Friday, August 24, 2007

Moving Day!

Shaq and Kobe, A-Rod and Jeter, Pfef and Sheehan?

Due to the fact that I lost the motivation to run my own blog, but also due to the fact that I love Ohio State football, I have joined Sean Sheehan at Around The Oval. Hopefully this merger of two prospective Buckeye blogging superpowers will lead to the formation of a blog that no man has witnessed before. One that will soon rule the blogosphere, and eventually, the world.

Okay, maybe I shouldn't be tooting my own horn so much, but at ATO, I can promise that my posting will be in a much more consistent manner than it has been in the past months. Consider it the "personal trainer" belief. No one likes to excercise on their own, but when there is a partner or "coach" alongside, the work becomes easier and much more routine.

This site was a blast, but it's time to move on to bigger and better things.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Gone for a bit

I'm leaving today for Indiana University Bloomington to attend the High School Journalism Institute. I'm unsure as to how much internet access I can get there, and even if I can get some, I doubt I will have enough time to post. Hopefully when I come back, I'll be able to use some of the journalistic skills I gain there to help improve my blog.

Hope to post again later in the week.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

HBO creating an Ohio State vs Michigan Documentary

I got an interesting e-mail forward from the world's coolest older sister this morning and thought it was definitely newsworthy.

Apparently, HBO is planning to release a documentary on the Ohio State-Michigan Rivalry. The expected release date is Tuesday, November 13th, the Tuesday before the game itself.

The following is the e-mail received:

For Immediate Release


NEW YORK, July 10, 2007 - HBO Sports has begun production on a
documentary chronicling the rivalry of Ohio State and the University of
Michigan, one of the most glorious rivalries in college football
history, it was announced today by Ross Greenburg, president, HBO
Sports. Steeped in a rich tradition dating back to their inaugural
meeting in 1897, this rivalry extends beyond the pursuit of a Big Ten
Title, on both sides engendering team pride and spirit rarely equaled
elsewhere. Presented four days before the Ohio State Buckeyes take on
the Michigan Wolverines at Ann Arbor this fall, the documentary debuts
TUESDAY, NOV. 13 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.

Each year, the football programs at Ohio State and Michigan gear up with
a common goal: to beat their archrival on the third weekend in November,
no matter the rankings, no matter the score. Widely considered college
football's biggest rivalry, these two Big Ten powerhouses frequently
dominate the standings, and routinely attract game-day crowds exceeding
100,000. On Nov. 18, 2006, more than 105,000 fans watched No. 1 Ohio
State defeat No. 2 Michigan by a score of 42-39, with an additional 21.8
million tuning in on TV.

"This film will split the viewers right down the middle," said
Greenburg. "The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is considered one of the
most compelling in college football history, consuming not only the
Midwest, but the nation. Spanning more than a century, with names like
Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes, Archie Griffin and Desmond Howard, the
characters and storylines of this yearly showdown are memorable. So
there is no better place for HBO Sports to delve into the college
football realm than with these two extraordinary programs."

Separated by only 200 miles, Ohio State University and the University of
Michigan began their football rivalry in 1897. U of M won that first
game 34-0 and dominated the series until 1919, when the Buckeyes turned
the tables, winning 13-3. Since then, the two teams have remained fairly
evenly matched, with Michigan leading the series 57-40-6. Historically,
the match-up has often determined who will win the Big Ten title, a
prime bowl spot, and even the Heisman Trophy.

Exploring the exuberant personalities of coaches like Woody Hayes and Bo
Schembechler, who sat with HBO for his last long-form interview before
his death last year, the documentary traces the importance of the game
for each university, as well as the larger sports' world. A high-profile
list of interviewees will weigh in on the intense rivalry.

Unlike many other sports rivalries, the Ohio State-Michigan face-off has
not only endured, but is growing. The Wall Street Journal notes, "The
game continues to carry the most genuine mark of a great rivalry: The
feud between the two schools injects itself into everything from
business and politics to an annual blood drive where volunteers from the
two campuses vie to see which side can siphon the most plasma."

