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The Big Ten is Back

By Jeremy Published: August 26, 2010

It's been a 4 or 5 year, well-deserved media and hater onslaught, and Ohio State's two National Championship losses sit at the center of the 'contraversy'. That doesn't mean the negative press hasn't taken it a little bit too far from time to time. The BigTen has been down by nearly everyone's standards, but the conference planted their spikes and took a huge step forward last season with their first winning Bowl record since 2002. The BigTen is back. There's no denying it.
Iowa dismantled Georgia Tech's offense in the Orange Bowl; holding them to 152 total yards. That was 76 yards less than the Jackets second lowest output(228@Miami,Fla).
The Hawkeyes return 8 starters on defense including four All-BigTen defensive lineman. Among them is First Team All-American candidate Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn, Karl 'the Plug' Klug, Christian Ballard, and Broderick 'dump-you-in-the-trash' Binns comprise one of(if not) the best defensive line(s) in the entire country. Iowa and Florida have the best DL's in college football in 2010. Iowa only allowed one team to rush for 200 yards in 2009(OSU/229), and they ranked first in the conference in pass-defense.
If the line wasn't disruptive enough - they have 2 of the best safeties in division-1. SS Tyler Sash and FS Brent Greenwood are head-hunters with coverage skills.
The OL is rebuilding, but Kirk Ferentz always seems to put together a solid front. Sr. Qb Ricky Stanzi has 22 starts(19 wins), and a solid group of running backs. So. Brandon Wegher may not play this season due to off-the-field issues, but Adam Robinson and Jewel Hampton give the Hawkeyes two quality options in the backfield.
Iowa finished 2009 at 11-2, and returns 14 starters - including nearly all of their statistical leaders.
The Wisconsin Badgers had a field-day against the Miami Hurricanes in the Champ Sports Bowl. The Badgers put up 430 yards of offense - which was the second highest total that Miami surrendered all year. The scoreboard showed just 20-14, but in the trenches the game looked like a mismatch.
Wisconsin could have the best offensive-line in all of college football. They paved the way for over 200 rush yards per game and gave quarterback Scott Tolzein all the time in the world to complete 65% of his passes. Tackle-to-tackle the Bah-jers offensive-line averages a fit 6'6" 323, and has exactly 100 career starts in the two-deep.
Wisconsin has 16 returning starters(10 on offense). Tailback John Clay(6'1" 250) was the BigTen Offensive Player of the Year in 2009, and is essentially the wrecking ball behind the John Deere tractor that is the Badger offensive line.
Wisconsin's schedule is favorable. Look for the Badgers to improve upon last years 10-win total, and to be a tough match-up for any team in a bowl game. Many of the naysayers are pointing to the defensive-line. It's obvious that they haven't paid much attention to the absolute physical freak that is defensive-end J.J. Watt(6'6" 290). Two years from now that guy will be standing behind the podium with a gigantic signing bonus. Watt is as good as the more highly publicized DE's in the BigTen(Clayborn, Heyward, Kerrigan).
Ohio State temporarily shook the monkey by beating Oregon in the Rose Bowl 26-17.
The Buckeyes are ranked #2 in the pre-season AP poll because of the way they finished the 2009 season, and because of the talent they have returning on both sides of the ball.
The Buckeyes went 11-2 dropping a game in week 2 against USC(15-18), and then turning-over their way to a loss against Purdue in Lafayette 18-26. They won their last 6 ball-games by hunkering down behind a monster offensive-line.
Terrelle Pryor wasn't asked to do too much down that stretch, but his confidence and his decision-making looked much improved. After being responsible for 4 turnovers against the Boilermakers - Pryor turned the ball over just three times in the final six games. From a scouting standpoint; his footwork, his delivery, and his ball security improved drastically toward the end of last season. The Rose Bowl performance could be less of a one-hit wonder, and more of a remix in 2010. Terrelle has looked like a different quarterback in every scrimmage and drill this off-season. He has matured physically and mentally. 'The Kid' is no longer a kid, and he's also a legitimate Heisman Candidate.
Pat Fitzgerald will be the next 'big-thing' in coaching. He's assembled a band of over-looked recruits, and turned them into a team that competes in a bowl game against the standard for passing the 'eye-test':Auburn. Physically, one wouldn't expect Northwestern to be able to compete with a team like Auburn, but Fitzgerald's band of smart but feral cats are dangerous and feisty. Pat has a connection with the players, and his pride and enthusiasm for his program may be unmatched. It might not be the most popular thing to say, and I know that Auburn wasn't the best team in the SEC, but to me Northwestern was cleary the better football team in the Outback Bowl. Mike Kafka's five interceptions, and a couple of ill-timed penalties(only had three, but all of them came late) cost the Cats and the BigTen another victory.
