Mr. Bucknuts' Bucket Of Bullets

The Scout.com recruiting rankings were released this week and contained many surprises, most of which were not greeted very warmly by Ohio State fans. Mr. Bucknuts looked over the list too and has some choice words regarding the rankings in his lates Bucket of Bullets.

When the Scout "Top 100" national recruiting list was finally unveiled earlier this week, I thought, "Finally. Those guys at Scout have shown that they really do have a sense of humor." I laughed hysterically over the fact that no Ohio kid made the top 70. Or that Trotwood's CJ Peake was considered the best player in the state. I had actual tears forming to think that they left off Eugene Clifford completely and that there are 75 players in America better than Ben Martin.

But, wait…that wasn't intended as a parody? That wasn't the "Spinal Tap" of college recruiting lists? Oh. But it really is a joke, isn't it? Yeah, I thought so…

Listen, we are as indignant over total crap like the Scout 100 as you are. We won't try to defend it. Or even sugar coat it. It makes Scout and Bucknuts look like buffoons. Not only did they totally disregard our recruiting guys and our opinions, they even disregarded Chris Pool, their own Midwest representative! The southern and western bias is so transparent and so amateurish that the list should read "The Top 100 players in the west and the south. And some others".

And–  if you didn't attend the Scout combines? Well, you get big deductions for that. Commerce uber alles.

Personally, I think that Scout is afraid that their competition is going to disappear and they want to give fans a reason to subscribe to non-Scout sites. Otherwise, I don't see any rationale at all for the ludicrous mess they just published. What a waste of resources and opportunities…

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A Bucknut by any other name…By far, the most interesting stuff that appears in the Bucket of Bullets comes from other people (either stolen or with begrudging attribution). People who write or e-mail me often come up with unique stuff and often it has to do with the Bucknuts name. One such quirky e-mail came from Scott Spencer:

Hello, Mr. Bucknuts:

Recently there was considerable consternation at the Stanford site, The Bootleg, when one of Gary Housteau's photos of a high school talent that appeared on that site, bearing Gary's byline as well as that of the Bucknuts site. As you may be aware, Stanford boasts a number of foreign born players on its roster (I believe currently there are eight Nigerians playing for the Cardinal).

So curious names are a frequent topic of conversation on The Bootleg. In any respect, the Cardinal faithful got quite a kick out of the idea of a high school phenom named "Bucknuts Housteau", and were equally interested to speculate about his sexual prowess, and perceived toughness!

Enjoy the site! Keep up the great work!

Scott Spencer

Or an even better perspective:

Drop shots and lob-sters…Although we seldom address such "non-revenue" sports at OSU such as tennis (or the great succession of synchronized swimming teams…), maybe we should start taking a look. Recently in San Francisco, the Ohio State tennis team fell to No. 3 Texas 4-3 in the quarterfinals of the 2006 NCAA Men's Tennis Team Championships Sunday. The match started on the campus of Stanford University but was moved indoors in San Francisco because of rain.

The No. 6-ranked Buckeyes tied a school record with the elite appearance, accomplished for the second time in the last three years. Ohio State (28-2) set records for wins in a season and consecutive victories (19) this year.
 
And things are looking up for the Buckeye netsters. Next year, a local Dayton lad, Justin Kronauge, will be matriculating at OSU, rather than be seduced by the professional calling. Justin has been the #1 junior in the country since early 2005 and was ranked by the USTA as the #1 18-and-under in the nation. When we asked Justin what some of the compelling reasons were to attend OSU, he remarked that he enjoyed the recruiting pitch from…Jim Tressel. Hey – Justin is from Centerville. Could he be the tennis Hawk in Columbus? Or will fans chant "Kro-Nauuuuu-gee"?  