Executive producers of the documentary are Ross Greenburg and Rick
Bernstein; produced by George Roy.

Robo's Crew: The 2007 Buckeye Wide Receivers

The three quarterbacks may have to replace Troy Smith, and the defense may need to shoulder the load all season long. In saying that, however, Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline, and the rest of the wide receivers will be the most pivotal players in determining the amount of success (or lack thereof) that the Ohio State football team will have next season. Two of the best Wide Receivers in school history in Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez have since decided to test their respective games against the world's best in the NFL, and waiting in the wings they have left a number of players that have been playing in the shadows of these two Buckeye giants.

Projected Starting Split End
Brian Robiskie
Junior 6'3"
195 lbs

In the early part of the 2006 season, then Senior Roy Hall had to miss the first two games of the season due to an injury, and as a result, a relatively unknown, inexperienced sophomore by the name of Brian Robiskie was given the starting role. After tallying six catches for 60 yards as the fourth (sometimes fifth) offensive choice for Troy Smith, Robiskie never looked back from that starters role. He went on to have a very solid season, catching 29 passes for 383 yards and five touchdowns that, more often than not, came in clutch situations that gave Ohio State the victory. Remember, it was Robiskie -- and not Ginn or Gonzo -- that caught the game winning touchdown pass against Michigan, and it too was Robiskie who was on the receiving end of two of Troy Smith's most magnificent passes all season long: the 38-turned-53 yard bomb against Penn State in which Smith had to reverse field (At that point in the game, Ohio State was only winning by four in the fourth quarter), as well as the less celebrated yet almost equally impressive touchdown he threw against Iowa in which he had little to no space to fit the ball in, yet somehow managed to squeeze the ball to Robiskie anyways. Time and again, Robo showed an innate tendency to be at the right place at the right time. Of course, the one major criticism regarding Robiskie's game is that he was the beneficiary of playing on the same offense as Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez, meaning that he often did not have to match up against the opponent's best defensive back on every down like he will have to this year. For one play against Michigan, however, Robiskie managed to ease the souls of all the nervous fans when he essentially made a fool out of Leon Hall (you know, the same Leon Hall that was drafted #18 and the second corner back taken in the draft). You may remember the play as the one where Smith rolled out, Robiskie cut his route back towards Smith (leaving Hall out of position), and then after catching the ball, seemingly without any effort evading the tackle of Hall, managing to take the ball another 15-20 yards upfield (If you can't remember the begins at about the 1:00 mark of this video, but I recommend you watch the whole thing just for old time's sake). Of course, that's only one play, and still leaves a lot of questions regarding his durability as a consistent #1 receiver, but I'm confident that he'll come through this season.

Projected Starting Flanker
Ray Small

6'0" 175 lbs

Ray Small entered last season as a true freshman filled with promise. Everyone had him tagged as the "Next Teddy Ginn" from the day he committed due to his similar size, speed, agility, and overall ability. However, Small didn't have the same type of impact freshman season that Ginn had, mainly due to the fact that he was stuck behind Ginn in the depth chart. He played well early in the season in mop-up time, catching 3 passes for 41 yards against Cincinnati and 1 pass for 11 yards and his only touchdown of the season against Bowling Green. However, once the games began to mean more, Small's playing time diminished, and he only caught one more pass the rest of the season, and it was perhaps his most (in)famous moment of the season. The catch made highlight reels and even made it on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays, but it wasn't for anything that Small would like to remember. The pass went for a loss of three yards, and after he got hit, it looked like he may have been seriously injured, because he didn't move at all. It turned out to be a light concussion and he was fully recovered in no time. This year, however, has much more of a positive outlook to it. Apparently, Small has made huge strides as a receiver this offseason, and is ready for prime time. Aside from being a starting wide receiver, he's also the #1 candidate to be the team's featured kick returner going into the season, and believe it or not, he has the athleticism to make people forget (at least briefly) about Ginn's contributions as a return man.

