also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
Hello. It's livebloggin' time. Michigan plays in Madison against the #2 Badgers and projects to get ham sandwiched like you wouldn't believe, at least if you're a perpetually pessimistic Michigan basketball fan. And if you're not... why aren't you? Autism?
Anyway. Bo Ryan can do this:
So we're totally going to lose.
8:00 PM. Hey... the game is at nine. Uh. Nevermind. Catch you in an hour.
9:03 PM. I think this is the second thing that wasn't hockey I ever watched on Comcast Local. Not a good start for the color guy, who can't even read his "keys to the game." Courtney Sims is sporting a creepy 'stache. He wins the tap. Maybe this is like a creepy child-molesting Sampson thing.
So Michigan manages to miss three shots on its first possession, then gets a postup from Abram for a 2-0 lead. Everyone on the team has new haircuts. This is critical information. Tucker misses and Harris nails a deep three; we're up 5-0. Um. 7-0. Harris transition runner off glass.
Wow. We're 8th in the country in three-point shooting. Block inside, missed bunny, open Coleman jumper in transition goes down. 9-0. Offensive rebounds for UW lead to a Petway foul on Tucker; he's one of two and it's 9-1. And a Harris turnover; Harris turnover on the next possession. One of Wisconsin's players is rocking awesome glasses. Third straight turnover after Butch quote-unquote "threw down" Courtney Sims but was not called. First break: 9-3 Michigan.
We appear to have Petway on Tucker, which is an interesting attempt to neutralize their best player with a guy who can, like, block many things.
9:15 PM. I don't actually think Courtney Sims needs to stay out of foul trouble, as he's unnoticeable. Defensive breakdown leads to an Abram foul but two bricked FTs. We're getting jacked by the refs; weak foul on Coleman. Jerrett Smith: new haircut. Abram lets a cutter through for an easy hoop. Second straight bad play from Abram on defense. We follow it up with a turnover, and this is the Michigan basketball team we all know and barely tolerate. Another touch loose ball foul and we already have five fouls to Wisconsin's 0. (Turnovers: 4-0, Wisconsin.) Now 9-9; nice move by Butch.
9:20 PM. Smith carries the ball; turnover. Wisconsin's Guy Who Looks Like Chris Rock Guy all up in his face as the clock wound down after a Udoh offensive rebound. Tucker shoves away a Michigan defender and gets a foul; Bo Ryan is livid. Abram manages to pick up a 15-footer. And he picks up a foul(!). Second commercial break.
Udoh and Deshawn Sims have been in for this last little stretch and haven't done much. Big Ten Wonk's scouting report on Wisconsin has borne out so far. On defense they never try to block shots. They just stay in position, get their hands up and in your face, and make you shoot over them.
Wisconsin's student section: the "Grateful Red." Stupidest name in all of college basketball student sections?
Abram toasted again by some guy who sounds like his last name goes on a jar of sauerkraut; more dribble penetration, this one from Brian Butch... uh, sag off that guy? Sims got elbowed in the face on that play; no call. Wisconsin now leads for the first time, 15-13. Petway HUGE dunk. Stiemsma (this is not the proper spelling, I don't care) posterized and picks up a foul. Tied again. Super. Petway takes an obvious charge: blocking foul. Michigan now in the penalty with ten minutes left in the half. Smith gets called for traveling. Seven turnovers. We're keeping pace with the fouls. Another traveling call. I hate college basketball.
You know, it's really irritating to see Ryan bitch after every call against his team when they have three fouls and we have eighty seven. Udoh's first shot is an ugly brick... and hey, another off-the-ball foul. Eight minutes left in the half, Wisconsin by four. We have eight fouls and eight turnovers.
9:36 PM. Tucker has two fouls? This was not useful information for the announcers to relate when it happened? Sims hits a long hook shot. Bad shot, but it goes in. Feel the power of the creepy mustache. Sims travel; forget the mustache. Wisconsin turnover -- pass thrown into two guys -- leads to Udoh getting two on a nice post move that ends up getting goaltended. No... seriously, this Wisconsin team is like a polite version of Rasheed Wallace whenever called for a foul. Udoh runs over Butch on an innocent pass near the three point line. Unnecessary. I'd call it a freshman mistake, but... uh... yeah. Abram bricks a three; Deshawn Sims gets wildly out of position yield a dunk. Wisconsin by five. Abram brick; Sims foul in the backcourt leads to more Wisconsin foul shots. Front end of the one-and-one missed. Courtney Sims with a weak offensive foul. A turnover and a foul all in one; Guy Who Looks Like Chris Rock Guy nails a three. Jerrett Smith bricks a left-handed runner. Taylor fouled; more foul shots. I hate college basketball.
