Some more random ramblings and incoherent thoughts from the Odds and Ends Zone…
That which we'd like to admit…The old creepy days of President Gordon Gee Whiz trying to drag Ohio State into the Ivy League of the Big Ten, well…those days are gone. The question lately is: can we live through the Holbrook Era of false academic elitism? This has been a period marked by athletes, though cleared through the NCAA for admissions, being denied access to the state university and ending up enrolling and playing at places like Michigan State, Minnesota, all the SEC schools and, yes, Michigan.
That's right, fans, there seems to be light at the end of this academic tunnel and it's not simply a reflection of Holbrook's eyes glaring back at us. In the past few seasons, OSU lost the talented Javon Ringer to MSU despite the fact that he was eligible, he wanted to come to Ohio State and the staff wanted him. More celebrated cases included Dajuan Morgan and Miles Williams. We will never know all the admissions losses because some weren't even eligible to visit on an official recruiting trip! Think that's not true? Take the current case of Top 100 WR Greg Matthews, who was initially turned away by the "screening committee" at OSU for a campus visit, but then was accepted for admission at Michigan…
Back to my point. From circumstantial evidence, it seems that the pendulum has swung a bit back to the side of common sense and away from the elitism. This year, Ohio State is recruiting some academically tenuous athletes such as Mark Johnson, JUCO Larry Grant, Ray Small and Thaddeus Gibson, amongst others. (Some of the others are in more dire straits such as Derrell Johnson and Jeff Cumberland). Does this make tOSU look bad? Emphatically not. They are a state university, people! They should take the marginally eligible and help them do something positive with their lives, not dump them onto the streets and pretend to have a better "graduation rate".
It's easy to goose up the grad rate stats. Only let in the students who will make it for sure. And should that be the mission of the largest state school? Talk about your no-brainers…
* * * * *
Sorry Charlie, this tuna has no taste…Yes, it's been more than two weeks since I picked on Charlie Weis, the sun around which the college football universe revolves. That is, according to Charlie Weis. We heard from coaches at the Fiesta Bowl that Weis was arrogant and full of, well…himself. Tressel gave a seven-minute pre-game overview to the writers. Charlie boiled down his theories of the world (replete with examples…) to a concise in-your-face 32 minutes. Then it was on to the coaches' convention. Our representatives there said it got worse, with the Weis Guy talking down to the other coaches specifically and to the community of coaches in general. Don't look for him to make it to elective office in that organization.
While Charlie (and doesn't he look like a cartoon character from Mad Magazine's Don Martin?) was elevating college football, his former employer, the New England Patriots lost in the playoffs, which will give CW a whole other list of "why I am great and see that they can't live without me" aphorisms. We will see how the football world gets along with him in 2006. Because of the unrealistic hype that always accompanies Notre Dame (best school, No. 1 recruiting class, best campus, easiest girls, etc.), the Fighting Irish will be ranked too high to start the season. Hey – have they found a way to inject some speed into all those lumbering players during the off-season? Given their unjustifiable lofty rankings, Charlie will have to perform next year. That means win more than three-fourths of his games. Even Ty Willingham won his first eight games, remember? I say that ND will only split their four games with Big Ten foes in 2006, facing Penn State, Michigan and Purdue at home and Michigan State on the road. Then out of a combination of UCLA (home) and Georgia Tech and USC (away), they will drop two of the three. That gives them a record of 7-4, if they beat Navy, North Carolina, Stanford and Air Force. Hardly a record to keep the mythology machine pumping.
But, then again, Charlie has an entire year to prepare and look how well he does with extra time!
In the next Bucket, we will be forced to discuss some of the new websites that cover the building legend of the building block we know as Charlie Weis…
* * * * *
The jinx meets the facts, ma'am…Sports Illustrated has never been overly kind to the Buckeyes, fanning the flames of some stores and creating others just to smirk at the state of Ohio (from the people who brought you Andy Katzenmoyer's summer class schedule). So, it was with a bit of glee and satisfaction that I noted in a recent issue, coverage of the whole college playoff situation, articulated much better than the babblings from Yours Truly over these past years.
In the same issue that they jumped all over the latest Maurice Clarett story and they extolled both the football Bucks and the basketball Bucks, SI ran an editorial saying, "A playoff system by any name would add thrills and drama to the bloated bowl season". They went on to point out that "getting it right" this year with the nation's only two undefeated teams underscored how coincidental that pairing was and that "most of the bowl games were short trips to nowhere, a lot of sound and fury signifying how much better December would be if college football had a March Madness-style playoff. The non-BCS games? They are something less than insignificant".
It's great fun to quote from this accumulation of logic: "Tradition, the soul of college football has been abandoned. The rhythms of the new bowl season don't match the rhythms of fans' lives. The BCS endures – and the idea of a playoff languishes – because of another tradition: greed. The BCS is ruled by the lords of the six major conferences…they control the sport and the $96 million the BCS is expected to generate this year. (They) are backed by the college presidents, who lamely argue that a playoff would distract players from their studies. That argument, which they manage to present with a straight face, doesn't seem to apply to hoops players who take most of March off from school."
