Drew Thurman (9:35 am)

I hope everyone is enjoying the Halloween and bye game weekend. Even though the news coming out is a little slow this week, there is some pretty attention grabbing stuff I have been reading. Let's take a look...

- Jason from Eleven Warriors has some interesting opinions on Tressel's latest words. Tressel got asked some very tough questions this week from the media, and his words are very telling! Good article to check out.

- ESPN the magazine broadcasts some very vocal critcisms from Ohio State fan Matt Gottfried. In this video Matt makes it clear that he wonders if Tressel can win the big one anymore. I have a feeling that there are a lot of others out there wondering the same thing!

- Buckeye Commentary has one of the better articles I have read this season on a Buckeye blog. It is called "What ails the offense," and it really trys to look at the statistics to highlight the real problems on offense. It is not long, but is a very good read...

 
 

Dave Thurman (7:14 pm)

Schizophrenic Buckeye fans who cried for a change at quarterback a couple months ago are now posting angry threads demanding to see Todd Boeckman.Even some respected writers who cover OSU on popular websites are demeaning Terrelle Pryor’s performance and questioning the Buckeye brain trust, suggesting that the team would be better served reinserting Boeckman. I don’t get it. So, let me ask, which Todd Boeckman do you want?

- The one who threw three interceptions against Illinois?

- The one who looked like a deer in the headlights in the BCS Championship game, with three more turnovers?

- The one who threw for 110 yards and 0 touchdowns against Ohio (yes the same Bobcat team that is at the bottom of the MAC)?

- Or the one who managed 84 yards and 2 interceptions at USC (and who scored more for the Trojans than the Buckeyes)?

Hey, I admire Todd Boeckman, and thought he did a pretty good job most of 2007. Nobody would have liked to have seen him succeed this year more than me. But the fact is, with this year’s offensive line he simply isn’t a feasible option. We tried him early and he failed miserably.  Tressel made a gutsy change, and while it has been somewhat of a mixed bag, I contend that Pryor not only gives this year’s team the best chance to win, but he is also learning on the job and preparing for greatness in the future.

However, since so many people were hard on TP after the Penn State game, let’s do a little analysis.  First off, he managed to throw for 224 yards, hitting 64% of his passes against one of the best defenses in the nation.  He did that without the aid of any running game, and with Penn State defenders in his face most of the game.Outside of his costly fumble he played an excellent game, and was the best offensive player in scarlet and gray.

Would Todd have done better? Surely you jest!With Bryant Browning allowing Maybin to come free all night, Todd would have been sacked numerous times, and if past performance is any indicator, probably would have made a number of turnovers.  If you struggle against Ohio you aren’t going to be successful against Penn State!

Two things are essential for Todd Boeckman to do well: 1) Good blocking from the offensive line; 2) A solid running game. Unfortunately the 2008 Buckeye squad fails miserably in the first area, and because of that, sometimes struggles in the second.

The best chance for victory against Penn State was to possess the ball with a mix of runs and timely passes, relying on defense and special teams.And, it would have worked (in spite of a terrible performance by the o-line) had we won the turnover battle or even come out even.

Had he played, Boeckman might have hit a big pass or two, but I guarantee you there would have been sacks and turnovers, and instead of a close contest that could have been won, the Bucks would have been on the wrong side of another beat down by a top notch opponent.I don’t know about you, but I really didn’t want to hear the talking heads going crazy after another lopsided loss.

Of course, I’m sure there are a few fans out there who will suggest going with a combination of the two quarterbacks. Again, I think that is a bad idea. Two quarterback systems rarely work. Cooper tried it for a number of games with Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine and it didn’t work.  Tressel tried it against Texas with Troy Smith and Justin Zwick and it failed.

Someone will no doubt point to Florida winning a national title with two quarterbacks. But in truth they didn’t have a two quarterback system.  Their man was Chris Leak and they only inserted Tim Tebow in short yardage and goal line situations. Due to Tebow’s tremendous athleticism this worked well, but it was the exception not the rule.

