Ohio Big 33 Team Meets In Columbus

Ohio's Big 33 team was introduced at a brunch inside the recruiting room at Ohio Stadium on Friday. The big news of the day was that offensive lineman Alex Boone has decided not to play in the game. We have comments from Boone, Todd Denlinger, Rob Schoenhoft and Jamario O'Neal.

The Ohio Big 33 team held a brunch inside the recruiting room at Ohio Stadium Friday to introduce the players, coaches and sponsors.

This year's Big 33 game will be played on July 23 – and as always it will be held in Hershey, Pa.

The game has been played since 1957. Ohio and Pennsylvania have played since 1993 – the year Penn State joined the Big Ten – and the states are tied with a 6-6 record. Ohio has won the last two meetings.

The Buckeye State will be coached by Trenton Edgewood's Steve Channell.

Channell is an entertaining speaker and recently made a trip to Hershey to speak at a Big 33 luncheon and fundraiser.

While there, he made sure to stock up on over $100 worth of Hershey chocolate.

On Friday, while announcing the players on the Ohio team, Channell presented each of them with a Hershey candy bar. But he was creative about it. Each position group got a different candy bar.

Defensive linemen were given Krackles, because they crack people. Linebackers were given Nutrageous, because you have to be nuts to play linebacker. Defensive backs were given Hershey Zeros, because Channell wants to see zero touchdowns scored on passes.

Offensive linemen were given Paydays, because they lead the way to paydirt. Quarterbacks and running backs were given Mr. Goodbars, because Channell said it's going to be a good day for Ohio's backfield. Receivers were given Scores, because, well, you know. Kicker/punter Zoltan Mesko was given an Almond Joy, because he is supposed to bring joy to the team with each of his kicks.

Yeah, kind of corny, but it was an entertaining way to announce the roster.

Bucknuts.com caught up with some future Buckeyes, who all seem excited to play in the game.

"It's a great honor," Troy defensive tackle Todd Denlinger said. "It's going to be fun playing with some of the top athletes in the nation. Playing with some of my teammates from Ohio State, getting a good relationship with everybody. It's going to be fun playing my last high school football game, kind of enjoying the summer of my last high school life, I guess."

Unlike most of his teammates, this will be Denlinger's only all-star game of the summer.

"Actually, I'm not able to participate in the North-South game, due to some complications with the Coaches Association," he said.

Denlinger said the future OSU players are all hanging out together.

"Yeah, it's starting to be that way," he said. "We've got a great bond going right now and hopefully this will just strengthen our relationship."

Denlinger was asked if he is planning on competing for a spot as a freshman at OSU, or if he would be willing to redshirt.

"You've got to go in and look at it like you're going to compete for a spot, but you kind of just have to run with things," he said. "If it comes down that you worked hard, but you have to get redshirted, that's no big deal. But if you work hard and you get playing time, that's great. So, you just kind of got to go with the flow."

For all the players, it's an honor to play in the Big 33 game. There has never been a Super Bowl without at least one Big 33 alumni.

"Just looking at the past rosters, you've got Joe Montana, Dan Marino, everybody," Denlinger said. "Any big name you can think of has played in this game, it seems like. Having my name on that list and hopefully someday making it to a Super Bowl and me being on that list would be a great honor."

Denlinger checks in at 6-4, 290-pounds, but he might add a few pounds while he's in Hershey if he's not careful.

"I am looking forward to going out there," he said. "All that chocolate, you can't beat it."

* Quarterback Rob Schoenhoft from Cincinnati St. Xavier is also impressed with the history of the Big 33 game. He will likely be the starting QB for Ohio and hopes to have a memorable night.

"I'm just excited to be a part of this and follow in the tradition," Schoenhoft said. "Just looking at all the great quarterbacks that have been there, even recently. You know, Chad Henne who started at Michigan this year. I don't really want to say anything nice about Michigan, but he did. He's a great quarterback. There's just been so many great quarterbacks. Brian Hoyer, who is at Michigan State right now and played in the game last year, I have a good relationship with him from all the camps I've been to with him. There's just been so many great quarterbacks there and just the fact that there hasn't been a Super Bowl without a Big 33 player is just pretty neat."

Schoenhoft says all the future OSU players are already good friends.

"Yeah, we made a really, really good bond together," he said. "From the official visits, we got James (Laurenaitis) from Minnesota to commit on our official visit. Todd and Austin (Spitler) and I did. But we've developed a really good bond together and hopefully it will transition on to the field."

Ohio's roster is loaded with talent. Pennsylvania doesn't have as many big-name recruits this year, but you know it will come out ready to play.

"It's going to be tough for them to win this year," Schoenhoft said. "We've got so many great players. Alex Boone, Jamario O'Neal – two All-Americans on our team. I don't know what they have this year, but it's going to be pretty tough with our athleticism and our speed, I don't think they are going to win this year."

Schoenhoft is an intelligent young man. He knows the quarterback depth chart situation at OSU with Justin Zwick, Troy Smith and Todd Boeckman and knows it's for the best if he redshirts in 2005.

"Yeah, I'm looking to redshirt," he said. "I think that's the best thing for me. I just have to get my footwork down and get adjusted to the speed of the game and it's just such a big step from high school to college.