Projected Starting Slot Receiver
Brian Hartline
Redshirt Sophomore

6'3" 180 lbs
Hartline doing the little things

Hartline is the kind of player that is just filled with good Karma. He's always flying around the field at full speed, giving his full effort whether it be in practice or a game, and he's a constant contributor where ever he is. Case in point: Hartline may be best known as a receiver, but he was awarded the Special Teams player of the week three times (Iowa, Michigan State, and Indiana) for his efforts on kickoff and punt coverage. And let's face it: If he can get Jim Tressel to give him that award three times in one season, the guy is going to get his due. Well, it looks like all of Hartline's commitment and hard work is about to pay off, because he is a likely starter at receiver this season. With his height and athleticism, Hartline should have an easier time replacing Gonzalez in the slot -- the spot where Gonzalez coined the term "mismatch" -- than most would expect. If there is one thing hurting him, it is that he is a tad lanky for his height, which could lead to durability issues, especially when he has to make catches in the middle of the field.

Other Receivers to keep an eye on

Albert Dukes and Devon Lyons
Both Juniors
Dukes and Lyons both entered Ohio State as highly regarded players, but have struggled with depth chart woes and injuries, respectively. However, both players really emerged in the Spring Game, especially Lyons, who seemed to have great chemistry with backup quarterback Robbie Schoenhoft. In the Spring Game, Lyons led all Buckeye receivers with 72 yards on three catches, and Dukes also had three catches for 20 yards.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Replacements

College Football News recently published their annual Ohio State season preview yesterday. It's a great, in-depth read, and it does a great job of not only covering the players and stories that we know about, but some of the under the radar guys as well. It's a good thing that CFN can do that, because after having eight men selected in the NFL draft, and seven other starters try and make it as undrafted free agents, there are a lot of holes to fill in that depth chart.

So who will be the new guys stepping it up?

Last year's starter: Troy Smith
Likely replacements: Todd Boeckman, Robbie Schoenhoft, and Antonio Henton

Running Back
Last year's starter: Antonio Pittman, Stan White Jr. (Fullback)
Likely Replacement: Chris Wells, Dionte Johnson (Fullback)

Wide Receiver
Last year's: Ted Ginn, Anthony Gonzalez, Roy Hall
This year's: Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline, Ray Small

Tight End
No key losses

Offensive Line
Losses: TJ Downing, Doug Datish
Gains: Any of Jim Cordle, Ben Person, Connor Smith, Jon Skinner, and Kyle Mitchum

Defensive Ends
Sayonara: Jay Richardson
Hola: Lawrence Wilson, Robert Rose

Defensive Tackles
Aloha: Quinn Pitcock, Doug Patterson, Joel Penton
Aloha: Todd Denlinger, Doug Worthington, Alex Barrow (Barrow could also see time at defensive end)

Outside Linebackers
Good Riddance: John Kerr
Good luck: Ross Homan, Curtis Terry, Larry Grant

Inside Linebackers
No Key losses

Hug Goodbye: Antonio Smith
Shaking Hands: Donald Washington, Andre Amos

Hasta La Vista: Brandon Mitchell
Welcome Aboard: Nick Patterson, Anderson Russell (Russell started at the beginning of last season, but blew out his ACL and is attempting a comeback)

Clearly, with just about every position having some form of restocking going on in the offseason, the outcome of the regular season and beyond heavily depends on the development of these replacements. Some of these positions (Quarterbacks, Receivers, Defensive Tackles) have such big shoes to fill that it is unfair to ask these players to perform at the same level as their predecessors. However, just like some shoes are too big to fill, some old shoes will be replaced by a pair of flashy new Air Jordans and will be forgotten in a matter of weeks, these "new shoes," of course, are the guys that have been waiting in the wings for quite some time to overtake their former teammates. Beanie, Cordle, Wilson, and whoever ends up winning the final linebacker spot will almost certainly be an improvement from last year just simply due to the fact that coaches, players, media members, and fans alike have had too many good things to say about these players from the moment that they've walked on campus for them to be anything but the next great football players at Ohio State. In the past, it was all a matter of being less experienced that kept these players on the bench. Now, it's their turn, and they will make the most of it. As the old cliche goes, powerhouses like Ohio State don't rebuild -- they reload. The top talent in the country will always flock to Columbus for the shot at being a Buckeye, and that's why such little parity exists in college football today.

