Scouting the Big Ten: Ohio State

It was the season the Horseshoe has been waiting for since the "retirement" of Woody Hayes; the Buckeyes ran the table and won a national title. Even with that, they barely suffered a dent in their very talented roster, one full of pro-prospects.

The talent on offense is deep and explosive. Receiver Michael Jenkins could be one of the most underrated players in the nation. A tall pass catcher with nice size, Jenkins has tremendous playing speed and constantly beats quality opponents down the field. Not only a deep threat, Jenkins is accomplished catching the ball over the middle or out to the flanks, making the important third down grab. Factor in better than average route running skills and Jenkins could be headed to the top 15 next April with good pre-draft workouts.

There is plenty of potential on the offensive line. We have closely scouted Adrien Clarke since his freshman campaign, as he is a lineman we ranked very high at one point. Clarke has great versatility and can play either guard spots yet also effectively handled the blind side tackle duties early in his Buckeye career. Clarke was a dominator who manhandled opponents on the line yet at the same time displayed the skill to block on the move, always playing with a good degree of intelligence. Clarke had a major conditioning problem last season, so much, so that someone within the program told us he was "eating himself out of a starting job." Reports had his weight close to 370-pounds at one point. He seemingly has got it back on track this spring and Clarke looks ready to commit to football. If he does, Clarke will challenge for the number one guard spot and a top 75 choice next April.

Ivan Douglas is a nice sized, athletic tackle with a large degree of upside potential but a prospect that needs repetition and to the point, must learn to play with balance and body control.

We can say the same about Bryce Bishop, a guard that dominates on occasion but a lineman we thought should have played better last season. Regardless, Bishop has a large degree of upside.

Centers do not come much meaner or nastier than Alex Stepanovich, a powerful blocker on the pivot that opens big holes for the running game or holds the point in pass protection. Stepanovich destroys opponents engulfing them at the point, blocking down on defenders or even getting straight out ahead to take linebackers out on the second level. He is not as effective in space as his predecessor LeCharles Bentley and is limited to the number of blocking schemes he would be effective in but is a good bet to be a top 60 choice in 2004.

Fullback Branden Joe is an explosive lead blocker that jolts opponents at the point but has difficulty-finishing blocks and must improve his playing strength.

Craig Krenzel came up big for OSU last season and is a heady quarterback that overachieves but is not a great pro-prospect.

Tight end Ben Hartsock is efficient as both a blocker and pass catcher but not spectacular in either area.

While everyone is familiar with running back sensation Maurice Clarett, the true sophomore who made noise about challenging the NFL's draft eligibility requirement last season, not many paid attention to lineman Rob Sims; a blocker we think has a great future.

The defensive talent does not have the quantity but could have better quality. Will Smith is a tremendous athlete and great pass rusher. The defensive end explodes off the snap and quickly closes on ball handlers, making many plays off the line of scrimmage. What really stands out about Smith's game are the great range and ability to make plays laterally off the line off scrimmage he shows. Smith is not overly large but plays strong and is rarely moved off the line by blockers. With defensive linemen being such a priority position come April's draft, do not be surprised if Smith is a top ten pick.

The other early choice would be Chris Gamble; the receiver/cornerback we feel is best suited for the defensive side of the ball. Gamble has the footwork, explosion and cover skills to be a shutdown corner but needs more repetition and development to reach his full potential.

Darrion Scott is slowly turning into a complete lineman that defends the run or rushes the passer. He does not have the same explosion or athleticism as some of his teammates, but is a prospect that could move into the top 75 next April. The rest of the defensive prospects are of the middle-to-late round variety.

Tim Anderson is a hard working tackle with a great first step but a limited athlete who lacks size and is handled at the point by a single blocker.

Outside linebacker Robert Reynolds has the athleticism to play at the next level and goes hard sideline-to-sideline. Not an efficient defender, Reynolds seems to do too much reacting rather than anticipating. He needs to standout as a senior now that he is the veteran of the OSU linebacking core.

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