11W Roundtable: Michigan State Week

By Chris Lauderback on September 30, 2011 at 10:00a
My apologies for the obscure Grand Funk Railroad reference. (photo: Marvin Fong / Plain Dealer)Hall: I'm your captain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Sporting a 3-1 mark through the non-conference slate, the 2nd season begins for an Ohio State team still one week away from the return of Boom, Adams and Posey as the Buckeyes welcome Sparty to town. 

Suprising to many, Fickell's crew is listed as a three point favorite despite featuring the 109th best passing attack in America though they have shown the ability to rush the football, ranking 39th via 184 yards on the ground per contest.

Whether or not the offense can move the ball will loom large in determing the outcome as though the OSU defense is certainly a capable unit, they'll be facing a very experienced QB in Kirk Cousins, a definite threat on the edge in WR B.J. Cunningham and a stable of RB's led by Columbus product Le'Veon Bell. Damn, I love that name. 

Still, this is the kind of game Sparty loves to lose. Ohio State has beaten the green and white seven straight times and haven't lost at home to MSU since that fateful day in '98. Having brought up that demon, let's get to this week's table de round...

I thought it a bit interesting that Fickell named Jordan Hall one of the rotating captains for this week. What’s your take on that specific decision and more generally, what are your thoughts on Fickell’s decision to not have permanent captains for 2011, instead opting to rotate to bring everyone into the sense of team?

Alex:  I have no problem with Hall being a captain, just like I'll have no problem with DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, or Boom Herron being a captain when they return. These players did something wrong, served their punishment and don't need to be penalized further. If they are the leaders of the team they deserve to be captains, as long as they are playing in the games.

Ramzy: The rotating captains gimmick screams of indecision and as terrific as Jordan Hall has looked in games it is a curious move to put a kid who was suspended 20 minutes ago for taking money at midfield for the coin toss.

What do you project as Devin Smith’s ceiling? Can you think of a former Buckeye he compares favorably to? How so?

Jeremy: I have been beating the Devin Smith drum since before the season started, and I won't stop now.  I see Smith and I see Terry Glenn.  So athletic, smooth yet explosive and a penchant for the spectacular.  Future All-American.

Ramzy: Devin Smith's ceiling: Terry Glenn.  Devin Smith's floor: Drew Carter. The only thing that should be able to derail this kid's trajectory is health. 

Jason: In terms of his hot start and acrobatics (his vert is off the charts), I think Terry Glenn comes to mind. I don't think he's as fast as Glenn, but not too far behind, either. In that regard, his ceiling is pretty high, especially considering the rapport he seems to have developed with Braxton Miller.

Can Ohio State beat Sparty completing less than 10 passes?

Alex: Can they? Yes, as long as they get one heckuva day from their running backs/Braxton's legs and some help via turn overs from the Sparty offense. That being said, it wouldn't be an easy task, but definitely a possible one. I do think Miller will have to come close to 10 passes if he doesn't hit that mark, as the MSU secondary is the weak spot on the defense.

Ramzy: In 2003 Ohio State won five games without scoring a single offensive TD. They're Buckeyes: They can win or lose any game, inexplicably.

Can Miller conceivably stay healthy all season running the ball roughly 15 times a game? Or is that not a concern for you?

Jason: It's a definite concern for anyone that followed him even briefly when he was at Wayne. In both his junior and senior seasons, injuries kept him out of games and in the case of his junior season, an extended stretch of games. I'm sure the coaches are on him to a) take care of the football and b) avoid getting hurt, so I think we'll see him take steps to limit potential injuries. That said, running and creating is what he does best, so there will be a few hold-your-breath-moments this year, no doubt.

Ramzy: No he can't. He'll get Denarded. The difference between Miller and HE16MAN is that Miller could become a credible pocket-passing threat if he had an actual QB coach instead of a VCR repairman from the Geek Squad as his position coach.

Alex: The way he is built right now, I don't think he can. Can Denard Robinson? Can Michael Vick? No, and they aren't that far off in size. I think we were all spoiled with Terrelle Pryor, as the guy was an absolute beast and able to sustain hits, as well as dodge many with the strength of his stiff arm. Braxton is 6-2/215, not 6-6/240 and I think eventually that will catch up to him if he continues to run the ball like he did against Colorado.

