Mr. Bucknuts Bucket of Bullets

Mr. Bucknuts checks in today with some opinions on what we saw offensively this year and hands out his grades to the offensive and special teams units.

As a poet once said, in a slightly different context, "Love is an ideal thing. Marriage is the real thing. Those who confuse the real for the ideal are bound to suffer".

Most of those who read this bucket love their Buckeyes. My affection is a lifetime commitment. Yes, I feel like I am married to the Buckeyes. And, no, I'm not going to talk about "fans" versus "supporters" again.

For the sake of segueing to a more sports-appropriate analogy, let's just move over from "love" to "expectations". There are the ideal expectations and the real expectations. In sports, those who confuse the real with the ideal are going to suffer, indeed.

As we hit that annual lull between the Michigan game and going bowling, a little truthful introspection is deserved. How realistic were our expectations this year? And how did the team deliver? Did we confuse "real" with "ideal"? And don't we every year?

Mr. Bucknuts is willing, of course, to throw himself headlong into that fray. Part of my job description is Human Pin Cushion. This week, let's examine and reconcile those ideal expectations with what should have been the real expectations with what were the actual delivered goods. Shall we take a look at the Ohio State offense? (Shield the eyes of loved ones and young children…)


Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: A+

Craig Krenzel could win the Heisman Trophy. Scott McMullen completed 80% of his passes and would start ahead of 80% of the other starters in the nation. Zwick and Smith would get ample mop-up time in all the blow-out games to determine the rightful heir to the throne of King Krenzel. It was an embarrassment of riches.

Realistic Level of Expectation: B+

Krenzel was coming off the best all-around quarterbacking performance sine Rex Kern 30 years ago. He was a complete surprise - not only to us, but also to other teams planning for us. He never got hurt. He never seemed to make a bad decision. He lived a charmed life. Should we have expected a good year? Yes. Should we have expected a repeat of the Year-of-the-Century? No, not realistically.

McMullen? We hardly knew ye. He seemed like a capable back up with better throwing potential, not-as-good running potential and was a heck of a nice guy.

Zwick and Smith were not going to get a lot of time in a Tressel close-to-the-sweater-vest offense.

What Actually Happened: C+

Krenzel did get hurt. He missed games and played erratically. The magic came…and went. McMullen came…and saved our bacon in three games. But there was too much Erratic Craig and not enough Save Our Bacon Scott in the grand finale. Games were way too close because the offense (and the quarterbacking) sputtered. And we rarely saw either Zwick or Smith (see previous sentence).

Statistically? We are not talking Heisman stuff, here. Krenzel was 58th in the nation - and sixth in the Big Ten - in passing efficiency. He was 51st and 5th in total offense. He did rank 24th in the conference in rushing but, overall, you can't get much more average than those stats. A solid C+.




Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: A+

We had the best running back in the nation in Maurice Clarett. We had the best back up in Lydell Ross. Our third guy scored big touchdowns last year and was good enough to get the fourth guy (JaJa Riley) to transfer out. We didn't even think about the other transfer (Sammy Maldonado) who was the all-time rushing leader from New York State. And we didn't worry about scaring away Deshaun Wynn by way of Cincinnati (he went to Florida…) because We Were Loaded!

Realistic Level of Expectation: A-

You can never have too many good running backs. Clarett has always been injury-prone and foot-in-mouth prone (remember after the Fiesta Bowl when he wanted to be a linebacker?). A couple of injuries and the old pair-and-a-spare idea would get sorely tested.

What Actually Happened: C-

The roof fell in. Murphy's Law: Whatever could go wrong did go wrong. We would have given portions of our personal salaries to get JaJa and Sammy back. And Wynn? All he did was start for the Gators as a red-shirt freshman. Our Maurices went sour. Clarett got banished and Hall acted like he was. Lydell was dinged all season and ran like he was. We were so desperate for "a spare" that we converted a safety that was just three months out of high school. And he was the kid with the most promise at certain points in the season!

Statistically, it was ugly. We were in the bottom 5% of the nation's teams for much of the season in rushing offense, and we finished 87 out of 117. Hey - this is Ohio State! Ross averaged 62 yards a game and it was worse in big games. Back-ups? Krenzel was our second leading rusher with 23 yards a game. We had to cheat to get to C-.



OK, so you noticed I didn't discuss "fullbacks" under "running backs". That tells you a bunch by itself…

Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: B

This might be our most realistic level of expectation. No one knew what Tresselball meant to the fullbacks, yet. These fast offensive linemen were supposed to block, be decoys for the running game, and catch a couple of flares each year. Shoulda been enough…

Realistic Level of Expectation: B

Branden Joe was a converted tailback bulked up to fullback size. But he was no Jamar Martin. Brandon Schnittker was a converted linebacker taught to block. But he was no Jamar Martin. Jason Bond and Stan White were walk-ons and converted linebacker/tight ends, respectively. But they were no Branden Joes.

What Actually Happened: B-

Joe tore a pre-season pec trying to set bench press records and Schnitker had a series of nagging injuries. By season end, Branden was a better-than-average Joe both in receiving and running. But it was too little too late. For a position that didn't demand much in our, well…system, we got about what we expected. A quiet B-.



Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: A+

We had two great receivers back in Chris Gamble and Michael Jenkins. Drew Carter had "star" written all over him and Santonio Holmes was wowing everyone in practice. Depth was equally impressive with Roy Hall, Bam Childress and John Hollins in the wings. Tight end was maybe even more impressive with returning star Ben Hartsock, emerging star Ryan Hamby and incoming superstar Louis Irizarry. Plus, the larder was full with Stan White and Redgie Arden.

Realistic Level of Expectation: A-

Hey - these guys were legit! But, we must remember that in the Buckeye's "offensive system", there are not a lot of footballs to go around. So you better learn to block. And that's if you are a wide-out! Tight end is diminished as a position in the traditional Buckeye running attack, as well.

What Actually Happened: B+

Michael Jenkins was as great as he could have been; turning weird passes into long games. Carter might have been even better but his injury-plagued career stayed injury-plagued in the year. Gamble rarely came to the offensive side of the field. But Santonio Holmes was sensational; yet he did lay the ball down a couple of times. And we got glimpses from both Roy Hall and Bam

The tight ends were the biggest (pleasant) surprise on the offense. Hartsock blocked like an NFL-er and had a career year catching the ball. Hamby was terrific. The big disappointment was Louis who should have red-shirted and shouldn't have belted that kid in the dorm, which cost him half a season, anyway.

We can't whine too much about this B+.



Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: A-

We had five senior starters, all the returning starters from the previous year and an NFL O-line coach to develop them. Plus, the line collectively lost as much mass as one Matt Zahn in the off-season. It had to be better than the year before.

Realistic Level of Expectation: B

We had precious little depth. Any injury or sub-par performance would be a glaring problem. And we had one sodden thought: Did the O-line look good (at times) last year or was it Clarett?

What Actually Happened: D

It was Clarett. And there was more. The guys got smaller but no more athletic. Ivan Douglas was lost for the season before the season began. Stepanovich was hurt for a majority of the year. Bishop regressed. Clark was good-but-not-great. And the depth was bad enough that a walk-on (Kne) became a starter. The team approach fell flat. Run blocking was abysmal. Pass blocking was merely adequate. We saw too many teams that showed us how O-lines were supposed to look (Wisconsin, Iowa, Purdue, and Michigan come to mind). There were weeks we had to struggle to get a D.



That's not a hidden double-entendre. By "offensive", I mean those special teams used to score: placekicking, punt returns and kick-off returns. When your game strategy is to excel on defense and special teams, while not turning it over on offense, those special teams had better be pretty damn special!



Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: A+

As a sophomore, Mike Nugent was the best kicker in the country. And if you don't believe that then you must live in Iowa. When we asked him before the year started how he could improve, he basically said he wanted to go from great to perfect.

Realistic Level of Expectation: A

There is no "perfect" in football. And there are too many variables in the kicking game to assume you can get there from here. But he is Mike Nugent. And that's close enough…

What actually happened: A-

He was still the same Gem City Madman but OSU gave him lots fewer reasons to kick. And he did miss a few. And he got a critical game-winner blocked (remember those variables?). But he still is Mike Nugent and is always around "A" territory.



Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: A

We have Chris Gamble, our third Heisman Trophy candidate. And we have a bevy of back-ups including Santonio Holmes and Bam Childress. This one is a lead-pipe cinch.

Realistic Level of Expectation: B+

We had the great return guy(s) and the great special teams emphasis and there was no reason to believe otherwise.

What Actually Happened: D-

Terrible. Gamble was replaced by Holmes who laid a couple on the carpet so he was replaced by Jenkins who finally broke a long one for a touchdown which helped us get all the way to 107th in the country and 10th in the Big Ten. Terrible. A six-yard average return for the year including the 60 or so Jenkins got on just one punt. And that return was the only reason to upgrade the performance to a D-.



Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: B+

We had Maurice Hall who was faster than a Bill Clinton policy whim. And we had so many great athletes and blocking schemes and blah blah blah…

Realistic Level of Expectation: C+

We didn't do much last year in this area and the same folks were back. Plus, our traditional return was to go straight up the middle, keep our head down and grind out those last three yards.

What Actually Happened: D

When we ran up the middle with our head down the last three yards got us to about the nineteen. Terrible. Just terrible. 106th in the country terrible. Never a threat to break one and always a threat to pin ourselves deep. No one looked good. We kept waiting for a light at the end of the tunnel. The only reason we soared up to a "D" is because we never fumbled…


Summary of the Offense

We were average last year with everybody back this year so we had realistically high expectations. But they weren't all back, really.

As discussed above, we were missing two offensive linemen for most of the season. And our #1 fullback. And one of our two best receivers. And the best running back in the country. And the serendipity that Krenzel produced in the Magic Season.

So that's about half the offense that was truly only average the year before anyway. Take all the grades and sum them up and you have almost a perfect C. Could it be any more average?

Unfortunately, if you sum up our level of expectations for the offense you get an A. And that's the problem between our "real" and our "ideal". How can we not be disappointed?

And so as to not disappoint you - and to sum up in the entirety - we will go through this same diligent exercise next week for the defense.

Hey - what else would you expect?

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