Thursday Skull Session

By Jeremy Birmingham on October 13, 2011 at 6:00a

Today is Thursday, October the 13th, and you are not in some horrible, horrible nightmare. This is your life.

The Ohio State Buckeyes football team is 3-3, have lost two games in a row and could potentially be looking at three in a row, and if three is realistic, then four is a darn near certainty.  

I am sure that most of you have plenty of friends who pledge allegiance to TSUN, and I am sure that most of them are chirping in your ear nearly every single day. How are you dealing with that? Do you lean on the last ten years to deflect their mental illness, knowing that if the Bucks can pull one out against them in November all the struggles of this year will be significantly easier to digest? Do you shrug your shoulders and say "Whatever dude, there's nothing else I can say about it at this point"?

Remember Buckeye fans, things are never as good as they seem, and they are never as bad as they seem. Last weekend was a tale of two halves, and this weekend will likely be the same way. Look to the future, don't forget the past and know that come December, the fates will turn their ugly head in a different direction. It's always harder to be the team at the top, and as we are knocked off the perch the focus will disappear.

Until Urban Meyer is named head coach.

WELCOME HOME, AGAIN In a season full of reminders about how life and sports always seems to be about ebb and flow, there is a recurring theme that has shown up throughout the first half of the Buckeyes' season. Former Buckeyes coming home to take on the Buckeyes.

 Tim Beckman coached at Ohio State. Mark Dantonio coached at Ohio State.  Bo Pelini played at Ohio State.  Now, it's the Zookster, who was born in Loudonville, Ohio and played football at Miami of Ohio as a defensive back and eventually coached the defensive backs at Ohio State under John Cooper form 1988-1990 before heading to Gainesville, Florida, where he served as Steve Spurrier's defensive coordinator on two separate occasions. 

Zook scored perhaps the biggest win of his career against Ohio State in 2007, and looks to continue to the unfortunate pattern of opposing coaches who are intimately aware with the Ohio State program having pretty good success against the scarlet and gray this year.

NO EXCUSES, EXCEPT FOR THESE EXCUSES Take a moment and think back to signing day of this past year. The Buckeyes were facing impending NCAA sanctions and dealing with five guys suspended for five games a piece. Tough to deal with, sure, but manageable. Having a a seasoned head coach like Jim Tressel and a group of assistants who knew their roles and had worked together for a while would make it much easier, right? Couple those positives with a roster full of talent and depth, and Ohio State should still be 5-0 after those five games regardless of the celebrity status of the suspended five, many thought.

Fast forward to the start of the 2011 season, and my lordy, how things changed for the Buckeyes. We all know the sordid details of every transgression committed by an Ohio State representative in the past twelve months, so I won't bore you with those details. It is, however, relevant for Buckeye fans and outsiders alike to recognize a seriously altered landscape of football in Columbus before popping the tops on celebratory libations because of the Buckeyes demise. Not only did JT get replaced by a guy who had never been a head coach or a coordinator (not co-coordinator),but the four year starting QB who was supposed to be back for the battle in Lincoln was now in the NFL; and those two things might have been the easiest to deal with.

When the season began, Ohio State added Travis Howard, Corey Brown and Jordan Hall to the suspended players list, along with LB Dorian Bell, who had departed for Duquesne after being unable to stay out of the doghouse at Ohio State before his difficulties with the NCAA. OG Corey Linsley was also suspended for the season's first two games for unrelated team violations. 

Remarkably, it's not gotten better since then. In week two alone, when the Buckeyes nearly fell to Toledo, Ohio State played without fifteen scholarship players. Since then, Philly Brown has missed two games, Jaamal Berry has missed games and Boom Herron and Devier Posey, who were scheduled to return to duty following their suspensions last year, had extra time tacked on for new moronic decisons. Marcus Hall took a seat on the suspended bus just as soon as Mike Adams got off. 

Now, take all the missed time and add into it these players who were slated to be on the roster during the spring, and for a variety of reasons, are no longer with the team:  Pryor, WR James Jackson, WR James Louis, LB E'Juan Price, LB Dorian Bell, and LB Jonathan Newsome, who have all transferred out of the program. 

