CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

By Ramzy Nasrallah on March 22, 2011 at 1:00p
45 Comments
They've got this.  Maybe.

Fifteen years ago the Buckeyes took the field to start the 1996 season with significant changes all along the offensive side of the ball.  At quarterback, they would be without Bobby Hoying for the first time in what seemed like forever; Hoying had commandeered the offense for most of the previous three seasons. In his place, Stan Jackson, who looked extremely shaky in mop-up duty the previous year (a 56-0 halftime lead against Iowa morphed into a 56-35 final score on his watch) would compete with Mark Garcia and converted defensive back juco transfer Joe Germaine.  The drop-off was inevitable; it was only its depth that was undetermined.

Those Buckeyes would also be without their leading rusher from 1995 who also happened to be the best college football player on any team the previous year.  Relative unknowns Pepe Pearson, Joe Montgomery and Jermon Jackson were tapped to fill in and line up behind another space left vacant by the departure of Nicky Sualua, the best blocking fullback the Buckeyes had had in ages.  Oh, also missing that year would be the reigning Biletnikoff winner as well as the leading tight end that had been taken ninth overall in the NFL draft.  But other than all that, everything was expected to be juuuust great. 

The loss of Hoying, Eddie George, Sualua, Terry Glenn and Ricky Dudley should have been impossible to recover from; each of those players left campus having turned in one of the best seasons ever witnessed at their respective positions in Ohio State history.  However, despite the exodus of elite players the 1996 Buckeyes still somehow managed to duplicate the previous season’s output and run the table up until the Michigan game, which in the 1990s is unkindly referred to as “the usual.”

By contrast, the 2011 Buckeyes will endure the absence of five gratuitously tattooed starters for five games and should take the field in much better position for success.  Joe Bauserman, Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham and Braxton Miller have far more upside in aggregate than any of the quarterbacks who were poised to step in for Hoying (Garcia never could stay healthy while Jackson was a steady underachiever, leaving Germaine to emerge as the unlikely Buckeye legend). 

Pryor took over for Todd Boeckman at USC after Boeckman appeared to be turning in his sixth consecutive bad game going back to the previous season’s win at Happy Valley.  Bauserman, a grizzled veteran, along with Guiton and Graham all have the luxury of experience in their rear view.  By all accounts, Miller is a better quarterback right now than Pryor was entering college, with the added bonus of having that same Pryor attribute of making everyone else on the field look slow and, often, stupid.

Miller also wears a Block O arm tattoo that’s rivaled in its artistic complexity by Pryor’s.  Thankfully Miller does not have any Ohio State awards to barter with just yet, otherwise we could be creating more parallels here than we already are.

Boom Herron was a starter on a team already rife with tailback talent.  His temporary banishment is offset by the abundance of capable backs itching to get more carries.  Jordan Hall, Jamaal Berry, Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde would already have more yardage at any other Big Ten school.  It doesn’t require a full dissertation to support this position; Herron’s absence for the first five games of the 2011 season is generally accepted as the least painful, let alone with Zach Boren clearing space ahead of them.  Needless to say, Eddie was a bigger loss and Pearson et al were no better than equal replacements to the current lot.

DeVier Posey was a bit of an enigma in 2010, routinely quitting on routes, dropping passes and playing a noticeable second fiddle to team MVP Dane Sanzenbacher both in terms of opportunities as well as production.  Ohio State will enter 2011 with its most unknown and non-validated receiving corps since Jim Tressel’s first year.  This catch is that this would have been the case even with Posey in the lineup on day one. 

The suddenly veteran Corey Brown, the rangy T.Y. Williams and whoever else who wants it is going to get it.  Demetrious Stanley and freshman David Boston came out of practically nowhere in 1996.  Those vacuous spaces don’t tend to stay empty very long.

Then there’s Mike Adams.  Adams’ light turned on halfway through last season and he ended the year locking down his tackle position in a manner that suggests his loss will be felt the greatest.  There are angrier, quicker-maturing youthful beast-men prepared to pick up the slack, but it isn’t the brand of now-proven commodity that Adams became last year.  One of the strengths of that 1996 team was the veteran talent on both sides of the ball.  And the personnel parallel stops, abruptly.

Substitute a handful of key players from the Buckeyes’ roster with backups and the 2011 team is still capable of going 5-0.  It’s an advantage of recruiting; by the grace of God the Tat Five only included one offensive lineman.  Give this roster nine months to prepare mentally and physically for this reality and that five-game penance is going to be a far cry from being a fiery baptismal.  All of the four suspended offensive players could have left for the NFL.  Ohio State has recovered from far worse than this.

