Despite the 20 returning starters and NFL talent oozing from virtually every position, there still remains a lingering doubt about one particular unit: the interior of the defensive line.
They should be good this year. The rotation is a grizzled group that's been on campus for what seems like a decade. But still, the visions of Hester pounding the ball away in the BCS game and various other teams (Penn State, for one) running by this front to put hats on the backers has us and many others thinking that the play of this unit will make or break redemption aspirations.
Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has heard the chatter and isn't having any of that:
"I read and hear a lot about our inside guys and not getting many (sacks), but if you look over the years, inside guys aren't going to get as many as outside guys. That's a fact. Whether we want to believe it or not, that's the truth.
"For these guys, because they heard so much negative about their sack production, you can look back over the years and look back at the Ryan Picketts of the world, how many sacks did he have when he played? [He had eight in 37 career games, three in his final year.] And he was a first-round draft choice. And you go on and on.
"In our defensive scheme, we really try to control the line of scrimmage and let our linebackers run. We ask our defensive line to do a good job of keeping people off the linebackers and let them run, and that's what we've been good at. Sometimes that doesn't equate to great pass rush. I think they're going to be better there ... I know they're going to be better there this year."
I know Heacock just has his guys' backs and that's what any good coach would do, but give us idiots on the interwebs a little bit of credit. It's doubtful any knowledgeable fan expects Gholston sack numbers out of a tackle, but eat up that run and yes, take on that fullback as well, so the linebackers really are free to run.
It's good to know Heacock is there for his guys, but who's out there clamoring for more sacks? Just taking on a double-team every now and then is fine for the interior troops.
Would the Buckeyes be ranked #1 if the preseason poll had come out today? That's the question Tim May is asking and the answer is... doubt it. Look, this has to be the first time in recorded history that a team returned 90% of its starters from a championship game appearance and was not considered the favorite going into the next season.
If the Buckeyes had won just one of those two MNC games, they'd be a comfortable #1 heading into this season. The scenario would either be a rebuilding team winning it all before coming back for another run or a team that had won a title, then lost in the title game during the following, said rebuilding year. The markings of a dynasty. Instead, any top billing in the polls will have to be earned on the field and key injuries to teams ranked ahead of them will do little to sway voters' opinions about the team.
Devon Lyons is looking to snag playing time for the Mountaineers, but so far it's been somewhat of a struggle (to his credit, he's only had 5 practices with the team). We make it a point to pull for Buckeye transfers regardless of where they end up, but it gets tough when they take a shot at the program:
"Mountaineers work harder than any team in the country. You can quote me on that. We do a lot more running than we did at Ohio State. I just feel they want it more here."