As you know from the e-mails, I've been working on the roster page for this site over the past few days and am still plugging away at it. This work gave me an idea for a prediction article of a different kind.
I'm going to go through player-by-player (scholarship players and walk-ons expected to contribute) and give a prediction of what they will do this year. Will they have a big year? Will they sit? I am going to get out the crystal ball and peer into it today and give some thoughts. We will see if I am as good as Miss Cleo. Let's get started.
Craig Krenzel: I'm going to predict that Craig remains the starter the entire year, but hopefully it will be due to performance and not default. I am not confident that anyone behind him can be the full-time quarterback. I predict though that he will have a few rough spots, but by and large, he will have a solid season and will be able to lead the offense. I also think he will become a leader on this team, if he isn't already.
Scott McMullen: Scott will start the season as the #2 QB, but before long, I think he'll fall back on the depth chart behind a freshman.
Justin Zwick: Justin is not going to be a starter this year, and maybe not until 2004. But I do not think he'll redshirt, and he could be the one to move up to #2 on the depth chart by the end of the year.
Troy Smith: Troy says he will redshirt, so I'll go out on a limb and predict he will redshirt. :-) But I wonder if it is possible for him to be more impressive than Zwick, causing the coaches to change their mind...
Overall: Still a bit shaky if you ask me. But I'm staying optimistic, and I think Krenzel will do just enough for the Buckeyes to be at the top of the Big Ten.
Maurice Hall: I'm going to be interesting here. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict him as the man to emerge as the guy who leads the team in rushing. Last year, I did not think he was capable of being someone who could be a feature back, but I am changing my mind. I love his speed and I like the fact that he bulked up to go with it. That big-play ability will help him lead the team in rushing yards.
Maurice Clarett: I was wondering the other day what would happen if the coaches told Maurice he was going to redshirt. I don't think that is in the cards, though. Maurice seems to have the best overall package of these running backs, but I just don't feel confident enough yet to say he will lead the team in rushing. He'll get plenty of time though. I also hope he stays healthy; he does have a history of getting banged up.
Lydell Ross: Last year, I was telling people to calm down after they were predicting Heisman contention and a place in the first-round of the NFL draft for Lydell Ross after he ran for 100+ yards against Indiana. But I was still high on him then and am still high on his ability now. I think we could see Lydell or Maurice Clarett team with Maurice Hall to turn into a Joe Montgomery/Michael Wiley-like combination (with a little less overall production). If Hall is my pick to have the edge in rushing yards, it's a toss-up between Clarett and Lydell for who's next.
JaJa Riley: Hmm. I think we certainly saw in the spring that he has some ability, especially with his impressive pass-catching display in the spring game. I love a running back that can catch the ball, so if he is indeed that good at it, I hope there is a spot for him. I do think he'll remain fourth on this list of running backs, but I don't foresee him sitting the whole year. I do think he will get some attempts at the position.
Branden Joe: Now we move on to fullback. Jamar Martin is gone and will be missed, but the Buckeyes will not be empty-handed. Branden Joe comes in as the #1 FB, and he has the ability to keep that spot all season. You'll be hard-pressed to find someone who can knock defenders on their butt like Martin could, but Joe might be able to bring more offensively. You won't see too many yards out of him this year, but I think we'll see some TDs in goal-line situations.
Brandon Schnittker, Jack Tucker, Nate Stead, Jesse Kline: I like Schnittker and I think he and Joe are relatively close to each other as far as the starting spot goes. Schnittker should see some time this year. Tucker and Stead seem to be on the outside looking in and might get a couple of looks, but in most likelihood, they'll be looking up at Schnittker and Joe all year. Kline is listed behind those top four tailbacks, and he looks to be a victim of numbers this year if he can stay healthy.
Overall: I like the talent a lot at tailback. More than one of these guys could explode this year, and with 13 regular season games, there could be enough work to make everyone happy. I would be disappointed if the team doesn't rush for over 2,000 yards this season.
