Nobody covered the spring Scarlet and Gray game like Bucknuts covered it. In addition to all of the re-caps and features and interviews and analysis, Dave Biddle even had a "streaming blog" to update you voyeurs as the game went along!
Well, that was almost a week ago. And even the amateurs (read: mainstream media…) have gotten their points across, now that they're had time to think about them. So, with all the twits and wits and half-wits having checked in, old Mr. Bucknuts a) doesn't have much to add and b) has to say something, right?
So let me say this about that:
First off, TIVO is a wonderful thing for a game like the spring scrimmage. You not only can go back over plays while the announcers are off on some mindless rant, but you get to skip the mindless rants altogether. What is more annoying than trying to figure out who made that shoestring catch and – instead of telling us – the talking head is reviewing some feel-good incident from years back or interviewing Mike Vrabel for contributing $75 K from his many NFL millions? (OK, so I did see some of the filler…).
Secondly, it is extra-hard to focus on the defense when it's Ohio State versus Ohio State. At least it is for me. And it's even harder to focus on the trench players, toiling in anonymity. Once again, for me, that is. So, to make it easier (on me, that is…), I focused on the skill players – you know, where all the fun is. Or, at least, where the action is.
And I was surprised at how much action there was for a game that produced all of one touchdown. As for that trench play stuff? I will impart what our technical expert, Duane Long, said on the premium message board right after the game ended:
"I saw 3 Day One NFL draft picks at DE. Barrow had a solid game but Wilson, Gohlston and Richardson are big, very quick and showed motors that the NFL covets. They played with a Michigan game intensity. Todd Denlinger was very impressive inside. As to the offensive linemen, Datish cannot play tackle. He is needed inside. Barton and Boone can handle the tackle spots just fine. Barton and Datish did not play at all and Downing played little that I recall. Playing together means more for OLs than any other players but if not for those 3 starters not being a part of the game I would be very discouraged. I saw 2 passing grades for OLs in this game: Boone and Cordle. I think Schafer could be a really good guard but he is so athletic you want to play him at tackle. He just can't get his pass pro down. Another OL that impressed me was Skinner. He looks completely different. His body is so different than last year and he moves very well. He had some rough moments but I like what I saw of him as a big athletic kid. In time he could help. On the other end of this I don't know what to say about Mitchum. For one thing I would like to ask someone that was in the stadium how big he looks. He is listed at 295. He doesn't look 275. He has been here 3 years now and has not gotten much bigger. He looks like an undersized DT."
I must say I was impressed by the linebacker play, despite my admitted lack of focus there. Duane adds:
"I was more surprised at the linebackers than any other player position. Homan was the best linebacker on the field. He really looked like Hawk especially on one play late running inside out when one of the QBs broke the pocket. He was on him like ugly on an ape. Hoobler had 3 pass breakups, one was almost an interception, and a great catch as a TE. Laurinatis had an interception but I saw little else out of him. I liked what I saw of Curtis Terry. He is solid. He makes the plays he needs to make. Spitler flashed by a couple of times. Kerr had some plays. Between the tackles, where his instincts, strength and toughness become the most important attributes for a linebacker, he showed he can handle the job. He had a couple of hurries because he read the hole in the protection to perfection and timed his run right. Grant has another level of speed. Freeman did not show me anything. I could not be happier about what I saw from these kids. Can any of them play offensive line?
My own thoughts? Good question. Let me hit the areas that I actually did have some personal opinions about:
There was a huge drop-off from the lush talent that is Troy Smith to the more austere talents of Justin Zwick. But there was an even greater drop when comparing Zwick to the still-under-development cases of Boeckman and Schoenhoft. While each scrambled around trying to look more like Troy Smith, they made decisions that often looked more like Steve Bellisari. I think Zwick will get deserved time as a back-up this year and he might save our butts in a key situation. I think that the No. 3 and No. 4 guys have a ways to go – and maybe we should have expected that, after all.
