After ruminating on the NFL draft, the spring game, and other college football news from the past week or two – here are some random thoughts…
Buckeyes in the NFL Draft
Mike Doss and Kenny Peterson might not have been first round picks, but they will succeed or fail based upon their own merit. It is not where you are picked but what you do once you are chosen that will count. NFL teams are all about production and winning. They take the "what have you done for me lately" sentiment to a whole new level. As a result, so long as a guy is not in jail – he who excels plays on Sundays.
Cato June and Mike Doss. Talk about the odd couple. Did anyone else notice these two were both were drafted by the Colts? Granted, they are no longer in college, but I would pay to be a fly on the wall when those two start talking smack. For the record, OSU and UM are 2-2 in the last 4 seasons, but OSU holds the edge 3-2 in the last 5 meetings.
Landing on their Feet. Most of the Buckeyes seem to have landed on their feet at this point. Mike Doss ended up in Indianapolis. Not only is he close to home, but also his coach is a defensive minded guy who needs secondary help. Kenny Peterson ended up in Green Bay where he can help them plug any holes on the defensive line and enjoy being a teammate of Favre – a legendary player perhaps in the twighlight of his career. Cie Grant will be in the Crescent City (or Big Easy – whichever you prefer) playing for a Saints squad that narrowly missed the playoffs. Wilhelm ended up in San Diego with former Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer. Not only do he and Marty appear to be a great fit, the team itself is the rise with a big hole to fill at linebacker. Even undrafted Andy Groom has a nice shot at playing at Tampa Bay – though it means he will have to unseat Tom Tupa to do so.
Brett Romberg. Despite winning the Rimington Award, Romberg went undrafted. You have to think that his game in the Fiesta Bowl against Anderson, Thompson, and Peterson did not help him. They beat him like a rented mule for four quarters and two overtimes. His best move to stop them became the ‘ole and tackle/grab them from behind – which the referees refused to call. Oh well. I guess he can have more time to chat on the radio station in Miami and slather oil on those coeds like he talked about leading up to the Fiesta Bowl.
Willis McGahee, Drew Rosenhaus, and the NFL Draft
Surprise, surprise – word is that Willis McGahee is not as far along in the recovery as initially indicated by his agent. As if this is really news to anyone with a semblance of football or medical knowledge. While Rosenhaus is apparently taking some credit for the rise, I for one am not so certain he is as clever as he thinks…
First of all, it was nice to see Willis having his little tryout show where ran around a bit, but having a guy jog around does not change what a doctor sees on an MRI. If there is anything that the NFL draft shows – it is the teams' faith in their medical personnel and modern science. Further, everyone with a shred of knowledge about the human body understands there is a limit how fast ligaments recover. The lack of blood flow to and around the joint capsule areas decreases the ability of the body to heal itself by keeping the vascular system from bringing in "reinforcements" to repair the torn ligaments. At the same time, it also prevents the body from quickly siphoning off excess fluids that can cause swelling and slow the healing process.
Second, and perhaps more devious - maybe this is merely a ploy. Maybe Rosenhaus is not so foolish as to believe he fooled the entire NFL. Drew Rosenhaus spent the last 3 months exploiting the media outlets and trying to create a perception. His efforts worked to a certain extent (at least publicly) with Willis' recovery being called "miraculous" and "amazing", etc. Now Drew may be trying to spin this little deal for something much more important to his business interests. If he can merely make it look like he had the NFL brass fooled, then he can use this to sell future clients on his skills. He can walk into the room of a bright talent in the future and claim, "Hey – last year I took a kid who blew out two ligaments in January on national television and brought him back from the fourth round clear up to the first round. Just think of what I might be able to do for you! You can sign with some other agent if you want, but it will be your big mistake. Ask Willis McGahee – see what he has to say." If he succeeds in creating the perception of a miracle worker, then he has just made himself hundreds of thousands of dollars…
My take on this situation is that Drew Rosenhaus fooled very few. He had a client who had enough talent to be considered maybe the #1 pick in the draft as recently as January 2. Willis had a burst of speed to go with great size and the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. After his injury, he displayed a heart big enough to fit in an elephant by working so hard to regain his strength. When you couple heart with his natural gifts, he was worth taking a risk on for a team who could afford to be patient and let him rehabilitate.
In their place, I probably would have made the same pick as the Bills. Even if he washes out and does not contribute – so what? Most of the first round picks never become stars anyway. Just look at recent drafts, and they are littered with football players who never made it or were at best journeymen players. You might as well take the chance on a young man with as much upside as McGahee. If it pans out then you are a genius and have a marquee player that you picked up cheaper than dirt. If Willis never plays a down, it was still a gutsy move for the franchise – just one that did not pan out.
