Bucknotes
Justin Zwick
Justin Zwick
Assistant Editor
Posted Dec 22, 2004


Following OSU football feels like watching a soap opera at times. In today's Bucknuts column, Dave Biddle talks about that, as well as a number of other topics.

We are one week away from the Alamo Bowl and Ohio State arrives in San Antonio today.

It must have been tough for the Buckeyes to leave Columbus. It was 28 degrees and snowing in the Capital City Wednesday, while it was a high of 54 in San Antonio.

Fans traveling to the game can expect temperatures in the 60’s and low 70’s next week. Just remember to think of all your Buckeye friends back home.

AS THE QB WORLD TURNS

Radio personality Gary Burbank of 700 WLW in Cincinnati puts on a couple entertaining bits called “All My Bengals” and “The Reds and the Restless.” Hilarious stuff. But now he might need to add something in regards to the ultimate soap opera – Ohio State football.

Just when you thought things were cooling down and the worst of the storm had been weathered, you learn that Troy Smith has been suspended for the Alamo Bowl.

About two months ago, your reaction might have been something like, “Big Deal.” But, what about now? After Smith put up nearly 400 yards of total offense in the 37-21 win over Michigan, everyone was excited to see what he could do for an encore. Was it a fluke? Could he build on the momentum he gained in the UM win?

Well, he might. But it will be after a really long layoff.

And just when everyone was getting ready to write off Justin Zwick (Will he transfer? Will Todd Boeckman pass him on the depth chart?), he gets one more chance as OSU’s starting quarterback.

Zwick’s numbers this year? Not too bad for a first-year starter. Thus far, he is 81 of 160 passing (50.6) for 1,020 yards, with five touchdowns and six interceptions.

Once again: Not good, but not bad. And keep in mind that Zwick’s worst performance was against Wisconsin, one of the top defenses in the nation. He did throw for over 300 yards against Marshall and led the game-winning drive.

It didn’t look like Jim Tressel was going to pull the plug on Zwick anytime soon, but a shoulder injury in the Iowa game forced his hand. Smith was given his shot and slowly began to make the most of it.

He led OSU to home victories over Indiana (30-7) and Penn State (21-10) but wasn’t given too many opportunities in the passing game.

However, in the 31-19 comeback win at Michigan State, Smith began to show his playmaking skills. He was 13 of 21 passing for 138 yards, with one TD and no INTs. He also had 13 carries for 34 yards. That afternoon will forever be remembered as the Ted Ginn Game, but Smith was definitely settling into the starting QB role.

He came back down to Earth the following week in the 24-17 loss at Purdue. He looked spectacular on occasion, but was turnover prone for the first time. He finished 14 of 29 passing for 192 yards, but had three picks to go along with just one touchdown. Smith was the Buckeyes’ leading rusher on the day, carrying 16 times for 62 yards, but fumbled away a pitch attempt at the goal line.

So, that’s how the situation looked heading into the Michigan game. Was there any way Smith could lead OSU to a victory over Michigan?

As if reading from the soap opera script directly, Smith didn’t just lead the Bucks to victory, he turned in probably the best performance by an OSU quarterback in the history of the rivalry.

A little less than a month later, he gets suspended for what looks to be “extra benefits.” Athletic director Andy Geiger told the Columbus Dispatch that the infraction took place last March or April, so it wasn’t like Smith took some type of handout after his big game against Michigan. It was something minor that happened during the spring.

Following OSU football has more twists and turns than any movie, book, or TV thriller you can think of. Stay tuned for more Days of Our Buckeyes, because it’s definitely one thing after another.

EARLY PREDICTION…

Mike Nugent will be a second round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

Sounds crazy, right? Even for a great kicker. But former Iowa kicker Nate Kaeding was a third round pick by the San Diego Chargers last year, and Sebastian Janikowski was a first round selection by the Oakland Raiders in 2000.

Nugent has a stronger leg than Kaeding and is just as accurate. Also, he’s not going to pass out in bars like the aforementioned kicker from Oaktown.

There will be plenty of teams out there that will be looking for a kicker and I’m willing to bet that one of them spends a second round pick on Nuge.