Speaking of which, I continue to be shocked at the lack of bubble screens to WR’s and straight screens to RB’s being called by Bollman that could get Miller into a rhythm. Do you share this sentiment and/or what strategy would you employ to get more safe balls into the air?

Jeremy: With the lack of experience and productivity out of the WR group (Still scratching my head about why Chris Fields gets time on the offense with Reed, Smith and Spencer all far better options, IMHO), it is puzzling where the screen game is.  Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde have both proven to be effective pass-catchers, and heck, what about a middle screen to Stoney? 

Ramzy: I couldn't read this question; I was too distracted by the image of Bollman rolling around naked on all of the cash he's taken from Ohio State over the last decade while overseeing an offensive line that annually hangs on by a thread and relies on no injuries to avoid total catastrophe. 

Kirk Cousins is a seasoned vet completing nearly 69% of his passes so far this season. How would you scheme in the secondary to slow his effectiveness Saturday?

Jason: The two things you want to do to slow down quarterbacks are disguise blitzes and coverages. Cousins is pretty salty, so he's seen his fair share of each by now, but you have to do it anyway. If Ohio State can get to him and hit him early, that will go a long way as well.

Alex: If the Buckeyes had Cousins, we could potentially be booking a trip to New Orleans for the MNC. As you said he is a seasoned vet who isn't going to get rattled on the road and is very comfortable with this offense and with what Mark Dantonio needs him to do on the field. That being said, he did throw 10 INTs last season, so it's not like he won't make a mistake in throwing the football. The best play for the Buckeyes is to get as much pressure as possible on Cousins. A pass rush has been lacking outside of what the front 4 is able to do by beating their man, so I think however Heacock wants to get guys to the passer, he needs to. This will help the secondary dramatically when going against a veteran passer like Cousins.

Jeremy: Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. Cousins needs to be hit early and often, if he gets protection and time to throw, the WRs for MSU will eventually get open. I like our CBs against their WRs athletically, but they can only cover for so long.  

Ramzy: Disguise coverages per usual but roll the safety over to Cunningham's side and blitz the star from the opposite end.

Which defender could play the most pivotal role this week? Why?

Alex: Jonathan Hankins will play the biggest role this week. Michigan State, in addition to having a solid passing game, uses the running game as it's bread and butter. Dantonio has three backs in Baker, Caper, and Bell who are capable of running the ball effectively, and OSU will need to stop the ground game if they want to win. The man key in doing this is Hankins, as he is the only OSU lineman with enough size, strength, and talent to take up two MSU blockers, allowing the other linemen to go 1-on-1 with their blockers, as well as let the Buckeye linebackers roam free to come up and make some plays at the line of scrimmage. Big Hank must do his thing on Saturday for the Bucks to win the battle in the trenches. 

Jason: Johnny Simon. If he can take up residence in Cousins' face, that will go a long way towards securing the win.

Sparty WR B.J. Cunningham is averaging 107 receiving yards per game through four contests. If OSU lines up in man to man which cover guy do you want checking Cunningham and why?

Jeremy: Dominic Clarke. The most athletic of the OSU CBs and has showed impeccable timing in breaking up passes to start the year. 

Alex: Travis Howard. I know he's had some bad plays, but I think that's the product of some rust. On the flip side, he's also had some really good plays and I think that's the norm you will see out of him now that he has two games under his belt. Cunningham will get his catches on Saturday, but the key will be to keep everything underneath and not let him beat you for the big play.

It’s 4th and goal from the Sparty 1 yard line and the Buckeyes need a TD to win. What play are you calling and why?

Jason: Braxton on a naked bootleg. Dantonio is probably smart enough to be looking for it, but I still like his speed and shifts on the edge. 

Alex: I'm calling a run for Jordan Hall right behind Jack Mewhort and Mike Brewster. This is what Ohio State is all bout, taking their best up front and going against the opponent's best up front. If the Bucks can't get enough push on the line to allow Hall to get one yard with the game on the line, they don't deserve to win.

