Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Jim Bollman is more than excited about the potential of the 2005 offensive line.
The hardnosed Bollman even cracked a smile or two when talking about the group. What exactly does he like?
The depth. The talent. The versatility. The experience.
Heading into the spring, the Buckeyes have 15 players they feel could get the job done up front. Ohio State's defensive line has used a rotation for the last few years. The offensive line could follow suit this year.
"I think we can," Bollman said of using a rotation. "And we did that a little bit last year. We will probably do it even more this year. We have a lot of guys that have proven they can play."
Senior Nick Mangold will definitely start at center. Beyond that, all jobs are up for grabs.
Senior Rob Sims is also a good bet to remain in the starting lineup. The question is where. Bollman says a move to guard to be on the horizon for Sims, but he won't know for sure until they strap it up for spring ball.
Who are the other favorites to start?
Junior T.J. Downing played well at the end of the 2004 season and is a good bet to start at guard.
Sophomore Kirk Barton cracked the starting lineup midseason and played well. He will probably man one of the tackle spots.
Sophomore Steve Rehring was the only offensive lineman not to be redshirted last year out of the four freshmen that OSU brought in. He is a mammoth player and more than held his own last year. If he doesn't start, he will see time off the bench.
And incoming freshman Alex Boone will definitely have a chance. He can match Rehring inch for inch, pound for pound. When was the last time OSU had a pair of 6-8, 320-pound linemen on its line together?
Another true freshman – Jim Cordle – will battle for the backup center job. He will enroll at OSU in the spring and will participate in spring practice.
Bollman says all 15 players are in the mix. Now that's the depth he's been looking for.
HAZELL SAYS THE SAME
Wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell is in the same boat as Bollman. He has an abundance of depth at his position – as much or more than any team in the Big Ten.
"We have seven or eight guys that we feel are going to help us," Hazell said.
Sophomore Anthony Gonzalez stepped up huge at the end of the 2004 season and he seems to have locked down the No. 3 WR spot.
Hazell says Hall is coming along well and he still has high expectations for him. Lyons saw spot duty as a freshman in 2004 and will likely play a bigger role this year. Jordan is coming off knee surgery that forced him to miss all of last season, but is expected to be healthy for the 2005 campaign.
Overall, there is plenty of depth and talent for Hazell to work with. And most of the group will be together for a while. "We're young across the board," Hazell said. "Santonio is really the only veteran we've got. Those other guys obviously have a ways to go. But those guys are very, very talented guys who will play a lot of football for us over the next couple of years. I'm excited about the group."
PARE AND A SPARE… AND THAT'S IT
Despite an apparent lack of depth, running backs coach Doc Tressel feels good about the RB situation.
His brother, head coach Jim Tressel, often quotes Woody Hayes: "You need a pair and a spare (at every position)."
Well, the Buckeyes have that at the tailback position.
But after that, the tank is empty.
"We're confident those guys are going to get the job done for us," Doc Tressel said.
Everyone's taken a pretty good look at Pittman. He reported early and took part in spring drills last year. Then he played as a true freshman and faired well in limited action.
But Haw is a different story. Not many people have had a chance to see him in action. He looked good in the fall jersey scrimmage and Doc Tressel said he stood out all throughout practice last year.
"He's a big kid; a fast kid," he said. "We think he's really going to be able to help us." Tressel is also pleased with his fullback unit of sophomore Dionte Johnson, junior Stan White and senior Brandon Schnittker.
SANTONIO STICKS AROUND
Holmes said all along he would come back for at least one more year, but with two kids back home in Florida, there was always some doubt in the minds of the fans.
It's now official, he will be back. It's a good trend we've seen at OSU since the Mike Doss decision of 2002, the first step in winning the national championship.
Holmes decision to stay shouldn't come as a surprise because this is a guy that likes college football. During bowl practice, he said he is determined to get back to the national championship game. He also mentioned he has set a goal of making first team All-Big Ten (he was a second team pick by the coaches in 2004 and just honorable mention by the writers).
NUGE 1st ROUND?
I will do my official draft predictions next month, but it is looking more and more like former OSU kicker Mike Nugent could sneak into the late first round of the NFL Draft.
I said in a previous column look for Nuge to be a second round pick, but after impressing everyone at the Senior Bowl, his stock has risen even higher, if that's possible.
