2004 Ohio State Buckeye Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> <A HREF=[PlayerNode:1192476]>Jim Tressel</A> (32-7, 167-64-2 overall) <br><br> <b>Last Season's Record:</b> 11-2 (6-2, T-2nd place in Big Ten) <br><br> <b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 2004 Fiesta Bowl (35-28 win over <A HREF=http://kansasstate.TheInsiders.com>Kansas State</A>) <br><br> <b>Key matchup(s):</b> Sept. 18, @N.C. State (ABC); Oct. 16, @<A HREF=http://iowa.TheInsiders.com>Iowa</A>; Nov. 20, <A HREF=http://michigan.TheInsiders.com>Michigan</A> (ABC).

Star Power: A.J. Hawk, LB, Jr., 6-1, 238; Santonio Holmes, FL, So., 5-11, 185; Simon Fraser, DE, Sr., 6-6, 280; Nick Mangold, C, Jr., 6-4, 290; Mike Nugent, K, Sr., 5-10, 180.

Notable Additions: Anthony Schlegel, Air Force Academy, MLB, 6-2, 245; John Kerr, Indiana, MLB, 6-1, 246; Ted Ginn Jr., Cleveland Glenville, WR-CB, 6-0, 170; Antonio Pittman, Akron Buchtel, TB, 5-11, 190; Marcus Freeman, Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne, LB, 6-2, 230.

Notable Subtractions: Will Smith, DE (graduation); Michael Jenkins, SE (graduation); Chris Gamble, FL-CB (early entry to NFL draft); Craig Krenzel, QB (graduation); Darrion Scott, DT (graduation); Tim Anderson, DT (graduation); Will Allen, S (graduation); B.J. Sander, P (graduation).

Notable Returnees: Rob Sims, OT; Ryan Hamby, TE; Lydell Ross, TB; Branden Joe, TE; Mike Kudla, DE; Bobby Carpenter, OLB; Dustin Fox, CB; Nate Salley, FS; Donte Whitner, SS.

09/18/04@North Carolina State
10/30/04Penn State
11/06/04@Michigan State
Offensive Overview: Ohio State won 11 games in spite of its offense last season. The Buckeyes lagged in the bottom of the national rankings in total offense and rushing offense. They welcome just five starters back, led by the explosive Santonio Holmes. Roy Hall leads the way to replace Michael Jenkins at split end. Lydell Ross is still looking for his first 1,000-yard season and would love to have it as a senior. If he falters, freshmen Antonio Pittman and Erik Haw should be there to pick up the pieces. The line is regrouping and could hold the key to this unit's success, particularly the right side where there will be new starters at guard (Mike Kne) and tackle (T.J. Downing or Tim Schafer). The big position battle will be at quarterback, where Justin Zwick and Troy Smith will battle to replace Craig Krenzel. Zwick may hold a slight edge, but Smith should not be counted out.

Defensive Overview: Ohio State won a national championship in 2002 and nearly advanced to the title game a year ago behind the play of the Big Ten's best defense. There are only four starters back on this side of the ball, but strong recruiting advances leave OSU in a great position to reload. Simon Fraser is the key name up front at end. Mike Kudla will try and replace Will Smith at the other end. The interior spots will be manned by Quinn Pitcock, Marcus Green and David Patterson. The back seven could be really special. A.J. Hawk returns after earning All-Big Ten honors last year. He'll be joined at OLB by Bobby Carpenter, who has bided his time the last two years. The inside spot could go to Air Force transfer Anthony Schlegel or Mike D'Andrea. The secondary will miss Chris Gamble. But E.J. Underwood is penciled in at his cornerback spot. Donte Whitner will likely replace All-American Will Allen at safety. Veterans Dustin Fox and Nate Salley also return on the final line of defense.

Special Teams Overview: The good news is that Mike Nugent could be in line to again be an All-American at kicker, as he was during the national championship season. The bad news is OSU will be searching for a reliable punter to replace Ray Guy Award winner B.J. Sander. Josh Huston may be the number one option. The return games have also been lackluster. But with Holmes, Ashton Youboty, Bam Childress and Ted Ginn Jr. due to handle returns, this may end up being a plus.

The Buckeyes could again contend for the national title, but... they may actually have to be content to bide their time until 2005, when -- with 17 starters due back -- they could be favorites to win it all. The biggest question mark is at quarterback, where sophomores Zwick and Smith have to step up. This year, OSU needs its many youthful front-line players to play beyond their years if they expect to contend in the Big Ten or on the national level. Jim Tressel has won five national titles in 18 years as a head coach, so you can never count his team out. If the Buckeyes win it all with such a young team this year, though, Tressel will have earned his money.

TheInsiders.com 2004 College Football Preview
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