Buckeye Legends Say 2010 Has Potential

Ohio State football fans always expect a lot out of the Buckeyes. So too do Buckeye football alumni, which is good news for those hoping the Scarlet and Gray have a season to remember in 2010. A number of legends questioned Tuesday at the Morning Sports Report are optimistic about Ohio State's chances in the upcoming season. Read on to find out why.

It's no secret that big things are expected from the Ohio State football team in 2010.

Fans across the Buckeye Nation hope to see a veteran Buckeye team led by quarterback Terrelle Pryor return to the desert for the BCS National Championship game for the third time in as many iterations, and Ohio State appears to have the talent to make such a run.

Some people who know a few things about winning football games in Columbus share a positive outlook on that subject.

Questions posed to some Buckeye legends at Tuesday's Morning Sports Report show a healthy respect for what Ohio State, fresh off a 11-2 season completed by a Rose Bowl win over Oregon, can accomplish in the 2010 campaign that's starting to creep up on the horizon.

Take 2006 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith, for example. The Cleveland native lost only three games in his career as a starter under center and led the Buckeyes to two straight BCS bowl games, including the national title contest his final season. A guy like that knows what it takes to capture championships, and he said this squad, on paper, fits the bill.

"There's no doubt," Smith said when asked if this team can win it all. "I think obviously the coaching staff has for years and years, prior to this, has put together great teams. They'll do the same this year, and I'll be tuned in."

Smith's view will be echoed by the national polls, which are expected to have Ohio State as a unanimous top-five choice coming into the season. Early returns show the Buckeyes topping out at second in many polls behind defending national champion Alabama, which returns quarterback Greg McElroy and Heisman running back Mark Ingram.

According to 1995 Heisman winner Eddie George, the Buckeyes will have to avoid listening to that hype.

"Don't read the press clippings," he said when asked what the team needed to do to deal with the pressure. "I think they do a good job of managing that over there with Jim Tressel and his coaching staff. He knows how to prepare his teams."

Building on that message, George – who was the star of the '95 team that went 11-2 – said the Buckeyes need to be motivated from within instead of listening to early talk of how good they can be.

"Really, take ownership of the team in terms of the character, the makeup, the chemistry," he said. "It's up to them to define what that is. How you do that is you eliminate distractions. You put out there things you want to do and what you want to accomplish, not just make it words but make it actions. By doing that you keep everybody accountable and you constantly keep that goal in mind.

"By putting it out there, you put the pressure on yourself to do everything you can to prepare yourself for that – in the film room, in the weight room, in the classroom. A lot of times if you have a talented football team, distractions can get in the way and it can deter you from the ultimate goal."

The longtime NFL veteran also pinpointed one area in which the Buckeyes need to improve before the ball is in the air – and not surprisingly, it's an aspect in which George is well versed.

After watching the Buckeyes place third in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game and average 77.0 yards per contest in a pair of losses, George said he'd like to see an improvement when it comes to moving the ball on the ground.

"I think for Ohio State to win a championship, their running game has got to be one of the best," he said. "For them to contend for a national championship, the running game is going to have to be a lot better than it was last year. A lot of that comes down to the offensive line play, the running backs staying healthy and really taking ownership of that position and taking great pride in getting back up there and leading the Big Ten in rushing to take some pressure of Terrelle. That's what I think will be the big difference between this year and last year."

That shouldn't be a problem, said another man who knows what it's like to win in scarlet and gray.

John Hicks was an offensive lineman who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting as a senior. He also was on Buckeye teams that went a combined 28-3-1, and Hicks was the first player ever to start three straight Rose Bowls.

Those credentials are nearly impeccable, so fans should be keen on the fact that Hicks sees the Buckeye offensive line as a strength going into 2010.

"They're going to be really good," he said. "They're going to be really good. Michael Brewster will probably go down as one of the best centers. Justin Boren is going to have a great year."

Add in a standout defense that has ranked among the best in the nation each of the five seasons it has been coordinated by Jim Heacock and Ohio State appears to have the mix necessary to make a title run.

Of course, the games have to be played, a fact Hicks was sure to point out.

"They're going to be a good football team," he said. "Will they be a great football team? The season will tell. They have a lot of young talent and there's a lot of enthusiasm down there. They're great kids."

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