The Buckeyes begin fall camp today after reporting to the University Plaza Hotel on Sunday. That means as you settle into that morning cup of joe the sweat and pain (or weakness leaving the body) that's part of a championship team will already be well underway.
Only one player did not report -- freshman Shawntel "Shaq" Rowell. Rowell, a massive defensive tackle, did not report because of "things, paperwork-wise" to clear up and becomes the third straight Glenville product to have paperwork issues prior to fall camp. There were rumors of grade and ACT issues, but hopefully his situation will be resolved quickly.
Fall camp is the first real opportunity the coaching staff have to work with Pryor though Beanie claimed that the offense would look just like last season's, you can bet the Pryor package will be introduced on day one of camp (Beanie also stated that he's 100% healthy, which does not bode well for the other 10 conference teams). If the fact that more Buckeyes ran with Pryor than Boeckman in the video game tournament last week means anything, either his teammates have already seen a little of what Pryor is capable of or he's just that good in pixels. Probably a little bit of both.
After a grueling summer where the players appear to have been pushed harder than at any other time in their Buckeye careers, the Buckeyes enter fall camp with only a handful of true position battles. Bryant Browning appears to have the right tackle spot locked down, and Ryan Lukens and Curtis Terry have stepped into the fullback void. On the defensive side of the ball Chimdi Chekwa is running with the first team secondary in light of Donald Washington "getting his car keys back" while Terry and Tyler Moeller are the frontrunners for Larry Grant's vacated linebacker spot.
Every year about a half-dozen freshman see any type of real game action and besides Pryor, it's unknown which others will make the jump. Will it be Sabino, one of the lineman or Posey? What about Stoneburner or Thomas? Who is your choice for the freshman that will see the most action this year not named "Pryor"?
While Friday's announcement of the preseason Coach's Poll got all of the pub (Blutarsky takes a nice look inside the numbers), astute students of the game will probably pay a little more attention to SMQ's top five. He has the Buckeyes at 4th and the Trojans 2nd and backs up his pick justly:
Still, when I consider the team thatâ€™s closed the last two seasons in humiliating championship beatdowns visiting the team thatâ€™s closed the last two seasons on the better end of triumphant Rose Bowl massacres over teams that had pushed the Buckeyes to the brink (or, in Illinoisâ€™ case, past it) a few weeks before, and thatâ€™s won 38 of its last 39 at home, letâ€™s just say OSU has not earned the benefit of the doubt. In a field of contenders this crowded, there is no room for doubt.
All of the above could be invalidated if Ohio State wins in L.A. on Sept. 13, where it is, after all, the more experienced team, the more consistent team, and can plausibly claim the best player on the field on any given play in Beanie Wells or James Laurinaitis. Itâ€™s impossible not to focus excessively on the date with USC, not only because itâ€™s one of the biggest non-conference blockbusters in recent memory (though OSUâ€™s heavyweight battles with Texas in 2005-06 were in the same class, and had the same filtering effects for the winner on the eventual mythical championship shot), but with the Big Ten schedule being what it is, itâ€™s the Buckeyesâ€™ only real opportunity to pre-empt the gnashing of teeth destined to accompany another scarlet and gray turn on the big stage in January.
No argues with that assessment nor his choice of the Gators as his preaseason #1. Tebow of Nazareth is just that good.
Still no update on what lead Quinn Pitcock to abruptly retire from the NFL after only one season. Ken Gordon tracked down former Buckeye and Colt teammate Roy Hall to try to get the story, but Hall knows little more than we do at this point in time. Hall lead the Colts with four receptions in their Hall of Fame game matchup with the Redskins last night.
Purdue blog Boiled Sports was kind enough to have me over for an interview. They have a hard time believing Buckeye fans are heading into this year cautiously optimistic, but I stand by my point about the Rodriguez hiring being a plus for the Big Ten. Maybe not over 1997 Lloyd, but definitely over 2007 Lloyd.