No, seriously, why do I do this to myself? Michigan's turnover and foul-filled badcoachingfest is only brought into starker relief when playing Wisconsin, a team that hardly ever does either of those things. I'm sticking to this 20-point rule, by the way.
9:48 PM. CSims fouled after a nice Smith pass to set up what would have been a dunk otherwise. CSims one of two. Udoh lets a guy in front of him for a two-pointer... turnover. I hate college basketball. A charging foul on Wisconsin. Smith sets up Udoh and gets him to the line and converts; UW turnover and another Smith pass that setes up a CSims layup. Wisconsin three. Sims dunk again; sealing Landry. Udoh block on Taylor; Landry block on Smith coming down at the end of the half. 33-26, UW.
Well: we've shot well and made a number of nice plays, but we've committed a ton of fouls and turnovers. Defensively we've let Wisconsin have a ton of easy opportunities, three of which can be left directly at Lester Abram's feet. Smith's played well. Harris missed most of the half after picking up two quick fouls, neither of which was particularly smart or necessary.
10:04 PM. 90% of the commercials at halftime have been for either the schools or the conference. It's like college hockey on FSN, where every ad is for some Ilitch-related enterprise like Little Caesar's or horrible miscarriages of acting at the Fox Theater or wherever. Feel the advertising dollars pour... somewhere else.
10:06 PM. Note: I think we only have three or four attempts from beyond the arc. Wisconsin has smartly limited our opportunities. Correction: we have TWO three-point attempts. (Space, bitches!) Part of that is Harris being out; part of it is not having anyone who can dribble penetrate, and part of that is just Wisconsin. Montage of the first half consist mostly of people bitching at the referees; no surprise.
Dude, Tucker, their best player by a country mile, only played five minutes in the first half and we were still down seven. Wooo Abram foul. Woo easy layup for Tucker. Woo bricked Harris three; woo layup for Wisconsin. Coleman comes off a screen deep into the shot clock and hits a tough fallaway. Woo? GWLLCRG misses a three; Sims takes a eighteen footer. We get a rebound the other end, it's stripped and Petway gives up the basket and a foul. Tucker picks up another foul and will have to sit again. And Harris picks up his third on the next possession. Woo. Wisconsin by 11 at the first commercial break.
>10:17 PM. A commenter suggests that the now-defunct "Gene Pool" at Purdue had a stupider name than the "Grateful Red," but I disagree. Both are stupid, but one at least refers to, you know, science and stuff instead of a band adored by Bill Walton.
Udoh commits another foul. Abram is visibly disgusted, and so am I. Wisconsin scores, Sims blocked. Harris left wide open for three; hideous brick. Another Wisconsin layup and a Michigan timeout. Wisconsin up 15; we are potentially two possessions away from the 20-point rule.
10:23 PM. Turnover! No. The Badger guy got a finger on it. Smith tossed the ball away when he had an open three. Harris does get a three, but bricked. Okay, this is ridiculous. Every trip down the floor Michigan picks up a ticky-tack foul. I, attempting to follow the magnanimous lead of Big Ten Wonk -- one of his "four dullest topics for a college hoops blog" is refereeing -- attempt to not go all tinfoil hat, but goddamn this home/away thing in the Big Ten is unbelievable. If you are on the road in this league you have no chance of getting a fair whistle. Petway's just fouled out with 12:43 left in the game, then he got T-ed up. A joke. A goddamn joke. I hate college basketball.
10:29 PM. Meanwhile, we've gotten a five-minute break for no particular reason. Feel the competence emanating from every pore on these referee's bodies. Abram hits a three; I'm torn because of the 20 point rule. DSims is awful defensively at this point in his career, allowing Landry to blow by for the easiest two points ever.
10:39 PM. Well, Jerrett Smith just got killed on a Graham-Brown-esque screen. He's down and staying down. Wisconsin ignores a Reed Baker-Tucker mismatch in the post and nails a three. Coleman with a jumper. Tucker hacked by Abram. Next possession for Wisconsin: Tucker blows by Abram. Wisconsin shooting 60%; Abram travel. Wisconsin up 19 with the ball. Tension! Udoh foul! Wisconsin hits a free-throw! Twenty-point rule invoked!
