Thursday, October 26, 2006

Looking to next year real quick

In what has been hidden underneath the shadow of the bogus reports of Jim Tressel looking into the NFL, an important step was taken in determining the success of the future of Ohio State football. Antonio Pittman announced in an article published in the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday that he has every intention of returning to the Buckeyes next season. Although it may have seemed somewhat obvious to most that he would return, there was some legitimate speculation of him making the jump after this season for two reasons: 1) He is finally becoming recognized for what he does on the field, and has established himself as one of the three best backs in the Big Ten, and 2) Chris Wells. Wells was, obviously, the most highly touted recruit for Ohio State since a man by the name of Ginn announced his intentions to play for the Scarlet and Gray. There was actually much discussion heading into the season as to how many carries Wells would take away from Pittman as a freshman, and whether or not he would take the starter's spot. Well, eight games and 778 yards later, Pittman has established himself as an every down back, with Wells being used primarily as a tank on short yardage situations. Due to all the hype surrounding Wells, one can only imagine that the pressure to start the "next Eddie George" would build so much that there would actually be a running back controversy next year. Anyways, the point I'm trying to get at here is that had Pittman gone pro, it would have been more because of the fact that he would fear losing his starting spot next season, thus hurting his draft status, and not so much because he felt he was NFL ready.

One situation that reminds me of this is the one that occured at Miami the year after the national championship game. When Willis McGahee announced that he would go pro after blowing out his knee, many questioned how someone that may not have been ready to play in time for the next season would feel ready to play at the next level. Well, something that was overlooked was that the guy who was supposed to be Miami's star running back that season, Frank Gore, blew out his knee in the preseason, and McGahee would have most likely lost his starting job, and millions of dollars. Although there were much different circumstances in that situation (McGahee coming off injury, Pittman will be coming off his best season), it is the only situation that is most similar to the one that could have occured.

But instead of talking about things that didn't happen, I'll focus a little bit on what will happen. I'm not shying away from my opinion that I feel that 2007 will be an off year for the Buckeyes (with the term "off year" being taken very loosely, they should still make a New Years day bowl). Troy Smith, two offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, and probably Ted Ginn will all be distant memories this time next year. I haven't been overly impressed with what I've seen out of Boeckman and Schoenhoft in "garbage time" this season, so it is only natural to assume that there will be a lot of handing the ball off next season. The spread offense will leave with Troy Smith, so get ready for offenses that will compare to the 2003 season. However, one thing the 2007 team will have that the early Tresselball teams did not have is a fantastic running game. Sure, we had Maurice in 2002, but he missed four games, and when he was gone, the offense revolved around the punt. Not only will there be plenty of talent in the backfield next season, but even more importantly, there will be plenty of depth as well. Everyone knows about Pittman and Wells, but Maurice Wells will probably be the best third string tailback in the nation, and if Tressel can lure in 5-Star Wisconsin tailback John Clay, we may mistake the man in the sweatervest for Woody Hayes. Although next year's Buckeye team won't be nearly as talented as this year's, a soft schedule and depth in the backfield could still allow us to challenge for a BCS bowl berth.

Notes of interest regarding "the now":
  • David Patterson is back at practice and is reportedly at 100% and will start on Saturday. Can't wait to see the defensive line back at full strength, although I'm sure Brian Cupito would rather have him wait an extra week.
  • As I mentioned at the beginning, those reports about Tressel going to the NFL couldn't be more false. He has two things right now that he may never get in the NFL: Job security and a fan base that actually appreciates what it's coach does. And that big fat contract he signed in the offseason doesn't hurt either.
  • The best thing about October? Seeing 900 lb pumpkins dropped from 80 feet in the air on top of a maize and blue van, of course!
  • Jack Nicklaus is joining exclusive company: The 18 time major champion is dotting the I at the game Saturday. More info at BuckeyeCommentary
  • Minny game depth chart. Believe it or not, Chris Wells was just now officially moved above Maurice Wells on the depth chart. When was the last time Mo Wells even played a meaningful down in the first half of a game, anyways?
  • 22 days until the 18th.

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