Also, I've been hearing and reading everything from late second-sixth round on Dustin Fox. I think third round sounds about right for him. I do not think he falls into the second day. Too much speed, athletic ability, and versatility. He could play corner or safety at the next level. Everyone thinks it will be the latter, but Fox already fooled them once.
Simon Fraser? Hmmm. Maybe early fourth round? Late third? Above average size and athletic ability for a defensive end. That will look good to a lot of NFL teams. He wasn't extremely productive at OSU, but he was decent throughout his career and finished his senior season strong.
BIG TEN WELL REPRESENTED
While we're at it, it looks like four other Big Ten players are first round locks, or very close.
The fathers of T.J. Downing and Anthony Gonzalez each graduated from Michigan. In fact, Walter Downing was an All-American lineman at UM and went on to play professionally with the San Francisco 49ers.
Hey, as long as parents teach their kids not to repeat the same mistakes they made, it's all good.
MASON RAIDS COLUMBUS
Well, he couldn't land linebacker James "Animal Jr." Laurinaitis from his own backyard, but Minnesota coach Glen Mason did steal three of Ohio's top 50 players – all from Division II state champion Brookhaven. The Gophers signed linebacker Alex Daniels and defensive backs Dominic Jones and Keith Massey.
BASKETBALL BUCKS ROLL ON
It doesn't even feel like Michigan week, does it? But it is. The Ohio State men's basketball hosts Michigan this Saturday at the Schott and OSU has the chance to go over .500 in the Big Ten. That would be a nice step for this team, which has already exceeded some expectations with a 15-7 record.
First year coach Thad Matta recently shuffled his starting lineup for the first time and it has paid off. Seniors Tony Stockman and Brandon Fuss-Cheatham have underachieved at times, and they were replaced by junior Je'Kel Foster and freshman Jamar Butler.
It was a smooth transition because Foster and Butler had been playing together all season in Matta's substitution pattern. They would most often come off the bench at the same time.
By switching the lineup, Matta has set himself up nicely for next year. All five of the current starters will return. Plus, the Buckeyes will welcome in guards Ron Lewis (Bowling Green transfer sitting out this year) and Sylvester Mayes to replace Stockman and Fuss-Cheatham. Next year could definitely be a good one for the Buckeyes. This year, they will have to settle for being No. 65 (or is it 66?).
For Browns and Bengals fans that have dealt with owners like Art Modell and Mike Brown over the years, could you even imagine to have a guy like Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank?
If you don't know his story, he is the co-founder of The Home Depot and he bought the Falcons after Mike Vick's rookie season of 2001.
Vick didn't play much as a rookie and the Falcons continued to have among the lowest attendance figures in the NFL, despite playing in a somewhat big market and in a new stadium – the Georgia Dome.
So, what did Blank do when he bought the team? He asked the players what they wanted more than anything else. They told him they wanted to fill up the dome.
So, his first season as owner in 2002, Blank offered season tickets in the upper deck for $100. That's $10 per game including the preseason.
It was unheard of. It worked.
The Falcons sold out every game that season, and every game since.
Does Vick have something to do with it? Yep. But the owner gets some credit for helping turn one of the historically worst franchises around. Hundred-dollar season tickets? The Arena League's Columbus Destroyers also offer those, but you won't find any other NFL teams that would.
The Anaheim Angels are trying to change their name to the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim."
If that's not the dumbest thing you've ever heard, I don't know what is.
The funny thing is that no one in Anaheim or Los Angeles wants the change to be made, except for the ownership group of the Angels.
The City of Anaheim went as far as to file a lawsuit saying that the name change violates the stadium lease.
The City of Los Angeles then filed a brief supporting that lawsuit. It said the proposed name change was "misleading and confusing."
The Angels stumble into a World Series title in 2002 and now they can't figure out what to call themselves?
Some background on this fine organization: They were called the Los Angeles Angles when they were founded and actually played in L.A. (1961-65). They then moved to nearby Anaheim and renamed themselves the California Angels (1966-96). They switched to Anaheim Angels in 1997.
So, what does that have to do with the Buckeyes? Nothing. But I'm never opposed to adding some national sports news to my columns. Especially when it's something as hilarious/sad as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.