'06 DEPTH CHART
Hey, we're less than two months away from the start of spring practice, and just seven months away from the season opener. What better time to take a look at Ohio State's 2006 projected depth chart? Let's go position by position and see how the '06 Buckeyes might line up.
SE: Anthony Gonzalez (6-0, 195, Jr.), Roy Hall (6-3, 240, Sr.). Gonzalez started in the slot last season, but could take over for Santonio Holmes as the Buckeyes' No. 1 target. He has 4.3 speed, runs good routes and has reliable hands. … The physical Hall was the No. 4 receiver last season and wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell is optimistic that he will have a big senior year.
LT: Alex Boone (6-8, 320, So.), Steve Rehring (6-8, 330, So.). Boone started four games in Kirk Barton's absence at right tackle last year. He will likely move to the left side in 2006 and could be a future All-Big Ten performer. … Rehring played well as a true freshman in 2004, but took a medical redshirt in 2005 after coming down with pneumonia. Rehring could work his way into the starting lineup, but if he doesn't, look for him to back up both tackle spots, and maybe even both guard positions as well.
LG: Doug Datish (6-5, 295, Sr.), Ben Person (6-4, 315, So.). Datish can play all five positions on the line and started at left tackle last year. My best guess is that he will slide down to guard, but offensive line coach Jim Bollman said on signing day that he won't know where Datish is going to play until spring practice. Datish has really developed a mean streak and could be one of the top linemen in the Big Ten in 2006. … Person will be entering his third year in the program and will need to provide depth. He redshirted two years ago and did not play much last year. But often times the third year is when things begin to click for O-linemen. Datish and T.J. Downing are two good examples of this.
C: Jim Cordle (6-5, 280, Fr.), Datish, Tyler Whaley (6-1, 275, So.), Andrew Moses (6-3, 267, Fr.). Cordle graduated high school early last year and impressed everyone during spring practice. He was set to open the 2005 season as Nick Mangold's backup, but a foot injury sidelined him for the season. It could have been a blessing in disguise as he was able to save the year of eligibility. He is the odds-on favorite to start at center, but Bollman said that Datish will also be in the mix. … Whaley and Moses are talented walk-ons. Whaley was the second strongest offensive lineman on the team last year in the bench press, behind Rob Sims.
RG: T.J. Downing (6-5, 305, Sr.), Kyle Mitchum (6-5, 295, So.). Downing will be entering his third year as a starter and along with Datish will lead the offensive front. He plays with a nasty streak and has become technically sound with age. … Mitchum's situation mirrors Person's. He is entering his third year in the program and it could be a make-or-break season for the former high school star.
RT: Kirk Barton (6-7, 325, Jr.), Rehring, Tim Schafer (6-5, 290, Sr.). Barton is entering his third year as a starter and is quickly developing into one of the top right tackles in the Big Ten. He missed three games in 2005 after a knee injury at Penn State, but came back to finish the year strong. … Rehring will also get a look on this side. … Schafer was a starter for the first half of the 2004 season, but hasn't played much since. He could provide much-needed depth for the line.
TE: Marcel Frost (6-5, 255, Jr.), Rory Nicol (6-5, 260, So.), Brandon Smith (6-3, 240, So.). Frost was likely in the doghouse for the first half of 2005, but upon his release he proved how talented of a player he is. Frost has the makings of an NFL tight end and could be a nice secret weapon for the Buckeyes in 2006. … Nicol was expected to challenge for a starting spot last season, but an injury sidelined him for the season and he took a medical redshirt. He is physical and has good hands. Tight end was a liability for OSU for much of 2005, but that should not be the case in '06. … Smith moved from linebacker last year to help out at tight end.
FL: Ted Ginn Jr. (6-0, 175, Jr.), Brian Hartline (6-3, 180, Fr.). Without Holmes on the other side, Ginn will be the focal point of many defenses. But as he gets better at running routes, there is no reason to expect him to have anything but a big season in '06. Look for the Buckeyes to be creative in the ways they get Ginn the ball next year. … Hartline redshirted in '05 and could provide some speed off the bench. Other than the Big 33 game last summer he hasn't seen much game action since his junior season in high school. He missed most of his senior season with a leg injury.
