The Buckeyes have reached the midway point of the regular season and have now made it through their bye week. For coaches and players, this last week has been a time of reflection and analysis.
For the media, it’s a time for recapping the first half of the season before we move forward to the home stretch.
One way to recap the season to this point is with some made-up awards, like Catch of the Year, or Tackle of the Year, and all of those things would be great, but there’s been a lot of tackles and a lot of catches, so I thought it would just be easier to use the national awards and apply them only to the Buckeyes.
I hope that’s okay.
Heisman Trophy/Maxwell Award/Walter Camp Award (Player of the Year)
CJ Stroud | This one is pretty obvious (but not as obvious as the next award). CJ Stroud is the actual Heisman frontrunner right now, and by a good margin. The second half of the season will be more difficult, so his numbers may dip. Or they may actually get better because he’ll start playing all four quarters for a change.
Davey O’Brien Award (QB of the Year)
CJ Stroud | I told you this one would be easier. CJ Stroud is leading the nation in yards per attempt (10.9), touchdown passes (24), and pass efficiency (207.57). Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is second in pass efficiency, but there is as much distance between Stroud and Hooker as their is Hooker and the No. 14 quarterback (who just so happens to be Bryce Young). Kyle McCord is leading the Buckeyes in completion percentage (75.0%), however.
Doak Walker Award (RB of the Year)
Miyan Williams | These are going to start to get more difficult. Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson have been tremendous together this season. They’ve also been tremendous apart. They have each missed a game, but it’s impossible to argue with Williams’ 7.8 yards per carry and his ability to make defenders miss at any angle. Henderson’s 6.3 yards per carry is good for fourth in the Big Ten. They are both on pace for 1,000 yards rushing in the regular season.
Biletnikoff Award (WR of the Year)
Emeka Egbuka | I told you things were going to start getting difficult, but hear me out. Emeka Egbuka leads Marvin Harrison in catches (35-31) and yards (655-536), and that’s not including 49 yards rushing and another touchdown for Egbuka. Yes, Harrison has nine touchdowns on the season, along with a number of great catches, but he only has two more scores than Egbuka. Egbuka also leads the Big Ten in receptions of 20 or more yards (13). Harrison leads in receptions of 40 or more yards (4). This isn’t a vote against Harrison, even if it sounds like it.
Mackey Award (TE of the Year)
Cade Stover | Cade Stover has been a revelation in the Ohio State offense, providing outstanding blocking and some playmaking in the passing game. His 16 catches are good for third-most on the team, and his 206 yards receiving are just 103 yards shy of what Jeremy Ruckert finished with last year. Fullback Mitch Rossi also received some votes here for his overall versatility and performance.
Rimington Trophy (C of the Year)
Luke Wypler | The Buckeyes have had a renewed emphasis on running inside this year. That’s in part due to new offensive line coach Justin Frye and also due to an offensive line that enjoys the physicality that the job requires. Luke Wypler at center has done a great job of keeping his guys in line and keeping the offense ahead of the chains.
Outland Trophy (Interior Lineman of the Year)
Paris Johnson | The Outland Trophy goes to the best interior lineman, which can be any offensive lineman or defensive tackle. Everybody on the Ohio State offensive line warrants a mention, but Paris Johnson has been elite all season long both as a run blocker and a pass protector. He’s been The Paris That Was Promised and allows quarterback CJ Stroud to not have to worry about what’s going on behind him. Defensive tackles Mike Hall and Taron Vincent have a claim here as well, but Johnson gets the nod because he doesn’t rotate.
Bednarik Award/Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Defensive Player of the Year)
Tommy Eichenberg | Middle linebacker Tommy Eichenberg leads the Buckeyes with 50 tackles in six games, which is 19 more tackles than anybody else on the team. He is fifth in the Big Ten with 8.0 tackles per game. Eichenberg is also second on the team in tackles for loss (6.0) and sacks (2.5). (Both of those numbers are behind defensive tackle Mike Hall, if you’d like to make an argument there.) Eichenberg has kept this defense on its toes and out of its own head. He gets them lined up and then makes every tackle in his way.
