It looked to be an unmitigated disaster…
You would have to be suffering amnesia not to remember.
Last August, Buckeyes were near a state of panic over the condition and conditioning of the offensive line. The best two offensive linemen from the previous season, Tyson Walter and LeCharles Bentley, were slaving away in an effort to making NFL rosters. Shane Olivea had undergone serious ankle surgery following the Michigan game, ending up with a metal plate and eight screws in the joint to fix it. Needless to say he had not participated in spring ball and observers pointed out he looked like it around the midsection. Ivan Douglas, counted on to start, had missed the previous season with a dangerous blood clot that had the potential to end his life. Those who understood the nature of the condition were not only shocked to see him play again, but they crossed their fingers hoping he would be able to play the entire year. Derek Morris, penciled in by many recruitniks since signing day, showed up out of shape, never suited up, and ended up at North Carolina State. Alex Stepanovich went down in a screaming heap in the final scrimmage of preseason camp with a bruised kneecap. Adrien Clarke, long considered a possible NFL prospect if he could control his weight, had a back injury and his midsection ballooned.
It was a crisis for a coaching staff and the stuff of the most horrendous, most unimaginable dreams for Ohio State followers.
However, pull out that can of "Nightmare Be Gone" and spray it above your head because the 2003 season looks to be a whole new world. This is especially true for one Adrien Clarke. This year, there will be no whispers about his weight rising faster than the thermometer in the dog days of August. This year, there will be no sitting on the stationary bicycle for him while his teammates play. This year, Adrien Clarke finally looks poised to have that breakout season so many have been forecasting for him since he stepped onto campus.
Why might you expect that?
Over the last 8 months, Clarke looks like he has lost more pounds than the Royal family has in their coffers.
To be more exact, Adrien has dropped nearly 50 pounds - enough to make even Jared the Subway spokesman proud.
Back to last season…
By last October, Adrien had to have been pushing 400 pounds. He no longer ran on and off the field of play; he no longer jogged to the huddle. It was seemingly all he could do to simply walk and move forward when the whistle blew. Defensive players rushing the quarterback or pursuing the ball carrier did not seek to engage him but simply ran around him because his quickness was nearly nonexistent. Even had his back been able to absorb the abuse of playing a whole game, he could not have done so. Some fans reached a point that many were literally not concerned about his abilities as much as they were his future health.
It clearly impacted his play, and Clarke was and is not satisfied. Commenting on his weight loss and the reasons for it, Adrien said that his motivation was, "Family, backing, coaches, these guys (teammates) out here… Pretty much I could not be playing next to Alex, and Rob playing next to me, and they have to be worried about if I am tired because I am overweight. I mean, I did this for myself but moreso my teammates."
How did this come to pass?
"I pretty much got on those good ‘ole salads and dropped a significant amount of pounds," said Adrien. "Right now I am feeling pretty good."
Not only does he feel good, but he looks good and may just realize that nebulous potential this season. At 335, he enters fall camp at a weight his body has not seen since he was a redshirt Sophomore. Given the conditioning drills, it is safe to assume that by August 30, Adrien will stand somewhere around 330 or even 325 (a figure that must have the coaches delighted and the fans giddy as schoolgirls). According to him, his speed has seen marked improvement; "Actually I am a lot faster, a lot faster than what I was. I am putting out times that I never thought I would be putting out, so I am doing very well right now."
What does this mean? It means that instead of an offensive line who looked like they had been given concrete shoes, Clarke and the Buckeyes' front five might look more like they are wearing the winged shoes of Hermes. Screens, sweeps, and a whole host of other plays seemingly lost from Ohio State's playbook because of the speed of the offensive line might begin reappearing. Defensive ends, tackles, and blitzing linebackers will no longer be able to run around Adrien - they will have to attempt to go through him. Defensive tackles that remember being quicker than Clarke will be in for a rude awakening when they first line up across from him. Running backs will no longer run around or up the back of Clarke, they will be led by a pulling Adrien charging into a hole - obliterating some poor linebacker.
2002 a Disappointment?
Maybe last year's team accomplished great things but Adrien feels disappointed with his own performance; "Last year for myself, I feel it was a pretty poor season. I feel like I turned it on a little toward the Illinois, Michigan, and Miami, but for me - that is not the year I want. I want a year where from start to finish - just good things. This is the year for it."
Indeed it is. Were I a betting man looking to play a hunch, I would say the odds are very high that Adrien will get what he so desperately desires. He will achieve it not because he is destined for that role, but because of his hard work, dedication, and preparation.