Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 138 of 163

THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 137 BY RYAN TICE The old adage goes, "If you have two starting quarterbacks, you have no quarter- backs." However that rule doesn't apply to Ohio State, which boasts three quarterbacks that would probably start at just about any other school in the country. Candidate one is fifth- year senior Braxton Miller, who missed last year with a shoulder injury. Before that, he had won more Big Ten Conference awards — seven — than any player in league history, including a pair of Chicago Tribune Silver Footballs. He is just the fourth to win multiple Big Ten MVP honors from the newspaper. While he was out, J.T. Barrett set a league record with 45 total touchdowns and accounted for a school- record 3,772 total yards (2,834 passing and 938 rushing) as a redshirt fresh- man. The Big Ten Quarterback of the Year did all of that but then broke his ankle on the first play of the fourth quarter in the regular- season finale against Michigan, which meant the Buckeyes had to turn to No. 3 quarterback Cardale Jones for their postseason run. All Jones, then a redshirt sophomore who had logged 92 career snaps, did was lead Ohio State on an 80-yard touchdown drive his first full series and secure a win over rival Michigan (it was 28-21 when Barrett went down). He then led the team to the Big Ten cham- pionship with a 59-0 victory over Wiscon- sin, which ranked second nationally in total defense, and was named the game's MVP. Next, he led the squad to a 42-35 win over No. 1 Alabama before helping OSU claim the national championship with a 42-20 win over Oregon. Ohio State averaged 544.3 yards and 47.7 points in their three postsea- son contests with Jones under center, and he was the only one of the three signal-callers healthy this spring. The quarterback trio is not all the Buck- eyes return to their potent offense, either — junior running back Ezekiel Elliott is back after rushing for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns, and he will be working behind a line that lost just one starter. Redshirt junior guard Pat Elglein was named first- team All-Big Ten last year, while second-team tackle Taylor Decker is also back. Redshirt junior Michael Thomas led the squad with 54 catches, although he ranked second to second- round draft pick Devin Smith with 799 yards and nine touchdowns, and he leads the returning weap- ons out wide. In total, six of the top seven receivers from 2014 return, including H-backs Jalin Marshall, who tallied 499 yards and six touchdowns on 38 catches, and Dontre Wil- son, who posted 300 yards and three touch- downs despite missing five games. Both are dangerous kick returners and combined for 2,047 all-purpose yards last fall. Fifth-year senior Nick Vannett was the top pass catcher at tight end last year and scored five touchdowns. The defense could be just as strong as the offense after minimal losses. The top four tacklers are all back, led by senior line- backer Joshua Perry, who led the way with 124 stops last year. Freshman All-American and Sugar Bowl defensive MVP Darron Lee also returns to the middle unit after post- ing 16.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and two interceptions; he also returned two fumbles for touchdowns. The defensive line must replace a pair of starters, but unanimous All-American Joey Bosa leads the front, while senior tackle Adolphus Washington was named All-Big Ten honorable mention last fall. The duo combined for 31.5 tackles for loss and 18 sacks. Junior safety Vonn Bell led the squad with six interceptions last year and finished second with 92 tackles. Fellow safety Ty- vis Powell intercepted four passes and was named MVP of the national championship game, while Freshman All-American corner- back Eli Apple picked off three passes and led the team with 13 passes defended. The entire special teams unit returns. Ju- nior Cameron Johnston averaged 45.1 yards per punt, while sophomore kicker Sean Nu- ernberger should improve after making 13 of 20 attempts. The Buckeyes have set the bar high, but they should be even better this season with one of the greatest quarterback depth charts in the history of college football. Anything short of a repeat will likely be considered a disappointment. Notes Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech, which finished 7-6, last year at home; the chance for revenge comes in week one this year, although it is in Blacksburg … The way-too-early 2016 mock draft of ESPN's Todd McShay included four Buck- eyes in the first 15 picks, including quarterback Cardale Jones at No.7. ❑ OHIO STATE • NOV. 28 • GAME 12 Quarterback Triumvirate Leads Buckeyes' Quest To Repeat 2015 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2014 Result Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech L, 35-21 Sept. 12 Hawai'i — Sept. 19 Northern Illinois — Sept. 26 Western Michigan — Oct. 3 at Indiana W, 42-27 Oct. 10 Maryland W, 52-24 Oct. 17 Penn State W, 31-24 (2OT) Oct. 24 at Rutgers W, 56-17 Nov. 7 Minnesota W, 31-24 Nov. 14 at Illinois W, 55-14 Nov. 21 Michigan State W, 49-37 Nov. 28 at Michigan W, 42-28 QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: U-M leads 58-47-6 First Meeting: U-M 34, OSU 0 (Oct. 16, 1897, at Ann Arbor) Last Meeting: OSU 42, U-M 28 (Nov. 29, 2014, at Columbus) Head Coach: Urban Meyer, 38-3 at Ohio State (4th year) and 142-26 overall (14th year) Off./Def. Systems: Power spread/Multiple 2014 In Review: 14-1 overall, 8-0 Big Ten (1st East, Big Ten and national champs) Final 2014 Ranking: No.1 in USA Today coaches and Associated Press Returning Starters: 16 (7 offense, 7 defense, 2 specialists) Last Bowl Appearance: 2014 (Sugar, vs. Clemson, W 42-35) Big Ten Conference Championships (last): 36 (2014) RETURNING LEADERS Passing: J.T. Barrett (2,834 yards, 34 TD, 10 INT) Rushing: Ezekiel Elliott (1,878 yards, 18 TD) Receiving: Michael Thomas (799 yards, 9 TD) Tackles: Joshua Perry (124) Sacks: Joey Bosa (13.5) Interceptions: Vonn Bell (6) PLAYERS TO WATCH O f f e n s e : B r a x t o n M i l l e r, 5th-Sr., QB — One of the most accomplished players in league history … Will battle for the start- ing job after missing last year with injury … 2013 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year after he totaled 36 touchdowns and threw for 2,094 yards while rushing for 1,068 … Finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting in 2012 after leading team to 12-0 season. Defense: Joey Bosa, Jr., DE — 2014 consensus All-American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and finalist for Lombardi, Bednarik and Hendricks Awards … Posted 21 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Junior running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 1,878 yards and 18 touch- downs in OSU's national champion- ship campaign last year. PHOTO COURTESY OHIO STATE

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