Ohio State Football: The passing attack is trending up

Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) comes up with the catch against Oregon Ducks safety Verone McKinley III (23) during the third quarter in their NCAA Division I game on Saturday, September 11, 2021 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.Osu21ore Kwr 41
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) comes up with the catch against Oregon Ducks safety Verone McKinley III (23) during the third quarter in their NCAA Division I game on Saturday, September 11, 2021 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.Osu21ore Kwr 41 /

For the most part, the Ohio State football team had an all-around bad performance against Oregon. Not all was bad though, as the passing attack took a big step in the right direction.

C.J. Stroud stepped away from the Minnesota game with good stats thanks to the big play ability of his surrounding cast. Ohio State’s passing offense did not look crisp or fluid in Week 1 against the Gophers on the road.

In the season-opener, Stroud stepped in vividly nervous and had accuracy issues. In Ohio State’s loss to Oregon, Stroud looked a lot better as a passer. Yes, he still showed his bad habit of throwing high, one of which resulted in the game-sealing interception. Still, Stroud made some extremely high-level throws he was simply not making against Minnesota.

Take a look at this impressive throw by Stroud, resulting in a touchdown.

First off, Stroud made a quick decision making the throw since there was so much separation. There is more to this throw than most would think. Number one, there was not much room for inaccuracy here.

If Stroud placed this slightly towards the sideline, that defensive back has a chance on the ball. Also, placing the ball too far towards the middle of the field could have resulted in the safety making a play. Stroud placed the ball perfectly, hitting the receiver in perfect stride.

This throw is even better than the first, this is an NFL-level throw.

Chris Olave was hit in perfect stride. The coverage here is very tight, yet Stroud placed the ball where only Olave could grab it. Stroud has also displayed an early tendency of having sloppy feet in the pocket. In both videos, Stroud’s feet were fine.

Ryan Day recently commented on Stroud’s performance against Oregon,

"“I thought he was really accurate on Saturday. I thought he made some throws I haven’t seen a young kid make in a long time.”"

Stroud is 19-years-old making some elite throws on a national stage. There is still room for improvement, he did have some inaccuracies and could not come up big in the fourth quarter down by seven. But remember, Justin Fields had a tendency to overthrow his targets in his first year starting at Ohio State. Give Stroud some time, he’s already showing us why his ceiling is so high.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba shined for the Ohio State football team

Other factors are also encouraging in the passing game. We know what we’re getting in every game with the star duo of Olave and Garrett Wilson. The only question in the receiving corps was if Jaxon Smith-Njigba was ready to emerge and lay his early claim to be the number one receiver for next season.

Smith-Njigba did not find a rhythm against Minnesota. This week, Smith-Njigba had a fantastic game. He consistently had separation and made some difficult catches, leading to seven catches, 145 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns.

Look at this contested-catch by Smith-Njigba.

Day talked about Smith-Njigba’s ability out of the slot,

"“You can see what his potential is. I think he’s very, very good in the slot. He can change directions, he can wiggle free underneath coverage, plays really well, and has big play potential. Made some really big catches for us, had some really good routes. Again, he’s got a chance to be really good for us.”"

Early in his career, Smith-Njigba has already shown his hands are like glue. When he is given a chance, he is probably coming down with the ball, as seen here.

Ohio State football’s passing game has areas to improve in

There are still several areas where the Buckeyes must improve in the passing game. As mentioned, Stroud is still throwing high at times, he needs to become a consistent passer. Jeremy Ruckert, the talented pass-catching tight end, is hardly being utilized right now. Ruckert needs to be more prevalent in this offense.

With the emergence of Smith-Njigba, Ohio State’s receivers have become nearly impossible to stop. Maybe someone like Julian Fleming needs to step up so there’s some established depth. However, the starting receivers for the Buckeyes are just so good, they rarely come off the field for backups.

While the offensive line struggled in run blocking, they were still solid in pass blocking. The pass blocking could still improve, penalties on the offensive line need to be cleaned up. How will anyone be able to stop their passing attack if Stroud has all day to throw to his dangerous weapons? This is exactly why Ohio State’s pass blocking needs to become dominant.

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Not all is bad for Ohio State right now. The Buckeyes will still win plenty of games thanks to their potent passing attack. Stroud’s progression and Smith-Njigba’s breakout game are a big deal for the Ohio State football team’s progress as the season continues.