Bucknuts.com recruiting editor Duane Long continues his detailed look at the 2005 Ohio State football team.
Ryan Hamby has been a solid football player throughout his career and doesn't get the credit he deserves for being a real Buckeye. He committed to OSU before Jim Tressel was announced as head coach. Hamby shows good hands and plays smart football, but he is not the most physically gifted tight end we have seen in Columbus. He is not the biggest either. He gives it everything he has but is not big enough to be a great inline blocker. Hamby does have his moments, and those come from technique and desire.
Rory Nicol looks the part of an NFL tight end but I want to see some consistency out of his hands. I thought he dropped a few catchable balls last year, and I stowed that away in the back of my mind as it was too soon to make a big deal out of it, but then he dropped a couple of balls in the spring game. Hamby is a solid blocker and really athletic and could be the next great one if he lives up to his potential.
Marcel Frost is getting more buzz than any of the other players lined up at tight end. Louis Irizarry is the best tight end I have seen in Ohio high school football, but Marcel Frost was the second best. He showed so much potential as a defensive end that he almost did not redshirt. But he always preferred tight end. With numbers down at tight end, there was a need there, and I suspect he asked to be moved back. As much as tight ends were needed, defensive end is a more important position.
A couple of things Frost showed as a defensive end were explosion and motor, and both will serve him well as a tight end. Frost likely needs to work on his blocking, but the effort and attitude will be there. He is very athletic and very nasty. What's not to like? No reps. I said Nicol could be the next one, and Frost might be, but Nicol got reps last year and will have the edge, at least early on.
I think Roy Hall, at 235 pounds, is an interesting option, but I would be more than a little surprised if he is an integral part of the equation at tight end. He is just now moving over, and while he is an excellent blocker as a receiver, he might find it more difficult blocking defensive ends and linebackers. I don't think he will be integral at tight end but he could be in the offense overall since he is likely to be able to help at tight end, wide receiver, running back and maybe even fullback. In certain situations, he could line up at any of those positions and cause match-up problems. He may be able to carry the ball as a runner if necessary.
Playing R.J. Coleman at tight end may have been a mistake all along. He was always seen as a very athletic big guy, but he has never been big enough to be an effective offensive lineman and not quite athletic enough to be a tight end. Most who saw him as a high school player thought he was at his best as a defensive lineman. I think a quick, undersized defensive tackle should have been his position. It's too bad his career came to a premature end due to injury.
Santonio Holmes is the best receiver in college football. He runs crisp and disciplined routes. He is explosive out of his breaks, which creates separation. Whether he is really running the 40 times I am hearing he runs or not doesn't matter because he is fast enough to maintain the distance his quickness gives him. He is very football smart and makes plays to move the chains as well as the big plays. He is an above average blocker as well.
The only question mark about Holmes may be that he drops balls he shouldn't. Since he makes some catches he shouldn't make, it is obviously not a question of hands. It is a question of concentration and maybe overconfidence in his hands.
You may notice I don't mention size as a question mark for Holmes. Despite everyone wanting these big, freaky receivers, the NFL is chock full of players Holmes's size – 5-11 to 6-0 and 190-200. Isaac Bruce, Chris Chambers, Torry Holt, Marvin Harrison, Hines Ward and Terry Glenn are some names that come to mind just off the top of my head. Those 6-3 athletes with the low 4.4s are called freaks for a reason – there are not that many of them. They seem to be popping up more and more, but receivers Holmes's size are not small and will continue to populate Pro Bowl rosters for years to come.
Yes, I am about to tell you I don't think Holmes sticks around for his senior year. If the draft were next year, he would likely be the No. 1 receiver on many draft boards.
What can be said about Ted Ginn that has not already been said? The fact he may be the most dangerous player in college football after one season – maybe half a season since he was not seeing the ball as much early – speaks volumes. He brings something to the table that the Ohio State offense has not seen since Terry Glenn. He is one step from a touchdown every time he touches the ball.
I only remember Ginn dropping two balls all year so I have no concern about his hands. What takes him to another level is running better routes and getting off the line of scrimmage against bump coverage. He is a tireless worker, so I think he will accomplish his mission.
Other weapons at wide receiver are going to be key. Most defensive coordinators are going to make sure Ted Ginn doesn't beat them until they see others who can, which will make them play honest. I would not be surprised to see Ginn get off to a slow start because of defenses keying on him. Holmes, Troy Smith and a running game will fix that.
I have to say Anthony Gonzalez is the biggest surprise to me as I did not have him ranked too highly coming out of high school. Cleveland Glenville head coach Ted Ginn told me repeatedly I was wrong about him and he is proving it. While not big and athletic, Gonzalez is sneaky fast, smart and disciplined, and shows good hands. He is going to be a thorn in the sides of defenses. Holmes will be on one side, Ginn on the other, and then this smart kid that may be the only player on the field who could catch Ted Ginn running down the slot finding the soft spots.
Devon Lyons brings something different to the table than the three above him on the depth chart. He is that big, athletic receiver you want to get one on one and just throw it up to him. At any other college, Lyons is at least a starter and maybe the go-to guy.
