Dave Thurman (4:31 pm)
In Jim Tressel's "run it and chuck it offense," the normal gameplan is to run the ball between the tackles over and over again to bait the corners and then try and hit the homerun with a long pass play. Although this approach can be frustrating at times it has worked pretty well the past few years, but a big part of that is because there have been some bonafide homerun hitters at the skill positions.
Think about it. From 2004-06 the Bucks had the services of Ted Ginn Jr. who was a human highlight film. He could take a screen to the house, get behind the defense on a bomb, turn a simple reverse into six, and even return a punt or kick for a touchdown. During his tenure, OSU also was able to utlilize the skills of Antonio Pittman who had the speed to break away from the defense on ocassion, as well.
After TGII took his game to the the pros, The Buckeyes were able to turn to Beanie Wells, who has that rare combination of power and speed. How often did he take a simple run play, hit the hole between the guard and tackle, break away from a linebacker or defensive back and not stop until he found paydirt? He made play calling easy, although it also led to some pretty stale gameplans.
So, with no Teddy or Beanie on the roster, who will make the big plays in '09? I contend that JT will be forced to develop the intermediate game more this season, but there are a few legitmate candidates to be breakaway threats. While I don't think any one player will have the impact of Ginn or Wells, here are a few guys who might become big play options:
1. Boom Herron - As he showed in the second half of the Michigan game, Herron has the ability to take one to the house. Although he is neither the strongest or fastest running back around, he has enough of both skills to break an occasional long run.
2. Brandon Saine - If "Zoom" can stay healthy and confident the sky is the limit because few players have more speed, and he is not exactly a small back. My guess is that sometime early this season we'll see Saine break a longer play than his infamous last second run at Washington his freshman season.
3. Lamaar Thomas - They don't call him "Flash" for nothing, as this guy has a jet in his rear end. Besides the possibilbity of taking a kick return all the way, Thomas will hopefully be utlilized on screens and reverses, because anytime he touches it there is a chance he could change the scoreboard.
4. Ray Small - We all know he has the potential but Ray must, #1 - Get his grades in order, and, #2 - Stay out of the doghouse. If those things are accomplished, and that is no small "if", then he may finally realize his vast potential as a game turner.
5. Jake Stoneburner - This guy is more "burner" and less "stone" despite his large frame. If he develops into an average blocker and if JT decides to actually utilize the tight end this year, there is the chance that he could split the defense, especially if he is being defended by a linebacker.
6. Terrelle Pryor - Rarely do you see a quarterback break a long run to the endzone, but Pryor is not your normal QB. While I think the staff wants to see him think pass first, developing along the same lines as Troy Smith did, the fact is that Pryor's legs and feet are special. He is big, fast and shifty, and that is an extremely rare combination. Hopefully this year will see TP throw for lots of touchdowns, but run for quite a few as well.
That's my list of potential game breakers. Of course any wideout has the potential to hit a big play, but I am guessing the above six players our the best bet for the big strike in '09.