As the reigning Mr. Big Nut here at the intergalactic headquarters of the Bucknuts empire, it is incumbent upon me to say something – again – this week about the bowl scene and Ohio State's role therein. I tried to weave together my traditional formula of combining something asinine and inappropriate with a caustic criticism about a subject that's either irreverent or irrelevant. After plumbing those depths, I changed course and focused on what struck me the most.
And that is (ahem)…these thoughts:
Texas will beat USC. Because? USC has suspicious D, inconsistent special teams and because they forgot to schedule any tough games this season in their run toward immortality.
Penn State will beat Florida State. Because? FSU doesn't deserve to be in a bowl game in a venue anything bigger than the Motor City Bowl.
Ohio State will beat Notre Dame. Because? The Buckeyes are better at almost every single position including the two kickers, the coaches and the fans.
Now…when that all comes to pass, that will mean that Ohio State ends up third in the nation, having lost only to the two teams that finished higher than them. I can live with that…
* * * * *
MAC truck coming through…We have touted the high school MAC conference enough in this space to make a reader think we own some equity that we're pushing. Honestly, I'm just impressed. Besides the MAC producing this year's best player (at any level) in Ross Homan, they also won the Division IV and Division VI state championships and were odds-on favorites to win Division V until top-ranked Versailles got knocked off.
One of our Bucknuts guys is a diehard Coldwater fan and he had a couple of comments about the level of competition and related issues. They are:
1) Versailles and Delphos St. John's (in the MAC) were both better than state finalist Youngstown Mooney (who Coldwater dispatched 33-9).
2) Ross Homan played his last three games at about 80%, playing with a painful groin pull.
3) When Bucknuts correspondent Bill Greene raved about sophomore Coldwater sensation Ryan Grier, our Coldwater guy said that Ryan's older brother Brady – a senior – was the best athlete on the Coldwater team, including Ross Homan! Let's see how he does – despite getting very little recruiting attention.
4) And I am quoting here: "If the five playoff teams that Coldwater played were in the MAC, the first four would have been no better than fifth place in the league and Mooney? Hard to say – second to fourth, with or without their starting quarterback".
Tough critique. Tough league…
* * * * *
The Recruiting Buzz
Each year, ‘ol Mr. Bucknuts turns to his encyclopedic knowledge of recruiting, matches it with his crystal ball, tosses in some salacious gossip and random speculation, and passes the whole mess off as recruiting analysis. I used to do that on a regular weekly/monthly basis until we supplanted that effort with a professional look by staffers (Steve Helwagen, Duane Long and Gary Housteau), guys that really knew what they were talking about.
But one annual tradition at this time of year is to take in the Bucknuts' buzz. Looking forward to next year, the current recruiting crop and the 2007 possibilities – at least in Ohio. Over the next few weeks, I will take on 1-3 positions in each column and give you both the fast facts and glib opinions. Today, we look at the defensive line.
After seasons watching the likes of Will Smith or Mike Kudla or Bobby Carpenter rush off the edge, it's natural to get a bit queasy anticipating the successor here. Let's take a look…
Who They Lose: We mentioned two: Mike Kudla and occasional rush end, Bobby Carpenter. Kudla had a monster senior campaign and was a stout defender against the run. Carp changed the whole dynamic of the defense when he "put his hand in the dirt" midway through the season.
Who's Back: Early season starter Jay Richardson (senior), occasional outside guy David Patterson (senior), combo LB/DE Curtis Terry (junior), promising sophomore Alex Barrow and the heralded three Dubyas: Lawrence Wilson (soph), Doug Worthington (red-shirt freshman), and Ryan Williams (red-shirt freshman).
Who's Coming: I am predicting Glenville's Robert Rose who has "superstar" written all over him. Others that Ohio State is still in on include Adjepong, McKenzie Matthews, and Walter Dublin.
In 2007: Ben Martin is the class of the class. Joey D'Andrea (Upper Arlington) might be just as good but he probably will play inside. Another big name is Solomon Thomas of Lakota West. There are two other guys with high potential; David Bruton's brother, Kendrick, from Miamisburg and huge Aaron Pogue of Dayton Dunbar, who is likely to pursue basketball at the next level. This is a big year in Ohio for DE's.
The Bucknuts Buzz: Because of the quality and relative youth of The Three Dubyas, this is not a recruiting position of crisis. And because Robert Rose should be along for the ride (and the "best" player in Ohio next year could be DE Ben Martin), OSU has the luxury of being picky here. As to who plays next year, you have super-rush end Jay Richardson, who has one more year to show his promise and Gholston, who has yet to really see the field. Lawrence Wilson is potentially of NFL caliber and David Patterson is there in a Kudla-like way as a run-stuffing end. Finally, they have guys at LB – just like Carpenter this year – who can provide the extra punch plus drop back in coverage as needed. This is going to be a great group, as it evolves. And there are two possible Top 100 guys in the class right behind them.
You want to repeat as the best rush defense in the nation? This is where it starts. Can they be as good next year? Some think maybe even better…
Who They Lose: Marcus Green was an unsung hero inside in 2005. We will miss him.
