Bucknotes - 3/1

How would Dick Tressel do as Ohio State's running backs coach? Dave Biddle gives some thoughts on that today as well as Alex Stepanovich having a run-in with Kellen Winslow, some basketball items, and more.

When I first heard that Dick Tressel might be the new running backs coach at Ohio State, I must admit I was a little surprised.

Like many, I was thinking the Buckeyes would go after a young, up-and-coming recruiter, much like new receivers coach Darrell Hazell.

However, if Doc Tressel does in fact get the job, I have absolutely no problem with it.

The man is a class act and he knows football. Knows it well. He spent 23 years as the head coach at Division III Hamline University (Minn.) and complied an overall record of 124-102-2.

He spent the last three years as OSU's associate director of football operations and hinted at times that he missed coaching.

From scanning the message boards, most of the reaction is negative on this one. A lot of fans wanted someone who could easily relate to today's young athletes.

No, Doc Tressel is not going to sit down on many recruiting visits and play PS2 with young prospects, but he's a sharp guy with a good personality and I think he will be a solid addition to the staff if this is the direction Jim Tressel wants to go. We should know for sure fairly soon.

Also on the coaching front, I find it interesting that the Buckeyes are not going to have a special teams coach this year. Jim Tressel is the de-facto special teams coach (Luke Fickell was special teams coach in title last year) but after the way the Bucks struggled in the return games last year, it might have been a good idea to go outside for some help. But maybe one of the openings on the graduate coaching staff will be filled by a young special teams coach.

PRIVATE STEPANOVICH?

Former OSU offensive lineman Alex Stepanovich had a little run-in with former Miami tight end Kellen Winslow at the NFL combine in Indianapolis last week.

According to Stepanovich's account on WBNS radio, he was on his hotel's elevator with Iowa's Robert Gallery and a few other players when Winslow entered. Winslow was introducing himself to the group (Hi, Kellen Winslow, U of Miami), when he came up to Stepanovich.

"Alex Stepanovich, Ohio State," he said.

"Man, Ohio State ain't have nothing … who do you think you are," Winslow said.

"I'm just a soldier, dude," Step replied.

Apparently, there was an uncomfortable silence for a moment and Step thought something was about to go down. But, finally the door opened and Winslow couldn't get away fast enough as everyone in the elevator burst out laughing.

In case you don't remember, Winslow referred to himself as a "solider" after a postgame tirade last season. That's where he also unveiled the now infamous, "I don't give a hell, I only care about this U," when asked his feelings about a player he injured.

DONAHOE RIPS CLARETT

I found it interesting that Buffalo Bills general manager Tom Donahoe ripped Maurice Clarett for not running at the combine. It's such a common practice these days, it shouldn't surprise anyone in the league, especially a veteran like Donahoe.

"That's a farce," said Donahoe, upon learning of Clarett's decision not to run.

Then a reporter asked Donahoe to compare Clarett to Bills' running back Willis McGahee.

"Let's not put Clarett in the same category as McGahee," Donahoe said. "That's not fair to Willis."

Maybe Donahoe is still in denial that he made arguably the worst pick of the 2003 draft (or does that distinction go to Browns LB Chaun Thompson?), reaching for McGahee in the first round. Given the fact that McGahee was just four months removed from his knee injury against OSU in the Fiesta Bowl, most NFL teams wouldn't have given him consideration until the second round, at the earliest. However, Donahoe and the Bills bought into the con job of McGahee's agent Drew Rosenhaus, who claimed McGahee would be ready to play by training camp. Instead, he missed the entire season rehabbing like many expected.

Making this pick look even worse, the Bills already had a solid starting tailback in Travis Henry.

Of course, this is the same organization that gave up a first round pick for Drew Bledsoe three years ago. He was worth a third-rounder at most.

Anyway, I am getting off the point a bit, but Donahoe was the wrong person to rip on Clarett. He should probably worry about the Bills' wide variety of problems first.

Yes, Clarett probably should have worked out for the scouts in Indy. But he has decided to wait until as close to the draft as possible. He was even invited to OSU's pro day in March, but elected to have a private workout in Columbus the first part of April instead.

