We talked yesterday about this year being a roller coaster... well, if that's
the case, then the second half of the year must have been the part where we were
turned upside down (over and over again). The Buckeyes learned what having the
national championship spotlight on them is all about (in a good and bad way) but
fought through it all to have a ten-win season and be in the thick of the
national championship hunt right down to the final game.
July 1, 2003 -- Mount Carmel, PA OL Jon Skinner becomes
the eighth player to commit to Ohio State for the 2004 signing class and the
first from PA since Randy Homa.
July 3, 2003 -- Columbus Independence RB Erik Haw becomes
the ninth player to commit to Ohio State for the 2004 signing class.
July 9, 2003 -- Tallahassee, FL Lincoln QB Joe Bauserman makes
a commitment to the Buckeyes. Bauserman will wait to see where he lands in
the baseball draft before coming in to OSU. Right now, he will most likely
grayshirt if he decides to play football.
July 13, 2003 -- A quiet summer is about to get real busy in a hurry
article runs in the New York Times containing allegations of cheating by
Ohio State football players and favoritism of football players from OSU staff,
including a teacher allowing Maurice Clarett to take an oral exam instead of a
written one. Ohio
State responds by promising an investigation.
July 15, 2003 -- Fans and staff come
out in defense of OSU and Clarett, but is the damage already done?
July 17, 2003 -- It is revealed publicly that senior OL Ivan Douglas will
be out for the season due to a problem with blood clots. Meanwhile,
ex-Buckeye Chris Vance denies
July 23, 2003 -- Hamilton DB Brandon Underwood becomes
the tenth player to commit to Ohio State for the 2004 signing class.
July 23, 2003 -- Ohio State and Michigan are picked to be at the top
of the Big Ten, but even bigger news comes at the Big Ten Kickoff where Jim Tressel claims he
didn't read the New York Times article (emphasis on the word
"claims", of course...).
July 30, 2003 -- Word had been circulating for a couple of weeks, and
on this day, it became public that the
NCAA was looking into an incident involving items reportedly stolen from a
car driven by Maurice Clarett. Clarett reported items in excess of $10,000 were
stolen from a car he was driving in the spring, and the NCAA investigation
centered around Clarett's finances and how he came up with the items. It was
admitted that Clarett exaggerated the value of the items when reporting the
theft, and Ohio State suspended
Clarett from practice until the issue was resolved. Later in the week, OSU
AD Andy Geiger stated that he expected Clarett to be cleared.
July 31, 2003 -- The Buckeyes get another early commitment for 2005,
this time from Lakewood
St. Edward OL Alex Boone. Boone tells us that it took him "about thirty
seconds" to make up his mind after OSU offered.
August 5, 2003 -- The Canton Repository reports that Maurice Clarett blows
off a scheduled meeting with Marcus Allen.
August 6, 2003 -- The defending
national champions report to check in amidst plenty of controversy.
August 7, 2003 -- Photo
Day is held at Ohio Stadium without Clarett. The team appears ready to
proceed without him. Sports Illustrated selects Ohio State as its preseason #1
team and features Craig Krenzel on the cover.
August 11, 2003 -- A four-hour meeting takes place between the Clarett
camp, the NCAA, and Ohio State. Ex-NFL
great Jim Brown is now involved.
August 20, 2003 -- Clarett will miss the opener, and now
Chris Gamble is in the spotlight.
August 22, 2003 -- Another meeting takes place, and it is announced
will miss multiple games although he will be allowed to practice. In
addition, team captains
are announced: QB Craig Krenzel, WR Michael Jenkins, DE Will Smith, and DT
August 24, 2003 -- Clarett was welcomed
back to the team.
August 30, 2003 -- With the national spotlight on Ohio State, the
Buckeyes bombed the
Washington Huskies 28-9 in their home opener on prime time national
television. ESPN College Gameday was in town and conducted an impromptu
interview of Clarett, which would later prove to be a bit controversial. OSU's
win answers all the questions surrounding the team about how they would perform
September 2, 2003 -- Maurice Clarett is suddenly
prohibited from practice. News sources report that he
could miss most of the season and that the Clarett family is exploring its
options, including a lawsuit against the NFL in order to overturn the existing
rule that a player must be out of high school for three seasons before playing
in the league.
September 6, 2003 -- What a difference a week makes. Ohio State struggles
to get past a tougher-than-expected San Diego State team, 16-13. The
Buckeyes topped the Aztecs without making an offensive touchdown, and it would
be a signal of more offensive struggles to come.
