The Ohio State special teams were not extremely special in the season opener, but that is mostly because they did not have to be. The Buckeyes were solid in all facets of the kicking game, but not remarkable in any. Fortunately, there were no spots where a big kick or play in the return game were needed, as Miami (OH) was dominated in most facets of the game.
Punt: Ben Buchanan 7 punts, 42.1 yd avg, 2 inside 20, 2 touchbacks
This is a good stat line for a punter, but there is definite room for improvement for Ben. The most important place for him to make strides is in the pooch game. I am very sure that head coach Urban Meyer was not pleased that a few short punts sailed into the end zone. The goal of a pooch punt is typically to make the returner fair catch on the ten yard line. Any yard closer to the end zone is a bonus, but a punter can get burned by a bad bounce if they flirt too much with the goal line. Studies show that the odds of an offense scoring drastically decrease with every yard closer to their own end zone a drive starts. Ben was most likely trying to be too perfect, and if he can corral the pooch game, he can become a game changer for the Buckeyes.
The main point I wanted to point out here is that Coach Meyer is running the same directional kickoff scheme that he ran at Florida. More specifically, the same kickoff scheme that Tedd Ginn Jr. burned for a touchdown on the opening play of the ill-fated National Championship game. This can be a very effective scheme when run correctly, but a lot of pressure falls on Drew Basil‘s shoulders to place the ball where the coverage is being directed. Luckily, Drew has such a strong leg that many kickoffs will simply be touchbacks. If Drew stays consistent with his kicks as the weather changes, look for the Buckeyes opponents to be starting drives deep in their own zone all year.
One overall theme that stuck out to me was the quality of athletes that were on all of the special teams. Coach Meyer, like Jim Tressel, places a huge amount of importance on special teams, and will place his best players on these units. It was evident on our punt block team (nicknamed the Freak Show), where consistent pressure forced a bad snap over the punters head which was recovered for a Buckeye touchdown. With our best players on all of the special teams, it is not out of the question to expect game changing plays and even touchdowns every week. My only question is, who is going to step up and fill the void left by current New England Patriot Nate Ebner, who was drafted exclusively as a special teams stalwart? Who is going to step up and be the man that makes the tackle on all of the coverage teams, and eventually force the opposition to game plan specifically for them? There are plenty of players with the physical ability to do this, but one must emerge with the heart and fearlessness to fly down the field and make some huge plays.
HELMET STICKER: Bradley Roby
Special teams often boils down to effort rather than ability. Those with a knack for making a big play at a big time will shine on these units. A great example came when theMiami snapper sailed one over his punters head and into the end zone. Although Roby was not even involved in the initial scrum for the football, he emerged from the pile with the ball and a Buckeye touchdown. It is effort and big play potential like this that make the difference in special teams, games, and ultimately seasons