Bucknotes 2/24

Should OSU fans be concerned about a vacancy on the football coaching staff? Is Donovan McNabb a better runner than Craig Krenzel? How is OSU's basketball team shaping up for next season? Dave Biddle examines these questions and more in this edition of Bucknotes.

One thing that Jim Tressel has proven in his four-plus years at Ohio State – in addition to winning – is that most of his assistant coaches will eventually receive promotions.

Only one time during Tressel's brief tenure has OSU retained its entire coaching staff. That was between the 2002 national championship season and the 2003 campaign. In all other years, the staff has been in flux.

Following the 2001 season, special teams coach Ken Conatser left OSU to become the offensive line coach at Kansas. (He didn't last a full season at KU and is now back at OSU assisting Bob Tucker in the football operations department.)

That opened a door for former Buckeye player Luke Fickell to join the staff. Fickell's background was the defensive line – he was a four-year starter at OSU at nose guard. But Tressel knew he had to have him on the staff and hired Fickell away from Akron as special teams coach.

That was the final coaching change until following the 2003 season, when several moves were made.

First up, defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio left to take the head coaching job at Cincinnati. The move took no one by surprise – Dantonio was a rising star in the profession after helping lead the Buckeyes to the 2002 national title and a top five finish in 2003. Both squads were led by stout defenses.

Then, running backs coach Tim Spencer moved on to the NFL, where new Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith hired him as running backs coach. Spencer was a former star tailback at OSU and is currently third all-time in career rushing yards with 3,553.

Finally, recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach Bill Conley decided to retire following 17 productive seasons at OSU. He was widely respected as one of the best recruiting coordinators in the country. (He later received a "promotion" and came to work for Bucknuts.)

Tressel had some tough decisions to make, but it seems like he pushed the right buttons.

He promoted linebackers coach Mark Snyder to defensive coordinator.

Defensive backs coach Mel Tucker – who was rumored to be up for various jobs in college and the NFL – was then promoted to co-defensive coordinator (although Snyder was told he would be calling the games).

To replace Spencer, Tressel hired his brother, Doc Tressel. It was a controversial move in the eyes of fans, many of which chose to ignore Doc Tressel's impressive track record as a head coach at Division III Hamline. (But could he recite rap lyrics with recruits? Could he hold his own at X-Box and PS2?)

To replace Conley, Tressel brought in former Buckeye offensive lineman John Peterson. He had recently been hired at Arizona as offensive line coach, but Tressel stole him away before he even coached a down for the Wildcats. Prior to accepting the job at Arizona, Peterson coached the offensive line for five seasons at Miami University, and was also the running game coordinator for three seasons.

Peterson was also hired to assist with the offensive line at OSU.

Tressel also decided to move around some current members of his staff following the 2003 season. Quarterbacks/wide receivers coach Joe Daniels was reassigned to just coach the quarterbacks. He was also named passing game coordinator.

This opened the way for the hiring of Darrell Hazell as wide receivers coach. He was brought in from Rutgers, where he coached the receivers and also served as assistant head coach. Hazell is originally from New Jersey, but he played college ball at Muskingum, so his return to Ohio was a natural one.

In addition to coaching the WRs at OSU, we were told that Hazell would also be assisting with the return games on special teams. Ohio State was among the worst teams in the country in kick and punt returns in 2003. It took Hazell less than a year to correct that problem (with a little help from guys like Teddy Ginn).

Also, following the 2003 season, veteran defensive line coach Jim Heacock was promoted to assistant head coach, and Fickell was moved to linebackers coach. With the departure of Conley, Heacock was the coach with the longest tenure at OSU (he will be entering his 10th season in 2005).

Finally, just one week ago, Tucker left OSU to become the defensive backs coach with the Cleveland Browns. It was a great move for him. He's originally from Cleveland and he will get to work with one of the brightest defensive minds in the NFL in new head coach Romeo Crennel. Don't be surprise to see Tucker as an NFL defensive coordinator in a few years. One thing we've learned about the defensive backs coaching position at OSU over the years is that it's a tremendous stepping stone.

So, Tressel again has a hole to fill in his staff and he says his phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from interested coaches.

He is sure to hire the best coach he can find, and one name that has been thrown out there is former OSU safety Tim Walton. He is currently the secondary coach at the University of Miami, and previously worked at LSU.

In addition to Tucker's departure, the Buckeyes received a couple scares when Snyder interviewed for the defensive coordinator job on Les Miles' staff at LSU, and when Hazell interviewed for the receivers job with the Green Bay Packers.

Snyder probably just interviewed to hear what Miles had to say. Leaving OSU would have made little sense considering he is an Ohio native and LSU would be a lateral move at best.

But Hazell had everyone on the edges of their seats. The Bucks could not afford to lose him, especially after losing Tucker. But he did not get the job and will be sticking around for one more season.