September 8, 2003 -- More allegations surface about Clarett, this time
benefits he received.
September 9, 2003 -- Word begins to surface that Clarett's season may
be done. Jim Tressel gives the "OK" for Clarett to transfer.
September 10, 2003 -- The
official announcement is made by OSU AD Andy Geiger that Clarett is
suspended for at least the entire season for receiving improper benefits and
misleading NCAA investigators. Geiger leaves the door open for Clarett's return,
but the announcement leaves more doubt about that possibility.
September 13, 2003 -- In one of the most exciting games of the year, Ohio
State outlasts NC State in three overtimes, 44-38. NC State rallied from a
24-7 fourth quarter deficit to tie the game, but in the third overtime, OSU's
defense stopped RB T.A. McClendon just inches short of the goal line on a fourth
down run to win the game.
September 14, 2003 -- The NFL confirms
it received a letter from Clarett's attorney stating their intentions to
possibly sue to challenge the draft rule.
September 19, 2003 -- Clarett files a
motion of discovery against Ohio State.
September 20, 2003 -- The Buckeyes hold
off Bowling Green 24-17 to move to 4-0 on the season. An injury to Craig
Krenzel forced back-up QB Scott McMullen into the starting role, and he took
home his first win as a Buckeye QB. Like the week before, Ohio State was up 24-7
before Bowling Green made a late comeback.
September 23, 2003 -- Clarett sues
the NFL for early entry. Krenzel is still struggling with injury and may not
play in the next game.
September 24, 2003 -- Huber Heights Wayne LB Marcus Freeman becomes
the 11th player to commit to Ohio State for the 2004 recruiting class.
September 27, 2003 -- The Buckeyes shut
out Northwestern 20-0 for their fifth win of the season and their 19th
straight victory. The game is a bit of a snoozer but back-up QB Scott McMullen
once again stepped up for injured QB Craig Krenzel and helped OSU to victory.
The Buckeyes now had a bye week before traveling to Wisconsin.
October 6, 2003 -- Columbus Eastmoor FB Dionte' Johnson -- the son of
ex-OSU LB Pepper Johnson -- becomes
the 12th player to commit to Ohio State for the 2004 recruiting class.
October 10, 2003 -- Clarett files
a federal suit against OSU, claiming his rights were violated when OSU gave
details of his testimony to NCAA officials to the police.
October 11, 2003 -- Ohio State's 19-game
winning streak comes to an end in Madison, Wisconsin as the Wisconsin
Badgers fought off OSU, 17-10. The Buckeye D gave up over 100 yards to a running
back for the first time since the Wisconsin game in 2002, and Wisconsin burned
OSU for a 79-yard TD pass to Lee Evans late in the fourth quarter to grab the
lead after OSU tied the game. As it turned out though, OSU's national title
hopes were not ended by this game. The Buckeyes get a black eye in this game
though when LB Robert Reynolds is caught on camera choking Wisconsin QB Jim Sorgi. Reynolds later
apologized and was suspended for the following game against Iowa. Reynolds
came under heavy criticism both locally and nationally as a result of the
incident. Meanwhile, the lack of Buckeye offensive attack was also a subject of
much criticism as well.
October 18, 2003 -- The Buckeye offense didn't get any better, but it
didn't need to this week as Ohio State topped a nationally-ranked Iowa team
19-10 without scoring an offensive TD. OSU scored on a blocked punt recovered in
the end zone and a punt return by Michael Jenkins as well as a safety and two
October 25, 2003 -- Indiana was just
what the doctor ordered for the Buckeyes as the struggling OSU offense
exploded for over 600 total yards against the hapless Hoosiers in a 35-6 win.
The victory was marred a bit by the loss of WR Drew Carter, who tore an ACL
during the first half. Carter was having a fine season and was on his way to
establishing himself as an NFL prospect after struggling with injuries
throughout his career.
November 1, 2003 -- Ohio State travels to Penn State to take on a
struggling Nittany Lions squad but struggle themselves as they
need a late drive to pull out a 21-20 win. Craig Krenzel was forced to leave
the game due to injury in the first half, and back-up Scott McMullen rallied the
team to a come-from-behind win. The game resulted in a very minor QB controversy
as some fans were calling for McMullen to take the starting spot while Coach
Tressel was vague on who the starter would be.
November 8, 2003 -- The Buckeye offense looks good again as they
pull away from nationally-ranked Michigan State, 33-23. Craig Krenzel put to
rest any QB controversy as he started and played the bulk of the game. The game
was one of the best overall efforts of the season from the team, and momentum
seems to be building for a national championship run. Meanwhile, a report
surfaces that Maurice Clarett is in
danger of failing two classes at Ohio State.
