Mr. Bucknuts' Bucket Of Bullets

Mr. Bucknuts checks in this week to assess the ESPN-U broadcast, talks about some of the strange endings in Buckeye recruiting, nails Notre Dane (just to stay in shape) and whines about the national awards and some bizarre statistical stuff.

So, the Bucknuts crew was forced to the "sidelines" yesterday, as ESPM-SKRU-U strong-armed their way into television sets nationwide. Our staff rebelled by going to the local watering hole and watching the game(s) with other equally edgy fans. Actually, we had a heck of a time and put on a little Bucknuts bash at the newest, largest, latest and greatest BW-3 in Dayton.

In watching an obscure network from an unusual location, I learned that there are very different perspectives out there. Even the betting was odder and more interesting than my usual fare. Such as:

  • There were bets that Indiana Coach Hoeppner would not suffer the first-ever-in-his-career shutout. He didn't, but just barely.
  • Someone bet early on that Indiana would have more penalty yards gained than rushing yards gained. They did, by a lot.
  • The over-under on how many times the scripted announcers would mention Hoeppner's brain surgeries was placed at "three". The overs won it…
  • And who else but fans watching a blow-out amidst intense chicken grease and intoxicating beverages would speculate that Todd Boeckman could get a medical red-shirt, thus becoming the first Buckeye ever to gray-shirt, red-shirt and get a medical year, making him a fifth-year sophomore next season? Todd played in the game and screwed up that whole scenario…

I also discovered:

  • The main library at Indiana University sinks over an inch a year because, when it was built, engineers failed to take into account the weight of all the books that would be housed there.
  • "typewriter" is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.
  • Kirk Larrabee attended Indiana University but never graduated from there!
  • It's physically impossible for you to lick your elbow.
  • Almost everyone that reads this list will try to lick their elbow.

We had a lot of fun and the game was never in doubt, even when the Bucks were losing 3-0. We also got to watch near-upsets with Penn State-Illinois, Notre Dame-UCLA, Texas-Nebraska, Syracuse-Louisville and that most improbable of comebacks: MSU-Northwestern. And we got to watch them all at the same time.

I learned from a fellow tippler that Ohio State has forced 16 turnovers and scored 60 points off them this year while giving up just six turnovers, yet zero points. That's fascinating and I sure hope it's true! I also learned that when a network has a small audience and poor advertising sales that the game stoppages are fewer and the commercial interruptions take less time. That was certainly cool. And finally, how often do you see side-by-side big screen TV visages, one with a "Fathead" commercial and one with a profile shot of Charlie Weis, looking like Alfred Hitchcock?

I will continue my search for new ways to look at old things next week when I go to the Minnesota game in person and look forward to a "script Ohio", in which the "i" is to be dotted by Jack Nicklaus. Who says that dominating victories in this glorious season have to be routine and mundane? Not the gang down at BW-3…

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N-Overrated-Dame?…You betcha. But that freaky win is the kind of thing against unrated teams that keeps the myth-making machinery whirring in South Bend. And Weis is an offensive genius, for at least one drive – after scoring just 13 points on the first 13 drives. And – once again – we learn that the main function of a "prevent defense" is to prevent a team from winning…

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From the "Just O-Kerr-ed To Me Again" Dept…Four years ago, my kid was being recruited by the football Hoosiers. So, I took him to a spring practice, after being invited up by their recruiting staff ("Hello, Mr. Dinardo. I'm Mr. Bucknuts"), dropped him off with the team and – like any good Bucknutter amongst us would do, set out to find John Kerr for a discreet interview. We went off-campus for Pepsi's and he told me the odd tales that are now part of lore (and which I promised not to fully share until he graduated OSU). At the time, Kerr was driving every weekend back to Cleveland so that he would stay out of any potential trouble in Bloomington (long long drives…) and he had no choice but to stay enrolled there because he was a but a freshman and  "Indiana won't release me". Here's a kid that subsequently left a place where he was a BMOC, gave up his schollie, came to OSU where he knew he would play in other's shadows and who was saying bluntly: "I just want everyone to see that I was as good as Mike D'Andrea in high school. And that they should have recruited me".

