Ohio State Football: A look at special teams

Having already previewed the offense and defense, let’s now take a look at Ohio State’s special teams units.

Special teams can make or break a team and has always been a very big deal at Ohio State. Jim Tressel once said“the punt is the most important play in football”, and Urban Meyer, a former special teams coach at Notre Dame, did not let players start on offense or defense until they had contributed on special teams.

Head coach Ryan Day and Special Teams Coordinator Matt Barnes are thankful to return both their kicker and punter. Kicker Blake Haubeil returns for his senior season, after going 13-for-15 on field goals last year, and a perfect 85-for-85 on extra points.

Punter Drue Chrisman also returns, and while punting just 44 times last season, he finished 26th in the nation on average yards-per-punt at 44.3, just four yards-per-punt behind the national leader.

The kicker and punter positions are secured, and the kickoff return role likely is as well. In 2019 it was primarily DeMario McCall returning kicks, as he returned 10 kickoffs averaging 23 yards-per-return. Xavier Johnson, Chris Olave, and Marcus Crowley each returned one kickoff. While the Buckeyes do have an abundance of speedy freshman receivers, it seems to be DeMario’s job in 2020.

DeMario McCall also returned a healthy amount of punts last season (8), but it was Garrett Wilson who led the way with 14 returns. Matt Barnes listed both of them as possible punt returners for 2020, and also mentioned Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Cameron Martinez, Chris Olave, and Xavier Johnson as possibilities throughout the season. Wilson will likely see the majority of the action to begin the season.

There was an under-the-radar position battle at long snapper after losing Liam McCullough. McCullough was one of the most solid long snappers in all of college football last season and was a Patrick Mannelly Award finalist.

Liam’s brother, Roen McCullough, was battling with senior Bradley Robinson for the long snapper position. The battle ultimately has been won by Robinson, according to Matt Barnes, and says he will be the starter.

Next: Ohio State football: Early game predictions

Ryan Day is expected to release a final depth chart on October 23rd, one day before kickoff against Nebraska. While the Buckeyes do still have some battles going on with the offensive and defensive units, there don’t seem to be any real question marks with the special teams units.