Bucknotes - 10/2

Will Arena Ball in Columbus work? Why does Ohio college football rule? These questions answered and more in today's Bucknotes.

It was recently announced that the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League will begin play in February. The team decided to move from Buffalo and after shopping itself around to numerous cities, it discovered that Columbus was the ideal fit.

So, will Arena Football work in Columbus?

The answer is yes and let's take a look why.

Although Columbus has had one brief experience with the AFL in 1991-92 (the Columbus Thunderbolts), this situation is a little different.

First of all, former OSU head coach Earle Bruce was named head coach and general manager of the team. What an intelligent move by the Destroyers' front office. He is sure to bring a lot of intensity to the bench and will lure several ex-Buckeyes to join him.

Second, there is a local flavor in the ownership group. Majority owner Mark Hamister of Buffalo has partnered with Ohio businessman James Renacci, Blue Jackets owner John McConnell, as well as former OSU players Chris Spielman, Jim Lachey and Jim Karsatos. Spielman will also serve as director of football operations.

Third, there are few places more football-crazy than Columbus. From February-June, the gridiron fans in town will now have a way to fill their football fix. Sure, it's not the same as "real" football, but if you give it a chance, Arena Football is a very exciting sport. There is a reason the league is entering its 18th year of existence and that most of its teams are able to pack the house for each game. The Destroyers are going to be playing in Nationwide Arena, one the best arenas in the league. It will be tough to sell out such a large arena each night, but chances are good that the Destroyers will pick up a loyal fan base and will more than hold their own when it comes to ticket sales.

Fourth, as was already eluded to, you can expect to see several ex-Ohio State players on the roster. Bruce has already said that is going to contact any former Buckeye that played in the NFL, but is no longer in the league. It's a safe bet that the first quarterback of the Destroyers will be someone like Joe Germaine, or Bobby Hoying (Germaine is more likely). How cool would it be to see Germaine trot out on the field with a No. 7 jersey and an "Earle" headband on?

Say what you want, but the Destroyers are going to be a success in Capital City.

RISING PLAYERS

A few Buckeyes have received the most playing time of their careers lately.

Sophomore offensive guard Adam Olds has really come on and the coaches like the agility he brings to the table. Olds missed the entire 2002 season due to hip surgery, but is starting to prove why he was the No.1 offensive lineman in the state as a senior in high school.

Sophomore defensive tackle Marcus Green got the first start of his career against Northwestern, replacing the injured Darrion Scott. Green, who has slimmed down quite a bit, has played a lot this year off the bench and has been effective. He is sure to return to a reserve role when Scott returns, but will continue to get a lot of PT.

True freshman Ira Guilford picked up a lot of fans with his performance against Northwestern. His numbers weren't very impressive (eight carries for 29 yards), but he showed a quick burst, good moves and ran with authority. You can already tell he is one of those backs that plays bigger than his size. A little bit in the James Brooks mold.

Another true freshman – defensive back Donte Whitner – got a lot of playing time against the Wildcats. Whitner is still playing safety right now, but with EJ Underwood likely missing the rest of the season with a hand/thumb injury, look for Whitner to get a look at corner.

GETTING HEALTY

Could the bye week have come at a better time for the Buckeyes? The extra time off will give Alex Stepanovich, Craig Krenzel, Darrion Scott and Lydell Ross another week to recover. All of them are expected to play against Wisconsin and only Scott has been held out of practice this week.

The return of Stepanovich is going to be huge. He is the best player on the O-line and is also the vocal leader of the group. I look for him to play the majority of snaps the rest of the season at guard, making room for center Nick Mangold.

The bye week also gives fullback Branden Joe another week to get back in the flow. He made his return against Northwestern, but there is no way he's 100 percent yet. When Joe is healthy, he is an excellent blocker and can give the running game the boost it needs.

STRING OF OSU RBs IN THE NFL

For the last 20 years, the majority of Ohio State's starting tailbacks have went on to enjoy NFL careers that lasted for at least two seasons. Here is the list…

1. Tim Spencer

2. Keith Byars

3. Vince Workman

4. Robert Smith

5. Raymont Harris

6. Eddie George

7. Michael Wiley

8. Jonathan Wells

The only three starting tailbacks over the last two decades that have not played multiple seasons in the NFL are Carlos Snow, Pepe Pearson and Derek Combs. The latter two each made it to the league for one season, but that was it.