JT left a cupboard for Luke, but perhaps it wasn't quite as stocked as we remember it being when Tressel "retired".

(Those fifteen players in week 2? RB Boom Herron, WR DeVier Posey, OL Mike Adams, OL Corey Linsley, OL Antonio Underwood, DL Chase Farris, DL Solomon Thomas, DL Nathan Williams, DL Melvin Fellows, LB Scott McVey, LB Conner Crowell, DB Corey Brown, DB Travis Howard, DB Donnie Evege, and RB Jordan Hall)


My dream coach has a first name, it's U-R-B...

 WHAT IF URBAN DOESN'T TAKE THE JOB? Ok, sure, maybe I am being a bit unfair to Luke, but I don't think I am going out on too much of a limb when I say that it doesn't appear as if he will be retained as Ohio State's head coach after this season. Yes, we all know that Luke is a dyed-in-the-wool Buckeye, and I for one will always remember him fondly for stepping up and taking on the role of whipping-boy this season. 

Urban Meyer appears to be considered the leader in the clubhouse among Buckeye fans, and with good reason. First of all, he's a winner, second of all he's from Ohio and finally, he's available. What if, though, Urban wasn't available come December? While it's definitely not likely, there's a remote possibility that he could seriously consider taking a job somewhere else; Penn State and Arizona both immediately come to mind. Those programs do not have the lure of Ohio State for Meyer, but those programs are not facing NCAA trouble and will not be saddled with NCAA penalties to hinder his program.

In Happy Valley, he would be taking over for a legend in Joe Paterno and be able to do so in a place that is football crazy, but not pressure-packed like Columbus. In Arizona, Urban would be a dominant force in recruiting and coaching in the Pac-12 or 18 or however many teams they have now, and would be able to do it in a great location; a location that might help him spend more time with his son as he continues to grow into a baseball star. 

So, what then, Buckeyes? The most recent name being bantered about as the "second choice"? None other than Tony Dungy. How would that make you feel? Would you prefer him or Jon Gruden if the next guy didn't come from a college?

 WILLING AND VRABEL. On Wednesday, Mike Vrabel got before the media and talked a bit about the Buckeye defense and how the first-year coach thought things were going. According to Vrabel, the biggest difference he noted between the NFL game and college was the amount of time that they were able to spend with the players. Due to the limited time spent with the guys, it becomes important to be more precise in the way the message is being communicated to avoid it being lost in translation. When he was asked about how he can move his players past the breakdown in Lincoln, Vrabel recalled a devastating loss that the New England Patriots were dealt in the 2006 AFC Championship game. Let's hope the Buckeyes rebound like that Patriots team, they  won the next 18 games they played.

Most interesting to me was how Vrabel talked about the team's lack of leadership.  When asked what type of leaders the team needs, Vrabel identified a lacking component on the defense: someone who is willing to call out other guys when necessary. 

 WHY'S KING SOLOMON (NOT PLAYING?) Solomon Thomas, the hero of the 2011 Sugar Bowl (What? What was that? That game never happened, man!), was eligible to return to action following his NCAA timeout, and made the trip to Lincoln last week with the Buckeyes and the rest of the Silver Bullets. If you're anything like me (uninformed, neurotic and skeptical) you probably figured that he didn't play because the coaching staff just didn't want him to. Along those lines, if you're anything like me, you are also wrong - a lot.

Thomas, who suffered a broken leg in the spring game, is still recovering and was not yet "ready" to go in game action, and that was the reason for his absence on Saturday night. With the news that Nathan Williams will miss the remaining games, Thomas could fill a big hole in the Buckeye defense if he is able to get back to playing soon. The fact that he traveled to the game is at least a positive indicator that he might not be too far off, one would think.

 QUICK SLANTS. Judas thinks Urban will end up in Columbus.... Sporting News thinks Buckeyes could finish up 5-7... Star Wars fans (nerds like me) enjoy... As if her career arch didn't already lead to dancing on poles.... Truth in fake advertising.

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