Ramzy: I-formation play-action naked boot to the strong side with a TE outlet/Miller keeper.

Jeremy: Play-action, naked boot run/pass option for Miller to with Stoneburner on a corner route.

Where were you in ’98 when Sparty beat the best Buckeye team on paper assembled in my lifetime? What do you remember most about that game and how did you eventually cleanse your soul and move forward?

Ramzy: Section 18C, row 12, seat 5. I remember MSU down 24-9 and punting in the third quarter. The punt hit Nate Clements in the back and Sparty recovered and then eventually scored. What unfolded after that was a sequence of mathematical improbabilities, crazy jump balls and standard-issue Crisis Management failures from the Cooper era that I still haven't gotten over.  I will never find peace, nor move forward. MSU lost to Purdue the following week and failed to get bowl eligible after beating - legitimately - a superb Ohio State team with no holes.  

Jason: I watched the game with some friends and was absolutely crushed. The '98 team was the best team I'd ever seen (and with the best player I'd ever seen - Winfield) and I was still young enough to take losses like that way too hard. 

Jeremy: I was watching the game with three of my brothers, my little sister had a play that night - I didn't go.  My brother disappeared for a legitimate four days afterwards.  We had no idea where he went.   What  I remember the most was just sitting there in absolute silence.  All of us.  Just silence.  That never happens.  Soul cleansing?  Blowing out Michigan and A&M to finish out the season was a good start. 


Comments Show All Comments

RBuck's picture

"Miller could become a credible pocket-passing threat if he had an actual QB coach instead of a VCR repairman from the Geek Squad as his position coach."

No truer words have been written.


Long live the southend.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Who peed in Ramzy's Cheerios?

Ethan's picture

Seriously. Ramzy is spitting venom today

BuckeyeBacker98's picture

Not saying anything that 90% of Ohio State fans have been saying for the past several years.  OSU has been severely lacking in the assistant/position coaching department since Tressel came on board.  And now we don't have the seasoned/capable head coach to overcome those deficiencies.

Regardless of what happens with the head coach situation after this year, OSU needs to make serious upgrades to the coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball.  I think Stan Drayton was a good start, but we need a legit offensive coordinator and a qualified QB coach.

German Buckeye's picture

Isn't Ramzy always a sarcastic, glass half empty visionary.  I completely identify with this disposition. 

BoFuquel's picture

That's what's needed.This team has been put in a awful position by the gangsters who run TOSU from their ivory tower.

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

I agree with Ramzy though, especially about Fickel's indecision. This team needs leadership, and that means permanent captains.

btalbert25's picture

The whole notion of a player being named a captain seems silly to me anyway.  If you've played sports on a team, you know who your leaders are, you don't need someone to say this guy is the captain. It's more of an honor to the individual who is being named a captain, than it is oh wow ,coach says Brewster is a capatain, he's now our leader.  He has been all along.  Naming him one is just a reflection of what the team already knows.

I also think naming rotating captains is stupid.  They had seniors who were available the first 5 games who are great leaders and should be captains.  If you feel Boom, Posey, and Adams should be captains also, then name them captains when they get back. 

I agree with Ramsey, despite what he's done in practice and on the field, why should a guy who just got off a 2 game suspension, and could have potentially hurt the team with his actions be named a captain. 

Maestro's picture

Topic is being blown out of proportion IMHO.

vacuuming sucks

Denny's picture

'If you've played sports on a team you know who your leaders are'

Yes but who are the Legends


Irricoir's picture

The answer is obvious...Btalbert. /winks!

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

jenks's picture

The problem is the "also." I'm not sure there necessarily was anyone else. And to name those guys captains while they were suspended would not have gone over well. This way, while "indecisive" is the best of both worlds.


EDIT: I'd agree this is being blown out of proportion.

EDIT 2: Bucks and Smith basically said what I was trying to. He just did it 8 hours earlier. #readahead

Bucks's picture

Ramzy & I disagree emphatically on this. Had this season gone w/o any of the issues, those suspended players would be the captains. If they held their normal "election" after the suspensions, it still stands to reason that they would be captains.