One of the two positions I listed on that list as having no key losses very well may be two of the most important positions to the team this year. The tight end position last year was far and away the most under utilized offensive position last year. With Tressel's spread offense revolving around Troy Smith, most of the sets were out of shotgun with multiple receivers on top of the running back(s). When spreading out the offense, the odd man out is almost always the tight end. Well, this year, there will be no spread offense. It will be much more vintage Tresselball for much of the season, which means that the tight end will find it's way into the offense much more often. Troy Smith had a calm demeanor in the pocket. He knew how to check his progressions, and when nothing was open was when he ran. That came with experience. Young quarterbacks always look to throw to the big targets -- the tight ends -- on just about every throw. Do you think it's a coincidence that most mediocre teams have great tight end play? No, of course not. It's because most mediocre teams have young quarterbacks that love to throw to the tight end. There shouldn't be any reason to expect anything different out of whoever plays quarterback for Ohio State this year.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Backfield

For the first time since the 2004 season, the Buckeye backfield will be noticeably missing the majority of it's offensive output. That is because after two consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons (the first Buckeye to accomplish such a feat since Eddie George), Antonio Pittman made the jump to the pro ranks where he is now trying to make the Saints' squad. Unlike the quarterback position, however, we actually do know what we're getting out of most of our replacements.

Projected Starter
Chris "Beanie" Wells
6'1" 230 lbs


A beautiful sight

Strengths: Beanie graduated from high school in the Winter of 2006 and enrolled at Ohio State for spring practice the following Spring. Ever since he made that decision, he has taken Columbus by storm. With his fan-friendly nickname and Maurice Clarett/Adrian Peterson-like combination of bruising power with 4.4 speed, Wells became a fan favorite early in the season despite only entering the game to spell Pittman and in short yardage situations. In fact, Wells' greatest strength as a player that he displayed last year was his ability to take a hand off on third and short, and take the ball right up the middle -- even though everybody on the opposing defense knew it was coming -- and move the chains regardless. Despite being a known commodity for his short yardage contributions, Wells showed off one of his traits that one wouldn't be able to readily identify from looking at his 230 pound frame against Michigan: his athleticism. Wells took the second down hand off from Troy Smith out of Shotgun, and was immediately met by a Michigan defender. Instead of taking the three yard loss, however, Wells essentially spun out of his shoes to evade the defender (on the same crummy field that had everyone else falling on their faces), found a hole to run through, then found some Michigan defensive backs to run by en route to a 52 yard touchdown run. Even though it was only one play, it was one of the few opportunities Beanie had all year to show off his nimbleness, and as the play clearly shows, the man is a complete back. As a full time starter with an inexperienced quarterback, expect Beanie to get in the neighborhood of "workhorse" back numbers, probably around 25 carries a game with around 1,200 yards rushing, and probably being in the top 3 or 4 in the Big Ten in touchdowns.

