this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
"Worst State Ever" comes in a few additional flavors. There's a blue and white shirt for PSU fans, a maize shirt for those wishing to fit in with the Maize Out, and a special edition for those who really wish to flash their Internet bonafides:
Women's shirts were requested, but the only color available even close to yellow is something called "banana". Close enough? If there's interest I'll whip some up.
Also: today is the last day of the 15% Summer Sale. Just enter "SUMMERSALE06" in the coupon code area when you check out.
So it seems I've been hired by AOL to be the Big Ten's lead blogger for what will no doubt be the best website in the entire universe: The Fanhouse. This will necessitate some changes around these parts, but fear not. MGoBlog will soldier on. Worried? The Fanhouse is looking for short, digestible posts from 100-400 words. Does that describe anything on this blog? Not really. Unless they get a table fetish or a strange desire for 3,000 words on Purdue's season, all the stuff you love to skim over and largely ignore is staying right here, baby.
Making the move to AOL:
- Portions of Unverified Voracity. The links therein will be posted individually, as the AOL blog is going to be an uberblog you can filter by tags, so posting something about an injury to a Wisconsin player should be filed under "Wisconsin" instead of "Wisconsin / Angry Ravings Against ESPN / Stat Wonkery." Those bits of UV that aren't directly relevant to the AOL blog will appear here, also individually. I'll miss the name but look forward to posting stuff in more timely fashion.
- Any pressing news like injuries or commitments. Longer Googlestalking commit posts will appear here first.
- Fun YouTube stuff. The AOL blog is encouraging multimedia.
Staying are most things that are horrendously long, not directly relevant, or esoteric:
- Further excursions into stat-wonkery.
- The 3,000 word team previews.
- Basketball & hockey coverage.
- Calls for the head of Stephen A. Smith and his ilk.
Also, this marks a transition point. Selling out is going to occur. A few months ago my job and I agreed to not have each other any more, partially due to the fact that instead of doing "things" I was "supposed to be doing" I was "posting on my blog." In the subsequent months I've come to two conclusions:
- I like blogging.
- I don't like engineering.
So we're going to try this for funding. Some of it will come from AOL. The rest I hope can be provided by merchandising (buy a shirt!), affiliate program-ing, generous readers, and unobtrusive text link ads on the sidebar. I won't be adding any flashing invitations to punch the monkey, literally or metaphorically. If it works, it works and I'm terribly happy. If it doesn't I'll cut my hair and become an accountant or something. We'll give it a year or so and then evaluate it.
Practical Applications for You, The Reader: The NCAA Fanhouse is still a week or two away from launching and is in a weird limbo state where I can and should post to it but there's no Wolverine-specific area. There is a me-specific area that you can bookmark/subscribe to, though in the future it might contain the odd post on other teams that I'm picking up the slack on. This you might possibly survive.
My first post @ the Fanhouse is on the terribly interesting depth chart released today.
California running back Avery Horn committed over the weekend, choosing Michigan over a wide array of mid-level Pac-10 teams:
Hanford, Calif., Hanford High School running back Avery Horn had early offers from Fresno State and Nebraska, and with his latest offer from Washington now stands at seven. In between, Michigan, Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State all threw their respective hats into the ring.
Scout and Rivals both have him as a middle-of-the-road three star recruit. ESPN gives him a 78, though their scouting report($) on him is amazingly positive for a recruit they essentially said "meh" about:
He runs much bigger than his size would lead you to believe. Shows an aggressive style and runs with authority. Hits the hole with great burst and is capable of sneaking through tiny creases. Has good lower-body strength, hits the hole quickly and is a surprising between-the-tackles runner who excels at picking up yards after contact. Runs with good balance, flashes a powerful stiff arm and bounces off arm tackles.
It continues like this for a while longer before some minor concerns about size (he's 5'10", 180-ish) and cut fluidity are expressed. Maybe I'm wrong on the "meh," since on second thought 79s are at the tail end of the ESPN 150. I guess a 78 translates to a mid-four star ranking on Scout or Rivals.
Scout has a couple of quotes:
"He's got burst speed. He can really accelerate. He's a track man and ran a 10.5 (100m) twice last week."
