After mulling over the week in recruiting and Pro Football… A few thoughts…
- The pro game is not my cup of tea, but I picked Tampa Bay to win. I was asked my pick for the game earlier this week and replied, "Tampa Bay because of their defense, especially their defensive line." I figured it made sense. I was honestly shocked to discover Tampa was the underdog! When will the sporting world ever learn? Finesse offenses are like beautiful sirens; they are sweet to the ears and easy upon the eyes, but those who heed their cry only end up in tragedy (i.e., sportswriters who picked the Oakland Raiders and Miami Hurricanes). Meanwhile, defenses are like that husky, 220 lb. Nordic woman; she certainly is not as pretty, but she is as reliable as Old Faithful and as strong as an Ox in times of crisis.
This Super Bowl played out almost identical to the National Championship game just weeks ago. The defensive line of Tampa dominated the offensive line of Oakland and disrupted the passing lanes and timing. The Ohio State defensive line dismantled a Miami front that had (to that point) allowed single digits in sacks for the entire season. Gannon tossed a Super Bowl record 5 interceptions as a direct result. Dorsey threw 3 interceptions and fumbled once.
The result of both games was that the team with solid offense, solid special teams, and a fabulous defense won.
One last time… Defense wins championships and offense sells tickets.
- The Rumor Mill. With the end of the season, it is time for speculation to begin. Will assistant coach Y (fill in the blank) leave for a head coaching job or promotion? Will player X (fill in the blank) transfer? Does school Z (Pitt, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State over the years) now have a foothold in Ohio that will trouble the Buckeyes and keep them from landing their top recruits?
The most ludicrous rumor thus far however is the one about Jim Tressel to San Francisco to coach the 49ers. Coach Tressel is currently perched upon a surfboard, riding the crest of a tremendous wave of Buckeye support. Why in the world would he leave? What could possibly possess him to depart from his dream job (from all reports) that he has coveted his entire coaching career? Money?
Don't make me laugh. You are talking about the guy who not only did not negotiate his first contract using an agent, but he just pledged over 100K to YSU. Ego? All men have one, but most of these NFL guys need a separate address for their egos. A shot to be able to run their own show? Why bother with the headache? Most of the men who think that they should be able to run their own personnel organization do not realize that this is exactly what every college coach gets to do.
Bottom line? Tressel appears happy at Ohio State and looks to be going nowhere. My guess is that he retires at Ohio State. It is not that he couldn't get another job. It is certainly not that he could not take another job and do wonderful. It just appears that he truly does not another job - anywhere.
Who knows where this one started (perhaps some negative recruiting or just an ignorant individual), but whoever started it should have their heads examined.
- It is shaping up to be a wild ride to the end of recruiting season. As of right now, Ohio State still has a number of young men still making their decisions. With only 4 or 5 slots to offer, Ohio State could land any combination of Lee, Sears, Guilford, Crable, Bush, Frost, and maybe even a surprise recruit that nobody has yet heard about. None of those young men would be a disappointment. If this is causing you severe angst of the sort most only experience before their first date, learn to get used to it. If OSU continues to pursue top shelf national players it goes with the territory and has been an expected staple for fans of Florida State and others on a yearly basis. If you absolutely are on the verge of a breakdown and your stomach and nerves are wearing thin, allow me to suggest that you visit your neighborhood pharmacy. There you will find a wide array of effective, legal medications. You can blunt the headaches and gastrointestinal problems and engage in "Better living through chemistry."
- What in the World is Happening with the Weightroom? Over a year ago, Ohio State's Athletic Department started talking up plans for an expansion of the facilities. As of yet nothing has been undertaken officially. Why in the world is this taking so long? Yes, I know that Geiger and company have a lot on their plate. Yes, I recognize that Ohio State has the largest athletic budget in the country and offers more sports than anyone. Yes, I am profusely grateful to Geiger (and Kirwan) for hiring Jim Tressel. Still, I cannot help but believe that the funding is not the issue here. Do not even think of asking me to believe that after winning a national title for the first time in 34 years there are not dozens of multimillionaires who could not be convinced with very little effort to make a sizeable donation to help the program continue their success. Here is hoping that the expansion takes place sooner rather than later.
- OSU #2 to start 2003? Get ready. There will be a discussion over who should be #1 before the games are played. Some will fall in the camp of supporting the Buckeyes because they return their entire offense. Others will say that the Oklahoma Sooners should be anointed preseason #1. I am honestly not sure which one is correct. The Sooners should be absolutely loaded on the defensive side of the football (they return 10 starters) while Ohio State is going to be rebuilding a bit at a couple positions. Sure, OSU looks better on the offensive side of the ball, but with the brutal schedule and the loss of the senior leadership on the defense? Who knows? It should make for some great debates.
- What is Happening with…
- Richard McNutt? Is he going to give up football? Is he trying a comeback? Is he going to get a medical hardship? I like this young man simply because he (and Jesse Kline) have wanted to play so much that pain has not deterred them. Their bodies have simply betrayed their strong will to be Buckeyes. Whatever Richard does, I wish him well.