Weaknesses: Beanie really only displayed one glaring flaw in his game last season, and that was his ability to hold on to the football. Wells lost four fumbles on the year, and just about all four of them came in crucial short yardage situations. Fortunately, carrying the football is a skill that can be taught over time, and it is not a physical or mental flaw (e.g. speed, size, maturity, etc.) that is unlikely to be overcome in a football player's college days. Wells did not fumble the ball once in his final 18 carries of the season, despite fumbling twice in his 19 prior carries. That alone shows Wells' development as a football player. Of course, we won't know for sure until next season. Another question mark around Beanie is his durability as an every down back in the Big Ten. It's not necessarily a weakness, it's just something that we haven't seen enough of to make a valid judgment yet. He had 103 carries last season, which is 31 more than Antonio Pittman had in his freshman season (the season before he became the full-time starter). After Pittman's freshman year, he also made comments about wearing down towards the end of the season -- even though he had such a low carry total -- and it raised questions about his durability. Well, he turned out just fine as a running back, and I haven't read anything anywhere about Beanie wearing down towards the end of last season, and he had 31 more carries than Pittman did. I think an offseason of conditioning and practice as the #1 guy on the depth chart is all the preparation that he'll need for the 25 carries a game that he's likely to get.

Projected #2 Running Back

Maurice Wells
5'10" 190 lbs


Maurice Wells is the kind of player that you absolutely have to love as a fan. Despite being so small, his commitment, heart, and work ethic have made him into a respectable Big Ten running back. His entire life he's been told he's too small to be a solid contributor as a running back to a college football team, but he still managed to get a scholarship to Ohio State. After coming in and playing as a freshman, Wells had to face another harsh reality. As a sophomore, instead of being weaned into the starter's role to take over for Pittman if/when he left for the NFL, Chris Wells, the blue chip prospect from Akron jumped ahead of him in the depth chart. But instead of taking the easy way out and transferring to another school, the elder Wells has taken the high road, and will be a solid contributor out of the backfield this season, even if it is as the #2 guy. It may be a cliche, but Maurice Wells is a great football player and an even better person, and he deserves every carry that he gets this season.

As far as his physical attributes are concerned, MoWells should offer a great change of pace when he enters the game. He's a smaller, speedier back than Chris Wells, and can also catch the ball out of the backfield on a more consistent basis. With his exciting style of play and outlandish dreadlocks, Maurice could be the energizer that this offense needs when it's struggling somewhere down the road.

Projected Backups
Brandon Saine and/or Danny "Boom" Herron
6'1" 205 lbs and 5'9" 198 lbs, respectively

Both true freshmen (one may redshirt)

Saine and Herron both enter the 2007 campaign as true freshmen, and one (if not both) of them will make a serious contribution to the team this season. Saine was Ohio's Mr. Football last season, running for 1,895 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior. His YouTube resume speaks volumes by itself, but I'll just let you watch and decide that for yourself. My personal favorite play on the highlight reel is when he chases down the kick returner from about 15 yards back. If he doesn't redshirt next year, which I doubt he will, he could also make an impact as a kick returner.

Herron is a different style of player. He prefers to run right over his opponents (hence the nickname), rather than around them. His size raises some serious question marks for someone of his power style, which is why most feel that he is more likely to redshirt a year until he is ready to handle the load of a Big Ten schedule. However, I won't be overly surprised if he does play, because he appears to have that same aspect of "forget the measurables, I can play" to his game that I mentioned earlier with Maurice Wells.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

NBA Draft looms

Site Management: Blogger finally got around to fixing my sidebar snafu, and I have added multiple links as a result. The first one that needs to be mentioned is another upstart Buckeye blog, this one called Buckeye Lane. The author, Adam Kiefaber, is a great writer and his entries reflect that. Also added to the sidebar are Greg Oden's and Mike Conley's blogs. I'm not sure how much these will be used after the draft tonight, but they're still fun to go back through. Also added to the sidebar is a scrolling news ticker I applied via widgetmate. The ticker will display all of the hottest Buckeye-related news, so that way if I haven't covered a topic on the blog, you can still read about it!

Conflicting Reports: ESPN is reporting that Portland will draft Greg Oden over Kevin Durant with the number 1 pick in the NBA draft tonight. Oden's agent, Mike Conley Sr., however, claims that Portland told neither he nor Greg about their intentions, and Portland GM Kevin Pritchard told Fox Sports that the article was prematurely published and that, "Nobody has been promised or told anything. Nobody."

