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Football Report: Winter Conditioning

Written March 7th, 2011 by Jim

Football is right around the corner! Okay, not really, but spring practice is almost here!

This morning I was fortunate enough to sit in on a 6 AM winter conditioning session held by the Ohio State football team. It was a shirt and shorts affair with plenty of running and various other drills deviously put together by strength and conditioning coordinator Eric Lichter.

Since there were no actual football drills that took place, it is difficult to draw many conclusions regarding the team. At the risk of being borderline creepy, however, I can provide some insight on the highly scientific “look test” as well as who stood out in terms of effort.

There were several notable guests this morning as well.

Cameron Heyward fully participated in the conditioning drills with the defensive lineman without a brace on his elbow. Here’s hoping he can get back to 100% in time to work out for the NFL scouts at the end of the month.

Bobby Carpenter also made an appearance at the end of the practice, but did not participate in any of the drills.

A random Georgia coach (or something, he was wearing a Georgia pullover) was spotted walking around.

Read on for the players that stood out, the players that could use a little extra conditioning, and various other observations that I was fortunate enough to make.

Coach Tressel jokingly requested that tape not be shown of the players who “lost their cookies”, but I hope I can still write about it. Read More

Way Too Early Look: 2011 Linebackers

Written February 28th, 2011 by Jim

Never having to worry about replacing linebackers, no matter who graduates- if only there were some way to describe that type of consistent excellence...

The Buckeyes lose two starters at linebacker in 2011, Brian Rolle in the middle and Ross Homan on the weak side.

The situation is remarkably similar to 2009, when Ohio State lost James Laurinaitis in the middle and Marcus Freeman on the weak side. Fortunately, the duo of Rolle and Homan proved more than capable replacements.

Over the years, that has been the pattern at Ohio State. Whenever linebackers leave, others step in with little to no drop off. 2011 should be no different as the linebacker wheel of awesome keeps on turning in Columbus.

There is a plethora of talent for the Buckeyes to work with, and as usual, it will be an exciting spring to see which linebackers separate themselves from the pack and how the coaches tweak the system to take advantage of the new talent.

Read on for a closer look at Ohio State’s linebackers in 2011. Read More

Way Too Early Look: 2011 Defensive Line

Written February 15th, 2011 by Jim

Two out of four returning starters ain't bad...

Ohio State has been spoiled by some outstanding play in the defensive trenches recently. Whether you look at the incredible depth and experience of the 2009 group or the individual performance of Cameron Heyward and Dexter Larimore in 2010, the defensive line has been one of the primary sources of success for Buckeyes.

Needless to say, the 2011 D-line has some big shoes to fill and some lofty standards to live up to. With significant losses across the board, the defense will be a major rebuilding project in 2011. As usual, that rebuilding project will start up front.

The Buckeyes do return several veteran players (Nathan Williams, John Simon) as well as some young talent that will look to take their game to the next level (Adam Bellamy, Garrett Goebel, Johnathan Hankins). However, depth may be a problem as the two deep will be filled with players that have very little game experience, particularly at defensive tackle.

Then again, compared to 2009, depth may be a concern every season. Re-loading the defense has never been an issue at Ohio State, and the Buckeyes should have no problems finding new stars to replace the old ones.

Here is a run down of the players looking to make some noise in the trenches in 2011. Read More

Way Too Early Look: 2011 TEs and FBs

Written February 8th, 2011 by Jim

Tight ends and full backs, doing more than just blocking since 2010.

Tight ends and fullbacks are two positions on a football team that are often under appreciated, if not downright forgotten (guilty). However, they can be the glue that holds a successful offense together.

Whether it be adding a little extra muscle in the run game or providing an outlet pass for the quarterback, tight ends and fullbacks do the dirty work that makes an offense run. The Buckeyes feature some highly experienced, highly talented players at these positions in 2011 who should do a fine job doing just that.

Early in the season, their experience and play making will be relied on even more as some of the other offensive personnel serve their suspensions.

A good indication of the talent available at TE and FB was their roll in the offense last season. With 40 catches between them, FB Zach Boren and TEs Jake Stoneburner and Reid Fragel were featured more prominently in the play calling than any group in recent memory.

One hallmark of a Tressel coached team is always finding ways to utilize their talent (albeit sometimes more successfully than others). Whether it be spreading the field five wide with Troy Smith at the helm in ’06 or pounding the rock with Beanie Wells out of the ‘I’ in ’07, Jim Tressel has shown that he is flexible and will adapt the offense to the talent on the field.

Ohio State opened up the playbook and featured the tight ends on some unique play-action passes in the Sugar Bowl that worked magnificently (possibly because they were so unexpected). While we most likely won’t be seeing those type of plays consistently next season (particularly early in the year with a new QB), Ohio State did find ways to get the ball to the tight ends in ways never before seen.

