Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
COLUMBUS, Ohio – By the midway point of the season a team expects to have a lot of tape on the players that it will be facing but that might not be the case for the Buckeyes as they get ready for Maryland quarterback Max Bortenschlager. The sophomore QB was pressed into duty last week when Maryland lost its second quarterback of the season, pressing the Fishers (Ind.) native into action at Minnesota.
The situation and the end result outweigh the numbers, 18-28 passing for 154 yards and two touchdowns along with four carries for 18 yards and a score. Those three touchdowns were pivotal in Maryland's 31-24 upset win at Minnesota and served as a calling card for the quarterback.
Bortenschlager is not a third-stringer anymore and being 'the guy' is going to help him grow more comfortable in the position as he is now seeing first-team reps.
"There is probably something to be said about once you are put in a starting spot your day-to-day of how you do things kind of changes," Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin said on the Big Ten conference call. "Now you are getting the reps with the 1s and preparing as the starter. Max has certainly made improvements."
It won't be an easy test for him going against an Ohio State defense that is starting to click. There still are some issues that the Buckeyes need to work out but nobody really envies the situation of making a third career start (made one start in 2016) against the Ohio State defense.
"He is making the most of (the reps that he is now getting and) he needs to continue to grow and develop and I believe that he will," Durkin added.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and his staff have watched all the tape they can find on Bortenschlager. They have been impressed by the Maryland QB and know that they are not just getting a placeholder at the position going against them on Saturday.
"I think he was extremely efficient and the quick passing game, getting the ball out and then obviously had some big runs to beat a Minnesota (team) that was one of the tougher defenses in America," Meyer said on the Big Ten conference call. "I thought he did excellent."
While he may not be Richard Lagow or Baker Mayfield in terms of production numbers, he has forced the Buckeyes to take notice.
"Our defensive staff has got a lot of respect for him," Meyer added.
Every week the questions were asked when Mike Weber would be healthy and the Buckeyes would have their running back tandem of Weber and JK Dobbins ready to go. Ohio State fans had a chance to see some of that last week against Rutgers, even if it was in a limited capacity in a game where Ohio State did not need to run much in a 56-0 rout.
Weber found the end zone three times while Dobbins made the most out of his limited carries. Coupled with the running ability of J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes have a very dangerous ground game, even if it had not been unleashed as of yet.
There are plenty of options for the Ohio State offensive staff and the chance of seeing both of them on the field at the same time is in the works.
"We are working on maybe playing them both at one time," Meyer said. "They are that quality of players and you put your best 11 up on the board, those two names surface. Our obligation is to play the best players."
The two backs combined for 16 carries for 142 yards against the Scarlet Knights, with neither player seeing more than 10 carries. Meyer knows that he has to get his backs more touches.
"Last week we really did not get the repetition we wanted with either of them, just getting them in a rhythm and get them their carries," Meyer said. "I kind of monitor that throughout the game."
But there are times where Ohio State will not be in 20 personnel (two backs, no tight ends) or 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end). That means that Meyer and the offensive staff will have to keep an eye on who has the hot hand. Meyer said that it is pretty easy to know when a back is feeling it. Ball security and providing energy are both important facets to being the hot back but there is also a feeling that can be witnessed.
"It is not much different than a fan when you are watching a game, you can just feel every time that guy touches the ball or even you just feel him on the field," Meyer said. "That is one position that is fairly easy to find out if a guy is in a rhythm. Demeanor and the way he handles himself and production."
This is a unique position for Meyer to be in. He has seen it all during his coaching career but has never been in a situation like this at the position.
"It is really the first time that I have had this quality of back complimenting each other," Meyer said. "These are two very good backs."
We will have a chance to talk to Urban Meyer on Wednesday to get some final thoughts on what he sees in the Maryland Terrapins. He was asked about what stands out on tape on Tuesday afternoon however and gave some brief thoughts about the Terps.
While the Terps are ranked No. 73 in total offense nationally, there are some pieces that have grabbed the attention of the Ohio State coaches.
"I think that the skillset of the offensive players sticks out and their returner, because I am obviously very involved in the kicking game," Meyer said. "The skill positions, the receiver (D.J. Moore) and the running back (Ty Johnson), he is very patient and (has) great acceleration.
Maryland rates a little higher on the national list on defense with the No. 67 team in total defense.
"On defense, just they are another year in the system of coach Durkin and the understanding of how that 34-style defense they play," Meyer said. "And the activity of the defensive front, that is what catches my eye."