Those of you that have been reading my stuff for these oh-so-many years know that my tongue is often firmly planted in my cheek. Yes, I aim to titillate and to initiate. Occasionally I aim at informing or opining but that – to me - always seems to be the last refuge of the unimaginative.
So, it was with equal parts glee and bemusement that I noted the rapid (and rabid) response last Friday to an unusually glib comment I made in my column, a comment that ran something like this: "I also think that Penn State comes in with an empty suit. Plus, that payback thing. Plus, we owe Posluszny just for tarnishing the Butkus award…". Of course, the OSU fans didn't comment. But I was drawn and quartered by the Penn State fans – on their message boards.
Let me state for the record that I think Paul P is a class act and so is 2005's best linebacker, AJ Hawk. The selection of Paul over AJ is what tarnished the award. So there.
But what constantly surprises me is that so many of our competitors lurk over here. That's Surprise No. 1. Surprise No. 2 is that they expect us to be non-partisan. Fellas, wake up: this is an Ohio State website! Hey - just check the name!
I get it regularly from Notre Dame fans and from Michigan fans and from…do they really think I care about the fact that I am mistreating them? Most feedback blithers on simmering in their own juices. Much is incomprehensible. In fact, two Penn State questions came to Kirkie along the lines of: "I tried to write you an e-mail and I have the letter "a" in the address. How do I get the circle around it?" Or, "Hey Mr. B, I can't print out your stuff. Every time I try, it says "Can't find printer". I moved the printer and put it right in front of the monitor, but it still says he can't find it".
Keep looking for answers, guys. And party on, you Nits…
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This is shaping up to be a pretty good team…You can't always rely on averages but you can certainly take comfort in trends. On average (as specific examples), the life span of a major league baseball is only seven pitches. On average, Americans eat more than 18 acres of pizza every day. But how does that affect you and me, really?
In the stock market, we like to say that the "trend is your friend". Well, at least on average! And the trend for our beloved Buckeyes is that the team is stocked with better players, deeper than ever, and as young as any of us can remember. That's a good trend, my friend.
We used to lament, in the dark days of Cooper versus Michigan, that Ohio State's starting 22 was as good as theirs but OSU's top 44 was not. Then the trend turned and that losing trend turned with it. Take a look at what is shaping up to be a pretty good team:
Quarterback: Justin Zwick, Todd Boeckman (as back-up)
Fullback: Dionte Johnson, Aram Olson
Running Back: Chris Wells, Maurice Wells
Tight End: Jake Ballard
Wide Receivers: Brian Hartline, Albert Dukes, Brian Robiskie, Devon Lyons
Offensive Line: Ben Person, Jon Skinner, Kyle Mitchum, Tim Schafer, Jim Cordle
Defensive Tackles: Todd Denlinger, Nader Abdallah, Dexter Larimore
Defensive Ends: Vernon Gholston, Robert Rose, Doug Worthington
Linebackers: Larry Grant, Curtis Terry, Ross Homan
Safeties: Jamario O'Neal, Anderson Russell
Cornerbacks: Kurt Coleman, Andre Amos (and Ted Ginn!)
Yes, fans, that's the second team. A team that could probably beat half of the Big Ten, right now. And that's not counting the other super frosh like Connor Smith or Ray Small or Thaddeus Gibson or Tyler Moeller or Grant Schwartz or Antonio Henton. Or all the kids already committed to coming in for 2007!
Point being: the trend is our friend. We are locked and loaded and it continues to be a great time to be a Buckeye…
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Wall Street, the NFL and Ohio State…No one follows "the bucks" like they do on Wall Street. So, their opinions about college football (as reflected in the Wall Street Journal, at least) usually come down to the point where economics intersect with sports interests. The Journal did just such an analysis last week and published an intriguing (if replete with some nonsensical conclusions) article on "measuring the greatness of college football programs". They followed an interesting thesis by scouring the NFL rosters, grouping players by colleges, then giving each of those colleges points based upon the role that those alumni played for their pro teams (were they starters, did their teams win, etc.).