Empty today. Liveblog of Wisconsin-Michigan coming tomorrow. Prediction: pain!
So hey! At least for things that weren't football recruiting, this weekend was the anti-last weekend. I managed to miss the basketball game but did see the hockey team perform this "sweep" operation that is all the rage in Minnesota these days. Though it was hard to draw many impressions from the low-quality ESPNU feed -- it looked like it was delivered via caribou herd, though it's hard to get on anyone for televising college hockey games from Alaska -- and the sound-free broadcast, some bullets on the weekend.
Billy Sauer. I believe these will be the first unambiguously positive words I've ever written on they guy: unambiguously positive! Though he gave me the flaming heebie-jeebies at times on Saturday versus Northern (one sequence where Sauer was stuck in his net for seemingly forever, flailing around uselessly while play was going on elsewhere, stands out), he hasn't allowed a soft goal since at least the GLI. That's only four games, but that's something. Also he saved Michigan's bacon early in both games versus Fairbanks. At one point Saturday Michigan trailed 1-0 and was being outshot 22-8. He looked so poised late in that game that the panic about every shot heading towards the net that emerged midway through Montoya's junior year disappeared for a time.
Brandon Naurato? No... seriously, Brandon Naurato? A friend who shall remain shamefully anonymous said "there's a guy who won't play next year" after a goal from him -- it's been the kind of year where everything gets sarcastically assessed, even the good things -- earlier in the season. At the time it seemed plausible: Michigan brings in five forwards who are going to play and loses only two. If Cogliano, Porter, and Kolarik all stay he'd have to compete with Fardig and Hagelin for the last spot on the fourth line... as long as he doesn't spend the rest of the year scoring sick partial breakaways worthy of Hensick, firing critical cross-ice passes to set up tying-goal tap-ins, and having four-point weekends. The line on Naurato has been "boy, can he shoot... too bad he can't do anything else" for a year and a half now, but we may have to reassess him. Submitted that he's on a hot streak right now and he's not likely to keep up this torrid pace, but like Sauer he's had a bangup last four games. Now has 9-6-15.
TJ! I think TJ Hensick might be the best player I've seen at Michigan, a subset of players that goes back to '98. There's only one player in the conversation as a forward, and that's Mike Comrie. Even during the miserable 2-1 loss to Northern, your depressed correspondent found several tiny moments of pure joy watching Hensick do everything exactly right, setting up his teammates for scoring chances they couldn't finish. He's now the country's second-leading scorer; the leader plays for Air Force and thus against poor competition. (Nate Davis of Miami is tied with Hensick, but TJ has two games in hands.) I guess what I'm saying is: can we get a "Hobey Baker" chant at Yost? It's the least TJ deserves.
Hoback or Hoglind or whatever. Question for anyone in the know: is there a special Alaska ref who just does UAA and UAF games? I'd never heard of the guy they had doing the games this weekend. He seemed to do an all right job except for a tendency to put Michigan down 5x3 for two-minute chunks for little reason.
A friendly note amongst friends. As mentioned, I'm loathe to criticize anything when the luxury of a televised Michigan away game is kindly provided by ESPN or CSTV or whoever, but good Lord it can't be that difficult to get a penalty clock up. Combined with Ho-something's 5x3 carnivale, the U crew's inability to get Hockey Broadcasting 101 down would have caused several heart attacks if hockey was really popular. As it is, it just caused great irritation localized in me.
Huh? At least for the moment, Michigan is in position to receive an at-large bid to the NCAAs. USCHO's current pairwise has them in a tie for tenth with CC. I'll take a closer look at the individual comparisons sometime later in the season and attempt to determine our range of potential results; the pairwise is a notoriously flaky system prone to inexplicable swings.
Four CCHA teams are in the tournament as of right now: #4 ND, #8 MSU, #10 Michigan, and #12 Miami. No one else is in the top 25 in RPI. Interesting wild-card: the CHA's Niagara is on the cusp of an at-large bid. At #16 they'll have to move up at least two spots and hope that upsets don't happen in the major conference tourneys, but it's a possibility.