That's his coach. Further:
Avery had a great season last year. He scored 24 touchdowns coming on rushing, punt returns and kick returns. Most of them are long runs and he is really jogging in the last 10 yards. He just has so much acceleration. He had 1,800+ yards rushing last year."
"He had one kick return last year that was over his head, caught it about an inch off of the goal line, and ran it back. That was a 99+ yard run back. That was a school record."
Central Valley messageboard CVHSPreps.com has slightly less outlandish numbers:
Horn rushing = 168-1345 (8.0) 19 touchdowns
Horn receiving = 7-157 (22.4) 1 touchdown
Horn passing = 0-2-0-0
Horn KOR = Four touchdowns
He started slow and didn't have a 100-yard game until the league opener against Redwood where he ran for 209 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns including a 75 KOR. His other big game was at Lemoore when he tallied 202 yards on 24 carries.
Another poster echoes the speed theme from earlier:
Horn is similar in that he has something you cant teach... SPEED! Avery can flat fly and is one of the fastest in the state, which is what has improved his stock. The football camps and track meets in the off season have helped him more than his rushing stats. I would say right now he is being recruited as an athlete, because of his 100 times. Again, size and speed are the two things you cant teach, and with speed like Horn has, he could play several positions besides RB at the D1 level.
And, finally, a probably-irrelevant-but-fun story:
I wouldn't consider this guy the biggest hitter this year because he didn't really have the opportunity to hit that many people...but he laid down probably the biggest hit I saw this year....Avery Horn got to see some action at safety against Lemoore and absolutely blasted Lemoore's TE. The kids helmet busted off his head...a few pads inside ended up on the field...and the kid was bleeding from his face...don't remember him returning....last I saw he was sitting on the bench with a towel over his head....remember that one J??? He also had his fair share of punishing hits on tacklers when he was running the ball...the kid is built
Editorial Opinion: Horn's commitment might be disappointing for those holding out hope for Robert Hughes or John Clay, but neither of those players is likely to end up at Michigan and in Clay's case it's debateable how heavily Michigan pursued him in the first place. Those disheartened by the lack of a fourth star next to Horn's name on various recruiting websites should take heart in his relatively early offer -- he's had one for at least a couple months -- and decent offer list. Also, the main question about his future has to do more with his size than anything else, and all of a sudden I want Michigan running backs to be slightly larger than protons. Hmmm... wonder why?
Still, it's a comedown from the projected 1-2 OMG shirtless punch of Clay and Hughes when this recruiting year was fresh and therefore destined to be Teh Best Evah. Michigan might take one more wide reciever, but other than that is done with offensive skill position talent and has one guy who is unquestionably the man (Ryan Mallet). Maybe Hemingway if you believe ESPN over Scout and Rivals. That's a little disappointing. It does help that there's good reason to believe players like Helmuth, Webb, and Horn are underrated because they're small or under the radar or fullbacks. Won't somebody think of the fullbacks?
Probably an short-lived feature as the words "Lloyd Carr" and "hotseat" become inextricably intertwined over the next few weeks. First, Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star:
1. Lloyd Carr, Michigan: Three or more losses in a season is unacceptable at Michigan, and that has happened to Carr in seven of the past eight seasons. Last year's 7-5 record, and a 1-4 career mark against Ohio State's Jim Tressel put Carr firmly on this list.
Exactly how unacceptable can three losses be if Carr is still around?
And this is just a bunch of Iowa students and thus shouldn't be taken particularly seriously:
A national title and five Big Ten championships would put a college football coach up for sainthood on most campuses.
In Ann Arbor, fans yawn at those accomplishments and scream for more.
After 12 seasons at the helm, Lloyd Carr's seat as head coach is hotter than a race track after Ricky Bobby shakes and bakes on it.
I always suspected that sports journalists had a requirement along the lines of "Lame Pop Culture References 101." Now we have proof.
Kolodziej weird-condition-type thing is AOK? Apparently:
"They were just checking up, everything's good," he said. "It wasn't much of a situation. I'm good to go."