Check out these two articles for the effect (or non-effect) that Drew's efforts really had:
More Thoughts on the Spring Game
Depth. It is what the Buckeyes lacked last year at multiple positions. No more. I should have mentioned this last week when I wrote the initial Bits article on the Spring Game. A look at the positions where the depth will be obvious:
1. In 2002, the Buckeyes had only 7 offensive linemen who could step in and play considerable minutes. In 2003 they will have up to 13-15 who can perform if needed.
2. In 2002, Ohio State had no depth at CB and little at safety. In 2003, they have depth to spare at both. In 2002, Ohio State had two viable quarterback options. In 2003 – any one of 4 could play and give the Buckeyes a legitimate shot at victory.
3. In 2002, Ohio State had 7 defensive linemen in the rotation (Fraser, Scott, Smith, Peterson, Anderson, Thompson, Kudla). In 2003, they will have upwards of a dozen young men challenging for playing time (Cotton, Maupin, Patterson, Frost, Fraser, Scott, Smith, Anderson, Kudla, Pitcock, Penton, Richardson, Green, and Schafer…)
4. In 2002, Ohio State had issues finding consistent wide receivers and play Jenkins, Gamble, and Vance almost exclusively. In 2003, the Buckeyes will have Jenkins, Gamble, Hall, Holmes, Chattams, Hollins, Carter, and Childress (not to mention incoming recruit Jordan). In short, this team is loaded at most every position.
5. In 2002, Ohio State was redshirting two quarterbacks, leaving them with Krenzel, McMullen, and Otis. This year, Ohio State could lose 3 scholarship signal callers and still have a Justin Zwick or Troy Smith dropping back from center.
The best will play. By allowing Whitner and Youboty (as well as numerous walk-ons) to see considerable time in the Spring Game, the Buckeye coaching staff continues to drive home a very important point. The best players will play. Period. This is great news for any young man looking for a chance – be he a walk-on or a blue-chipper selected for the all universe high school team.
How can Ohio State afford to play Gamble almost exclusively on defense? Enter Santonio Holmes, Bam Childress, Drew Carter, and Roy Hall. Holmes in particular had a brilliant scrimmage sans two fumbles. If Carter can rid himself of the dropsies, he will be an extremely dangerous wideout. Hall is has great body size and plays physical – using his bulk to abuse small corners. Childress looks like he might be taking steps toward becoming a serious weapon, but like Holmes – he must hang on to the football to see the field.
How much is hype and how much is reality about the young guns at quarterback? Answer? Very little is hype because both Zwick and Smith have more than a few football skills. Expect this battle to play out over the next 15 months. Who will win? Whoever works hardest on identifying their own weaknesses and improving will likely come out on top. In the words of the old adage the player who will be the starter will be whoever ‘wants it more.'"
Is Mike D'Andrea progressing? Mike is no longer stuck in construction on the side of some back road; he is cruising along the freeway's commuter lane. Yes, clearly there is much work still to be done. He is not a finished product, but neither are any of the other Ohio State players. The moment they feel they have arrived and can sit back – they are regressing and not progressing. D'Andrea will play and play well for OSU in 2003.
Questions Still to be Answered
Will Maurice Clarett's shoulder be healed before the fall? Nerve injuries can linger for years – not weeks or even months. Maurice has not played a game or been tackled in almost 4 months and still cannot pass the test the Ohio State doctors are giving him before releasing him for full contact. Yes, they are probably playing it safe. Yes, Maurice could play because he did so back in November. Still – when will he be full strength again? This, coupled with the seemingly injury prone Lydell Ross, might leave Ohio State with Maurice Hall and Ira Guilford at the tailback position…
Who will play the Middle Linebacker position? With Reynolds and Carpenter out for the end of spring, we learned that D'Andrea and Hawk looked mighty fine right now – but little more. The coaches probably have a decent idea of what they are going to do but are not tipping their hand. The first week of fall camp will be interesting to say the least. Will the MLB be Hawk? Will it be D'Andrea? Will it be Robert Reynolds?
Who is going to be in the starting unit and nickel package in the secondary? Whitner, Everett, and Salley all played some safety. Youboty and Underwood played some corner… All 5 had their bright moments with some having more than others. One thing is for certain; Ohio State has more options at the position now than most staffs.