The problem with two quarterbacks is that neither gains confidence, as they begin to look over their shoulder, fearing mistakes, lest they be pulled from the lineup. And, if reps are shared 50/50 in practice, it means that nobody gets the advantage of feeling comfortable at the helm. Besides, it usually leads to dissension as players start taking sides, preferring one quarterback or the other.

No, the answer is not a two quarterback system, nor is it reinserting Todd Boeckman as the starter. This Buckeye team simply isn’t as good as we fans hoped, and Tressel is doing the best he can with the cards he’s been dealt.

But I’ve got news for the rest of the Big Ten. You better get us now, because Pryor is only going to get better.We may be down a little right now, but the future is bright in Columbus!

 
 

Drew Thurman (9:51 pm)

Losing brings the worst out of people, especially on the boards! Everyone seems to have opinion on why the loss happened, and many are very vocal with their criticisms. The problem is that many of these loud complaints come from frustration and not the statistics of the game. So let's actually get the facts straight, and see what caused the Buckeyes to lose to the Nittany Lions...

1) The Buckeyes lost the game in the trenches...

For whatever reason many have blamed this loss on play calling and the Buckeyes not airing it out enough. Neither one of these criticisms is warrented. The Buckeyes actually had Pryor throw the ball 25 times for 226 yards. That is over a hundred more yards that Penn State threw for! The Buckeyes opened it up more than they had all season, and this was not the reason for the loss. Actually it was the inabilty to run the ball that hurt them. Beanie Wells averaged 2.5 yards a carry in this game, which actually was the highest on the team. Penn State on the other hand, did not have a major rusher under four yards a carry. Penn State had the better offensive and defensive lines, and it showed in the statistics. Had the Buckeyes been able to establish the run, we would have seen touchdowns and not stalled out drives.

2) The Buckeyes lost the turnover battle...

Coming into this game we knew that the Buckeyes had to win the turnover battle. I am shocked that the Buckeyes did not force a turnover in this game, and they were very close on several occasions. In the end though, it was Terrelle Pryor's fumble that would be the difference in this game. Pryor played a very good game outside of this play, and it is unfortunate that this fumble would be the gamebreaker. Had the Buckeyes won or even tied in the turnover department, we would have seen a different outcome.

All in all...

The Buckeyes fought hard against a very tough Penn State team. Ohio State was equal with the Nittany Lions in so many areas, but these two things would end up being the difference. It is that simple, and we don't have to dig for all the extensive reasons why the Buckeyes lost. Even against a very talented Penn State defense, the Buckeyes would have a "W" in the win column had a few small things been different in this game! 

 
 

Dave & Drew Thurman (4:11 pm)

Mascot: Nittany Lions

Stadium: Beaver Stadium (107,282)

Coach: Joe Paterno (43rd year at Penn State; 380-125-3)

2007 Record: 9-4 (Won Alamo Bowl over Texas A&M, 24-17)

2008 Record: 8-0 (Ranked 3rd in the polls)

Base Offense: Ace (3 receivers)

Base Defense: 4-3

Lettermen: Returning 38, Lost 20

Returning Starters: Offense - 9, Defense - 9, Specialist - 2

Returning Stars: WR/ KR Derrick Williams; DE Maurice Evans

Notable Alumni:

- Tom Verducci: senior writer for Sports Illustrated
- Lisa Salters: ESPN reporter
- Donald Bellisario: television producer (Magnum PI, JAG, NCIS)
- Richard T. James: Inventor of the Slinky
- Todd Blackledge: NFL quarterback and television sports analyst
- Mike Scioscia: MLB catcher and manger
- Franco Harris: NFL Hall of Fame running back
- Bonus for fans of The Office: Toby Flenderson, HR representative of Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch is a PSU alum!

Cheerleaders (Since you won't look at them during the game):

Penn State Overview:

Offense

When the Nittany Lions have the ball you can expect to see a very explosive and diverse unit. So far this season they have averaged an incredible 45.4 points and 482 yards a game. A big key to this success has been the emergence of Daryll Clark at quarteback. Clark has thrown for 1531 yards with 11 touchdowns, but also has 190 rushing yards with eight touchdowns. He has also been very efficient only throwing 2 interceptions, and completing 63 percent of his passes.

