Drew Thurman (9:17 pm)

ESPN once again has made it clear how much the Buckeyes are hated. In this newest campaign Ohio State is not only the most hated team in the Big Ten, but in the whole country. This is nothing new for Buckeye fans though, and many have actually embraced this. Just as Jim Tressel said in the lastest Big Ten Media Day, "...you know Woody used to always say, whether they're talking good or talking bad, keep them talking."

So with this said, are we getting to use to being the best in the Big Ten? Have we talked about the National Championship too much before this season starts? Are we too comfortable with being the "most hated?"

I am not sure the answer is a good one in my opinion. I think we are way too comfortable where the Buckeyes currently are. The talk on the boards is constantly about USC and the National Championship Game, but what about the rest of our Big Ten competitors? Let's be honest, this team and us fans are much more worried about losing a third National Championship than the eight Big Ten teams we have to get through to get there. It is kind of funny to me that we want SEC fans to respect the Big Ten, but we do not even respect it ourselves.

So if our goal is to not overlook the Big Ten, who poses the greatest threat? What teams could take the Big Ten crowd from the Buckeyes? Here's a look:

1) Wisconsin - The Badgers should scare Buckeye fans more than they do. They get Ohio State and Penn State at home, they have a killer running attack, and they are always well coached. Add that to the fact that they play the Buckeyes as tough as anyone year in and year out, and you have a scary combination. There are not too many teams that can say they are as physical as Ohio State in the trenches, but Wisconsin surely can!  

2) Illinois - The Illini have caused the biggest problems to the Buckeyes the last several years. If they keep their recruiting success up like they have, they will be around for awhile to annoy the Buckeyes. The did lose Mendenhall after last season, but if they get anything from the quarterback position they could make a serious run!   

3) Michigan - Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverines are getting very little respect from the rest of the Big Ten. Obviously they have a ton of holes to fill, but they could be much better than anyone thinks. The passing attack is a huge question mark, but the Buckeyes have not shown that they can stop the spread. You better believe that game will still be a tough one to get through.  

4) Penn State - The Nittany Lions have had to deal with a ton of off-field issues, but that does diminish the talent they have on the field. They may have the best set of wideouts in the Big Ten, and their defense is always hard hitting. If Clark and the new play book have early success, Penn State will be a team to watch out for!

Obviously a team like Michigan State or Indiana could suprise people, but these are the teams that pose as the biggest threats. It's time for us to quit talking about the National Championship Game, and it's time to start talking about our eight tough games in the Big Ten. This team has a lot to prove before we start talking National Championship.

 
 

Drew Thurman (11:39 am)

Thanks to Dotting the "I" I noticed the Helmet Clash contest taking place over at ESPN.com. Currently the Buckeyes are losing to Florida State, and I just want to send a shout out to Buckeye fans. Hopefully you will hit the link up, and go vote for Ohio State in this helmet contest. The winner of the dual will be announced today at 3:30 pm on College Football Live. Hit up the polls!

 
 

Drew Thurman (10:20 am)

The last three weeks I have been on the road, and I am sorry for the lack of news on The Silver Bullet. I am back now, and there are ton of headlines that have hit me this week. Let's take a look...

1) I know Doug Worthington's arrest is not fresh news, but it has irratated me more everyday I think about it. These incidents featuring guys like Worthington, Clifford, and Washington show me this team is still not focused. This team has so much experience and talent, and I would hate to see that wasted because of these stupid distractions. I understand kids make mistakes, but you would think two beatings in the National Chamionship game would have this team's focus in the right direction.

2) If you have not read the Tressel's transcript from the Big Ten Media Day, you should. Obviously the National Championship Game and the USC game consumed most of the questions. Watching and reading his responses really made me realize how lucky we are to have a classy coach. We never have to worry about Tressel embarrassing us. Anyways, I thought Tressel's most interesting response was on Ohio State painting the whole conference's success:

"Well, I know from our standpoint where it comes from is we played the National Championship the last two years and haven't been successful, so is that fair? I think that's fair we haven't been successful. Should that paint a picture of our whole conference? I don't think so.

But it also makes me feel a little disappointed that our performance in two championship games I guess brushes with a wider brush or whatever they say, but I don't think it's fair. But what I think doesn't matter and what you think doesn't matter, either.

What happens in the games matters, and so that's why we are excited about preseason and we get to play the games and we'll find out how it looks in 2008."