There are two real wildcards at play here, and neither of them is the missing players.  The first one is the missing Tressel.  Count me among those who believe Nic Siciliano is a quarterback coach in title only; it’s Tressel that builds, maintains and drives the bus.  Tressel is more of a wildcard because the Tressel system is predicated on steady game stewardship with bonus points for bailing out offense with legs. 

Both Guiton and especially Miller are capable of doing so with only the latter being almost comparable to Pryor’s wizardry in that capacity.  The playcalling is practically secondary; the in-game quarterback tutelage by Siciliano for his newly-minted starter(s) is what could be dicey.

When the sixth game of 1996 kicked off (a laugher in West Lafayette) those leaders from the 1995 season were all still absent and the team was rightfully operating as though they weren’t coming back.  I imagine the 2011 Buckeyes will function under similar, though radically artificial auspices. 

Come September, the two in-state little sisters on the schedule along with Miami, Colorado and Michigan State will not face a scarlet and gray damsel in distress wishful for its suspended players.  What they’re going to get is going to be a lot angrier and significantly less entitled than what they’d be facing if tattoos had never gotten fashionable, with that added wildcard of how the chosen quarterback is coached-up in the heat of battle. 

Those five opponens will, however, be insulated from and avoid the second wildcard to this Tatgate drama: What’s going to happen to Ohio State when those banished players finally return to the field on gameday in October.

45 Comments

Comments

Conroy's picture

The only things I can see this season are 12+ wins or 8.  I don't think there's much of a chance we end up any where in the middle.

slippy's picture

I think those last lines are the real issue.  Outside of Pryor I don't think we'll really notice a difference (for this part of the schedule at least).  I'd say the running game will get better, even.

 

But then the real question: If we head into the Nebraska game 5-0 with a margin of victory in the 30s, do the other guys get their jobs back?  If the (grizzled vet is a bit of a stretch) Baus is completing 75% of his passes at 10ypa does he rock the bench?

WilloughbyBuck's picture

I want whatever your drinkin'.  Undefeated with 30 point victory margin ?  Bauser with 75% completions ?  That would be great but seems more than a bit unlikely in my book so I'm not thinking there would be much of a problem for the returning starters to get their jobs back.

slippy's picture

Yes I know it's a little ridiculous.  But say the 'replacements' are better than any of us expect and we win the 5 games easily.

WilloughbyBuck's picture

Tat5 still get their jobs back no matter how good the replacements are.  Tressel made the deal to have them come back and they play.  I would love to see this be a problem.

Denny's picture

But then the real question: If we head into the Nebraska game 5-0 with a margin of victory in the 30s, do the other guys get their jobs back?  If the (grizzled vet is a bit of a stretch) Baus is completing 75% of his passes at 10ypa does he rock the bench?

This is not a real question, Slips.

Taquitos.

tampa buckeye's picture

Got news for you.  "Baus" will not see the field unless he is greatly improved from what we saw last year.  Miller will get his shot and if he can show what made him a 5 star in the spring he'll have the inside track on starter in the fall.  Only @ miami looks semi-tough, and running back gets better with Smith and Berry.  I like boom but he doesn't hit the homerun enough.

Anyway I thought we had the #1 basketball team in the nation? Write something about that.

a9entsmith's picture

Ramzy, great article. Really glad to see your stuff appearing on here now. I loved reading you at Bucknuts, but I seriously hate their new format. It's a major eyesore, what with all that blaring white. Feels extremely cluttered too.

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

Thanks.  Prepare to squint - I should have a new column up on the new Bucknuts shortly.

btalbert25's picture

I'm affraid the running game will not be better.  The losses of Boren and Browning are going to hurt.  Then take Adams from that left side and I'm very concerned about the running game.  There is definitely great talent at RB, but I'm affraid of what could happen if the new starters don't play up to par.  It's tough losing proven commodities like Boren and Browning, I just hope the new guys can step in and make it a seemless transition.

Natty Light's picture

agreed, the line performance is going to determine how the new QB's handle the offense.  none are going to be any good passing without more time than pryor needed.  running backs and Boren are going to be great (better?) than last year, but it's up to the guards and tackle to pave the road.  Wat worries me is the line has underperformed for the 1st half of the season the last 2 years. 

what is the line for the 1st 5?

Norwell(Adams) Hall, Brewster, Mewhort, Shugarts?

 

 

 

 

Buckeye in Athens's picture

That line sounds pretty good to me. Brewster and Shugarts are both experienced, so no worries there. Norwell and Hall both have a year of experience and played well. Mewhort is the real unknown. Also, Bobek will be along to give Brewster a break too. 

RBuck's picture

How good this team will be all depends on Tressel being able to coach spring, fall and game practices. I'd gladly vacate 2010 to see this happen....well maybe not the Sugar Bowl win. And please..no bowl ban.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

KenK's picture

Yeah, this offense will be  governed by how well the offensive line plays, IMO. I think we are ass-h*le deep at QB & RB, so that doesn't worry me. Do we (as if we are the coaches..) move Shugarts to guard?