Clark has lot of options to throw to in the passing game, two of which are Deon Butler (486 yards, 3 TD) and Jordan Norwood (405 yards, 5 TD). What is really scary about these two young men is that they both average over 16 yards a reception. The weapons at wideout don't stop with Butler and Norwood, the Nittany Lions also have Derrick Williams. He has only 283 yards and one touchdown through the air, but has also been deadly on special teams with three touchdowns (2nd on team in all purpose yards). Kick returns have especially been his forte as he averages 32.2 yards a return with two touchdowns.

The rushing attack is also deadly for the Nittany Lions. Besides Clark as a dual threat quarterback, Penn State has several options at tailback. The number one option is Evan Royster. So far this season he has 893 yards with 10 touchdowns. The most impressive thing about Royster though is the fact that he averages 7.7 yards a carry. The second option for Penn State is Stephfon Green who has 411 yards to go along four touchdowns. These two young men along with Clark help the Nittany Lions average 234 rushing yards a game.

Defense

The defensive unit for the Nittany Lions have been no less impressive than the offense. They have held opponents to 263 yards and 11.8 points a game. What is really incredible about this unit is that they have been led by a freshmen linebacker. That linebacker is Navorro Bowman, and he leads the team with 70 tackles (9.5 TFL), one interception, and two forced fumbles.

The Buckeyes will also have to look out for the two defensive ends that will be coming at them Saturday in Maurice Evans and Aaron Maybin. Maybin has been a tackling machine thus far with 33 tackles, 14.5 of which have been tackles for loss. The two have combined for 12 sacks, and will have the offensive tackles working hard.  

Prediction:

The numbers are hard to look at in this game, because the Nittany Lions blow the Buckeyes away in quite a few categories. So going in the Buckeyes are going to have to hope for some equalizers. Two of these equalizers will have to be turnovers and the crowd. If the crowd can help rattle Clark and the Buckeyes win the turnover margin, a victory will be very feasible on Saturday.

On offense expect the Buckeyes to again come out with a very diverse offense. Tressel is known for opening the playbook in big games, and the first half last week showed that. This week look for the Buckeyes to open the playbook even more than last week, especially trying to throw the Nittany Lions off with play action passes early. This will be a very important game for Robiskie and Hartline! Also expect Beanie to run the ball a lot. Last week he had 31 carries, and if all goes well expect another 25 this week. With defensive ends that over pursue, Beanie could very easily bust a long one to the outside. 

On defense, expect a physical unit that will have the crowd on their side as "Hell's Bells" plays on third down. Royster up the middle will not be as effective as it has against other teams, but Clark will hard be to stop. The secondary will probably struggle on several drives trying to cover a host of talent receivers while trying to help if Clark chooses to run. Penn State will score in this game, the key will be clamping down in the red zone and forcing turnovers. No matter how you look at it, this game is going to be a battle. Final score...

Dave has it: Ohio State 27 Penn State 24
Drew has it: Ohio State 23 Penn State 21


 
 

Drew Thurman (8:01 pm)

The Buckeyes take on rival Penn State this weekend, and this is much more than an average game. In fact there are a lots of things surrounding this game. Let's take a look...

* The game is taking place at 8 PM (ET). This is the Buckeyes first night game since Texas in 2005. 

* ESPN's College Game Day will be broadcasting from Columbus. 

* It is Homecoming with all the festivities that surround it.

* Big recruiting weekend including DT Corey Adams. 

* OSU has planned there version of the white out called "Scarlet Fever."

* Ohio State is ranked #10; Penn State #3.

So yet again the excitement and media spotlight has been put on the Buckeyes. It seems like the Buckeyes are always looking for a reason to get hyped with a chip on their shoulder, and they definitely have that this weekend. I am personally sick of having to play the "prove me wrong" role with the media, and I think this game would go a long way in silencing the doubters.