Whether or not he'll play is a murkier issue, given Carr's previous statements on the offensive line that claim Alex Mitchell has worked his way into the starting lineup. If Bihl fails to impress once again, Michigan now has the option of sliding Riley back inside to guard and Kolo could draw in at RT, but he probably isn't going to be the first option at season's start.
Justin Boren's injury is progressing well and he should be ready to play in a week or two. This is relevant, since Carr said he'll play on the season preview edition of Michigan Replay. (Also mentioned as freshman contributors: WR Greg Mathews, RBs Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor (grumble grumble), DE Brandon Graham, and S Steve Brown.)
DE/OLB Chris McLaurin, a redshirt freshman, has moved to tight end after shoulder surgery:
Redshirt freshman Chris McLaurin, who underwent shoulder surgeries last spring, has moved from linebacker to tight end. He said coaches felt tight end would be better for his shoulders and knew he had played the position at Orchard Lake St. Mary's.
That's either a weak excuse or an ill omen for McLaurin's future.
(Note that this is the Free Press's Mark Snyder again breaking news.)
Pat Forde does not read MGoBlog. Lloyd Carr features in a really long article with this as its premise:
Used to be, a national title was the ultimate employment security blanket -- a veritable lifetime contract extension. These days, it might not even buy you a decade.
Despite backing this claim up with no data, he raises the stakes later, implying that it's do-or-die for the four coaches (Carr, Larry Coker, Phil Fulmer, and UK basketball coach Tubby Smith):
Now the wait is over, and prove-it time has arrived for the four embattled champions.
Too bad Forde didn't see this article, which features direct quotes from Bill Martin and Bo that directly contradict his thesis:
"Anybody that wants to get rid of him has to get rid of me first," Martin said. "He's not on the hot seat with me." That could be arranged at a lot of locales. But getting rid of Carr and Martin would mean taking on Bo Schembechler -- and that still seems like a scary proposition, even in Bo's near-dotage.
"There isn't one [critic] out there with guts enough to come up to me and say we need to change coaches," said Schembechler, who hired Carr decades ago. "I know there's some of that talk out there, but they don't tell me.
"The guy is quite a guy, so I don't mind standing in front of him. I'm not going to let those people do that to him, and I still do have some influence with some people up here. So he'll quit when he wants to."
Wait a minute... that's the same article. Pat Forde doesn't even read Pat Forde!
Elsewhere in Irritating-Carr-Hotseat stories, Dennis Dodd plays stopped clock by, oh, I dunno, listening to what the athletic department says and declaring Carr's job safe. Es miraculoso!
Seriously maladjusted recruitniks should start monitoring Jim__S's new blog; if that doesn't include you worry not. I've got it covered.
Someone today is going to be MGoBlog's millionth hit unless a statistical improbability strikes. I cannot be there in person for said millionth hit because I am attending a wedding (fear not, ladies, it is not that of MGoBlog; shrine destruction is not advised). To that person: congratulations! Thanks.
To all other visitors: plain old thanks. The reason words keep appearing in this space is because people continue reading them. I've never subscribed to the rock-band "f the consumers" approach: the reason I do this is because people seem to like it. Everyone who has stopped by and decided it was worth returning: thanks. Those who have left comments or sent emails: double thanks. For those fans of opposing teams who have weathered snarky, unfavorable projections in stride: triple thanks. This enterprise has been more rewarding than I could have ever guessed.
Changes are a comin' to this space but they're made in the hope that this thing can become something of a profession. Perhaps this is a foolish goal but damn if it doesn't sound romantic, at least to me. We -- and I do mean "we" -- are going to give this a go. As anyone who saw "Michigan" placed in the tossup category of the OSU preview knows, I'm something of a romantic and I hope that this is but the beginning.
Second star to the right and straight on 'till morning. Go Blue.
Now starting at WR for Wisconsin: not Marcus Randel-El. He's injured and out for the season. Also hitting the injury trail is projected NU starting QB CJ Bacher. Mike Kafka has been named starter for the opener.
(via Maize N Brew)
Mysterious hand signs can be found at The Realests. Braylon Edwards and Mike Hart are both seen flashing this mysterious symbol:
(If Braylon isn't wearing a pink shirt he wears NO SHIRT.)
