January 20, 2014

#LMRanks: No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes (MD1)

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive | College Preview 2014

Jesse King will be the focal point of Ohio State's offense, whether it be on attack or in the midfield. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

Previous: No. 16 Lehigh Mountain Hawks

Vitals

2013 Record: 13-4 (5-2 ECAC)
Coach: Nick Myers (6th year)
Record at Ohio State: 44-35

Power Ratings (scale of 1-5)

Offense: 4
Defense: 4
Goaltending: 4
Faceoff: 2

Top Returner

M Jesse King (Jr.)
King is set to fill the role once held by Logan Schuss, and Joel Delgarno and Kevin Buchanan before him, as Ohio State's primary threat. The lefty Canadian can play attack or midfield. He will be a focal point no matter what in an offense that features tons of movement and high-percentage shots that play to the strength of top Canadian talents like King and fellow junior Turner Evans .King posted 32 goals and 23 assists last season even with Schuss around.

X-Factor

A Gordie Koerber (So.)
The Denver transfer's inside finishing skills fit with OSU's Canadian pieces. The lefty has starting-lineup potential, but the amount of time he sees will depend on if the projected starting attack of Evans, sophomore Carter Brown and senior Adam Trombley, a fourth attackman last year, clicks early on.

NCAA Tournament Trend

2009 DNQ
2010 DNQ
2011 DNQ
2012 DNQ
2013 Quarterfinals

What's New?

Life without two-time ECAC Offensive Player of the Year Logan Schuss, the No. 1 overall draft pick by the NLL's Minnesota Swarm and a second-round draft pick last year of MLL's Ohio Machine, and do-it-all midfielder Dominique Alexander. Not only did Schuss score goals, and plenty of them, but he organized Ohio State's offensive sets out on the field for two-plus seasons, and Alexander was an important part of Ohio State's fabric the last four years.

"There's a little bit of a new personality to the team," Myers said. "This group understands the foundation that's been laid, and the hard work, but I think they're eager and hungry to turn the page and focus on this new journey."

Telling Number

5
Number of teams in the ECAC this season, after Denver and Loyola's departures to the Big East and Patriot League. But have no fear, the ECAC still has an AQ bid to the NCAA tournament. Air Force, Bellarmine, Fairfield and Michigan remain with Ohio State. The Buckeyes are the preseason favorite but Myers is guarding against complacency.

"People are probably underestimating the league on paper," Myers said. "Fairfield is very well-coached and has a lot of guys back. This is maybe the best Air Force team in the last 10 years that I can remember. Everybody thinks they can win [the ECAC]. We only have five teams, we have an AQ. We had a 9-7 game with Bellarmine last year and our friends up north [Michigan] have done a real good job putting together more and more talent. They'll be much more competitive this year."

The Buckeyes take part in the inaugural Big Ten lacrosse season in spring 2015.

Enemy Lines

What rival coaches say
"Jesse King has first-team All-American talent at the midfield and beyond crafty. Who replaces Logan Schuss' production?... Was 2013 an aberration?... A terrific season last year, how do the Buckeyes respond with having real expectations for the first time?... On offense losing Schuss will be a major hit, but still plenty of Canadian talent left with Jesse King and Turner Evans to try and keep it rolling at that end of the field... Losing Dominique Alexander may hurt this team more than people think. There were times last year where he did it all for this team playing defense and then transitioning to offense. He definitely was a big leader who has huge shoes to fill... On defense even though Dutton played well in some big games, he along with the rest of the defense struggled at times and played a lot of zone to try and counter their struggles... Faceoff X will be a question mark, as they lost Trey Wilkes who faced off at a decent percentage and their secondary option last year was LSM Darius Bowling.

Buckeyes defenseman Joe Meurer was a second-round MLL draft pick. He's one of three returning starting close defenseman for Ohio State. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

"Coach Myers and his staff did an unbelievable job with this team last year and they should have enough confidence coming back into this season to win some more big games... The loss of Logan Schuss will be difficult to manage, but look for the Buckeyes to follow up their successful 2013 season with another solid 2014 campaign. OSU has a unique mix of Canadian players and teammates from highly-ranked high school programs. Jesse King, Carter Brown, and Turner Evans highlight this mix of talent.