Fitzgerald has taken to coaching like a whore in Amsterdam. The Wildcat offense is unpredictable, and quick. The former Northwestern middle-linebacker consistently fields a tough defense. Northwestern held Iowa to 65 yards rushing, and four other opponents to less than 100.
Northwestern finished the season 8-5 and should continue to improve this season. They break in a new quarterback, but he has experience. Dan Persa could be a breakout player in 2010 because of his accuracy, and his ability to run the ball. Persa can easily outrun the average division-1 linebacker. I'd like to see this team play a tougher schedule. 10 wins is within reach.
There's no clear cellar-dwellar like you'll find in many other BCS conferences. Illinois, Minnesota, and Indiana will all vie for that dubious position this fall.
Rich Rodriguez is on the hot-seat in Ann Arbor. I think he needs either 8 wins, or 7 wins and a win against Ohio State to keep his job. The good news(for BigTen fans) is that Michigan will be much improved in 2010. This is the best O-line in RIch-Rod's tenure, and expect the defensive line to improve as well.
DL Mike Martin is one of the strongest players in the country. His strength at the point of attack often requires a double-team, and even then he's a handful.
Rodriguez will need to improve upon a last place conference finish in rush-defense. The Wolverines are too talented on the d-line to continue with that trend. A coach known for his offensive prowess will rely on improvement defensively if he wants to stay in town.
It will take time for Penn State's rebuilt offense to gel. Joe Paterno may have to stick around for at least another year if he wants to go out with a 10-win season. Penn State will field a strong defense despite the losses of O'Drick and a host of star linebackers. After all, it's still linebacker-U.
The Big Ten has three teams deservedly ranked in the top 15 in the pre-season AP poll. I wouldn't hold my breath if you're waiting for some of those teams to fall by the wayside. Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State could actually be underrated. In my opinion, you can take those three and put them with Nebraska, Florida, and Alabama(in any order), and you have a pretty strong/realistic top 6. I guess you can throw Boise in there if the Broncos take care of business against VaTech and Oregon State, but I'm not sold on the Blue-Man-Group just yet.
The BigTen is not a one team conference. There are three legitimate title contenders in there, and a solid nucleus of other potential top 25 teams(PSU, NW, MSU,Mich).
Be careful not to make too many early assumptions in 2010. Minnesota will struggle against a favored and under-rated MTSU team in the opener, and I don't think that Penn State stands much of a chance at Alabama in week 2. I have the Nittany Lions finishing 4rth or 5th in the BigTen pending on Michigan's improvement, and Minnesota is rebuilding.
I'm not sure who wins this conference in 2010(predictions below), but the top three teams are capable of beating any team in the country, and the middle-tier is as strong as it has been in years.
Predictions: 11.Indiana - great offense, god-awful D 10.Minnesota - see above 9.Illinois - the illini just have more talent on the roster than the previous two 8.Purdue - lots of questions on offense, but the addition of Marve helps - the d should be pretty good 7.Michigan State - lots of talent at WR and QB, but both lines need to improve - they have the athletes to compete week-in week-out 6.Northwestern - a technique sound football team with a great coach - the new Qb is a defensive coordinators' nightmare 5.Penn State - qb questions, rebuilt OL, good D, great Rb 4.Michigan - will improve in all areas, but those first two games are still tough(UConn and @ND) 3.Iowa - Big upgrade from #4 to #3. Iowa's D is definitely elite caliber. Very, very stingy. 2.Wisconsin - under-rated defense and perhaps the best OL in the country 1.Ohio State - great OL, talented qb, and strong D
Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Candidates: 5.Kirk Cousins - Qb Michigan State 4.Tandon Doss -Wr Indiana 3.Evan Royster - Rb Penn State 2.John Clay - Rb Wisconsin 1.Terrelle Pryor - Qb Ohio State
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Candidates: 5tie. Ross Homan Lb Ohio State, Ryan Kerrigan DE Purdue 4.J.J. Watt - DL Wisconsin 3.Cameron Heyward - DE Ohio State 2.Adrian Clayborn - DE Iowa 1.Greg Jones - Lb Michigan State
Newcomer of the Year: 3.Jake Stoneburner - TE Ohio State 2.Robert Marve - Qb Purdue 1.Dan Persa - Qb Northwestern
Key OOC games: 9-4-10 Purdue @ Notre Dame 9-4-10 UConn @ Michigan 9-11-10 Miami.Fla @ Ohio State 9-11-10 PSU @ Alabama 9-11-10 Michigan @ Notre Dame 9-18-10 USC @ Minnesota 9-18-10 Iowa @ Arizona 9-18-10 Wisconsin @ Arizona State 9-18-10 Notre Dame @ Michigan State
Key IN-conference games: 10-2-10 Penn State @ Iowa 10-16-10 Ohio State @ Wisconsin 10-16 Iowa @ Michigan 10-23-10 Wisconsin @ Iowa 11-20-10 Ohio State @ Iowa 11-20-10 Wisconsin @ Michigan 11-27-10 Michigan @ Ohio State