So: tourney streak has a shot, but Michigan's weak schedule down the stretch means they have precious little room for error. Hensick for Hobey. Naurato for Regular Contributor, 2007. Sauer for I'll Take Average And Like It.
Update 1/12: Linked to article on IN DT Jeff Boyd: we lead, no offer (academics)... nevermind. Removed commits Jerimy Finch and Marquis Maze. Removed everyone else, basically.
Editorial Opinion: The list of uncommitted recruits we're still in with a shot at: Ronald Johnson, Rashad Mason. We are also recruiting Jermale Hines and Donovan Warren, but they're widely presumed to be locks to OSU and USC, respectively. Mason appears to be a longshot. He's from Tennessee and is visiting various southern schools plus us. Everyone in a position to rumble about RoJo says he's going to Michigan but -- unlike Hines and Warren -- hasn't publicly expressed any sentiment about a leader.
In sum: we're waiting on Ronald Johnson and scouring for potential contributors. I'm sure a couple names will come up and commit. They'll have offers from MAC schools and few stars, but they'll be bodies who are potential contributors.
So... yeah, Finch. Even with a hypothetical RoJo commit he would have been easily the third best recruit in the class. His loss moves the class a fair chunk of the way from "disappointing" to "outright disaster." No RoJo == outright disaster, on a par with the 2000 class. If we do get him, we'll have addressed the crying needs at QB and CB from last year's excellent class and shouldn't have a Willingham-esque gap between quality recruits that's going to hammer Notre Dame's lines next year. (Other than the current gap at cornerback that's already hammering us.) There will be a lot of pressure on the Michigan staff to put together a 2008 class on a par with the 2006 group -- one bad recruiting class won't kill you but two in a row will cause problems.
Last in a series exploring MGoBlog's season previews. Previously: Dregs / Soft Nougaty Middle I / Soft Nougaty Middle II. Full Michigan postmortem coming over the next couple weeks, starting with a midweek Rose Bowl UFR not recommended for children and the elderly.
No headliners remain on the Iowa defense after two years in which graduation has taken Matt Roth, Jonathan Babineaux, Abdul Hodge, and Chad Greenway to the NFL, but the Hawkeyes have star power on the other side of the ball in Drew Tate (the flingingest quarterback this side of the Pecos), Albert Young, and Albert Young's cadaverous ACL. The offensive line is either experienced or OMG shirtless. The defensive line looks poised to resume the terror of the Roth-Babineaux days. The defensive back seven? Well, you can't have everything. There are indeed ominous holes at corner and linebacker.
Despite that, viewers should be prepared for a faceful of Tate this year.
I am thinking of starting up a new service to monetize the blog: each year I accept donations from fans of the three or four Big Ten teams that are getting a medium amount of top-25/Citrus-type hype. Whichever teams coughs up the least dough is treated to the full-on MGoBlog Inexplicable Mancrush season preview treatment and thus a disappointing season that ends somewhere around .500. We're two for two now. In 2005, I predicted that we'd all be eating oatmeal under pictures of our new Dear Leader Joe Tiller as Brandon Kirsch rocked our world and his OSU-M-free schedule en route to the Rose Bowl. Instead, Purdue went to the No Bowl. This year, I decided that Iowa was going to win the Big Ten (close! they were 2-6) and placed them #2 in my preseason Blogpoll.
In conclusion, I suck and am awful.
Betrayed! Drew Tate is the primary reason I was led astray. I was sold by his 2005 vivisection of Michigan -- a game the Hawkeyes somehow managed to lose despite Tate playing out of his mind -- and got caught up in, you know, the copious evidence that Tate was a killer QB:
Drew Tate is one of the best quarterbacks in the country no matter your preferred metric. He has the numbers: two straight years with around 2800 yards passing, a completion percentage hovering around 62 percent, and 22 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions last year. He has the accolades: two years on the All Big Ten teams. And for those who like talking in vague generalities, he is the very avatar of "heart" or "moxie" or whatever you people call it.
Tate must have gotten intensive offseason coaching from Courtney Sims, because he regressed badly as a senior. His interceptions shot up to 13; his touchdowns, completions, and yardage dipped despite having the exact same number of attempts his junior and senior years. Too often he would flash his essential Tate-ness only to throw a hideous Favre-ian interception or wildly overthrow or underthrow his receiver. I plead "inexplicable" here.