So, if some of you are concerned about staff openings at OSU, don't be. Tressel has proven he will find great coaches. The only problem is holding on to them.


This is my first column since the Super Bowl and I am still amazed that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb ran the ball exactly one time in the Eagles' 24-21 loss to the New England Patriots.

McNabb is so bent on proving that he is a "pocket passer" that he forgot what made him a Pro Bowl quarterback. He has always been a decent passer with excellent mobility. However, against the Pats, he might as well have been standing in quicksand. Did I mention that his one rushing attempt was not a called run? He scrambled and picked up zero yards. Yes, his final rushing stats were one carry, zero yards.

Not sure who is more to blame: McNabb, or head coach Andy Reid. But this was arguably one of the biggest blunders in Super Bowl history, and no one is talking about it. There should have been at least five called running plays for McNabb, and probably a lot more. Anyone notice how much New England's linebackers were blitzing? Running some QB draws and sweeps would have been a smart move.

College and pro are different games, granted, but not all that much. In Ohio State's 31-24 double-overtime Fiesta Bowl victory over Miami in the 2002 national championship game, Buckeye quarterback Craig Krenzel rushed 19 times for 81 yards and two touchdowns.

Krenzel ran it 19 times in the biggest game of his life.

McNabb ran it one time in the biggest game of his life.

Think about that for a second.

Tressel has gotten a lot of heat for his play calling, but maybe the Eagles should have consulted his advice before concocting their questionable game plan.

Hey, McNabb is not Mike Vick when it comes to running, but he's still very good. There is no excuse for only running the ball once the entire game… especially considering how inaccurate his passes were throughout the game.


Columbus Destroyers starting quarterback Matt D'Orazio played for Tressel at Youngstown State for one season. He then transferred to Otterbein, where he became one of the most successful quarterbacks in Division III history, winning national player of the year as a senior in 1999.

The Destroyers' head coach and general manager is some guy named Chris Spielman. The team struggled the first two games this season with QB Chad Salisbury, who was eventually cut.

D'Orazio took over last week and led the team to 52-39 win over Chicago. He was 26 of 34 passing for 281 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception.

With the NHL season called off, it's good that Nationwide Arena – one of the best sports venues in the country – is actually being used this winter. The Blue Jackets and Destroyers share the building.


Looking ahead to next basketball season, it could be a good year for Ohio State.

The three current seniors will not be missed – especially the running and gunning of Tony Stockman.

The entire starting lineup will return next year. The group is led by center Terence Dials, who is establishing himself as one of the top post players in the country. Dials is averaging 15.6 points and eight rebounds per game, and those numbers will likely rise next season with another year in head coach Thad Matta's system.

Forward J.J. Sullinger will also be back. He is one of the most athletic players in the Big Ten and is playing more under control this year. He is averaging 10.1 points and 5.3 boards.

Also returning next year is the backcourt tandem of Jamar Butler and Je'Kel Foster, in addition to forward Ivan Harris.

But there is even more to be excited about if you're an OSU hoops fan.

Junior guard Ron Lewis will become eligible and he will help the team right away. The 6-4 Lewis, a Columbus Brookhaven product, transferred from Bowling Green. He was the Falcons' leading scorer in 2003-04 with 17 points per game. He has a knack for getting to the foul line and knocking down his shots. He was 191 of 233 (82 percent) from the foul line at BGSU in 2003-04. By comparison, Dials leads the team with 157 free throw attempts this season (shooting 61 percent). Next highest is Sullinger with 76 attempts (shooting 66 percent).

Yes, Lewis is a physical guard that will add a lot of positives to the team next year. Not only will he get to the line more than any other player, he will make a higher percentage of his shots.

Matta is also bringing in junior college transfer guard Sylvester Mayes (PG/SG) and 6-10 forward Brayden Bell. Both are having very good seasons this year and should be able to help right away. Matta also has two additional scholarships to hand out, one thanks to the transfer of guard Ricardo Billings.

Also, fiery forward Matt Sylvester will return next year. He won't be invited to any graduation parties in East Lansing, Mich., but he will provide scoring off the pine.


With this year's basketball Bucks sitting at 18-9, it's pretty clear that Andy Geiger made his final big decision as athletic director a good one.

Matta is closing in on the record for most wins by a first year coach at OSU (Gary Williams with 20 in 1986-87).

Considering the team did not have an NCAA bid to play for this season makes the 18-9 mark even that more impressive. If Matta can get these guys inspired to play, imagine what he will do when there is a tournament bid on the line.

What is there to like about Matta? There's his intensity, his knowledge of the game, his ability to relate to the players, his belief in practicing shooting until your arms fall off, the importance he places on defense, and his ability to make in-game adjustments.

But other than that, there's really not much he brings to the table.

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