IT WILL BE INTERESTING…

To see what happens with the Anthony Schlegel and Mike D’Andrea situation next year. After D’Andrea’s injury, Schlegel stepped in nicely, finishing the regular season third on the team with 79 tackles (42 solo). No, Schlegel isn’t the most athletic player in the land, but he’s tough, gritty and always plays hard. You can always see him flying to the ball and he could be a tackling machine next year playing between two of the best outside linebackers in the country – A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter.

However, in a recent interview, Hawk said that it is his belief that OSU’s coaches will find a way to get Schlegel and D’Andrea on the field together. He said that they are both too talented to keep off the field.

The Buckeyes will continue to mix in more 3-4 alignments, so that will help the situation, but that will never be their base defense. A more likely scenario is that defensive coordinator Mark Snyder gets creative, playing D’Andrea at different spots, and rotating a few players to keep everyone fresh. There will never be a rotation like the defensive line (makes no sense to keep Hawk off the field) but we might see the linebackers rotate a little bit more next year. Marcus Freeman could steal some reps as well.

O-LINE DEPTH IMPROVING

Since Tressel and Jim Bollman arrived, there has been one constant: a lack of quality depth on the offensive line.

However, looking ahead to 2005, Ohio State could be in good shape up front. Let’s take a look at the scholarship offensive linemen by class and where they might fit into the plans next season.

Seniors: Nick Mangold and Rob Sims will be two of the most experienced players in the Big Ten next year. How many offensive linemen in the conference will be able to say they’ve played in a national championship game? Exactly two.

Mangold will likely be one of the top centers in the country. He really came towards the end of this season, and played his tail off against Michigan.

As for Sims, he has been a bit of a disappointment since his breakout freshman campaign, but he’s also been playing out of position at tackle. Look for him to move to guard next year where he could be in line for a big year.

The only other senior scholarship OL on the roster will be Andree Tyree. The London native got some reps at fullback on the national championship squad, but was then moved to the offensive line and has battled injuries ever since. He is a guard and it will take a huge spring out of him to earn significant playing time in 2005.

One thing we can count on from Tressel is that he will give scholarships to a few senior walk-ons next year if there are any available. Two strong candidates on the offensive line are Steve Winner and John Conroy.

Juniors: Doug Datish began the year as the starter at left guard, but was replaced later in the year with T.J. Downing. They will continue to compete and it’s position battles like this that makes everyone better. Both of them have solid futures in the program, especially Downing with the way he played late in the year.

Tim Schafer began the year at right tackle, but was eventually replaced by Kirk Barton. Schafer might not get his starting spot back, but at the very worst he’ll supply solid depth.

R.J. Coleman came to OSU as a tight end, then was switched to guard, and now is back at tight end. I think he stays at TE for now, but he will always been there to help out with depth on the line if need be.

Sophomores: As mentioned, Barton stepped into the right tackle job by midseason and played well. He seems to be a player that could be a future all-conference pick, but we’ll have to see how he continues to develop.

True freshman Steve Rehring was the pleasant surprise of the group. The 6-8, 325-pound mountain received some decent playing time and held his own. Obviously, enrolling at OSU early helped this young man out. He was able to get adjusted and proved that he is going to be a force for the next three years.

Freshmen: True freshman Alex Boone could receive immediate playing time. Some even believe he could challenge for a starting spot at tackle. It will be interesting to see how than pans out.

True freshman Jim Cordle and Kevin Bemoll will probably be redshirted, but who knows. I’ve personally heard a lot of good things about Cordle.

As for the redshirt freshmen, a few of them will be counted on to fill out the two deep. Ben Person, Kyle Mitchum and Jon Skinner were scout team fodder this year and the spring will be their time to prove if they deserve playing time in ’05. Person looked especially good in the all-star circuit last summer.

BOBCATS, HOOSIERS LAND GOOD COACHES

I don’t think Ohio University, or Indiana University could have done a better job in terms of finding the right football coach to lead their respective programs.

The Bobcats landed former Nebraska coach Frank Solich, who was 58-19 in six seasons in Lincoln. With Marshall leaving the MAC for Conference USA, Solich – an Ohio native – could build OU into a real force in the Mid American Confernce. But it won’t be easy. The Bobcats have only had two winning seasons since 1982.