And how will it affect the regular season? "The thrilling sense of urgency is what separates college football from every other major sport. It's also what is largely missing from the bowl season. Imagine if Ohio State's victory over Notre Dame earned the Buckeyes something more than a trophy. Like, say, a rematch with Texas or a shot at USC? It may be an impossible dream, but it's a worthy one".
Such a great argument and presentation makes it is also worthy of the valuable Bucknuts real estate known as my Bucket. For once, I defer to the wisdom of Sports Illustrated and persistent logic and wisdom of creating a college football playoff…
* * * * *
All kinds of time…That's what we say when a QB drops back to pass and can survey the field at his leisure. But that's not what we say when we talk about a quarterback's development. Mostly, college quarterbacks run out of time before the light bulb goes off. Such was not the case with Terrific Troy last year as the light bulb exploded and shards of glass were left all over opponents' uniforms.
My point? This one: Steve Bellisari got a baptism by fire because he never got playing time sitting behind Joe Germaine. He and Austin Mocherman simply sat for most of the year. Fast forward to the next generation of OSU field generals. Krenzel and McMullen only got action when Bellisari had his late night slip-and-fall. Then, Zwick and Smith sat on the pine behind Krenzel and McMullen, not even getting mop-up duty as Ohio State squeaked out win after win in vintage Tressel close-to-the-sweater-vest fashion. It took nearly a year of on-the-field time for them to get a rhythm.
Skip to 2006. Now, nobody admires Justin Zwick more than Mr. Bucknuts. JZ has been the good soldier and has minded both his manners and his mouth for the good of the team. But if Ohio State gets a big lead (may my mouth be a prayer book…), Justin will come in and take up the time that a Todd Boeckman or a Rob Schoenhoft so desperately needs. That means, in 2007, things will be back to first-year Smith&Zwick or first year Bellisari&Mocherman or first year Krenzel&McMullen territory. How do the Buckeyes get some meaningful downs for the future QB's? Antonio Henton wants to know…
* * * * *
He's must have a gun for an arm…And speaking of quarterbacks with no experience, Texas went from a stable-full of talent in Vince Young and once-rising superstar Chance Mock, to a virtual unknown with a great name for a Texas quarterback: Colt McCoy. Will he be the real McCoy? Colt's only chance to oil his gun before the Buckeyes arrive in Austin will be in the opener against North Texas on September 2. The Horns thought they had big-time get Ryan Perrilloux in that stable a year ago but he is now a third-stringer at LSU…
* * * * *
Beyond the horizons…The WHAC renovations and Bucknuts want to thank everyone for their participation in our "fundraiser" thus far. More than 200 of you purchased the terrific book, "Expanding Your Horizons", Coach Tressel's mentoring book that details the careers of the 1942 national championship Buckeye squad. We were able to donate all the funds from these sales to the renovation campaign. I asked Steve Helwagen to run the promotion again, so look for it on the front page and dive in! Not only is it a good cause but also the book could change your, well…horizons.
* * * * *
Michigan taketh away and Michigan giveth…In past recruiting seasons, us-here fanatics have taken to bemoaning the fact that Michigan beat us on at least one Ohio recruit annually. Boo hoo, I say. You say – hey – what about Mario Manningham and Prescott Burgess and Shawn Crable and Mark Bihl? Mark Bihl – yeah, right. Well, the wheel keeps on turning and the Tressel Vessel is picking up passengers. OSU has already landed five recruits this year that Michigan wanted: Aaron Gant, Dexter Larimore, Connor Smith, Jake Ballard and Chris Wells, with Gant having the added distinction of being from the state of Michigan. They have – thus far – lost but three: Justin Boren, Cobrani Mixon and Greg Matthews with Greg possibly still in play. Boren and Mixon, of course, are from Ohio. Also still in play are Thaddeus Gibson and McKenzie Matthews.
While these lists are far from exhaustive (or even necessarily correct), it points out that you get as good as you give in that exchange. Plus, I will trade you one Craig Krenzel for one Mark Bihl any day of the week…
* * * * *
Finally…There are always last-minute wavers and defections from the recruiting "commitment" ranks and we watch them every year, with either glee or horror, depending on your perspective. But two OSU recruits that can't waver or change their minds this year are Ross Homan and Kurt Coleman. They have already enrolled! They sign different paperwork since they are presently in school. And being in school allows them to participate in workouts and practices, which gives them a huge edge over the rest of the incoming class. I predict that both of these kids will be in the two-deep and not red-shirt based both on both their talent and the running head start they received. Oh, yeah, the other player ready for spring practice (but not on campus yet…) is Chris Wells. We talking spring? Yes, hope springs eternal…
If you have similar unique observations, or simply want to correct one of the misnomers or misconceptions of this column, feel free to e-mail Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com