Who's Back: One more go-round for "The Killer P's": Joel Penton, Quinn Pitcock and David Patterson. Behind them are Nader Abdallah (soph), Todd Denlinger (R-freshman), and Sian Cotton (junior)
Who's Coming: I predicted Dexter Larimore, national heavyweight wrestling champ out of Indiana, a Tim Anderson clone. The Buckeyes are also in on Alex Dekel and Troutman.
In 2007: The aforementioned Joey D'Andrea is a standout. Others are Darren Gunn from Trotwood-Madison and nose tackle Marcellus Williamson from Warrensville.
The Bucknuts Buzz: The three P's could all be playing on Sunday. That's right. Led by the super-stout Quinn Pitcock, Penton and Patterson form an absolute wall in the middle. Abdallah and Denlinger are the heirs apparent and Sian Cotton is still looking to live up to his jumbo athletic potential. There is a good chance (for depth) that big guys like a Doug Worthington or a Robert Rose could slide down here over time.
That said, this is a position that needs more depth and needs it right now. Your top three are gone, your next two have no experience, etcetera. We need Larimore this year and at least one more.
* * * * *
Wolverine bull…Of all the lies and hypocrisy that spills unabated from the mouths of Michigan fans, I was most intrigued by the pre-game assertions from our Scout colleagues at GoBlueWolverine.com that the 2005 team was just a warm-up for a truly great 2006 campaign. First of all, Lloyd Carr-Wreck makes each year seem homogenous to me, as if he opened them all from the same can. And lately, he has just kept opening one can of Ohio State "whoop ass" after another.
All that notwithstanding, our crack research associates here at Bucknuts took a penetrating look at the thesis that Michigan will be much improved in 2006. Here is what we observed:
In 2005, the Wolves have five starters that are seniors and will lose three of four from the O-line plus Jason Avant and Tim Massaquoi from the receiving corps. These guys are replaced by virtual unknowns, except at WR where – as usual – they have great depth. Stepping up there should be Steve Breaston, Carl Tabb or Antonio Bass.
On their under-performing defensive side, Michigan loses only three seniors: Gabriel "The Load" Watson, Pat "The Turncoat" Massey and cornerback Grant Mason. They return all their linebackers including LaMarr Woodley and two Ohio émigrés, Prescott Burgess and Shawn Crable. They also return kicker Garrett Rivas but lose strong-legged kick-off/punter Ross Ryan.
With the assumption that Whitner and Youboty return, Ohio State loses three offensive starters, six defensive and one kicker for a total of ten front-liners versus the Wolverines' nine. I "feel" that the OSU replacements (Lawrence Wilson, Marcus Freeman, Mike D'Andrea, Brandon Mitchell, etcetera) are going to be better than their replacements – mostly, because I am biased.
So I would call the whole thing a "push". And when push comes to shove, well…lately the Bucks have been winning those contests, too…
* * * * *
Arrested development…When you think of "arrested development" and "offensive line", you probably think of Tyson Walter. But that's a story for another day…Let's think of Tyson and his development in another, more positive way. As in the development of Nick Mangold. Eh? Duane Long has always asserted that the toughest position to gauge in recruiting is offensive linemen because so much depends on their development once they get to college. Will Aaron Brown make more progress, as an example, than Bryant Browning? Nick Mangold and TJ Downing were certainly pleasant surprises in that department. And look at our second-year line guys now: We had (and still have) high hopes for Mitchum and Person and Skinner. The throw-in recruit that year was the "project" – Steve Rehring. Yet, Steve developed the farthest and the fastest. You could say the same things about Kirk Barton, a pleasant surprise all around.
Which gets back to Tyson Walter again. He was always good but did he ever get to the level the coaches expected? Yet, his protagonist, LeCharles Bentley, came in with low expectations and went out holding a Rimmington Award.
We have a couple guys coming up now that seem to have both limitless potential and the work ethic to get there: Connor Smith and Jim Cordle. It should be fun to watch as things, well…develop.
* * * * *
Expanding your horizons…There are more books written about Buckeye players than there probably are Buckeye players. But you can count on one hand the good books written about the Buckeyes. Most were written simply to make a buck. The outstanding example of a book that was written for a more public purpose is the inspirational Expanding Your Horizons. Written in 1992 by Dr. Donald Steinberg, Expanding details the 1942 national championship Buckeye team, their outstanding coach (Paul Brown) and the even more outstanding young men that played on that Ohio State squad. The individual success stories of the players on that team are almost unbelievable with all but one graduating, with half the class earning master's degrees and four (including the author) earning doctorates. That team had the highest academic average of any group in the university other than the honor societies!
Coach Tressel is passionate about this book because it amplifies all the good things about college football, Ohio State, and outstanding young men. For many years, the book was out of print and all requests went unfilled. Now, thanks to the persistent efforts of Coach Tressel, Bucknuts has a few hundred copies of Expanding Your Horizons and would like to share them with you.
And, yes, we are not making a buck here. We priced the books at $25 delivered to you with $20 going to both the WHAC building fund and to Coach Tressel's scholarship efforts. Dr. Steinberg has certainly done his part. Coach Tressel has obviously done his, as well. And Bucknuts is happy to contribute to the effort.
If you want one of the copies of the book, look on the front of Bucknuts.com for instructions on how to order. If you want to contact Mr. Bucknuts, here are the instructions: e-mail him at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com