Ohio State Football: Report Card Grades for Every New Starter

David Regimbal@davidreg412Featured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2014

Ohio State Football: Report Card Grades for Every New Starter

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    After coming out sluggish against a feisty Navy squad in Baltimore, Maryland last Saturday, No. 5 Ohio State surged in the second half to secure a 34-17 victory.

    The Buckeyes' slow start wasin large partthe result of head coach Urban Meyer breaking in a number of new starters on both sides of the ball. Most notable among them was redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who has been tasked with filling in for star quarterback Braxton Miller this season.

    How did Ohio State's new starters fare in their first game?

J.T. Barrett

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Week 1 Stats12-of-15, 226 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT 9 CAR, 50 RUSH YDS

    Breaking Down His Performance 

    J.T. Barrett had a solid performance in his first career start for the Buckeyes. He managed the game effectively, completing 80 percent of his passes, while proving to be an effective runner with a team-high 50 rushing yards.

    The redshirt freshman would have graded out higher if not for one pivotal mistake. Down by four early in the second quarter, Dontre Wilson broke free on an intermediate pass and set Ohio State up inside Navy's 10-yard line.  After evading a pass-rusher and avoiding a sack, Barrett had Devin Smith streaking down the middle for an easy touchdown. Instead, he forced the ball into double coverage trying to find Dontre Wilson in the corner of the end zone—a pass that was easily picked off by Parrish Gaines.

    Outside of that mental lapse, Barrett played a great first game.

    Grade: B

Ezekiel Elliott

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 1 Stats: 12 CAR, 44 RUSH YDS, 3.7 AVG, 1 TD

    Breaking Down His Performance 

    Much like the entire offense, Ezekiel Elliott started slow before surging down the stretch. 

    Elliott, who beat out running backs such as Rod Smith, Curtis Samuel and Bri'onte Dunn for the starting jobcarried the ball five times for just three yards in the first half. By the fourth quarter, though, Ohio State's ball-carriers were finding lanes, and Elliott popped off runs of six, 10 and 20 yards, including a touchdown.

    The fourth-quarter rally saved Elliott's performance, but he'll need to show better vision and footwork for the Buckeyes moving forward.

    Grade: C

Dontre Wilson

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 1 Stats: 2 REC, 46 REC YDS, 6 CAR, 44 RUSH YDS

    Breaking Down His Performance 

    Dontre Wilson proved to be Ohio State's most explosive option on offense, piling up 90 total yards on eight touches.

    The speedy halfback moved around quite a bit, lining up outside, in the slot and next to J.T. Barrett in the backfield to showcase his versatility throughout the game. His only slip-up came during Ohio State's first drive, when he let a pass bounce right off his hands that would've led to a first down.

    That sole mistake didn't greatly diminish an otherwise excellent outing.

    Grade: B+

Pat Elflein, Jacoby Boren, Billy Price, Darryl Baldwin

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Week 1 Stats: 194 RUSH YDS, 1 SACK 

    Breaking Down Their Performance 

    Ohio State is in the process of replacing four multiyear senior starters along its offensive line. Against Navy, that process got off to a slow start.

    Right tackle Darryl Baldwin gave up a sack early, and the offensive line as a whole failed to establish itself in the run game against an over-matched Navy defensive front. That changed in the second half, though, thanks to Pat Elflein, Jacoby Boren and Billy Price generating a consistent push in the middle.

    “We were very disappointed," Meyer said, according to Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors. "There’s a standard set of offensive line play for many, many years and it’s really been enhanced by our line coach Ed Warinner the last two years and it didn’t resemble an offensive line at Ohio State the first two quarters and I’m being hard on them,” Meyer said.

    Grade: Pat Elflein—B. Jacoby Boren—B. Billy Price—B. Darryl Baldwin—C-.

Darron Lee

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Week 1 Stats: 7 TAC, 2 TFL, 1 FR, 1 TD

    Breaking Down His Performance 

    Darron Lee, a former 3-star quarterback turned linebacker, was a surprise star this spring for the Ohio State defense. He surprised again on Saturday when he and Joey Bosa combined for the defensive play of the game. 

    On a simple option run from Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, Bosa forced a fumble that Lee scooped up and returned 61 yards for a touchdown. He also came up with the hit of the game when he darted inside and blasted Reynolds before he could trigger the option.

    Grade: A

Eli Apple, Cam Burrows

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Week 1 Stats: 6 TAC, 1 BRUP

    Breaking Down His Performance 

    It's almost impossible to grade the performance of defensive backs when they're facing a team such as Navy. 

    Midshipmen quarterback Keenan Reynolds dropped back to pass just six times, and he was sacked on two of those attempts. Eli Apple recorded one pass breakup and Burrows helped out in run support, notching four total tackles as he split time with fellow sophomore Vonn Bell.

    More will be known about the Buckeyes' new-look secondary when they face off against Virginia Tech next Saturday.

    Grade: Incomplete

Tyvis Powell

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Week 1 Stats: 13 TAC

    Breaking Down His Performance 

    One exception to the incomplete evaluation of Ohio State's defensive backs is Tyvis Powell, who was all over the field for the Buckeyes.

    Powell recorded a game-high 13 tackles on Saturday, eight of which were solo stops as he crept up and helped the front seven in run support. He showed good instincts finding the ball, which is easier said than done against Navy's vaunted triple-option attack.

    Powell didn't need to do much covering, but his willingness to lower his shoulder and attack Navy's running backs earned him a high grade.

    Grade: A 

Sean Nuernberger

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    Credit: 247 Sports

    Week 1 Stats: 2-of-2, 46 YDS, 28 YDS, 4-of-4 PAT

    Breaking Down His Performance 

    With Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde and Corey Brown fueling a record-breaking offense last year, the Buckeyes didn't need much from field-goal kicker Drew Basil.

    Replacing all three this season, the Buckeyes might find themselves in some closer games. If that's the case, Urban Meyer has to feel good about freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger. 

    Against Navy, Nuernberger showed no signs of panic as he calmly drilled both of his field-goal attempts and all four of his extra points. The 46-yard attempt was right down the middle and would have been good from 55 yards out. 

    Grade: A

    All recruiting information via 247 Sports. All stats via OhioStateBuckeyes.com. 

    David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.