Update: Don't read this. Read this. I am full of fail.
Swearin! Keep the kids away!
I'm still trying to figure out whether or not this Black Heart, Gold Pants post is entirely in jest or not, because the options here are either 1) it's really poorly phrased satire or 2) it's epically dumb. Neither of these things are expected from BHGP, even if the guy writing the piece is the one who flung Hawaii in the top ten of BHGP's blogpoll ballot for most of the year. How did that work out? About as well as Jake Christensen oh snap.
I think I've settled on 2 with a side of 1 when it comes to the accusations of islamo-fascism. If there are any islamo-facists in this kerfuffle, they're the jihadists from Morgantown. So, then, I have been Called Out and it is time to Throw Down because when you Mess With The MGoBlog You Get The Virtual Horns.
Step to it. Fisk style.
For the record, we were cautiously terrified of Rich Rodriguez to Michigan. But we made that calculation back when we thought Rodriguez was a football coach and not, well, a sleazebag.
I'm sure there will be plenty of awesome reasons to back up this "sleazebag" assertion.
First, RichRod bolts out of Morgantown in the dead of night like the bastard stepson of Art Modell.
(All these links point to MGoBlog posts, btw.) Yes, in West Virginia "the dead of night" is somewhere between 7 and 9 PM. The entire state, wreathed in a deadly black cloud of coal dust, gets three hours of sunlight a day and generally resembles Mordor. The departure was so secretive that fatwa-bearing jihadists who, judging from their message board posts, take three hours to read a road sign were there to chant O-H-I-O at him and take blurry pictures to post at Fatwa Central.
This accusation boils down to "took the Michigan job... and decided to go to Michigan to do so."
Then RichRod goes on Jim Rome (yeah, I know) and slams Ryan Mallett because the kid had the audacity to consider transferring out of a system that relies on a running quarterback and is actively pursuing Terrelle Pryor.
This is the "slam" of Ryan Mallett contained within that post:
"I believe he's going to transfer," Rodriguez said. "He has not told me specifically and he's told other folks in the program. I talked to him a couple times, again, before the bowl game and once after the bowl game and gave him our spiel. But, again, if he chooses to leave, he's going to make a choice that's best for him, and we'll be OK."
"I talked to him and all the quarterbacks about how our system can adapt to the quarterback because we've had throwing quarterbacks in this system that have had great careers and gone on to the NFL and all that," Rodriguez said. "But I did it a couple times (with Mallett.) I recruited him once, I recruited him twice and after the third call, I'm thinking okay, three calls is enough for me. It's a great institution and if somebody doesn't want to be here that's already here, you wish them well and move on."
"He's going to make a choice that's best for him!" "If somebody doesn't want to be here that's already here, you wish him well and move on!" What an asshole!
Obviously something is seriously wrong with Iowa. If this qualifies as a "slam," Hawkeye State will keel over dead upon reading this post. We should probably just eject the state and all its testosterone-free girl-men into space, where they can suffocate like the prancing nancies they are.
Those moves really just make you a dick.
Indeed. Going to the place where you are employed and wishing a departing player well: total 100% dickitude.
But we aren't done; apparently, on his way out of Morgantown, RichRod did his best Arthur Andersen impersonation: [long excerpt from the WVU article highlighted yesterday excised]
This is specious to say the least. Recruiting and summer camp notes? Financial records? Booster rolls? Training schedules and results? The training notes are especially intriguing, given Michigan's new S&C coach and his love of "bioenergetics":
"The science of bioenergetics is the basis of our conditioning program. It's all designed scientifically to meet the end needs of an athlete who plays in a given position under Rich Rodriguez."
Sure thing, Victor Conte.
Bold words from a fan of a team that pumped Robert Gallery so full of testosterone you could shove him into Roger Clemens' ass. (They probably extracted it from the general public; this explains the fainting belles that comprise the rest of the state's purported male population.) And yes, it's "specious" if, in fact, the allegations are entirely true and not 90% made up by lunatic jihadists from the Black Lands. Which they so obviously are, you daiquiri-sipping pansy. Sure, there are no computers and no copies of these critical files. Sure, there's no backup system whatsoever. Sure, completely awesome head coach Bill Stewart who totally deserves the head coaching job has no idea how to "log up". Sure, all these ludicrously implausible things put forth by insane rednecks are obviously true.
While the rest of the football world gave a collective "Whawhawhaaaa?", MGoBlog,* not exactly a rock of journalistic integrity, spent most of the day on other Rich Rodriguez matters.
For the record, those links have between them 459 words of non-quote content, an average of 115 each. MGoBlog more than doubled that.
As for the shredding, Brian is curious but hardly worried:
Why would Rodriguez shred all this stuff?...Michigan fans: because he knew crazy WVU officials/FOIA-toting fans would go over the documents with a fine-toothed comb and attempt to nail him on every piddling recruiting violation like "called five minutes late."
Yeah, or he wanted to destroy all evidence of a continuing scheme under which Rodriguez would take booster (read: Arab oil) money, funnel those funds through tax-free municipal bonds, then send the now-clean cash to trainer Brian McNamee so WVU players could spend their offseasons getting "the Roger Clemens treatment."
