We opened this five-part series with a look at the offensive backs and receivers. We continue today with the tight ends and linebackers.
Coming up, we will get inside the huddle on the defensive line and at linebacker.
Then, we will examine the secondary and specialists.
Finally, we will tie all of this data together.
Here is a position-by-position look at OSU's scholarship status and prospects at the tight end and offensive line positions with returning players listed by seniority. Walk-ons listed if on latest published roster (i.e. if you don't see a particular walk-on, he is not on the most recent roster update).
(All class designations are 2004 eligibility; starters marked with an asterisk.)
* Analysis: Ben Hartsock's departure leaves this job open and it looks like Hamby, who played extensively last year, and Irizarry, who used a year of eligibility but only played in seven games, will battle for it.
Hamby (6-5, 240) has worked hard to improve his blocking. He was fifth on the team in receptions with 18 for 190 yards and three touchdowns last year. With OSU using two-tight end sets almost 60 percent of the time, he was on the field alongside Hartsock quite a bit.
Irizarry came in with a big reputation as a prep All-American. He got some chances to play early in the year before an assault allegation led to a suspension that cost him the last five games. But he has been reinstated and should be full-go for the spring. He could be a dynamic pass catching TE in the Kellen Winslow Jr. mold. If he settles down into a regular role, he could be dynamite.
White (6-3, 238) showed a lot in preseason camp, but did not get much playing time. He is still just a sophomore and OSU could do a lot worse than to play him some in 2004.
Consistency and injuries have kept Caldwell (6-5, 265) from making his mark. Maybe they will use him as a designated blocking tight end once in a while this year. It looks like Redgie Arden is back on defense after practicing there before the Fiesta Bowl.
The new guys, Hoobler (6-3, 225) and Nicol (6-5, 245), bring tremendous promise. Hoobler could also play at linebacker if they determine they need help there. Nicol was considered one of the nation's top tight ends out of Beaver, Pa.
* Still Looking?: OSU could take a tight end with the 2005 class, but like fullback, it is not a major priority because the 3-4 main ones on the team will still be here (most likely) in the fall of 2005. Possibilities include Cleveland St. Ignatius' Jim Ramella (6-3, 220) and Kentucky's James McKinney (6-4, 255), although he has a soft verbal to Michigan.
* In The Fold (11): LS Kyle Andrews (Sr.), OG Mike Kne (Sr.), C Nick Mangold* (Jr.), OG Adam Olds (Jr.), LT Rob Sims* (Jr.), OG Andree Tyree (Jr.), OT R.J. Coleman (Soph.), OT Doug Datish (Soph.), OT T.J. Downing (Soph.), OT Tim Schafer (Soph.), OT Kirk Barton (R-Fr.).
* New This Spring (1): OT Steve Rehring.
* Verbal For 2005 (1): Alex Boone.
* Analysis: OSU loses three starters (guards Adrien Clarke and Alex Stepanovich and tackle Shane Olivea). The Buckeyes will build upon Mangold (6-4, 280) at center and Sims (6-4, 305) at left tackle. They each have extensive experience over the last two years and could be among the Big Ten's best over the next two years.
Kne (6-4, 300) is a former walk-on who seems penciled in at one of the vacant guard spots. He missed the last part of the season due to injury, but has also played extensively as a backup and in the Jumbo package over the last two seasons.
From there, line coach/coordinator Jim Bollman will use spring practice to evaluate the rest of this group. It is likely he will mix and match combinations and players will routinely shuffle between all of the positions so he can get a good look at everybody's strengths and weaknesses. The hope is by late April, they can settle on a five-man lineup and start building some cohesiveness they can take into the fall.
Olds (6-4, 290) may go slow this spring after undergoing hip surgery. He had just played his way into the rotation early last year when he was hurt.
The rest of the key candidates are all untested. They probably combined have played 50 minutes in their careers. Tyree (6-3, 300) has volleyed between the OL and even fullback. Datish (6-5, 290) could back up Mangold at center. Coleman (6-5, 265) is a converted tight end with promise at guard. Schafer (6-5, 250) is a converted defensive lineman. Downing (6-5, 300) may be a possibility at tackle, as would be Barton (6-6, 280), who bypassed many of these guys for "token recognition" in the two-deep before the decision was made to shut him down and redshirt him.
Maybe one of the incoming freshmen -- most notably Person (6-4, 300) or Mitchum (6-6, 275) -- will push for a two-deep spot this season. It helps Rehring, who may be somewhat of a project at 6-8, 315, to get in for an extra spring. Skinner (6-5, 280) is just an all around solid player as well.
The early line favorites to start in 2004 are: C Mangold, LG Kne, LT Sims, RG Olds (if healthy, maybe Coleman if he‘s not), RT Downing or Barton (too close to tell until the spring).
* Looking Hard: OSU only loses Kne after this coming season. But I think the Buckeyes still need to add three or four more offensive linemen because they will lose four of their current OL after 2005.
Obviously, they already have the talented Boone (6-8, 300), from Division I state runner-up Lakewood St. Edward, in the fold. He could be a national top-50 prospect in 2005. In Ohio, some other key names include Copley's A.J. Haas (6-6, 265), Warren Harding's Rocco Cirroni (6-7, 250) and Westerville South's Phillip Pollard (6-5, 260).