Right Idea, Wrong Guy. I closed my eyes and pointed at a melanin-deficient wide receiver to take up Ed Hinkel's mantel, but hit the wrong target:
Redshirt freshman Trey Stross is distinctly Caucasian and thus is guaranteed to be Iowa's annual Inexplicably Great White Receiver at some point in his career. It also helps that Stross displayed velvet hands and great leaping ability in high school.
There was no IGWR for Iowa this year -- no doubt part of their malaise, it's like Michigan without an Immobile Water Buffalo at QB -- until the Alamo Bowl, when Andy Brodell caught a couple short passes and shocked the distinctly melanin-blessed Texas secondary by running his pale ass into the endzone like he was Ted Ginn.
I think this was almost right-ish. I praised the Iowa offensive line's returning starters but worried about a true sophomore stepping into the most critical job on the line:
So those guys have a ton of experience if a fairly uncertain notion of where, exactly, they're supposed to line up before each play. Jones is the most talented, having burst into the starting lineup as a true freshman. He finds himself a preseason All Big Ten pick by The Sporting News (TSN, understandably confused, named him the fifth best guard in the country), Lindy's, and Blue Ribbon. Yanda and Elgin are both somewhere between competent to good. But there is the niggling issue of center and, oh, left tackle. ... True sophomore Dace Richardson is projected to start at left tackle. .... A large portion of the Hawkeye's success this year relies upon how effective last year's crash course as a collegiate lineman was.
Injury and the shuffling it forced opened holes all over Iowa's OL, but when healthy they were the portion of the team least likely to be a major issue.
Half understandable, half stupid. I liked Iowa defensive ends Brian Mattison and Ken Iwebema:
Junior defensive ends Ken Iwebema and Bryan Mattison were both disruptive forces as sophomores, combining for 19.5 TFL and 11 sacks. Iwebema found his way on the the media's selections for first team All Big Ten. While that may say more about the media than Iwebema in a year that featured Tamba Hali, Lamarr Woodley, and Mike Kudla, it does indicate his impressive talent.
IIRC, Iwebema suffered through some academic or disciplinary suspensions or demotions early in the season. Later, a shoulder injury sidelined him for a few games. The result was a disappointing three sacks in limited time. Mattison was excellent against Ohio State and Michigan but his 6.5 sacks were not enough to make up for the disappointing back seven. I gave the unit as a whole a 4:
A repeat of last year's performance will not be enough for the defensive line, however. Minus Hodge and Greenway and with shaky cornerbacks the line will have get more pressure on the quarterback against tough opponents than the did a year ago, when Iowa had one three yard sack against OSU and none against Michigan. If that happens again this year games against good opponents will dissolve into shootouts that Iowa would like to avoid.
You can replace "good opponents" in that last sentence with just "opponents." I thought the DL would be good enough to cover for the rest of the defense. It wasn't.
The linebackers won't be a liability.
Wrong. They were. Iowa ended up 57th in rushing defense. Though Mike Klinkenborg had an awesome name and a lot of tackles, he and his compatriots made precious few actual plays: two sacks and around 20 TFLs for the entire unit. Many of their tackles were of the variety five to eight yards downfield. Many were missed. They weren't good.
But not quite as un-good as these guys!
Adam Shada... well... is from Nebraska, if you know what I mean. He would have to buck an awful lot of history for a guy from Nebraska to become a standout corner on the collegiate level, especially as an unheralded recruit. Many cite his three interceptions from a year ago as reason to believe in his ability, but interceptions are usually fluky events and should not be relied upon for projection. Meanwhile, Godfrey was bouncing to and from safety as recently as last year and seems to have moved to corner because Iowa has no alternatives. It is always, always, always a bad sign when a player goes from backup safety to starting corner over the course of one offseason. Mediocrity here would be great.
Shada, despite his essential Nebraska-ness, was Iowa's best corner. Charles Godfrey picked up Grant Mason dise
ase and finished third on the team in tackles, a sure sign that you're excellent at giving up eight yards on third and six. He was awful. And though Shada was better, it was he who was fluttering at the edge of the frame when highlights of James Hardy's million-touchdown day were broadcast to a shocked Official MGoBlog Residence. The "2" bestowed was correct, though underrated when attempting to assess the team as a whole.