And by the way, I don't buy the stuff about Clarett being "overweight" at 237 pounds. He has added about seven pounds the last 15 months? Big deal. He will put on a decent show for the scouts in April and will be no worse than a second round pick.

Maybe if he was coming off reconstructive knee surgery the Bills would take him in round one though.

THE SMALL DANCE

After a two-game road winning streak flickered some hope, the OSU men's basketball team fell to 13-14 with Sunday's 75-64 loss at Michigan. The Bucks need to close out the regular season with home wins over Penn State and Illinois in order to assure themselves of an NIT bid (you know things are really bad when you're hoping for an NIT bid). If that happens, even if they lose in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, they would still have a 15-15 mark, good enough for the NIT.

But if they go 1-1 against PSU and Illinois, they would need at least two wins in the Big Ten tourney to qualify for the postseason.

On the bright side, I really like what I have seen out of Terence Dials and Tony Stockman of late. It gives some hope in regards to next year. Dials will continue to get stronger and has the chance to be among the top post players in the Big Ten. Thanks to the redshirt year he received last year due to his back injury, he still has two years to do some damage.

As for Stockman, he has somehow turned himself into a good defender. He still has mental breakdowns at times, but I've never seen a Buckeye guard get more steals and deflections than him. He has very quick hands.

Stockman will always be a scorer (shot selection still needs some work), but Jim O'Brien is slowly turning him into a basketball player.

IN-BOUNDS BUNNIES?

In past years, O'Brien has been the master of getting cheap points off in-bounds passes underneath the basket. However, this year, the Bucks have had very few easy layups off in-bounds plays. Maybe the league has finally woke up, or maybe this is one of the things the Bucks did not work on enough when OB was recovering from surgery in the preseason.

ST. JOHN REUNION?

On a recent telecast, Bill Hosket mentioned that Ohio State might play a game at St. John Arena next season.

This has been suggested before in this space, and with the Schottenstein Center only drawing around 13,600 for some games (the capacity of St. John), it seems to make perfect sense.

If it does happen, it will be nice to have a home-court advantage again. As it stands now, Ohio State plays half of its conference games on the road, and half on a neutral court.

You think Andy Geiger was watching Sunday's game at Michigan? Students belong on the floor.

Like Steve Helwagen pointed out last week, it can be done at OSU. Most of the donors would probably be willing to move if they knew it meant more W's for the Buckeyes. And we're not talking about moving them to the rafters. Just moving them up a few rows so the students can wreak some havoc, like most other arenas in the country.

If it doesn't happen, you will continue to see the deterioration of the basketball program. You need a home court advantage to win in this league. Just ask Michigan State, Wisconsin and all the other teams with new arenas that have figured out how to do it the right way.

FITZGERALD OR WILLIAMS?

Now that USC wide receiver Mike Williams has joined Clarett and Pittsburgh receiver Larry Fitzgerald as the first true sophomores to enter the NFL Draft, an obvious question has been raised: Who is better? Williams, or Fitzgerald?

For my money, I would take Fitzgerald. He had less of a supporting cast at Pitt and still put up better numbers than Williams.

But you couldn't really go wrong with either one of these guys.

Looking at quarterback position, and going a bit out on a limb, I would take Miami University's Ben Roethlisberger over Mississippi's Eli Manning.

DESTROYERS A HIT

The Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League are off to a 1-3 start following Sunday's 51-35 loss to Dallas. However, the team seems to have a bright future in the city.

The Destroyers sold out the first two games of the season (17,500-plus) and have already sold out their next two games as well. Last year, while playing in Buffalo, the Destroyers averaged about 7,000 fans per game.

I caught Sunday's game on TV and it's a fun sport to watch. And I must say it was nice to see Earle Bruce out there coaching football in Columbus again. He still has the fire.

Also of interest, the Destroyers assistant head coach/offensive coordinator is named Pete Costanza. And before you ask, no, there are no Seinfelds or Kramers on the staff.

E-mail Dave at: sports@madison-press.com


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