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Saturday Night's all right for fighting… Being somewhat on the business end of college sports, I noted with interest that ABC seems to have replaced their Monday Night Football series with the new Saturday Night College football series. What once were vices are now habits, indeed. The occasionally aberrant Saturday night affair is now main viewing fare with a complete season schedule. For those of you that might have missed it, it breaks down like this:

    Sept 2: Notre Dame at Georgia Tech

    Sept 9: OSU at Texas

    Sept 16: Nebraska at USC

    Sept 23: Notre Dame at MSU; USC at Arizona

    Sept 30: OSU at Iowa; or Michigan at Minnesota

    Oct 7: Oregon at Cal; or Big 12 vs. Big East

    Oct 14: Michigan at PSU; Arizona State at USC

    Nov 4: UCLA at Cal; ACC/Big 12 vs. Big East

    Nov 11: TBD

    Nov 18: Cal at USC; other TBD

    Nov 25: Notre Dame at USC

    Dec 12: Big 12 championship

There are a few items that jump right off the schedule at you. First, Notre Dame will no longer be a MNC pretender after they lose their opener on national TV. Second. OSU will be #1 in the country after they wreak vengeance on Texas the following week. Third, USC is becoming "America's team" as they will appear at least four times on some version of national TV.

And fourth, what happened to the vaunted Irish relationship with the NotreDame Booster Company (known in media circles simply as "NBC")?  Did ABC figure out a sneaky end run where they take away the best of the ND games and leave NBC with the thrills and agony of such classic as Notre Dame-Navy and Notre Dame-Air Force, and other national powers like Stanford and North Carolina? Ahh, the wheels keep turning…

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A Fiesta – The bowl and the offer…Bucknuts managing editor Steve Helwagen has spent much of the last four years working on a book covering OSU's double overtime win over Miami at the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. He has interviewed more than three dozen players and coaches and has comments from those on both sides of this landmark game.

But this special book packages all of those chapters – all of which have been revised, updated and lengthened -- into one piece. Plus, there are a ton of great photos and other features. Here is an outline on this special book, "The Greatest Game Ever Played:"

* In the introduction, Helwagen discusses why this Fiesta Bowl was the greatest game ever played.

* Chapter 1 centers on Ohio State's regular season and the push toward the national title game. Chapter 2 has a look at Miami's season.

* In Chapter 3, Helwagen recounts the weeks leading up to the national championship game, including the flap over Maurice Clarett's desire to return home to Ohio to attend a friend's funeral.

* Chapter 4 provides complete play-by-play coverage of the first quarter, where Miami struck for first blood.

* In Chapter 5, Steve outlines the pivotal second quarter. OSU capitalized on a spate of Miami turnovers to take a 14-7 halftime lead.

* Chapter 6 examines the third quarter, when Miami inched closer.

* In Chapter 7, the fourth quarter of the game is reviewed – right down to the final play field goal that sent the national title game into overtime.

* Chapter 8 goes into great detail on the first overtime period, which was marked by a pair of fourth-down conversions by the Buckeyes. The second of those was the controversial pass interference penalty that gave OSU a fresh set of downs.

* In Chapter 9, Helwagen looks at OSU's quick scoring drive in the second overtime as well as the defense's amazing goal line stand that paved the way for the school's first national championship in 34 years.

* Chapter 10 chronicles the chaotic scene on the field at Sun Devil Stadium after OSU's surprising win over Miami. Helwagen also shares excerpts from Tressel's post-game press conference and comments from the players on their special celebration back at the team hotel.

* In Chapter 11, the book examines the weeks and months that followed the national championship game as the Buckeyes were honored at Ohio Stadium, an OSU basketball game and a trip to the White House.

* In Chapter 12, Steve shares his view on the top 20 games in Ohio State football history, plus he looks at 20 more that could have easily cracked the list.

* Chapter 13 includes analysis from CollegeFootballNews.com's Pete Fiutek on the greatest college football games ever played, as well as a cool piece on the greatest finishes in college football history.

* Chapter 14 contains all of the facts and figures from this special game, including the final box score, the OSU roster, bowl scores from both teams, match-ups between No. 1 and No. 2 teams and much more.