Overall, it's a pretty impressive list and Maurice Clarett is about to add to it.

CLARETT PREDICTION

Speaking of Clarett, my guess is that he will be a second round pick in the 2004 draft, if he wins his case. He could be a late first-rounder, but there is no way he'll be any worse than a second-rounder. If Willis McGahee was a first-rounder on a shredded knee, a healthy Clarett won't be any worse than a two, even with the baggage.

85 'SHIPS GOOD FOR THE GAME

The 85-scholarship rule has been great for college football in my opinion. I love it that a team like Marshall – which is actually having a down year for its standards – can go into a place like Kansas State and knock off the No. 6 ranked team in the nation. The limited scholarships have leveled the playing field and that makes the sport much more enjoyable to watch.

There used to be unlimited scholarships, then it was cut to 105, then 95, and now 85.

The current rule is good for players, as well as the smaller schools. Instead of warming the bench for four, or five years at a place like OSU, players are going to MAC schools and getting a chance to shine.

Sure, it makes it a little more difficult for the Buckeyes to dominate, but there is no doubt that it's good for the game.

OHIO COLLEGE FOOTBALL UNMATCHED

It's amazing the quality of Ohio college football across the board. In addition to Ohio State, you have Division III juggernaut Mount Union, I-AA non-scholarship Dayton, I-AA Youngstown State and several excellent MAC programs. Even Cincinnati is a program on the rise, especially with its impending move to the Big East.

It was brought to Jim Tressel's attention by a reporter this week that the three longest winning streaks in the country come from Ohio teams: OSU, Mount Union and Dayton. It is hard to surprise Tressel with anything, but even he was not aware of that.

D. BOSTON…

Not off to a hot start in San Diego. He left Arizona with a reputation of being a malcontent and has done nothing to change that perception. He reportedly skipped a pair of meetings last week – one with head coach Marty Schottenheimer – which led to his one-game suspension.

If you took Boston as your No.1 receiver on one of your fantasy teams (cough, cough), you are kicking yourself for not taking someone like Laveranues Coles instead.

COOPER CRITICISM?

What, in the name of Stan Jackson, was John Cooper doing questioning Jim Tressel's decision to put Justin Zwick in the Northwestern game in the first quarter? Sure, the Buckeyes probably could have blown out Northwestern even more if Scott McMullen played the whole game, but Tress knew what he was doing. He knows they aren't "real" reps unless the game is still on the line. He also knew that the Northwestern game might have been the last chance this year to get Zwick some snaps (with the possible exception of Indiana).

Believe me, next year in the opener, we are all going to be glad that Zwick has at least some meaningful playing time under his belt. Cooper missed the boat on this one.

By the way, will Troy Smith ever get a chance to throw a pass? Every time he comes into the game, the Bucks go shotgun and run a QB draw. Not exactly the way to build confidence in Smith's passing skills.

MICHIGAN HYPE?

Remind me why I had to listen to all that Michigan hype the first three weeks of the season. The Wolverines had beaten two cupcakes and Notre Dame. In other words, three cupcakes. They then lost to top-25 fringe team Oregon, and Washington State proved how hard it was to beat the Ducks in Eugene.

Don't get me wrong, Michigan is a talented team, but I just didn't understand why everyone was in a hurry to anoint it as the next great team.

MASE

Minnesota fans (and some players) were ready to run Glen Mason out of town after he openly campaigned for the Ohio State job after the 2000 season. Never mind their program has been in shambles for years and Mason had them going in the right direction. They were appalled that he would want to coach at his alma mater.

Fast forward three years and Mase is the toast of Minneapolis. Sure, the Gophers have yet to beat a good team, but for a Minnesota fan, being 5-0 and ranked No. 16 is not something that happens every year.

DOSS KEEPS WINNING

Like he said during the national championship festivities, Mike Doss has won a championship at each level of football. I don't think the 4-0 Indianapolis Colts are going to win the Super Bowl this year, but I'm happy for Doss' situation. He was disappointed that he was not a first-round pick, but things couldn't have worked out any better for him. He's playing somewhat close to home, he's on a good team and he's starting.

E-mail Dave at: sports@madison-press.com


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