SL: Albert Dukes (6-1, 190, So.), Brian Robiskie (6-3, 190, So.), Donald Washington (6-1, 185, Fr.). Dukes is from the same high school as Holmes and many have favorably compared the two. Dukes did not see much game action last year, but this will be his chance to step up. He could start in three wide sets, and will also backup Gonzalez and Ginn in traditional two wide formations. … Robiskie did not redshirt last year and received a little taste of game action. The son of Cleveland Browns assistant coach Terry Robiskie is a smart player with good size and hands. … Washington came to OSU as a defensive back, but is reportedly moving to wide receiver. He was a talented running back in high school.
QB: Troy Smith (6-1, 215, Sr.), Justin Zwick (6-4, 225, Sr.), Rob Schoenhoft (6-6, 230, Fr.), Todd Boeckman (6-5, 230, So.). By the end of the 2005 season, Smith was playing as well as any quarterback in the country not named Vince Young. With another big season, he could make the claim of being the best quarterback in Ohio State history. He has a huge arm, he's mobile and he's a leader. … There were rumors that Zwick was planning to transfer to a I-AA, or D-II school, but he said during bowl preparations that he was staying at OSU for his senior season. With as much as Smith runs the ball, Zwick is only one play away from being the starter. … Schoenhoft was very impressive in the Big 33 game last summer and continued his strong play once he joined OSU's team in the fall. The rumblings are that he has already passed Boeckman on the depth chart, but there is plenty of time for Boeckman to work his way back in the plans. Schoenhoft has a strong arm and is surprisingly mobile for a big QB.
TB: Antonio Pittman (5-11, 205, Jr.), Chris Wells (6-2, 230, Fr.), Maurice Wells (5-10, 185, So.), Erik Haw (6-1, 215, So.). There were questions about Pittman entering the 2005 season, but he answered them to the tune of 1,331 rushing yards. He has always been known for his quickness and vision, but he proved his toughness with some power running last year. … Giving the Buckeyes a formidable one-two punch will be Chris Wells, the nation's No. 1 overall recruit. No, he won't start over Pittman, but I look for the two Akron natives to share the ball. Pittman will still get the majority of touches, but Wells will be a big part of the offense. Look for maybe 15-18 runs per game from Pittman, and 10-12 for Wells. … Maurice Wells played as a true freshman in 2005, but struggled for much of the year. In his defense, many of his runs came at the end of blowouts when defenses knew OSU would be running the ball. … Haw looked good in a limited role last season. He was likely a resident of the doghouse for the first half of the year, but could work his way into the rotation with a strong spring.
FB: Stan White Jr. (6-3, 245, Sr.), Dionte Johnson (6-0, 250, Jr.). White is just a solid all-around football player who came to OSU as a linebacker, but was shifted to tight end, and now fullback. He played very well in 2005 and actually sees a lot of snaps at the H-back position, which is a tight end/fullback hybrid. … Johnson, the son of former OSU linebacker Pepper Johnson, is a bruising lead blocker. With the Buckeyes probably using more I-formation sets in 2006, Johnson could have a bigger role in the offense.
DE: Lawrence Wilson (6-6, 235, So.), Vernon Gholston (6-4, 260, So.), Rob Rose (6-5, 250, Fr.). One of the major concerns for OSU entering 2006 will be establishing a pass rush. Wilson played as a true freshman and was impressive in a limited role. Many believe he could be the next great defensive end to come out of OSU. … Gholston redshirted in 2005 due to a hand injury. He is a strong player with a quick burst off the edge. He will challenge for a starting spot. … Rose might redshirt, but the feeling here is that he will see the field right away, much like Wilson last year.
DT: Quinn Pitcock (6-3, 300, Sr.), Joel Penton (6-5, 290, Sr.), Juan Garnier (6-4, 330, Jr.), Nader Abdallah (6-5, 300, So.). Pitcock is one of the top interior linemen in the country. He plays extremely low, he's powerful and is unusually quick for a man his size. No, he doesn't put up big statistics, but that's not his job in OSU's defensive scheme. He eats up blockers, helps control the line of scrimmage, and allows OSU's linebackers to run around and make plays. … Penton was a solid backup last year and played quite a bit. Look for the former high school linebacker to be on the field a lot in a reserve role. … Garnier is a walk-on who transferred from Auburn. This will be his first year of eligibility at OSU and it will be interesting to see if he can contribute. … Abdallah was expected to challenge for playing time last year, but didn't see the field very much. This spring will be a crucial time for him.