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Lack of Depth on DL Opens Door for Freshmen

By Jeremy Published: August 17, 2010

Nathan Williams was injured in the Ohio State scrimmage over the weekend. For OSU, an injury to a starting defensive lineman is like a kick to the jewels.
Ohio State lost most of their DL rotation from last season. DT Doug Worthington, DT Todd Denlinger, DE's Robert Rose, Thadeous Gibson, and Lawrence Wilson; are all gone.
Initially, there wasn't much concern amongst Buckeye fans because of All-American candidate Cameron Heyward's decision to return for his senior season. His counterpart Nathan Williams is a high-motor sack artist.
Williams is a 6'4" 255 DE that can move. He ran the 100m for his HS track team. Williams is about as talented a new DL starter as you'll find anywhere in the country. If there is one that would compare - it's OSU's new starter at DT, John Simon.
Simon is only 6'2" 270, but he's another high-motor guy. Simon might be the strongest Buckeye since Mike Kudla(565 Bench). It is truly a rare occurrence to see someone as strong and as big as Simon running sideline to sideline with such speed and tenacity. Vegas odds on John Simon hurting someone this season are 1:5, and I'm laying that bet. John might be the hardest working guy in the biz. You better latch onto the guy if you take him down because this guy is going to get back up running at a thousand miles-an-hour, and make the play from the backside. This is a mean, nasty, hard-working DT. Johnny Simon will be a superstar before he leaves Ohio State - write that down with confidence.
The other starter at DT will be Dexter Larimore. Larimore(6'2" 305) would have seen as much time as Worthington and Denlinger last season, but his contribution fell because of an early season knee sprain - the same injury suffered by Williams on Saturday.
Ohio State fans know that the four slated starters make-up one of the best starting DL's in the entire country. The problem with this years DL; there is no depth. Right now, it appears as if the second unit could feature a junior(who has barely seen the field), a true freshman, and two redshirt freshman.
Now, let's not act like Ohio State doesn't recruit well. These young guys have talent, but they don't have any experience at the college level.
In through the door walks 'Big Hank' - wait, he didn't fit.
Johnathon Hankins is 6'3" 335. Hankins' is OSU's young Terrance Cody. He's what the fans have been crying for; a huge defensive tackle with fast reflexes, and quick feet. Originally, the fans and coaches may have expected 'Big Hank' to redshirt. Maybe it's the fact that they don't want to move Heyward down, maybe it's the fact that DT Garrett Goebel isn't looking any better than he did last year, or maybe it's the fact that size in the middle is a concern, but Big Hank's stock is rising quickly.
A month ago the depth chart would have shown rFr. Adam Bellamy(6'4" 300) and Garrett Goebel(6'2" 280) as the back-ups at DT. Right now, it appears as if 'Big Hank' could break into a second-string role - perhaps at the expense of Goebel. Size at the point of attack becomes an even bigger issue when your starting MLB is 5'10" 225.
There are other concerns.
Once upon a time in Columbus; DE was thought to be a land of riches. Ohio State didn't just lose Rose, Gibson, and Wilson. Highly touted DE recruit Jamel Turner was shot twice over the summer. He may never play football again. Georgia Sophmore DE Keith Wells transferred due to a lack of playing time - little did he know. In the past, Ohio State would just move Heyward down to tackle, but with depth issues at DE, Ohio State may be less likely to entertain that option this season.
So. DE Solomon Thomas could get the start against Marshall if Williams is unable to go in the opener.
Cleveland Glenville product Jonathon Newsome will play some at the Leo position. Leo is a hybrid DE position that can place the DE in a 3-point stance, but is usually reserved for 2-point. Newsome is an undersized DE(6'2" 215) that OSU may be looking at moving to OLB.
THe fact remains that Nathan Williams is clearly the number one weakside DE, and no other player will offer the same athleticism for his size.
Ohio State fans can only hope that Williams will be ready to go against the Hurricanes on September 11th. The Buckeyes could be in some trouble if Williams is out in that game. He's probably Ohio State's best pass rusher, and the loss would allow Jacory Harris more time in the pocket to hit his talented receivers.
Redshirt freshman DE Melvin Fellows(6'6" 260) will see loads of time this season. He might have seen time as a true frosh if not for an injury. Fellows has an amazing wingspan, and made huge strides in the weight-room this off-season. Barring injury, Fellows and Thomas will see time in every game this season.
We won't know how good this defense will be until we see how some of these young guys perform. The starters are fantastic, but in football you need depth to overcome injury and fatigue.