Based on that somewhat fatuous sequence of logic, they rated the "Most Successful College Football Program" as Florida State, by a fairly large margin, quoting NFL scouts as saying that "Top athletes and an emphasis on teaching fundamentals make the Seminoles great pros". Florida was second with Georgia and Tennessee as third and fourth respectively. Our beloved Buckeyes were fifth, followed by Michigan and Miami. Ohio State was downgraded "by a few notable busts". Based on that, don't expect them to mention Pamela Anderson or those southern California schools either…
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The under and over…A sidebar from the previous study was a ranking of which college teams were the "Most Underrated" and "Most Overrated". That is, what colleges produced players that performed better than their draft levels would have predicted and vice versa. Kind of a neat question, that…
The most underrated school for producing NFL talent? No one other than your East Carolina Pirates! Yeah, those Pirates. The next four in order were Arizona, San Jose State, West Virginia and Colorado State.
The most "overrated"? (I knew you would ask…). In descending order: Texas Christian, Oregon State, Miami (FL), Oklahoma, Arkansas, Wisconsin and (ta da) Ohio State. Part of what went against the Buckeyes was the lame statistical explanation that: "…a few notable busts – like RB Maurice Clarett, drafted last year by Denver – Ohio State players didn't fare well on our Draft Scale".
Ah, Maurice. The scourge that just keeps on giving. You would think that there should be a statute of limitations for that sort of thing, no?
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Some missing pieces to this fence…Coach T famously tries to put up "a fence around Ohio", keeping in state most of our top talent before heading to the hinterlands to recruit. We don't worry too much about Michigan high school kids because, well…the state doesn't produce that much talent, relative to Ohio. So in a bumper crop Michigan year – such as this one – those of us that follow such things wondered how the Michigan recruiting brain trust would fare in their own fair state. So far? Fairly poorly. Here is a list of (arguably) the top 10 Michigan talent and their current leanings:
Joseph Barksdale, Detroit (MI) Cass Tech, DT (Texas or even OSU lean)
2 Ronald Johnson, Muskegon (MI), DB (Michigan lean)
3 Dionte Allen. Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary's DB (committed to Florida State)
4 Keith Nichol, Lowell (MI) QB (committed to Michigan State)
5 Chris Colasanti, Lakeville (MI) Brother Rice LB (committed to Penn State)
6 Darris Sawtelle, Birmingham (MI) Brother Rice OL (committed to Tennessee)
7 Cedric Everson, Detroit (MI) Mumford ATH (a Georgia Tech lean)
8 Taurian Washington, Orchard Lake St. Mary's WR (committed to Ohio State).
9 Mark Dell, Farmington Hills Harrison WR (a Michigan State lean)
10.Quincy Landingham, Bloomfield Hills Lahser ATH (committed to Michigan State)
At this mid-point in the recruiting season, odds are that Michigan will get only one out of the top ten Michigan kids, in a special year at that. Imagine the hue and cry in Ohio if Tressel got but one of our top 10…
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Poor little Wee Willie Williams…You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried. Sure, colleges will "take a chance" on a bad kid with great talent (no, we only knew that Reecie was bad after he got here…), but the Willie Williams saga (and the spin of the story to make it acceptable) set new standards for denial and delusion - even by Miami Hurricane standards. How did it finally resolve itself? Well, here is a snippet from a local paper:
Pearl River [Miss.] Community College has decided not to admit former Miami linebacker Willie Williams, three days after the two-year junior college in Poplarsville, Miss., said it would allow the oft- troubled player to join its football team. Wildcats coach Tim Hatten confirmed the school's decision on Wednesday night.
Williams, who was ranked among the country's top high school football prospects in 2004, was admitted to Miami despite being arrested 11 times as a juvenile. During an official visit to Florida in January 2004, Williams was charged with a felony count of setting off a fire extinguisher in a hotel and a misdemeanor battery charge for hugging a woman without consent. He pleaded no contest and was placed on probation until February 2007.
