made sure there would be no discussions about that heading into their next offseason. Just in case anybody forgot, the team-leading total for the season before the arrival of coach Urban Meyer and his spread offense was just 14 -- a number that only took Brown three games to eclipse and was more than doubled by Smith.

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Year in review: RBs thrive in tough spot 

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A position-by-position look at a perfect season for Ohio State, continuing today by rewinding to look at the explosive play in the backfield and the emergence of a rusher who refused to go down easily.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Hyde
Pat Lovell/US PresswireCarlos Hyde would have likely been the Buckeyes' second 1,000-yard rusher if Ohio State had a bowl game.
RUNNING BACKS

  • Most valuable player: Thrust into the starting role thanks to a freak injury over the summer, Carlos Hyde didn't disappoint early in the season. After dealing with his own minor issue (a sprained knee) in September, Hyde again had to battle back and wait for a chance to make an impact for Ohio State's rushing attack. When Jordan Hall went down again with another injury, Hyde was ready to make the most of another crack at the first-team job and he never looked back. His physical style was complemented by underrated speed, and Hyde was a monster once the Buckeyes got near the goal line while ringing up 17 total touchdowns.
  • By the numbers: For all the fuss that had been made about Urban Meyer's offenses never having a 1,000-yard rusher, he probably should have had two of them in his first season with the Buckeyes. Braxton Miller's playmaking ability at quarterback helped give Meyer his breakthrough first, but if critics are still holding out because he's not had a true running back clear the barrier, they're holding on by a thread. Even after missing two games due to injury, Hyde came up just 30 yards short -- and considering he averaged 97 yards per game in his first, nearly full season as a starter, he was a lock to get there if the Buckeyes were eligible for the postseason.

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Year in review: QB play leads Buckeyes 

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A position-by-position look at a perfect season for Ohio State, starting today by rewinding to look at the dynamic play from the guy taking the snaps and looking at some numbers that will go down in the school record books.

QUARTERBACK
[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireBraxton Miller had more than 3,000 yards of total offense and became a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2012.

  • Most valuable player: The starter at the most important position on the field and a spot that is occupied full-time by one guy makes this a bit obvious, but Braxton Miller was clearly the man most responsible on the field for what the Buckeyes accomplished in 12 games. The future for the sophomore figures to be even brighter, and there was nothing wrong with a year that included 3,310 yards of offense and 28 total touchdowns.
  • By the numbers: With his multipurpose skills and the new spread attack, the ball was always going to be in Miller's hands the majority of the time. But it might still have been a bit tough to imagine the quarterback leading or tying for the most rushing attempts in seven different games for the Buckeyes and surviving the season in one piece -- which he did aside from the final quarter and overtime against Purdue. In all Miller rushed 227 times, with the toughness and durability he showed proving critical on the road to perfection.

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