Saying that, I liked Boeckman's more natural feel for the game. Watching film – like Troy finally did – could cure him of some of those bad decisions. I also liked the fact that both big young QB's are surprisingly athletic. But they are not Troy Smith…
2) Tight Ends
I am ready and willing to be impressed. I can't vouch for their blocking (see previous admonitions…) but I did watch them play pitch and catch. In this game, Nicol reminded me of Ben Hartsock. Frost left me with some sodden memories of Ryan Hamby. Yet, I am strangely optimistic about Marcel. Here is an enthusiastic huge athlete that can be a difference-maker. Let's hope…
3) Running Backs
Wow…After the Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall and Sammy Maldonado years, I can only say, wow…There were times I forgot that our best runner – a 1300 yard junior-to-be – wasn't in there at all. Despite the patchwork line and spotty blocking (yes, those do seem to go together…), all three of the "back-ups" showed real flashes. Did you notice that every time Chris Wells touched the ball, there was a buzz from the crowd? Yes, it was like the 2002 "Maurice buzz" and, man, that was cool. Did you see Haw reading the field, cutting and accelerating? The kid is good and big and motivated. And did you see a slightly bigger Maurice Wells pinballing his way through the middle of the line? And did you wonder why the coaches still can't seem to get him out into space? There's a great use for all three of these wunderkinds and I can't wait to see them in "real life" situations.
4) Wide Receivers
As deep as they are at RB, they are deeper yet at WR. Not only did it help us to forget about Santonio, we almost forgot that Gonzo and Teddy were barely in the game. Brian Hartline was fantastic. Brian Robiskie will be. And how exciting was it to see the talents-on-display of Albert Dukes and Devon Lyons – back in his natural position? Finally, Roy Hall is huge and could also be a huge part of the 2006 attack…
5) The early enrolled freshmen
If you didn't get a lump in your throat watching these three kids, you just don't like football. Kurt Coleman is a fantastic athlete with innate ball skills. Ross Homan did a spot-on AJ Hawk impression, including his post-game comments. And Chris Wells? As one of the coaches said to our Nevada Buck: "When I asked [the coach]about the "new guys" in camp (Homan, Coleman and Wells), he said the following: "Homan and Coleman will have trees in the Buckeye Grove, but Chris Wells is going to be in stained glass on the rotunda." He is that good. Or, at least, he has that potential. And – remember – these kids are still a month away from what should be their high school proms. Hell, Wells is only 17-and-a-half! Great kids and great times ahead if you are a Buckeye fan. Which brings me to…
6) The fans
63,000+. Yes, it was a beautiful day. Yes, hope springs eternal and spring hopes eternal and…did you see 63,000 fans at the Show watching an intra-squad scrimmage in April?! Whatever recruits were there – that should have been "case closed". NOBODY gets support like OSU football gets support.
What a great job from the coaches and players getting prepared in the spring. Color me scarlet or gray but color me impressed…
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Springing backwards…Because we are completely nuts, we watch the other teams' spring practices, as well. And because most spring games have mitigating and extenuating circumstances that surround them, I won't bore you with a bunch of specifics. But I will tell you this, about some of our upcoming 2006 major opponents:
Michigan: Continuing Llllloyd's wobbly and weird ways, most of the first-teamers didn't participate at the final scrimmage on April 15. Henne, however, was disappointing and inconsistent, hitting only on short passes and dumps to the backs. Carlos Brown is the new offensive weapon but where he plays, only Lloyd knows…The offensive line struggled, by most accounts. With a new defensive coach, he showed some new schemes (a 4-2-5?) and blitzed more than we've come to expect. Very little to observe which might have been their preference at this point…
Texas: In the post Vince Young Era, will Colt McCoy be shooting blanks or riding tall in the saddle? And in a sharp contrast to the Buckeyes, the Texas defense will have to carry this team until the offense gets in synch. As for that offense, McCoy played against the first-team D and went a respectable 7-11 for 75 yards and no scores. The other QB combatant, true frosh Jevan Snead was 9-13 for 97 yards and 1 TD, against the second stringers. Both can run a little bit and they will probably have to run a lot as opposing defenses blitz the bejeesus out of Texas, particularly in the early going.
Iowa: We have to face the Hawkeyes at night at their place. They have to replace a group of linebackers that might have been as elite as our vaunted trio. The defensive line looked as good this spring as they looked bad last fall. Drew Tate is back but there are a lot of questions as to whom he is going to throw the ball. The O-line is a work in progress but that's one of Ferentz's strong suits – it's actually better to catch Iowa early before they gel. Linebackers and corners are still shaky. Lots of questions remain on personnel issues.
Penn State: PSU worked on getting new quarterback, Anthony Morelli, a shot of confidence by playing a first team versus second team game. Morelli was 13-16 for 191 yards against the scrubs. 18,000 fans showed up in the rain as the first-team Blue beat the second-team White 17-0.