DT: David Patterson (6-3, 290, Sr.), Sian Cotton (6-4, 315, Jr.), Todd Denlinger (6-3, 275, Fr.). Patterson is an athletic player who split time between end and tackle the last two years. As a senior, he will likely play the majority of his snaps at tackle with the Buckeyes lacking depth at the position. He will have a quickness advantage inside, but it remains to be seen how well he will play the run. … It's a make or break year for Cotton, a big, athletic player. The Buckeyes will need one of their backup tackles to step up and it could be Cotton. … Denlinger redshirted last year and could work his way into the rotation with a quality spring.
DE: Jay Richardson (6-6, 275, Sr.), Alex Barrow (6-4, 255, So.), Doug Worthington (6-7, 250, Fr.). Richardson has become somewhat of an enigma. He has good size and talent, but has trouble getting his motor revved up every play. He will be given every shot to win a starting job as a senior. … Barrow looked great in the all-star game circuit in the summer of '04, but has not seen much action thus far at OSU. He is a good pass rusher off the edge and will likely work his way into the rotation. … Worthington was one of the top recruits in the nation last year, but is coming off a major injury. He will look to provide depth off the bench. And I think there's still a good chance he will move to defensive tackle eventually.
SLB: Larry Grant (6-3, 225, Jr.), James Laurinaitis (6-3, 235, So.), Ross Homan (6-1, 235, Fr.). Grant, the No. 1 JUCO linebacker in the country, will likely start from day one on the strong side. He is an athletic player with 4.4 speed and is also a big hitter. … Laurinaitis played well as a true freshman in 2005 and will definitely be in the mix for a starting job. He started the Fiesta Bowl in Bobby Carpenter's place, but didn't play very much. The future is very bright for Animal Jr. … Homan might redshirt, but the guess here is that he will play.
MLB: Mike D'Andrea (6-3, 248, Sr.), John Kerr (6-1, 246, Sr.), Chad Hoobler (6-3, 240, Jr.). It will be an interesting race to see who wins the starting MLB job. D'Andrea will likely be given the first crack at the job, but defensive coordinator Jim Heacock insists that the best three linebackers will play. D'Andrea was the crowl jewel of OSU's 2002 linebacker recruits – a group that included Carpenter and A.J. Hawk. But injuries have limited his availability during his OSU career thus far. The NCAA granted him a fifth year and we'll see if he can make the most of it. … One player that everyone seems to be forgetting about that always catches my eye is Kerr. He played well on special teams, and as a reserve 'backer last year. He was Indiana's leading tackler as a true freshman in 2002 and simply has a nose for the football. Don't be surprised to see him play a lot in 2006. … Hoobler had a strong freshman campaign in 2004, but fell off the map a little bit last year. He is a big and fast player and will definitely be in the mix somewhere. He could move to the outside if need be. The same could be said for D'Andrea and Kerr.
WLB: Marcus Freeman (6-2, 230, So.), Thaddeus Gibson (6-3, 212, Fr.). Freeman is an excellent player who took a medical redshirt in 2005. It won't be easy replacing Hawk, but there won't be a big drop-off with Freeman in there. He's fast and is a big hitter. … Gibson might need a year in the weight room before he is ready to contribute, but he is talented enough to play right away.
CB: Malcolm Jenkins (6-1, 185, So.), Kurt Coleman (5-11, 185, Fr.), Brandon Underwood (6-2, 170, So.). Jenkins started four games in 2005 and played well. He is a lockdown corner who will also come up and play the run. He will likely be the next great corner to come out of OSU. … Coleman – who has great speed and is a big hitter – is more of a natural safety, but will be a corner at his size. With the lack of depth at corner, there will be no time for a redshirt year. Coleman will enroll in spring and is determined to earn playing time. … Underwood is talented, but as was the case with his older brother E.J., it's unclear if he can handle the rigors of the college game mentally.
CB: Andre Amos (6-1, 180, Fr.), Ginn, Mike Roberts (5-11, 185, Sr.). Possibly the only player to shut down Michigan WR Mario Manningham last year was Amos at the Ohio North-South Classic. Up to that point, it was unclear whether he would be a corner or receiver in college. Now, there is no doubt. Amos plays the ball extremely well and will likely be a starter in 2006. ... This could be the year we finally see Ginn play some defense. He was the No. 1 cornerback in the country in high school and with the lack of numbers in the secondary, he will likely need to play two ways (or three ways if you prefer). … Roberts has tremendous speed, but has been unable to make waves thus far in his career. Could he be this year's Andree Tyree? (Fifth year senior on scholarship who finally puts it together and contributes.)