Indiana hired former Miami University coach Terry Hoeppner. He was 48-23 in six seasons in Oxford.

The Hoosiers might never get over the firing of Bill Mallory, but this was a step in the right direction. Hoeppner is a good recruiter, good game day coach, and is a class act. We might have seen the end of Indiana’s days as a doormat for a while. Well, maybe starting in a few years or so.

LES MILES, MORE CARR

These rumors that Lloyd Carr could be retiring are not music to the ears of Buckeye fans. They want to keep Carr around as long as possible (we kid our good man Lloyd).

Looking ahead, the odds on favorite to be Michigan’s next head coach is Oklahoma State head coach Les Miles. He played at Michigan and is rumored to be Bo Schembechler’s hand-picked replacement for Carr, whenever he decides to retire.

Yes, several years from now, we might look back on the Alamo Bowl as the first of many Tressel-Miles showdowns.

BASKETBALL BAN

Judging from some of the calls I’ve heard on local talk radio, a lot of people are still upset about the one-year postseason ban that was placed on the OSU basketball team.

One good point is that Michigan also received a one-year ban, and amount paid to recruits was over $600K. That’s a long way from just $6K. However, there’s one major difference: The money came directly from the head coach in Ohio State’s situation. Yes, Steve Fisher knew what Ed Martin was doing at Michigan, but in the eyes of the NCAA, the situation was much different.

And, if you remember, Michigan did not hand out any self-imposed sanctions like OSU did. Michigan waited to hear from the NCAA, which gave the Wolverines a two-year ban from postseason play. Michigan appealed the decision and it was later reduced to one year.

STEALING FROM THE QUEEN CITY

Cincinnati-area basketball thinks a lot of itself, and with good reason. It’s a basketball hotbed.

Therefore, it sent a huge message that Ohio State lured Thad Matta away from Xavier, and Matta’s top assistant – Dan Peters – away from Cincinnati.

Remember the backlash when Matta came to Columbus? The people in Cincinnati couldn’t believe he thought OSU was a better job than Xavier. But, come on. Big Ten over A-10? You can’t be serious.

They were also upset that Matta “lied” about not being interested in other jobs. Never mind Matta did exactly what any other coach in his situation would have done. The fans and media just couldn’t believe he was leaving.

As for Peters, he was Bob Huggins’ top assistant at Cincinnati, and when he made the move to OSU, people weren’t just saying it was a lateral move, they were saying it was a step down. Sure, UC’s program has been far better than OSU’s over the last decade-plus, but Peters is an Ohio guy and knew the long-term potential in the OSU program.

In an interesting sidebar, Peters worked for Jim Tressel at Youngstown State when he was the Penguins head basketball coach for six seasons and Tressel was AD.

SHARPSHOOTERS

Ohio State is shooting an impressive .428 from 3-point range this year. And it’s not just that the Buckeyes are shooting at a high percentage, they’re shooting a lot of them. They are 92 of 215 and are showing no signs of slowing down.

In a recent Bucknuts The Magazine interview, sophomore forward Ivan Harris said it’s no accident that OSU is shooting better this year. He said Matta has them go through several shooting drills and has really stressed some of the finer points of shooting the long ball, like getting the legs into the shot, and finding the right release point.

LADY BUCKEYES KEEP ROLLING

Ohio State’s women’s basketball team is 11-1 and ranked in the top 10 nationally. Jessica Davenport, a 6-5 sophomore center, is averaging 17.7 points and eight rebounds per game. Senior guard Caity Matter is averaging 15.3 points, and recently set the OSU career mark for 3-pointers with 221, breaking Katie Smith’s record of 218.

In addition to the two stars, the Lady Buckeyes have a bevy of talented role players. They go 11-12 deep and third-year head coach Jim Foster could take them far in the NCAA Tournament.



Related Stories
Zwick Excited About Chance To Start
 -by BuckeyeSports.com  Dec 26, 2004
Tressel, Geiger Discuss Smith Suspension
 -by BuckeyeSports.com  Dec 20, 2004
OSU Suspends Smith From Alamo Bowl
 -by BuckeyeSports.com  Dec 20, 2004

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