Michael Jenkins: I do not think Michael, who led the team in receiving yardage last year with 988, will put up quite the same numbers this year. There's too much quantity in the receiver department. I like him though, and I think he still has a chance to stick as the team's leading receiver. He doesn't seem to be one of those silky smooth receivers, but he gets the job done and showed he can be sneaky and get open on those deep routes too. If I had to guess, I think he will lead the team in catches and yards, but I think he may fall short of 900, even though there are more games.
Chris Vance: Chris has great hands and ability, for sure. I think we could see some more spectacular grabs from him this year as he did it enough last year to make me believe it wasn't a fluke. Like Michael Jenkins though, I do not know if he'll get quite as many looks because I think the 2nd string guys will need to be on the field...
Drew Carter: Drew is my player to keep an eye on. I think he has outstanding ability and would have been the feature receiver last year if he stayed healthy. If he stays healthy this year, I think he'll be one of those players they have to put on the field, even though he is not in the two deep. I predict he will at least be in the two deep before the season starts.
Chris Gamble: Chris, on the other hand, could be a starter before long. He's the man everyone, including Coach Tressel, raves about at the wide receiver position. This is the guy, they say, who has star written all over him. I predict he will start the season as the #3 receiver, and as the season progresses, we could see him get more and more time.
Bam Childress: Bam looks good on paper -- an undersized but explosive player who can make things happen when he gets the ball. Some people are sold on him; I'm not just yet. To me, he looked extremely green last year as a wide receiver. I think he will get more chances this year, but they still might be relatively few with the other four guys mentioned above in the mix.
Angelo Chattams: Angelo probably should have redshirted last year. This year, I am not sure there will be much room for him to get many more opportunities. He has ability, but he doesn't seem to be moving up the depth chart. I think, unfortunately, that his opportunities will be few this season.
John Hollins: Poor John finds himself in the middle of all this, and he is definitely not higher than third-string right now. He has talent, but how long will he have to wait to see the field? I think, like Angelo Chattams, his opportunities will be limited, even if he is healthy. That's not a knock on John... there's just not enough footballs to make everyone satisfied.
Roy Hall and Santonio Holmes: Unless one of these two guys comes in and shows that they are All-World and needs to play immediately, I think they'll redshirt.
Overall: I hope someone will be able to get these players the ball because OSU needs to take advantage of this group, which will be a strength of the offense. That seems to be the only question mark.
Ben Hartsock: Throughout recent years, fans have been dying to see OSU throw the ball to the tight ends more. Ben Hartsock is not a prototypical pass-catching tight end, so I don't think we'll see the second coming of Tim Stratton here. Combined, he and Darnell Sanders were good for only 25 catches last year. I think OSU will be OK with Ben though; he will be a sneaky weapon who will sneak up on opposing teams for some key catches. He will start the whole year and catch around 20 or so passes.
Ryan Hamby: Ryan reportedly had a good spring and is more of a pure pass-catching tight end, but he needs to keep working on the blocking aspect. Right now, he is in line to be the #2 tight end this year. I think he will get playing time, but I don't think it is a given that he stays as the #2 TE.
Redgie Arden: I think he'll need to continue to work to get better before getting significant time. I like his physical potential though. He has good size and speed, so if he can learn the position, he could be good before long. But I don't expect much this year.
Jason Caldwell: I'm not sure what to make of him. After the spring, he was fifth on the depth chart behind the above three players and a walk-on. Using that bit of info, I predict we won't see him much this year, if at all.
R.J. Coleman: R.J. is a good dark horse candidate for early P.T. He appears to be good physically and has had good reviews as a pass catcher. I predict he will redshirt, but don't be surprised if he moves up to at least #3 on the depth chart. I could easily be wrong here on the redshirt prediction.
Overall: There isn't a star here yet, or even someone you could call a bona fide NFL prospect, but the cupboard isn't bare. I think the position will be solid, but it won't be great. I don't look for much production in the pass-catching department, but if they help keep the QB standing, that's fine with me. We'll let the receivers and the backs worry about catching the ball.
Shane Olivea: A very important player on this team, Shane emerged as possibly the top returning offensive lineman. The big question is if he will be able to rebound 100% from injury. The best case scenario is he turns out to be 100%, stays healthy and has an All-Big Ten-caliber season. I think he will be ready to go, but I wouldn't put him as an All Big Ten player just yet. I will say though that I think he'll be the team's top lineman.