Having not seen Albert Dukes play in college yet, I have to say based on what I saw of him as a high school player he would likely be a starter just about anywhere else. From his high school tapes, he looks like the player I was told about – a bigger version of Santonio Holmes.
You have to wonder about Devin Jordan's future. You have Holmes, Ginn, Gonzalez, Hall and Lyons tying up the 2-deep, with Dukes, Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie champing at the bit for playing time. Where are the reps for Jordan? Robiskie is the bigger problem as he is a bigger more athletic version of Jordan and brings the same advantages.
I would not be surprised to see Jordan give up the game. Football hurts, and the only thing that can make that pain worthwhile is playing time. We have seen it before and we are seeing it this year with R.J. Coleman. Chronically injured players are not seeing their pain pay off.
Troy Smith is the kind of quarterback that I would always seek out in recruiting. I want a big-armed kid that can hurt a defense with his feet. Smith shows great instincts and is a leader on the field. I would like him to be taller, but that to me is an extra.
The negatives for Troy is when he makes a mistake, he wants to make up for it and then starts to force things, which usually makes it worse. In poker, they call it going on tilt. He did a good job of avoiding going on tilt last year, but we have seen it as he went on tilt during the spring game. We don't want to see that again. Hopefully he has matured beyond that. He also needs to think things through off the field. That is going to be what makes or breaks Troy Smith in my opinion.
If you were building a pocket passer, you would come out with a player that looks remarkably like Justin Zwick. I think any struggles he has had have been all in his head. I have several people telling me that in practice, Zwick is something to see. He then gets on the field in games and it seems he gets a case of the nerves.
Zwick's touchdown-to-turnover ratio is not pretty, and he throws off his back foot way too often. Not stepping into a pass is lack of confidence. It doesn't seem to be getting any better. I have never seen a player booed in the spring game until this year when it happened to Zwick. He was really off. He doesn't run well, so this offense really doesn't fit him. The quarterback draw is a staple of a Jim Tressel offense. You could see Zwick was a fish out of water when he broke the line. With the receivers in this offense, if Zwick would just settle down, he could stay the starter. That has not happened yet.
Based on what I have SEEN, not what I have HEARD, I think Rob Schoenhoft would be the quarterback of the future. He looked so good in both All-Star games. I HEARD all spring about Todd Boeckman but what I SAW on the field in the spring game did not impress me. I saw better skills out of Schoenhoft.
There is so much focus on the quarterback situation and Ginn and Holmes that we are not seeing a great deal of attention on the backs. I think Jim Tressel will always strive for balance, but if he is going to lean any way, it is going to be to a strong running game. I think the offensive line is much improved. Some complain about it not being a dominating line, but I think we are seeing it get there. Those complaining don't seem to realize just how bad it was.
The running backs are another matter. Maurice Clarett's mess had on-the-field repercussions that are just now starting to be overcome. When a freshman has that kind of impact, there are recruiting repercussions. No back was going to come in to OSU for a few years. That would have been fine if Clarett had still been here, but he wasn't.
The talent level at running back was not much better than the offensive line when Jim Tressel arrived other than Clarett, but that has changed. I liked what I saw of Antonio Pittman. He shows good vision and is quick to the hole. I like the way he rides his blockers. I don't know if he is a star, but I think he could be a very good back, and maybe he could be a star.
Erik Haw needs reps. He didn't do much in the first half of the spring game but looked good in the second half. In Haw, I did not see the back instincts of Pittman, but he has physical tools that Pittman only hopes to have. In time, I think Haw could be very good between the tackles. He has such big legs, shows outstanding balance and seems to bounce of tacklers. I think Pittman is as willing to take it inside but is a run-to-daylight back. Haw is also outstanding catching the ball out of the backfeld. Whoever handles pass-blocking assignments the best is the likely starter.
The wild card is Maurice Wells. I have not seen him yet, but I understand he came in heavier than anticipated but is still just as fast and is pound-for-pound one of the strongest players on the team. I am no fan of small backs, but this kid looks like he is trying not to be a small back. It was high school, but this kid played a full season of competitive football last year, unlike Pittman and Haw. That mindset of being the starter and being prepared to touch the ball a lot and be hit could be an advantage for him. He will be given every opportunity to play right away.
Dionte Johnson is looking like the best lead blocker since Jamar Martin. He takes it up in there like I want a lead blocker to. He is a big kid, and that is a huge advantage. He runs through blocks. I would like to see him on the belly play some. Johnson is a 4.5 kid and I think he could do some damage.
I was so down on Brandon Schnittker and still not impressed with him as a lead blocker. But he looked good running the ball in the spring game out of the power set, and I think we could see some of that. It was effective last year with Branden Joe, and Schnittker is more instinctive and more athletic than Joe.
Stan White is a classic tweener. He is just not big enough for the positions he is best suited for. He could be a good utility man in the passing game and shows a willingness to block, but is just not big enough to be real effective. But he's a great kid and a hard worker. You want these kinds of kids in your locker room.