What does it mean? I don't know. If it was four fingers then one, they'd obviously be flashing Zoltan Mesko's jersey number. But four plus two? It is the mystery.
blah blah blah hate Ohio State blah blah would like to see campus ejected into space blah blah can't possibly be worth reading due to extreme bias etc
Imagine a different world: Franklin County terrorists steal a nuke-u-lar weapon and threaten to deploy it unless Ohio State is permitted a rematch with Texas for possession of that purty glass football. You find yourself held hostage by these same terrorists (full of vim and vigor, these guys); they hold a gun to your head and say they will pull the trigger unless you correctly prognosticate the winner of the game. Who do you pick? Isn't this a hard question? (Leaving aside the fact they're liable to shoot you if you say "Texas.")
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.
Last Year: Very good with the standard caveat about awful Big Ten defenses. Troy Smith threw, Antonio Pittman ran, and various persons caught.
Troy Smith can run past bad defense.
Troy "Virginia Slims" Smith has come a long way, baby. Entering the 2005 season he was one supernova against Michigan away from being Bellisari II. After it Maurice Clarett's then-outlandish claim that Smith was "the next Michael Vick" stands out as the one thing in Clarett's life impossible to mock.
But we're gonna try anyway. Smith had an odd set of opponents last year that were much like Asian women: they were either very, very good or very, very bad and there was no middle ground whatsoever. (Okay, that's not entirely true. Both Michigan and a girl in DC named Kelly are exceptions.) Against the bad defenses, Smith killed. Against the good ones he was killed. So what, exactly, does it mean? Smith did what almost any quarterback would have done against all those defenses. What we can extrapolate: when given time and space Smith is an accurate passer. He's got great mobility and uses it to scramble for both yards and time. When he was confronted by defenses with good, aggressive secondaries, however, he struggles. Against Texas and Penn State he was a nonfactor, averaging only 109 yards passing per game. The only other half-legitimate defense they played was Michigan, who Smith smashed for 300 yards on 27-37 passing. One thing the Wolverine secondary was not was "aggressive," though.
There is some potential for disappointment here, but even if Smith is not the quarterback his '05 numbers imply he might be this year just due to natural improvement. Teams that aren't able to get pressure from the front four will be faced with a nasty choice between sitting back, allowing Smith to pick the defense apart, and blitzing, opening up the possibility of long scrambles or single-covered Ginn.
Antonio Pittman can run away from bad defense.
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. But that's just me.
I wouldn't be totally surprised if Pittman's job came under serious threat at some point during the year. Recruit Chris Wells was the #1 running back in the country according to everyone. He is strong like bull at 6'1" and 220 pounds and may be the second coming of Eddie George if he lives up to the hype. Running back is a position in which a player can come straight out of high school and make an impact (see: Mike Hart, Tyrell Sutton, Javon Ringer, etc). Wells has an impressive package of size and speed; once he gets the blitz pickups down and gets used to the increased speed of the college game he'll at least contribute. Starting is another matter. Tressel doesn't seem like the type to yank a player proven functional for a freshman, no matter how hype-laden he is, unless he finds himself in a situation where the team is drastically underperforming expectations.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Santonio Holmes takes his dapper dreads to the NFL, leaving behind Roy Hall, Anthony Gonzalez, and some guy named... uh... Ginn. Ginn was a disappointment a year ago until the moment Notre Dame decided that covering him on fly routes was optional. He managed to collect 800-some yards receiving but cracked 100 only against the Irish and Illinois; his good game against Michigan (9 catches and 89 yards, though about half of that was screens) was marred by a series of muffed punts that gave whole swaths of field away. What happened? Ginn hasn't developed into a receiver. His hands aren't great. Neither are his routes. (His Fiesta Bowl touchdown consisted of him running down the field real fast.) He just wasn't very useful against defenses that crowded him and threatened Troy Smith with pressure before he could run 50 yards downfield.
That figures to change. Quotes from Gonzalez to the effect of "Ted Ginn is the most improved player in practice" are odd and therefore likely true. His route cuts are doomed to be less explosive than one would expect -- his long, lanky body and similarly long-striding running style make it relatively easy to predict his direction* -- but that speed thing means you close your cushion at great peril. He's still not likely to end up with 80 catches unless OSU goes WR-screen mad, but he alternate between safety-paralyzing decoy and guy who catches long touchdowns.