Captains that are suspended & available to the media each week? C'mon now. Rotating the duties in this specific scenario I actually view as a positive, not a negative.

BucksfanXC's picture


“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

smith5568's picture

Should have just agreed with this before I posted. 

smith5568's picture

I still believe that rotating captains has nothing to do with indecision. Traditionally, the players vote on captains. Had this happened at least one suspended player would have been named team captain, WHILE THEY WERE SUSPENDED. Kind of an issue.

Also, the players are not worried about the captain situation. As BTALBERT points out, the team knows who their leaders are, so the whole thing is being blown way out of proportion.  

Menexenus's picture

This is correct.  While the weekly captains seem silly at first, there is a method to the madness.  Ramzy is just plain wrong on this one.  Maybe that's why he's in such a bad mood.  Can't be brilliant every time...

Real fans stay for Carmen.

NW Buckeye's picture

My thoughts exactly.  Seems venom causes one to lose all tact. 

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

I was admittedly feeling salty when I was contributing, but I take nothing back. Bollman's annual OL roster management and Nick Siciliano being in charge of the most important person in the state of Ohio according to Jim Tressel are two indefensible positions. I try not to beat either to death, but it's hard to ignore either issue.

Look at next year's OL depth. Actually, don't. Congratulations, guy who takes over for Bollman - this is what you've won!

741's picture

I heard Bollman speaking on 97.1 The Fan last evening... He sounds like an 80 year old man, both literally, and figuratively in the sense that his approach to coaching up his guys, and more importantly being the architect of OSU's offensive scheme is so old school and out of date it is somewhat disturbing. The game has long ago passed him by in my opinion.

Sicliano is probably a great guy and upstanding citizen, but as a coach he is an afterthought.

It's a shame that Fickell got dealt the hand he is holding (i.e., I presume he was not given the authority to make changes to his coaching staff in terms of hiring and firing). The deck is stacked against him. It will take a near miracle for him to get serious consideration to keep the job at the end of this season. I'm still rooting for him though. GO BUCKS.

jenks's picture

While I disagree about the captians, I agree about Siciliano.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Me too.  That was a hire for the future because Tressel was the QB coach.  And they probably aren't paying him much, so he will be seen as valuable to the powers that be.

buckeyemondo's picture

the vanilla offense has always been around, even with the vest at the helm.  if you ran the jumbo/ginn @ TE play every other week, odds are it wouldn't work the fith time around.  granted, a basic screen play should not have to be kept hidden from opponents, but defensive minded coaches like dantonio game plan towards tendencies & the screen is definitely not one of those for this year's team.  let's hope bollman earns his salary from here on out.

aside:  i cannot fathom jumping *over* something 7 feet high. devin smith = truth.

baddogmaine's picture

Pryor won the Rose Bowl MVP not because he suddenly became a great passer but because he suddenly was given a game plan that took into account his passing skills that were limited but not non-existent. He amassed 300 yards without often (ever?) going more than 15 yards at a time. We blew up OR with screens and short outs and slants.  If Miller is given the OR game plan he could potentially flourish this year while he hones his skills. If Bollman and Fickle continue asking him to go downfield against defenses better than Colorado's he is going to continue to complete under ten passes. That worked against CO because their special teams misplays made it unnecessary for Miller to do more. But if we rush for 200-225 yards, which is what we realistically can count on, our backs being decent but not all-Americans; and we do not get great field position from turn overs or special teams then we can not count on beating MSU or many other teams left if Miller only goes 5 for 13 for under 100 yards. And if we're trailing in the 4th because Miller was given a game plan not suited for him that Fickell is committed to sticking with we can expect that we will either go down on a bad plan or will have to call in Bauserman who, despite his performance against Miami, is, at this point, if he gets any time in the pocket, a bit better going downfield than is Miller.

Maestro's picture

TP had exactly 1 game with 200 yards passing as a Freshman. It's not going to happen often with Braxton either.

