Citizens of Central Ohio felt something they hadn't felt arguably in decades around lunch time Wednesday afternoon when science types reported an earthquake in Ontario resonated shockwaves through our fair city. In reality, the shaking you were feeling was the sleeping giant that has been Ohio State's lines finally waking and beginning personal conditioning in anticipation of the 2010 season. Hey now, these are big dudes. It's not our place to judge.
Much hearsay and conjecture (kinds of evidence) have made their ways around these parts and various other miscellaneous nooks and crevices of Buckeye blasphemy across these fair interwebs as to some of the fundamental root causes to the unforgettable tragedy of 1/8/2007 and the disheartening very public caning that took place the following January in New Orleans. "Troy Smith sure shouldn't have been partyin it up with all those models in that Glendale pool with all the other draft bound juniors and seniors!!," you might be quick to say. Or "Maybe, just maybe.. If he hadn't been fightin' his teammates and beating up idealist true believe underclassmen 2 hours before kick off the chemistry might've been better!" you might be quick to regurgitate. And then there's always, "dude shouldn't have been eating fried choco-Heisman butter all those weeks not practicing and doing Mayonnaise-bongs!" I hear you. In principle at least, I hear you.
But flashback (consider this therapy) to that fateful night int the desert, and it's easy to envision a somewhat different reality had the two book ends, The Nuthouse's MVP Alex Boone (who deserves much merit for coming a long way), or 4-time Michigan victor and contentious figure in some other circles, Kirk Barton, done their due diligence and played anywhere near the peaks of their physical skill sets would've allowed them. Derrick Harvey, Jarvis Moss, Carlos Dunlap, and the seemingly endless barrage of large fast men with tempers who are inexplicably marginalized in the NFL certainly would've had more mortal evenings. Who knows, maybe even the AT&T-Luke Wilson version of Troy Smith might've had the chance to garner up enough confidence and rhythm to complete a more Snead'ian line than the Kirby Freeman memorial platter that was ultimately served up.
This year's incarnation of the Bucks should have the best concurrent left/right tackle combination the school's seen since the Cooper-era. By many accounts, big Mike Adams seems to finally be beginning to rectify the between the ear issues that plagued him on and off the field the last several years and let his raw, Pace-lite physical gifts do their thing. On the opposite corner, Texas product J.B. Shugarts grew in leaps and bounds by season's end last year and could be ready to step up and make the Boom Saine Pain Train Express a full blown East-West transcontinental rail road. As if having these two potential all-Big Ten talents holding the corners down wasn't enough, the particularly exciting element absent from a number of the BCS bowl losing squads of recent years were any kind of tangible depth at those spots. If the starting group weren't holding it down, doing their jobs on special teams, or what not, that was essentially it. This is almost a thing of the past with the wealth of experience Andy Miller in particular and to a lesser extent Marcus Hall were to accrue last season. Having worthy understudies standing by at a moment's notice only furthers the chances for this large group of men to do big things in 2010.
Flashing back one more time (talking about it is the only way to fully heal) to the 2008 football version of "Two and a Half Men", and arguably that group's greatest shortcoming (besides inexperience) reared its ugly head at the most inopportune time in the form of the interior defensive line. While that group had some guys who ultimately would contribute in one variety or another, they simply weren't ready for primetime at that point in their careers and were easily malleable to opposing, senior interior guards, centers, and long faced, DERPy looking tailbacks who were so gifted at what they did they now play a completely different position in the NFL (reality check: Beanie was and is still better).
The 2009 Buckeyes had one of the better interior d-lines in some time, and the 2010 team looks to continue right where that team left off. Some folks have sang the praises of Dexter Larimore for some time talking about how his high school wrestling championship experience could translate to quick footwork and the sort of moves necessary to get the kind of leverage needed to blow up plays before they can even get started. WIth injuries now behind him, there's little reason to think why 2010 can't be the year he finally blossoms into the player many have thought he would grow into. With Johnny Simon just behind him, a difficult task becomes a darn near impossible one as one of the most impressive true freshmen to log time at the position could be the early stages of doing some filthy Cam Heyward-in-training type work next Fall. While this group doesn't quite have the luxury of experienced backups the way the outside o-line does, they do offer up a number of warm bodies with the likes of Adam Bellamy, Garrett Goebel, John Lorenz, amongst others expected to contribute.
So where in lies the Buckeyes greatest surprise strength and the cure to maybe some factor that's prevented them from taking the next step in year's past? The outside o-line, the interior d-line, or maybe another unit such as the tailbacks or safeties?