Saturday, August 28

Buckeye Season Preview Part I

We are just a few days away from the greatest time of the year: football season. As a kid and now as a teacher, nothing softens the blow of a new school year like some pigskin. Ohio St will begin the season ranked #2 and picked by many to play for another National Championship. The talent, experience, and coaching are certainly there for another Buckeye title run. Let's break it down.

Last Season

Ohio St came into last season like they typically do, with expectations so high that anything but a title would be a disappointment. Disappointing wasn't even the word for it, maybe devastating, when the Bucks blew a game that they absolutely should have won in the second week of the season against USC. I wonder how much money Matt Barkley got for that game-winning drive.

After the SC loss, OSU's defense took over and just absolutely dominated, giving up a mere 20 points during a four-game winning streak. Then the Buckeyes traveled to West Lafayette, and played the worst game I have seen them play in years, possibly a decade. Terrelle Pryor had by far his worst performance in his two-year career (and there have been some bad ones), turning the ball over six times in the loss to an awful Purdue team.

Ohio St responded to the loss just like they did with the Trojans: by going on a tear, outscoring their next three opponents 107-14, including a dominating win over a very talented Penn State Nittany Lion team. Next came a thrilling overtime victory over Iowa followed by our annual stomping of that school up north before a trip to Pasadena for Ohio St's first Rose Bowl since '97. Pryor had by far his best game in his two-year career (and there have been some good ones) and the Buckeye defense shut down the high-powered Oregon offense in a 26-17 victory. TP's performance and seemingly rising level of maturity in that victory is leading many to dub him as a Heisman favorite for this season. I'm not quite on the bandwagon yet, but we'll get to all that later.

The Offense

Most offenses are built around and rely heavily upon the quarterback position, but it's even more so with this Buckeye unit. OSU has tons of weapons at the other skill positions, but lacks that one breakout star. Pair that with the fact that Terrelle Pryor was possibly the most sought-after recruit in the history of college football and Buckeye fans are still waiting for him to live up to the hype.

I can sum up Pryor's freshman and sophomore campaigns in one word - inconsistent. TP has shown flashes running and throwing the ball that make him look like the next Randall Cunningham. He has also shown very poor decision-making, ball security, and at times accuracy that make him look like the next Spergon Wynn. This season is going to come down to his development and maturity, which appear to be coming along if the Rose Bowl was any indicator.

Many people are banking on that development, and have Pryor listed at the top of their Heisman rankings. I'm not sold yet. He has to show me he can do it on a consistent basis until I can think about him on stage in New York. Every time I want to believe in him I get nightmarish flashbacks to that Purdue game. The way I feel towards Pryor is very similar to my feelings towards LeBron James during his time in Cleveland. I have never been a fan of his personality, but respect his tremendous talent and love him because he is the best player on my favorite team. If Pryor disappoints me (like LeBron), I will forever hold a grudge against him. If he succeeds (think LBJ staying in Cleveland and winning a title or two), he will forever go down in Buckeye lore.

Behind Pryor on the QB depth chart is redshirt freshman Kenny Guiton, who stole the show at the spring game and could push incumbent #2 Joe Bauserman. With a total of 19 collegiate passing attempts between these two, let's just hope that Pryor can stay healthy.

The running back position is super-deep, but doesn't have one guy that will really "wow" you, as noted by Pryor leading the team in rushing last season. Athlon Sports magazine compared the depth to the '92 squad, which featured Robert Smith, Raymont Harris, Butler By'not'e, and freshman Eddie George. While I won't get that carried away, I do really like this unit.

I absolutely love Brandon Saine, as you may remember from me constantly shouting for him to get more touches last year. If Pryor and Saine don't run the option at least 3-5 times a game, I'm going to be livid. It was the most successful play (maybe save for the deep fly to DeVier Posey) in limited use last year. As a change of pace to Saine, Boom Herron is the bruising back that can go right up the gut (which is funny to me because Saine is two inches and 20 pounds bigger). I'm not sure which one of these two is listed as the starter, but it doesn't matter as they will each get about the same amount of carries.

Author's note: My "Boom and Zoom" nickname didn't quite catch on last year. Apparently ABC/ESPN broadcasters don't read enough FCF. Their loss.

Although these two veterans will get the bulk of the carries early on, don't be surprised if redshirt freshman Jaamal Beery steals the show by season's end. The number one RB recruit coming out of high school last year, the Bucks decided to redshirt Berry because of the aforementioned Boom and Zoom combo (I'm still trying to make it work) and some nagging minor injuries.

Two sophomores, Jordan Hall (who played with Pryor in high school) and Jermil Martin, played well in mop up time last year and could see a few carries here and there. True freshman Carlos Hyde has a lot of potential, but expect to see him redshirted. Zach Boren is a stud at fullback. Don't expect him to get many touches, but just watch him lay some devastating blocks.

Write this down: DeVier Posey will have a breakout year and be All Big Ten, possibly an All-American. While Dane Sanzenbacher is the most polished wide out on the squad, Posey is definitely Pryor's #1 target and has the size and speed to be spectacular. I mentioned in several posts last year that he needs to become more precise in running routes, and I believe he did that as the year progressed.

Sanzenbacher is our version of Wes Welker. Certainly not intimidating anyone with his 5'10, 175 pound frame and white skin, Sanz is not afraid to go over the middle, is an excellent route runner, and will catch anything in sight. Duron Carter should see more passes thrown his way and could provide a few big plays and highlight reel catches (after all, he is the seed of the greatest hands of all time) each game if he can keep up his grades and stay eligible. Taurian Washington, who has been in coach Jim Tressel's doghouse for years due to drops and off the field issues, will get one more chance at playing time for his senior season. Senior Ray Small, who will do most of his damage in the return game, and freshmen Chris Fields and T.Y. Williams will all see some action. Jake Stoneburner is also a threat at tight end, especially in the red zone.

With Jim Cordle (who missed several games last year) being the lone graduate, the offensive line could be dominant. Mike Adams, who has shown talent but has had off-field issues and may lack some toughness, will move to tackle to fill Cordle's position. Bryant Browning and J.B. Shugarts are back to man the right side, Mike Brewster showed great progress at center last year, and LG Justin Boren is pre-season All Conference (suck it, michigan). Sophomore Marcus Hall is the biggest guy on the team (6'5, 320+) and will push Adams and Shugarts for playing time.

You may be getting bored by now, so I'll be back in a day or two for Part II, where I'll take a look at the defense, schedule, and overall outlook and expectations of the team.



Andy said...

Someone other than me actually wrote something here! Yay!

I liked this piece a lot. A few comments:

- No remarks regarding Barkley's hair? I think you let him off too easily.

- Randall Cunningham was the best - my all-time favorite non-Browns player.

- Did you have to look up the apostrophes in By'not'e?

- Saine last year struck me as considerably more effective than Herron - I never understood why the latter got so much work.

- Doesn't it seem like Sanzenbacher's been on this team for like seven years?

- michigan sucks

Figgs said...

I don't know why I left out a Barkely frosted tips reference, expect more SC shots in Part II.

I also loved Cunningham.

Yes, I did look up By'not'e. Who has apostrophes like that?