- Angelo Chattams. By now, I am quite certain that there are precious few Buckeye fans who do not know the story of his legal woes. Angelo has more serious issues than football with which to deal, but I am curious on the outcome of the matter. Reports said that Angelo was at the Fiesta Bowl. He has not been officially dropped from the roster nor his scholarship revoked. I hope Angelo can recover from his mistakes and learn from them. Whether or not he will be a Buckeye when the final lessons are taught is still in doubt.
- Fred Stirrup. From all appearances his career at Ohio State is over, but the final nails have not yet been put into the coffin. Will he or will he not make the grades and be eligible to play this year? Even if he makes it, would he be able to contribute? I hope that someone, somewhere learns from this promising career that wasn't. Grades, Grades, GRADES!!! There is no football without academic eligibility. Maybe you can get away with being close to a dropout in High School Basketball due to the NBA draft, but you cannot do this in football.
- I Get Giddy Inside… When I consider the defensive talent Ohio State is amassing. Here is the key to sustained national title runs and yearly success.
Bear Bryant's offense was anything but a work of art. At times, the Alabama attack was about as sightly as the Wicked Witch of the West. However, Bear managed a 193-32-5 mark between 1960 and 1979. How? His defense was beyond brutal. They pounded on the opposition until they raised the white flag. Shutouts were common. How common? Consider that if one excludes the sub-par teams of 1969 and 1970, the Tide allowed only 8.65 points per game over 18 seasons. Maybe their offense was not all that powerful (averaging 26.96 points during the same span). So what? When you have a defense like that, who needs Fun ‘N Gun?
My point is that for all the criticism that the Ohio State offense took last season, I am not concerned as long as the defense continues to be stellar. If it does, Ohio State will be in the running for a national title most every season. Further, I think the offense will improve in 2003 considering that this was an extremely young unit with a first year starting quarterback in Craig Krenzel, a patchwork, oft injured offensive line suffering from a lack of depth, and an offense that started 3 different tailbacks because of assorted medical issues.
Barring catastrophe, this team should be better in the coming seasons because of the defensive and offensive weapons Tressel and company are stockpiling.
- Early Playing Time. Many recruits are very worked up over this aspect of their collegiate experience. The reality is that it exists at most schools if and only if the player is proficient enough to merit time on the field. As for Ohio State specifically, early playing time will exist at a number of positions in 2003. Linebacker, defensive line, defensive back/safety, and possibly offensive line are all slots that a top flight recruit might be able to see the field early and often. Of course, the caveat is once again – you get what you earn in Tressel's system.
Around the Nation…
- The assistants have been jumping at Pitt… like Lemmings on the National Geographic Channel. What in the world is going on in Pittsburgh? This is a little strange. Why? These men are not leaving for promotions but lateral positions. Why leave Pitt for a lateral position? Normally you see this from: (a) Programs that are in trouble. Assistants want to leave before the end so that they have a job when the merry-go-round stops. (b) Programs where the head coach is leaving, and the assistants know it before everyone else. (c) Programs where the head coach is nearing retirement age. (d) Programs on the rise where the assistants get better jobs. None of the above makes any sense. Pitt has a fairly clean reputation; Harris appears to be there for the long haul; Harris is still a spring chick in comparison to JoPa or Bobby Bowden; Not one assistant left for a better job from what I can see on the surface. Something is going on here, but I am not sure exactly what.
- Nebraska has landed a few nice recruits. This will surely help Bo Pellini a bit as he attempts to rebuild the blackshirts. Expect the Cornhuskers to have a fairly good season in 2003. Whether it will be nice enough to save Solich's job is still in doubt.
- The Trojans are Back. Their level of success might dip a bit in 2003, but I cannot help but be excited by this turn of events. Coach Pete Carroll and his offensive coordinator, Norm Chow, appear to be comfortable and not willing to move. The talent they are raking into the Coleseum is pretty impressive. This will translate into wins with solid coaching. I for one like this. A lot. A strong USC is great for college football. I long for the days where the Pac Ten and Big Ten met in a Bowl (it used to be only the Rose) for a national title.
- Northwestern's Shame. With the recent developments in this case, one has to wonder what is going on in Randy Walker's program and with Northwestern in general. Expect them to take serious lumps now that this whole sorry affair is going to go to court. Northwestern should have been smart enough to settle (you would think they could get a little good legal advice but I guess not). At the same time, perhaps it is better that this case was not settled. Perhaps the truth will help to clean up not only Northwestern but other schools. Money and public shame are great tools that might for forcing a preemptive cleanup of other institutions that pride themselves as places of higher learning. I for one certainly hope this will be the result. It is more than a little disappointing to see a University that self-righteously trumpets its academic ideals admit they hid supplements they found in their players' lockers after a player died clear back in 2001…
- Who Will Win the Mythical Recruiting Title? This one may be a matter of choice. Last year's race was fairly clearly Texas and then Ohio State with everyone else taking up the rear. This year Oklahoma, Texas, USC, Michigan, etc. are all bringing in top classes. So long as you are placing in the top ten, then your team is snaring enough talent to claim a national title.