Babb Bits - 8/2

Charles Babb has been out traveling this summer, but now that August is here, he's ready for football to get started. Today, he checks in with some thoughts on Eddie George, the OSU basketball coaching search, and more.

Football Season

You can almost smell it in the air. Football season is just around the corner. Ohio State's first game will kickoff on September 4th against in-state foe Cincinnati. Though the months flew by, it is still great to know that the Buckeyes will be back in action in less than six weeks.

At this point, Buckeye fans should ready themselves for a roller coaster season. With youth at nearly every position on offense – the upcoming fall camp will play a critical role in their success (or lack thereof).

Right now, Ohio State is staring down a schedule that could leave them at 7-5 or 12-0. It will simply depend on how well the players execute the coaches' game plan.

Negative Press

Riddle me this: Why is it that an Ohio State gets a hangnail and it makes national news while elsewhere a player can bludgeon someone half to death, and it doesn't even merit a mention by the local press?

Maurice Clarett was the biggest story in college sports last season. To an extent that makes a certain amount of sense – at least until the stories of Auburn football and Baylor Basketball are examined. With the case of the Tiger football program, former head coach Terry Bowden admitted (on tape) that Auburn boosters were handing out bounties of $12,000 to $15,000 to recruits simply for signing with the school, and they were funneling the money through an assistant coach. Further, Bowden (who has since left coaching to take a media job) told the NCAA during this time that he was unaware of any NCAA violations. Talk about ugly for the sport – this makes the Boban Savovic story child's play by comparison. Or how about the Baylor basketball mess? Sure it made headlines, but in the end Clarett seemed the bigger story. How can that be when Patrick Dennehy was murdered and his body dumped in a gravel pit allegedly by his own teammate, Carlton Dotson? Meanwhile, Dennehy's coach is caught on tape telling the players to say Dennehy was into drugs, and this is how he was killed? How is it that rampant marijuana use on the team, faked drug tests, payments to players, and illegal recruiting is reported less than Maurice Clarett who was accused of taking some gifts and being allowed to retake a test?

Please understand, I am not saying the Clarett or Savovic stories were/are not newsworthy. I am not saying that arrests of Buckeye players should not be considered fair game.

My question is simply – how is it that Texas A&M can have 10 players arrested in nine months and Ohio State is the program with a problem?

What? Are you kidding me? If Ohio State had 10 players arrested across an eight-month stretch, the Buckeyes would be hailed as the bad boy program of the new millennium.

Geiger and the Basketball Search

Though admittedly I was out of town for the bulk of the process, I find it interesting the comments made by both the fans and the media (especially the national media) during the process.

Just like the search for Jim Tressel, national pundits and a few of the louder ‘Chicken Little, the sky is falling' fans said Geiger had blown it. They said he had scared away all the top candidates and would be forced to hire some second tier coach. They said that if he had been smart he would have hired Bobby Knight or immediately pursued Crean for the open position.

Now that all the smoke has cleared, it appears that some would have been better served to hold their tongue (or keyboard) as the case may be. Not only did Ohio State land Thad Matta, considered one of the hot young coaching names nationally, but they preserved their highly thought of recruiting class. Then, Matta went out and lured Dan Peters, associate head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats.

So, lets take a quick review here:

- Geiger hired a top-notch young coach.

- Geiger hired a coach with Ohio ties (as many wished).

- That coach, Thad Matta, came from the in-state competition, Xavier, and he gutted the program by taking several assistants with him.

- Thad Matta further wounded another in-state rival, Cincinnati in filling out his staff.

Tell me again how Andy Geiger ‘blew the search process.' Matta may or may not lead Buckeyes to the kind of success that the history of the program merits, but he was a solid hire and a coach many Universities would love to employ. Methinks it is high time national writers and Buckeye fans stop underestimating Mr. Geiger.

Eddie Bashing

Question – why is taking potshots at Eddie George's accomplishments in vogue of late?