"We had some constraints that came about," Hatten said. "He visited with us for three days and he went home. We had some issues that we said had to be taken care of before he came here. Some of the things he couldn't control. Willie didn't do anything wrong. We just can't make a move on him. It's a little late in the game and we're trying to get ready to play football."
Despite staying out of trouble at Miami, Williams had fallen out of favor with the Hurricanes coaching staff and was a third-team linebacker entering the preseason. Williams missed most of spring practice with a stomach virus, and the Miami Herald reported he was the only Hurricanes player to miss most of the team's voluntary off-season workouts.
Last month, Williams asked Miami coach Larry Coker to release him from his scholarship.
Williams, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound sophomore, reportedly contacted coaches at Louisville, West Virginia and Troy about transferring, but all three teams said they weren't interested.
Hatten said he didn't know what Williams' plans were, but the Wildcats coach said he advised Williams to try and return to Miami.
"I don't know why you'd leave there in the first place," Hatten said. "He's a great player and I couldn't think of a better place to be than the University of Miami."
I hear they are still looking for a middle linebacker at Jackson State…
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First the underdog, then the Underwood…Bam Childress was "Mr. April" as a Buckeye, setting the world on fire in the spring then disappearing come the season. A great kid – we all hoped the best for him. And by the tone of the following article, the best seems good enough:
Journal Sports Writer
FOXBORO -- Bam Childress already has beaten the odds just by being with the Patriots for a second year. Now, he is looking to do it again, this time in a bigger and better way.
Last year, it was satisfying for the former Ohio State wide receiver to make New England's practice team as an undrafted free agent, to stay with the Pats all season and then to get his first taste of NFL action against the Dolphins.
Childress was activated for the regular-season finale against Miami and caught a team-high three passes for 32 yards. He played defense, too, and had five tackles.
For a guy who started only 7 of the 49 games he played in his college career and who had only 33 receptions as a Buckeye, it was an impressive performance.
Now, move ahead to this year. With New England's wide receiver situation very much up in the air, Childress is hoping for more. He is listed second on the depth chart, behind Troy Brown, at the inside receiver's spot. He is a legitimate candidate to earn a roster spot.
Now, for something completely different, we follow the strange tale of EJ Underwood, who didn't make it through the academic jungle at OSU but enrolled at Pikeville two years ago. Has EJ disappeared completely? No, not by what we are hearing:
SPOTLIGHT FINALLY FINDS
BY PAUL SCHWARTZ
TURNAROUND: One year after being on the road to nowhere, rookie defensive back E.J. Underwood is on track to land a spot on the Giants roster.
August 20, 2006 -- ALBANY - When anyone asks E.J. Underwood where he was last year, he says, "in a coalmining town in the middle of nowhere in eastern Kentucky." More precisely, he was at Pikeville College, which in football terms might as well be considered exile.
"It was out in the middle of nowhere," Under wood said yesterday, "and that was where I felt I needed to be."
At present, Under wood is out of isolation and making a strong bid to stick with the Giants as a rookie cornerback. He would be the greatest long shot to survive on the roster if his background were taken at face value. Prior to Pikeville, Underwood was a decorated high school star in the Cincinnati area and he played three years at Ohio State, at times starting as a freshman on the Buckeyes' 2002 National Champion ship team.
"People were like, 'Pikeville, who's this guy?' if you don't know my history," Underwood said.
It's that history that intrigued the Giants, prompting them to sign Underwood after he wasn't selected in the NFL draft. At 6-1 and 185 pounds, he has the desired height and speed to burn, plus a pedigree playing at the highest level of college ball. But somewhere along the line, his career path went haywire.
After his junior year, Underwood transferred out of Ohio State, explaining that he left because his father, Rev. Elmer Underwood, was sick with diabetes. "He had caught pneumonia and almost passed away," E.J. said. "Some family stuff was going on and I just needed to change my scenery. Academics had nothing to do with it."
When it was announced that his son was leaving Ohio State, Elmer Underwood was quoted as saying, "He did not do what he needed to do in the classroom, he did not do his part. He stood up and took responsibility for it."