Ted Hendricks Award (Defensive End of the Year)
Zach Harrison | Zach Harrison is fourth among the Ohio State defensive ends in tackles (8), and does not yet have a single tackle for loss or sack. And yet he is the defensive end who is most-routinely impacting the opposing quarterback. He has hurries, forced fumbles, passes batted at the line of scrimmage. He is allowing others to make plays as well. The numbers may not come, but the impact will. JT Tuimoloau would receive a more serious mention here if he would just ask opposing offensive linemen to stop holding him all the time.
Butkus Award (Linebacker of the Year)
Tommy Eichenberg | This was a two-man race between Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers. A year ago, this answer may have been Chambers — even after just six games. This year, however, Eichenberg has been solid in everything he’s been asked to do. An interception return for Eichenberg that goes longer than Chambers’ 12-yarder this season would end this debate once and for all.
Jim Thorpe Award (Defensive Back of the Year)
Ronnie Hickman | Free safety Ronnie Hickman led the team with 100 tackles last year, but is very happy to let the linebackers make the majority of the tackles this year. In fact, as he told me a few weeks ago, “I think that’s how it’s supposed to be, so yeah, I am okay with that.” Hickman has been fantastic as Ohio State’s “Adjuster” this season and is one of just three defenders who hasn’t been in some kind of rotation this year.
Lou Groza Award (Kicker of the Year)
Noah Ruggles | This award probably would have gone to walk-on freshman Jayden Fielding had he not put three kickoffs out of bounds this year. Noah Ruggles has missed one of his three field goal attempts, but has drilled all 41 of his extra point attempts. It will be interesting to see if USC transfer Parker Lewis starts to get some work on kickoffs this coming week.
Ray Guy Award (Punter of the Year)
Jesse Mirco | Sophomore punter Jesse Mirco leads the Buckeyes with a 22-yard-per-carry average. Give him the Ray Guy Award right now.
Patrick Mannelly Award (Long Snapper of the Year)
Bradley Robinson | You may not know his name, but you’ve definitely seen him in action. Bradley Robinson has been a stalwart at long snapper for the Buckeyes, and that includes getting down the field in punt coverage as well. And yes, to answer everyone’s question, he is fully aware of how much trouble he’d get in if he was ever ejected for targeting.
Burlsworth Trophy (Best Current/Former Walk-On)
Xavier Johnson | This is Xavier Johnson’s second year as a scholarship player, and he has shown everyone his versatility and value this season. Without Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Johnson has been part of the rotation in the slot. And when needed to run the ball a little out of the backfield against Michigan State, he went out there and carried the ball three times for 23 yards. This is Johnson’s fifth year and it’s seen him catch his first passes and score his first touchdown.
Broyles Award (Best Assistant Coach)
Too Close To Call | You can go ahead and call this a cowardly act on my part, but there are about five guys who could stake a claim to this award. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is an obvious choice. The defense is better than it’s been since 2019, but they haven’t played anybody yet, so we don’t actually know just how good they are. We know Brian Hartline has gotten his receivers up to speed very quickly, and had to do it without Jaxon Smith-Nijgba. There was one game this season where miscommunication and timing were an issue, and that the season opener. Since then, pretty smooth sailing. But what about Tony Alford? TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams are working perfectly as a 1-1 punch. They lost Evan Pryor and Alford was able to get freshman Dallan Hayden ready for work. Of course, Justin Frye has the offensive line humming along pretty good right now. But the same can be said for Perry Eliano and his safeties. Ronnie Hickman has been the only constant, as Tanner McCalister, Josh Proctor, and Lathan Ransom have all missed time. Yet, when any of those players are in the game, it all operates smoothly. Eliano is a sneaky pick here.