BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS
2006 RECORD: 12-1; BIG TEN: 8-0
Lost Bowl Championship Series Game vs. Florida 41-14
LOCATION: Columbus, Ohio
STADIUM: Ohio (101,568)
HEAD COACH: Jim Tressel
OVERALL: 197-71-2 (21 seasons)
AT OHIO ST.: 62-14 (6 seasons)
The Buckeyes rolled through the regular season before their shocking defeat to the Florida Gators, in which for the first time during his six-year tenure at Ohio St. it appeared Jim Tressel was out-coached and his team was not ready. How will the Buckeyes respond to such a beating? Will they have their heads down or does it provide extra motivation during the off-season? Not to mention the fact they have to replace Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith among other talented players who are getting ready for their rookie seasons in the NFL.
WHEN THE BUCKS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Jim Bollman (7th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 5
KEY LOSSES: Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez, Antonio Pittman, Stan White Jr., Doug Datish, TJ Downing
Last season the Buckeyes spread you out and more often than not aired it out. This year expect them to get back to a more traditional Buckeyes offense and pound away at opponents, control the time of possession and try to play mistake free football by taking very few chances. They will have to rely on new starters at both quarterback and running back, however sophomore Beanie Wells displayed in limited duty that those who had touted him as the top incoming freshman in America were not exaggerating. With both tackles back (Alex Boone and Kirk Barton), as well as a talented group on the interior, the blocking will be there to play smash-mouth football. It appears junior Todd Boeckman will finally get his chance to lead the Buckeyes’ huddle. The coach’s son has a NFL frame (6’5”/235) and is reportedly faster than Troy Smith, but is unproven. There is ability at QB, but how long will it take for him (or another candidate) to settle in is anyone’s guess. They will take a step back at receiver, but you can do worse than Ray Small, Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Chris Wells (SO), 2) Alex Boone (JR), 3) Ray Small (SO), 4) Kirk Barton (SR), 5) Steve Rehring (JR), 6) Jim Cordle (SO), 7) Ben Pearson (SO), 8) Maurice Wells (JR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Kevin Steele (1st Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 5
KEY LOSSES: Quinn Pitcock, David Patterson, Jay Richardson, Antonio Smith, Brandon Mitchell
The Buckeyes will try to go back to the formula that won them a championship back in 2002, leaning heavily on their defense, especially early on. They are most experienced at linebacker where James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, a pair of juniors who can run and only figure to get better and better, lead the way. Joining them is senior Larry Grant who has more ability than he showed last season. Along the line, the only player with much experience is defensive end Vernon Gholston, who could be poised to have an All-American type season after leading the club in sacks as a sophomore. Despite losing three starters on the line, there is not much concern, as junior end Lawrence Wilson and sophomore tackles Doug Worthington and Todd Denlinger all appear to be ready for primetime. There might be more trepidation in the secondary despite the return of lockdown corner Malcolm Jenkins. There is talent, some experience, but questions as well.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Vernon Gholston (JR), 2) Malcolm Jenkins (JR), 3) James Laurinaitis (JR), 4) Marcus Freeman (JR), 5) Lawrence Wilson (JR), 6) Doug Worthington (SO), 7) Todd Denlinger (SO), 8) Larry Grant (SR), 9) Nick Patterson (JR), 10) Jamario O’Neal (JR), 11) Curtis Terry (SR)
Considering the Buckeyes must replace half of their starters from last season’s Big Ten Championship team, they are very fortunate with the way the schedule is set up. The newcomers will have time to get their feet wet and adjust to big time football, as the first eight games do not feature a ranked opponent, making an 8-0 start possible, if not likely, which would mean OSU has a good chance to crack the top five before making a trip to Happy Valley on October 27. November is a tough month as they play both Wisconsin and Michigan with the up and coming Illini in between. The Buckeyes play their toughest opponent’s when they should be at their best, which could make for a surprising run at another BCS Title game.
Back to basics: I am not going to second guess the way Ohio St. went about their season in 2006, not when they went through their regular season unblemished or factoring they were replacing nine starters on the defensive side of the ball. Almost all of the proven talent was on offense, specifically the passing game, so to his credit coach Jim Tressel adjusted. However, most believe Tressel would prefer a more conservative offense that holds on to the football allowing them to win games more by stopping the other guys from putting up points on the scoreboard than racking up numbers on offense. If Wells proves to be able to take the pounding and hold on to the football, he could be a Heisman sleeper.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
This is a team in transition, but they do not rebuild in Columbus, where the expectations are always Big Ten title and at least contention for a National Championship. Jim Tressel is as good as any coach in America and you can bet he will have his boys ready this season, with the play at quarterback the one major question mark. Nevertheless, they are too good to take a major step back with the potential to be just as dominant as they were last season.
Check back tomorrow to see who is #8 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown