10 Questions at the Break

1)What is the deal with this Ohio State team?

Okay, I started with the toughest question.  First off, the parity thing is not just an excuse.  Smaller schools are beating top 25 schools every week.  It is getting more like the NFL where bottom tier teams can upset top tier teams any week.  Well, maybe not that much parity, but there is more and more talent to spread around 117 Division 1-A teams.  Secondly, as long as Jim Tressel has an outstanding defense and his offense is turning the ball over twice per game, he will not take any chances.  With Tressel not taking chances, you will continue to see close games, but close games that OSU has little chance of losing (see San Diego State and Bowling Green.)  You will continue to see more games where the Buckeyes have 17 point leads and a +100 edge in total yards turn into 7 point wins with the Buckeyes losing the total yardage battle.  It's going to continue to drive us fans crazy, but don't be surprised if the W's keep piling up.  

2)Can this offense get back on track?

Let's face it; this offense does not appear that it will reach the level many, including myself, thought it would this year.  I predicted that this team would dominate opponents much more this season than it did last year.  Well, it hasn't happened.  This team did dominate Washington in the opener, but has not been able to click since.  Why?  (A) Krenzel has not looked his best.  (B) The run blocking has been atrocious.  (C) The tailbacks have not stepped up.  (D) The big plays have not been there.  Back to the original questioncan this unit get back on track?  Well, it can get a lot better, but I am not sure you will see a 40-point output in any of the remaining games including Indiana.  The hope now is to start getting 4+ yards per carry out of the tailbacks.  That is not too much to ask for.  The offensive line has plenty of talent and you will see several of these guys in the NFL in the future.  Craig Krenzel can play a lot better.  Chris Gamble could possibly spark this offense.  This unit needs something to get excited about.  Maurice Clarett used to fire up this offense.  Someone else needs to take Clarett's place as the main offensive spark plug.  Bottom line, I think you will see some improvement, but not the amount most fans will be satisfied with.

3)Will Maurice Clarett be back next year?

This is a tough call, but I am guessing that he will not be.  I always thought that this NFL underclassmen rule would eventually be brought down by litigation, but I thought it would be some time before it happened.  Well, now you have the perfect situation for it to fall: An extremely talented player has eligibility issues and has nothing to lose by fighting the NFL.  I may be wrong, but I'm guessing that Clarett will be eligible for the 2004 NFL draft.

4)Does this team really have a shot of playing for the title in this year's Sugar Bowl?

Yes.  Call me naïve, but there is a lot more than just luck that has helped Ohio State win all of these close games.  (More on this in the reply to question #7.)  This team knows how to win and it would not surprise me to see them win out.  Of course, it wouldn't surprise me to see them lose a game either.  I would be somewhat surprised to see them lose twice and would be shocked to see them lose three or more.  Tressel teams traditionally get better as the season goes on.

5)Will Chris Gamble be back next year?

Sorry to be the pessimist here, but I'm guessing that he won't be.  Gamble has said before that he will stay and get his degree, but money talks in a big way.  I may be wrong, but I wouldn't put my money on Gamble sticking around.

6)What is the 2004 recruiting class going to look like come signing day?

Outstanding.  The OSU coaches are cleaning up in Ohio.  In fact, when it is all said and done, you may find that the coaches landed every player in Ohio that they wanted.  

The top 10 prospects, in my opinion, in the state right now are: 1) Ted Ginn Jr., CB, Cleveland Glenville; 2) Fred Davis, WR, Toledo Rogers; 3) Marcus Freeman, LB, Huber Heights Wayne; 4) Ben Person, OL, Xenia, 5) Chad Hoobler, LB/TE, Carrollton; 6) Erik Haw, RB/ATH, Columbus Independence; 7) Mike Massey, DE, Cleveland St. Ignatius; 8) Brian Hoyer, QB, Cleveland St. Ignatius; 9) Miles Williams, WR, Youngstown Austintown Fitch; 10) Antonio Pittman, RB, Akron Buchtel.  

Ohio State already has verbals from 6 of these guys (Freeman, Person, Hoobler, Haw, Williams and Pittman) with Ginn and Davis thought to be locks for OSU.  That leaves Massey who OSU has a very legitimate shot at landing and Hoobler who committed to MSU after he did not get an OSU offer.  OSU has four other verbals from Ohio that the coaches obviously felt were top 15-type prospects in the state and a potential steal in Jon Skinner, an offensive lineman from PA that has come back strong from what was thought to be a serious injury.  OSU has decent to good shots with some out-of-state blue-chippers like OL/DL Kyle Mitchum, OL Brett Gallimore, OL Jacky Claude, Center Jeff Byers, QB/ATH Xavier Lee, and Safety Devon Lyons.  Bottom line, this should be a top 5 national class with OSU addressing their needs nicely.

7)Is Jim Tressel some kind of genius or does luck just follow the guy?

I think that Tressel is far from an offensive genius but more than makes up with this shortcoming with extraordinary knowledge in other areas like player relationships, "seeing the big picture", special teams, prioritization, and "knowing how to win".  Has Ohio State had their share of breaks the past year and a half?  Absolutely.  But it is no coincidence that Ohio State wins many games while losing the total yardage battle.  Coach Tressel firmly believes in the saying that "statistics are for losers."  You can nitpick this and that, but the bottom line is Jim Tressel has won five national championships and is currently riding a 19-game winning streak.  If you think that luck has outweighed coaching expertise during this run and in winning five championships, I say, "You're crazy."    

8)Is this year's defense as good as last year's?

It's getting there.  Let's remember that this defense showed sparks early last year and then became completely dominant in the second half of the year.  That may very well happen again.  A lot of the talented but green youngsters have gotten quality playing time the past couple games and should be ready to play a bigger role if needed to in the second half of the year.  The D-line is outstanding, the LB's have been very good and the defensive backfield is pretty darn good.  This unit will not give up many points from here on out.

9)Who should Ohio State worry most about in regards to remaining opponents?

In order, I'll say: 1) Michigan, 2a) Iowa, 2b) Purdue, 4) Wisconsin, 5) Penn State, 6) Michigan State, 7) Indiana.  Michigan is a no-brainer, despite their two losses.  That is likely the only game OSU will be underdogs in the rest of the way and I expect that one to be your typical low scoring dog fight.  Iowa is an extremely well coached football team that is capable of winning in the 'Shoe, in my opinion.  This is the most talent Purdue has had in some time.  Wisconsin could be tight, but I like the Bucks on astroturf at a venue that has been very kind to them lately.  PSU will be up for the Bucks, despite the fact that they are mediocre at best.  MSU is hot, but I don't see them winning at Ohio State.  Indiana should not be a problem.  

10)Which players have exceeded expectations (so far) and which have not lived up to expectations?

Exceeders: 

Drew Carter - speed makes him tough to handle
BJ Sander - Finally has come of age
Bobby Carpenter -  How many backup LB's are as good as this guy?
Will Allen - Reached stardom status
Nate Salley - Always around the ball
Mike Nugent - Answered any and all questions
Rob Reynolds - Has taken game to a higher level
Brandon Mitchell - Redshirt frosh is solid part-timer

Shortcomers: 

Santonio Holmes - Spring and August star has yet to make an impact
Lydell Ross - Nagging injuries again; less than 4 yards per carry again
Maurice Hall - Still hasn't shown he can play TB at this level
Mike D'Andrea - Learning process still appears to be a slow one
Shane Olivea - Very poor senior year, all-around.
Rob Sims - Has not progresses as far as many had hoped
Bryce Bishop - May be out of a starting job soon
Craig Krenzel - Still a winner, but has not thrown the ball nearly as well as he did in '02
O-Zone has reported that Dustin Fox and Richard McNutt will be the starters at corner in the Outback Bowl.  Fox apparently has impressed the coaches in December practices.  Also, Craig Krenzel will indeed start at QB, but Coach Tressel says that Bellisari will play early.



