So here's the Bucket's Bowl Edition…
After back-to-back Fiesta Bowls, this year is, well…different. I think the Fiesta Bowl will see a difference, too, with Pitt playing Utah (not exactly like the 2002 game, eh?). Five weeks ago, Walt Harris was getting the bum's rush out of Pittsburgh. Now, he's the league's coach of the year and playing in a BCS game while a really good team (Cal, or even Louisville) fumes over the stupidity of the system. Does Pitt travel well? They don't even travel across town to see their team at home! And on the other side of the Fiesta field, you have the Urban Legend, playing out his time and dreaming about Florida. What a game…
And then there is OSU versus OSU. I like this match-up a lot better than playing a gimmick team like Texas Tech. Okie State comes right at you and tries to out-physical you. If they succeed, then – by gum – they deserve to win. And I would be terribly disappointed in our boys. We are the physical conference. We don't back down…A nice sidelight is that OK State can't throw the ball (111th out of 117 teams in the nation). Give Jim Tressel a month to prepare for a one-dimensional team and I like our chances. Oh, yeah, one more thing: the Cowboys sometimes forget to play defense. Texas scored 49 on them – in the second half! And Oklahoma put up 38.
Unless something comes terribly loose, we are building momentum and Tressel's staff has shown they know how to get ready for a bowl game. I say – let's use this outing as a springboard for our national championship run in 2005!
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Leadership and the captains of that ship…One of the "issues" on this year's team that created some "sub-optimization" of the team performance was the issue of leadership. Our four captains each had their own issues: Fox was hurt for a good part of the season, Ross struggled on and off the field, Nugent was a special teams player and Fraser was a quiet leader when we needed a butt-kicker. So…if next year is going to be closer-to-optimal, who are the optimal choices for cappy next season? On offense, you have to like Nick Mangold and Rob Sims, four-year starters and – hopefully - the leaders of a solid line. Maybe Santonio Holmes' name should be thrown in (his final season) and probably Ryan Hamby. On defense? Any or all of the linebackers! Hawk for sure and it would be special for Schlegel to be named after being a captain at Air Force. Carpenter is a vocal and physical guy, as well. Finally, Salley could be there at the end…
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Recruiting from the odds and end zone…The saga continues. Last week, we took an up close and personal look at the tailbacks and fullbacks. This week, we will go into more depth on quarterbacks and tight ends.
Quarterbacks: Not much to talk about here, as all the facts are both obvious and transparent. The Zwick/Smith derby from last year will be the Smith/Zwick derby next year, and the following. Todd Boeckman debuts in a back-up role next season so we can tell just how hard we need to be looking for yet another successor. Finally, Rob Schoenhoft comes to town this summer, wrapped in a red shirt and we will gauge the possibilities there.
Since there is so little to speculate about, let's start some idle speculation of our own…1) There is ABSOLUTELY NO CONFIRMATION that Mark Sanchez is back in play, but Coach Tressel's guys were out there and I know Mark's teammates (Ryan Williams and Kevin Bemoll) would love to see him accompany them to Columbus. Plus, Sanchez is behind high school phenom John David Booty, who was considered the top schoolboy in the nation two years back and even left high school a year early to prove it. 2) There is ABSOLUTELY NO TRUTH to the rumor that Greg Paulus wants to visit here. Greg is one of the top three point guards in the nation as well as one of the top five quarterbacks. He committed to Duke to focus solely on basketball but he is said to be a big Thad Matta fan and maybe, just maybe…3) We have NEVER EVER HEARD that Joe Bauserman is re-considering his career choices and dumping that boring baseball stuff for Ohio State football, but down the road, you just never know…
Next year in Ohio? We have been waiting on two seemingly special talents. The first is Mike Hartline from Canton GlenOak (and brother of current recruit, Brian Hartline). The second is Miles Schlichter, cousin of that ex-OSU Schlichter. From what I have observed, Hartline is the bigger better prospect of the two and more fits the "classic" Tressel look. Rudy Kirbus, the latest in a long line of great QB's from St. Iggy could figure into the picture, as well…
My call? We take Hartline next year and the pipeline remains full while we look around for the kind of guy that inspires more rumors.
Tight Ends: For a school that goes to jumbo blocking and two tight end sets, you'd think we would be in full panic mode losing our most talented TE (Irizarry) and our best up-and-comer (Frost) for the year. Yet, there is very little noise at the tight end position on the recruiting horizon. Ryan Hamby will be a senior next year and Rory Nicol will be a sophomore. There is the aforementioned Frost and the possibility that converted-from-TE-converted-to-OL-converted-back-to-TE RJ Coleman can still be a back-up. There is always talk that 1) Stan White will play TE but he's not the classic size or disposition and 2) that the Bucks will convert large WR Roy Hall to the position.
