First off, what a great decision by Andy Geiger making the Aug. 30 opener against Washington a night game.
I now have zero complaints left about Geiger (well, except for student seating at the Schott, but we'll leave that for another time). Most everything he has done in his nearly 10 years on the job has been done to perfection. Hiring Jim O'Brien and Jim Tressel, building the Schott, renovating Ohio Stadium, the list goes on and on. You can make the argument that Ohio State has the top athletic director in the land. And now that Geiger has proven that he isn't opposed to scheduling night games, I will assist you in that argument.
The game against the Huskies is going to be a great showcase for Ohio State football. Prime time television, first game since winning the national championship, playing a top 15 team in the best stadium in college football under the lights… It really doesn't get much better than that. Well, those that were in Tempe the morning of Jan. 4 might not totally agree, but it's going to be one heck of a Buckeye party.
How loud will the Horseshoe be on Aug. 30? I always go back to the Northwestern game of 2001. If it could be that loud for NU – granted it was ranked at the time – it will be incredibly loud for Washington, even louder than it was 10 years ago (Bobby Hoying's first big win came in a night game against the Huskies in 1993).
Boy, we sure have come a long way from, "There's only enough practice reps for one young quarterback." Remember that? And how about, "Troy Smith will get some reps at receiver." Lining Smith up at receiver was the farthest thing from the mind of the coaches this spring and somehow they figured out a way to get enough reps for two young QBs. One of the things that still stands out to me about Smith is the effortless way he throws the ball. Or should I say guns the ball? He needs to work quite a bit on his touch, but he has the accuracy to go along with that strong arm, he is mobile and he can throw on the run.
As for the brewing Smith-Justin Zwick battle, fans should not consider it a controversy. They should consider it a luxury. This is the first time in many years that the Bucks have had two young talented QBs waiting in the wings. Enjoy it. Don't fall into the thinking of, "If I compliment Troy, I am bashing Justin," or vice versa. It doesn't work like that.
Speaking of QBs, Scott McMullen is the clear No. 2. The young guys looked good this spring, but McMullen was extremely sharp. In the limited practices I saw, including the jersey scrimmage, he was on his game. He'll never have the command and leadership skills of Craig Krenzel, but if anything happens to Krenzel, McMullen will be in there. And anyone who thinks that Smith or Zwick will play a lot this year so the coaches can "groom them for 2004" wasn't paying attention in '01. Although Steve Bellisari was a senior, Krenzel and McMullen never would have gotten an opportunity at meaningful playing time if Belli didn't get his DUI. Tressel is concerned about winning games this year, not prepping for next. Yes, if there is a blowout (and hopefully there will be several) Smith and Zwick will play a little. But McMullen is definitely No. 2 and it will stay that way throughout the season.
I am sick of hearing that Dustin Fox is "OK" at cornerback. Wake up. The guy was honorable mention All-Big Ten in his first year as a starter. That's not too bad. And Fox bashers always point to the Illinois game last year. All right, he had one bad game – when he was hurt. Fox is a really good corner and he's only going to get better.
WINNERS AND LOSERS OF SPRING BALL
We're talking about non-returning starters here. Who boosted their stock with a good spring and who took a step back? Let's take a look.
The winners were: Santonio Holmes, Smith, Zwick, Mike D'Andrea, Maurice Hall, Ryan Hamby, Roshawn Parker, Jay Richardson, Joel Penton, Quinn Pitcock, Nate Salley, John Hollins and Mike Kne (note: I count Rob Sims and Nick Mangold as returning starters).
The losers? Well, that's a bit of a strong term, but those that probably did not help themselves included: Lydell Ross, Tyler Everett, Mike Roberts, Harlen Jacobs, LeAndre Boone, Ryan Cook, Mike Kudla, Jason Caldwell, Angelo Chattams and Josh Huston.
Ross and Kudla fell behind due to no fault of their own (injuries), but when Mo Hall, Richardson and Penton played the way they did, injuries can bury you on the depth chart real quick.
LINEMEN NFL BOUND
Next year, Ohio State will have four offensive linemen selected in the NFL draft. Mark it down. A lot is said about how good OSU's defensive line is (and rightfully so), but the O-Line is going to be one of the tops in the country this year. Shane Olivea and Alex Stepanovich are All-American candidates and Adrien Clarke and Ivan Douglas are going to have solid years and will be drafted next spring. And I am not giving up on Bryce Bishop either. Someone has to make room for Sims or Mangold (or both), but Bishop is a solid player. There is a lot to be excited about on this line and having a technician like coach Jim Bollman leading the way will only make them better.
One thing that Buckeye fans are going to have to get used to is scrapping the terminology "free" and "strong" safety. Mark Dantonio wants interchangeable safeties, more like "right" and "left."
As for personnel, my guess is that Will Allen and Salley line up as the starting safeties with Everett and Donte Whitner coming off the bench. And don't forget about incoming freshman Ira Guilford. I have a hunch he'll be in the mix.
That "Wingman" song on one of the beer ads is one of the funniest things I have ever heard. Just had to throw that in.
DEE MILLER CLONE?