I will say this though, the Buckeyes better show up with attitude Saturday night! They looked scared versus USC, and never acted like they were confident. If we are just trying to prove that we belong on the field with the top teams in the country, we are always going to lose. We need to start believing we are the better team! This is a big weekend!

 
 

Dave Thurman (3:06 pm)

Okay…who saw this coming?  A week after an uninspiring performance against a poor Purdue team, the Bucks headed to East Lansing and played with passion and purpose, totaling destroying the 20th ranked Spartans.

On Monday I ate lunch with a group of guys that includes one other Buckeye fan, and as we talked about the rest of the college football season he dejectedly said, “Ohio State will get beat this Saturday,” as everyone nodded their head in agreement.  I took umbrage to his comment confidently promising a Buckeye victory, reminding him that no team in the conference sets up better for us than MSU.  And it’s true.  They like to run the ball between the tackles forty times a game and that plays right into our strength at linebacker.  Still, I never expected 45-7.  More on that in a minute.

Now, before you get ready to paint the town red in raucous celebration, may I remind you of some wise advice I that was passed on years ago: “When everything seems to go poorly things are rarely as bad as they appear and when everything goes right, things are probably not as good as they seem.”

Against Purdue the Bucks were better than they showed, because Tressel buttoned things up and relied on defense and special teams.  Once Sabino scored on the blocked punt, Mr. Sweater Vest gambled that Purdue couldn’t catch up if given six quarters unless they were handed free points off of turnovers, so he played classic “Tressel Ball,” which accomplished the goal irritating as it was.  In addition Beanie was battling the flu bug, and so the offense looked terrible.

Fast forward seven short days, and the same offensive unit came out with a spring in their step.  Pryor looked much more confident, and the play calling in the first half was excellent, putting him in situations where he could complete simple passes, and use his wheels on the outside.  My favorite play was the first down play action pass to Hartline.  I was thinking, if ever we throw a bomb off of play action this is the perfect time, and presto, Pryor when back heaved it downfield, and even though the ball was slightly underthrown, Hartline had so badly beaten his man that it resulted in a 56 yard gain.

Of course some fans are disappointed that Tressel resorted to conservative play calling in the second half, but considering the lead, and the way the defense was playing, it made perfect sense.  And, even when MSU had eight in the box, Beanie was still getting tough first downs as the line did their best job of the year, so even if the Spartans hadn’t self destructed there was no way they were coming back in this one.

Now, before we get too excited let’s admit that it was one of those days when everything seemed to go Ohio State’s way.  Yes, the team made positive things happen, but MSU played terribly, and even when the Bucks made mistakes (such as Small’s fumble) the ball bounced their way.

So much for the analysis, let’s take a moment to hand out some well earned accolades for some excellent play:

-Malcolm Jenkins is flat out on his game, and looked like a Thorpe Award Winner, covering, tackling, intimidating, and forcing a huge fumble that led to a Thaddeus Gibson touchdown.

-James Laurinaitis was all over the field, and Hoyer will be seeing him in his dreams, or should I say, his nightmares.  For those of us calling for Baby Animal to be more aggressive and to hit with evil intentions, well this was a pretty good answer.

-Kurt Coleman closes like no safety in recent memory and hits like a ton of bricks.  He also made one of the most athletic interceptions I have ever witnessed. Wow!

-Beanie Wells is not 100% and can’t cut or accelerate the way he would like but I still wouldn’t trade him for any other runner in the nation.

-Ray Small, minus the fumble, was impressive returning punts, and special teams were special for the second week in a row.

-JT had a good game plan, and put Pryor in winning situations, something that had been lacking the week before.

Hats off to each of the above, as well as the entire team and staff!

Now, one negative comment (to make me feel better if nothing else):

Brandon Saine is done in my opinion.  Last year he came in like a lion, but he has become a lamb, literally afraid to hit the hole, and is absolutely useless at this point.  How someone with that much size and speed has digressed to this point amazes me, and I hope I am wrong, but I don’t ever see him being a Big 10 back.