We won’t be seeing the end of Tresselball anytime soon, but could we see the tight ends and full backs incorporated into the offense in new and unique ways in 2011? Read More

Way Too Early Look: 2011 Offensive Line

Written January 31st, 2011 by Jim

As the saying goes, games are won in the trenches. Cliche or not, a dominating offensive line can take a team to the next level. See: Wisconsin.

With three senior returning starters to anchor the line, Ohio State has the makings of domination in 2011.

Unfortunately, we haven’t reached the point in these ‘way too early’ previews where I don’t have to mention suspensions. Mike Adams, the returning starter at LT, will be serving a suspension to begin the year.

Scratch one of the senior anchors… at least for a few games.

The suspensions go a bit deeper than that for the offensive line… indirectly. With a new QB, inexperienced receivers, and a deep and talented backfield, the trenches will become even more important than usual for the Buckeyes.

Whether it is protecting an inexperienced QB for an extra second or opening holes for dynamic young runners, the offensive line will be the crucial group of players that can  get the team through the suspensions without a loss.

Here’s a look at those players. Read More

Breaking: Sam Longo to transfer

Written January 20th, 2011 by Jim

Mr. Longo, we hardly knew ye.

According to Doug Lesmerises of the Plain Dealer, second year offensive lineman Sam Longo has asked for and been granted a release from Ohio State.

Longo redshirted in 2009 and never really made a splash in 2010 in extremely limited action. With so many incoming offensive lineman in the 2011 class, he may have seen the writing on the wall.

Regardless, we wish Sam the best of luck wherever he decides to transfer to.

This transfer opens up an additional scholarship for the coaches to use in the 2011 or 2012 class. In either case, Buckeye fans can get excited about one additional Buckeye with untapped potential as the recruiting wheel keeps on spinning.

My personal preference would be to stay put with Aundrey Walker and one additional player (most likely Curtis Grant) in 2011 and bank the scholarship for an extremely loaded 2012 class in which Ohio State has limited scholarship numbers as it is.

That being said, if a player like Ja’Juan Story or Darius Jennings wanted to jump on board, you obviously wouldn’t say no.

Breaking: Vaughters re-confirms commitment to Stanford

Written January 20th, 2011 by Jim

Georgia linebacker James Vaughters has re-confirmed his commitment to Stanford($) after briefly re-opening his recruitment when Harbaugh left for the NFL.

Vaughters to Ohio State was always a long shot, but a scheduled official to Columbus left a glimmer of hope for the Buckeyes. Now that visit is cancelled following his re-commitment and the glimmer is gone.

All is not lost, however, as the Buckeyes still have a shot at Virginia LB Curtis Grant. According to some, the Buckeyes may even be leading at the moment. Ohio State has an above average shot at the very least, and with Vaughters out of the picture, all recruiting energy can be channeled in Grant’s direction.

Grant still has a visit left to UNC, and “we will know more” afterwards.

Also, Aundrey Walker visted USC last weekend and rumors swirled of a silent verbal as you would imagine. I am still far from worried about Walker. A trip to SoCal one weekend with a trip to Florida (State) the next… what Ohioan wouldn’t enjoy that in January?

Trips like that are half the reason Glenville recruits delay committing in the first place.

The buzz is that Walker and Grant are both Buckeyes.

That would be a fantastic finish to a top 5 recruiting class.

Way Too Early Look: 2011 Running Backs

Written January 18th, 2011 by Jim

Herron may face an uphill battle to get his carries back once he returns from suspension.

The Buckeyes will be breaking in a new QB for the first five games in 2011. With a new QB throwing to an extremely inexperienced group of receivers, the running backs will be the focal point of the offense and Tressel will rely heavily on them to win games in September.

With the suspension of returning starter Boom Herron (216 carries, 1155 yards, 16 TDs), Ohio State will also be breaking in a new running back (or three). Unlike the QBs, however, the prospect of a new RB is mostly an exciting one for Buckeye Nation, particularly given the pool of talent waiting to show what they’ve got.

Fans got a glimpse of young players like Jaamal Berry (32 carries, 266 yards, 1 TD) and Jordan Hall (37 carries, 161 yards, 2 TDs) early in 2010, but once the Big Ten season was in full swing, they were relegated exclusively to special team duties.

Hall and Berry represent the lightning in Ohio State’s ground attack, but the Buckeyes can also bring the thunder. Carlos Hyde received limited opportunities last season (24 carries, 141 yards), but at 6′ tall and 238 lbs. he provides some muscle in short yardage situations. Read More