3) In other news, Shane Olivea came out an admitted that he was addicted to pain killers. Olivea who is now with the Giants, says he is pleased to have a second chance. I have always liked Olivea, and I really hope that he turns things around in New York.

 
 

Dave Thurman (3:34 pm)

Experienced starters return at every position but four as the Scarlet and Gray prepare for a new season.  So who fills the holes for the departed starters?  Let’s run down the options at each position:   

Fullback: With Aram Olson’s career apparently over due to injury the Buckeyes are left with no healthy scholarship players at this position.  Although this appears rather bleak it may not be as bad as it seems.  First of all the Bucks may run a good deal of the time out of an ace formation, possibly even employing the spread on occasion.  And, there is talk of using tailbacks Brandon Saine and Beanie Wells in the backfield together, with Saine swinging out quite often for passes.  When Tressell wants to run out of the vaunted “I” he will probably turn to converted walk-on linebacker Ryan Lukens, a senior who is up to around 240 pounds.   Another walk-on, freshman Spencer Smith, hails from Cincinnati Colerain, and is listed on the roster as a fullback.  But there is also a chance that 5th-year senior Curtis Terry will split time between outside linebacker and fullback, something he is eager to try.  Other linebackers, like Austin Spitler and Andrew Sweat played fullback in high school, and have the right physical and mental makeup to succeed at this position.  Pencil Lukens in to start on August 30th, but look for a number of people to get auditions during the first couple of games.   

Offensive Tackle: Kirk Barton’s graduation leaves one large spot to fill on the offensive line, and it appears to be Bryant Browning’s job to lose.  Reports are that third-year sophomore Browning has worked very hard, has good footwork, and is extremely intelligent.  He will need to play well, however, as true freshman Mike Adams is waiting in the wings.  If healthy and cleared to play this fall following shoulder surgery, the highly recruited Adams may get some playing time right away.  This position is critical to keeping Boeckman off the seat of his pants, and it will be interesting to see how things progress.   


Defensive End: Vernon Gholston’s decision to depart with one year of eligibility remaining leaves a gaping hole on the line, since he was the only lineman to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  The silver lining here is that fourth-year junior Lawrence Wilson is ready to assume this spot, after spending last year healing from an injury sustained in the first game of the season.  Wilson is a solid player who many thought would have a breakout year in ’07.  Now the hope is that he will have that kind of impact in ’08.  Converted linebacker Thaddeus Gibson is also getting rave reviews as a rush end, and will no doubt play in passing situations, when Cameron Heyward moves inside from defensive end to tackle.  Hopefully between Wilson and Gibson the Buckeyes can recover the 14 sacks they lost when Gholston opted for the play-for-pay league.   

Outside Linebacker: An underappreciated part of last year’s stellar defense was departed linebacker Larry Grant.  However, there is no shortage of potential replacements at what may be the deepest position on this year’s squad. So who will get first crack?  I think it will be Curtis Terry, the aforementioned senior from Cleveland Glenville who missed last season after a productive ’06 campaign.  But there are many who think it will be Ross Homan, a highly recruited player, who also was shelved last year due to injuries.  Either way the Bucks get a solid, experienced player who could be ready to shine.  Another outside linebacker to keep an eye on is sophomore Brian Rolle, who excelled on special teams last year, and combines great speed with a penchant for hard hits.  In summation, this spot does not seem to be a concern at all! 

It is always interesting to see how it all shakes down once the old pigskin is kicked off for the first time.  Nothing is written in stone, but there are few positions to fill, and plenty of candidates to consider.  If the Bucks can adequately fill these four spots, and have decent health at the other positions tn ought to be a special year. 

Next up: Which young guys crack the two deep, and who surprises in ’08!


 
 

Drew Thurman (2:56 pm)

These days it seems Michigan football is more famous for its off field drama rather than the upcoming season. While most programs would be jumping for joy about a new coach, Michigan fans have instead had to fight off bad press. Hit up ESPN on almost any week, and you will see a whole host of stories about what is going on with "the school up north!" For instance today, you can see the story of Rich Rodriguez's buyout agreement without West Virginia, and just how stupid Michigan really is to help out. Or you can read a thrilling article on how Kevin Grady is pleading not-guilty to charges of drunk driving. These are not great days in Ann Arbor, and I am sure they are ready to get the season started. I am not saying the Buckeyes have not had there fair share of bad press, but I am saying I am glad to be a Buckeye fan these days.

