Vision is a key to winning football. We have lamented the lack of vision of our running backs at times this season. We have talked about the vision that quarterbacks have in surveying the field. But we seldom address the vision of coaches, and how that must transcend simply looking at the field.
Which - in hindsight - brings us back to quarterbacks. And to the long-range vision of the coaches. Back in January 2002, Tressel took a chance on a spectacular athlete from Glenville (no, not that one - or that one either…). It was, of course, Troy Smith. Smith wasn't qualified academically and had only played one full year at quarterback. But he was a great kid and had unique tools. We interviewed Troy on the Bucknuts Radio Hour in late January 2002 (a week before Commitment Day) and he still didn't have the OSU offer - but that's where he wanted to go.
He got in. He served his time. He took the role on the scout teams of the opponents' running quarterbacks. He apprenticed under Craig Krenzel. He shared snaps with friendly rival Justin Zwick. Not many knowledgeable (?) pundits predicted that he would crack the starting lineup, what with the "Tressel-type" quarterback (a line of succession that seemed to be Krenzel-McMullen-Zwick-Boeckman-Bauserman-Schoenhoft - see a trend there, anywhere?).
Troy got frustrated and said some things out of that frustration that didn't help his standing. Yet, all through this personal maelstrom, Tressel insisted that you needed two quarterbacks to have a winning football team. And the old saw held that any second-string QB was just one play away from getting in. And that's what happened. Troy got in when Justin got hurt. He played an attractive variety of scrambling sandlot ball that the team needed as it melded, came together and found an identity. He stumbled a bit against Purdue but then put together a legendary game when it counted against Michigan.
One play away. The vision of the coaches had paid off. Instead of fans ruminating about Troy transferring positions or even schools, all of a sudden the speculation became "Will Justin Zwick transfer out". Just five games after he was hurt.
Then under the dictum of "Man plans and God laughs", Troy is out and Justin is back in under a national spotlight in the bowl game. It happens. Was Troy ready when he got his chance? It certainly appears that way now. Was Krenzel ready when he was suddenly thrust into his spotlight? Pretty much. Will Justin be ready for Act II? We gotta hope so.
And we have to have some faith here. And a little vision that sees past one Texas bowl game…
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Youth is wasted on the young…A few months back, I collated some of the odd things that recruits have said this year during the sausage-making process we come to know as "Recruiting". After some serious saber rattling from a band of opinionated Bucknutters ("Hey - you cost us some big time recruits, man"), I'm certainly not prone to repeat those malapropisms and gaffes again. But…
I remember back to years past, when we were all a lot more innocent (2003 and 2002, f'rinstance) and each year, we came up with the Ripley's Believe It or Nuts recruiting character of the year. In 2002, the honors went to Devin Aromashodu. He committed to three different schools (NC State, Auburn and Florida) before going public with his "final commitment" (Florida) the night before Signing Day. The next day, he signed with Auburn. A little suggestible, perhaps? A people pleaser - of course. It is one of the inherent traits of a young man without a lot of guidance or a real plan.
Last year's Ripley winner ran away with the award, which we almost renamed in his honor. It was Travis Tolbert from New York State, who had terrific stats and actually attended a Nike Camp. Teams from all over the East and Midwest were in on him. Until his high school coach let us in on a little secret: Travis had made up the whole story; wasn't even a starter all year on a mediocre high school team. Pete Carroll put the jet away and went after someone else. Travis ended up in a military school, which certainly should have helped his adjustment to reality.
This year's top candidate for chutzpah-in-action involves a recruit that the Buckeyes are "still in on" (get those computers warmed up, boys…). Yes, it is James McKinney, a big-timer from Kentucky who seemed to end the process early by committing to Michigan. Well, sorta. He then kinda de-committed and said he wanted to look around but he probably would go to Michigan. On his official visit to Columbus, he told the other recruits he was just taking the free trips and had no interest really in Ohio State (hmmm, I could go to Columbus in November or how about that Florida or that California action?). Then he rhapsodized about home state Kentucky and trundled off to Louisville two weekends ago. James caused such a scene there ("bad mouthing the coaches and program") that they sent him home a day early! Could be a first. Was he chastened? No, he fumed afterwards that "Louisville and Michigan had been tied for first place", but no longer. I wonder which of those schools school felt worse about it…
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And then there are the Wilsons…Every year, I call families of recruits and - often - their answers as to where "Joe" or "Sam" are located that night tell you as much as you need to know about the kid. I remember one recruit (who later went to Michigan) whose mother said she hadn't seen him in a few days but gave me the girlfriend's cell phone number…
And then there are the Wilsons. Lawrence Wilson is a highly recruited defensive end/tight end from Akron. He whittled his list down to OSU, Notre Dame, Michigan and Pitt before deciding - some weeks ago - to commit to Notre Dame. When Notre Dame canned Ty Willingham, that offended the Wilson family and he de-committed. Lawrence is now deciding - really - between Michigan and Ohio State, with a chance still for the Tarnished Golden Domers. So we called up Lawrence to hear what he was thinking.
