Pro Speak 7-6: AFC South and AFL honors

A bit belatedly, Professionally Speaking turns its attention to the AFC South this week. As luck would have it, that is a popular place for former Buckeyes to congregate, including a recent addition. We also have one final word on the AFL season.

Doug Datish, a captain for the 2006 Big Ten champions and a second-generation Ohio State offensive lineman, spent all of last season on the Atlanta Falcons' injured reserve after breaking his wrist. He was released by that club – which is undergoing something of a makeover in the wake of the Mike Vick fiasco and the short-lived head coaching tenure of Bobby Petrino – June 23 but was out of work just two days before the Colts picked him up.

He joins a large group of centers on the Colt roster – one that includes veteran starter Jeff Saturday and 2008 sixth-round draft choice Steve Justice – but our Scout Network partners at speculate that Datish could be useful to them for some of the traits he showed while earning All-Big Ten honors as a senior.

"The Colts prefer hard workers, self-made players, and gentlemen that have collegiate experience working in a pro-style offense," writes Brad Keller. "As a fifth-year senior when he declared for last year's draft and someone who has been through a full offseason, a training camp, and a full NFL season — even if he was injured, he still picked up more valuable knowledge than any rookie currently on the Colts roster — he holds a decided advantage over all the new faces along the offensive line for Indianapolis that were brought in since April 26th."…

The writers at ColtPower have high praise for another member of Ohio State's draft class of 2007, first-rounder Anthony Gonzalez.

Expect the Cleveland native, affectionately known as "Gonzo", to have a big year in blue and white whether future hall of famer Marvin Harrison returns to health this year or not.

"Even if Harrison steps back into his X role on the right side of Peyton Manning and never looks back, Gonzalez still has a tremendous opportunity when the Colts go to the shotgun with Harrison, (Reggie) Wayne, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, and Gonzalez as the skill players involved. In this situation, Gonzalez will still be split out wide and allow Manning to attack all levels with two two-deep reads — Gonzalez and Wayne will run deep routes, Clark and Harrison will attack the intermediate middle, and Addai will be kept in to block or as a safety valve.

This will afford Manning and the Colts an opportunity to take advantage of whatever player is most open — unheard of outside of the 2007 Patriots — and Gonzalez will get more than his fair share of deep catches behind the secondary.

When the defense starts to sit back in soft zones 7-10 yards off the line of scrimmage, Gonzalez will play the role of Wes Welker, catching slip screens and quick slants in front of coverage and tearing defenses apart with his run-after-the-catch ability."...

The outlook is a big more bearish for the other three former Buckeyes on the Colt roster. ColtPower included second-year defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock among three "sophomores most likely not to make the opening day roster." "(Pitcock) may be on the outside looking in, given that he was unable to force his way into the rotation, but, given the fact that he can play both tackle positions, he has, for the moment, secured his roster spot."

Also looking to earn spots this year will be cornerback Antonio Smith, who missed all of last season with injury, and wide receiver Roy Hall.

Hall played three games last year as a rookie and went on the IR Oct. 7 after suffering a shoulder injury.

Wide receiver figures to be a very competitive position for the Colts, who have 11 players in that category on their current roster, although only Harrison, Wayne, and Courtney Roby have more than one season in the NFL.

Of note: one man Hall will compete against is sixth-round draft pick Pierre Garcon, a product of the ultra-successful Division III program Mount Union.

Hall (6-3, 240) is the biggest receiver on the roster…

Elsewhere in the division, Brandon Mitchell is back with the Houston Texans after being cut during training camp last season.

There is a logjam at safety, however, that includes sixth-round draft pick Dominique Barber and veterans Will Demps and Nick Ferguson along with Brandon Harrison, a Stanford product who spent all of what would have been his rookie season on the injured reserve in 2007.

Mitchell and Harrison were the subject of questioning when Texans' head coach Gary Kubiak addressed the media during workouts in late May.

"Both are sharper players than they were a year ago," Kubiak said. "What I mean by that is you can see them out here competing physically because they're not having to think so much. So that gets them in the mix. Our safety group's a real strong, veteran group right now. It's going to be a tough football team to make back there as a safety. For those two kids to have that chance, they have to get better mentally, and they've done that. So they've positioned themselves. They're ready to go to camp."

He said spending a year on the practice squad, as Mitchell did last year.

"Basically, you're giving a kid a free year. You say, ‘Hey, you're on the practice squad, now you make of it what you want.' There's no babysitting. What you'll find out as a coach is some guys will take full advantage of it, and they'll come back this year ready to make this team. And you'll find out real quick if they didn't take advantage of it. So I think (Mitchell) is a kid who's (taken advantage of it)."…

Then there is Donnie Nickey, who re-signed with the Tennessee Titans in March.

The Tennessean reported in early June that the Titans brought in safeties Adam Archuleta, Deke Cooper, D.J. Wolfe and Rocky Schwartz with thoughts one or more of them could add depth. The winner of that sweepstakes was Schwartz, a 5-10, 200-pound college free agent from Houston.

Veterans Chris Hope and Michael Griffin are expected to start.

The other safeties on the Titans roster are Vincent Fuller, Calvin Lowry and Tony Joiner

Finally, we probably conclude our Arena Football League talk for the year with word that Joe Germaine was named second-team All-Arena June 25 after finishing second in the league in passing touchdowns (97), second in passing average per game (303.7) and third in pass completions (411).

The season ended for Germaine's Utah Blaze three days later when the Blaze gave up a fourth-quarter lead and lost 49-44 to the Colorado Crush.

Germaine completed 23-of-36 passes for 252 yards and six touchdowns and an interception. He drew the Blaze to within five in the final minute with a touchdown pass to Huey Whittaker, but the Blaze never regained the ball after the Crush recovered the ensuing onside kick.

Germaine just completed his third season in Utah, and he figures to be there until 2012 after signing a five-year contract – the first of its kind, according to the Blaze website – in January.

He appears to have plenty of job security, but he will play under a new coach next year as head coach and general manager Danny White resigned following the playoff loss, the capper on a 6-11 season that saw the Blaze start 0-9.

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