Everyone knows that one of the best things about being a sports fan is to discuss and dissect more (and less) the important questions in the sports world with your friends. So, we’re putting that into the LGHL pages with our favorite column: You’re Crazy.
In You Nuts, two LGHL employees will take different sides of a single question and argue their opinions enthusiastically. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to decide who’s right and who’s crazy.
This week’s topic: Who came out of nowhere and exceeded Ohio’s most expectations yet?
In the football season 2022, Ohio State Fans knew two things: Jim Knowles’ defense would look different, CJ Stroud would be fine without Chris Olaf and Garrett Wilson, and Ryan Day would look more intimidating with a beard. We were also reasonably confident in the talent for running, depth in the wide receiver, and the fact that the experience would only benefit OSU’s defensive front seven.
But we also had questions. Is the offensive line better blocking? Is a different defense a better defense? And which of the “other guys” will climb? The others Being under the radar players who didn’t make a huge impact in Columbus.
I think Jane and I could name any number of guys here, and prove that this or that guy was a superstar. The star may be stretched, but a number of players have exceeded the Buckeyes’ expectations in three games. And for a team that was star power last year, it was great to see the others up their game. Ohio State will need more of them to do this while the team begins the Big Ten.
Since I’d still like to see more sacks, transitions and/or big plays from defense, my thoughts on an under-the-radar player have shifted to the offensive side of the ball. I really wanted to use the O line, because I thought they were great, but it’s hard to sit here and explain how well Paris Johnson Jr plays. It’s more about an eye exam with him. Meanne Williams had an idea, but my podcast co-host had already vetted how important Chub was last year — and will continue to do so in 2022. It took me a second, but I finally figured out how important Chub was last year. Radar penetration. And honestly, we all had to see that coming. Kid Stuffer, come down!
Stouffer was a selfless player in 2021, earning the respect of coaches and teammates. The man was clearly a linebacker in a tight body, but he played the role he was asked to do. He took a far back seat to Jeremy Ruckert—which means in OSU offense, he was several rows back—and finished the season with five receptions at 76 yards. Then, when he was called up in the Rose Bowl, he flipped again to the other side of the ball and put on an impressive performance as the LB left-back. I thought it might have earned him time to play in that position going forward, but instead Stover stuck in TE – basically by default.
That’s because the Buckeyes lacked serious depth in TE as the 2022 season approached. And they still do, although the appearance of J Scott Jr. makes me feel a little better. With no experienced options, it became very clear that the team would lean heavily on Stover, despite their limited track record. I knew the physicality of becoming a strong blocker was there, but I wasn’t sure of his role and ability as a pass hunter. This isn’t a hit against the former Ohio Mr. Soccer, but it was never meant to be TE! Even when he played offensive in high school, he threw the ball as RB. Stover became Jeremy Ruckert’s backup through a cruel twist of fate, and frankly, he wasn’t incredibly happy to be there at times. But it has now proven to be a valuable offensive commodity, while exceeding (most) expectations.
By three games, the fourth year of TE (eliminating any hybrid player language) is dwindling completely. By recent OSU standards, at least. The Stover has eight catches for 137 yards, which is good for 17.1 yards per catch. Most impressively, my man showed some soft hands! He’s roamed some wheel tracks in space, and crashed in tricky throws over his shoulder. Last weekend against Toledo, Gronk Steffer beautifully held his fingertips. His ability to catch the ball has amazed me perhaps more than anything else I’ve seen from the Buckeyes this season, and I just hope his great playing continues.
Stover will likely find himself as a fifth, sixth or seventh choice if/when the Ohio State offense becomes healthy, but now we know how dangerous he is in any role. And I don’t think that even matters to him; He just wants to contribute and be a leader. This guy is a high-profile teammate, and if the passing volume of passes drops, he’ll work his tail off in the running game.
I’ve always loved Stover as a footballer, but I really thought the OSU coaches had made a mistake by taking him to the attack. And while I still think I’m right about the last part, I’m willing to admit that maybe the coaches knew he could excel in more than one role. He definitely did on TE, and I look forward to watching Stover continue to play at a high level for the rest of the season.
take the gin
I think Josh did a good job of laying out the nitty-gritty here of the kind of player we were looking for in this version of “You Nuts”. You don’t have to be someone who has become a real star for this Ohio State team – at least not yet – but a player who didn’t get much hype before the season and is now cementing himself as an important contributor to the 2022 Buckeyes.
As my podcast host explained, there are a number of options to choose from, which is definitely a good thing if you’re a fan of Ohio State. We expected Marvin Harrison Jr. to appear. and Emeka Egbuka in the absence of Olave and Wilson, and while both have exceeded those high expectations thus far, it’s hard to call these guys “under the radar.” In defense, I paid close attention to Mike Hall Jr., who came out of nowhere to become one of the Buckeyes’ best defensive players during the two games he played (he didn’t play the field against Toledo). Instead, I’ll go with a high school member.
The man I want to highlight here is Lathan Ransom. We’ve seen small glimpses of Ransom’s potential in 2021, but in a defense that has struggled so hard, it was really hard to separate him from the pack. Then, he suffered a severe leg injury during the Rose Bowl against Utah, and it was hard to have high expectations for Ransom heading into 2022, and I watched him walk off the field in Pasadena. The start of the season, as Josh Proctor’s leg injury took nearly a full year to heal.
In addition to his injury in the last game of last year, Ransom also appeared to be late in the depth chart in Jim Knowles’ new defense. The unit would have three safety points on the field, but that trio of starting points appeared to be locked in by Proctor and Ronnie Hickman and the transfer of Tanner McAllister, who followed Knowles to Columbus from Oklahoma State. It looked as if almost all odds were stacked against Ransom as the new campaign began. After that, Josh Proctor missed a crucial first-week showdown against Notre Dame, and since then Ransom has featured me as one of the Buckeyes’ best defensive players.
Immediately after this missed intervention, Proctor was replaced by Ransom, who would play the remainder of the game as one of the best safes in Ohio. Fast forward to today, and Ransom is now seated as the number two striker on the team behind Tommy Eichenberg, despite not having his full starting job yet. He played the remainder of that game against the Irish, played behind Proctor in Week Two against Toledo, and earned the starting nod in Week Three with Proctor out due to injury. In that time, Ransom had 17 total interventions – 10 of them single – and loss processing.
The numbers, while very good, don’t even tell the true story of how important Ransom is to Ohio’s defense. You need your security tools to be prepared and competent healers, and ransomware was all of that and then some. Whether it’s near the line of scrimmage or out near the border, Ransom seems to have done every tackle he was assigned, and has been a veritable eraser at the back end of the Buckeyes defense just as Jordan Fuller had been a bit of a nerd years ago. He’s not a hawk or a guy who will force a lot of shifts, but he plays smart football and does whatever is required of him, which is exactly what you need from a place of safety.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Ransom gets a real starting point as the season progresses. Proctor may have a higher uptrend, but he’s too boom or bust to my satisfaction. I don’t want consistency and a sure thing from my safety points, a ransom provides all of that and then some. The coaching staff has talked about how hard he’s worked in this off season to come out of that injury in order to get back on the field, and that hard work is clearly paying off as he showed Ohio State through the team’s first few games.