1) Rolle is getting the reps at MLB while Spitler has been bumped over to SLB. Do you feel this is best situation for the linebacking core?
Dave: Let me say that this one baffles me completely. You have a guy with good size in Spitler, who seems like the prototypical "fill the hole" middle linebacker, but who doesn't possess great speed. Then you have a guy in Rolle who is a bit small by Big Ten standerds but who has excellent speed and delivers a wicked hit. Logic tells you that Spitler is a middle linebacker and Rolle a perfect candidate to play outside, and slip into pass coverage when needed. I think Fickell is one of our best position coaches, so I'm sure there is a reason for this experiment, but I will be surprised if they come out in this alignment come September.
Drew: I am personally hoping that this move is because Spitler is a senior, and they want to give him reps first. I will say too, that on paper this move would not be nearly as perplexing if Homan was not on the other side. Homan and Spitler together are not quick enough to play the spread, and the Buckeyes will be abused sideline to sideline if this move sticks. In my opinion both Homan and Spitler look like middle linebackers, but I am not obviously in practice with them everyday. Hopefully Fickell goes another direction because the Buckeyes have too much athletic depth to settle for playing "seniority." I have feeling this will all work out for the good though.
2) Reports are that Stoneburner has maybe put on too much weight, and doesn't look fluid in his movements. Has the staff messed with Stoneburner a little too much?
Drew: Well I have feared his transition to tight end since the beginning. Everyone knows that playing TE for the Buckeyes is pretty much to be another tackle blocking for the running game. It's great moving Stoneburner over if you actually use his size and speed for mismatches in the passing game, but it is obvious the plan is to bulk him up for blocking. I really feel this is a shame, and is a complete waste of such a talented young man. Some players never handle the extra weight (*cough* Robert Rose *cough*), and it sounds like that might be true for Stoneburner.
Dave: I guess I have been drinking the Buckeye flavored coolade, because I was initially excited by this move, thinking it would get one more good athelete on the field. My mind went back to Kellen Winslow Jr., and I imagined Stoneburner isolated on a linebacker catching passes across the middle of the field. However, the recent pictures of Jake show a guy who has added quite a bit of weight and now I wonder if he has lost speed and agility. If so it is a shame, because guys his size with speed and soft hands are rare. You are right about Rose. His weight gain negatively affected his athleticism and I hope the same thing doesn't happen with Stoneburner. He is too skilled to simply turn him into a glorified offensive lineman.
Dave: Against Navy, sure. The Bucks have some talented wideouts, they are just really green. Against USC Small needs to be on the field. He has the ability to take any pass to the house, and is without doubt, the best punt returner on the team. Big plays are essential if Ohio State is going to beat the Trojans. The wildcard is Duron Carter, who might just be ready for prime time action right away.
Drew: I have to say that I disagree on this one. I think Small is a huge loss as a punt returner, but is greatly overrated as a pass catcher. I know he missed 5 games last season, but he only recorded 149 yards receiving with no touchdowns. He is an incredible athlete who has never conceptually figure out how to be a big time receiver, and someone who completely disappears in the big game. In fact, I think Dane Sanzenbacher would be a much bigger loss for this unit. For the first time since the days of Gonzo, Ginn, and Holmes, the Buckeyes have a highly touted and capable unit at receiver. They may be young, but watch for guys like Carter and Posey to break out big. With their size, hands, and play making ability, Pryor has plenty of players to throw the ball to.
4) The Buckeyes have brought in a very athletic freshmen class, which freshmen stand out this fall and become major contributers come the season?
Drew: The two guys I really have a good feeling about are Duron Carter and Corey Brown. Carter obviously has the size and all the physical gifts, but Small's troubles might move him up even quicker than some thought. Word out of practice is that he goes up and gets the ball as good as anyone on the team, which even Tressel commented about, so I think it is just a matter of time. Brown also has some incredible athleticism, and could very quickly find himself getting some playing time in the secondary. Much like with the case of Malcolm Jenkins, I could see Brown getting bumped up later in the season if some of the upperclassmen don't produce.
Dave: It is hard to disagree with you one this, much as I'd like too! Carter seems the most likely candidate as I mentioned above. And Corey Brown is a fabulous talent. Somehow I think that a linebacker might also jump into the frey with Moeller's injury. Both Dorian Bell and Storm Klein are possiblities, and I'll go with Bell based off his athletic ability. I also think that Berry might be needed, since both Herron and Saine have had some injury problems in the past, and the Big Ten chews up tailbacks.
5) Berry has picked up the No. 4 for the Buckeyes. Considering his prior actions, will he pick up the Ray Small curse from the number?
Dave: Let's hope not. Berry already has one strike, and if he gets another it will be straight into the Tressel doghouse for him. But I think he will toe the line. I don't know why, but I have a good feeling about this kid. I don't think he'll duplicate his mistake, and I also don't think he'll be another Maurice Wells, despite his small stature. Let's just hope they don't run him up the middle every time!
Drew: Berry is the kind of playmaker the Buckeyes need in the backfield as a change of pace back. On top of that, he is desperately needed for depth. I think his prior incident has changed his tune for 2009, and I hope for his career. Also, I have to agree with your mentioning of Maurice Wells. Berry hits the hole much quicker than Wells ever did, and he changes direction better. With that said, it will up to the staff to put him in situations to use that, which they never really gave to Wells. Overall, I not only hope that Berry does not find the doghouse like Small, I hope he plays better than Small has in his career. Small has never lived up the hype Teddy Ginn Sr. bestowed coming out of high school, and hope Berry has a different fate.