In other news:

1) Devoe Torrence was acquitted of the underage sex charges. I feel terrible for Devoe, and I really hope he gets back on his feet. Many Buckeye fans are crying for the Buckeyes to take him back, but I think they need to move on. I do wish him the best though!

2) College Football Live is debuting on July 21st at 3:30 pm, and Jim Tressel will be one of the many guest to appear. Football season is slowly approaching!

 
 

Dave & Drew Thurman (11:47 pm)

Dave:

1) Ohio State
2) Wisconsin
3) Illinois
4) Penn State
5) Michigan State
6) Michigan
7) Iowa
8) Purdue
9) Minnesota
10) Northwestern
11) Indiana

Drew:

1) Ohio State
2) Wisconsin
3) Penn State
4) Illinois
5) Michigan State
6) Michigan
7) Purdue
8) Northwestern
9) Indiana
10) Iowa
11) Minnesota

Overview:

Illinois - Zook continues to bring in great recruiting classes, and the Illini are sure to have a lot of talent on the field. The biggest question entering the 08 season is, who will join Juice Williams in the backfield? The Illini are sure to be interesting, and they could be a lot better than anyone thinks.

Indiana - Kellen Lewis being reinstated was a very positive thing for the Hoosiers, but they have many other holes to fill. Replacing James Hardy will be crucial for Indiana, and they also have some holes on defense. One positive is that they do not play Michigan or Ohio State.

Iowa - There really is not a lot of standouts on the Iowa team, but they are always well coached. They have a ton of question marks, and it will be difficult to improve on their 6-6 record in 2007.

Michigan - The Wolverines are the wild card in the Big Ten in 08. With a new system, a new quarterback, a new running back, and new wideouts who knows what to expect? The game between the Buckeyes and Wolverines will still be a good one though!

Michigan State - Michigan State has a dynamic combo coming back in Hoyer and Ringer. With that said, they have many holes to fill in the trenches. If Hoyer gets hot though, expect a few upsets.

Minnesota - They brought in a great recruiting class, but things still don't look that bright. The Gophers had a terrible defense last year, and that has to improve to climb in the Big Ten standings. The one positive is that they should improve on 1 win in 2007.

Northwestern - Sutton's injury really hurt the Wildcats a year ago, and his health could bring some more wins. If C.J. Bacher plays up to his potential they could be better than many people expect them to be.

Ohio State - The Buckeyes seem to be the clear front runners of the Big Ten Conference for yet another year. With an experienced defense and Beanie Wells, they could find themselves in a BCS Bowl game. They do face some tough road tests, but these could provide the challenge they finally need.

Penn State - Penn State has very experienced lines on both sides, and they have a very talented receiving core in Williams, Butler, and Norwood. How Clark performs at quarterback could make or break their season.

Purdue - It is Tiller's last year, but it might not be the ending he is hoping for. Painter is back at quarterback, but he has lost most of his targets including Dustin Keller. Probably middle of the road Big Ten team at best.

Wisconsin - Probably the biggest challenger of the Buckeyes for the Big Ten crown in 2008. They always have a great offensive line, and they are loaded at running back. Another positive is that they get Ohio State, Illinois, and Penn State at home. Watch out for the Badgers!

 
 

Drew Thurman (11:59 am)

It is no secret that Tom Lemming has never been a friend of mine. It is also not a secret that I think Lemming's recruiting ranking are biased and ignorant. With that said, Lemming even shocked me with his latest statement in the Detroit News. He said this about Ohio State's early recruiting success in 2009:

Numbers mean absolutely nothing," Lemming said. "Only the ignorant recruiting fans think that's a big deal. A lot of the great players won't even make their commitments until December and January.The race in recruiting almost always goes to the tortoise, not the hare. People who know recruiting, know what's going on. Michigan, for instance, is having a good year and they could have a great year. People need to be patient."

This has to be one of the most hypocritical statements I have ever read. This is the same man who has jumped on the Notre Dame and Texas bangwagons for there early success in recent years. If numbers do not mean anything, why have the SEC and ACC teams been ranked so high when they bring 30 plus recruits in a year? Why did Lemming jump on Miami and Alabama's bandwagon in 2008 when numbers played a huge factor.