Ivan Douglas: Another very important player. Ivan is a massive guy, but last year, he was out after suffering what was in reality a life-threatening condition as he had a blood clot in his lung. How will he perform? It's tough to say. I have a wait-and-see attitude, but I hope he does the job. If not, you could see a freshman or a walk-on get more time than we'd like.
Bryce Bishop: Some might have been writing Bryce off before last season, but he emerged to take the starting job at guard. He seemed to have an up-and-down year, but this year, he should be better. I don't think he will be All-Conference level, but he'll be improved.
Adrien Clarke: Adrien has the potential to be the best of the bunch if he comes in healthy and in shape. Even if he does come in with a monster truck-sized spare tire though, he will start. I haven't seen anything yet that makes me believe he'll suddenly become svelte and emerge as the standout he should be, but no one will take his job either. Are you starting to notice a pattern here as far as depth is concerned?
Alex Stepanovich: It doesn't take a genius to say that this position will see a drop-off from last season. LeCharles Bentley proved to be the top center in America, so we can't expect Alex to just replace him and not miss a beat. We most likely will not see the quality from the center position this year. Alex has ability though, and I think the more time he gets, the better he'll be. Like the rest of the top five, I think he will be solid this year, but not great.
The Freshmen - Derek Morris, Rob Sims, Doug Datish, Nick Mangold, T.J. Downing: It appears at least two freshmen will make the two deep. I'm predicting Sims as one. Morris would be the other logical guess, but there are two problems. One is whether or not he's eligible. The other is that I have heard whispers that he won't be in shape. Therefore, I will pick Doug Datish to make the two-deep over Morris. The others will redshirt (and hopefully not Prop 48).
The Rest - Michael Stafford, Ryan Cook, Adam Olds, Andree Tyree, Scott Kuhnhein, Steve Winner, John McLaughlin: Right now, without the freshmen factored in, Stafford, Olds, Tyree, Winner, and McLaughlin round out the two-deep. That's two walk-ons and an ex-walk-on in the two-deep, and that's a concern. We need the first team to stay healthy and we could use a couple of these freshmen to come in and step up big. But let's take a look at the rest of these guys. Stafford is currently Olivea's back-up, and as a senior, he could hold down that spot this year. He could see some time. Cook is currently behind Stafford at left tackle. He, Olds and Tyree are all redshirt freshmen and appear to need more work and development before becoming big factors. Winner and McLaughlin are the non-scholarship players currently in the two-deep at guard. Kuhnhein is a senior and hasn't seen much time to this point in his career, and him being third on the depth chart behind Olds indicates we might not see much of him again. I'm guessing we won't see much of any of these guys this year. We can only hope that is the case, as in the spring time, the defensive linemen ate these guys alive.
Overall: I think the starting five has a chance to be solid, but the depth is scary, even with the freshmen. There's no guarantee that any of these freshmen will come in and do anything this year. I have a hard time seeing them being ready to block someone like Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy or Michigan's defensive linemen. I have two big hopes here -- that the starters remain healthy and that at least a couple serviceable reserves emerge. If that happens, I think we will be okay on offensive line. If not, well...
Will Smith: Will is everyone's pick to have a big breakout year. If that happens, I will most certainly live with the inevitable stupid Will Smith the football player vs. Will Smith the movie star jokes that the national media will come up with. He certainly has the tools to be a star. Other teams will be well aware of him, but if he continues to show what he did in the spring, a double-digit sack season is not out of the question. I am predicting at least seven sacks, and with 13 games, we could see more. I don't know if he will become a star this year, but he should at least make his name known around Big Ten country.
Darrion Scott: Don't count this guy out. He sat out spring ball due to injury, but he will be back and ready to go, and he will cause problems on the other side. Don't count him out as a possibility to have a breakout season. I think he will have an effective year, and he could put up comparable numbers to Smith.
Tim Anderson: Tim emerged at the end of last year, and I think he will continue to make plays. The defensive tackle rotation should be very good, and I think he'll be the best of the bunch. He will put up good numbers, continue to be disruptive and compete for All-Big Ten honors.