One more thing about John Hollins: he reminds me a lot deal of Dee Miller, another player who didn't see much of the field until his fourth year (redshirt junior). Tressel mentioned a few times this spring that he was impressed with Hollins. I don't expect him to catch too many balls this year with the likes of Michael Jenkins, Drew Carter, Chris Gamble and Holmes around, but Hollins will get some time off the bench and might be a starter in '04.
BUCKS BRING IN THE BUCKS
According to the Dallas Star-Ledger, Nike Inc. has said that Ohio State championship apparel that it is selling has doubled its best sales ever for a championship team ('99 St. Louis Rams).
Also, sales for Sports Illustrated's Ohio State commemorative issue is "reaching the record performance." No word on what team currently holds the record.
NC STATE'S OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR…
Was hired with just three practices left in the spring. Noel Mazzone is the Wolfpack's third OC in the last four years.
B-BALL BUCKS IN THE PROS
Former Buckeye Brian Brown played professional ball for Bonn, Germany this season.
Brown was fourth on the team in scoring at 10.7 points per game and was second in steals at 1.1 per game.
In an interesting twist, one of Brown's teammates was former OSU recruit Aleksander Radojevic, all 7-foot-3 of him. Radojevic was fifth in scoring at 8.7 and first in rebounding at 8.6.
In the NBA, three former Buckeyes had good seasons, some better than others.
Michael Redd averaged 15.1 points for the Milwaukee Bucks and was the runner-up sixth-man of the year in the league. Redd, a 2000 second-round steal, shot 43.8 percent from 3-point range, by far tops on the team.
Jimmy Jackson averaged 7.7 points for the Sacramento Kings in the regular season and might be on the verge of winning an NBA championship.
The Miami Heat's Ken Johnson finally got a chance to show what he can do towards the end of the season. Johnson played in 16 games in all and had modest averages of 2.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and .75 blocks. But in the last three games of the year – his only meaningful playing time of his short career – he averaged 10 points per game.
As for Scoonie Penn, he is playing for Asheville of the NDBL.
SPORTS PHRASES I HATE
A couple of new annoying sports phrases have popped up recently.
One is when basketball announcers or coaches say, "He can really score the ball." That's opposed to "scoring the shoe," or "scoring the headband" of course.
Former OSU assistant Paul Biancardi, the head coach at Wright State, was often guilty of this. "I tell you what, Brent Darby can really score the ball."
Another one is when hoops announcers call a 3-pointer a "triple." We don't call a free throw a "single" or a layup a "double" do we?
Also, since when did the word "sexy" start appearing so much? Unless we are talking about celebrity softball and Shakira is on the diamond, the word "sexy" should never be used in sports reporting.
Everyone has probably noticed this trend: It's the sexy story of the summer, or The Cowboys draft wasn't sexy, but it was effective.
I mean, it's become downright sexy to use the word sexy in stories. Whoops, sorry about that.
NEVER TOO EARLY
It was interesting to hear that some of Ohio State's seniors-to-be ran for the NFL scouts at OSU's pro day. It's been pretty well documented that Drew Carter wowed the scouts with a 4.26-40, but Michael Jenkins ran a low 4.4 and Craig Krenzel ran a 4.6.
I guess we can put the "Jim Tressel doesn't care about putting his players in the NFL" argument to bed. He is never going to stress it like John Cooper, but Tress wants to see his guys make it in the NFL.
BIG TEN IS BACK
The Big Ten is going to be the strongest football conference in the country this year. It's been a long time since we could say that, but there is no doubt in my mind it's true. Ohio State and Michigan will be two of the best in the nation, Purdue and Wisconsin will be ranked fairly high (the Boilers could eventually be a top 10 team), Illinois and Minnesota will be solid, and Iowa and Penn State could be better than people think. Yes, the league has three clear-cut bottom feeders, but the top-half of the league is so strong it really doesn't matter.
Michigan does not play Wisconsin or Penn State this year.
COACHES ARE VERSATILE TOO
We talk a lot about how versatile some of Ohio State's players are. Well, the coaching staff is plenty versatile as well. Mark Snyder is the linebackers coach, but he also helps out a lot with special teams. Luke Fickell is the special teams coach, but he assists Jim Heacock on the defensive line. Tressel is the head coach, but he calls all the plays on offense.
Quarterback John David Booty, brother of Browns third-stringer Josh Booty, will skip his senior year at Evangel Christian Academy (Calif.) so he can enroll at USC this fall. We heard that Maurice Clarett had started a trend, but isn't this taking it a little too far?
SAY IT AIN'T SO
Jim Bollman's daughter Courtney recently graduated from Michigan. This might look like treason on the surface, but in fairness to Courtney, she was already a student at UM when Bollman was hired at OSU.
Was scheduled to sing the National Anthem at last Saturday's Cleveland Indians game (OSU Day), but was at mini-camp with the New Orleans Saints. It's too bad the fans missed out on that. I will never be able to hear Carmen Ohio the same after Grant's rendition at the victory celebration. If his NFL career ever falls through (not likely), Cie has a career as a recording artist waiting for him.
Let's close with some OSU baseball. Has anyone seen the stats for sophomore pitcher Scott Lewis? The 6-foot lefty is 8-0 with a 1.24 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 72 2/3 innings. Those are some sick numbers. Lewis, a Washington Court House native, will likely be one of the first players selected in the 2004 MLB draft. In the meantime, he will probably shatter every OSU pitching record in the book.