Well, bring on Penn State.  The Nitany Lions are really good and the Bucks will need their “A” game, but at least they move into this showcase contest with confidence, and I have a feeling they may just pull it out!

 
 

Drew and Dave Thurman (2:56 pm)

Mascot: Spartans

Stadium: Spartan Stadium (75,005)

Coach: Mark Dantonio (2nd year at MSU, 13-7; 31-24 overall)

2007 Record: 7-6 (Lost Champs Sports Bowl 24-21 to Boston College)

2008 Record: 6-1

Base Offense: Power "I"

Base Defense: 4-3

Lettermen: Returning 37, Lost 20

Returning Starters: Offense - 7, Defense - 6, Specialist - 2

Returning Stars: RB Javon Ringer, SS Otis Wiley

Notable Alumni:

-Bubba Smith: NFL star and actor
-Magic Johnson: Hall of Fame NBA pointgurad
-Kirk Gibson: MLB star, Famous for '88 LCS homerun
-James Caan: Actor
-Steve Garvey: All Star first baseman and TV personality
-Scott Skiles: NBA player and coach
-Robert Ressler: famed criminologist who coined pharse "serial killer"

Cheerleaders:

Michigan State Overview: 

On offense, the Spartans put the load on the shoulders of running back Javon Ringer. He has racked up an incredible 1,112 yards and 14 touchdowns already this season. Even more remarkable about Ringer's performance is the fact that he has carried the ball 35 plus times in four of Michigan State's games. In fact the only two games where he has had under 30 carries were against California and Iowa. In both games Ringer struggled averaging just 3.0 and 3.6 yards a carry.

At quarterback the Spartans start Brian Hoyer who has 1,314 yards and six touchdowns this season. Even though he has put up decent yards thus far in 2008, he has still struggled at times. He is barley completing over 50 percent of his passes, and has shown signs of being erratic. With that said, Hoyer had one of his best games last week against Northwestern completing 70 percent of his passes.

Hoyer has two main targets in Mark Dell (443 yards, 2 TD) and Westerville, Ohio native B.J. Cunningham (322 yards, 0 TD). There are several other guys to keep your eye on as well, but no one should have the Buckeyes attention more than Dell. He is a long ball threat, and is averaging 22 yards a reception. 

On defense, Michigan State brings a very average defense into the game Saturday. They are allowing 362 yards a game, and a majority of this comes through the passing game (227 yards per game). Like many of the defenses in the Big Ten, the Spartans come up and stuff the run much better than when they drop into coverage.

The core of the Michigan State defense is the linebackers and safeties. Linebackers Greg Jones (52 tackles, 5.5 TFL) and Eric Gordan (45 tackles, 2.5 TFL) lead the team in tackles. The guys to watch at safety are Dan Fortener (44 tackles, 2 INT) and Otis Wiley (38 tackles, 4 INT). If Pryor has many errant throws, these safeties will make him pay!

Prediction:

Both the Buckeyes and Spartans are going to come out and try to establish the run. When Michigan State has the ball expect to hear Javon Ringer's name called a lot. The Buckeye defense has to stuff the middle and make Javon Ringer work for his yards. Even if the Buckeyes keep him in check (which we feel they will), Ringer will still see 25 carries in this game. So the key will be to hold Ringer's YPC down to around the 3.5 mark, and make Hoyer beat the secondary through the air. We expect Malcolm Jenkins to be guarding Mark Dell, so Hoyer will have his work cut out for him if this happens.

When Ohio State has the ball, look for more diversity in the play calling than this last week. Against Wisconsin, in the toughest Big Ten game the Buckeyes have played, Tressel opened the offensive playbook much more. For whatever reason he refuses to do this against lesser opponents, and expects his defense and special teams to help pull the team through. Yes, Beanie will carry the ball a lot in East Lansing if he remains healthy, but look for Pryor to have a few more passing plays.