Kenny Peterson: Kenny is entering his final season, and I think he'll go out with a bit of a bang. I like the athleticism he brings to defensive tackle, and I think it is the best spot for him. Chances are he'll be the man on the DL who will get the least amount of attention from opposing teams, so he could be free to cause some problems. I think he will put together a successful season.
Marcus Green and David Thompson: These two are why I like this defensive tackle rotation. These guys can come in and give the starters a rest and not miss a beat. Thompson could probably start at several schools, and Green has seemingly rebounded nicely after reporting to camp out-of-shape last year. They will provide valuable depth.
Simon Fraser: As the third DE, he should see some good minutes. He won't get the spotlight that Scott and Smith will, but to have someone this talented off the bench is part of what makes the potential of this defensive line exciting. He will continue to emerge as an up-and-comer this season.
The Freshmen - Mike Kudla, Jay Richardson, Joel Penton, Tim Schafer, Quinn Pitcock: I would not be surprised to see every single freshman DL redshirt. If one or two do play, I don't see too much time for any of them. They'd have to come in and knock people's socks off. Kudla seems to be in a decent position as right now, Bryce Culver, who is a walk-on, is in the two-deep at DE, but is he ready to play DE at this level right now? Pitcock might be the biggest talent, but the DT position already seems pretty good, and will he be in shape and ready to go after gall bladder surgery? Richardson, Penton and Schafer showed good things in the All-Star games, but I think at least two of them will redshirt. I'm going to make a wild guess here and say that Kudla plays and the rest redshirt.
Overall: The defensive line will be a strong point of this team. It has a bunch of potential. I think it will wind up being the best overall defensive line in the Big Ten, and that's coming from someone who is generally very careful not to over-hype things.
Matt Wilhelm: Matt had nagging injury problems last year, but this year, I think he will be one of the leaders of the team and have an All-Big Ten season. He and Doss will be the stars on defense.
Cie Grant: Grant is an intriguing player because you won't find many linebackers who are faster or more athletic. He moves back to LB from CB last year, replacing the departed Courtland Bullard at the Will position. His speed could create problems for opposing teams, and his experience in pass coverage won't hurt if he has to do that. I think he's good for about 70 tackles, and I really like the potential for a good tackles-for-loss number here.
Robert Reynolds: Dave Biddle says to watch for Robert Reynolds this year because he will finally get the chance to show what he can do. He moves in to replace Joe Cooper, who was solid at SLB. I look for Reynolds to be solid too, although I think both he and Grant could share a bit of time with a freshman from time to time.
Pat O'Neill, Fred Pagac, and Jason Bond: These players are not going to push for a starting position, and as a matter of fact, a lot of people feel they could be looking up at the freshmen before long. Pagac has seen game time in the past, but he has not proven to be someone who has big potential at MLB. O'Neill has seen the bulk of his time on special teams, and Bond is a former walk-on who also has done some good things on special teams but could surprise and see a bit of time this year. It's not expected that these players will play a whole lot this year on defense though.
The Freshmen - Mike D'Andrea, Bobby Carpenter, Stan White, A.J. Hawk: I think it is quite possible that three of these guys could play. D'Andrea, I think, will play, and Carpenter will most likely play. D'Andrea has freakish ability and even though he is projected to be behind the best LB on the team in Wilhelm, I think he'll find his way on the field. Hawk may also prove to be too good to keep off the field. I predict that eventually, D'Andrea and Carpenter will move into the two-deep this season. Hawk is a great candidate to do so as well. I predict that White will redshirt, and Hawk is about 50/50 right now although I'm leaning towards saying he'll play. None will start, but these guys should give the depth a needed boost.
Overall: I think this group is good -- maybe potentially very good. The depth is a concern, and there's always the possibility that Reynolds or Grant may not pan out in their first year starting. But Wilhelm's presence is big, and I think overall, this group should be solid.
Dustin Fox: Dustin is as good of an athlete as there is in the secondary. He's a true safety by nature, but I am confident in his ability to become a good cornerback. I think he'll be fine and could even have a better year than people expect. It will be a challenge at times, but I think he'll be up to it.