Worst what? Yeah, Iowa was three games worse than the "Worst Case" scenario presented:
Maybe the run defense disintegrates without Greenway and Hodge, but I doubt it. If it does then some wonky corners could make the Iowa defense eminently perforable again. Throw in a lot of drops from the wide receivers, the complete implosion of Richardson, and a lot of bad luck... and Iowa's still very good with a favorable schedule. 9-3.
Yeeeesh. But you know what's even more embarassing? This:
The only downers are a trip to Michigan and the shame that the national championship game is in Arizona instead of New Orleans, which prevents what would have been a beautiful joke about Tates and beads.
Iowa gets OSU in the most favorable spot possible and catches the Buckeyes early in the season when their defense still figures to be breast-feeding. Iowa wins that game, loses to either Michigan or one of the "probable wins" category, and coasts to the Rose Bowl at 11-1.
Coasts to the Rose Bowl! Never listen to anything I say again.
Best Title Ever:
Ohio State: National Chumpions! ZING!
If you ignore the actual content of this preview and pretend that the entirety of my preseason OSU prediction was "national chumpions," then it's the most accurate preview of OSU anywhere. Unfortunately, I kept going.
So I guess it's somewhat logical that when Texas loses that Vince Young guy and OSU returns that Troy Smith guy you put OSU #1 to start the season, but, uh... nine defensive starters, one reliable kicker, and two first round draft picks on offense depart and that doesn't bother anyone? Ohio State -- Ohio freakin' State -- is starting a senior walk-on who has never played a down on defense at cornerback and this raises not an eyebrow? Okay then. I have a hunch that assumptions were made: the secondary will reload. The pass rush will continue. The linebackers will be equally fierce. Ted Ginn can be a primary threat as a receiver.
But I digress. If the media was replaced with a parallel-universe version of itself that senselessly overrated the defensive side of the ball and placed great emphasis on special teams and place OSU 15th or something this intro section would be all "but wait: Marcus Freeman, a mess of five defensive ends from which someone good will emerge, and a longstanding tradition of excellence on D." The Buckeyes have many alluring qualities that nearly offset that walkon-at-corner thing.
But not quite.
This looked way worse before the MNC game.
No doubt horrible bias. One of the assertions that haunted me through the season was this assessment of Antonio Pittman:
Right: not impressed by Antonio Pittman, much to the amusement of Ohio State fans. It's hard to judge his '05 season because there wasn't much data to be had against good run defenses. It appeared to me that he was good at running through big holes and falling down when contacted but struggled to make extra yards. He's not terrible, but I don't think he's anything that, say, Jason Teague wasn't. Ohio State fans fresh off the Mo Hall era may be confusing competence for superstardom.
Pittman was and is better than that, otherwise he wouldn't be off to the NFL. He definitively showed his speed a few times this year -- and let's not talk about that -- but more impressive was his patience setting up his blockers and understanding of how plays were going to develop. I underrated him at the beginning of the year.
Recycling the goat quote. Doug Datish has a career in broadcasting waiting for him if there's a God. Again IIRC, he was the Buckeye who let loose with some hilarious smack about Notre Dame late in the year -- sadly, I can't turn it up on Google... help appreciated. In the preseason he dropped this about Quinn Pitcock:
Datish describes Pitcock with the best quote I've seen in a long time:
"I've hated blocking Quinn since I got here," Datish said. "He's like a goat. I think his legs should be reversed because he's got that weird leverage thing to them. I don't know if there's anybody better in the country."
He's not much of a penetrator but he occupies blockers with the best of them. Patterson's numbers -- 7.5 TFLs and 4 sacks -- look good for a DT, but he played end last year. Three of those sacks came in the Michigan State game, when Stephon Wheeler went out and the Red Sea caved in on Drew Stanton. (On the fourth he bowled over Jake Long to sack Henne.) His move inside makes sense since he was oversized -- 285 pounds -- and not a threat to come around the edge at end. Inside he can use his push and technique to get into the backfield as others take the edge. He's sort of a poor man's Alan Branch.
While Patterson as a poor man's Alan Branch seems a highly adept analogy, describing Pitcock as "not much of a penetrator" but a guy who "occupies blockers with the best of them" is just wrong. I did pan the ineffective Jay Richardson and pump up Gholston:
The pass rush will have to come from elsewhere, probably Cass Tech alum Vernon Gholston. In '04 Gholston was a sleeper recruit described as incredibly athletic (I've seen this picture way too often -- some creepy guy at BuckeyePlanet used it as his sig) but equally raw. Two years later he's apparently progressed better than Alain Kashama did and fought his way into the starting lineup ahead of a couple highly touted recruits. OSU's proven that they can mold defensive linemen; with Gholston's evident natural ability he'll probably be good sooner or later.
