OK, so the NFL draft is still three months away (April 24-25). However, it's never too early to project where the former Ohio State players will be taken.
As I put on my Mel Kiper wig, here is a rundown…
Will Smith (first round): Smith is expected to be the first DE taken and will obviously go sometime in the top half of the first round.
Chris Gamble (first round): Gamble will be one of the first cornerbacks taken, maybe the first. As Buckeye fans know, he is very raw, but he has a size advantage over the other top corners – Derrick Strait of Oklahoma and DeAngelo Hall of Virginia Tech.
Michael Jenkins (first round): Jenkins was expected to be an early second round pick, but his stock shot up at the Senior Bowl last week. The scouts got a chance to see what OSU fans have seen over the past three years: a big receiver with deceptive speed that runs precise routes and has great hands. The top receivers in the draft are Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald and Texas' Roy Williams. Jenkins could be as high as the third WR taken.
Maurice Clarett (late first, early second): Call it the "Willis McGahee rule" if you will. If McGahee was a first round pick on one good leg, then Clarett will be no worse than an early second. There is just too much of a demand for running backs in the league. Of course, all of this is a moot point if he loses his case (the judge is expected to rule sometime soon).
Tim Anderson (second round): I was going to peg Anderson as a third round pick, but his stock also shot up at the Senior Bowl. It is a very weak year for defensive tackles, so Anderson will be no worse than a third-rounder, but I am guessing second.
Shane Olivea (third round): Another player who did well for himself at the Senior Bowl. Olivea was reportedly privately interviewed by more NFL teams than any other lineman in Mobile. He didn't have a great senior year at OSU, but scouts seem to like his size and potential.
Darrion Scott (late third, early fourth): The scouts like his versatility, but he's the classic tweener. He is probably too small to play tackle on the next level, but is he quick enough to play end? It's too bad for Scott that he battled an ankle injury his entire senior year. I thought he was on the verge of a huge season (was the Bucks' sacks leader with 8.5 in 2002).
Ben Hartsock (fourth round): He is the fourth or fifth-best TE in the draft and will be taken early in the second day. Always renowned as a great blocker, Hartsock finally got a chance to prove what a quality receiver he was in 2003.
Will Allen (fourth round): Could be a steal this late in the draft. He's small for NFL standards, so he could even slip into the fifth round, but he can run and hit and will be a nice pickup for someone.
Alex Stepanovich (fifth round): Reportedly did not have a good week at the Senior Bowl. However, he will be attractive to teams because he can play both center and guard. He was also arguably OSU's best lineman over the last two years.
Adrien Clarke (sixth round): Might go higher than this – he has great size and has been able to keep his weight in the 335-pound range – but his lack of quickness is going to cause several teams to shy away.
Rob Reynolds (sixth round): Reynolds has NFL size and speed, but his reputation as a dirty player (right or wrong) might hurt him a bit. He is also a special teams standout, so that will help him make an active roster, or practice squad at worst.
B.J. Sander (seventh round): Sander is one of the top punters available, but NFL teams do not like drafting kickers or punters unless they have to (see Groom, Andy). But Sander is so good that teams won't want to risk making him an undrafted free agent. Somebody is going to draft him, and maybe as early as round six.
Drew Carter (seventh round): If it weren't for that ACL injury in the rain at Indiana, we'd be talking about Carter as a fourth-rounder at least. But as it stands, he will be lucky to get drafted at all. He has suffered two major injuries and NFL teams will probably want to take a chance on someone else, even in the later stages of the draft, but Carter will be in someone's camp.
Craig Krenzel, Scott McMullen (undrafted free agents): Both will be in camp, but I would be shocked if either makes an active roster. Practice squad is a strong possibility though. Don't be surprised to see McMullen eventually end up with the AFL's Columbus Destroyers.
PRO-DAY LIVES ON
Speaking of the NFL draft, kudos to Jim Tressel for keeping "pro day" at OSU. It would have been easy for him to ditch that idea (a brainchild of John Cooper), but this goes to show that Tressel does care if his players make it to the NFL. He doesn't want his program to be a training ground for the NFL, or known simply as an NFL factory (like in the 1990's), but he clearly wants his players to make it to the next level.
In case you aren't familiar with this, the NFL has its scouting combine in Indianapolis each year. All the teams are there with scouts and coaches and most of the top players show up to run through drills, take strength tests, IQ tests, etc…
But a few years ago, OSU started having a private combine for its players at Ohio Stadium a few weeks after the national combine was held (other top colleges also do this). It allows the players to showcase their skills in an environment they are comfortable in and has surely helped the draft status of several players over the years.
Tressel even lets juniors-to-be workout at OSU's combine. Last year, Carter ran a 4.2 for the scouts.
THE CURSE OF MALLORY?
Random thought of the month: Will the Indiana football program ever get over the firing of Bill Mallory? No.
I know it's been 10 years, but I still can't figure out why a team like the Hoosiers would fire a great coach like Mallory. Did they forget they were Indiana for a second?