Run the ball, win field position, win turnover battle.

vacuuming sucks

baddogmaine's picture

The question is not how many 200 yard passing games can Miller get this year - the question is how many games can we win if he passes for under 100? How many did we win when TP threw for under 100? (I don't know, someone else can look that up.) There is a diffgerence in game management between 100 passing yards and 150. Miller might not get 200 but he can get 150 - but only if he is given a game plan suited to his (at this time) limited but not non-existent passing skills.

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

This is a very different situation than Pryor had.  We are rebuilding a defense and a WR corp.  I believe Pryor's first year was a year where we returned a ton of starters (2007 was our rebuild and 2008 was supposed to be the year when we actually went to the NC game) ?  Even if I'm wrong, I don't think we have the defense this year, or at least right now, for us to get away with terrible offensive performances.  We can win tomorrow, but we won't score more than 14 offensive points, so we need the defense to step up against a MSU offense with talented and seasoned skilled positions.  If our D coord had a brain, he'd realize how young and inexperienced MSU's OL is and we'd play bump and run man coverage the entire game, with a safety to the strong side and blitz the rest.  Cousins is too good to have time to find receivers and MSU receivers will get open eventually (as will most WRs).  My heart is on OSU, my money is on MSU.

Read my entire screen name....

Mr. Slick's picture

We need to stop using lopsided footballs so that our quaterbacks can throw spirals.

BoFuquel's picture


I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Maestro's picture

One of Pryor's best passes ever was a long sideline fade to Posey in the Rose Bowl. 36 yard strike. A thing of beauty.

Certainly the game plan needs to suit Miller's skills, but the strength of this team is the ground game at this stage. Biggest reason is the receivers or lack there of. Devin Smith is the only playmaker at wideout for now.

vacuuming sucks

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

haha..love the smith video w/ this comment: "how about he jumps through the field goal posts after he scores against michigan? calling it right now"

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

Nappy's picture

This D misses Nathan Williams.  He's probably our best pass rushed and combined with Simon is dangerous.  Travis Howard needs to step up his game this week.  Howard Island is more like a peninsula.  And in Nickel packages, I wouldn't mind seeing Roby, Clarke and Howard instead of substituting in Moeller.  Moeller has certainly paid his dues but seems to be taking bad angles and finds himself out of place too often.  I'd really like to be positive here, but if we cant hold MSU to under 20 pts I dont like our chances unless we get a defensive or special teams TD. 

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

BoFuquel's picture

Where did EGG get that leprechaun outfit in The Lantern today.Just in time for TSUN ST (~!@#$%^&*). 

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Buckeyejason's picture

I don't like the idea of making captains out of the guys who were suspended. That's just me. Keep Brewster, Sweat, Moeller.

Devin Smith's fluid motion kind of reminds me of Desean Jackson, Jeremy Macklin. Its a plus that he's taller 6'2-6'3"..not as fast as those guys obviously but gets great seperation and gets down field none the less.


BucksfanXC's picture

If the suspended guys come back, and the team looks up to them and what they do, and they are setting great examples, then they need to be made captians. You can't make them captains while suspended, because you can't reward them while they are suspended.

If they come back with something to prove, work hard, stay clean/straight, and lead by example, then a) they are great choices to make captains to show the other kids what to do and b) you reward them/give them something to strive for when they come back. 

I don't think it's indecision, quite the contrary. I think it's brillant. Coming back from sitting out 5 games, especially if we lose a few of those five, you may not be very motivated coming back to play. So you entice them with the possibility of being captains, but only if they come back, work hard, follow the rules and lead.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

TatumRuled's picture

For the '98 game I was living in Los Angeles and, believe it or not, UCLA was actually ranked 2 or 3 behind the Bucks.

So me and three other Buckeye fans were sitting at a sports bar packed with Bruin fans and when Germaine threw that last interception, the whole place exploded. Meanwhile me and my Buckeye buddies were just sitting there, stunned. Totally stunned in the midst of all the chaos behind us. So stunned, we we're oblivious to the taunts we received...Heck, I'm still stunned.

"Hell, Woody didn't recruit me; he recruited my mother!" -Jack Tatum