My guess is the offense will have some pretty intense Spring practices to take the form that JT wants, and there will be copius notes left for interim coach to follow.

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

doodah_man's picture

Was interesting mentioning Joe Germain. One of the joys of Buckeyedom is the deflation of the all time wind bag Brent Musburger during the 1997 Rose Bowl. Just when you thought that you had enough of Musberger's love affair with Jake Plummer ("he's not a snake, he's a cobra", which in fact IS a snake), Joe Germain moves the bucks 12 plays in 1:40 for the winning touchdown, a five-yard pass to David Boston with 19 seconds left. Those final 19 seconds...Musburger: .........[crickets]....... Guess he should have done just a bit of research on the Buckeyes.

Jim "DooDah" Day
It is hard to play dirty against a man who picks you up.

741's picture

From my perspective the silver lining of the first five games will be finding out how good our O-line (minus Adams) is, and getting a sense of how much talent there actually is in the logjam of RB's we have. I'll be shocked if we are throwing the ball more than 15 times a game.

Run, [insert name here]! Run!

741's picture

That said, I think the one member of the Tat-5 who stands to lose the most is of course Boom. If there are one or more RB's who really distinguish themselves in games 1-5 it will be almost certainly take away from Boom's carries later in the season. Am I wrong?

Jdadams01's picture

I agree completely. If Berry or Smith or anyone for that matter gets in there and plays up to their immeanse talent, why give Boom more than complementary role? I see Boom becoming the second option as a change of pace guy. His experience is valuable, but if the O-line is making holes and someone else has built the rhythm and confidence already, I don't see Boom taking back his spot.

741's picture

That's a little further than I was going with it - I was thinking instead of absolutely and without a doubt Boom getting 85% of the carries in 2011, he might be looking at about 50% if one or two guys prove to be really strong in the first 5 games.

I think there is no way in hell barring injury, additional mental lapse(s), or the second coming of Beanie Wells will Boom not be the #1 featured back when he returns from suspension.

Bucks's picture

Agreed with you on Boom getting some preference based off his time here and work put in.

 

Won't lie. The prospect of seeing what this running core can do, even if its from being a forced issue with suspensions, is exciting to me. I'm of the opinion we actually have a Beanie in the background.

741's picture

I hope so! That would be a very welcome outcome! GO BUCKS.

btalbert25's picture

Honestly, would it just be by virtue of time put in?  He had 2 games over 150 yards, one at just over 100 and 2 others that were over 90 yards.   He earned the right to have the spot taken away from him.  I have to agree, short of a Beanie, Mo C, or Eddie type of dominant perfomance, Boom will be the feature back, and rightfully so.

WilloughbyBuck's picture

Don't forget how well Boom has protected the ball.  Remember that fumble in the Sugar Bowl was his first in forever.  No matter how well the youngins run, they have to NOT fumble.

741's picture

Agreed. I am not one of those who thinks Tressel just gives upperclassmen preference over younger players. To the contrary, Boom has earned 1st position at RB, and rightfully would have been getting probably 85% of the touches. Will be interesting to see who emerges as his competition now that the door is wide open.

Natty Light's picture

I dont think Boom got 85% of carries last year...maybe in the close end of season games

 

even more so than holding on to the ball, boom's edge lies in what to do on passing downs...being in the right place at the right time and blocking skills. 

 

I, for one, welcome our new running backs.  Calling it now, tressel knows he has the spring to teach at least one of them to have the feature back mentality regarding fumbling blocking and recieving.  boom will get less than 50% of the carries against Nebraska, and other close games

741's picture

Actually, by the time the Big Ten season started (and excluding the Purdue and Minnesota games that OSU won by a combined score of 101-10) Boom probably did get close to 85% of the carries allocated to the RB corps.

http://ohiostatebuckeyes.com/fls/17300/stats/football/2010/indgbg.htm#IG...

johnblairgobucks's picture

yeah, next year may resemble 1997, or it may resemble 2004.  I have more concerns on defense, than I do for the offense.   Miller will have a fine OSU career at QB(barring injury).  I'm more worried about 2 new linebackers and 2 new defensive lineman.

I'm sure alot of you will say, OSU's defense always reloads...........well I'm still concerned.  

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

I have VERY reliable sources who have told me Kenny is the starter in place of TP.  When asked about the coaching situation, I got an answer that left me a little puzzled.  More on that later....

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

KenK's picture

Just so we're clear; I'm not the "Kenny" that AHB means...

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

Jason Priestas's picture

Good to know, but I bet you're still ahead of JB on the chart.

