Thursday Skull Session

By Jeremy Birmingham on February 16, 2012 at 6:00a

Good morning friends and enemies, I hope that your day is off to a splendid start.

We're two days until the weekend, and while the weekend is significantly better when there's college football on the horizon, it's still pretty good when there's not.

What's on your agenda for this weekend? 

DEREK DUH-LEY. Oversigning, one of college football's buzz-words in recent years, is always a hot-topic. The practice, which essentially amounts to signing more players than you have scholarships available, and then forcing transfers, fabricating medical hardships, etc, is controversial for a lot of reasons. 

Oversigning has "blown up" in the past four or five years, mostly due to the SEC's brazen coaches who have taken the business of the college game to a whole new level. Nick Saban, Les Miles, Gene Chizik, Houston Nutt and more have been outspoken advocates of the practice. Saban, quoted as saying "It's none of your business. Aiight? And don't give me this stuff about the fans need to know, because they don't need to know", has become the poster child for it today, but Tennessee's Derek Dooley threw his hat into the ring to take over the throne whenever Saban bolts for a position in the CFL or something.

The Boy Who Would Be King, the son of a coaching legend (Georgia's Vince Dooley), went on the record on Tuesday to lay verbal waste to the SEC's recent attempts to curb oversigning (note: not eliminate it, if you have 18 scholarships open, you can still sign 25 players) and his diarrhea of the mouth reeks of arrogance and overall "not-getting-it-ness".  

In this article, Dooley waxes poetic about how oversigning is "good for the student-athlete" and that it's been "healthy for college football", which is laughable at best and flat out ridiculous at worst. Yes, the SEC, with it's lax policies about oversigning has benefited beyond comparison, but the rest of college football has fallen behind as they bring in 4 players for every 5 the SEC's biggest offenders do. Is that the only reason the SEC has won six straight BCS national titles? No, certainly not - but it does give a considerable leg up on your competition.

Of course, for Dooley and the decaying Volunteer program, it might not matter that much. He only signed 21 players two weeks ago, and brought in the SEC's 10th-ranked class, according to Guess it's no wonder why he feels the need to vent, but I doubt Dooley will be able to oversign in his next job outside of the SEC.

LAQUINTON ROSS IS LAFRUSTRATED, BOSS. Following Ohio State's ten point Valentine's Day win in Minnesota against the Gophers, one of the Buckeyes youngsters experienced what can only be described as a "teachable moment" when he went straight to his iPhone to vent his frustrations about his lack of playing time. 

Ross, who did not play in the Twin Cities win, has logged a total of 26 minutes this season in six games, was expected to provide the Buckeyes an offensive spark off the bench this year after he was cleared to join the team in early December. As of yet, that has not happened, and it's clearly beginning to wear on the freshman, who was the highest-ranked player in the Buckeye's celebrated freshman class. 

Kids say the darndest things

It's easy to understand Ross' frustration, as most Buckeye fans have been calling for a commitment to use the Buckeyes depth for years, and as the offense continues to struggle to find a consistent outside threat, Ross' skill-set could fill that dire need. Unfortunately for him, missing those first two months of practice has put LQR in the unenviable position of trailing the other freshman in nearly every facet of the game, save for natural scoring ability.

The Big Ten is a physical league, and a league that requires contributors to do multiple things. One dimensional players will rarely succeed, and players who are adverse to defense and banging for rebounds will succeed even less. 

Ross has not shot well in his limited opportunities (20% from the floor), and for a player whose scouting report lists scoring ability as his biggest asset, that's a problem. Worse than his lackluster offensive numbers are that he has a total of three defensive rebounds, zero assists, zero steals and two turnovers in what has largely been garbage minutes. Those minutes are a time for the youngsters to get on the floor and show their passion, their energy, their desire to be on the floor when it counts. 

I desperately want more playing time for the Buckeyes bench, but if Ross can't perform in "game over" situations, I don't blame Matta for not trusting him when things matter.

THE GAME: HARDWOOD EDITION, PART DEUX. Three weeks ago, the Buckeye basketball team hosted TTUN in a game that was, to put it mildly, ugly. Lenzelle Smith was the catalyst as Ohio State won by 15, but it was hardly a work of art. The teams combined for 11-40 from beyond the arc, and Ohio State's "BMOC" was limited by foul trouble, but Michigan's inability to take advantage inside kept the Buckeyes out in front comfortably when the clock struck 00:00. 

That was three weeks ago, and that win was the fourth of what would become six straight B1G wins for the Buckeyes, propelling them into first-place in the standings, where they stood until last Saturday's really ugly loss at home to MSU. Now the Buckeyes sit a half-game ahead of Sparty, and a full game ahead of the Wolverines as they head into Saturday's big-time matchup in Ann Arbor.

What has to happen for the Buckeyes to pull out a win in Crisler Center, where UM is undefeated this season?

In my non-expert opinion, it's a matter of three crucial things: 1) Keeping key guys like Sully, Thomas and Craft on the floor, out of foul trouble. 2) Buford being involved (and scoring) in the offensive flow early, forcing UM to leave Sully in one-on-one situations. Otherwise known as getting "Good Buford". 3) Craft keep Trey Burke from getting going early, and putting pressure on him by forcing the offense into the lane.

Michigan's offense is predicated on the perimeter  game, and that's bad news for a Buckeye team that struggles to consistently defend outside shooters. The Buckeyes will need another big effort from a "fifth", similar to what Lenzelle Smith did in the first meeting, when he went for 17 points and 12 rebounds and provided non-stop energy and pace. 

Either way, we're in for a typical B1G brawl, I suspect. The game is on Saturday night at 9pm, and will be televised on ESPN.

WOODARD: BUCKEYE BOUND TODAY? Voorhees, New Jersey cornerback Eli Woodard is set to announce today, via twitter, where he will be matriculating after his prep career concludes. He's made no bones for quite some time that Ohio State was at or near the top of his list, and today should probably cement that opinion. Woodard is a 6'1", 185 cornerback who is fast, physical and versatile. He's played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back, but is going to be a cornerback at the next level. 

It doesn't take long if you watch his tape to see the high-end athleticism that Woodard will bring to Columbus. If he's half as productive as the last cornerback from New Jersey to make his way to Columbus, then Buckeye fans are going to be in for a real treat.

 QUICK SLANTS. Well, if this doesn't make your Rocky Top eyes tear up, nothing will.... One of the good guys of sports struggling with health issues.... The Horned Bongs make their entry into the Fulmer Cup... A history of the popular video game mascots.... ESPN removes the best part of their MNF broadcasts.

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