November 10, 2003 -- Things suddenly look more promising for OSU in
the national race as they move to #3 in the BCS standings.
November 15, 2003 -- In perhaps the most exciting game of the year,
Ohio State toughs out
an overtime win over Purdue on Senior
Day, 16-13 in overtime. The game was a classic defensive showdown of two of
the Big Ten's best teams, and the Buckeyes prevailed after Purdue missed a short
field goal to end the game. Once again, Ohio State pulled out the win despite
scoring no offensive touchdowns. The Buckeyes moved to 10-1 with the win and
hype begins almost immediately for next weekend's showdown against Michigan,
which will be for the Big Ten title and possibly a berth in the national
November 16, 2003 -- A late-night/early morning incident takes place
involving WR Santonio Holmes, CB Chris Gamble and QB Troy Smith and an
altercation between some unidentified women. Accusations are made but the
university states the players were acting as peacemakers. Holmes and Smith were
later charged with disorderly conduct in the incident. The players would not
start against Michigan. Later that day, the Buckeyes get a bit of a surprise
commitment as Suncoast, FL Riviera Beach DB/WR DaJuan Morgan becomes
the 13th player to commit to Ohio State for the 2004 recruiting class.
November 17, 2003 -- Ohio State officially moves to #2 in the BCS
standings. Even though they technically do not control their own destiny,
indications are that a win over Michigan would almost assure them of a place in
the national championship game.
November 17-21, 2003 -- The hype
is rampant for the 100th version of the OSU/Michigan game (Mon
| Tues | Wed
| Thurs | Fri).
The game is the national spotlight for the upcoming weekend.
November 22, 2003 -- The 100th version of the OSU/UM game is one
that Buckeye fans would like to forget as Michigan's offense steamrolls the
Buckeye defense on the way to a 35-21 win. Michigan jumped out to a 28-7 lead
over Ohio State, but the Buckeyes made a run in the second half, cutting the
lead to 28-21. Michigan put the game away though with one last TD and ended
OSU's hopes for a Big Ten and national title.
November 25, 2003 -- OSU DE Will Smith is named Big
Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
December 7, 2003 -- Days of waiting to find out what bowl Ohio State
would wind up in came to an end as the Buckeyes were
selected by the Fiesta Bowl to return to the desert for the second year in a
row and play Kansas State. The move is a big surprise as the overwhelming
majority of fans, media, and players assumed the Buckeyes would be traveling to
Miami for a rematch with the Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl.
December 9, 2003 -- Craig Krenzel wins
the Draddy Award, which is called the "academic Heisman".
December 11, 2003 -- Punter B.J. Sander wins
the Ray Guy Award for the nation's top punter. Sander's brilliant senior
season came after four up-and-down seasons at OSU where he was named the starter
in 2001 but lost the job to walk-on Andy Groom.
December 13, 2003 -- As Maurice Clarett's lawyers begin to argue their
case in federal court, reports surface that the
door is still open for him to return to the Buckeyes.
December 14, 2003 -- Euclid LB Brandon Smith becomes the 14th
player to commit to Ohio State for the 2004 recruiting class.
December 16, 2003 -- Beaver, PA TE Rory Nicol becomes the
15th player to commit to Ohio State for the 2004 recruiting class. Nicol,
the #2 TE prospect in the country and a top 100 player, confirms his decision
two days later at a press conference.
December 17, 2003 -- An academic probe clears
Ohio State of the charges raised by the July New York Times article.
December 19, 2003 -- Pickerington Central P A.J. Trapasso becomes
the 16th player to commit to Ohio State for the 2004 recruiting class
although Trapasso also reveals he will be coming to school early (like Marcus
Freeman, Steve Rehring and Antonio Pittman) and will not count against the total
for this class.
December 22, 2003 -- News surfaces that OSU defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio will be taking
the head coaching job at Cincinnati. The announcement is made at a press
conference the following day.
December 31, 2003 -- We come to the end of the year, wondering already
what 2004 will bring. Will the Buckeyes do the job in the Fiesta Bowl? What will
happen in the 2004 recruiting class? What will happen in the 2004 season, and
who will be the quarterback of the future? Will Maurice Clarett play his next
down as a Buckeye or in the NFL?
We'll find out soon enough. As crazy and eventful as 2003 was, there should
certainly be plenty to talk about over the next 365 days. Happy new year!!!