Florida Atlantic will try to keep up with new-look Buckeyes
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Usually there is not a lot of drama in Ohio State's opening game against an outmanned opponent. But with a new head coach, a new starting quarterback and new defensive scheme, there is an element of nervous anticipation this time.
Nobody is more curious about what's going to happen than the new coach, Ryan Day.
Day, who replaced the retiring Urban Meyer, thinks he has a good team, but he won't know exactly what's what until the fifth-ranked Buckeyes are on the field Saturday in front of 100,000 spectators at Ohio Stadium against a real opponent. The new quarterback, Georgia transfer Justin Fields , hasn't even gotten his uniform dirty yet because his defensive teammates aren't allowed to tackle him in practice.
"That's kind of why you want to get going with the season, figure out where we're at," Day said. "We have a new scheme on defense, new faces on offense. We want to see what we look like."
The Buckeyes may not get all the answers right away against Florida Atlantic, which is almost a four-touchdown underdog. The Owls in coach Lane Kiffin's first year went 11-3 in 2017 but last season slipped to 5-7.
Fields is a sophomore who has never started a game and he will be operating behind four new starters on the offensive line. But there is plenty of talent and depth all around him, enough to make it a long afternoon for FAU.
Day is just eager to get going.
"Now you get to see different schemes against different players, find out what your matchups look like against other people and figure out where we get better," he said. "Because it's a journey, not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination."
ROBISON LEADS OWLS
Chris Robison didn't participate in spring practice because of some off-field issues but is expected to get the start at quarterback for the Owls.
Robison started 11 games last season, throwing for 2,540 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions after being kicked off the team at Oklahoma and transferring. At FAU he was co-Conference USA Freshman of the Year last season.
LOTS OF LAUNDRY
Ohio State managed to go 13-1 last year despite being one of the most penalized teams in the FBS. The Buckeyes averaged 75.36 penalty yards per game in 2018, more than just three FBS teams (Arizona, Maryland and South Alabama). That's 116 flags for 1,055 yards. To put that into perspective, tailback J.K. Dobbins rushed for 1,053 yards last season.
"I DON'T THINK IT'S THE BEST IDEA"
FAU coach Lane Kiffin is honest about his distaste for being served up to another Power Five school to start the season. The Owls opened at Oklahoma last year and were beaten 63-14. Although Kiffin said "I don't think it's the best idea" to open against a powerhouse, FAU will walk away with $1.4 million for the trip and the trouble.
"You have to make money," he said.
The Buckeyes will be without starting defensive end Jonathon Cooper, who has what is believed to be an ankle injury, according to a teammate and media reports. Jashon Cornell will start in his place. Others on the "unavailable" list for the Buckeyes include LB Justin Hilliard, TE Rashod Berry and HB C.J. Saunders. Listed as game-time decisions are defensive ends Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday, and RB Demario McCall, who was expected to be the backup to starter J.K. Dobbins.
O-LINE KEY FOR BUCKEYES
Ohio State has just one returning starter on the offensive line. Besides Thayer Munford, who returns to start at left tackle, the Buckeyes have some guys who have seen action in the trenches. Right tackle Branden Bowen missed part of 2017 and all of 2018 with a leg injury but had played in 19 games with six starts before that. Left guard Jonah Jackson is a graduate transfer from Rutgers. Center Josh Myers backed up All-American Michael Jordan last season, and right guard Wyatt Davis was pressed into service at the end of 2018 when Demetrius Knox was injured.
"I think you're going to see probably seven to eight guys playing in the game on Saturday," Day said.