This is a position-by-position look at the OSU football team. This is helpful in assessing where the Buckeyes are strong and also in understanding what positions need to be bolstered through recruiting.
Over the next several days, I will break The Big Board down into five installments.
Today, we will look at the backs and receivers on offense.
Thursday, we will assess the tight ends and offensive line.
Friday, we will get inside the huddle on the defensive line and at linebacker.
Saturday, we will examine the secondary and specialists.
Finally, on Sunday, we will tie all of this data together.
Here is a position-by-position look at OSU's scholarship status and prospects at quarterback, running back and the wide receiver positions with returning players listed by seniority. Walk-ons listed if on latest published roster (i.e. if you don't see a particular walk-on, he may be practicing but is at least not on the most recent roster update).
(All class designations are 2003 eligibility; starters marked with an asterisk.)
* In The Fold (4): Craig Krenzel* (Sr. in 2003), Scott McMullen (Sr.), Troy Smith (R-Fr.), Justin Zwick (R-Fr.).
* Walk-On (1): Jim Otis (Sr.)
* New This Winter (1): Todd Boeckman.
* Verbal For 2004 (1): Joe Bauserman.
* Analysis: Krenzel is due back for the Wisconsin game after missing the last two games due to an elbow injury. He is 18-1 as a starter, throwing for 3,005 yards with 17 TDs and 15 INTs in his OSU career.
McMullen proved his worth by leading OSU to back to back wins over Bowling Green and Northwestern, completing nearly 62 percent of his passes in the process.
Zwick appears to be the heir apparent. The former Ohio schoolboy star at Orrville and Massillon Washington got his first real playing time against NU, completing 3 of 7 passes for 20 yards.
Smith seems destined to play a "Slash" role (i.e. part quarterback, part running back, part wide receiver, part return man). Obviously, these roles may change -- and Smith has a cannon for an arm to make any coach think more than twice about him. This will be a great battle this spring.
Otis is graduating early. Boeckman is "grayshirting," meaning he has already graduated from St. Henry (Ohio) High School, joined the team for preseason camp and is now sitting out until he enrolls in the winter. This allows him to play four of the next five years.
There is talk that former Cleveland St. Ignatius star Nate Szep has transferred to OSU from Washington University of St. Louis. He may, indeed, be praticing, but he isn't listed on a roster.
* Still Looking?: Bauserman (6-2, 215) is a hard-nosed kid who transferred to Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln from the Washington, D.C., area to improve his grid skills and build his stock as a potential pro baseball draftee.
With that prospect hanging over OSU's head, it is possible that the Buckeyes may try and sign another QB. They let St. Ignatius standout Brian Hoyer (6-4, 195) verbal to Michigan State without an offer. But Hoyer is having a Mr. Football-caliber season and could get a late look by the Buckeyes.
OSU has also looked past Upper Arlington's Mike Maciejowski, son of former OSU QB Ron Maciejowski. The younger Maciejowski has reportedly verbaled to Minnesota.
Xavier Lee (6-3, 210) of Daytona Beach, Fla., has an OSU offer. But this run-pass theat is also looking at Auburn, Florida State, Syracuse, Tennessee and Florida.
Down the line, it seems OSU is already interested in Washington C.H. (Ohio) Miami Trace sophomore Miles Schlichter (6-2, 185).
* In The Fold (4): Maurice Hall (Jr.), Lydell Ross* (Jr.), Maurice Clarett (Soph., on season-long suspension), Ira Guilford (Fr.).
* Walk-On (1): Michael DeMaria (Jr.).
* Verbals For 2004 (2): Erik Haw, Antonio Pittman
* Analysis: Clarett, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate this year, is sitting out at least a season-long suspension for taking extra benefits. He is also suing the NFL to gain early entry to the 2004 draft. It seems unlikely he will ever play again for the Buckeyes.
Ross would appear to be OSU's best option at tailback. He has 197 yards and five touchdowns on 54 carries (3.6 average) this year, although he has been hampered by injuries. He may be the one player OSU needs to remain injury free thr rest of the way.
Hall has had ample opportunities with Clarett suspended and Ross sidelined so far this year. But he has just 270 yards on 75 carries with one touchdown (3.6 average). Some would say he has not been used properly, being sent between the tackles when he needs wide open spaces to be effective.
Guilford, recruited to OSU as a safety after rushing for over 2,000 yards last year at Hoboken, N.J., turned some heads with 29 yards on eight carries against Northwestern. He may get more action as the season wears on, but the plan still seems to be for him to eventually settle in on defense.
* Still Looking?: Haw (5-11, 220) may also be a Mr. Football candidate. He has well over 1,000 yards in six games for Columbus Independence. Although this is the same City League competition Hall built his reputation against, Haw reportedly has some innate abilities that can't be taught.
Pittman (5-11, 198) has dealt with injuries and a tough Division I schedule at Akron Buchtel, but has still been impressive at times.
With Clarett's status murky at best, OSU probably will look for another difference maker at tailback, likely out of state.