So bully for me. This unit came in as a "4," and that was a fair reflection of their talent, IMO.
Animal, etc. Your opinion of my opinion in this section will closely track with your opinion of my opinion about James Laurinaitis (totally overrated):
There's going to be a dropoff here or I'm taking my blog and going home. Freeman should be at least good, though he may be playing out of position due to shortcomings in the other two linebackers. Dispatch blogger Heath Schneider theorizes that the LB switch means Kerr is doomed and true freshman Ross Homan will end up starting once his hamstring injury is healed. Buckeye fans are salivating over Homan but the gurus were pretty meh about him and as a true freshman recovering from an injury if he starts it's a bad sign for this year.
Laurinatis obviously shows a lot of potential to start in front of highly touted JUCO recruit Larry Grant, but he's not AJ Hawk. If he is I'll cry. Kerr... who knows? I have my doubts about him. I think Grant's recruitment -- JUCOs are unusual at OSU -- speaks to question marks about the depth, especially outside, and there's a fair chance that this unit ends up disappointing. Freeman and the rep Tressel and OSU have earned keep this at a three, but it's not all roses and reloading here.
Kerr was indeed a weak spot, often kept off the field by nickel packages, Grant, and Homan. Freeman did not live up to the hype I and recruiting gurus provided; Laurinaitis exceeded it, though not to the extent Brent Musberger and silly awards committe
es would have you believe. All told there was a major dropoff, though soft competition and boatload of turnovers disguised that somewhat. Still: Mike Hart finally got loose. PSU, Texas, and Iowa (to an extent) all ran effectively against the Buckeyes. Tim Tebow, when not getting stomped on, was bulling his way forward. This was not the Hawk crew. And thank God for that.
Not so good. The Buckeye secondary was projected as dire; it was not. Malcolm Jenkins, dismissed in the preview...
True sophomore Malcolm Jenkins "wants to be in contention for the Thorpe Award this year because it means he will be helping the Buckeyes win," which is nice but fanciful. He was a meh recruit two years ago thrust into action as the Buckeyes nickelback due to a severe lack of depth in the defensive backfield. ... He was invisible during the games I saw. That's to be expected for a middling recruit pressed into service as a freshman but it also indicates that Jenkins has a way to go to replace the services of Youbouty. He'll improve, but to improve enough to be an impact corner would be a major leap forward.
...emerged as one of the Big Ten's better corners (though he's clearly a notch or two behind Justin King and Jack Ikegwuonu amongst those returning next year) and took that "major leap forward." Projected disaster and former walk-on Antonio Smith, his partner, was all right, though torched against Michigan.
Overall... Summary section:
Given the schedule the offense probably will be statistically explosive. Only four teams figure to have defenses that can even think of running with Ginn, Smith, et al. Given Tressel's tendency to play Lloydball in tight spots, though, the Bucks might not get all they might out of said really fast guys until the need to score is clear.
The defense is going to drop off significantly. This should not be a controversial statement when one of the most dominant Ds in recent college football memory loses nine starters and figures to start a secondary with almost no experience whatsoever. If Gholston does not produce, OSU is going to find itself exposing that secondary by blitzing or allowing itself to get picked apart. I find myself torn: it seems improbable that the OSU defense is going to be mediocre, but it seems equally improbable that patchwork secondary is going to be anything but.
And I said they'd go 10-2. This was obviously a couple games short, though within the bounds of Best Case/Worst case. I do think the D dropped off immensely, but a weak schedule and a ridiculous spate of forced turnovers at opportune times served to conceal the weaknesses therein until OSU's final two games of the season. I vacillate between these two scenarios for next year's OSU team:
- All of OSU's returning starters will improve and they'll regain their badass D of '05.
- Laurinaitis' strengths are wiped out because OSU hasn't recruited anyone capable of replacing their two defensive tackles. The turnovers dry up. The secondary is still pretty good, but a critical weakness in the middle of the field forces safeties up to help with the run and it's average.
Dunno which of these I think yet.