It has been a long and arduous off season for Buckeye Nation.
The anticipation and anxiety surrounding the August 12th NCAA hearings alone are enough to put someone on edge. How severely will the NCAA ultimately punish Ohio State for its transgressions?
We can only speculate and hope for the best.
Next up was the resignation of all-time great Jim Tressel and the resulting uncertainty surrounding Ohio State’s next head coach. Luke Fickell is a great defensive coach and an even better Buckeye, but will he be the long term answer to Ohio State’s head coaching vacancy?
We can only speculate and hope for the best.
Finally, what initially looked like a 2012 recruiting class for the ages is quickly turning into another source of concern for fans. As I have mentioned previously, it is still much, much too early to give up on the class, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a source of stress for the next several months. Will Luke Fickell (or the next head coach) be able to salvage the 2012 recruiting class before signing day?
We can only speculate and hope for the best.
Clearly there will be plenty of uncertainty and things to worry about in the coming months. If you are like me, however, you are already so sick and tired of worry and speculation that you have entered a state of comatose. Obviously, being in a state of comatose isn’t very much fun, so I have decided to switch my coping mechanism.
While this off-season has dragged on to the point that it seems like it will never end, the light at the end of the tunnel is coming into view and the season is fast approaching.
Rather than worry about things outside of our collective control, it’s time to refocus our energies on getting excited about the football season that kicks off in 65 days.
Here is a list of some things that I am most excited about for this season and beyond.
A lot of people like comparing Braxton Miller to Terrelle Pryor, but I think a more apt comparison is with Troy Smith. Being the compromising person that I am, let’s just go with Miller being a hybrid of Pryor and Smith- he has the mobility of Pryor and the arm strength and accuracy of Smith.
Yeah, I’m good with that.
Joking aside, Braxton Miller is obviously an extremely exciting candidate to be the next quarterback at Ohio State. Before all of the other… things, that happened this offseason, the hottest topic was who would start at QB in the opening five games. The debate remains the same with the length of service extended to the entire season.
We have already covered the offseason QB competition at length, and after the spring game, it was hard to argue against Miller being the man to lead the offense this fall.
Now that Luke Fickell is the head coach and Terrelle Pryor is long gone, it is even harder to see anyone but Miller as the starting quarterback.
In what is basically a trial run season for Fickell as the head coach, he can’t afford to sit his most talented player on the bench for the sake of seniority or experience. It is now or never for Fickell and the Buckeyes, and that means the Braxton Miller era at QB is about the begin.
As with any freshman QB, there will be some mistakes and some frustration, but damn will it be fun to see what he can do.
Have you seen the talent along Ohio State’s defensive front for the next few seasons? It is easy to get wrapped up in recruiting every year, but as the saying goes, a defensive lineman in the hand is worth two still in high school- or something like that.
Led by senior DE/LB Nathan Williams and junior DT/DE John Simon, the front four (or three) will be a force to be reckoned with this season. Throw in some young players like DT Johnathan Hankins and DE/DT Adam Bellamy and you have the ingredients for domination. Not enough? well, add solid depth from experienced players like Garrett Goebel and Solomon Thomas and what is there not to like?
Behind that core rotation, there are a multitude of young players looking to break into the rotation and make a splash this season. Joel Hale, Michael Bennett, JT Moore, Darryl Baldwin, Melvin Fellows, Steve Miller, and Kenny Hayes are all young and inexperienced, but the talent is there and they are all capable of getting on the field as befits any Ohio State caliber player.
One of the best things about Buckeye football is that the talent will always be there. As a fan, you know whoever emerges from amongst the young players is going to step right in and make an impact.
I speculated about it way back in February, but with a multitude of DEs and DE/DTs hybrids to go along with few true DTs this season, I expect fall camp to reveal some interesting formations and combinations of players along the defensive front.
Finding out how the coaching staff utilizes their strengths here is just another thing to look forward to with anticipation, and certainly something that we will be paying close attention to during fall practice.