Time waits for no man and we now turn the clocks ahead four years. D'Andrea never really had a chance to show his stuff. Kerr is a part-time starter (?) after serving time on and off the team, and his brother Josh is the Kerr with an OSU scholarship. But here is a highly motivated kid who is but one part of a winning formula for the Bucks. His family gave up a lot of their own bucks for John's determination to prove he belonged at an elite level. And, hey -  Kerr lasted a lot longer at that level than did Coach Dinardo!

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From another "Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda" Collection…There was a great deal of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments last year, about this time, when Buckeye fans reviewed the national stat sheets and saw glittering numbers from running backs we "coulda" had or "shoulda" taken, instead of these also-ran guys like Antonio Pittman and Chris Wells. Most of the attention focused on that other Akron scat back: Tyrell Sutton. (Yes, all three are actually from Akron). But we also wistfully projected Javon Ringer, Dennis Kennedy and DeShawn Wynn.

So, a year rolls by, as they are wont to do. And we too often use the Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda yardstick to measure our lives. And upon further review (and some disputable evidence), it seems that Ohio State might have done all right, after all. Granted, Javon Ringer is out for the year with a knee and he still will come back as a stud. Sutton is suffering along with his Wildcat teammates and is "only" averaging 82 yards a game this season. Remember Dennis Kennedy? He committed to OSU but was way-laid by our academics people (or a similar story that only helping hands in Florida might know). We wanted him as a DB; Akron got him as an RB, and his totals have been fairly strong: 76 yards per game including 141 against Miami. Then there was DeShawn Wynn, who is now at Florida and he is slumping to a 57-yard average in his senior season.

And just like the John Kerr stories that can't-yet-be-told, there are back stories to the recruitment of all the other aforementioned running backs. To wit:

Javon Ringer: Javon wanted to go to OSU and OSU wanted him. He only committed to MSU after Ohio State wouldn't "clear him" academically. The Bucks had a second bite at this apple when Javon didn't graduate with his class; that necessitated summer school to finish. That also meant that he was no longer legally bound to the Spartans because he hadn't qualified. But after not receiving enough Buckeye love on the second time around, Javon re-committed to Michigan State. I think he is the most talented of the group mentioned that didn't get to Columbus.

Tyrell Sutton: He also wanted to be a Buckeye and Ohio State never really recruited him, preferring Maurice Wells (strongly endorsed by Bill Conley) and Javon Ringer (strongly endorsed by his coach, Jim Place). Tyrell had the grades to get into Northwestern and he got there, with a little chip on his shoulder.

Dennis Kennedy: Dennis was a DB buckeye prospect until that old bugaboo – academics – reared its ugly head. He went to Akron as a running back and has been a favorite there ever since.

DeShawn Wynn: This is a tougher tale to tell. DeShawn cooled on Ohio State because we already had freshman Maurice Clarett. Ohio State cooled on DeShawn because, well…suffice it to say that he didn't handle the novelty of big-time recruiting very well. No one in Columbus was shaken (or stirred) when DeShawn chose to go the DeGators.

Those guys and the Erik Haws and probably others have come and gone. You can only coach up the ones that are here, however, and I really like what we have done with those guys…

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Let's talk efficiency and history…Mr. Efficiency: That's Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, who entered the 2006 campaign with a career passing efficiency rating of 153.0, which would have made him the Big Ten career leader if he had reached the minimum of 300 completions. Now well into the 2006 season, the Troy-ster completed his 300th pass against Iowa and has boosted his career passing efficiency number to over 158, which ranks first on the conference career charts above fellow Buckeye Joe Germaine (151.0 rating). Last season, he led the Big Ten with a passing efficiency rating of 162.7, which ranks sixth on the Big Ten single-season charts. So far in his senior campaign, he is fourth in the nation with a 176 passing efficiency rating, which ranks him first this year – again – in the Big Ten. On a more palpable note, Troy's 22-2 touchdown passes-to-interception ration places him somewhere between startling and astonishing…

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The NCAA gives us a needed  break…Thus, it was decreed that once per season, the rest of the world deserved a week off from Charlie Weis-isms. That respite came a week ago when Notre Dame got their scheduled "bye week"; which is roughly equivalent to playing Army and Stanford. Why couldn't the Irish come up with a 12th opponent? What – was the Coast Guard already scheduled that week? As it happens, they were. Hey - don't laugh (advice I don't often have to give in this space…). The Coast Guard has a good team. They are 6-1 and probably should be scheduled in to the Domers' current tour of our nation's service academies. I will tell you this: Notre Dame has a better chance of beating the Coast Guard Bears than they did of beating either Tennessee or Florida, two teams rated behind the Bye-ing Irish that week in the polls. Which goes to show that the aura and theory of ND is still running at least a lap ahead of their performance and reality. Last week, the Coast Guarders hammered the Worchester State Lancers 17-10. Watch out Notre Dame!

