As we wind down the final Dr. Recruitnik "Analyze This" series on Buckeye recruiting – position by position – I have to say this: I can't kick.
No, I'm not talking about my treatment here in cyberspace. I'm just stating a fact. I can't kick. So, someone else is going to have to do it next year if we want to win some football games.
And whom do we have in mind, you ask?
For placekicking, that's a chip shot. We've got the Nuge. And I don't care what those dim bulbs form Iowa might say, Mike Nugent is the best field goal kicker in the country and I wouldn't trade him for a half dozen Kaedings. So there. The Nuge is tough under pressure and brings yet another element to the table: he is an athlete. In fact, he was an option quarterback when he played high school football in Centerville. So he can run, maybe take a fake field goal toss and maybe even toss one himself. More importantly, he does more than give it the old "matador tackle" if he's the last resort in stopping a runback.
And if there were one criticism of Mike this year, it would be that there were too many runbacks. Last year, he just lined the dang thing up on kickoffs and booted it out of the end zone. Everyone started on the twenty. More importantly, we didn't have to worry about them starting on our twenty!
This year, I posit that the coaches got greedy and had Mike kick high and shorter to try to pin the opposition down to the…oh, say, eighteen yard line. That's a poor risk/reward trade-off if I ever saw one.
Next year, let's just line it up and see if he can reach the stands with it.
Ahem, getting back to our subject at hand, we have no problems next year with place-kicking, as Nugent will be a senior. And we have multi-year backup Josh Huston ready Just in Case. There's some talk that Huston could get a sixth year but I don't believe it, so let's assume that the cupboard is bare for the Bucks after the national championship game in the Orange Bowl in 2005.
But not exactly bare. We have another athletic kicker – a walk-on – in Brian Pierce. Brian's coach in high school said he was the best kicking safety in the country his senior year, making 11 interceptions and a bunch of tackles. So if he can't get those kickoffs to the end zone either, we should be safe for another 3-4 years!
OSU will have two years to evaluate Brian's progress. If they decide he's OK, just not good enough (reference Josh Huston in paragraph eight…), then we will go a-hunting for another kid. Who can kick.
Remember just a few scant years back? Ohio State had four scholarship kickers on the team. One more than they had offensive linemen, I believe. Now, Huston and Nugent will be gone. And Andy Groom and BJ Sander will both be punting elsewhere. So, we will have gone from four schollies to one walk-on and some punting needs.
Folks, we are spoiled when it comes to punters. Andy Groom was the nation's best punter and he got screwed when they gave the Ray Guy Award to someone else a year ago. Then along comes fifth-year senior, BJ Sander, and what does he do in his one full year of punting chores? He wins the Ray Guy trophy. Go figure.
If you ask me, Groom was better then Sander but Sander defied physics with some incredible rolls and incredible stats about balls going dead inside the twenty (hey Nuge, that's how you do it!). In any event, with a coach that says the punt is the most important play in football, we had the two best punters in the country the last two seasons and, man, that helped a lot! In fact, the punt was probably our most effective offensive weapon in 2003.
So we were all getting a little nervous when we whittled down the prospects and saw that AJ Hawk might have to punt next year. Yes, AJ punted in high school at Centerville, that school of versatile athletes. The first new guy (not Ray) we interviewed was prospective transferee from Vanderbilt, Greg Johnson, who kicked 66 times his freshman year for a 44-yard average. Not bad. Greg narrowed his choices down to Ohio State and Texas and picked…Texas. Then we went after Australian star – by way of junior college – David Lonie. David loved Ohio State and narrowed his choices to Cal and Ohio State before he picked…Cal.
Left at the alter twice, we went back to Ohio and courted Justin Kucek from Canfield who had already been offered by Minnesota and was given one week to make up his mind. He picked Ohio State. We picked AJ Trapasso.
Who? Yes, AJ Trapasso. Not AJ Hawk as you thought I might say. AJ Trapasso is from Pickerington and fits the mold of athlete as well as punter, since he was a running back last year. See a trend here, anywhere? AJ has another big plus in that he's graduating early and can punt this spring so that his first kicks won't come before he ever attends class. We tried that with another running back and…well, that's another story, now.
I'm still sore, of course, over missing out on Dublin's Adam Graessle. He wanted to come to Ohio State and Ohio State wanted him. But OSU tried to get him to "gray shirt" despite the fact that they would need a kicker in two seasons and that meant Adam needed just a red-shirt year to reconcile the perfect timing. Saving last-minute schollies last year? Huh? We get shut out on commitment day and sign – what? – 14 players. Couldn't have screwed that up any worse than if we were an NCAA investigation committee.
So…the punter deal is closed, yes? No, life's not that simple in the big time.
Dr. Recruitnik sez…We also go after the estimable Kenny Harper, who we tried to recruit two years ago. He went to Minnesota but had a falling out with the program there. He could "walk on" at OSU (like John Kerr, perhaps?) and become a force if this Trapasso thing doesn't work out. A walk-on as a great punter, you ask? How quickly we forget…
So here's the deal with our kicking situation:
1) Nugent stays All-American for a year as the place-kicker. Huston is the back up and maybe wangles a sixth season so he can kick in 2005. Brian Pierce is the heir apparent. If he seems to be "short" on his kicking, we recruit another kid next season
2) Trapasso enrolls early and impresses/doesn't impress the staff in the spring. Harper is wooed back as the option.
Doesn't it seem logical that we are "moving up" when we go from a B.J. to an A.J.? I know – it was just a thought…
Sports fans, that's it for the old Doctor for this season. It was a hell of a ride. If you have any complaints about my stuff or the Ohio State football team, let my friend and mentor, Mr. Bucknuts know at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com.
Buckeye Nation? No, how do you spell hibernation…