Gonzalez, a solid route runner with excellent hands and a knack for finding the soft spot in zones, is the one who will his production shoot up with Holmes gone. He's no Ginn but don't let his lack of skin pigmentation fool you: the guy can run. Past the starters there's not much. Roy Hall hasn't proven anything in four years; backups Brian Robiske and Brian Hartline are green players who did not get much guru hype as recruits.
The projected starter at tight end, Marcel Frost, was suspended for the year after an unspecified violation of team rules and transferred to a I-AA (sorry: "Championship Division") school. Redshirt sophomore Rory Nichol returns from an injury that held him out last year to fill the starting spot.
Ack! Punts and kickoff returns, you say? There's a difference between a your typical return cut, usually slight-but-violent changes of direction designed to maintain momentum, and route cuts, which are often wholesale changes of direction. FTR, I also think this negatively impacts Steve Breaston's routes since he has the same long-striding style.)
Rating: 5. Sophomore left tackle Alex Boone is no longer drinking the GDP of Sri Lanka every weekend, so OSU has that going for them. Incidentally, he was uber-hyped as a recruit and not terrible as a true freshman. He's on a track to stardom. OSU hopes he's ready to play left tackle just two years out of high school. As a freshman, right tackle Kirk Barton impressively won the job from Datish and Schafer midway through the year. Last year he resumed his duties there until suffering an injury versus Penn State.
Assuming Tim Schaefer wins the left guard job, the interior of the line is all seniors. Center Doug Datish was a tackle last year (OSU edumacation: "has played and started all three interior line positions for the Buckeyes, including all 12 games last year at left tackle") and a guard the year before that. Right guard TJ Downing was functional a year ago.
Mangold's loss will be felt -- first round centers are exceedingly rare and Datish isn't likely to fill those shoes completely, but the line should be good. Exactly how good depends on just how Boone performs is right away. No doubt he's on a stardom track, but his starts last year came after Barton's injury. His placement at left tackle at a true sophomore is either a very good thing or a very bad thing. Veterans everywhere else and another probable star at right tackle should reassure worried Buckeye fans. Not that there are any.
Last Year: Holy pants. Ohio State played a wide array of the country's best offenses and crushed all of them, finishing fifth overall largely because running against Ohio State was an exercise in futility: teams averaged a whopping 73 yards per game. I do not wish to think about this any longer.
Rating: 4. Hey! Returning starters! Meet Quinn Pitcock and David Patterson, defensive tackles who featured on the aforementioned swarming defense. 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.
The questions on defense begin with defensive end. Senior Jay Richardson has some experience on one side, starting 6 games as a sophomore before an injury forced him out of the starting lineup. He saw time in a rotation last year, but didn't do much with it: he has three sacks in his career. At this point he's a Buckeye version of Rondell Biggs, a hard worker and run stuffer who brings little playmaking to the field. 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.
Backing up the defensive ends are a trio of highly touted prospects: Lawrence Wilson, Robert Rose, and Doug Worthington. Wilson and Worthington are kind of bulky and have a redshirt year; at this point Rose is all edge-rushing terror that many need a year or two to reacclimate to college. All will see time as Ohio State tries to find the right combination.
This will be a good defensive line. Pitcock and Patterson will clog the middle ably, though neither has shown much of an inclination to penetrate and disrupt. A situational pass rusher will emerge from the defensive ends. Pressure on early downs may be an issue if Gholston does not live up to his practice buzz. OSU may have to blitz a lot on non-obvious passing downs lest their secondary get exposed.
Rating: 3. Hawk, Carpenter, and Schlegel are gone. Hurray! In their place are a highly touted recruit, a player who led his team in tackles as a freshman, and the son of Road Warrior Animal. Boo.
Strongside linebacker Marcus Freeman is the highly touted recruit. Rivals ranked him the #31 player in the country in '04; for comparison, the man Michigan fans believe to be a cross between Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas, Tim Jamison, was #40. After a freshman year spent mostly on special teams he suffered a knee injury in OSU's opener and redshirted. I find it hard to believe that he "went into the season as a possible starter," as his official OSU bio claims, but everyone around the program is excited about him.