Outside of Pryor the key will be the offensive line and the wideouts. The wideouts could have a big day against the Spartans if their attitude stays in check, and the offensive line does its job. Michigan State's defense if no push over, but if the run is establish, look for their run stopping secondary to be exposed a little bit. Of course there are lots of variables there.

So overall, we see a defensive battle on Saturday with two coaches who know each other and are conservative. The Buckeyes will keep Ringer in check, which would mean about 25 carries for about 90 some odd yards. If they do get in the redzone though, look for Ringer to pound it in. Hoyer will make a few big plays in this game with his arm, but these plays will set up long field goals for the Spartans instead of touchdowns.

The Buckeye offense will probably have to battle itself to try to gain a victory this week. Be assured though, if Pryor reaches Ohio State's average of 143 passing yards a game, the Buckeyes will win. Pryor will do enough in this game to keep the defense guessing, and help the rushing attack surge. This will be all the Buckeyes need as they win the turnover battle in a close game. Final score...

Dave has it: OSU 24 MSU 17

Drew has it: OSU 20 MSU 13

 
 

Drew Thurman (8:40 pm)

Opinion #1: Terrelle Pryor is struggling, and changes need to happen.

My Opinion:

This one to me is fact and fiction. The fiction part of this has to do with Todd Boeckman. The locker room has been highlighted a lot on the boards and in the media, but Pryor is the answer for this team regardless of what complaints there are (AKA Hartline and Ballard). The offensive line is one of the major issues left on this team, and Boeckman behind a bad line would equal chaos.

With that said, changes need to happen for Terrelle and by the coaches. Pryor is holding onto the ball a lot, and seems to be very worried about making mistakes. Like I have said numerous times, I feel it starts with play calling. Any offensive playcaller would tell you that it is important to call plays that help a young quaterback's confidence. Ohio State has been terrible at this so far! We come out and run the ball a lot on first and second down, and then leave Pryor and the offensive line in predictable passing downs. There needs to be a lot more screens and slants called on first and second down to help Pryor get in a rhythm. A vertical passing game is not going to work with a young quarterback and a bad line. We need to see a lot more two and three step drops for Pryor!

Opinion #2: The wideouts have hurt the offense more than any other unit this year.

My Opinion:

I say fiction here. The offensive line has by far been the most under performing unit, but the wideouts are in a close second. Let's be honest, if the offensive line was doing there job the wideouts would be looking much better at this point. Against a very average Purdue defensive line, the Buckeyes gave up three sacks. If this doesn't change, our offense will continue to struggle.

I would like to see the attitudes of the wideouts improve a little bit. Robiskie and Hartline to me have looked as if they checked out on numerous occasions, and some of their dropped balls have been an indication of this. Add that to the fact that Hartline is rumored to be a cancer in the locker room, and you have a unit in an attitude funk.

Opinion #3: Tressel has lost this team.

My Opinion:

Whether you want to believe it or not, I feel there is some fact here. The statements made by Ballard and Beanie really have to make you wonder what is going on behind the scenes. People are saying we are losing the seniors, but neither of these young men are seniors. I think we have to realize that a lot of players are frustrated with the vanilla play calling, and have really started to grumble. It was one thing for the 02 team to play the way they did, but this offense is way too talented for this kind of offensive production. I don't agree with the bad attitudes or the statements to the press, but you have to feel for these guys. Some major changes need to be made, and unless Tressel makes those this could become a trend.  

Opinion #4: Penn State is the premiere team in the Big Ten.

My Opinion:

Fact. Let's face it, Daryll Clark and gang are the real deal. Anthony Morelli held this team back at quarterback, and the Nittany Lions look like they did under Michael Robinson again. There honestly is not a wide receiving unit that can compare to Butler, Williams, and Norwood in the Big Ten. Just when you figure out how to stop them you have to worry about Evan Royster on the ground. This team is scary, and they have weapons at many positions. I refuse to count the Buckeyes out on October 25th, but they have a mighty challenge ahead. Yes the game is at home, but we are in trouble unless the offense drastically improves.

