Just Off Buckeye Street - Sept 26 2008

This summer I moved and to my surprise while out for a walk I noticed that two blocks from my house was Buckeye Street. Over the course of the past couple of years many have felt I was a little off Buckeye Street and now I'm inspired to provide a column called Just Off Buckeye Street.

Pryor The Savior


The message boards have been a buzz with the talk about Todd Boeckman being replaced by freshman Terrelle Pryor after the beating in La-La Land and the victory over Troy. 


Since the time Buckeye fans turned off the remote or walked out of the stadium many have felt the future was set in stone as super-frosh Terrelle Pryor would save the day and this season of dreams.


By bringing in the young ready to dazzle freshman I agree a renewed sense of energy was seen in the team last Saturday.  But is it enough to power the Buckeyes to another Big Ten title and a BCS berth by seasons end? It’s too soon to tell if Pryor is the savior.  Don’t forget there are other issues on this team.


Just as the nation learned Thursday night, anyone is beatable in this day and age of college football.  Don’t be surprised if the Buckeyes find themselves fighting for BCS points before all is said and done.  With a schedule full of marquee games ahead the Buckeyes could still see themselves right in the thick of things before we’re passed out the trick-or-treat candy or cut the first slice from our annual turkey dinner.  If not this may go down as one of the biggest “Turkey” seasons in Buckeye history.


Is Todd Boeckman Done?


Have we seen the last of Todd Boeckman behind center?  That is a question that we’ll soon learn more about.  Yes Terrelle Pryor earned a victory in this first start and passed for 4 scores.  Yes Pryor used his special talents to make things happen.  But when it comes to the Big Ten conference schedule anything and everything can happen and usually does.


Save any booing and the anti-Boeckman thoughts until after the season is over.  While Pryor provided the spark needed to push the Buckeyes forward after the embarrassing loss to USC, Boeckman may be called upon at any time to finish a game or make the play needed to seal an important victory.


This by no means suggests Boeckman will ever take another snap as a starter.  But were still talking about a freshman carrying what was to be one of the top teams on his shoulders and most of the time it just doesn’t work out the way many hope for.


Many coaches pick a starting quarterback not only on their physical abilities but based on their knowledge of what is to be done in crunch time.  Pryor has earned his early starts based only on his physical ability.  While it’s great to have such a special talent on the field it also means Big Ten teams will be gunning to take him out.


Even the casual fan could notice last Saturday that the team had an extra energy level with Pryor on the field.


Line Changes


The Buckeyes made a few changes along the offensive line but in time I feel you could see a few more.  The Class of 2009 brought in several players capable of playing this fall and if things continue down the same path that we’ve witnessed during the first few games look for more changes to come.  I will say the loss of Chris Wells is a major one that affects the offensive line but I really haven’t seen the type of play I expect from a Top 10 National program at this position.


Looking at the possible depth chart for this week’s game has to make you scratch your head.  Going left to right you have Alex Boone, Jim Cordle, Mike Brewster, Ben Person and Bryant Browning.  If this group can’t get it done you have to feel you’ll see some movement.  But who do you move into the lineup and at what spot do you put them?


Can OSU Make It To The National Title Game?


While it’s too early to say no, prior to last night I couldn’t see the voters getting the Buckeyes back into a position to do so.


But if we’ve learned anything about college football the past couple of years it’s that anything can happen and when a team loses early they always seem to have a chance to make it.


Can OSU Make the Rose Bowl?


Yes, but it’s not going to be as easy as some may make it.  There is talent and enough talent to win the Big Ten, but there are also some holes that must be plugged if Ohio State is going to make it to the Rose Bowl.  Coaches and players from across the Big Ten now feel they have a chance to compete and win against Ohio State.  Superman was given some kryptonite when in Cali taking away the shinny glare of the Scarlet of the Buckeyes power.


The Buckeyes are still an elite team and until a Big Ten team comes around and proves differently should be considered the top dog in the conference.


Wells Return?


We’ve been told its going to happen this weekend.  Lets hope so because the Buckeyes are a different animal without Chris Wells in the lineup.


There has been some talk Wells injury may be worse than what has been reported.  If this is the case we’ll know soon because he won’t be on the field Saturday and that could fule many more questions about what’s going on behind the walls of the Woody Hayes Center. If Wells is on the field then we know things are fine and the Big Ten better watch out.


Offensive Woes


Who is to blame?  Offensive Line? Quarterback? Loss of Chris Wells?  Coaching? Well it’s a combination of all when you break things down.


The offensive line is average at best and the staff knew they’d have some problems entering the season.  There is some talent at the positions but most are freshmen and you just never know when they will be ready.  For the past several years I’ve watched and struggled knowing Ohio State line play was one of the weakest spots on the team. 


While college football has moved more and more to offensive linemen who have the long lean body, Ohio State kept getting the 300+ slow footed players that struggle to reach second level defenders.  While some of the tackle play has been solid at times the interior play of the center and guards has struggled with the scheme and speed opposing teams have presented.  The overall weakness has shown up in the “Three Big Games” the past couple of years.


Because of the offensive line play you now have a quarterback who reminds me of David Klingler. The former quarterback of the Bengals was beaten and abused early in his career and never came back from it.  Todd Boeckman now looks like Klingler and Pryor must use every ounce of his ability to make things happen or take a beating.


