Ohio Looking To Break 3-Year Big 33 Hex

That Ohio has lost three straight Big 33 All-Star games to Pennsylvania is no secret to the players of the 2009 squad from the Buckeye State, but head coach Mike Fell says not to expect that to bother them much before or after the start of the game set to kickoff tonight at 7 p.m. and be broadcast by the NFL Network.

"It's a brand new year," Fell told BuckeyeSports.com as preparations for the 52nd version of the Big 33 game were wrapping up. "For these guys, it's their team, and we're a pretty confident group."

One reason for that confidence could be the fact that Ohio is hoping to finally prove what it can do when putting its best foot forward. Because of changes to NCAA rules, Ohio was challenged for several years with splitting its best player between the Big 33 game and its own North-South Classic, the longest-continually running all-star game of its kind.

A partial result of juggling rosters was comfortable Pennsylvania wins in 2006 and '07 by a combined score of 89-52, and as a response, the Ohio High School Coaches Association pledged to send its best players to Hershey, Pa., for the Big 33.

Last summer brought the first game under that policy, but Pennsylvania's dominance continued to the tune of a 31-16 Keystone State victory that may not have been as close as the final score indicated.

Even if the current players share no responsibility for those defeats, Fell pointed out an easy motivator for them right around the corner, especially the seven Ohio State-bound players on Fell's roster.

"They can go back when we win the game this year and a lot of guys they're going to talk to lost the game because we haven't won it in three years, so this is for bragging rights not only to Pennsylvania but also to guys they're playing with," the coach said.

As for the seven-player contingent head to Ohio State, Fell has been quite happy with what he has seen so far.

On the offensive side, Cleveland Glenville's Marcus Hall and Bellbrook's Sam Longo have both looked good at tackle despite being put in some new situations because of an emphasis on pass blocking this week.

"Those two young men have good feet," Fell said. "They are big, strong and are doing something a little different. They're doing a lot of pass blocking because it's a passing offense. They've really gotten after it this week and concentrated on getting their feet moving and doing more pass protection than just run and drive blocking they've been accustomed to in high school. I've been really impressed with how much they've asked and worked at it and gotten better from the beginning of the week to the end because you know they're outstanding football players, but this is something a little different for them."

Of course, any struggles those two might go through cannot be viewed as total negatives for Ohio State fans, because some of their stiffest competition has come in the form of fellow future Buckeyes Jonathan Newsome, a high school teammate of Hall, and Melvin Fellows of Garfield Heights.

Fellows, a five-star recruit, and Newsome, a four-star recruit, both benefit from the requirement that defenses use a 5-2 alignment that puts them outside in standup positions.

They can especially excel against offensive sets with no tight end to slow them down and they are left alone in space.

"When they're out there, I'll tell ya, they're impressive," Fell said.

On the interior defensive line, Fell has liked what he has seen from Corey Linsley of Youngstown Boardman and Adam Bellamy of Aurora.

"Corey is a very intense young man," Fell said. "You can tell that he's very much focused on what he wants to get accomplished, and he's a guy that is playing on the defensive side and we've also got him as a backup offensive guy because he can do both things for us. We're pretty happy with him, and we may have to use him on both sides."

"Adam Bellamy is in the same boat. He's an intelligent young man who does a great job on the defensive side. You can tell he's been well coached, and he's got great skills. He's only going to get better."

The lone "skill position" player on the Ohio side headed to Ohio State next week is receiver Chris Fields, a three-star recruit from Painesville.

"Chris Fields does an excellent job out at wideout," Fell said. "He's got tremendous speed and he's a very intelligent young man you can tell knows on the field how to get open, and he"s done a real good job for us."

Along with the future Buckeyes, there are 13 other BCS players on the Ohio roster: Nate Klatt and Denicos Allen (both Michigan State), John Prior (Florida State), Will Studlein (Northwestern), Chris Snook and Darwin Cook (both West Virginia), Romel Dismuke and Chris Williams (both Cincinnati), Micah Hyde (Iowa), Fitzgerald Touissaint (Michigan), Mike Edwards (Tennessee) and Nate Freese (Boston College).

The Pennsylvania roster was to include four future Nittany Lions but Jordan Hill of Steelton-Highspire had to pull out with an injury, leaving Mark Arcidiacono of Philadelphia St. Joseph's, Curtis Drake of West Philadelphia Catholic and Garry Gilliam of Milton Hershey to carry the Penn State banner for their home state.

Unlike last year, there are no crossover players.

Seven other BCS players are on the Pennsylvania roster, including four headed to Pittsburgh and two off to Connecticut.

Brock DeCicco, Jack Lippert, Dan Mason and Devin Street will be Panthers while Malik Generett and Steve Greene will be Huskies.

James Capello is headed to Iowa State.

Fell hopes they all take one last sour memory with them from their high school days.

"We're ready to go," the Ohio coach said. "These kids have worked extremely hard this week. They've done everything we've asked and really come together as a team, and we're excited about the game. They'll be ready to play."

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