New weakside linebacker John Kerr is the former leading tackler. The catch is that Kerr's tackles came at Indiana, where he started at MLB as a freshman and racked up 114. He spent a full two years on the bench after his transfer, one mandated by the NCAA but the other due to "problems with transfer-related paperwork" according to the Columbus Dispatch, which may also be interested in this fantastic bridge I have to sell. Whatever happened, it's over now. Kerr spent last year on special teams, working his way up the depth chart. No one's seen him play linebacker since he was tackling away at Indiana.
How was work, Dad?
I bludgeoned someone with a chair.
The son of Road Warrior Animal is James Laurinatis, who you may remember from the Ohio State game last year. He entered on the second play of the game after Bobby Carpenter suffered a broken leg. After the linebacker shakeup he finds himself in the middle. He originally committed to Minnesota before switching to OSU. He wasn't a huge recruit -- three stars from both services -- and was low on the priority list of most schools, though he got December offers from UCLA and Notre Dame. Yes, yes: AJ Hawk three stars gurus useless San Dimas High Scool fooball rules. But in his two starts a year ago he got one tackle, that on Tyler Ecker's futile sojourn upfield with seconds remaining. He's a true sophomore; he won't be that good.
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.
I can hear Corso now.
The early departures of Ashton Youbouty and Donte Whitner will be felt keenly. 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. His 37 tackles in limited time (three starts plus the aforementioned nickel duty) implies that he was picked on when he went into the game. That would be fine if he had fought back a bit, but two pass breakups and no interceptions does not count as fighting back. 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.
Opposite Jenkins is a former walk-on, senior Antonio Smith. He's got all of six tackles to his name, he's short, he's a mechanical engineer, and he played entirely on special teams last year despite tragically short Buckeye secondary depth: these are not indicators of success. Behind him are redshirt freshmen Andre Amos and Donald Washington who, being freshmen, have just as much experience as Smith. To call cornerback a question mark is something of an understatement. Cornerback is more like "?!?!?!"
The situation at safety is similar though not so dire. Jamario O'Neal is the sophomore in the role of Jenkins. Last year he saw time on special teams; now he is thrust into the starting lineup maybe a year too early. O'Neal was much better regarded by the gurus -- top 100 by both -- but is something of a corner-safety tweener. Further hilarity from the OSU athletic department: "was moved to safety during two-a-days to take advantage of his speed."
The other safety is being battled out between little-used senior Brandon Mitchell and sophomore Nick Patterson neither has exactly stepped up; what little I can find that's not a softbatch profile consists of a random blogger on TSN saying "neither really excites me much."
This unit has the makings of a liability. If OSU doesn't get a pass rush it risks having an average (or even worse? Naw) defense, especially when nickel and dime packages are forced onto the field.
Kickers & Coverage
Rating: 3. I swear to God that if this Ryan Pretorius or Aaron Pettry kid is another Nugent or Huston I am going to flip out and kill stuff. It's MGoBlog policy not to speculate on unproven kickers, but seriously: flip out and kill stuff. You have been warned.
Punter AJ Trapasso is pretty good. Ted Ginn like returning things a long way and fumbling punts, but only sometimes. He's your proverbial weapon.
Non-Conference: Well, there's that trip to Texas you may have heard about. OSU also has a dangerous game against Northern Illinois and Garrett Wolfe to start the year. OSU should win, but NIU is liable to scare the hell out of them first. The other two games are against Bowling Green and Cincinatti.
Conference: OSU misses two probable bowl teams in Wisconsin and Purdue plus gets Michigan and Penn State at home. A trip to MSU could be dangerous; playing at Iowa after the Penn State deathmatch will be a major test.
We're Sure About
Well, very little, actually.
Troy Smith? Sure. I still have lingering doubts, but mostly because I have seizures when I try to remember his last two Michigan games.
We Have An Idea About
The secondary. A straight 1 to Purdue or Michigan State or Northwestern or whoever but bumped to a 2 simply on reputation... but OSU cannot be comfortable starting a walkon at corner and having him backed up by freshmen, especially when the other corner is a true sophomore.