Who starts on the offensive line? Though Ohio State has a dire recruiting need for Offensive line positions in 2004, the 2003 team finds itself stocked. Clarke, Mangold, Stepanovich, Olivea, Sims, Douglas, Bishop… All of these players either started or played significant minutes at some point in 2002. There are only 5 positions that are open. At least two of the seven players above are going to be disappointed, and that does not count Downing, Datish, Coleman, Kne, Tyree, Cook, etc. My gut feeling is that whoever takes their conditioning seriously will see the field. Whoever does not will find that pine is not just found in an evergreen forest…
Heaven on Earth… That is the phrase I think most Auburn fans would use to describe the meltdown at Alabama the last 5 seasons. Incredible. This is simply unreal. First it was Alabama coach Mike Dubose having an affair with his secretary. Then it was the Tide alumni allegedly buying a player. Then it was Mike Franchione flirting with Kansas in 2001 and leaving for Texas A&M in 2002.
Now it is Mike Price. Price was hired (by all reports) to be a man of integrity who could help clean up some of the mess in Tuscaloosa. Instead, all he did was make it worse.
Price and Eustachy
Do these men deserve a second chance?
Yes and no.
For either man to expect to retain their jobs at their current schools, they have to be suffering from some sort of delusion. Imagine if a CEO made the following admission and apology:
‘I would like to address the stockholders and Board of Directors. I just want you to know that I understand I have made a big make. I displayed incredibly poor judgment when I embezzled five million dollars and played fast and loose with the profit margins for this last quarter. I want you to know that I feel I am deserving of a second chance because I have learned my lesson. Please allow me the opportunity to show that I am the man you thought you hired. If for some reason you will not give me the chance to prove myself to you once again, then know that I will leave with my head held high and the same integrity I had when I arrived.'
Are you kidding me?
No, neither Mike Price or Larry Eustachy did anything illegal, but the fallout and collateral damage of their actions is obscene. Even if their players do listen to what they say and follow the rules, will they not question why their coach can do X, Y, and Z but then expect them to abstain? Try enforcing discipline in that sort of environment. Further, this will impact their ability to bring in future players. I.e., as a parent – if given a choice of where to send your child, will you send them to Alabama or Iowa State or another school where the coaches have not been caught red handed in embarrassing situations? I know the choice I would make – it is a no-brainer. Finally, they have embarrassed the institutions that employ them. Iowa State and Alabama have suffered utter humiliation. These scandals will immediately pop to mind every time a person mentions the school's names for at least the next six months and more likely for years to come. This is unfair to every other person affiliated with the university.
Where they might merit a second chance would be at another institution. Walk away (too late for Price but not Eustachy). Make it clear you understand the impact of your actions. Make it known you would like for someone to give you a second chance. They should apply to jobs with potential with the intention of staying several years to rehabilitate their images and prove their trustworthiness once again. Then and only then will they be worthy of once again taking over the reins of a major division I-A sports program.
What Would I do at Alabama?
First, I would hire one of the coaches currently on staff or a retired individual for a season as the interim coach. Next, I would pick 6-10 possible names that might interest Alabama (with the option of adding more during the season). I would hire a firm to investigate these men and find out everything about them down to the time that they were told to stand in the corner for talking in Mrs. Roe's third grade class. At the end of the year, the findings would be presented and the candidates brought in for interviews. By doing this they accomplish three critical items:
1. They do not rush the matter. Haste makes waste as they say.
2. Alabama does not further hurt their image by hiring the wrong person.
3. The extra year will allow the program to tell the next coach that not only can they go to a bowl again, but their alumni and fans have lowered expectations. They just want a guy to help them clean up and win again.
My short list would look like this:
Walt Harris – Pittsburgh. Alabama flirted with him several years ago before jilting him. He could be the perfect fit if the NFL does not come calling after the season. Harris has rebuilt a woeful Panther program. Even if it is in the Big East, the job he has done is worthy of mention.
Dennis Franchione – Texas A&M. A tough coach with a track record of rebuilding down programs, Dennis would be ideal for Tuscaloosa. Oh wait… Oops. Forget I even mentioned him.
Dirk Koetter – Arizona State. Dirk is a winner and will have ASU smelling Roses if another institution does not pluck him first.
Bill Snyder – Kansas State. Would Snyder leave? He is an older coach, but if the right circumstance and contract are presented, he might be tempted. An 11-1 season at Alabama might earn him a shot at a national title, but an 11-1 year at Kansas State relegates him to an also-ran status.
Barry Alvarez – Wisconsin. Barry might not leave, but he would be an excellent fit for the Tide. A defensive minded coach with a spectacular resume, Barry's hire would almost instantly make them a contender in the West again.
Les Miles – Oklahoma State. Miles is clearly a fine coach. The only question here (and it is a big one) is whether or not he would stay. Miles' loyalties to Michigan might call into question whether or not he could turn down an invitation if the Wolverines ever picked up the phone to call.
E-mail Charles at email@example.com