Posted on Sun, Jan. 05, 2003
​Miami Herald
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EDWIN POPE
Fans need to laud Canes, not lament

TEMPE, Ariz. - It's all right to mourn defeat, which is as much the spirit of college football as celebrating victory. Just remember the Miami Hurricanes' loss in the Fiesta Bowl was just that. Loss. Not death.

Yes, Ohio State ended Miami's fantabulous winning streak.

Yes, it hurt.

But all South Florida and every Canes follower should be holding heads high and cheering the University of Miami instead of weeping over this inevitable termination of UM's 34-game string.

I'm not about to sour-grape out, either, on that late interference call that did so much to put Ohio State up to stay, 31-24, in boggling double-overtime.

Down deep, I don't believe penalties on violations either non-existent or, at best, marginal, should be called at such a critical time. But that was only one of hundreds of plays in the best college football game ever played.

Miami had plenty of other chances. It's your own fault if you put yourself at the mercy of one zebra on a single play.

At the end of this wild and Buckeye-wonderful night, Ohio State had outplayed Miami.

The Buckeyes deserve No. 1. The Canes deserve huzzahs that can be heard all the way to Columbus for running up such a splendiferous streak in the first place.

Better to lose to a team tough as sandhogs in a classic than to have blown one of those far lesser regular-season games against Florida State or Tennessee or even Rutgers, for heaven's sake.

It took a world of talent to get to the place UM reached in front of all the football world.

A world of heart, too.

This doesn't say OSU intrinsically possesses either more talent or more heart than UM.

Friday night, though, it did.

I don't pretend to be objective about Miami football. Generally speaking, objectivity is the biggest myth in journalism. Specifically speaking, I can't spend 46 years around a team and not hurt when it hurts.

I feel worse about that possibly grievous injury to Willis McGahee than about the defeat. Only one man, sure, but it's one man standing on the
verge of fame and millions of National Football League dollars, and
heaven knows how that injury will play out either short-term or long-term.

McGahee wept on Miami's sideline the last part of the game, not for
himself but for his team.

Ken Dorsey wept in his mother's arms afterward, not for himself but for the teammates he probably believes he let down.

He didn't let them down. Miami's offensive line couldn't handle Ohio
State's defensive line. One of Dorsey's two interceptions was simply a
bad break, skidding off Andre Johnson's fingers. Dorsey's fumble, one of three by the Hurricanes, was caused by a starburst of Ohio State helmets right in his face.

And then, when Dorsey took such a lick he had to leave for one play in the second overtime, he was helmet-hammered so hard he barely knew his name.

That and much else made this look more like a championship prize fight
than a football game. Mean, yet clean. It roared in like a football-style
replay of those brutal Tony Zale-Rocky Graziano fights.

Too bad we are going to have to listen to so many excuses from fans about that interference call against Miami, as though it were the entire game instead of one play.

Worse that McGahee had to go down hurt so badly that his football future could be doubtful.

Yet, I dare you to find a greater football game, or a greater effort against heavy odds than the Buckeyes pitched against the Hurricanes on the field that seems to haunt Miami.

Imagine. OSU completed exactly five passes in regulation -- spookily, the same number Penn State did in upsetting Miami in the '87 Fiesta Bowl right here.

Imagine. The Canes committed five turnovers -- after committing seven in that game 16 years ago, a game that, like this, snatched the title of titles away from Miami.

''I think Ohio State deserved to win,'' said Kellen Winslow Jr., the Miami tight end who is even a better college player than his Pro Football Hall of Fame father was.

Ohio State did. And it still takes nothing from the glory of the Hurricanes' absurdly magnificent unbeaten streak of 34, or Larry Coker's
historic 24-0 start as a head coach, or Ken Dorsey's 38-1 record until
Friday night.

This isn't politics, or war.

It's football.

It calls for sportsmanship, for class, and perhaps the finest thing of all that came out of this game was the sportsmanship, the classiness, the absence of cheap shots and trash-talking.

Call it the greatest of all college games.

Call it sad, for it was all of that for Miami.

But don't cheapen what the Buckeyes did by calling it robbery.

It was too magnificent a game to be soiled in any such way.

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