I am not saying numbers are everything, but I am sick of Lemming's bias. If this was Notre Dame with 23 commitments, Lemming would be shouting more praise. I just do not understand his hatred towards Ohio State? Even more importantly, why so much love for Michigan in this article? Tressel and his staff do deserve some praise for the guys the have assembled so far. Sure there is a lot of recruiting to do, but Ohio State's class is very solid. In fact Ohio State has dominated Michigan in the players that they have both sought after. Why isn't Lemming talking about that?

So, I guess I just will never understand how Lemming continues to be considered the guru in recruiting that he is. I wish I could show so much bias towards certain teams (*cough* Notre Dame *cough*) as Lemming, and still get paid so much. To me he has continued to show he is not a worthy expert to listen to, and this statement adds to it. It is time for him to start reporting facts instead of just his lousy opinion. Maybe that is why his show is on CSTV and not ESPN!

 
 

Dave Thurman (8:47 am)

Time for more recruiting talk!  But hey, what else is there to discuss right now in this very dead time for college football? Soon word will be leaking out of camp and we’ll all be so excited we can’t see straight.  But for now, recruiting reigns supreme. 

One of the great fallacies of recruiting services is that they give ratings on one class at a time, and often fail to see how a class meshes with the previous one, or the one that follows.  Another weakness in most rating systems is failure to address a school that loads up on one position, getting a glut of athletes for a particular spot, but failing to address needs at other positions.  Take Alabama for instance.  Some people ranked them as the #1 class for 2008.  Now, besides the obvious fact that they signed 32 guys in that class (apparently confident that some would not meet academic requirements) they actually received signatures from no less than 8 defensive linemen.  Hey, that’s a great haul as most all were highly rated, but you can only play four at a time, so you know some of those guys will wind up transferring when they find themselves glued to the bench.  And big linemen aren’t usually guys that will fill the special teams, either. So, Alabama’s lofty ranking may have been a little high when you take this into account.  In the past I have seen schools sign as many as four quarterbacks in one class, and up to six running backs.  Generally, when they wind up with too many at one position they also miss out on another position altogether.   

What wise coaches do is seek to build solid classes that address all of their needs, and dovetail with previous classes so that there is strength at each position.  I call it recruiting synergy.  The dictionary defines that word as, “The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.”  That’s how a school that never has a top-ranked class can still be a national champion.  If every class is solid, and compliments those before and after it, then synergism occurs. 

So, quickly let’s take a look at the class of 2008, combined with what we have so far in 2009. 

Everyone loved last year’s class, headlined by Terrelle Pryor, and the Block-O lineman.  It pretty well addressed every need, but there were a couple of weaknesses:

1) The lack of a big-time runner.  When we had to pull the scholarship offer to Devoe Torrence it left a gaping hole.  Sure, Lamaar Thomas could be a tailback, but the staff sees him as a receiver and kick returner.  And, we brought in Jermil Martin, but most see him as a fullback, and he wasn’t highly rated, anyway.

2) Secondary speed – The Bucks signed three defensive backs, but only Travis Howard was highly recruited and ranked.  Both Orhian Johnson and Zach Domicone played more quarterback in high school than defensive back, and neither was considered a super talent.  Some think Domicone will grow into a linebacker anyway.  Now they may each wind up being great players, but in both number and perceived quality, the ’08 defensive back haul appears less than stellar.

So, let’s see what we have so far in the 2009 class in these two areas: 

1) Three backs signed, with another one being courted – In Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall we have two tailbacks of very different sizes and styles, and we are putting the full court press on Jamaal Berry, who appears to be special.  Plus we have a fine fullback candidate in Adam Homan.

2) Six (are you kidding me?) speedy defensive backs in the bag, with room for another – You have to love the potential of C.J Barnett, Corey Brown, Dominic Clark, Justin Green, Bradley McDougald and Jamie Wood.  And some think we may still take E.J. Banks or possibly even Vlad Emilien, with D.J. Hunter not being a total impossibility.  Facing the spread more all the time, and with a bit of a disappointing group of db’s in ’08, there is no doubt this need has been addressed and met. (And the good news is that db’s make the best special team’s players.)

Anyway, take a look at all the players from this year, and the young men who have given their verbal commitment for next year, and I think you will really like what you see.  I challenge you to find one position that isn’t well manned.  Of course anything can happen: defections, ineligibilities, injuries, etc.  But Tress and company have certainly addressed the needs, and made sure quality players are coming at every position.  If the anticipated synergy occurs, look out.  We might see something truly special on the field in a couple of years!