Richard McNutt: I can't shake the feeling that this could be the shakiest starting position on the team. McNutt has never been able to fully shake his ankle problems, and I just don't know if he has what it takes to hold down that position for the entire season. I think he'll see plenty of time, but we could see him share quite a bit of it.
Harlen Jacobs: Jacobs came to OSU as a raw but athletic prospect, and it appears that he is starting to develop into a solid corner. He's moved his way into the two-deep, and I like his size and speed. He is a candidate to move in if McNutt can't hold down the spot. In other words, McNutt could be looking over his shoulder at Jacobs this year.
Chris Conwell and Bobby Britton: Conwell, a walk-on transfer from Youngstown State, had himself a good spring and moved ahead of Bobby Britton on the depth chart. This is surprising and a concern at the same time. Will Britton be able to catch up? I think he will before long, and I think both of these players could see time this year, but the guess is neither will push for a starting spot.
Mike Doss: Doss is poised to have a big season. I think he did do the right thing in coming back, and I think he'll make improvements in his game this year to show for it. He'll be the Big Ten's top safety and a top candidate for the Thorpe Award. As a matter of fact, here's my prediction: Doss does have a big season, and that as well as the fact that he's already the most publicized defensive back in America will help him win that Thorpe Award.
Donnie Nickey: Nickey is entering his fourth year as a starter at free safety and should put in another solid season. I want to say he'll have another "Nickey-like" season because he's been consistent over the past couple of years in his play, and I think he'll continue that. He won't win first-team All-Big Ten, but he'll continue to be solid and be a valuable member of the defense.
Will Allen: The trick is getting him on the field with the experience in front of him, but this guy is just itching to break out. You can sense that he has it in him to be a big player, but he might have to wait one more year to show what he can truly do on a full-time basis. Until then, look for him to show why he's most likely the best back-up safety in the Big Ten.
Thomas Matthews and LeAndre Boone: The light seems to be starting to come on for Matthews as he has moved himself into a solid #2 spot at strong safety. With Doss in front of him, he likely won't see too much time, but he should see some minutes this year. Boone is third-string at free safety and doesn't appear ready quite yet to help on defense, although he could help on special teams.
The Freshmen - Michael Roberts, E.J. Underwood, Nate Salley, Tyler Everett, Brandon Mitchell: Underwood will most likely play, and I could easily see him moving into the two-deep before long. Duane Long thinks he'll start, and while I don't think any freshman will start (at least not right off the bat) this year, I think he has the best chance of any of the defensive players. The rest of these guys could redshirt. Roberts, as we saw in the spring, needs some development, so I think he'll probably redshirt. Everett, Salley, and Mitchell are all guys who could play either CB or S, and unless one of them shows to be better than Underwood at CB or better than Thomas Matthews at SS, I think they will take a redshirt year to develop.
Overall: Safety is not a concern. Fox should be okay at one cornerback spot; it's the other spot and the overall depth that troubles me. Let's hope Underwood and/or some other incoming freshmen provide a boost.
Andy Groom: Andy should compete for All-Big Ten honors this year. There's no reason to believe his success last year was a fluke.
B.J. Sander: If Groom punts like he did last year, Sander won't play much, but let's hope that B.J. can come around since at this point he is the only scholarship punter on the team next year.
Mike Nugent and Josh Huston: Let's hope that the problem last year was just inexperience and nerves. Fans will likely still get nervous when the field goal team lines up, but I can't see it being worse than last year, when the two combined were an atrocious 10-24 field goal kicking. I think there will be improvement. I think Nugent will hold down the placekicking job while Huston will be the kickoff specialist. Huston may get a shot or two, but I think The Nuge will get most of the attempts. I'm predicting about 18 field goals for the year for Nuge.
Returns: I like the returners as it stands right now. Chris Vance and Chris Gamble will return punts; Gamble has more of an ability to break a big return, while Vance seems to be more of a sure-hands guy. Mike Doss and Maurice Hall will return kicks; I like that tandem, and if nothing more, it will relieve me of being confused over why Jonathan Wells was returning kicks.
Those were just some thoughts to help sort out who will play and who won't. Based on my past history of predictions, I wouldn't count on many of them coming right. :-) Stay tuned for more features this week that take a look at the upcoming season as well as predictions from some of the other members of the staff.