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Starting Spots Up for Grabs / An Early Depth Chart

By Jeremy Published: August 13, 2010

The Ohio State opener is less than three weeks away.
Not many teams have as much media coverage as Ohio State. Finding new information can be tedious. Now, we've had enough practices to build upon our pre-season speculations. We are finally starting to see what this team might look like against Marshall.
Most of the starters had been penciled-in before the start of camp. There won't be too many surprises with 15 returning starters back.
Here's some things we've seen in camp:
Mike Adams is stepping-up, and has taken a lead on Andy Miller for the starting LT spot. Adams looks good. He's in good shape. Talent has never been the issue. He's 6'7" 308, and he moves great for a big man. I think we're finally going to see the #1 OL recruit that we were expecting two years ago. Adams has received a lot of negative press. He looks determined to regain his form, and his spot in the starting line-up. Adams has first-team BigTen potential if he plays hard and stays healthy. The road-grater is back.
Etienne Sabino is going to have his hands full with Andrew Sweat. Nobody was mentioning Sweat when talking about the new starting OLB, but the Pennsylvania native is a hard-working, viable option. Sweat saw more time at OLB in '09 than Sabino. Etienne(6'4" 240) was a monster on special teams, but Sweat(6'2" 236) has more experience. Sabino has more raw talent, but Sweat is an extremely smart and coachable player. The open OLB spot is more of a question-mark than the LT spot at this early point in camp.
Jaamal Berry is electric. Saine has top-end speed and more power than you would expect. Herron has great vision, and good quickness. Berry has the 'it' factor. He's explosive. He's shifty. He's slippery. He's impossible to tackle one-on-one in space. Jaamal Berry will play early and often. There is a pecking order so-to-speak with Saine and Herron back. My thought is that Berry gets some early action, and ends up getting nearly as many carries as Herron towards the end of the season because of his production. I expect Berry to get about 70-80 carries this season, and I wouldn't be surprised if he turned them into 400+ yards. Those carries will likely come at Herron's expense. Look for Saine and Berry to be the opening day kick-off returnmen.
I don't think Carlos Hyde will get too many carries this season. He'll get some mop-up duty, and some short-yardage carries. I would be surprised to see him top 150 yards for the season. It will be hard for the freshman to get much action with Hall and Herron already losing carries to the upstart Berry.
OLB isn't the only position where the fans jumped the gun. The speculation was Orhian Johnson, Jermale Hines, and Tyler Moeller at the safety and nickle spots.. RIght now, Hines and Johnson are virtual locks.. CJ Barnett, Jamie Wood, Nate Oliver, and in particular Senior Aaron Gant want something to say about that Nickle spot. At this point, I would say that Gant and Moeller are a dead-heat for the Star/Nickle spot. Orhian Johnson is the man at Free right now, but we were saying that about Nick Patterson a couple years ago. Orhian will likely start, but he's only a couple of blown coverages from giving one of those other guys a serious look. On the other side of the coin, athletically, Orhian Johnson is as gifted a safety as we've had in sometime. OJ is rangy and fast. Moeller is obviously a fan-favorite. We just don't know at this point if he will be the first DB off the bench in nickle situations. Let us not forget that Moeller has never been a full-time starter. He's coming off of an emotional injury, as well as a physical one.
John Simon is the kind of guy that you love and hate at practice. You love him because of his effort, but you hate him because he smacks you in the mouth on every play. To this point, Simon is consistently pushing the offensive linemen into the backfield, and he's doing it with some extremely bad intentions. Boren may be the only guy that can stand Simon up at the point of attack. Let's just hope the guy doesn't hurt anybody on the offense before the opener.
All the fans want to hear about the freshmen. David Durham looks like a young Bobby Carpenter both on the field and in person. Ty Williams is definately a freak at 6'6" 210, but he has some major hurdles to overcome with his route running, and his grasp of the system. The true frosh that stands the best chance at playing could be Corey Brown(philly brown as the players refer to him). Brown is extremely fast. Let's just say he basically replaces Lamaar Thomas, and has more upside as he's a little bigger/stronger than the departed flash. Corey Brown and Carlos Hyde may be the only two frosh to see significant playing time in 2010. The wildcard is David Durham. He's shown far more athleticism than his recruiting ranking suggested.
All the young receivers(Williams, Jackson, Brown, Louis) are taking a back seat to Seniors Grant Schwartz and Taurian Washington. Swartz, Washington, and rFr. Chris Fields are all vying for the third receiver spot. Washington is running with the one's in most of the three-receiver sets at this point, but Schwartz and Fields are getting reps too. I expect Washington to secure this spot with his knowledge of the system and his physical attributes. He's worked on his hands. I think Fields and Schwartz will get some reps if Taurian drops some early passes.
Some other players to watch out for are Melvin Fellows, Garret Goebel, and Adam Bellamy. Bellamy and Goebel are locks for the 2nd string DT spots(Hankins will RS). Fellows is a lock for the first DE behind starters Heyward and Williams. All of those players could get increased time just by performing well early. You have to give the line some breathers. Goebel, Bellamy, and Fellows will be the players that provide that.
so here's your depth chart 10 days into camp....(if I use lower-case a and b it means we have a dead-heat)
QB 1.Pryor 2a. Bauserman 2b.Guiton 4a.Seims 4b. Graham RB 1.Saine 2.Herron 3.Berry 4.Hall 5.Hyde FB 1.Boren 2.Homan 3.Georgiades WR 1.Posey 2.Sanzenbacher 3.Washington 4.Swartz 5.Fields 6.Brown 7.Jackson 8a. Williams 8b. Louis RT 1.Shugarts 2.Hall RG 1.Browning 2.Mewhort C 1.Brewster 2.Linsley LG 1.Boren 2a. Smith 2b. Mewhort LT 1.Adams 2.Miller 3.Hall TE 1.Stoneburner 2.Fragel 3.Smith
FS 1.Johnson 2.Barnett 3. Domicone SS 1.Hines 2.Aaron Gant 3.Nate Oliver Star/Nickle 1.Moeller 2.Aaron Gant 3.Nate Oliver RCB 1.Chekwa 2.Evege 3.Brown 4.Clarke LCB 1.Torrence 2.Evege 3.Howard SDE 1.Heyward 2.Fellows WDE 1.WIlliams 2. Thomas RDT 1.Larimore 2. Bellamy LDT 1.Simon 2.Goebel SLB 1a. Sweat 1b.Sabino 3.Klein MLB 1.Rolle 2.Whiting 3.Klein WLB 1.Homan 2.Klein 3.Bell