(The question should also be asked: Why is the Coast Guard mascot the "Bears"?)

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Scout's Top 100 and the All-Lemming Bowl…Those that follow such things know that Scout's talent evaluators ("Recruiting Experts" is a stretch) are challenged when it comes to, well…evaluating talent. If a player isn't from California or Texas or the southeast, that player has an arduous uphill battle to win recognition of the Scouties. Add Tom "The Postman" Lemming to that mixing bowl of amateur theater and you come up with "Army All-Star Game" selections that leave a lot to be desired.

In other words, players that should get in, often don't.

Then, to amp up the paranoia quotient, think about Lemming's ties to Notre Dame. And think about the All-Star game's tie-ins to NBC. Which is really the same thought, when you think about it. Follow along with the rest of us and see how many under-deserving Irish recruits get invites while your two-time Ohio State national champs (2002 and 2006) get slighted.

There. I feel better now. So did the best of those Scout guys, Bob Lichtenfeld, when he opined about the game on our Bucknuts message board. Bob answered a query about the unfairness of guys like Eugene Clifford and Brandon Saine being excluded from the Army game. He said: "It is an on-going process; this is only our third year of being involved. There are several things that have happened with that roster that I don't agree with but hey…"

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The Butt-Kiss Award and other A-Pauling implications…As many of your remember from last season, AJ Hawk was denied the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker in one of the greatest heists since the Dillinger gang rode wild. Lobbying, moaning and whining from the school that used to be known as "Linebacker U", obviously forced the sponsors to sell their souls to Penn State and tarnish that trophy for years to come. At least it got nice-guy Paul Posluszny enough ink  so that writers spelled his name right three out of ten times.

Well, award season is back and the initial "watch list" for the Butkus came out a few weeks ago, "narrowing the field" to just 66 line-backing candidates including the following from the Big Ten:

Dan Connor - Penn State
David Harris - Michigan
David Herron - Michigan State
Edmund Miles - Iowa
J Leman - Illinois
John Shelvin - Minnesota
Mark Zalewski - Wisconsin
Paul Posluszny - Penn State
James Laurinaitis - Ohio State

 

This past Thursday, the list for the Butkus was trimmed further to 10 and the semi-finalists are:

H.B. Blades - Pittsburgh
Buster Davis - Florida State
David Harris - Michigan
Ali Highsmith - Louisiana State
James Laurinaitis - Ohio State
Rey Maualuga - USC
Sam Olajubutu - Arkansas
Paul Posluszny - Penn State
Brandon Siler - Florida
Patrick Willis - Mississippi

You have to feel better about last year's egregious slight to Hawk when you realize that – this year – Posluszny is probably just the third best LB on his own team. He has yet to recover from a severe knee injury and is only lately rounding into form.

That didn't stop the Lombardi Award folks, of course, from being a "Paul bearer" for their title of best lineman-linebacker (an award that AJ Hawk did win last season). The semifinalists mentioned in that race included: Posluszny, Joe Thomas (OT – Wisc), Buster Davis (LB- FSU), Patrick Willis (LB – Miss), Justin Blalock (OT – Texas), Dan Mozes (OT – WVa), Gaines Adams (DE – Clemson), Mkristo Bruce (DE – Wash St), Quentin Moses (DE – Georgia), Brian Smith (DE - Mizzou), LaMarr Woodley (DE – Mich), and Ohio State's Quinn Pitcock.

Pass the hardware and let's move on…

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Sudden impact…When Ross Homan, Kurt Coleman and Beanie Wells reported early from high school to the Buckeye team, you just knew that all three would have sudden and lasting impact. What other freshmen do we see having Big Play this year? Well, Robert Rose and Ray Small (from the on-going Glenville contingent) have showed up but aren't making loud noises. Yet. And Aaron Gant looks like he will look good. Guys we really expect/hope to be long-term starters are being hidden/red-shirted. That includes such luminaries as Adam Olson, Antonio Henton, Connor Smith, Dexter Larrimore, Ty Moeller and Thaddeus Gibson.

