Will benefit from his first spring session
Later this afternoon the Ohio State Buckeyes will hit the field for their first of 15 spring practices that should feature more competition than perhaps at any time during Tressel's tenure in Columbus.
Gone are Jenkins, Laurinaitis, Freeman, Robiskie and 24 other seniors. Gone also is one of the finest backs ever to suit up for the Buckeyes and two other juniors that have decided to try their game in the NFL.
The 2009 Buckeyes are young. And talented. Tressel mentioned as much in his press conference yesterday when he said that though the ones haven't been determined, we're likely to see more combinations of player groupings than we've seen in quite some time. This excites him as it does us as there's a feeling out there that plugging in all of these new faces may not be such a bad thing after all.
The offensive line will be breaking in two new starters, but the guys they're replacing won't exactly go down as greats in most fans' memories. Justin Boren and Mike Adams look to be the two biggest beneficiaries of the open spots and JT mentioned guard Jim Cordle may slide over to tackle this year (the move was spurred by Bollman who thought Datish had his best year outside with his quickness), which means we could be seeing three new starters if Browning doesn't find a spot. Regardless, the fact that there will be some good old-fashioned dirt-in-your-face position battles is a good thing.
Looking at the secondary, Tressel confirmed Andre Amos was healthy (as of this writing) and if that holds, he'll be a favorite to capture Jenkins's open cornerback spot. If that doesn't work out, there are no fewer than five youngsters that will battle for that position. The safeties, Coleman and Anderson Russell, are back, but it should be interesting to see how the staff gets Hines and Moeller onto the field.
Nowhere will the youth movement be more evident than in the linebacking corps. Homan returns as the hard-nosed run-stopper and you can bet that Sabino will wind up as one of the new starters, but who will win that third job? Maybe Hines has put on enough weight to slide in? What about Spitler, Sweat, Bell and Rolle?
Excited? You betcha.
Is this the year DeVier Posey makes a national name for himself on the edge? He certainly has the tools. Will Ray Small stay out of the doghouse? Has Dane added any bulk? The wide receivers will be a green group, for sure, but again, that may not entirely be a bad thing.
When you look at who is coming back with experience, you have to start with #2. If his desire to improve is half as good as what's been reported, Buckeye fans will have a lot to smile about this season. As a redshirt sophomore in 2004, Vince Young led Texas to an 11-1 record and a top-five finish in the polls. Pryor will be hitting the field this fall with more game experience than Young took into that season. This makes me very happy.
Another area of depth and experience is the defensive line. For a team breaking in new linebackers, the importance of this cannot be overstated. There were times last season when Thaddeus Gibson was unblockable (Michigan State, the first half of the Penn State game). If Lawrence Wilson manages to stay healthy, you're looking at two future NFL defensive ends on the edges. And we're not even talking about last season's breakthrough freshman, Nathan Williams (and Robert Rose, oh my). The interior still has something to prove, but the thing about sacks and monster run stops is that they're contagious. Expect Heyward, Larimore, Denlinger and crew to respond.
There's been talk of some offensive tinkering to take advantage of Pryor's unique abilities, and the staff visited the Research Triangle area of North Carolina to gather ideas in the offseason. Stops included Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina and North Carolina State. While that list may not look like the four schools you'd want to go and learn things from, Tressel did correctly point out that the four had great staffs and were all moving in the right direction. More importantly, members of the strength and conditioning staff fanned out to Texas, Florida and the Tampa Bay Bucaneers
What we're probably most excited about is the new blood and hopefully the new attitude they bring to the table. There's no doubting the talent on hand, but the program has been in a big-game funk for the past couple of seasons. The players have been putting in the offseason weight and conditioning work and now it's time to see which ones will take those first steps towards establishing holds on spots before the three month break before fall camp begins.
As Woody liked to say, the Young Turks have to step up.