Captain's Corner - 8/19

Game week is here. We'll be talking about the Texas Tech game all week, and this morning, Jerry Rudzinski has the first look at the game. He breaks down the Buckeye team and talks about what the Buckeyes need to do to win.

It is time to close the book on the pre-season preparation for the Buckeyes.  You try to get stronger and faster during winter conditioning.  You try to get physical during spring ball.  You try to get in shape during summer.  You try and earn a job during pre-season camp.  All are great memories which certainly build camaraderie, but at the end of the day, you sign your letter-of-intent with the Buckeyes to tee it up in the Horseshoe.  

It is now game week, and we need to examine where the past 7 ½ months have gotten us.

First off, it is obvious the "Tressel Vessel" has set sail.  It is night and day compared to a year ago.   The players know what the coaches expect.  The coaches know what motivates the players.  All this has resulted in better tempo at practice.  It is a looser, more relaxed atmosphere, but it is also a more productive atmosphere.  Jim Tressel and the coordinators have had a chance to teach the system.  Not just install it, but actually teach it. 

I see a quarterback in Krenzel that can lead.  He has not had the spring and August that would dazzle Steve Spurrier.  On the other hand, any great coach can clearly see this guy wants the ball in his hands when it counts.  He is a smart leader that will handle pressure well.  Craig shines when the game jerseys come out.  I liked his performance during Illinois.  I loved his performance during Michigan.  He hasn't created the separation from the others that I expected this pre-season, but the Red Raiders should see a guy that won't put us in bad situations.  The team that makes the fewest mistakes wins.  If we go through 13 games making fewer mistakes, I promise we will be in the Rose Bowl.

Our receivers are sweet.  Carter has regained confidence in his leg.  Bam will be a threat underneath.  Jenkins is Jenkins.  Gamble is future first-rounder.  I am wasting all of our time talking about the depth.  We all know it exists.  These players need to have a HUGE game against Texas Tech.  While TT's front seven is nice, the defensive backs don't belong on the field with our group of wide outs.  Keep the bar raised during this game.  Don't go down to their level.  That is one of the biggest sins of high-level athletes.  The great ones will shine regardless of the competition.

I will go to bat with Stepanovich, Bishop, Clarke, Olivea, and Douglas.  We will not have Morris burst onto the scene and start this week.  We will not have Sims, Downing or Mangold turn Pace-like overnight.  We will not have a new lineman fall from the sky and add depth during pre-game warm-ups.  We know who we have, and Texas Tech's stout defensive front better realize we face an even stouter defensive front each and every day in practice.

I look for more passing this year.  With the talent at receiver and a lack of bodies at fullback, we should air things out as we have seen this pre-season.  That is not saying we will abandon the running game.  Clarett has lived up to the hype.  He will play and play a lot.  Ross seems to be returning to his form from a year ago, and Maurice Hall seems like he is back at Brookhaven H.S.  All these fresh bodies/legs will wear down TT.  A fresh back can run through a fourth quarter arm tackle.  That moves the chains.  That eats the clock.  That keeps Kingsbury on the sidelines.  That wins the opener. 

The defensive line is as good as we thought.  We will see on the 24th if Will Smith is blockable, because as of now, I don't know.  Peterson has earned every snap he's gotten.  Kenny should really let loose this year.  Simon is a crowd favorite, but David Thompson has really improved this August.  If those guys don't have you fired up, we can talk about Anderson, Scott, or one of the awesome freshmen.  Texas Tech will do a good job neutralizing our d-line with that system.  You can't sack a three step rhythm pass.  But if we jam Red Raider receivers and eliminate options 1 and 2, our d-line will have a field day.  Most importantly, our d-line RUNS TO THE BALL.  This will create turnovers and prevent big gains for Texas Tech. 

Reynolds will break out this year.  Grant will play fast (that sounds like a no-brainer comment…but not too many linebackers truly play fast like the coaches want them to…only certain lbs have the ability to completely make an offense look foolish because of their speed).  Wilhelm and Pagac know the drill.  Most importantly, the young pups have proved they will be very reliable on their special teams roles and back-up time.  Just keep Red Raider receivers in front of you.  The entire key to this game is avoid the TT home runs.  Bend, but don't break.  They will not beat us with 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 yard completions.  Too many things can go wrong with that system of passing without a legit running game.  Our athletes and football players will capitalize on those mistakes…guaranteed.  "Three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad."  Give them the dink down passes.  Just don't give them long balls, rushing yardage, AND dink downs. 

Our safeties are like our receivers.  There is absolutely no need to talk about where they are at this stage.  Dustin Fox is covering, but I really like the way he hits and tackles.  I love physical corners like that.  Plummer, Winfield, and Clements were all extremely physical, and they seemed to turn out okay.  McNutt has never been a disappointment to me.  He can play.  The only problem is that ankle.  If he can hold up, all those cornerback issues we went on and on about are quickly eliminated.  Our secondary is physical and they have a supporting cast in front of them that is awesome.  Texas Tech will put up some stats, but I expect to smother and suffocate them when it matters. 

As a fan or a coach, we can look at this season as a marathon.  But if you are a player, you better look at this as a sprint.  If you hold anything back, you will be eliminated from the Big Ten race immediately. The coaches can hold things back schematically and do things to avoid mental and physical fatigue during the long season.  The players are different.  The players better treat every game (or every play) like they are being timed in the 40 yard dash at the combine.   "Every play…every day" is what the players need to be thinking. 

We all know the basic keys for a successful season and a successful opener.  You need to play physical, dominate special teams, and avoid turnovers to win football games.  Those go without saying.  Looking specifically at Texas Tech, I see two things we must do.  First off, we need to tackle well.  An underneath route will stay underneath the first down marker and the goal line if you tackle well in the open field.  Crisp, solid tackling is hard to come by early in the season when fatigue sets in.  It will be key for our defense to tackle. Second, we need to get our receivers the football.  TT sees an o-line that might have some holes, but they will not repeatedly send the house because they know our receivers can exploit man-to-man situations.  They will still come with some zone blitzes and stunts, but they will not come with true all-out blitzes that often.  When they do come with everyone, we need to keep them off our quarterback.  Get that deep stable of receivers isolated in one on one's and we will have big plays.  We work so hard recruiting these game-breaking perimeter athletes.  We need to get them the ball so they can break THIS game wide open. 


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