Boeckman is a good kid who is living his dream as being the quarterback at Ohio State.  It’s why he was willing to wait another year before coming to school.  That dream has now become a nightmare.  Boeckman has the tools to run this offense but now looks as if he lacks the confidence to get the job done.  If we’ve learned anything since Jim Tressel has taken over the Buckeyes program it’s that seniors who give everything to the program are usually given a longer leash.  That was until it came down to Boeckman and Tressel’s super freshmen recruit battling for the job.


As for Chris Wells, would he have made a difference against USC?  I feel he would have made a difference but not one big enough to make up for what was witnessed on the field.


This offense was built around the talent of Wells and without him it’s sputtered.  Here is hopping Wells is back against Minnesota as the Buckeyes can’t afford too many games where they average just 2.1 rushing yards per carry.


Done and Over


The USC game is now a couple of weeks in the past.  This team must continue to regroup and get ready for the next and biggest phase of the season.  “Conference Play” The loss to USC still hurts but it’s still early and there is much to play for.  Winning the Big Ten and beating Michigan are still goals on the board and if this done than the worst the Buckeyes would see is a return trip to California and a possible match-up with USC.


Defense Sloppy


The biggest thing that has changed in the college game is the way teams practice.  Gone are the hard hitting and tackling that went on during the Woody era.  Today more practices are in shorts and helmets to make sure the best players are able to take the field.  While I understand the need to keep guys healthy until game time I also feel this has caused for sloppy tackling not only at Ohio State but also across the country in the games I watch or attend.


This brings us to the several plays from last Saturday were Buckeyes missed taking down a running back or receiver against Troy allowing extra yardage.  As some have posted this defense doesn’t have the big bopper that will lay the wood and make a statement.  The Buckeyes defense is a finesse defense with great athletes who lack the ability to lay a slobber-knocker on someone getting the crowd into the game and making a statement to their opponent.


Small Output from Giant Playmaker


What is the deal with wide receiver Ray Small?  Is he still in the JT Dog house?  Or is it that others are just better than the super athlete?  Getting one play against an athletic team like Troy says there is something else going on here that may rear its head in the coming weeks.  Let’s hope not for both Small and the team because this team doesn’t need any other distractions heading into the Big Ten schedule.  If he’s a problem cut the ties if he’s not than find a way to get the ball in his hands and let him do what he does best.


Robiskie Looks Robotic


The pass play that showed Brian Robiskie not reaching out with both hands against Troy is still in my mind.  While some will question why Robiskie didn’t lay out for the ball or even reach out his other hand, I feel there is a bigger issue here.  Robiskie looked injured and I just don’t get it why he was on the field against Troy if he was.  Last week would have been a good time to let Robiskie take it easy and get any injury he may have healed.  We’ll see what effects Robiskie shows this weekend before hitting this subject harder.



Big Ten Big Five


With three to four games now in the books its time to take a look at the Big Ten if a team is real or just a pretender.  Here are my Top Five Big Ten teams heading into conference play.


1. Ohio State: Contender – The Buckeyes are the defending Big Ten Champion and while they’ve struggled they’ve done it without their best player and took on the #1 team in the country.  This is where Jim Tressel is at his best.  In the past JT will rally this team and get them to believe the world is against them.  He then will try and control each and every play during a game and hope that luck finds it way when it’s needed most.  Will they win the Big Ten?  They have a chance but not as easy as in the past.  Getting Penn State in Columbus is huge but tough road trips to Camp Randall, Spartan Stadium and Memorial Stadium are ahead and standing in their way.


2. Wisconsin: Contender – The Badgers look to have everything you want in a team ready to win a Big Ten title after going to Fresno State and winning on the road in a tough battle against a team that is known for knocking off the big names in college football.  Will they win the Big Ten?  This is the year the Badgers need to win the Big Ten if they are going to do it again.  Getting Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois at home is a huge plus, but getting the Buckeyes and Joe Pa in back-to-back weeks is a major test for any team.


3. Penn State: Contender – Are the Lions for real?  They look to have things going on both sides of the ball so far but they’ve not played anyone I consider a real test.  That happens this weekend when Illinois comes to town.  A big time performance this weekend and you would have to push them to the top of the list.  Will they win the Big Ten?  They have a chance but they having to make trips to Wisconsin and Ohio State could have them coming up short.


4. Michigan State: Pretender – Why am I so high on the Spartans and calling them a contender?  Because they get Ohio State and Wisconsin at home while playing Penn State the last game of the season.  Mark Dantonio has his defense working with a question mark coming from his quarterback.  This team opened their season on the road against California, despite the loss the Spartans have rebounded well with a good win over Notre Dame.  Will Michigan State win the Big Ten?  No, despite how good I feel Dantonio has things going his team is just not there yet.  But the Spartans are getting stronger and will be a team to keep an eye on in the next couple of years.


5. Illinois: Pretender – Ron Zook has this program building and despite the loss to Missouri in their first game this team still has some weapons.  The first big test in conference comes this weekend as the Fighting Illini will learn where they stand in the Big Ten.  Will Illinois win the Big Ten?  No, I just don’t see it happing this year.  The program is improving but still lacks all the tools needed to win it all.  Getting Ohio State at home is a bonus but the trips to Penn State and Wisconsin will be just too much.





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