Mr. Bucknuts' Bucket of Bullets

Last week brought Mr. Bucknuts' opinions and grades on the OSU offense, and this week the defense is getting their grades.

Yes, we are still talking about our Great Expectations. And the last two seasons included some of the best of times and some of the worst of times. Perhaps, a little clearer thinking might shed some light on the disparities between the two and the stress that is created when you can't reconcile them.

For those of us following this story from last week (and – my god – what kind of lives do you lead, anyway?), we ran through the offense and concluded that the Buckeye Nation had an expectation level of "A" or better. The realistic expectation level came in at about a "B" or a "B+', whereas the actual performance level soured to a screeching "C". And therein lies the difficulty with winning all your games and with stretching farther than you can reach at times.

This week, we will discuss the world-class part of the Buckeye football program: the defense. Were we as unrealistic in that department? Did we achieve or even exceed some of the expectation levels?

Let's take a look:


Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: A+

I was one amongst many who declared this could be the best Buckeye defensive line of all time. And we weren't even worried about injuries because of the startling depth up front. Heck, we have three guys – the seniors – who might all be first round draft picks next year! And the fourth guy? He's a junior who might be a first rounder the year after that! There are lofty expectations and then there are justifiably lofty expectations.

Realistic Level of Expectation: A

That's right. Man plans and God laughs. Thus, it is probably unrealistic to have assumed the A+. Yet…

What Actually Happened: A

That's right, too. Say what you want but this group might have been the best D-line in OSU history. Will Smith is the premier defensive end in the country. Tim Anderson might be the best interior guy. And Simon Fraser plus Darrion Scott are extremely athletic linemen designed to terrorize an offense. Scott did go down for a spell and played hurt for another. But Quinn Pitcock and David Patterson were sensational. On the outside, Kudla graded out well and…man, this was a line for the ages!



Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: A-

Yes, we lost Cie Grant but (can we say this in hushed tones?) AJ Hawk might have been better anyway! We lost Matt Wilhelm but we had Mike D'Andrea, the greatest high school ML since Katzenmoyer. And Reynolds could play there. Plus, Carpenter was like a bigger version of Hawk. This group was a done deal!

Realistic Level of Expectation: B

Listen, folks, when you lose two of your three linebackers to the NFL, you should plan to rebuild and not just reload. When Fred Pagac is starting in the middle in the spring, this will not be a Wilhelm-type middle. And Carpenter is new and Reynolds doesn't really play the middle and…

What Actually Happened: B

Hawk played great. He started to bog down a bit later in the year but he is The Man. D'Andrea came on but was just showing flashes when he went down for the year. Pagac reached his capacity but that capacity wasn't as much as we needed. Carpenter will be a star but he is still learning. And Reynolds proved to be a terror on the outside but he wasn't ideal inside. Lastly, so many teams gave up on the run against our dominant D-line that we were forced to play nickels and dimes. That changed a lot of the emphasis off the linebackers. And occasionally made them look slow and ineffective. Add it all up and you have a solid "B".



Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: A-

It's hard for some of us to remember back but we had two All-American type safeties the year before. And if you can't remember that, look up "Michael Doss" and "Donnie Nickey" on NFL rosters. Despite that, Those Who Know thought that Will Allen was even better and that Tressel would finally be forced to play Dustin Fox in his natural position: safety. The "A-" looked low…

Realistic Level of Expectation: B

Hey – Dustin Fox has never played safety at the collegiate level! And did I mention – we lost the best safety tandem in the country from the year before? And who was going to fill in if Fox stayed at CB? There are some questions here, people…

What Actually Happened: A-

Sometimes good things happen for either 1) All the wrong reasons or 2) For reasons we couldn't contemplate. Will Allen was an All-American as some Buckeye fanatics insisted he would be. Fox stayed on the corner, which opened the position to Nate Salley, who played great. And Donte Whitner, the next great OSU cornerback, played a lot of next-great-OSU-safety. And Tyler Everett played well, too. This group exceeded expectations.



Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: A-

Chris Gamble was a veritable shoo-in for the Heisman on one side. The other side would either be Fox (although he should be moved to…well, you know) or Underwood or either the raw freshmen Youboty and Whitner. All great athletes and we should expect great things…

Realistic Level of Expectation: B

Jim Tressel start a true freshman on a defense that needs a lock-down cornerback? Go on! Plus, it was only Gamble's second (partial) year ever playing the position. And who were these other guys, anyway?

What Actually Happened: B+

I'm one of the minority that says our corners held up well this year. Our wide-receiver-playing-cornerback (Gamble) got torched a couple of unfortunately obvious times but he played well, if not exactly at a Heisman level. Our safety-playing-cornerback (Fox) took everything the other team could throw at him – literally – and stood tall. When teams gave up running, the passes came in torrents. And our converted corners kept the gutters clear and flowing toward the safeties and nickel/dime backs just like they were supposed to…



Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: B-

We just lost the best punter in the country (Andy Groom) and we had a lot of young special-teamers we were asking to cover. Plus, BJ Sander? Wasn't he the fifth-year senior who has been nursing a career case of the shanks? Hoo boy…

Realistic Level of Expectation: B-

The Buckeye Nation was right on, here!

What Actually Happened: A-

Sander kicked the snot out of the ball. Even his bad punts rolled good. He had to lead the nation in punts inside the twenty. And the Buckeyes were in the top ten all year in net punting average. The whole team got docked a bit for letting up on some returns, but all in all, these guys exceeded expectations.



Buckeye Nation Level of Expectation: A

Mike Nugent simply kicks the ball out of the end zone. End of story.

Realistic Level of Expectation: A

Hey – he did it all last year. What would change this year?

What Actually Happened: B

What actually happened was that the coaches got greedy. They tried to get Mike to kick it high and have it come down on the five so they could pin teams back. What happened next is we got a number of returns run down our throats, including one all the way back. Then, Mike seemed to lose his rhythm and the whole mess went from an easy "A" to a sloppy "B".



We were better than the pessimists thought. And not as good as the optimists hoped…

We came within a Michigan game and an NC State comeback of having one of the best defenses in memory.

And it was still pretty darn good.

We missed Matt Wilhelm the most. And, surprisingly, we missed our two All-American safeties the least. Without the breakdowns at middle linebacker and the occasional mess-ups at cornerback, well…it was a great defense.

If you sum up our total spin-it-positive level of expectation, we are right at A-. Should we have expected anything less from our level of expectations? (Look that last question up under "tautology"…) Our realistic level of expectation was a B+, not unrealistic in the least. And, finally, what actually happened was somewhere right in the middle of B+ and A-.

Now, that's not so bad. The defense stood up well – both in their performance and as compared to our level of expected performance.

Do we all feel better now?

Well, we have one week to go in this exercise. Next week, I will tackle the expectations of next year.

And be very realistic, of course!

E-mail Mr. Bucknuts at

Buckeye Sports Top Stories