All that palaver notwithstanding, there are only a few tight end prospects that have moved the needle this year. Richard Gordon is the big name and Tressel's guys were recently down in Florida visiting and showing much love. Richard, however, has shown a distinct preference for all the Florida schools (including South Florida) and a bunch of other warm weather places. New on the scene after the Notre Dame implosion two weeks ago is our old friend Lawrence Wilson. Lawrence is either a great DE or a great TE and said OSU finished second in the derby for his services. This is a good one and a good opportunity… The other TE name being bandied about (and offered) is the mysterious Stephen Gowland from Georgia. The mystery is that the only other two offers Stephen has came from perennial powerhouses Wake Forest and Troy State. He expresses repeatedly the fact that he wants to play in the SEC. Finally, every so often, someone mentions Kazeem Alli from Missouri, but you can't convince me…
Next year in Ohio? There's Brett Huffman from Massillon and Deward Nicholson from Gahanna that come to the top. Neither carries the excitement that Louis from Youngstown did, however. Two other names that could get exciting are basketball players Jeff Cumberland from Brookhaven and Jacob Ballard from Springboro (big kid).
My call? We go with our current "pair and a spare" and wait until next year to see what develops.
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The Glenville pipeline…Much has been written – and much has been appreciated – about Glenville's young phenom at Ohio State, Teddy Ginn. We also provide a home for Donte Whitner, Curtis Terry and Troy Smith – all from Glenville. In addition, Coach Ted posited to me that Pierre Woods (currently toiling for the Wolverines) would have been a Buckeye had Tressel gotten there a year sooner; and we know that Dareus (Superman) Hiley was a Buckeye until his grades slipped. That's six Tarblooders. And Jamario O'Neal is coming next year. And there's a good chance that super-fast LB, Freddie Lenix could be here as well.
All that is a good story unto itself. To me, the kicker on the story, is this: For the past three years – at some point during their senior season – Glenville High School has had the No. 1 defensive back in the nation! That's right, two years ago, Donte Whitner held that distinction (although Coach insisted that Hiley would make a better corner). Last year, Ted Jr. was the Defensive Player of the Year nationally (and we haven't even seen him yet at corner!), and this year, Jamario O'Neal is currently the No. 1 corner in the Scout database (going back and forth with Justin King). That is truly remarkable and a feat not likely to be repeated. That string will most likely end in 2005, so we will have to harvest elsewhere for a year or two…
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Maybe the greatest team of all time…You can make your arguments, but I contend that no team from more than ten years ago could beat the good teams from this current era, in any of the levels. And I am about to contend that this year's Colerain high school football team might be the best high school football team ever in Ohio. Playing in a tough league, during the regular season, the Cardinals outscored their opposition 504 to 76. And that is misleading only because they blew out teams and had second and third-teamers in at the end of games (like against Lakota West where they "gave up" 20, winning 69-20). Ranked in the Top Five in the nation, the Colerain Cardinals were just starting to terrorize teams when the playoffs began.
They beat defending state champ Elder in the first playoff game, 38-3. They beat #3 - in the state - Centerville 35-0. Then it was on to Moeller and a 34-6 thrashing. A tough Columbus team? Worthington Kilbourne fell next, 34-3. And, finally, in the state championship game before a largely opposition crowd, Colerain claimed infinite bragging rites by beating Canton McKinley 50-10. And McKinley was only "in the game" due to three early Colerain fumbles.
That makes the total season stats of 695-98 or an average (over 15 games) of winning margin 46-6. How good was the defense? Against Centerville, which was averaging over 37 points per game, the Elks got shut out and rolled up about 100 yards of total offense.
After watching them dismantle his then-undefeated Centerville squad, Coach Ron Ullery remarked that after coaching 28 years, Colerain is " Without a doubt, the absolute best high school football team I have ever seen".
In the championship game, Colerain allowed 127 total yards, nearly half of which came on one play. Coach Kerry Coombs will be sending between 8 and 10 of this year's squad on to Division I scholarships next year. He – and the whole Colerain machine – are to be congratulated for one of the greatest seasons in history and what many believe to be the finest Ohio high school football team of all time.
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A gift to buy yourself this year…Our #1 item, of course, is a year's membership to the Bucknuts (premium) Fan Club. How can you get so much for so little anywhere else? The #2 gift suggestion of the year is Eric Kaelin's outstanding "Buckeye Glory Days", a book that has been compiled as much as it has been authored. Eric went through the archives and collected rare tape of the actual "calls" of famous Ohio State games. You get comments from Woody; you get Marv Homan at the 1950 Snow Bowl. You get a CD that comes with the book so that you can hear all of the great calls whenever you care to. It's different. It's for the hard-core Buckeye football fan. That's right – it's for you!
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The count is on…We are over the "sixty mark" in getting people to cancel their ESPN the Mag subscriptions. But it only counts if you explain why you are canceling (loudly and with a smattering of profanity) and you e-mail me to make it official…And, on another issue, let's keep count in the next two weeks of how many pundits predict that "OSU will win the Alamo Bowl". Starting here, that's one…
If you have a prediction, or a question, or just a rant, feel free to direct them to Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com