What's in the cupboard?

Lots of fans are in the dumps right now due to the 4-3 record. But we need to exercise patience, because it might be a while before that record gets to where we want it to be.

OSU now has a combined record of 18-13 since the start of the 1999 season.  This is something that a lot of fans are not thrilled about.  

I'm here to tell you something today that isn't going to make you feel any better -- be prepared for more of this to come.

The reason?  The cupboard, while not being bare, is not at all filled to capacity.

This isn't a pessimistic, negative outlook.  Instead, it's an educated prediction based on looking at the roster and depth chart.  

Right now, OSU has some big problems at quarterback, offensive line, and cornerback.  This doesn't really come as a surprise seeing as how these areas were a concern coming in to the season.  But, in being honest, things don't look that great for next year either.

Let's start at quarterback.  First off, we cannot count on Justin Zwick to come in and be the starter from day one.  I'm not saying he can't do it, nor am I saying he won't do it.  What I am saying is that it is an unfair expectation that we can't put upon him or instill in ourselves.  Getting thoughts and expectations like this in our heads are just setting us up for disappointment.  

Think about it.  How many quarterbacks start as a true freshman and lead their team to a great season?  Better yet, how many quarterbacks start as a true freshman period?  I'm sure you can think of examples, but not a whole lot.  Therefore, logic tells me that even if Justin starts, it's certainly not fair to expect a great season.

But let's assume that Justin won't start.  That leaves us with the quarterbacks who are there right now....

Okay, to be fair, we haven't seen these guys in game action.  We don't know what they can do.  But when we asked Chris Spielman last week on the Bucknuts Radio Hour about the QB situation, and he said that none of the backups have done anything to deserve a shot.  When Tim May was on, we hit him with the question of who would be the man next year, and he didn't have an answer.  What does that tell you?

That's not saying that no one can step up between now and next year.  But right now, it looks like there is a chance that the quarterback issue is one that might not be fixed by the time 2002 rolls around, so don't think for a second that Steve Bellisari graduating will fix all the problems. As a matter of fact, maybe everyone will find out that Steve was indeed the best option for this season.

Next, let's look at the offensive line.  This is a problem that might not go away either.  Coming into the season, if you included the incoming freshmen and Ivan Douglas (who was out at the time and has since made a surprising return), OSU had just ten offensive linemen on scholarship.  If you include the current verbal commitments, next year, OSU will have twelve offensive linemen on scholarship.  But six of them will be freshmen or redshirt freshmen.  And OSU's best lineman from this season, LeCharles Bentley, will be gone.  As we've seen, this is a unit that needs work, and logic says that it will be a work in progress for years to come, unless some youngsters can step up early.

Let's now move on to cornerback.  No starters there are seniors, but the position is thin.  How thin?  Cie Grant was moved there from LB shortly before the first game of the season and became a starter.  Maurice Lee was moved there from WR in spring practice and for a time was at the top of the depth chart.  That doesn't say much about what was there before.  And what if, for some reason, Derek Ross decides for some reason to go to the NFL draft early?  It gets even more thin.

Those - and kicking, of course - are the trouble spots for this year, and they don't appear to be going away anytime soon.  There are some areas that could be good next year and could be solid for quite a while, particularly RB and the defensive line.  The RB position has young players with ability, as does the defensive line, although Mike Collins' departure will leave a hole to be filled.  TE should be okay, and we will still see the same faces at WR that we saw this year.  At LB, Joe Cooper and Courtland Bullard are gone, and there are capable players behind them, but don't be fooled into thinking anyone can come in and be a superstar right away just because they had a bunch of stars next to their name when they were listed in recruiting databases.

How did this happen?  How did OSU get so thin? Who knows for sure?  But the first thing that comes to my mind is recruiting, particularly the players who did not make it academically or otherwise.  Take a look at this link: http://www.go-bucks.com/recruiting/verbal98.htm

Check out all the players on that list who signed letters of intent and are currently not with the team. Next, go to this link and do the same: http://www.go-bucks.com/recruiting/2000verbals.htm

This is probably one reason why the number of scholarship players coming into the season (not counting the walk-ons who were given scholarships) was 75, which is ten lower than the NCAA limit.  If there were ten more players on this team who could contribute, who knows what the result would be?  Think about this the next time you want OSU to take a player who is borderline academically.  Sure, there are players in every class who don't pan out or who don't make it all the way through, but doesn't it seem like the numbers here are already too large?

Next, let's go back to that 1999 class, which was rated as the #2 class in the country.  Again, don't be fooled by the recruiting rankings into thinking that the cupboard is full at OSU because to put it bluntly, if we go by that #2 ranking, this class is looking like a flat-out bust.  You have those several players who never made it at all, and you have some who may not be in a position to contribute anytime soon.  Others are seeing playing time but are behind guys who are younger than they are on the depth chart.  Right now, there are only two guys in this class who stand out as shining stars -- Mike Doss and Matt Wilhelm -- and only a few others who are giving sizeable contributions on the field.  It's not too late for some of the players here to step up, but right now, OSU is not getting enough from this class, and it is yet to be seen if they will.  And while there are players who could still emerge, it may be safe to say already that this class will never live up to that #2 ranking.  I'm not blaming anyone in particular here here because I hate to point the finger, and if I did point the finger, I wouldn't know who to point it at if I did.  But for those who think OSU is stocked with all this talent, I beg to differ.  Like Bob Hunter said, this team has some talent... just not enough of it, and the fact that this recruiting class isn't living up to its billing has a lot to do with it.

These recruiting issues are only part of the problem, but the point I'm trying to get at here is when you take a realistic look at the hand that Jim Tressel was dealt, you'll see that it could be worse, but it certainly isn't a full house.  For that reason, patience will be key for us fans.  Optimism is fine; after all, you never know what could happen between now and then.  But for now, it might be time to be ready to wait for a longer period than we might want before OSU can be on the level we want them to be on.  Those 95-98 teams were special teams, but right now, you might be ab


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