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:
A patchwork offensive line will make great runners look bad.
We have more good receivers than good quarterbacks (and not enough
footballs for all of them…)
The question marks from last year's cornerback positions are still
The kicking/special teams games are sorting themselves out
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
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
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
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.