Which brings up the question: Of the commits the Buckeyes have thus far in 2006 for the 2007 class, who will make "sudden impact" on next year's squad? Part of that answer lies in understanding where we are "soft" or need help. And the answer there is probably "Nowhere". On offense, we lose a QB with three coming back; a fullback replaced by a senior and super prospect Olson; receivers replaced by a legion of talent; and there's big depth at O-line. On defense, we are plugging the defensive tackle holes with ready bodies; and have terrific talent lined up at both safety and corner to supplant the surprise senior performers. Perhaps the best possibilities for true freshman play might be wunderkind Eugene Clifford as a safety and Joseph Barksdale (if he comes) in the rotation at defensive tackle.

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An expert is someone from another state…And the expert's expert concerning the NFL draft has got to be Mel Kiper. Got to be, because Mel tells us that. With no other evidence to go by, we will simply accept that premise. Therefore, it becomes even more interesting when Mel takes an early look at where OSU players "should be" drafted in next yea's NFL meat auction. As of a month ago, he had this to say about that:

Troy Smith: The #3 senior QB behind Brady Quinn & Drew Stanton
Doug Datish: The #2 senior center behind Kyle Long (Fresno St)
Antonio Pittman: The #2 junior RB behind Adrian Peterson
Teddy Ginn: The #2 junior WR behind Calvin Johnson
Anthony Gonzalez:  The #4 junior WR.
Kirk Barton: The #4 junior OT behind Jake Long (Mich), Sam Baker (USC) and Barry Richardson (Clemson)

 

Of course, in a month, he might have changed the QB order and might even have begun his evaluation of Jay Richardson, as well.

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It's all academic to us good sports…Ohio State has an image problem (no thanks to the vast "Wrong Wing Conspiracy" out there…). TOSU is a fine academic university that is consistently downgraded by having fine sports teams. Go figure.

So, to (ahem) help right some of these wrongs, I bring you fascinating facts from the Athletic Department. Keep this column handy the next time some arrogant Domer or Loser-From-Up-North throws the Andy Kat or MC-13 crap in your direction. Here we go:

  • The overall GPA of Ohio State's 900 student athletes is 3.01
  • Ohio State set and then broke its own Big Ten record in 2005-2006 with 263 student athletes winning Academic All-Big Ten honors.
  • Ohio State has led the Big Ten in each of the past three years in total number of Academic Big Ten honorees.
  • During the 2005-2006 fiscal year, the Department of Athletics paid out nearly $17,000,000 to the University, including more than $10,000,000 in grant-in-aid reimbursements.
  • Ohio State was the first, and still one of the few schools in the nation to offer and fund an outreach program that encourages former student athletes to return to school and receive their degrees.

So, not only can you turn to those "also ran" (yet unjustifiably haughty) schools and yell "scoreboard!", you can also proudly yell "diploma" and know that those papers are in good hands, as well…

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Give it to me stat…For fellow stat geeks, I love to comb the numbers and look for stuff that falls to the wayside. This week, I note:

  • OSU is first in the nation in scoring defense (actually tied with LSU) at just 8.25 points per game.
  • The Bucks are 11th in scoring offense and 20th in total offense, both all-time high perches in the Tressel Era.
  • Back on defense, they are 8th in sacks and 5th in tackles-for-loss. Yes, that's in the nation…
  • In turnover margin, the 2006 Buckeyes are 4th in the nation.

And in the all-important negative-to-weird category, Ohio State ranks 116th (or fourth to last) in kickoff returns with only a 15 yard average. The weirdest parts of that? Powerhouses Louisville and Wisconsin are worse and no individual Buckeye is ranked at all, because you need 1.2 returns per game to qualify. I don't know if that reflects other team's pooching the ball to the Bucks or the fact that the Buckeyes give up so few scores that they rarely get a kick-off at all!

 

  

If you have comments about this current Bucket being virtually Notre Dame and expletive free, or if you want to make up new comments and expletives all your own, feel free to do so by contacting Mr.Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com


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