* Chapter 15 is a special chapter. Helwagen shares excerpts from some of Tressel's best moments from his first two years as the OSU coach. This includes snippets from his introductory press conference, his speech at the OSU-Michigan basketball game (the "310-day" speech), his speech to the Ohio high school coaches association, his comments at his first Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon ("it's not about the ball") and his speech to the American Football Coaches Association in the days following the Fiesta Bowl win.

* And, yes, Mr. Bucknuts weighs in with the Epilogue. My column from the days following the Fiesta Bowl is reprinted and I relive the emotional roller coaster as the Buckeyes claimed the national championship.

Steve Helwagen also explains the title and premise of this one-of-a-kind OSU keepsake. "It's real simple," he said. "Never has a game that meant that much been so good."

Check out the front page of Bucknuts for all the business details…

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Backs to the future…In our Bucknuts mode that "I like what I have so much that I want more", it's time to look forward to the draft, I mean the recruiting for the 2007 class. I decided to start with the running backs this year since it seems to be the position in which we need the least help. But – not so fast, my friend…

Right now, we are in a situation that smacks of an embarrassment of riches. The days of JaJa Riley and Sammy Maldonado hoping to supplant the likes of Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross are – fortunately - distant memories. We have four backs that could probably start for about 100 of the other 116 D-I teams.

Let us start with Antonio Pittman, who will start for us. He will be but a junior this year and is coming off a sensational 1300+ yard season, a season in which he seemed to get better as the year wore on. Behind him – chronologically – are Erik Haw and Maurice Wells. They will both be sophomores in eligibility. Haw is a load – an exciting combination of speed and power. Maurice Wells will be a situational guy – find him some space and he can create the excitement. And behind those two? We have those giddy possibilities of Chris Wells, which should need no disposition here.

But you can't look at just the next couple of years – in which we will see a 2008 season that all of the above could be playing their final year. That's right. Pittman will be gone, M Wells and Haw would be seniors and C Wells will probably be looking to do a "Whitner kind of thing", going early for the draft. Thus, we need another running back this year to keep the pipeline flowing. Who, you ask?

Asked and answered. His name is Brandon Saine and he already committed. Being a big burly type (and one of the fastest high school humans in the nation), that seems like a good start. But will he play tailback or wide receiver? If they are recruiting him as a wide-out, then maybe they can land another "huge hoss" back like John Clay or Chicago's Robert Hughes. Otherwise, we will see the Buckeyes biding their time to see how some of the Ohio senior high school seasons of promising backs like Morgan Williams, Danny Herron or Hosea Simpson. There are rumored offers on the table to Dale Martin, as well.

The last offer? Could be to a combo athlete that plays running back and a DB position.

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Pitt-ing man against man…Speaking of future running backs, who will we be speaking of in the very near future at that crowded position? Well, we spoke with running backs coach Dick Tressel recently and asked him that same question: whose gonna be "the Man" in the Buckeye backfield in 2006? Seemed like a silly question to ask, even for me. After all, we have the returning Antonio Pittman, who seemed to improve with almost every carry last season. And he had enough carries that – on an offense loaded with firepower – he amassed over 1300 rushing yards as a mere sophomore.

With a wry smile, Coach Tressel's answer cut right to it. "His sophomore year rushing was the second-best in the history of Ohio State University, and the guy before won a Heisman," he said. And that's why Pittman will be the number one guy next fall despite sitting out most of spring drills with a pulled hamstring, an injury he sustained while running a 40 yard dash this winter. ‘Nuf said. Let's cut the guy some slack and not simply look at the po-tential of other backs that haven't cut it at all, yet.

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Here's where it all ends…An older friend of mine was a huge Buckeye football fan. When he passed away a few weeks ago, his family eschewed the traditional "shovel dirt on his grave". But as the mourners were walking away from the hole in the ground, they heard the pop-pop-popping as the grave diggers filled it in. What was the sound? It was a sack of Buckeyes being spread on top of his coffin.

 A Buckeye forever, indeed. And, Curly, may you rest forever in dignity and peace. And may we all say, "Amen".

  

For notes or quotes or simply venting, Mr. Bucknuts is your man. Contact him at your leisure at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com


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