You prick. You ballet-dancing, View-watching, Sara Jessica Parker-adoring skirt. I have been mostly joking in this post, but this is a complete misrepresentation of that portion of my post. Here it is in full:
Why would Rodriguez shred all this stuff? (Ohio State fans: because he's a dirty cheater covering his tracks. West Virginia fans: because his one goal in life is to destroy us. Michigan fans: because he knew crazy WVU officials/FOIA-toting fans would go over the documents with a fine-toothed comb and attempt to nail him on every piddling recruiting violation like "called five minutes late.")
What is obviously being communicated: different fanbases will leap to different conclusions because of their inhere
nt biases. What the snipped version communicates: MGoBlog is hopelessly biased.
We ... had the audacity to ... dick ... Arthur Andersen.
Whoops! Bad snippage. My bad. Although this obviously proves Black Heart, Gold Pants is gay for Arthur Andersen.
The kicker, IMO, is that the post is titled "You Can't Spell "Myopic" Without "Michigan Wolverine Football... Yup"; this aggression will not stand coming from a fan of a program who's coach makes six quintillion dollars a year but still places his kid -- already on football scholarship! -- in federally-subsidized low-income housing. Oh, and:
Ten percent of Ferentz's team was arrested for Serious Business this year, and the Hawkeyes have suffered a 44% attrition rate (hey, what do you know: a link that actually points to a post that says what you imply it says) since 2002. Myopic? Myopic? Look in the mirror. You'll see tears and smeared mascara, but only very vaguely because you have astigmatism all up in your ass.
Who's the dick now, dicks?
There isn't really an Illinois blog on the radar yet, but hey, Iowa just played them and we don't play Iowa this year so why don't we bring in Oops Pow Surprise from Black Heart, Gold Pants? Okay! Let's do it. O... P... S... go!
a request before we start
I'm not doing this nude.
Actual English with capitals and periods and stuff will make this much easier on me. Also please take your clothes off.
Fuck! Duly noted.
Okay. Prepare for the questioning.
After the Oregon game, Michigan fans looked at Juice Williams, said "fuck, mobile quarterback," and chalked up the Illinois game as a humiliating loss. Things seem different now, largely because a heretofore flailing Iowa team held Illinois to six points. How did the Hawkeyes stop the Illini?
Well, the victory was had in the game plan. Knowing that Juice Williams is a "quarterback" the way Crocs are real shoes--i.e., solely by a measure of classification and location, the Hawkeyes completely and utterly sold out against the option. Aside from glaringly obvious passing downs, there was always, always, always at least one man shadowing Juice, and another playing Mendenhall on the pitch. The results speak for themselves: 35 rushes for 137 yards. Normally, those numbers would be ho-hum for each side of the ball, but remember: Illinois simply cannot pass.
Is the Iowa run defense particularly well-disciplined or good this year? Iowa's offense hs been... uh... I can't even say Penn State-esque anymore. Thanks for nothing, Wisconsin. Suffice it to say, the Iowa offense has been eye-clawingly bad, but the defense could be significantly better than Michigan's occasionally dodgy linebackers. Yesno?
The Iowa defense has vacillated between nonpareil and pedestrian, usually leaning toward the former. Dodgy's a good word for the Michigan linebackers, and they're going to have to put forth their best tackling effort of the season. Rashard Mendenhall is a Man-denhall (sorry) [there can be no forgiveness for this -ed], and for a noodle-armed basket case, the Juice can run a keeper extremely well. The key is shutting the Illini down early and often; they were definitely missing their swagger by the second half last season, and it's a lot easier to defend an option when the quarterback is running it like a frightened rabbit.
Chris Graham, if left unblocked, can spear mofos like nobody's business... or overrun them and flail. It will be interesting. I heard that Iowa spent the day in a 4-3, ignoring the idea of a passing game despite facing a spread. Is this true?
To be fair, sir, both teams were ignoring the idea of an Illinois passing game. As for Graham, Crable, etc., they're going to have to make sure they don't, as your example would ably demonstrate, have their athleticism used against them. But at the same time, they can't play timid, either; Illinois' guys are going to make anyone miss from time to time.
But did Iowa spend the day in a 4-3? Yes, and usually spying instead of in the Cover 2 shell that Norm Parker has used as a security blanket for decades. It's radically audacious, and Illinois' response--or more accurately, lack thereof--is about what you would expect from a head coach who brings checkers to a chess tournament.
Also to be fair, it's not clear that Zook can do anything except order his quarterbacks to throw interceptions. Speaking of interceptions: is Illinois backup SomethingSomething McGee any different than Juice?
Before we go any further with this question, I hope to God their backup QB somehow acquires the nickname "Tits." I don't care how.
Working on it. My Iowa preview last year was titled "Show Me Your Tates," so I am a kindred spirit.
What's striking about the Illinois quarterback situation is that for as physically talented as Juice is, there seem to be two undeniable truths:
1) He is at a point in a quarterback's maturation process that would keep him buried on most depth charts;
2) His coach does not seem remotely capable of remedying that fact.