So yes, the 2012 recruiting class has some talented players that we can stress over for the next several months, but the cupboards are far from bare, and with defensive minded Fickell at the helm, a deep and talented defensive front is something to get excited about.
From the moment the five game suspensions of Pryor and Posey were announced, it was clear that the running backs would be the strength, and potentially the saving grace, of the offense this season.
Whether it be the power of Carlos Hyde, the explosiveness of Jaamal Berry, or the elite combination of size, strength, and explosiveness of Roderick Smith, it is easy to get lost in daydreams of Buckeye ground game glory.
When Boom Herron returns from suspension, the party will get even better.
Herron has proven to be a workhorse capable of grinding out yards in crunch time against the best the Big Ten can throw at him, and he will be looking to go out with a bang. Based on my own observations from winter conditioning, he is on track for a helluva senior season when he gets back on the field.
Throw in the contributions from Jordan Hall, who has reportedly been moved to wide receiver, but will likely still get limited carries, and you’ve got the makings of Ohio State’s deepest and potentially most talented backfield in years.
I challenge any Ohio State fan to watch this video and not get excited about the ground game this fall (and yes, I know, Beanie is no longer with the team).
This one is a combination of excitement for this season as well as for the future.
The Buckeyes will need to replace two multi-year starters in the fall, but Andrew Sweat, Etienne Sabino, Storm Klein and company should be more than capable of continuing the excellence at linebacker that Ohio State fans have come to expect.
Etienne Sabino in particular is a player that I am anxiously waiting to see on the field. For years he has received rave reviews in practice, and he should finally be able to back that up as a playmaker and leader for the defense this season.
In addition to this season, the future is looking especially bright for the Buckeyes.
The 2011 class in particular will be immensely enjoyable to watch as they find their place on the defense. The headliner here is obviously Curtis Grant, who was one of the highest ranked high school seniors in the country last season. Grant has the most hype, but Conner Crowell and Ryan Shazier also have huge potential and are exciting prospects.
The Buckeyes have taken some hits here (Ejuan Price) and may continue to (rumors in the spring surrounding Dorian Bell’s future), but the 2011 linebackers alone are enough to get excited about moving forward.
Tyler Moeller has had an up and down career at Ohio State to say the least. Fortunately, the ups consist of him being an extremely exciting and effective playmaker when he is on the field. Unfortunately, the downs stem from his inability to stay healthy and on the field.
After missing the entire 2009 season due to an extremely unfortunate off field incident, Moeller returned last fall and immediately made an impact, recording 20 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles in only 5 games.
Sadly, Moeller was once again sidelined for the season after tearing a pectoral muscle against Illinois, an injury that had been partially torn and hampering him for almost two years.
Luckily for Ohio State and its fans, Moeller received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and will be back again this fall.
He didn’t practice in the spring, but is on track to be back for camp in August. If he continues what he started in the first five games last fall, he will be one of the most exciting players to watch on the entire defense.
His story has many twists, but he has kept a positive outlook throughout, and you can’t help but root for him to have a healthy and successful finale to his Buckeye career.
The Buckeye secondary has a lot of holes to fill, but like the defensive line and every other position at Ohio State, there is always young talent waiting to step up and show what they’ve got. As a fan, anticipating who the next great players will be is always an exciting prospect.
Travis Howard looks to be the next big thing in the secondary, but there are plenty of other young players looking to make some noise.
Whether it be CJ Barnett returning from injury at SS, Orhian Johnson providing leadership and experience at FS, Dominic Clarke getting compared to Malcolm Jenkins, Christian Bryant looking to build on a good freshman campaign, Dionte Allen transferring from FSU and making some noise, and young players like Bradley Robey, Corey Brown, Doran Grant, Jeremy Cash and others who have yet to make any real noise on the field, there are plenty of things to be optimistic about in the secondary.
Despite not having much in the way of experience, with that amount of talent, I predict the Buckeye secondary will hardly miss a beat and surprise a lot of people expecting a drop off after losing three starters.