This one to me is pretty easy to see at this point. If we don't beat them at our place, the Nittany Lions are running the table. I always hold out hope, but they have beaten down everyone they have played thus far!

 
 

Dave Thurman (8:40 pm)

The 2008 season is barely past the half-way point (7 games down, 6 to go counting a bowl bid), and it’s time to give out some grades to our beloved Buckeyes.  In truth this is actually a difficult assignment because the team seems to lack a true identity, especially on offense, and I’m not sure we know a whole lot more than we did 4-5 weeks ago.  One thing is for sure – nothing has gone the way fans expected it.   Nevertheless here are my grades thus far:

Offense

Quarterback – C

When the season started we had a sixth-year senior at quarterback who led the team to the National Championship Game a year ago, and expectations were high.  But, three games into the season he was supplanted by true freshman Terrelle Pryor, possibly the most acclaimed recruit in OSU history.  I still think Todd Boeckman has potential, but he was not a good fit for a team with poor pass blocking, and was especially exposed when Beanie was hurt.  As for Pryor, he started like a house of fire, but lately has looked like, well, a confused freshman.  We all know he can run like a deer and has a strong arm, but as teams have schemed for him, Pryor has seemed reluctant to throw the ball, and often runs himself into trouble.  In his defense, the play calling has been pretty lousy, and his teammates haven’t helped him a whole lot.  I am hopeful he will show progress the next few weeks, and turn potential into results.

Backs – B

This is another tough position to evaluate, because in truth there is one grade with Beanie playing and another without him.  When he is even close to healthy, Wells is the best back in the nation.  With him in the lineup, the team plays with a different confidence, and knows that he may break one at any time.  Boom Herron shows great potential, but he is neither overly big nor fast.  Still, he hits the hole quickly with authority and is a solid back.  Brandon Saine has been a colossal disappointment but at least some of this may be due to injuries and missed practices.  And Mo Wells is the same as he has been for the past three years – a great guy who is a poor fit in Tressel’s system.  Meanwhile, fullback has lacked one consistent presence, relying on three players, none of whom were recruited for the position.  My favorite is Curtis Terry, but he seems to get the least reps of the trio.  Go figure!  So fullback has been okay, but nothing to write home about.  

Wide Receiver – D

This may well be the most disappointing unit on the team.  Robiskie was close to being a star in ’07, but has been inconsistent this season, at times playing like he is uninterested.  The other Brian, Mr. Hartline, hasn’t been any better, and if you believe the scuttlebutt he has caused some dissension in the locker room.  Ray Small has never put it all together, and seems to have problems off the field annually. So not one of the “big three” has delivered and given the Bucks a consistent threat.  On the other hand, I think Dane Sanzenbacher has played pretty well, and is a solid possession receiver, and I really like the potential of DeVier Posey, although he often looks like a freshman.  By the way, here’s a question for you to mull over: What ever happened to Taurian Washington, star of the spring game?  Could he be worse than what we’ve had?  At this point I’m ready to give him a try!

Tight End – B- 

Jake Ballard could be a star – I believe that with all my heart.  But in the OSU system he is little more than a glorified offensive lineman.  Both he and Nicol (who has been inured of late) are solid, doing their job, but it would be great to actually throw some passes in their direction. 

Offensive Line – C-

I know, I know, you wanted a lower grade.  But, the run blocking hasn’t been too bad, and at times has actually been pretty impressive.  Between injuries on the line and dealing with different players rotating in at quarterback and tailback, I will cut the big guys a little slack.  However, I am not sold on the right side of the line at all, and feel like Ben Person is a complete liability.  Rehring is okay as a guard, but please, for the sake of all that is good and sacred, don’t put him at right tackle again – ever!  Overall, this group should be a team strength, but whether it is poor coaching or lack of motivation, it has been a very disappointing unit.