FS: Brandon Mitchell (6-3, 205, Sr.), Sirjo Welch (6-0, 185, Jr.), Antonio Smith (5-9, 195, Sr.), Devon Lyons (6-4, 215, So.). Mitchell has patiently waited for his time to start and as a fifth-year senior he will get his shot. He graduated last June and is in graduate school. He brings good size to the table and his veteran presence will be needed in the young secondary. … Welch and Smith are special teams demons and one of them will need to step up and play some safety as well. ... Lyons played as a true freshman in 2004 at WR, but reportedly is moving to safety. He redshirted last season.
SS: Jamario O'Neal (6-1, 185, So.), Nick Patterson (6-2, 210, So.), Curt Lukens (6-3, 215, Jr.). O'Neal is not a big strong safety, but he's fast and is a big hitter. He is very much like Donte Whitner, the player he will be replacing. … Patterson is a big, physical player who looked good on special teams last year. He will compete with O'Neal for a starting spot. … Lukens came to OSU as a linebacker, but was moved to safety. Injuries have held him back, but if he can stay healthy this is the year he could make an impact.
PK: Ryan Pretorius (5-10, 190, So.), Aaron Pettrey (6-1, 185, Fr.). Pretorius, the former professional rugby player from South Africa, has a leg up on the job right now. He has a big leg and came to OSU with the intent of making it to the NFL one day. … Pettrey wanted to be a Buckeye, was patient, and finally joined the team last year. He will likely be Pretorius' backup, but will challenge for the starting job in the spring.
P: A.J. Trapasso (6-1, 220, So.), John Thoma (6-1, 190, Fr.). Trapasso had a solid season as a first year starter in 2005, averaging over 40 yards per punt. He will just get better with age. … Thoma, a preferred walk-on, has a big leg and will likely be Trapasso's backup.
PR: Ginn. If he works on ball security, there isn't a better punt returner in the land.
KR: Ginn. Is anyone else starting to think that No. 7 won't leave the field very much in 2006?
No, I can't say I'm unbiased. I'm a Bengals fan and had money on the Seahawks. But Super Bowl XL was a joke due to the officials.
You've heard about all the blunders from the men in stripes, so I won't repeat them. Instead, let's examine a way to improve the officiating league wide.
As it stands now, NFL officials are part time employees. Most have other jobs as lawyers, teachers and anything else you can think of. But the NFL is a multi-billion dollar business and should not have "moonlighters" deciding the games.
So, what is the solution? Make it a full-time job, at least during the season.
During the week, officials would watch game film, just like players and coaches. They could fine-tune their skills, so they don't feel the need to call a quarterback for an "illegal block" while making a tackle on an interception (arguably the worst call in football history).
MICHIGAN COACHES IN FLUX
Following a disappointing 7-5 season, several Michigan fans called for coaching changes. Well, they got their wish… somewhat.
Offensive coordinator Terry Malone left the program to and will coach tight ends for the New Orleans Saints. He will be replaced by Mike DeBord, who was UM's offensive coordinator from 1997-99 and was also a head coach at Central Michigan from 2000-03.
Defensive backs coach Ron English also jumped ship to take a similar job with the Chicago Bears. And now there are strong rumors that UM quarterbacks coach Scott Loeffler could be leaving for the New England Patriots.
The one coach that most UM fans wanted fired was defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann. But all indications are that he will be back next year.
The best guess here is that head coach Lloyd Carr will coach one or two more seasons, and then announce his retirement.
So, how will OSU's basketball team finish up? Well, the No. 17 Buckeyes are currently 16-3 and 5-3 in the Big Ten. They have a crucial stretch coming up with games at Michigan, against Illinois and at Wisconsin.
This might be generous, but I look for OSU to go 6-2 in its next eight games, which would put them at 22-5 overall, and 11-5 in the Big Ten. The latter record might be enough to earn a share of the Big Ten championship. There probably will not be a team that finishes better than 12-4, and 11-5 might be enough to win (or share) the title.
As for the NCAA Tournament, I expect OSU to be seeded anywhere from third, to fifth. A Sweet 16 run could be in the cards for the Buckeyes.