Ohio State’s toughest three-game streak on the 2023 schedule

One aspect of Ohio State’s 2023 squad that we haven’t talked about much involves special teams. Let’s change that today.

Buckeyes return junior punter Jesse Mircowho will be a third-year starter, but has quite a turnover elsewhere among the specialists.

Let’s start with Mirco from Perth, Australia. Thought he was average as a true freshman in 2021, which is somewhat to be expected considering it was his first time playing American Football (he grew up playing Australian Rules Football) . his compatriot Cameron Johnson was thriving by the time he arrived at OSU, but it took Mirco a bit longer to acclimate. And it’s not that he was bad in 2021, far from it. Mirco averaged 42.3 yards per punt, including a net average of 40.9.

But he improved noticeably as a sophomore in 2022. Mirco finished the season averaging 45.4 yards per punt, including a 41.2 net. In fact, net punting was one of the few special teams areas where the Buckeyes excelled last season (we’ll get into their transgressions later). Ohio State finished No. 23 in the nation in clearing out of 130 FBS teams. It’s reasonable to expect Mirco to improve even more heading into its third season, so this should again be an area of ​​strength for OSU.


Ohio State loses kicker Noah Ruggles, who was a combined 37 of 41 on field goals the past two seasons (2021-22) and a combined 148 of 149 on extra points. Sadly, he will always be best remembered for the 50-yard buzzer miss that would have beaten Georgia in the college football playoff semifinals last season, but inside 50 Ruggles was the pattern of consistency.

His work will now go to either sophomore Jayden Fielding – who handled launch duties last year – or fourth-year junior Parker Lewis. The latter was transferred from USC last season but saw no action for the Buckeyes. While with the Trojans, Lewis was 17 of 22 in field goal attempts in 2021 and 9 of 13 in 2020. A native of Scottsdale, Arizona, Lewis was ranked 3rd in the nation’s 2020 kicking class, according to the 247Sports Composite.

Fielding, an IMG Academy product, was quite effective as a kick-off specialist last year, so I imagine he’ll keep that job. But it remains to be seen who will emerge as the placekicker. Fielding got the first field goal attempt — one he missed — in the spring game, for what it’s worth.

Ohio State’s Jayden Fielding kicks off Penn State in 2022. (Photo: Adam Cairns, USA TODAY Sports)


Long snapper, the Buckeyes have landed John Ferlman from Arizona State who has a scholarship and passed the spring ball. He has three seasons of eligibility left and we saw first hand last year just how important long snappers are. Once Brad Robinson was lost for the season with an injury, mason arnold resumed work. He was unaware that a fake punt had been called in Michigan’s game and sent the ball to a stunned Mirco, who did a good job of clearing the punt away. But it would have been an easy first down for OSU had the ball gone uphill as it was called.

Either way, eyebrows were raised when Ferlmann was the first player the Buckeyes landed in the portal this offseason. Well, they ended up landing seven more and there’s no doubt Ferlmann was a good shot. You don’t notice the long snapper…until you do.


Special Teams Coach Parker Fleming, Ohio State’s kickoff return unit, punt return unit, and its coverage units were substandard. Let’s dig deeper.

** The Buckeyes ranked 87th (again out of 130 teams) in the nation in kickoff return average last season (19 yards per return).

** They ranked No. 61 in punt return average (8.3 years).

**They ranked No. 72 in kickoff return coverage (20.4 yards allowed per return).

** They ranked 66th in punt return coverage (7.1 yards per return).

I’m not being sarcastic here: Ohio State can’t say its goal is to be “the best in America” ​​in all aspects of its football team and post numbers like that . Look at these stats: Eighty-seventh in kickoff returns? Seventy seconds of kick coverage? When your best unit among your return teams and your cover teams is ranked No. 61 in the country, you have a problem.

Losing Kaleb Brown – who I believe would have been the leading kick returner this season – doesn’t help the situation. However, this is a roster full of talent and it’s Fleming’s job to find a good kick returner and stick with it. Impossible to have the absurd musical chairs that we have seen the last two seasons. Last year was particularly bad when it was like there were open tryouts every week during games for the kick returner position.

To the punt returner? Put Emeka Egbuka there and ride with him all season. And I think that’s the plan.

So here is. There’s certainly a lot of room for improvement for the Buckeyes in the special teams department in 2023 and the pieces appear to be in place to make it happen. It’s now up to the coaches to maximize the talent at their disposal and ensure Ohio State doesn’t finish in the bottom half of the country in several special teams categories.

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