Blue and Gold Illustrated


Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 42 of 67 PRESEASON 2022 43 GAME PREVIEW: OHIO STATE 1. Wide Receivers Aplenty No school has signed more high-end wide receivers in recent years than Ohio State. The Buckeyes reeled in five wideouts ranked in the top 50 of the On3 Consensus, including four five- stars. Their 2023 commitment list has the Nos. 2, 5 and 9 wide receivers, per the On3 Consensus. They signed the No. 1-ranked receiver in 2020 (Julian Fleming) and 2021 (Emeka Egbuka). Unsurprisingly, that talent has translated to high-end production and depth. Ohio State had two receivers picked in the first round of the NFL Draft last year, Garrett Wilson (10th overall) and Chris Olave (11th). Junior Jaxon Smith-Njigba set single-season school records for catches (96) and receiving yards (1,606) last season. He's a projected first-round pick in 2023. All while a pair of No. 1-rated receivers sat be- hind them. Fleming has 19 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown through two seasons. Egbuka did not catch a pass last year. Sophomore Marvin Harrison Jr., himself a top-75 recruit in the 2021 class, had just 5 catches for 68 yards in the first 13 games of last season before hanging 71 yards and 3 touchdowns on Utah in the Rose Bowl. Smith-Njigba, Egbuka, Fleming and Harrison are the Buckeyes' likely top four in 2022. Notre Dame's secondary will have its hands full. 2. A Familiar Defense Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees should be plenty familiar with first-year Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, even though the two have never gone against each other in a game. Knowles left Oklahoma State for Ohio State before the Cowboys played the Irish in the Fiesta Bowl last year. Rees, though, spent nearly a month watch- ing tape of Knowles' defenses in preparation for that game. He soaked up tendencies, schemes and calls. Those notes weren't worth as much in the bowl game with Knowles not coaching in it. They're worth re-examining now as Rees tries to prepare for Knowles' defense without having film of his work at Ohio State so far. Knowles ran a 4-2-5 base defense at Oklahoma State and is installing the same at Ohio State. Rees should be plenty familiar with the basics of it from his studies last December. But he's left to make his best guesses about the wrinkles Knowles has added with Ohio State's personnel. 3. Star-Studded Edge Matchup One reason Notre Dame's offensive line should be a strength one season after it was a clear weakness is the expect growth of sophomore tackles Joe Alt and Blake Fisher. Alt started the final eight games of last year at left tackle, al- lowing just 9 quarterback pressures in that span. Fisher was the opening day left tackle, but a torn meniscus in that game knocked him out until the Fiesta Bowl, where he returned on the right side. Any freshman starter at tackle is a rare breed. Alt and Fisher offered evidence they could be the next two names in a long line of high-round Notre Dame offensive tackle draft picks. Their progress toward that goal will be measured right away, when they face a trio of talented Ohio State edge rushers who are rare breeds them- selves. Senior Zach Harrison returns for his second year as a starter for OSU after notching 4 sacks in 2021. He has been widely pegged as a popular breakout pick and possible early round draft pick next spring. Maybe the more intriguing breakout names, though, are a pair of Buckeye sophomores who were former top-five recruits. Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimo- loau aren't locked in as starters, but they're expected to be prominent parts of a deep defensive line rotation. Both should see playing time bumps from their freshman-year roles as bit players. — Patrick Engel Dame any more sled-posting material. "That's cool," Stroud said. "I don't have too many words about that. I mean, it's cool to see that they're think- ing about me. I'm thinking about them." How much one is thinking about the other can only be revealed by the two parties themselves. Obviously, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day wants all of his players prepped with a thorough scout on the Irish. But he doesn't want their daydreaming to go much beyond that. To him, it doesn't have to. "Everyone's going to be juiced up for that game, but it's certainly not going to overwhelm anybody," Day said in early August. "I mean, we've been there be- fore. We've been in the bright lights. We know what that's like. "But we know how important it is to go win that game and it's certainly in the back of everybody's mind here at camp." Day is 31-4 since taking over for Urban Meyer, plus three more wins he earned in 2018 as an interim coach while Meyer was suspended. The Buckeyes reached the College Football Playoff in his first two seasons, including a national cham- pionship game berth in 2020. Ohio State did not reach the CFP last year, but Day led his team to a Rose Bowl triumph. He's right. Ohio State has been there before. Rarely are the Buckeyes not ready for a big tilt, like when they lost to Oregon at home last September and Michigan on the road last Novem- ber. The Ducks caught them slipping in Week 2, and Michigan got them off- guard directly after a 56-7 Stroud-led trouncing of No. 7 Michigan State. Notre Dame isn't pulling any sneak at- tacks in the season opener. Not after nine months of everyone in college football talking about how Freeman is headed home in one of the biggest week-one blockbusters in recent memory. "Any competitor wants to go and play the best," Freeman said. "And our guys are ultra-competitive. They're going to rise to the challenge." ✦ Senior defensive end Zach Harrison is the most experi- enced player on a deep Ohio State defensive line. PHOTO COURTESY OHIO STATE ATHLETICS Three Things To Know About Ohio State "I know some of the headlines will be about me going back to my alma mater, but my focus point is Notre Dame football and preparing this team." FREEMAN

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Preseason2022