Have you seen any marked improvement in Juice's game as a passer? He's completing all of 55% of his passes these days, which is better than 39% the way that herpes is
better than cancer.
Also, it seems that whenever McGee comes into the game, Zook all but scraps the option and lets the kid start throwing the ball, which he's not too bad at doing. Is it at all healthy for Williams, as a true sophomore, to already see his PT cut in order to give a freshman below him some snaps? Probably not. But that's the Zooker for you.
I would be careful... for one, Zook might hunt you down and crush your trachea. For two, all he has to do at Illinois is go 8-4 most years and he'll get a statue. I am betting on long term success for Zook. Which might be insane, but there it is.
I'm betting--nay, praying--for an Uncle Glen-like level of success from the Zooker. Which, really, would probably earn him a statue.
Anyway, on to the other side of the ball.
Ten points isn't a lot, but remember the eye-clawing thing. Any particular weaknesses in the Illinois defense? The stats seem to imply they have potentially major secondary issues but are stout against the run and tend to roll up a lot of sacks. Have a scouting report?
Keep in mind that I've only watched them against Iowa and Wisconsin, so please, please, consider the context.
Context locked in.
Oh, and a quarter against Missouri.
Context radically reconfigured.
The defense looked surprisingly decent. You're exactly right about their front seven. Their line is decent, but not of the type that Michigan would need to start slowing them down with counters or cutbacks.
Their line's strength isn't in the plays made, but rather a pretty impressive ability to tie up blockers and let the linebackers and secondary make plays.
That's really interesting vis a vis the Michigan run game, which often flat refuses to double linemen, instead allowing sometimes-overmatched center Justin Boren to get driven into the backfield rather than sacrifice the ability to get out on a linebacker.
And yes, the J Leman picture.
Tying up blockers is not something that results in a lot of sacks, which they have. Did you see much of a pass rush from them? How did the hold Iowa to only ten points?
If the line play is as uninspired as Wisconsin's, that will lead to trouble. Even with a long run in the second half, he didn't even sniff 100 yards.
They do get sacks, usually by opening up blitzes from all over the place. And they've got some ends that'll pin their ears back on 3rd and long.
As far as holding Iowa to 10, that's no great feat, of course. That said, they were especially aided by an Iowa turnover on the Illini 10 in the fourth quarter. The defensive effort was nothing remarkable, overall; Iowa accumulated 323 yards (which, adjusted for Michigan, is well over 700) and ran for about 150 of them. They're solid, don't get me wrong. This isn't the Orange Crushed from a few years ago. But there'll be holes in their zone when they start bringing heat on 3rd downs.
Oh, it should also be noted that Iowa did attempt two fourth-down conversions in the first quarter from Illinois territory and missed on both. So the 10 points are misleading next to 21 first downs and 10-17 3rd down conversions.
And the Penn State game was drive after drive into Illinois territory followed by horrible Morelli fumble/interception.
So... a prediction?
It's tough to call. How flexible are Michigan's defensive schemes from week to week?
Or in other words, how likely are they to repeat the mistakes of whatever euphemism you've given Week 1?
Chosen euphemism: "The Horror."
Michigan's defense has improved significantly. DE/DT Brandon Graham returned from injury or suspension to become a terror; Johnny Sears was replaced with Donovan Warren, and Stevie Brown got benched for Brandent Englemon. Each new player is vastly outperforming their counterparts.
The scheme is not likely to change. Michigan will go with a nickel, though there might be significantly more of the 3-3-5 look they brought out against Purdue to let Crable get out on the edge.
Michigan has always had problems with option attacks but has also crushed one-dimensional offenses. It's hard to know what will happen.
I've noticed that, and I'm secretly hoping to see Michigan go 8-0 in the Big Ten, being that it A) would not affect Iowa in the slightest, and B) would probably cause Kirk Herbstreit's head to melt.
I wonder what Kirk thinks about "Penn State, Big Ten champs! Anthony Morelli superfantastic!" now.
You know he's absolutely dreading the highlight package that he has to narrate while saying things like, "Morelli has really come into his own as a leader," and with a straight face.
Anyway, for the sake of putting a number out there, Illinois is playing in front of their fans, and at night to boot. Just about anything can happen. But I'm tempted to think that this Michigan team can run on Illinois well enough to control the pace of the game. My score prediction, which has a 99.3% chance of being wrong, is 24-19 Michigan.
Excellent. ONE OF US. ONE OF US.
What's the line on the game, anyway?
Michigan by 3. [this has moved to Illinois by one or a pick 'em, actually. -ed]
After these last two seasons, it would only happen if the Michigan athletic department wanted to conduct a sick sociological experiment to see if they could make the Ann Arbor townfolk march on the athletic complex with torches and pitchforks.
Past that, I don't think Ferentz would want to do that to Iowa.
Everyone says that Mary Sue and Captain Kirk are BFFs, but I agree with your assessment.
Isn't another kid of his showing up this fall?
James. And he's reportedly better than Brian was. Now, unless there's an upgrade at offensive line coach, that likely won't matter one whit, but supposedly the kid can play.
Thanks again to OPS of BHGP. And J Leman.
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.