If the Buckeyes are to earn a BCS bowl berth for the fifth time in six years, that effort will no doubt be supported by another bumper crop of stars out of Glenville High School. Last year, Tarblooders Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. led OSU to the National Championship game and according to Doug Lesmerises' fantastic article in Sunday's Plain Dealer, this years batch of 'Blooders is ready to make their mark.
Ray Small is the favorite to have the biggest impact as a third receiver and the top kickoff/punt return man, however that could depend on his ability to bounce back from a reported ankle sprain that should have all of Buckeye Nation nervous. Following the logic that teams will stack the box and dare OSU to throw, it's imperative that Small stretch the defense and punish teams getting too greedy at the line of scrimmage. All reports say Small is as fast as Ginn but it won't matter if he's not on the field. Small will also need to prove he's not gun shy about making catches in traffic after Troy got him lit up against Minnesota last year causing Small to basically miss the rest of the season. A healthy Small combined with the new kickoff rule (from the 30 yard line instead of the 35) should set up excellent field position for the young offense. Of course, this assumes teams don't kickoff to Mo Wells everytime which begs the question, where in the world is Brandon Saine? Small and Saine are gamebreakers - exactly the kind of guys you want returning kickoffs. Seeing Mo Wells listed as a starting kickoff return man smells of Tressel's well known love for upperclassmen. (I hope it comes back to bite me, but I have no idea why Mo Wells gets to touch the football.)
Defensively, the Buckeyes sport a number of proven Glenville products including S Jamario O'Neal and LB Curtis Terry but the unproven commodity is true sophomore DE Robert Rose. According to Lesmerises, Rose has put on 25 pounds allowing Jim Heacock to experiment lining up Rose at a tackle spot in passing situations creating a speed/quickness advantage to compliment outside rushes from freak of nature Vernon Gholston and the 6'6", 270lb Lawrence Wilson. How's that experiment going? Pretty well according to OSU's Director of Football Performance, Eric Lichter:
"I happened to catch one of the last periods of practice this week, and he made a play where he just overpowered one of our fine tackles. I won't say which one, but it was like, Wow,' and if that guy can put together some consistency, he can do that all the time."
With the only questions defensively centering around the D-Line, the maturity of Rose could ensure the 2007 unit is one of the top 5 in the country.