Midterm grade for the offense: C- 

Defense

Defensive Line – C

On what was expected to be a superior defensive unit, the line has been the weakness, failing to get much pressure on the quarterback and being vulnerable to up the middle runs.  The good news is that it is still a young line, and is showing signs of improvement.  As Thaddeus Gibson becomes better acquainted with the defensive end position he looks like he will be a good one, and is the one player that consistently gets into the defensive backfield.  There isn’t one stud at defensive tackle, but a healthy Denlinger looks like he might be the best option.

Linebackers – A-

The lack of a dominant line keeps this unit from being as superior as some thought it would be, but it is hard to argue with the steadiness of senior James Laurinaitis, who just makes tackles.  Homan is becoming a beast against the run, and Freeman, while not as consistent as I would like, does make some big plays.  There is also some good young talent in reserve, and my only real beef with the linebackers is that they don’t blitz them enough.

Defensive Backs – A 

In my opinion this is the most productive unit on the 2008 squad, featuring the most consistent Buckeye, Malcolm Jenkins, who can flat out cover and plays with a bad attitude.  In addition, Chekwa has really come on as the other corner, Coleman is becoming a star, and Anderson Russell is solid.  It is a luxury to have Donald Washington and Jermale Hines to render nickel and dime coverage, and I love the way Hines hits.  One wonders if the coaching staff will bulk him up a little and play him at outside backer next year. 

Midterm grade for the defense – B+

Special Teams

Since Tressel considers special teams as important as offense or defense we will hand out individual grades here as well.

Punting – B+

A.J. Trapasso, who seems to have been in Columbus for a decade, is having his best season.  He is not quite as consistent as I would like, but has done a very good job overall.

Kicking – B

His statistics are good, but Ryan Pretorius seems to miss at key moments, and I, for one, am ready for a change.  Pettrey has a stronger leg, and I believe he offers more consistency.  That being said, he baffles me on his kickoffs, with some going eight yards deep in the end zone, and others barely making the twenty.  But in case you get too frustrated with our kicking talk to a Michigan or Purdue fan!

Returns – C-

Ray Small is dangerous on punt returns, but scares me every time he catches the ball, as he seems to field the ball much lower than other returners, and often looks downright shaky.  Keeping him out of the doghouse is key here, though, because he is by far the best the Bucks have at this job and is the reason the grade isn’t much lower.  As a bonus, Jenkins blocked a punt last Saturday which Sabino returned for a touchdown giving the Bucks two scores from the punt return team.  Kick returns, on the other hand, have been abysmal again this year, and Brandon Saine is clearly not the answer.  However, there is room for optimism after getting a dash of “Flash,” last Saturday, as Lamaar Thomas showed his speed and skills.  Here’s hoping he stays back there for the remainder of the season.

Coverage – A

The Buckeye coverage teams look like silver bullets speeding down the field led by Sabino, Torrence, Rolle and Lane.  If every unit played with this much passion the Buckeyes would be ranked in the top five.  No problems here in the first half of 2008!

Midterm grade for special teams - B

 
 

Drew Thurman (7:15 pm)

The incredible 221 yards the offense put up against Purdue helped lead to one of the ugliest offensive performances I have ever seen. The defense and special teams led by Malcolm Jenkins had its swagger back, and played phenomenal unlike the stagnant offense. In a normal game we would be celebrating the 298 yards we held the Boilermakers to, but instead there is a feeling of frustration thanks to the offense.

This game was a simple issue of play calling. Yes, Pryor played a very poor game, but the playing calling has not helped the freshman gain confidence. It is easy to see that confidence is lacking right now while he holds on to the ball, is scared to make mistakes, and ends up taking terrible sacks. What have we done to help him build his confidence though? We never throw screens, slants, or have him bootleg. These are simple things that lots of play callers do to help their young quarterbacks gain confidence. The combination of terrible blocking and vanilla play calling has left the freshman phenom without the self-belief he needs to lead the offense.  

Tressel can call this "Big Ten Football" all he wants, but this style will not help us win against the stronger opponents. Our offense has to get better, and it starts with better play calling for Terelle Pryor. It's an easy equation: less predictability + creativity in the passing game = success for the offense and Pryor!

Check us out tomorrow for a full recap on the game