"The Buckeyes have been an impressive program on the rise the last few seasons. Nick Myers is bringing in strong recruiting classes year in and year out, aggressively pursuing the best young talent and earning early commitments. The results have been impressive so far. On offense, the loss of Logan Schuss should not be underestimated. But Jesse King returns for his junior year, having totaled 32 goals and 23 assists last season. Carter Brown had 27 goals and 16 assists as a freshman. Between the pipes is Greg Dutton, a veteran with a lot of big wins under his belt.

"I would say they're underrated. They came on the scene last year as a program and just emerged through their conference tournament. Nick's a very underrated coach, and he's done a great job carving out a fairly unique niche. I'd compare them close to Denver. They have a successful blend of Canadian talent with some hard-nosed blue-collar athletes from the States. I think they embrace their identity as well as anyone in the country and they continue to get better and better."

2013 Recap

In a Nutshell: The Buckeyes had a landmark 2013, racking up 13 wins, including ECAC tournament victories over Loyola and Denver to take the league title. Ohio State was the third overall seed for the NCAA tournament, and bowed out in the quarterfinals to Cornell. The program made its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008 and first under coach Nick Myers.

High Point: There were quite a few. The ECAC tournament was the biggest. Ohio State entered ranked outside the top 10 and when all was said and done, they hosted an NCAA tournament game at the Horseshoe, beating CAA champ Towson in the first round.

Low Point: A 16-6 season-ending loss to Cornell in the NCAA quarterfinals. Rob Pannell and Steve Mock carved up the Ohio State defense. "We were humbled the last time we were on a lacrosse field," Myers said.

2014 Preview

Best Case: If the question is what do they do next — and it has been amongst the team through the preseason — Ohio State answers emphatically. The Bucks will get the chance to prove themselves early on with a tougher than normal February slate, opening at Johns Hopkins and playing UMass at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. Tougher games with Penn State, Hofstra, Denver and Notre Dame dot the schedule outside of ECAC play. But in any event, OSU runs the table in the final hurrah for the league. The offense finds it rhythm by midseason, and an experienced returning defense — three returning close defenseman, including MLL draft pick Joe Meurer, a starting goalie and multiple long- and short-stick midfielders — hold down the fort until then.

Worst Case: Ohio State misses last year's senior class more than it realizes. The faceoff situation, probably the biggest question mark with a freshman and unproven sophomore, is never solidified and a stout defense and ever-improving offense have to play near perfect. Poor results in the early season snowball and the Buckeyes are unranked headed into ECAC play. But even with that, they start off conference play strong and face a surprise Air Force team for the conference title in Columbus, and a second straight NCAA berth on the line.

Self-Examination: Coach Nick Myers on...

M Jesse King (Jr.)
"He's a very dynamic player. We're going to see how this preseason unfolds. He's played a little bit of attack and midfield, but more midfield for us. He's more than capable of playing attack. It's less about where we play Jesse and more about the development of the guys around him at this point. Jesse is a known. In the preseason, as a coach, you look at what are the things that we know we have and go down the checklist. We know we have a guy that is going to demand a lot of attention from defenses. He's a lefty Canadian and a guy that can do a little bit of both. Now it's looking at the other pieces around Jesse and what puts us in the best position possible. That's going to be a bit of process."

A Carter Brown (So.)
"He's kind of that quarterback guy. He does a lot. He plays at X, he's a good feeder, a capable dodger, very good off-ball player and very smart. He really understands the field game. As sophomore now he's certainly ready to take another step. We asked a lot of his as a freshman. As a sophomore, he's being more vocal and getting us in the right offenses and organized. You lose a Logan, you lose a great goal-scorer but you also lose a guy that puts you in every offense, understood every situation, has seen every type of defense. He was good at organizing us. That's one thing that the fan doesn't necessarily understand, how important that is. That's a tough thing to replace."

D Joe Meurer (Sr.)
"He comes from McDonogh (Md.), a great high school program. He started as a freshman and sophomore for us at long-stick middie. This time last year, we graduated a senior close defensive unit and move Joe down low, not knowing if we going to take to that as well as we need him to, and he really did. We had depth at pole, and needed Joe to go down and anchor us defensively. He did an outstanding job. He's a little bit of a hybrid. He's 5-foot-11 and not super-imposing when you look at him, but he's got great feet. He's a great slider. He's a great off-ball defender. He can cover a big-time dodger or a really good off-ball player. He battled with Logan in practice every day last year, who is a big strong Canadian. We can put him on almost any matchup. We have that confidence in Joe as a player and leader for us.

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.


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