It was not the first time Underwood left one school for another. His father transferred him out of the Lakota school district to neighboring Hamilton High School, citing racial favoritism at Lakota that reduced E.J.'s playing time in football and basketball.
At nondescript Pikeville - an NAIA school - Underwood took a quantum leap backward as far as level of competition.
"It kind of reminded me of high school, the speed of the game," said Underwood, wearing a bright red Cincinnati Reds cap. "Actually, when I first got there, I had to slow myself down. I realized, 'I'm the fastest guy here, I needed to take my game down a notch.' "
Entering a crowded defensive backfield, Underwood has made a favorable impression with the Giants, quickly ascending into the No. 1 dime back role. Coach Tom Coughlin said Underwood did enough in the first preseason game to warrant extra time in the second.
"He's going to be a great player in this league," veteran cornerback R.W McQuarters said. "You can see how he moves . . . he just looks like a good player."
Underwood said he has been humbled by his back-door route into the NFL.
"I'm just a dreamer and so I'm always dreaming big," he said. "I knew when I transferred from Ohio State I wasn't going to get drafted, but it was a risk I was willing to take, because I know in the long run it's gonna pay off."
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Defensive tackles…We are moving on with the continuing series of looking position-by-position at our lineup and how the current staffing affects recruiting needs. And, in looking at the defensive tackles, we are moving people around as well. Because we can only guess on who will eventually play there or who might stay on the ends.
Currently, we know that the Buckeyes are losing the "Killer P's": Pitcock, Penton and Patterson. Thus, we would have remaining Todd Denlinger (sophomore) and Nader Abdallah (junior) with incoming freshman Dexter Larimore. Not much depth there, obviously. So that inspires the closet coaches amongst us to re-direct the surplus at defensive end to the deficit at defensive tackle.
I am guessing that re-direction might include Alex Barrow (strong and getting huge) and Doug Worthington (tall and getting huger). Both re-directees are red-shirt freshmen this season. I have also guessed (previous column) that OSU will get two of the three rather sensational recruits in this class: Joseph Barksdale, Antonio Jeremiah and Josh Brent. These are big needs and these guys would be plenty of help. In that way, they go from a position of need to a position of plenty…
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CBS Sportsline and street cred…Sportsline came out with a neat and entertaining pre-season ish last week and I thought their basics were pretty good (meaning I agreed with a lot of it). They selected our beloved Buckeyes No. 1 in the country which made me muse, "Wow. These guys certainly know their stuff and have really researched their college football". So, I eagerly turned to the special feature on Ohio State. Only to find:
The backup to Alex Boon is "D. Dye" at one offensive tackle spot.
The backup to Kirk Barton on the other side is "D. Ebner".
Mike Roberts made the two-deep at one corner even though he transferred out.
Sian Cotton made the two-deep at DT even though he left the school before Mike Roberts.
Aaron Spitler will step in if Marcus Freeman gets hurt.
All right, so they put the names in a hat and that's who they drew out. They could have at least waited until May or so to get their "up-to-date" info…
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More cred crud…Or the ego deflator special. In the fabulous new "Bucknuts the Magazine", our Bucknuts staff was asked to select events and players for the upcoming year and to make predictions. Now, the people at Scout are a lot like Sportsline and can take two months or more to put together a monthly magazine; so we had to make our educated guesses somewhere in early spring. That didn't seem to phase our panel of experts except for, uh, yours truly. The old hat size went down two notches when I read through the mag last week and one line felled me…twice. Under the prognostication of "Breakout Player on Offense", I went with Marcel Frost (well, I didn't say where he was going to break out from and Jackson State is as good a place as any…). And as a back-up in that same "Breakout" category? I named Mike Hartline, who is the younger brother of the much-better selection Brian Hartline. Mike is playing this year at Kentucky, which makes the possibilities infinitely less likely.
I feel much more empathy for those CBS guys…
If you want to share embarrassing stories of your life, or if you are a Penn State fan simply looking for a life, feel free to share with Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com