Here is a guy who has not only never caused a lick of trouble for his franchise but has been a solid team leader that the Titans rode to multiple AFC title games and nearly a Super Bowl victory.

Writers have hammered George over his average of 3.7 yards per carry, but don't give me the argument unless you are fully prepared to rewrite the record books in professional sports.

For starters, there is the all time hits mark in Major League Baseball. Pete Rose was not nearly so great as pundits have portrayed him. In fact, had Ty Cobb been able to come to the plate the same number of times as Rose, he would have finished his career not with 4,189 hits but rather a staggering 5,149. Do the math. Pete Rose is not even in the top 100 players all time in batting average. That means all things being equal – had all of these players been given the same number of at bats – Rose would have finished out of the top 100 in hits. His claim to fame is really the result of the overwhelming number of at bats he was able to rack up.

Why does no one question his abilities as they have Eddie George? Why not label Pete Rose just a slightly above average baseball player?

What about Hank Aaron? Applying the same principles – there is no way was he the greatest home run hitter of all time. Aaron would barely finish in the top 15. Babe Ruth would have 1,051 homers. McGwire, Killebrew, Schmidt, Bonds, Mantle, Sosa, Foxx, Ted Williams, Kiner, Piazza, Rodriguez, and M. Ramirez would all easily finish above Aaron. Four others (Gehrig, McCovey, Stargell, and Ken Griffey, Jr.) would have right at 750 homers give or take a few dozen or so. This does not even take into account the greats in the Negro Leagues such as Josh Gibson.

So, I guess it is ok for a person who does not have a career batting average among the top 100 in baseball and a man who is probably not even one of the top 15 home run hitters of all time to be called the ‘best' at those two items – but Eddie George is supposed to get grief for his career average and downgraded as a result?

Give me a break.

If this is the way football pundits would have it, then they should start in their own back yard. Jim Brown retired at age 30. Unlike Michael Jordan, he didn't bother coming back to play again. Yet Brown's records stood for decades – a sign of his incredible greatness.

Why not start arranging the rushing records according to yards per carry if this is the only statistic that really matters?

It should come as no shocker that the top three rushers of all time – Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders are also the top three of all time in the number of rushing attempts. In fact, Smith's paltry 4.22 yards per carry would rank him well out of the top 25 all time. Payton's 4.36 YPC would leave him a solid back but not among the elite, and he would find himself bringing up a second tier pack behind players such as Mercury Morris (5.1), Marion Motley (5.0), Gale Sayers (5.0), Greg Pruitt (4.7), Joe Perry (4.8), Stump Mitchell (4.7), Freeman McNeil (4.5), Paul Lowe (4.9), Napolean Kaufman (4.9), Marv Hubbard (4.8), Priest Holmes (4.7), Terrell Davis (4.6), James Brooks (4.7), Billy Sims (4.5), Robert Smith (4.8), and Ladainian Tomlinson (4.5)…* Sanders would still fare well, but even he would clearly be below Brown – whose average of 5.22 yards per carry is still the benchmark for running backs.

So, the bottom line here is that either we rewrite the record books and call players like Emmitt Smith, Hank Aaron, Walter Payton, and Pete Rose only ‘above average,' or the sporting world should recognize that Eddie George is a solid and sometimes borderline spectacular back. He is durable, reliable, and he can get you short yardage when you need it. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, and his runs punish a defense, wearing them down for late game heroics on the part of his teammates.

Has George lost a step? Probably. However, part of the lack of production can be directly correlated to his lack of a blocking back in front of him. Eddie never was - even in college - a back that performed incredibly well with nobody in front to help him get past the LOS. Without a blocking back George will get you 3 yards, but he can turn 3 yards into 5-15 frequently with a mean fullback to lead him into the hole.

Look for Eddie George to prove more than one critic wrong this season and next in Dallas.

*Yards per carry statistics were taken from: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/rbindex.htm


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