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Tressel Revving Up His Not-So-Little Engine That Could

By Jeremy Published: August 11, 2010

Ask a die-hard Ohio State fan. Most of us expected Pryor to redshirt. Nobody expected Todd Boeckman to continue his turnover barrage. Pryor's last 10 starts in '08 came as a surprise, to the fans, and probably to Jim Tressel. In hind-site, it's the best thing that could have happened.

The thought of a dual-threat quarterback, and one with unbelievable raw talent(not like Greg Bellasari mind you - no offense Greg), appealed to the senses of Buckeye fans. 'Three yards and a cloud of dust' may have been the reputation, the history, but we didn't necessarily want it to be the future. Watching a Qb chunk-off ten yards at-a-time, shaking-off 300 pound defensive linemen, was something new, something exciting, but it didn't take long for us to realize that he had to pass the ball for the offense to be effective, especially against the Nations elite.

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OSU Football Camp 2010 - Let the Games Begin

By Jeremy Published: August 5, 2010

It's moving day for The Ohio State football team. Players have arrived at their 'secret' location(not really/just up from the WHAC), and started moving-in their TV's, PS3's, and mini-refridgerators. Word on the street is that nearly everyone is at camp except Nic Dillilo, Rod Smith, and Jermil Martin.

Indications from Tressel and other sources make it appear as if freshman Rod Smith is waiting for his summer grades to go through. There seems to be a tempered optimism about Smith arriving at camp within the week. Rb Jermil Martin will be transferring, some have speculated to Tressel's old stomping grounds at Youngstown State, but as of yet, I have heard nothing official on where Martin will be taking classes. Nic Dillilo, three-deep at TE, is also a likely transfer candidate. He is not at camp, and will not be according to many sources.

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