In an offense like Ohio State's, the play-action fake is paramount to success. How many times do we see the Buckeyes use play action in obvious passing situations? A lot. Even in third-and-long, they are known to use it at times.
Therefore, the quarterback needs to be skilled at play action.
This was an area that Krenzel never improved in. Hopefully Justin Zwick (and/or Troy Smith) have been watching film of Boomer Esiason and Peyton Manning. Everyone should think the running back has the ball. If the TV cameraman isn't confused, it's not a good play-action fake.
BIANCARDI REELING 'EM IN
Wright State head coach Paul Biancardi, the former OSU assistant, is quickly proving his worth as a top recruiter. Wright State, which hasn't landed a good class since 1989, has a top 40 class coming in next year (including a couple of Columbus products).
Biancardi is also showing his skills as a bench coach, leading the Raiders to a 7-2 record in the Horizon League (10-9 overall), good for second place. They were just 10-18 last year.
Who knows how big of a loss Biancardi was to OSU's program, but he is definitely missed.
How about that Mike Redd? The fourth-year guard is averaging a robust 22.1 points per game – tops on the Milwaukee Bucks – and will be heading to his first All-Star game in February.
Redd scored 40 points in a pair of games this month.
From all accounts, it is looking good for OSU in terms of landing RB Ray Williams. The 2003 Ohio Mr. Football might not qualify academically, but apparently intends to go the prep-school route and will likely join the Buckeyes in 2005.
Williams rushed for 2,707 yards and scored 38 touchdowns as a senior at Cleveland Benedictine.
MAYBE IT WASN'T THE O-LINE'S FAULT
In retrospect, it looks like OSU's offensive line was not the problem in 2003. All five of the starters – Olivea, Stepanovich, Clarke, Nick Mangold and Rob Sims – will likely have careers in the NFL.
If your entire starting line is NFL bound, the problem was likely elsewhere. Does the O-line deserve some blame for the offensive woes? Yes. I don't think anyone would argue that it played up to its potential last year. But it was the same line that was good enough to win a national title the previous year. The only difference was in the backfield.
22 TRUE FRESHMEN…
Have played for Tressel during his three years at OSU. Just wanted to dispel any rumors that he didn't play freshmen.
You never want a situation where you are playing 10-plus freshmen – that obviously means your team isn't very good – but about seven or eight per year is about right.
B.A. FOR BIG KAT?
One of the most misunderstood athletes in Buckeye history, Andy Katzenmoyer, has returned to OSU to get his degree in sociology.
Of course, the Big Kat was on the receiving end of many jokes while he was at OSU. You know, like he was the first D-I athlete to take a lot of electives during the season. Please. More was made of Katzenmoyer taking AIDS awareness and golf than was made of Reggie Germany's 0.0 GPA.
Anyway, Katzenmoyer was a first round draft pick by the New England Patriots in 1999, but played just three seasons and was forced into early retirement with a neck injury.
It's a great story that he returned to get his degree.
WILL HENSON MAKE IT?
It's a foregone conclusion that Drew Henson is going to be a great NFL quarterback, right? Wrong.
Henson might be good down the road, but in my opinion, he is going to struggle quite a bit if he does in fact give up baseball for football in 2004.
Why? Well, Henson was only a starter at Michigan for one year (2000). Heck, he was even injured for the first two games of the season, so he has almost one year as a starter under his belt.
Also, he hasn't played the sport in three years. One year as a starter, plus a three-year vacation, doesn't make for a good NFL quarterback.
Like I said, he could be a good one down the road. He obviously has the physical skills, but it will take him a long time to even be a starter in the NFL.
Henson was a sixth-round pick by the Houston Texans last year, but they will give up his rights if they cannot sign him (and probably trade him) before this year's draft. If Henson is still unsigned at that time, he will go back in the draft.
With the attendance at the Schottenstein Center reaching embarrassing levels for OSU basketball, a solution has been concocted: give out free tickets to students.
I know, it sounds crazy. How can a university with the enrollment of OSU give out free tickets? Simple. Because it's a much better idea than leaving most of the upper bowl empty.
Wisconsin came to town Wednesday with the No.13 team in the nation. They were greeted by a crowd of about 13,600. That would have been a standing-room sellout at St. John Arena, but it made the Schott look like a ghost town.
Many other colleges give out free tickets to students. I don't think Andy Geiger will ever go this route, but it should be considered. Students could pick up their free tickets the day of the game and would have to show a current OSU ID card. This would be on a first-come, first-serve basis. The students would still be paying for concessions, so the athletic department would make money off the idea. You know, more money than an empty seat is pulling in.
But more importantly, the Schott would provide a home-court advantage again.
What was that about Tressel not being a good out-of-state recruiter? He has locked in 11 OOS verbals so far and he's not done yet.
Also, he has proven to be a pretty good "closer." He's not going to tell some cocky 17-year-old prima donna what he wants to hear, but overall, Tressel is a very good recruiter. He's about to land his second top-5 class in the last three years.
E-mail Dave at: firstname.lastname@example.org