First off, kudos to Adrien Clarke.
The big left guard has trimmed down a bit and although he still has a ways to go, it looks like he will be at his season's best for the Fiesta Bowl.
I saw Clarke on Dec. 16 and thought he probably looked about 20 pounds lighter than his playing weight for most of this season. My guess is that he's now around 365 (listed at 355), which is still too high, but at least this guy is making the attempt to lose weight.
Clarke took a lot of flack this year from OSU fans and media (I know I was guilty of making a few digs about his size) but he never lashed out. He never made excuses. He could have said his back injury was part of the reason he got fat (it was), but he didn't. He just admitted that he was overweight and needed to slim down.
This is the perfect time for Clarke to be at his best and it's nice to know that he's willing to sacrifice second-helpings at the holiday buffet table to make it happen. Remember, this guy was one of the best linemen on the team two years ago as a redshirt freshman, along with LeCharles Bentley and Tam Hopkins. If Clarke can get his feet moving a little bit, he will be a surprise for the Miami defense. They are used to seeing the big guy waddle on tape.
OB A FOOTBAL FAN?
I recently heard an interview with Jim O'Brien in which he was saying how closely he follows the success of the Buckeye football team and how much he enjoys watching all of the games. O'Brien knows that hoops will always be overshadowed a bit by the football program at OSU, but he really doesn't seem to mind. In fact, O'Brien was going on and on about how the success of the football program and the passion from OSU fans actually helps the basketball program. OB said that home football games are one of his best recruiting tools, if not the best. He says the atmosphere can't be beat. Hey, we all know he's right, but it was just nice to hear him say that. Most coaches would probably be intimidated by the success of the football program and its importance to Buckeye fans. And OB wasn't just giving some politically correct line. I think he really meant all of that.
Just when I was getting ready to say that Sean Connolly was not a good 3-point shooter, the guy goes off. He has been playing like a senior all season in terms of tough defense, taking care of the ball, slashing to the hoop, and rebounding. But if he continues to knock down the 3-balls, Connolly is going to be a major weapon. I still think his jump shot is too flat, but if it keeps working, who cares?
How about center Velimir Radinovic's breakout game? The 7-footer scored 19 points and grabbed eight boards against Radford, but it was more than that. He was taking charges, playing good defense and taking the ball to the hole strong. Basically, just playing tough.
And with Terence Dials out with back spasms, Vel's emergence couldn't have come at a better time.
It will be interesting to see what Ohio State's strength of schedule is when the computer rankings come out. The Bucks have lost to teams 2-4 (Duke, Pitt, Alabama), but four of their five wins have come against cupcakes. You would have to think after the Big Ten season is said and done, OSU will have one of the overall toughest schedules in the country. If they finish over the .500 mark in the Big Ten, even if it's 9-7, bank on them getting in the Big Dance.
Unlike outside linebackers, which split into the SAM and WILL positions, defensive ends are interchangeable in Ohio State's scheme. If you can play one side, you can play the other.
Defensive end Simon Fraser recently explained how it works in an interview for Bucknuts the Magazine. Here's a tidbit.
"We try not to be specialists on the D-Line," Fraser said. "Not that I'm going to be playing inside that much, but we all pride ourselves on being able to play different positions."
Basically what the Bucks have been doing on the D-Line all year is using a six-man rotation. Fraser said it's not a case where they'll play 4-5 plays and rotate out (like Florida State a couple years back). Instead, the Bucks allow their D-Linemen to usually go an entire series before switching things up. Fraser said the coaches always preach that an eight-man rotation is ideal, but the Bucks have been using six for most of the year.
But they use the six creatively.
Tim Anderson plays primarily at nose guard, but all the other parts are a mixed bag.
End Darrion Scott can play tackle and tackle Kenny Peterson can play end. Will Smith usually stays at rush end, but also is used as a drop linebacker in nickel situations. Fraser and tackle David Thompson come off the bench, giving the versatile starters a break (and you aren't going to find too many backups as good as Fraser and Thompson).
Anyway, Miami obviously has a ton of weapons offensively, but I believe the Canes will be surprised by the talented Buckeye D-Line. A couple of those stud Miami O-Linemen are now playing on Sundays and the new guys haven't seen a defensive line quite this good.
Was anything more bush league than Michigan State calling the day of Louisville's bowl game to ask permission to interview John L. Smith? Well, actually, it doesn't really matter because that was just the day MSU "officially" asked for permission. The Spartans obviously interviewed Smith earlier in the week - why else would he have accepted the day after the bowl game? Wouldn't he want to go up there and check out the campus? And wouldn't the administrators at MSU like to meet him in person and actually put him through an interview process?
Chances are, John L. made a "sneak trip" to East Lansing sometime prior to the bowl game. You know, while the Cardinals were supposed to be preparing for Marshall, which partially explains the waxing that Byron Leftwich and Co. put on them.
Speaking of Leftwich, what a gutsy performance. Out there on one leg, completely tearing up UL's defense. And a lot of college players in Leftwich's situation would not have risked playing. He has a lot of money on the table, but all he was worried about was winning that game for his team.
Louisville now has a Pitino and a Petrino (Bob Petrino is UL's new football coach).
Should not be coaching Washington State in the Rose Bowl. It's as simple as that. You can't have it both ways. I can see him wanting to finish out the season, but someone at WSU needs to put their foot down. If you want to be Alabama's coach, you best be out there recruiting for Alabama, not game-planning for Oklahoma.
'03 SDSU GAME…
Has been moved to Ohio Stadium. It was originally scheduled to be played in San Diego, but since the Aztecs' athletic department is operating with a debt, they decided to sell the rights. Ohio State had to actually out-bid a group in Cleveland that was going to have the game at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Ohio State paid $2.4 million to host the game and will now play eight of its 12 games in Ohio Stadium next year.
I'm always intrigued by how well Maurice Clarett handles the media (with a few obvious exceptions). Although he has every reason to not trust anyone who is writing a story about him, he always seems relaxed and very honest during press conferences.
Clarett is much more intelligent than he gets credit for. I think the misconception is that he's just a dumb jock counting down the minutes until he goes pro. And while there is little doubt that he will leave OSU early for the NFL at some point, this is a very articulate and mature young man we are talking about.
And you have to love how "to the point," Maurice is about everything. He doesn't waste your time with a lot of politically correct nonsense.
In fact, recently, Clarett's favorite thing to say to reporters was: "I don't like any B.S." And he mentioned it over and over and over again.
"I just don't like any B.S. That's my pet peeve. I don't like B.S. and people that are fake. I just try and be real. You'll never hear any B.S. coming from me," Clarett said.
The Buckeyes co-MVP only had one catch in each of the last two games. Obviously, the need for him on defense has cut down on his opportunities on offense. But if the Bucks are going to win this game, I think we need contributions from him in all phases: offense, defense and special teams. Chris Vance and Drew Carter are good players and more than capable of filling in, but they do not have the explosiveness of Gamble.
ESPN's second made-for-TV movie is getting mixed reviews, but I really enjoyed it. If you haven't seen it, make sure you catch one of the many repeats. It's just a flick that all college football fans should see.
And I'm sure Tom Berenger sounds nothing like the Bear, but I thought he did a good job. He's been one of my favorite actors ever since the Jake Taylor role (catcher) in Major League.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org