Welcome to the Thursday edition of the Skull Session, sports fans.
Wanted to take a little trip down misery-memory lane for a second, if y'all don't mind. Come along, won't you?
The year was 2004. Ohio State was in turmoil. After losing three straight games to Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa, the Buckeyes were struggling to find an offensive identity, and after the embarrassment in Iowa City, they turned their offense over to an athletic sophomore QB. Three straight wins ensued, including big wins against Penn State and Michigan State, and momentum, it appeared, had moved back in the direction of Tressel's troops.
For all that seemed to be trending in the right direction for the Buckeyes, the week leading up to the Buckeyes game at Purdue on November 13th could not have started any worse.
An ESPN the Magazine article detailed some unsavory claims made by an angst-ridden ex-player. Ohio State was in the national spotlight for the wrong reason, and claims of a rogue program overshadowed an on-the-field resurrection. Gameday arrived in West Lafayette, and the Buckeyes, who felt they had turned their season around, fell flat on their face and were upset by Purdue 24-17.
The following Saturday, the Buckeyes hosted the 7th ranked Michigan Wolverines and won the first of what has become 7 straight victores over their maize and blue clad rivals. They then went on to beat up Oklahoma State and Les Miles in the Alamo Bowl, with a gimpy Justin Zwick and Ted Ginn, Jr. handling the QB duties as Troy Smith, the engineer of the revitalized offense, sat what would be the first of two games for impermissible benefits he received from an Ohio State booster.
That Michigan Saturday was the last time Ohio State entered into a game with four losses, and what followed it was a six year run of Buckeye domination that most of us have never seen in our lifetime.
We've been here before, Buckeye fans. Sure, we don't have quite the same captain steering the ship, but the waters will calm.
The Buckeyes, although brusied and battered, will sail smoothly again.
RING AROUND THE POSEY. What does the return of Devier Posey mean to Ohio State's offense in general, and to the wide receivers specifically? Well, it's impossible to say, really. The ol' Boll Weevil likely has numerous tricks up his sleeve to make sure that Posey doesn't get too involved in the gameplan, but if someone can maybe, oh, I don't know, hit him over the head with a frying pan, Posey could certainly open things up a bit for Ohio State's 118th ranked passing offense (117 yard per game...blech).
Ohio State's wide receivers (not including TE or RB) have a combined 46 catches and 745 yards on year, to go along with five touchdowns. In each of the last two seasons, Posey bested all of those statistics by himself with 53 catches, 848 yards and 7 scores in 2010; and 60 catches, 828 yards and 8 touchdown grabs as a sophomore in 2009.
There is no Dane Sanzenbacher opposite of Devier this year, but his presence alone should at least give the defensive coordinators at Penn State and Michigan a little bit of pause before they decide to load the box with nine defenders. Hopefully the Buckeyes offensive line, who has struggled in pass protection all year (the Buckeyes have surrendered 33 sacks on the year), gives Braxton some time to set his feet and make good throws.
GOOD NEWS FOR 2012? This year's version of the Silver Bullets may have been doomed from the start. It's never easy to replace seven starters on defense, even for a team that has so regulary reloaded after key NFL losses. Then came the disciplinary issues that limited Corey Brown, Travis Howard, Jordan Whiting, and Solomon Thomas. The linebackers, always a position of strength for Ohio State were thinned considerably by transfers, losing Jonathan Newsome and Dorian Bell, but also highly-touted incoming freshman E'Juan Price, who renegged on his letter-of-intent with Ohio State and decided to attend Pittsburgh.
Then Nathan Williams suffered what was a seemingly insignifcant knee injury againt Akron in the defense's lone shining moment of the 2011 season, a 42-0 win. Williams, who had 45 tackles last year, was the second-leading returning tackler on a defense that could ill-afford to lose any more pieces.
That injury was more serious than anyone knew when Nate missed the Miami game in week three. The microfracture in his knee would require season-ending surgery, and just like that, Williams joined the list of Buckeyes who were MIA.
Ohio State has struggled since his loss. His absence in the pass rush is evident, as Ohio State has only notched 22 sacks in 10 games, and the Silver Bullets have been for the most part, been firing blanks all season. The defense is giving up 18.9 points a game on the season, after giving up 13.2 over the last five years. Heacock's defense has been a pillar of defensive consistency, regularly ranking in the top 5 nationally in scoring defense and rushing defense, but this year's team couldn't helped but be impacted by the turmoil surrounding the program.
"So what's the good news, Jeremy?"
Expect Nathan to be back next year. Along with Ro-Ro, Dominic Clarke, Travis Howard, Christian Bryant, Orhian Johnson, CJ Barnett, Etienne Sabino, Storm Klein, Ryan Shazier, Jonathan Hankins, etc, etc...you get the point.
Oh, and throw John Simon into the "expect him to be back camp", as well.
2012 might be the end of the world - for Big Ten offenses.
GEE, THANKS, COACH. I don't normally write about NFL stuff, but I couldn't help but give a mention to the verbal assault on Broncos QB Tim Tebow yesterday from his own coach. John Fox, when asked about the style with which his team has won their last two games, began his comment innocently enough, stating that his team will do whatever it takes to win. Of course, everyone knows that the Broncos completed two passes in their win at Kansas City last week, so that point was true enough.
Fox could have left well enough alone, but instead decided to take it a step further, directing the next comment at his quarterback directly.
"I mean, what the hell? You don't get points for style in this league. Let me tell you something: My man is really good in this offense. You know what I mean?"
Even that was not so bad, but Fox continued to clarify his position.
"If we were trying to run a regular offense, he'd be screwed."
I get what Fox is trying to say, I really do. Tebow is not currently suited for a regular, NFL style offense, but for all the attacks lobbed in his direction from the national media and fans posing as experts, it's shocking to hear an NFL coach pigeonhole his own guy in that manner. Then again, it's not the first time someone in blue and orange has called Tebow out publicly. To his credit, Fox did back him up - that time.
MORE TALENT COMING TO BUCKEYE BALLERS? A team that is as talent-rich as any in Buckeye hoops history may be on the verge of getting some more good news. LaQuinton Ross, a 6'8" 220 pound freshman wing player, who was ruled academically ineligible in late September, plans to be at Ohio State as early as December 9th, according to Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch. He was enrolled at the school in September when he received news that the NCAA had determined he was ineligible after his high school grades were changed following a transfer from Mississippi to New Jersey. The change lowered his core GPA, and that combined with his SAT score, was enough to drop him out of the safe zone in the NCAA's "sliding scale".
Ross was the 43rd ranking player in the country according to Rivals.com, and 44th nationally on Scout.com. According to Baptist, Ross was the best Buckeye freshman on the floor in the summer "without question", a strong statement when you consider the talent of fellow newcomers Shannon Scott, Amir Williams, Sam Thompson and Trey McDonald.
QUICK SLANTS. A look at the "Buckeye NutHouse" from the inside out - All that's wrong with America today - Being a Buckeye still means a lot to a lot of people - The Penn State police say McQueary never filed a police report, contrary to his now public email, and was obviously very distraught by Sandusky's actions - Zombies are everywhere, and they will eat your memes...