OSU reportedly has offers pending to a pair of key out-of-state prospects. The top name might be Homestead, Fla., standout Charlie Jones (5-11, 200), although Jones will be hard to get away from Miami (Fla.) or Florida.
OSU has also offered Darius Walker (5-11, 197) of Buford, Ga. He is also looking at Stanford, Arkansas and Florida among others.
There are more Ohio prospects OSU could go after, including Warren Harding's Delbert Ferguson, Cleveland Benedictine's Ray Williams and Columbus Walnut Ridge's Gary Russell. But it will likely be late in the process before any of those three merits an offer, if then.
Down the line, the truth in Ohio may be Akron Garfield sophomore Chris Wells (6-2, 205), already a fixture at OSU home games.
* In The Fold (2): Branden Joe (Jr.), Brandon Schnittker* (Soph.).
* Walk-Ons (5): Roshawn Parker (Jr.), Colby Staubs (R-Fr.), George Anderson (Fr.), Grant Miller (Fr.), Steve Fender (Fr.).
* Verbals (0): None.
* Analysis: Between Joe (6-0, 245) and Schnittker (6-1, 250), OSU has two adequate fullbacks. But both have battled injuries thus far this year and OSU has only used a fullback in as few as 20 percent of its offensive plays so far this year.
OSU is hopeful that Joe could assist with some power running. Schnittker is a plugger, who is most valuable in pass protection and isolation blocking.
Neither is in the Jamar Martin mold when it comes to blocking ability, although they improved last season as the year wore on.
As for the walk-ons, Parker got a shot in an early season game but fumbled. Fender is out for the year with an injury. Little is known about the rest.
* Definitely Still Looking: OSU did not sign a fullback last year. It is possible, however, that Cedric Scott, Darrion Scott's brother who was due to enroll either this fall or winter, could play this position as well as linebacker. The younger Scott is 6-1, 230 pounds.
OSU could not lure Germantown (Ohio) Valley View's Brock Bolen (6-2, 210), who verbaled to Illinois instead with a promise to play tailback there.
The Buckeyes did invite Liberty Twp. (Ohio) Lakota East's Tony Johnson (6-1, 245) to a home game, but he is a raw prospect, at best.
* In The Fold (8): Drew Carter* (Sr.), Michael Jenkins* (Sr.), Maurice Lee (Sr.), Bam Childress (Jr.), John Hollins (Jr.), Roy Hall (R-Fr.), Santonio Holmes (R-Fr.), Devin Jordan (Fr.).
* Medical Waiver (1): Angelo Chattams (Jr.)
* Verbal For 2004 (1): Miles Williams.
* Analysis: If he just caught two or three more balls -- on average -- per game, Jenkins (23 catches, 348 yards, two TDs this year) would be an All-American candidate. Carter (13 grabs, 150 yards, 1 TD) is starting to slowly get into the groove in his first year as a starter.
OSU has only used Chris Gamble at receiver for a few plays. But if the offense continues to sputter, look for No. 7 to be pulling double duty again sooner rather than later. He's too good to play just defense and, after all, it is cooling off around here.
None of the rest have made the expected impact. Childress (three catches), Hall (three catches, including a Cris Carter-like leaping grab against Washington) and Holmes (two grabs) have at least seen some face time in three- and four-receiver sets. Holmes has as many fumbles as catches, though, slowing his momentum.
Lee joins Jenkins and Carter in leaving after this year, while Hollins may finally get a chance to do something as a fifth-year senior in 2004. Jordan is missing his freshman year, it seems, due to injury.
Chattams' once-promising career (he made just one catch for OSU) is over prematurely due to a spine injury.
* Definitely Still Looking: The hope is that Hall and Holmes will be the future at this position. But just in case, I think OSU needs to add at least two more receivers in addition to Williams.
Williams (6-3, 205) is getting touches as a RB at Austintown-Fitch, but could be one to watch at OSU.
Many believe that OSU's top target at wide receiver may be Toledo Rogers' Fred Davis (6-4, 210), who is also intent on visiting Miami (Fla.), USC and Oklahoma.
But there are some who believe that Cleveland Glenville's extremely talented Ted Ginn Jr. (6-1, 165), the state's top overall prospect, will eventually settle in on offense at the college level. Ginn is also looking at Iowa, Miami (Fla.), Michigan and Pittsburgh among others.
More names to watch include Dwayne Jarrett (6-4, 205) of New Brunswick, N.J., looking at Maryland, Miami (Fla.) and Penn State; Brandon Barrett (6-1, 180) of Martinsburg, W.Va., looking at Florida, Florida State, Miami, Penn State and West Virginia; and DaJuan Morgan (6-1, 190) of Riviera Beach, Fla., also looking at Florida, N.C. State, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech among others.
Down the line, there appear to be two supreme talents in Ohio in Warren Harding junior Mario Manningham (6-1, 190) and Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph sophomore David Lighty (6-3, 170). OSU has reportedly already offered Manningham.