Yes, kickoff against Miami is but days away and we are still talking recruiting in this week's edition of the Bucket.
A discussion that has popped up on the message boards here at Bucknuts from time to time is the rhetorical discussion about Jim Tressel and his ability to recruit. Duane Long joined the fray a few weeks back by drilling down on this point. He answered the question "Do you think JT and the staff are just better evaluators of talent than most or are they good at getting good athletes and turning them into great football players once they get to OSU?". Good question. Duane references the trio of Brandon Smith, Steve Rehring and Shaun Lane and concludes, "I think I am an excellent evaluator of talent and I would not have offered those three kids, and most of the recognized "talent evaluators" agreed with me. I lean, then to ‘great coaching'."
There are two schools of thought kicking around the ivory tower of football philosophizing when it comes to college coaching. One school supports the fact that recruiting is all. The other teaches us that the cultivation of talent is the precursor to success. Of course, it's nice if you can combine the two. Schools like Texas and Miami and Michigan represent the first set of schools. Teams such as Iowa and Wisconsin stand out as schools that develop and get the most out of less-recognized players. I think we are seeing a convergence at Ohio State, the perfect storm of talent and coaching. It is something worth pondering.
Even in the best of years (2002), there have been glaring areas of talent insufficiencies. Like the offensive line. And there have been season after season of depth issues. Are we entering a new era where "great coaching" meets "great talent" and the confluence brings us to "great things"? That is certainly a possibility. And the tale will begun to be told in but two weeks or so…
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In defense of our NFL production…Two of the many philosophical questions that swim in the great sea of Buckeye football minutiae concern 1) Just how good was that defense we had back in The Day; The Day being defined as 2002 when we brought the National Championship back to Columbus and 2) Just how many players does Ohio State produce for the NFL that "stick" there and have meaningful careers? I am glad you asked because we can answer both of those queries with one astounding exhibit.
Listed below are the players – by position – that made up the defense for the great 2002 squad and where they are playing today in the National Football league.
Darrion Scott – Minnesota Vikings
Will Smith – New Orleans Saints
Tim Anderson – Buffalo Bills
Kenny Peterson – Green Bay Packers
Cie Grant – New Orleans Saints
Matt Wilhelm – San Diego Chargers
Rob Reynolds – Tennessee Titans
Mike Doss – Baltimore Colts
Donnie Nickey – Tennessee Titans
Dustin Fox – Minnesota Vikings
Chris Gamble – Carolina Panthers
Andy Groom – Washington Redskins
Mike Nugent – New York Jets
That's not to mention Simon Fraser, AJ Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Mike Kudla, Mike D'Andrea and Nate Salley who also logged time on that team and will also be playing on Sundays. Case closed…
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Over-rated, Over-rated…And the chant goes up. Every year, IMHO, Michigan is overrated. Why? I think it's because they have that certain national recruiting presence. And that they always seem to under-achieve, so the pundits assume, "This must be the year". But we know better. There is the Carr Wreck Factor, which states that the Raging Lloyd can beat any team in the country – and he can lose to any team in the country. Year in and year out.
This year, the scUMers are rated No. 4 in a consensus kind of way. Mr. Bucknuts says: "over-rated!" Including 1998, Michigan has finished the season rated 12th, 5th, 11th, 20th, 9th, 6th, and 14th (last year). Each year was something of a disappointment. So why is this year's disappointing version any better than the previous seven? It isn't. Michigan will lose one game during the year that they shouldn't and lose the game to the Buckeyes (which they should). They will finish then with 2-3 losses, including the bowl game, and finish about 11th. Which is average for them in the past decade.
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We'll probably just keep beating Michigan…and why…First, we say they're over-rated (previous fusillade of bullets). Now, we're saying they're too talented? Well…there is yet another school of thought about That School Up North. When it comes to the last real football Saturday in November, perhaps the Buckeyes have a built-in advantage.
This quote from The Sporting News comes off our message board in (yet another) discussion with Duane Long and here's the argument: "Michigan is a physical team and they are extremely talented but they don't show up every week. I think they're pompous, over-recruited, arrogant-type kids. Michigan is really the only school in our league that recruits nationally. Which school has better players, Ohio State or Michigan? The Michigan kids have more talent but the Ohio State kids play harder. And to me, that's a microcosm of the two programs."
That's such a good point that I copied it rather than paraphrased. How many all-star type teams (think USA basketball in the Olympics) get burned because of lack of passion or lack of team ethic? Tressel does a great job of getting the Bucks to buy into the program and to exert themselves for the glory of Ohio State. I think Carr struggles with that a little more in their "national" program up there in Ann Arbor. And I am hoping that difference in edge will show up - once again – this year, on November 19…
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Schools in glass houses…This media castigation runs in cycles and right now OSU is in a "down cycle" on coverage and the casting of aspersions. USC loses 3-4 top-tier players yet you hardly hear about it. Tennessee has 18-20 incidents in the past two seasons and – well…it is the SEC, so go figure. The Buckeyes have one brain-addled tailback seeking attention and a quarterback with a $500 advance on a job and the media vultures portray the Buckeyes as the second coming of the James Gang. And the future (i.e. "recruiting")? How about all those Walker Ashley guys who didn't qualify academically around the country – compared to OSU's virtually pristine record this year of bringing in quality – and qualified – kids. Sure, OSU is not without sin, but before you cast that first stone, hey – look at Georgia. They had a class of 19 last year. And seven of those recruits didn't qualify for the school!
Where's the coverage, there? Where's the smarmy innuendo and glib comments? We will leave that for ESPN to get on their program. Well, once they straighten out their overt hypocrisy with Lou Holtz, that is…
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The web gets more tangled…In the seven years or so that Bucknuts has woven its own tangled web, we have met the expected resistance from mainstream media and from the football program that we love, cover, support and promote. The traditionalists looked down upon our enterprise and traduced our efforts. So, it is with a small shot of "wry" that we note the introduction of two new entries into this field.
First, the Columbus Dispatch is making a run at putting together their version of sports entertainment on the web. They are combining the old "X's and O's" (sometimes referred to as "X's and Zzzz's") with a subscription to the Dispatch to give you a, well…new version of both. Far more entertaining and intriguing than that will be Coach Tressel's own website. Operated by the talented Ryan Miller, this site will bring you an insider's perspective of the team and team members.
Coach T's new project follows on the heels of a national trend that includes "Beamer Ball" and the Mack Brown website as more and more coaches get in their editorial slant to the voracious consumers of all things football. Since Bucknuts has little access to the personal lives of the players during the season, and since the coaches are not permitted to comment on recruiting, Coach Tressel's site feels like a complement to what we do. The Dispatch site? Just like with their newspaper, they still need unique content and entertainment. We shall see…
As has been said, "What once were vices are now habits". And what once was a challenge to the mainstream is now becoming the mainstream itself…
If you want to mainstream your comments to Mr. Bucknuts (or turn him on to new vices…), you can contact him at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com