Apology Granted That's exactly what Adam Rittenberg did to the Ohio State program after thinking the Tat 5's pledge to The Vest wouldn't hold up. He was wrong, and rightfully admitted his mistake in assuming that the players would bolt after the Sugar Bowl just because the going got tough. While Rittenberg wouldn't go as far as calling the suspended players outstanding citizens, he definitely gives them credit, and even more to Jim Tressel for the respect he commands from his players.
As stated before, Tressel played this perfectly. He knew the pledge wasn't "binding" by any means, but by going public with news that the players did indeed sign a pledge to return if they played in the bowl game, he set up any player that jetted for the NFL for an ultimate ban from Buckeye folklore. The Bucks can now concentrate on setting up their team for next season, specifically the offense for the first five games. I think in the end, if the Bucks can escape the beginning of the season unscathed, that the suspensions will end up being a blessing in disguise, in that younger players will get a chance to prove their worth. This will be a great chance to allow for Tressel to have greater depth on the roster throughout the season and get an insight into life after The Brew Crew.
Going for Greener Pastures While the Buckeyes didn't lose anyone early to the NFL, a lot of other schools did. Despite potential labor strife in the league next season, a record 56 players left college eligibility on the table in exchange for potential cash waiting for them at the next level. Notable Big Ten early entrees include Illinois' Mikel Leshoure, Martez Wilson, and Corey Liuget, Wisconsin's John Clay and JJ Watt, Indiana's Tandon Doss, and Iowa's Tyler Sash. Looks like Michigan State and Ohio State came out winners heading into next year's Big Ten football season.
Crafting Something Special While Jared Sullinger has been outstanding, collecting multiple Big Ten Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week honors, people are starting to realize that point guard Aaron Craft may be the key to an OSU championship run. Bob Baptist writes that the Buckeyes are very happy Craft had a change of heart after originally giving a verbal to Tennessee, and we cannot tell you how happy we are that Thad decided to offer the kid. Doug Lesmerises also has plenty of praise for the tough-nosed competitor from Findlay, and why not? All Craft has done is gone Mike Conley Jr. on us, taking over the team on the court, scoring when needed and otherwise acting as a floor general in finding open teammates for easy buckets. If you haven't started to yet, I suggest you tune into Buckeye hoops this season and watch Craft and the rest of the guys storm through on their way to Houston.
Deja Vu All Over Again Apparently I'm not the only one thinking Aaron Craft is reminding us of Mike Conley Jr.'s time in Columbus. The Lantern compares this year's basketball team to the national runner-up team from 2006-2007, and makes some pretty good points in backing up their thesis. I'd love for this team to mirror that squad, with one difference: actually winning the national championship. I think overall the 2006-2007 team had more depth (used a 9 man rotation), but the current group of players seeing minutes this year may be more talented at the end of the day.
Fear Notre Dame? Recruiting is always a toss-up in terms of predicting how well a player will perform at the college level, but if current projections are any indication, Brian Kelly is creating a beast in South Bend. Kelly has always been successful on the offensive side of the football and I think he will continue to recruit very good "system" players to run his offense at Notre Dame, but over the years, defense has been his achilles heel. He had some good "Big East level" defenses while at Cincinnati, but those eventually proved to be inferior on a national level when matched up against elite teams, such as when the Bearcats played VT and Florida in BCS games, where they were beaten convincingly in both contests.
That is about to change and with the luck of the Irish behind him, Kelly is realizing he can get defensive too. The Notre Dame class of 2011 features some outstanding defensive prospects, including two of the top four defensive ends in the country in Aaron Lynch and Ishaq Williams, the #12 safety in the country in Pickerington Central's Eliar Hardy, and the #14 OLB in the country in Colerain's Jarret Grace. Over half of the current commits in the class will play on the defensive side of the ball, a sign Kelly is about to change both the way his staff recruits and the way his team plays, now that he is calling the shots at one of the most storied college programs in the history of the game.
Scared yet? I'm not as of now, but recruiting like this in the next few years and you can expect the Irish to return to prominence, as long as Kelly keeps doing his thing on offense.