Spring has sprung -- what have we learned so far?

Mr. Bucknuts checks in with his latest views on OSU spring practice.

We are a good ten days (and half a dozen practices) into spring ball so it's time to reach a few premature sweeping conclusions. Of course! I believe it was the famous linebacker coach GB Shaw who once said, "No generalization is worth a damn. Including this one." We couldn't agree more, but we plunge ahead nevertheless.

Bucknuts has had a number of observers at each practice and scrimmage. Jerry Rudzinski is a regular as is our roving (or is that "raving"?) guest columnist Buck 68. In addition, the new staff photographer Evan has seen plenty of action and we get reports from other media as well. To that end, we are looking forward to Buckeye Sports Bulletin editor Steve Helwagen being on the Bucknuts Radio Hour this week to give us his impressions. Thus, we continue to push forward the Bucknuts' credo that "anything worth doing is worth overdoing."

And parsing together the many disparate reports, here are a few overt conclusions:

1.      A patchwork offensive line will make great runners look bad.

2.      We have more good receivers than good quarterbacks (and not enough footballs for all of them…)

3.      The question marks from last year's cornerback positions are still playing there

4.      The kicking/special teams games are sorting themselves out

5.      There have been a few very pleasant surprises, personnel-wise.

Let's start where everything on the offense starts: the offensive line. With Olivea (leg) and Clarke (wrist) out with injuries, and with Stepanovich learning a new position (center), we expected the O-line to struggle. And they have lived up to that expectation. The lack of depth has forced Coach Bollman to push Ryan Cook, Adam Olds and walk-on Steve Winner into accelerated action. Scott Kuhnhein is being tested as well. The bigger test is the one provided by our outstanding D-line which is kicking some serious tail - and our tailbacks as well.

As for those tailbacks, Maurice Hall has shown surprising toughness and the as-yet-unveiled Ja Ja Riley is seen to be a player. Maurice Clarett? As Coach Tressel put it, he's coming along nicely for a high school senior. The DB's seem to have taken a special interest in targeting Clarett. Of more importance, Michael Doss has taken a special interest in Maurice, as well, and that should pay big dividends.

The optimistic spin? The two injured linemen sitting out might be our best two. Plus, this trial-by-fire for the reserves will help our depth in the long run.  Plus, the coaches are beginning to see something very special in Stepanovich. Plus, five more big bodies are coming in July…

Now about those receivers… If OSU ever went to a four-receiver set (!), here's what the  defense would be looking at: Vance, Jenkins, Carter and Gamble. Neat, eh? And if those guys took a play off, the next quartet would be Hollins, Chattams, Childress and Maurice Lee. Wow. And don't forget that Roy (the next David Boston) Hall as well as Santonio (I'm the best WR in Florida) Holmes report in July. The skinny on our Front Four is that Vance and Jenkins are All-World and that Gamble might be better than either. Drew Carter is still recovering but is not out of place in this elite group. As to the "two-deep", Chattams annd Hollins have both looked good and are nearly 100% while Bam Childress impresses everyone with his effort and elusiveness. Lee's switch back from DB (to avoid the traffic there!) adds depth where we don't need it.

The pessimistic spin? Someone is going to transfer. And we still have to get passes to these guys. So far, Krenzel has looked good and McMullen has looked capable but don't sell off your Joe Germaine memorabilia quite yet.

Those cornerbacks…Our safeties are so good that they keep lending the reserve safeties to the cornerback camp. Last year, it was Cie Grant. This year, it is Dustin Fox. He is fast and smart and a supremely gifted athlete but he will struggle at corner. On the other side, we've got McNutt, Britton and Jacobs struggling to step up, with LeAndre Boone and the not-yet-100% Canadian arrival Michael Roberts in the wings. Of course, we are still awaiting EJ Underwood and maybe even Princeton's Darren Barnett.

The pessimistic spin? There is a reason we keep bringing in more CB's to audition. The optimistic spin? Chris Pool once remarked that McNutt was the best CB he ever saw in high school. If Richard can get over this congenital ankle problem (it goes back over three years!), we could have something. Also, our D-line could be so dominant this year that the CB's might not have to be as isolated as in past campaigns. And as opposing QB's will do all year, we will keep peeking at the cornerback situation…

Kicking and special teams…Mike Nugent is making big strides toward being Da Man while Huston can still be as wide as, well…Texas. With Huston's leg, though, he could continue to excel on kickoffs (the days of the niche specialist). Groom still rhymes with "boom" and BJ is still trying to kick with consistency. I think Nugent will be good this year and nearly-great the next two. Problem solved!

More optimistic spin…Luke Fickell will fire up the protection and coverage teams and Tressel's penchant for detail and his special teams' obsession should help these squads as well. Lastly, it seems that the coaches are calling on front line players to staff the special units. That is good news, by itself.

The pleasant surprises…Everyone is raving about Cie Grant at linebacker, particularly in blitzing situations. With Matt Wilhelm (eventually) back in the middle and an impressive Robert Reynolds on one side, the other side should be capably manned by a combo of Marco Cooper (still catching on to the overall scheme…) and the veteran Grant. The defensive line seems devastating with Kenny Peterson moving to the inside and creating match-up havoc. Tim Anderson gets better and better and the coaches rate Will Smith as "unblockable". Add in budding superstar Simon Fraser and the injured wrecking ball Darrion Scott (shoulder), you've got something truly special going on.

It's hard to remember just how young this team is. The leading tailback Lydell Ross  turned 18 only four months ago and no one in the projected starting offensive lineup – other than Chris Vance – is a senior! And 23 more young pups (yes, some of them can bite right away…) will swarm the practice fields in late July. Remember the names? D'Andrea, Kudla, Pitcock, Zwick, Coleman, Carpenter, Morris, Hawk and Underwood, to name but a few.

And we still have two weeks of spring ball to make progress. And a summer of workouts. And the Fall. And…well, you get the picture.

BTW, if you want to get more of the picture, tune in with us this Thursday right here on the web site where we will be chatting live with Justin Zwick. Yes, you have to be a Club member (a small price to pay…) but these chats have been terrific. We had on sensational tight end recruit Louis Irizarry last week as well as commentary from Jerry Rudzinski and the inimitable Duane Long. We hope to have on a lot more recruits (look for Todd Boeckman in the near future) and a number of the incoming freshman class.

Well, that's enough to "spring" at you this week. I will bounce back after the Spring Game on April 27 to revise, repudiate, and resume our march to meet the Red Raiders on August 24.

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