Bucknotes: OSU Special Teams Anything But

Kicker Mike Nugent and punter B.J. Sander were off-the-charts good for the Buckeyes this year. But the rest of OSU's special teams left a lot to be desired, as Dave Biddle notes in his Thanksgiving edition of Bucknotes.

Take away punting and field goals, and special teams have been downright awful for Ohio State this season.

Jim Tressel came to Ohio State with the reputation as a special teams guru, but it seems as though the Buckeyes stress some special teams, and not others.

We've learned that the punt is the most important play in football, but shouldn't that make the kickoff the second-most important play? A lot of field position is exchanged there as well.

Let's hope not, because the Bucks are ranked 10th in the Big Ten in kickoff return average (17.3 yards) and eighth in kick coverage (21.1). They are also tied for last in punt returns (6.4).

There is no excuse for a team like Ohio State to average a paltry 17 yards per return (by the way, that's 106th nationally). To have successful kickoff returns, you obviously need explosive athletes. But you also need a good scheme (watch a team like Florida or Miami set up its blocks on kick returns). The Bucks never seem to run a set "play" on kick returns. They always seem content to run straight up the field and hope for the best.

But, in fairness, the caliber of athletes is not up to OSU's standard this year. Instead of someone like Shawn Springs, or Nate Clements, returning kicks, the Bucks had guys like Mo Hall and Troy Smith this year. Hall, who has reportedly been banged up this year, looked more like Slow-mo Hall in the Michigan game. Maybe Santonio Holmes and/or Bam Childress will be better options next year, but the Buckeyes also need to work long and hard at developing good blocking schemes on special teams.

I am happy that Luke Fickell is on the staff. I think he's going to be a great coach. But is he a special teams coach? No. He's a defensive line coach.

Just like an argument could be made that OSU needs to hire an offensive coordinator, the same could be said for hiring a special teams coach. Tressel is the de-facto offensive coordinator and special teams coach, but some outside help might be something to think about. We don't need the coaches spreading themselves too thin.

One more complaint about special teams this year: Why in the world doesn't Mike Nugent kick it deep every time on kickoffs? Unless there is a stiff wind in his face, he has a very good chance of getting a touchback, but too many times this season we've seen the dreaded pooch kick, which rarely works. This is a big season why they are ranked so low in kick coverage. To pin someone inside the 20, everything has to be perfect. It would be much easier and more efficient to go for the touchback every time.

Germaine To Rattlers

After he was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals, I predicted that Joe Germaine would end up in the Arena League. But I was hoping he'd land in Columbus with the Destroyers. However, Germaine signed with his home-state Arizona Rattlers last month and will begin the season as their backup.

Scott McMullen also has a future in the AFL if he wants one.

Nike CEO Phil Knight …

Donated "at least" $50 million to the Oregon football program a few years ago, according to ESPN. With the cash, the Ducks built a new locker room, weight room and indoor practice facility. They also expanded their football stadium.

All of this caused former UCLA coach Bob Toledo to say, "Knight is the best owner in college football."

Tailgating…

Is embraced at places like Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin. However, at OSU, it's condemned (thanks to Karen Holbrook).

Can someone explain that? Maybe I just did.

O-Line, Ole'

There have been a number of problems on OSU's offensive line this season. But one thing I've noticed on pull blocks is that far too many times a Buckeye lineman will run past defenders without blocking anyone. The play ends and they're still standing there waiting for someone to block. They look like a bullfighter, minus the red cape. "Here, go right past me. Ole'."

It goes back to junior high football instruction: if you're not sure who you're supposed to block, make sure you hit someone. Anyone.

Never Too Much College Football

This year, ESPN televised more weeknight games than ever before. They've had Thursday games for quite some time and have added to their schedule in recent years, but this season it really took off. One particular week there were games Tuesday-Saturday. Some might think it's a bit much, but I love it. You cannot have too much college football on television.

Women's golf? Yes, there can be too much of that.

Howie Long Says …

Brett Favre's streak of 202 consecutive NFL games played (including playoffs) is more impressive than Cal Ripken's streak. It's a tough call, but I think I agree with Howie on that one.

Football Bred

Tressel grew up next door to the football stadium at Baldwin-Wallace College. Most everyone knows that Tressel's father, Lee, was the head coach at BW, but talk about growing up around football. Anytime he wanted, young Jim Tressel could walk over to practice and shag balls for the team, or whatever they needed.

Paterno

In 1972, Joe Paterno was offered the New England Patriots' head coaching position. He was offered a five-year, $1 million contract and was making just $35K at Penn State at the time. Paterno initially accepted the offer, then changed his mind a day later. It was the only time he seriously thought about leaving Happy Valley.

By the way, while we're on the topic, my guess is that next year will be JoePa's last. Good year, or bad year, it will be his last.

Silver Lining

Probably the only thing that was good about the OSU-UM game was that ABC kept running the replay of the 67-yard Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbook Hail Mary against UM in 1994. Definitely one of the best plays in college football history.

Where's The Blitz?

One surprise in the Michigan game was the lack of blitzes from OSU's defense. John Navarre is an immobile quarterback who panics under pressure. However, if you give him time to throw, he's arguably the best passing quarterback in the nation. The Wolverines have an outstanding offensive line, so rushing four linemen (and no linebackers or DBs) was not going to get it done against them.

And there is no rule that a blitz has to be strictly a pass blitz. There is such a thing as a run blitz. Pro teams do it a lot more than college, but bringing the linebackers more often would have been a good plan against Chris Perry and Navarre.

I've heard Bengals coach Marvin Lewis break down the run blitz as simple as this: "You come after the running back until you know it's a pass, then you go after the quarterback. The key is finding the right gap and getting a good jump. If there's a play action fake, you should be back there quick enough to hit both of them."

Basketball Bucks …

Need new uniforms. Very plain and drab.

Poor Start To The Season

I would be more concerned about OSU's poor start to the hoops season if the officiating wasn't so terrible the first two games. There were several phantom calls in the loss to San Francisco and a couple more in the San Diego State loss (including a joke of a charging call on J.J. Sullinger for his third foul, which led directly to his fourth, which led directly to the loss).

But, it was good to see Sleazeball Steve Fisher is aging well. NOT. The SDSU coach looks like he just crawled out of the morgue. Maybe it's all that guilt finally getting to him.

How that guy is allowed to still coach in the NCAA is beyond me. It's one thing to have a booster give money to a player behind a coach's back. It's another thing when the coach helps arrange the payments like Fisher did at Michigan.

Sullinger

Absolute stud. I know he needs to work on his free throw shooting quite a bit, but what a player this guy is going to be.

The Gunner

Most will probably not agree with this, but Tony Stockman is exactly what this team needed. I know he can be out of control at times and force up bad shots, but it sure is nice to have a good 3-point shooter with a quick release that can actually create his own shot.

Brando?

In other news, Jim O'Brien is sounding more and more like The Godfather every day. Get well soon, OB. We need you yelling at refs, not scribbling messages on dry-erase boards.

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


Buckeye Sports Top Stories