The offensive line. Should be good, though a true sophomore at left tackle is a bit tetchy.
We Have No Clue About
Pass rush. Last year it came mostly from the linebackers, who often doubled as defensive ends on obvious passing downs. Those linebackers are gone and there's only one player on the line -- Gholston -- who looks like a consistent threat to the quarterback, and he's a redshirt sophomore with no experience at all.
Kicker. YOU WILL SUCK. YOU WILL MISS 25 YARD FIELD GOALS. THIS I COMMAND.
An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt
Well... I think it's highly doubtful OSU gets through the season undefeated. But I must concede that it's possible. 12-0.
With five apparently guaranteed wins on the schedule and a few of the "probable" wins below pretty tenuous, it's extremely unlikely that OSU drops more than three games this year. Ginn, offensive line, and Smith should combine with the probably-decent defense for another good season. 8-4 is the minimum.
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.
Wins: Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern
Probable Wins: Northern Illinois, @ MSU, Minnesota (tenuous)
Tossups: @ Texas, Michigan, Penn State
Probable Losses: @ Iowa
No Chance: None
10-2, it says.
So Marques Slocum is around. On campus and stuff. There's a update on Rivals detailing his situation:
[er... whoops! The text here was deceptively premium. Suffice it to say that there's a headline on Rivals ("Slocum enrolls at Michigan") that is very specific.]
For those not intimately familiar with the bizarre saga of Marques Slocum, he was a near-five star defensive tackle recruit who commited to Michigan for the '05 class, but he did not qualify academically. He then spent a semester at Milford Academy attempting to get his grades and test scores up, then another when the first semester didn't take. He spent this summer taking and retaking standardized tests, never quite getting the score he needed. All hope appeared to be lost after his last score came back, but Slocum appealed on grounds that some of his answers weren't counted or didn't show up or were misgraded or something. It's all very vague. Now he's around, but with a catch.
I've never seen a recruit this tenaciously determined to go to school here. Anybody else would be in their second year at a JUCO or receiving a PhD from Michigan State by now. He's in. He's got to do well in Astro 111 and then he'll be given a winged helmet. I am available for tutoring sessions, Marques, and if provided with a nice Che-like vector graphic of your face will print "I WANT TO BELIEVE" T-shirts, except that's an NCAA violation so I won't.
Now that's a headline. Conway, SC wide receiver Junior Hemingway has committed to Michigan. Someone peal the church bells. Informative update coming.
Informative Update: Hemingway first popped up on Michigan recruitniks' radar during last year's summer camp. As a rising junior, he blew the doors off -- most observers said that, like Mallet, he was clearly the best player at his position there despite not being a senior -- and was rumored to be a candidate for a signing day commit. Obviously, that didn't happen, but Michigan will take him any time he wants to say "I do." Hemingway had 52 catches for 846 yards and 10 touchdowns his junior year.
Recruiting services are split on just how good Hemingway is. Rivals and Scout have him ranked around the tail end of their top 100s. On Scout he's the last receiver in; on Rivals he's the first receiver out. ESPN, though, loves him. He's the #17 player in their top 150 and sounds like a slower version of Braylon Edwards in their scouting report ($):
He is exceptional tracking the ball while in the air and possesses rare body control and the ability to make acrobatic catches. ... Shows the ability to consistently gain separation and is a huge threat on the fade and vertical routes. ... He can extend for the ball away from his body. This is the trait that separates him from others in this class. If the ball is near him, he will catch it.
Scout's evaluation is similar:
A downfield leaper, Hemingway may not be the fastest player on the field but he certainly stretches it with his ability to go up for the grab. Great hands, catches everything...
His coach confirms that as "tremendous" is to Lloyd Carr, "leaper" is to Junior Hemingway:
"[Hemingway] has great concentration, great hands, great leaping ability, got good speed and has a good frame," Jordan said. "He's a triple jumper with a great vertical."
Speed concerns could be overblown, as he won the Smokehouse award during his '05 camp trip and reported a 4.58 electronic 40 -- equivalent to a 3.5 hand-timed or something.
WR recruiting is no longer an issue, though Michigan will continue to pursue Toney Clemons and a couple of Californians.