Sunday, August 23

Buckeye Preview Part I

Football season's almost here! It's that time of the year again, and I'm full of excitement. Let's get right to it.

A Look Back...
With a loaded defense full of playmakers, plenty of offensive weapons, and the arrival of the nation's top recruit Terrelle Pryor, expectations were high as ever in Columbus going into the '08 season. Unfortunately, Ohio St fans were forced to face reality in September after a 35-3 thumping at the hands of USC. That reality was that, while this is a very talented team, they're not quite on the level of the nation's top teams. After the embarrassment in SoCal, coach Jim Tressel really didn't have much of a choice but to bench All-Big Ten QB Todd Boeckman in favor of the fan favorite Pryor. TP certainly had some growing pains (the 16-3 win vs. Purdue), but he also showed the flashes of brilliance that made coaches all over the nation pop wood when he was in high school (the 20-13 win vs. Wisconsin).

Once OSU got into conference play, things got back to normal with victories over Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Michigan St. Then Penn St came into The Shoe for Homecoming. In a game dominated by defense, Aaron Maybin came up with the biggest play of the year for the Lions when he sacked Pryor and forced a fumble near midfield in Ohio St's attempted game-tying drive, sealing a 13-6 victory for PSU.
The Bucks rounded out regular season play with routs of Northwestern, Illinois and michigan. Iowa's upset over Penn St gave Ohio St a piece of an unprecedented fourth straight Big Ten title. The Buckeyes headed to another BCS bowl, also their fourth in a row, to take on a Texas team upset about not landing a spot in the title game. Ohio St hung in there in a game not many people expected to be close, but fell just short as Danny McCoy hit Quan Crosby with a last minute TD pass to give the Longhorns a 24-21 victory. Although Ohio St's season fell short of expectations, another Big Ten Championship and BCS appearance is a great achievement.

A Look at the Offense...
Gone are Beanie Wells, Brian Robiskie, and Brian Hartline, one of the most talented set of skill position players in school history. Returning, however, is QB Terrelle Pryor. As I mentioned earlier, Pryor was very hit-and-miss last year, but that is to be expected from a true freshman. He obviously has the talent, but if he can improve his consistency and maturity, which should come with more experience, he has Heisman written all over him.

The new starting running back is Daniel "Boom" Herron. Replacing an All-American is not an easy task, but Herron has the skills to be a star as well. Last year's backup Maurice Wells is also gone, but RB depth has never been a problem in Columbus. Brandon Saine (who ironically was nicknamed "Zoom" in high school because of his speed, giving OSU a "Boom & Zoom" backfield) provides a ton of explosiveness and true Freshman Jaamal Berry was last year's "Mr. Ohio." (Let's hope he turns out more like Ted Ginn and Chris Wells, and not so much like Justin Zwick, all of whom had won the award previously.)

The receiving corps lost talent, but will feature very similar-type players to last year's group, even though both starters from the '08 squad are gone. Dane Sanzenbacher will be the Brian Hartline over-the-middle-possession receiver, and DeVier Posey will be the Robo deep-threat big-play guy. A la Hartline, Sanzenbacher will catch anything within reach. Both of these guys saw significant playing time last year and played pretty well. Lamaar "Flash" Thomas, Ray Small, and Taurian Washington all have a lot of talent and provide solid depth at the position. Thomas is wearing the coveted #7 jersey, so he'd better be a big playmaker. The Buckeyes also added freshman Duran Carter. Carter comes into Columbus with quite the pedigree, being the son of former OSU star and future NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter. If he can be 1/4 as talented as his father, we are in for a treat in the next four years.

The offensive line should be great, as long as they can figure out the left tackle position. RT Jim Cordle, RG Ryan Browning, and C Mike Brewster are all returning starters, and michigan transfer Justin Boren will take over at LG. Cordle started last year at center, but Brewster showed a lot of talent as a freshman and bumped Cordle to tackle. Boren did the unthinkable and went from the wolverines to the Buckeyes. He started all 12 games for "that school up north" in '07. Browning, who allowed the Aaron Maybin sack/forced fumble that cost us the Penn St game and possibly another National Championship appearance, moves from tackle to guard because he wasn't quick enough to handle guys like Maybin and Texas DE Brian Orakpo. The biggest question mark is the void at LT left by two-time All-Big Ten lineman Alex Boone. Sophomore Mike Adams looks like he's going to hold off Junior Andrew Miller for the starting gig. Jake Ballard returns at TE as a great blocker and solid end zone threat with sure hands.

If Herron can be as good as I think he'll be and Pryor can mature quickly, this offense will be very explosive and put up a lot of points, opposed to years past when OSU relied mostly on their defense.

Up next we'll take a look at the defense, the schedule, and the team's overall outlook.


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