Chances are, Oden will be the number one pick, but Pritchard is downplaying the whole situation. I like to compare this situation to the 2004 NBA Draft when the consensus top two players available were can't-miss franchise big man Dwight Howard and UConn superstar Emeka Okafor. Orlando had the top pick, and took Howard simply due to the fact that big men like Howard come around very rarely, and although it may take a few years for him to develop into a consistent offensive performer, he is well worth the wait. Charlotte then took Okafor with the #2 pick, and Okafor went on to win rookie of the year over Howard. However, as both players are preparing to enter their fourth season as professionals, Howard is widely considered the best Center in the Eastern Conference, and has led Orlando to the playoffs far earlier than anyone had imagined. Okafor, on the other hand, has not seen as sharp an improvement as Howard, and although he is still considered one of the premier big men in the league, the disparity between the two is enormous. I kind of expect the same scenario to begin to play out on a much larger scale tonight when Portland takes the can't-miss, franchise player Oden over the exciting Durant. Chances are, Durant will have a better rookie season than Oden. His numbers were just too huge in college, and the transition from high school to college to the professional ranks in just two seasons is a much more difficult adjustment for a Center than it is for a swing man like Durant. However, if both of these players develop into the superstars that we all expect them to, there is an excellent chance that Oden will win more championships. He's just that type of a cornerstone player that you would be crazy to pass up on.

What about the other Buckeyes? Oden is the only ex-Buckeye to have his draft spot secured for him tonight, as the range of possibilities for Conley, Cook, and Lewis is incredibly wide. Although Conley is a surefire lottery pick, he could go anywhere from 3-13, simply based on where teams have him on their boards compared to Acie Law, and if teams decide that their priorities are elsewhere. Conley's destination could be dependent on Kevin Garnett. If the Timberwolves are able to dish out the superstar in a three team trade involving Phoenix and either Boston or Atlanta, the Timberwolves could end up with multiple lottery picks. If that is the case, Conley should be a guaranteed Timberwolf, but if no trade happens tonight, he could go anywhere from Atlanta at 3 to Atlanta at 11.

Daeuqan Cook is a player that should go in the early 20s, but could be taken as high as the Lakers at 19. From what I understand, the Knicks loved him in his workouts with them, but if he were to go there, he would definitely be a project. Cook struggled with the limelight at Ohio State, and in New York, it would only be magnified. He definitely has all of the tools to make it at the next level, but it would probably be to his benefit if he did it in a smaller market than New York.

Ron Lewis will be the most anxious of the three remaining Buckeyes tonight. He won't be drafted in the first round, and he may not even be drafted at all. Apparently, the Bulls liked his defensive ability and athleticism in his workouts, but he is still no guarantee to be picked up by them at the 51st pick. Although he may not be a superstar in the league, his all around ability and more importantly, his will, will carry him far longer than any GM that passes on him expects.

Conley Overrated? In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Luke Winn assesses some of the overrated and underrated prospects in tonight's draft. He states that Acie Law is the underrated point guard, and that Conley is the overrated one. This strikes me as odd, considering every mock draft I've seen has Conley drafted healthily above Law. Winn's main point of argument here is that Law has a better three point shot than Conley. Although that might be true, Conley's impact as a floor general is something that could give him a Chris Paul-like rookie season, and eventually lead him to multiple All-Star games (On a side note, if Conley ends up out West, how cool would it be to see he and Oden play in NBA All-Star games together?). There are tons of shooters in this league. True point guards, however, are a premium. What was the deciding factor in San Antonio's sweep of Cleveland? The fact that San Antonio's point guard won series MVP while Cleveland was a disorganized mess offensively. Steve Nash is bound to win a title here eventually, and Chris Paul nearly led an absolutely awful supporting cast to the playoffs. Meanwhile, some of the featured "shooters" in the league such as Ray Allen, really had no chance from the beginning. I'll take Conley over Law 10 times out of 10.