Fall Snapshot: Ohio State Buckeyes

(Photo Courtesy of Ohio State Athletics)

Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.

Head Coach: Nick Myers

Ohio State 2022 Record: 10-6 (3-2 Big Ten)

Key Departures: Jackson Reid (A), Justin Inacio (FO), Tyler Gallagher (D), Caton Johnson (G)

Key Returners: Jack Myers (A), Bobby Van Buren (D)

Transfer Additions: Marcus Hudgins (D, Army West Point), Richie LaCalandra (A, LIU), Kyle Lewis (A, Lynchburg), Kyle Borda (M, Fairfield), Justin Sherrer (LSM, Maryland)

Ohio State exceeded the expectations many had set for it last season. The Buckeyes came into 2022 nowhere to be seen in the top-20 rankings and with no players on any preseason All-American list. In the end though, they had proved everybody, including myself, wrong.

The Buckeyes, who were headlined by attackman Jack Myers, went 10-6 overall (3-2 Big Ten) and saw their season end against Cornell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Four of those six losses came against just two teams as they fell to Cornell and Rutgers twice. Their signature win: a 20-8 win at North Carolina that put them on everybody’s radar.

After a season the likes of which Ohio State just had, there is a lot of buzz in Columbus. This team returns nearly everybody from a year ago, adds a talented transfer class, and come February (well, maybe not that early) will be playing in its new lacrosse-only stadium. In short, expectation should be and will be high for Ohio State coming into 2023. How high exactly can the Buckeyes fly? We’ll just have to wait and see on that.

Burning Questions

What is Marcus Hudgins’ Overall Impact?

Ohio State had the 37th-best scoring defense, along with Loyola, as they allowed 11.62 goals per game a seas ago. That defense, at close, featured Lynchburg grad transfer Tyler Gallagher (27GB/11CT), junior Jacob Snyder (10GB/10CT), and freshman Bobby Van Buren (22GB/11CT). Snyder and Van Buren both return as the Buckeyes’ top poles at the position. In addition, the Buckeyes’ defense will feature one of the biggest transfer additions of the offseason: Marcus Hudgins.

Hudgins comes to Columbus after four years at Army West Point. Hudgins was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year in 2021 while also being named a second-team USILA All-American an earning third-team All-American honors by Inside Lacrosse. He recorded 36 ground balls and caused 23 turnovers as the leader of the Black Knights defense, which ended the season ranked fifth nationally. He was named a preseason All-American ahead of the 2022 season, but never took the field due to “personal issues.”

Inserting Hudgins at close along side the likes of Bobby Van Buren and Jacob Snyder is surely going to create havoc for opposing defense. But what is the ultimate impact? Will the addition help see the Buckeyes’ defense trend back towards where they were during that first season under Travis Crane in 2018? Ohio State ranked ninth in scoring defense (8.60 goals allowed per game) that season. They ranked 26th (10.75), 18th (10.14), and 48th (12.91) in 2019, 2020, and 2021 before being 37th this past season.

Does The Man-Up Success Continue?

A hallmark of Ohio State last season was its success when it comes to man-up opportunities. The Buckeyes ranked first in the Big Ten and third nationally in man-up conversion percentage (55.6%), cashing in on 25 of its 45 opportunities.

Individually, Colby Smith led the Buckeyes with eight man-up scores. He was tied for eighth in DI in that category. Jason Knox had seven while Trent DiCicco and Jackson Reid each had four. Jack Myers and Griffin Hughes each tallied one man-up goal last spring. Reid and Hughes are the only losses among those aforementioned.

Last spring’s success on man-up wasn’t unordinary. After all, the Buckeyes went 10-for-22 (45%) in such situations during the shortened 2020 season. However, like many things, last season saw Ohio State trend back upwards in that area of the game after a 2021 season in which they went 9-for-23 (39%) on such opportunities. It’ll be interesting to see if the Buckeyes can keep the status quo or even improve in its man-up offense.

What to Expect at The Faceoff Dot?

Ohio State has had one of the better faceoff units in the Big Ten in recent years with a dominant Justin Inacio serving as the primary option for five seasons. He went 200-for-338 (59%) last spring and ended his career at Ohio State with a grand winning percentage of 60% as he went 730-for-1,213 at the dot over five years.

Inacio is the biggest loss for the Buckeyes ahead of the 2023 season, but the cupboards are not bare at the faceoff position. Far from it, actually. Drew Blanchard returns for a fifth season of college lacrosse after going 60-for-110 (55%) at the dot last season. Blanchard arrived in Columbus ahead of last season and following a four-year stint at Hobart in which he went 124-for-207 (59.9%) in four seasons. He served as the Statesmen’s top option in both 2020 and 2021.

Blanchard is a proven winner who has been battled tested more times than anyone else on this roster at the position. He should transition smoothly to being the Buckeyes’ top option and be expected to produce as he has in the past. The real question is the depth behind him. Seniors Sam Faber and James Hogan, as well as sophomore Matthew Fritz, have seen little action. Also on the roster is freshman Coleman Kraske (Wakefield, N.C.), who comes in after a very strong high school career. Whomst among that group steps up, and how, is something to watch with this unit for sure.

Potential Breakout Player

Ari Allen, Midfield, Sophomore

A late add to the 2021 class out of IMG Academy (Fla.), the Georgia native arrived in Columbus and made a sizable impact immediately. He tallied seven goals and six assists for 13 points as a freshman in 2022. He started in eight games, including the final four regular season contests and the Big Ten quarterfinal and semifinal games. Expect Allen to be a bigger and more consistent contributor in 2023.

Freshman Class

Ohio State brings in a 2022 signing class of 13. The class features seven players who were rated as four-star prospects by Inside Lacrosse. Four of those players are on the offensive end in midfielders Cam Pack (Culver, Ind.) and Dillon Magee (Lovejoy, Texas), as well as attackmen Gavin Begonia (Lawrence Academy, Mass.) and John Maccarone (IMG Academy, Fla.).

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