AeroBuckeye2001's picture

I have a hard time believing that a "reliable source" knows who will start prior to spring practice.

The Ohio State University Class of 2001
BS Aero & Astronautical Engineering

Corey Carpenter's picture

I think there has to be a sense over at the WHAC of who has the edge to start heading into spring and I doubt it's Joey B. If Guiton developed as much over this last year as he did his first, he's the leader.

Natty Light's picture

has bauserman ever looked better than KG?  the coaches have been fine with him in the number 2 spot for mop up duty because he has more experience and is less likely to do something dumb while running out the clock. 

 

KG lit up the spring game and from everything I've heard about practice, has looked like the clear best option to throw the ball and tuck and run it if need be. 

slippy's picture

My friend's brother was on the team and he always told my buddy that the Baus looked great in practice.  Obviously we've never seen that translate even to the Spring Game but just remember the coaches get to see a lot more than us.

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

Do you consider players themselves as reliable sources?

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

gravey's picture

If Adams replacement can't protect the backside, then it has to be Guiton...or Miller if he can run as well as advertised....that and a whole lotta dave...

Robert Plant breaks in...runna whole lotta dave.....runna whole lotta dave...

William's picture

+ 1,000 Led Zep reference

Carolina Buckeye's picture

The same reasons that the Tat5 will get their jobs back (Tressel made a promise) is the same reason that Braxton Miller gets to start at least 4 of the 5 games to start next fall; Tressel probably had to say a lot to get him to come to The Ohio State University.

 

Sure the situation that we currently face probably didn't come up during recruiting but if Braxton is ready, he is going to play.  The only reason/rumor I've heard that would keep Braxton on the sidelines for a year is that there is already a growing divide among the team because Braxton is so well liked and Pryor is well..Pryor, so much so that, it is already Braxton's team.

 

I don't see a situation where Miller doesn't start.

Ethan's picture

Miller was an early OSU commit, and never even seriously looked at other schools. I don't think Tressel had to do a whole lot of promising. Also, can you link where you heard about the BM/TP divide? 

 

The fact that Miller is a true freshman (no matter HOW talented he is) I think will keep him from starting. I just don't see a scenario where starting ends up being the best thing for him. If he comes in and it takes him a bit to get his sea legs under him, then people are going to hammer him for not producing right away like he was "supposed to" (see Pryor, Terrelle). If he comes in and sets the world on fire, he's going to have to give the keys right back to Pryor after his suspension is up, which would just create a rift between the fans (at the very least), and potentially the players. I think it makes by FAR the most sense to redshirt him this season. No need to waste a year of eligibility while we still have TP for 5 games that Kenny G or any scrub whitey QB could manage. In this scenario, we'd have him for 4 full years, with him already having a year to get a grasp of the offense and catch up with the speed of the college game. 

 

That being said, I'm 99% sure I saw Miller said Tress told him he isn't going to redshirt. If that's the case, by all means let him see the field in the first 5 games, but not as the starter. 

Bucksfan's picture

If this team starts out 5-0 I will be very surprised.  Miami, FL is getting written off as if they're Indiana.  Look, I realize Ohio State controlled them last year, and if it weren't for stalled red zone trips and some special teams gaffes, it may have been a blowout.  But as I recall, Pryor had his hands full with VERY fast corners blanketing his receivers making TD's very tough to find, and Miami's WR's suffered from the droppsies and miscues Arkansas-style.  It's going to be a much more even matchup without the starting QB, RB, and #1WR, and don't forget OSU loses a lot of defense this offseason, too.  @Miami is no joke, and neither is MSU.  3-2 is certainly in the realm, and going to Lincoln to start things off could mean 3-3 with dates against Wisconsin and a thirsty Michigan team.

So, you can count this Buckeye fan in the camp of low expectations.  I do not expect a national title, and it would be very unusual for a team to suffer that kind of distraction and not miss a beat.

anchorman's picture

What game did you watch last year? I remember Posey streaking downt he sideline and burning their corners. Saine catching that TD. Of course TP was going to have a hard time with their CBs, but that could be just about every team we played.  I know, coulda, woulda, shoulda, on the dropped passes. We now have to figure those in now cause both of those teams dropped passes.

ANGEL........

What's the word on the coaching situation?

Bucksfan's picture

The game where Pryor only completed 44% of his passes.  233 yards and a TD is nothing to whine about when you win, of course.  But the passing game struggled in the red zone.  My point is merely that one cannot suddenly expect a new QB and green receivers to suddenly perform BETTER than what we've seen from our best players.

anchorman's picture

Now all of a sudden SCum is thirsty?! Looked like it when they came to CBus last year. Looked it in the Gator Bowl. Not worried about them. Joke has a lot of work to do!