That got me to Mrs. Wilson. Who told me that Lawrence was still expected to do his chores before he could call me back. Who told me that she had three (emphasis hers) superstar sons, only one of whom was athletically gifted. After thirty minutes of polite conversation, she then arranged to have our radio interview done out of the coach's office - on a speaker phone with her listening - to make sure the wrong things weren't said. The coach was Dru Joyce, the basketball coach of former ASVSM star Lebron James. Luckily, I have had Coach Joyce on the "JJ and Jerry High School Sports Show", so he vouched for my high ethical standards (with a wince). We had a great time with Lawrence, despite the sound quality of the open phone, and I really feel that he is a Buckeye "lean". But what I know for sure is: this is the kind of kid, and kind of family, you want as part of your program…
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Recruiting, from the odds-and-ends zone…Each week, until Commitment Day in February, I am looking at different positions in a more magnified way. We have worked our way through the so-called "skill positions" on offense. So now it's time to turn to the trenches, to the…
Offensive Linemen: In the past four years at Ohio State, the line always seemed to be the Achilles Heel of the team. Yet, seven of those hogs went on to the NFL. And, we gelled like crazy in the Michigan game and practically pushed the Wolverine D-line out to Lane Avenue. Such are the mysteries and chemistry of putting together an offensive line. Add to that, the Ohio State depth situation on the O-line never seemed to recover from the disastrous recruiting year - of some six back - when we struck out on all three of Antonio Hall, Michael Munoz, and Andy Christopfel. There were years that we stretched to get to two-deep even with walk-ons!
That's all in the process of changing. The depth chart should be full, to three-deep status with scholarship players next Fall. Coming back for at least one more campaign? There are the presumed starters of Nick Mangold (SR), Rob Simms (SR), Doug Datish (JR), Kirk Barton (SO), Tim Schafer (JR) and TJ Downing (JR). Pick five. Backing them up will be Steve Rehring (SO), Ben Person (R-FR), Kyle Mitchum (R-FR), and Jon Skinner (R-FR). The coaches are particularly excited about the R-FR's. You also have to account for Andre Tyree (SR) and RJ Coleman (JR), who could play either the two-deep OL or TE.
How do we get to 15 (three-deep) status, you ask? We need three more. And those big bodies are being provided by three of the best (in one class) linemen in many years at Ohio State: Alex Boone, Kevin Bemoll, and Jim Cordle. Both Boone and Bemoll are Top 100 players in the country.
So who else do we take? No one. We're full up. That's why we demurred on Florida's Ronnie Wilson. Yes, the staff would have made room for another Top 100 kid like Dan Doering (no dice), but otherwise, we have our "spacing" and we are booking forward to another banner year in Ohio next year.
In Ohio next year? The big names that stand out are Justin Boren (Dad played at Michigan) from Pickerington, Princeton's Aaron Brown, Springfield South's Lee Tilley and Canton GlenOak's Ryan Palmer. But there's more -and it's a good cautionary tale to see what (and who) develops.
How I see the recruiting: We are done this year. We will want three more next. If you can't get excited about a possible line with Person, Mitchum, Skinner, Cordle, Boone and Bemoll, you just don't like watching Big Ten football. And if we continue to add two Top 100 guys every year, this will be a fun line to watch for many years to come! And it will be a lot easier to recruit tailbacks, too…
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Go War Eagles…Or, "Why Auburn's Got to Win". Hey - we have the BCS on the ropes. The Associated Press is ready to litigate to keep the BC Messers from using their poll. Said it cheapens their product. (And don't we know it…). As #21 Pitt takes the field against Utah in one of the top four BCS games, the BCS has already cheapened their product. So why does Auburn need to prevail? Because we will then have two undefeated major teams and arguments into the night that it's once again a split national championship. That should drive those tired old petty bureaucrats in the right direction.
And for at least one more year, Ohio State will remain still the last undisputed national champion in college football!
For all other fanciful ideas and partial facts, be sure to contact Mr. Bucknuts in his lair at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com