"This is part of the reason I am excited to go to this Big 33 game is just to get used to the speed and get used to that athleticism that is going to be emulated at Ohio State."

Schoenhoft has not spoken much with any of OSU's current quarterbacks, but looks forward to working with all of them.

"No, I haven't talked to any of them yet," he said. "I've kind of passed by Justin when I went with Steve Rehring on my official visit to his house and they were rooming together. So, I just passed by with him. I really haven't been in contact with any of them, but I'm really excited to learn under them. They are great quarterbacks and I just want to learn from them, and experience with them, and develop a friendship with them."

While Denlinger is excited about all the chocolate in Hershey, Schoenhoft is not a big fan.

"I'm more of a vanilla guy," he said. "But no, it's going to be a good experience. I've been out to California with the Elite 11 camp and I'm just excited to go out to Pennsylvania and experience more things."

Schoenhoft was asked if the future OSU players are being nice to the future Michigan guys (Mesko, Mister Simpson, Mario Manningham).

"No. Of course not," he said. "No, they're good. I mean, Mister Simpson is great running back. I've watched him play a couple of times and he's a hard worker. It's just pretty neat playing with guys that I'm going to hate for the next couple of years."

* Defensive back Jamario O'Neal from Cleveland Glenville played in the Army All-American Bowl, but says the Big 33 is more special because of the history.

"Oh yeah, nothing can compare to it. The Big 33, everybody likes to watch it," O'Neal said. "There's been so many great players to play in the game. It's one of the premier all-star games in the country. There's nothing like it."

O'Neal will play corner, safety, return kicks, and might even play some receiver.

"Oh yeah, I'm trying to do it all," he said. "Just got to work hard and I think I'll get it done."

O'Neal thinks that Channell will be an interesting coach to play for. Just from watching him speak, he brings a lot of intensity to the table.

"Oh yeah, he calls me up and tells me what the game is going to be like," O'Neal said. "You know, how the week is going to be. He does seem like a good guy, so I can't wait to play for him."

Unlike most of his teammates, O'Neal has actually been to Hershey once before.

"Well, I went last year and it is in the middle of nowhere, but it's a great place," he said. "This year I'm going to be participating, so it should be a different experience.

"I just went out last year with the Ginn family and just hung out and got a chance to see what the game was all about. It went well, so I think it's going to be a great deal."

O'Neal has high expectations for his freshman season at Ohio State. He wants to crack the starting lineup.

"I'm just trying to get on the field any way I can," he said. "I'm just trying to set my goals high and try and come in and start. That's about it. Just keep focused."

O'Neal could play corner, or safety at OSU, but already knows which position he will be shooting for.

"Well, that corner spot is open and I think I can do it, so I'm just going to give it my best," he said.

O'Neal is 6-0, 186 pounds and says his lowest 40 time is 4.21.

He knows there are a lot of good defensive backs currently at Ohio State and is anxious to join the fray.

"Oh yeah, Donte Whitner, he's a great player," O'Neal said. "Nate Salley, I've met all of them on my official. Ashton (Youboty). The DB's, we're looking kind of nice. So, I think we have some great talent coming back."

O'Neal was disappointed when he learned that former OSU defensive backs coach Mel Tucker left for the Cleveland Browns.

"Oh yeah, Coach Mel is a great guy," he said. "I kind of hurt me when he left, even though he wasn't my coach yet. He spent so much time recruiting me and now he's gone. I really didn't get to know him as far as a coaching standpoint. But it's great though, he's going up to the Browns. So, you can't beat that."

* The surprising news of the day was that offensive lineman Alex Boone has decided not to play in the Big 33 game. He is on the roster, but has told the coaches that he will not participate (even the players did not know that Boone will not be playing, evidenced by Schoenhoft's quote above).

Therefore, Ohio will be without the top two offensive linemen in the state in Boone and Jim Cordle. The latter will enroll early at OSU and participate in spring practice.

We caught up with Boone over the phone at Lakewood St. Edward High School to find out why he chose not to play.

"I thought about it, but I just decided enough is enough," Boone said. "I'm sure it would be fun, but I'm just going to stay around here and workout and get ready for Ohio State."

But Boone will play in the North-South Classic.

"Oh yeah, I am looking forward to the North-South game," he said. "That's going to be a lot of fun playing in my final high school game."

When asked if he thinks he will play left or right tackle at OSU, Boone replied: "Wherever they want me is where I'm going to play. I really don't have a preference as far as left or right."

But he does want to play right away.

"My goal is to come in and start as a freshman and help us win games," Boone said.

Offensive line coach Jim Bollman has mentioned that the Buckeyes could go with a rotation up front this year. Boone could find himself playing off the bench.

"Oh yeah, that would not be a problem," he said. "I just want to play. Starting is my goal, but if I come in in a reserve role, that's cool."

In addition to Denlinger, Schoenhoft and O'Neal, the rest of the future OSU players on the Ohio Big 33 team include: Receiver Andre Amos from Middletown, receiver Brian Hartline from Canton GlenOak, linebacker Fred Lenix from Glenville, receiver Brian Robiske from Chagrin Falls, linebacker Spitler from Bellbrook, and defensive end Lawrence Wilson from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.

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