Ohio State football: How close are the Buckeyes to deep ball success?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nine months after the Fiesta Bowl debacle against Clemson, all eyes were on how Ohio State would fare in the vertical passing game.

Now that the season opener at Indiana has come and gone, it’s still fair to wonder about the improvement the 1-0 Buckeyes say they’ve made in that area. It’s not that Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was wildly inaccurate with the deep ball — it’s that the Buckeyes hardly ever tried.

How Ohio State fans feel about the performance probably lies in the eye of the beholder, but the fact that only three deep passes were even attempted is a bit of an indictment on either Barrett’s confidence with those throws, the receivers’ ability to get open, or the coaching staff’s willingness to call such plays.

It also could be all of the above.

How did those three passes fare? None of them were completed, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. A pass to Marcus Baugh was overthrown, but Barrett dumped a perfect pass into Parris Campbell’s arms, only to watch him drop it in the end zone. And though it didn’t register on the passing chart or in Barrett’s stats, there was also a pass to Binjimen Victor that drew a pass interference penalty.

After the game, Barrett agreed that the pass to Campbell was spot on, but he also said he should have been better overall. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer admitted he’d like to have seen the Buckeyes connect on at least one big pass.

“We made such an emphasis on the deep ball that it’s somewhat disappointing that we didn’t hit a couple of them,” Meyer said.

It’s fair to note, though, that Barrett was one unfathomable drop away from having a 41-yard touchdown pass on the stat sheet. Had that one to Campbell been completed — and it’s not debatable that it should have been — everyone probably would have gone home happy.

The nature of big plays is that it only takes one or two to make a game successful. The issue has been that last year Ohio State wasn’t connecting on  any.

At the same time, though, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Buckeyes didn’t really try in the 49-21 win over Indiana. The fact that there weren’t many attempts means that for whatever reason, Ohio State wasn’t often putting itself in position to succeed in this area. It’s not like Barrett needs to be uncorking 40-yarders 10 times a game, but three such attempts is a pretty low total.

Oklahoma comes to town on Saturday, and connecting on a big play could be the difference between winning and losing. Ohio State showed it can find other ways to generate explosive plays — getting Campbell in space just past the line of scrimmage worked out really well — but it also needs to have the threat of going over the top be a viable one.

Barrett showed he could drop one in there, and the Buckeyes do have talented wide receivers. But whether this can be a dependable option for the Ohio State offense remains to be seen.

The post Ohio State football: How close are the Buckeyes to deep ball success? appeared first on Land of 10.

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