Purdue: OK, we don't play Purdue this year, but it is evident that this program is sliding downhill and we wanted to see if the Tiller Toilers were making any progress. The spring game was closed to the public and media, which is certainly one way to deflect criticism. Tiller had positive things to say about his QB's but half of the entire first team was missing due to a variety of ailments. Don't expect a sudden sea change here…
Notre Dame: We also don't play the Weis Guy Domers but they do play three of the teams listed above. Plus, any school that poses as a "national" team is a school that the whole nation loves to hate. On a warm April day before 41,000 expectant loyalists, a split squad produced a fast and relatively dull 10-7 affair. Quinn was 16-25 for 181 yards and was throwing on most downs late in the lackluster game dominated (?) by the defenses.
More later as these stories develop…
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A perfect face for radio…Duane Long does most of his best work in the dark dank confines of his house – and in the darker danker confines of the Bucknuts office. But we seduced him into joining us on two radio shows: The Bucknuts Radio Hour and the Bucknuts Recruiting Roundtable. We have a lot of fun with these shows and – according to the stats – many of you are listening. Whether you have fun or not is another question.
The Bucknuts Radio Hour is in its sixth season and everyone can now access it for free right off the front of our main page. We throw in a cornucopia of news, interviews, jokes, music, opinions and bad humor into a frothy mix of everything Buckeye. Hey – this year, we are even interviewing premium posters to see what their story might be!
We are loaded with recruiting stuff and that's where "Da Man", Duane Long weighs in. We have yet to stump him on a recruiting question. And even if he makes the stuff up on the spot (after all, 38% of all statistics are made up based on the situation…), we have a lot of fun with a lot of good information.
The Recruiting Roundtable is a bunch of us sitting around offering opinions as to the current state of affairs on recruiting. Sorta like a bunch of you sitting around – minus the alcoholic beverages. Plus, we get guys that are paid to come up with those opinions. In addition to the Bucknuts Regulars (Kirk and Duane and Steve and Dave Biddle), we have on The Irregulars like Allan Wallace and Jamie Newberg and Bob Lichtenfels. We also have on some of our opinion-makers like Nevada Buck and Bill Greene.
Join us for either show. The Bucknuts Radio Hour is posted every Tuesday afternoon for your listening pleasure. And the Recruiting Roundtable is a once-per-month feat in the middle of each month on a Thursday. We'll see you on the radio!
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Tuning up for the season…For the radio show, producer Ed Douglas and I have a rotating play list of about 400 songs, culled from the last three decades or so of our indolence and sloth. I still say that our play list is better than most radio stations! We try to be topical or relevant to the subjects coming on: "Don't Mess Around With Jim" for Coach Tressel, "Call Me" or "I'm Mr. Lonely" for the Ask Mr. Bucknuts sequence, and "Closing Time" for our last segment, are some pertinent examples. Sometimes we stretch in our selection and sometimes we hit a subtle home run ("Shake Your Booty" for Ashton Youboty and "The Mighty Quinn" for Quinn Pitcock, as more evidence). We try not to offend (unless it's an opposing team or Tom Lemming – "Please Mr. Postman") and we try to keep it, well…relatively clean.
And it's all in good fun. So, for those of you who get upset by The Descendants or Coldplay or the Meat Puppets and the sort, stick around. There are ten segments and ten songs every week. It's like the weather in Florida, give it time and it's sure to change…
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Do you know your Buckeye legends?...There are so many legendary players (and legendary moments) that it is hard to keep track. That is the impetus for a new web site that started last week: Buckeyelegends.com, interestingly enough. I got a chance to spend some time with Jim Karsatos, a legend and a co-founder of the site. And Jim hopes to get these guys all coordinated together, help them find speaking and appearance gigs to further their own pursuits, and to make them available to the rest of us mere mortals. It's a great idea. And, like Coach Tressel's site last summer, we are supportive of the idea here despite being in a similar business. I encourage anything positive to get the message out to the Buckeye Nation because, yes, I am both a fan and supporter first. Welcome Buckeye Legends and good luck!
If you want to make the case that they should include Mr. Bucknuts on the list of legends (kind of like Bonny and Clyde or John Dillinger, write him and tell him that – or anything else for that matter – at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com