Drew Thurman (7:03 pm)

The last few years may always be know always the "Beanie Era" in Ohio State football lore. Buckeye fans got a chance to witness one of the greatest stiff arm runners in recent history, who combined his physical running with the ability to take one to house at any moment. In fact to go in an do the numbers for the rushing game over the past two seasons is pretty remarkable. Beanie has averaged 43.9 percent of the carries over the past two seasons (junior year - 49.5%; senior year - 38.3%), and without injuries probably would have had even a larger affect in that statistical category. On top of that Pryor consumed many of Beanie's carries in '08, having 139 on the year, and without those carries Beanie had 51.6 percent of the carries for the team.  

As the Buckeyes look ahead to the 2009-10 season, fans quickly have to come to the reality that this will not happen again. The Buckeyes have a whole host of running backs, and while obviously some may see more carries than others, its going to be a committee job rather than a solo act. Many teams have had a lot of success doing this (*cough* USC *cough*), and Buckeye fans can relax knowing there is a lot of talent in the Buckeye backfield. So let's take a look:

Boom Herron:

The Buckeyes are welcoming in two extremely talented running backs in Jamaal Berry and Carlos Hyde, and this has caused many fans to forget about Herron. As just a redshirt freshman in 2008 he had 439 yards with six touchdowns, and averaged 4.9 a carry. Boom did miss some time with a concussion, but ended the season with strong showings against Michigan and Texas. At 5-10 nearly 200 pounds he doesn't look like a power back, but Boom proved last season that he was as physical as anyone on the roster. It's hard to believe that anyone will get more carries over Herron, even though there is some serious talent behind him. He has great vision, runs tough, and he now has a year of experience. I don't see him as a thirty carry guy like Beanie, but look for Herron to be the primary option. 

Brandon Saine:

Saine has gone from potential star to perennial backup pretty much overnight. He looked like Beanie's replacement as a freshman, but after a series of injuries has never had the burst that was once his MO. There is a lot of talk that Saine will make a permanent move over to the fullback position, but regardless Saine is going to see some carries. I throw him on this list because I feel that this is Saine's last real shot of decent contribution. He is versatile (like his TE/FB play in the '07 National Championship), and I think he gets a chance to prove something early this season before things are officially handed over to the freshmen.

Jamaal Berry:

Berry, a top 5 running back by ESPN, has Buckeye fans very excited. He possesses a solid combo of both size and speed, and has all the physical tools to play early on for Ohio State. Add to this that the Buckeyes are relatively inexperienced at running back, and it appears as if Berry will get his share of carries in '09. He also bursts through the hole very quickly, and Tressel always loves to give playing time to guys who hit the whole fast!

Carlos Hyde:

While Hyde has taken the backseat to Berry in recruiting circles, I would not downplay what his role could be for the Buckeyes in '09. I have made it clear on multiple occasions that I really like Hyde because of his versatility, and that he can block and catch the ball out of the backfield on top of being a power runner. Mix all of this with the fact that he has the type of frame (6-1, 225) that looks like a Big Ten runner. Berry obviously has big play material written all over him, but watch for Hyde to get a bulk of carries based off of versatility and power.

All in all:

The reality is that the Buckeyes are going to be running the ball by committee this season. Until the summer and early falls roll around no one knows what the percentages might be, but my gut feeling says that at least three of these young men are going to be seeing some considerate playing time. Of course many of you are asking why I left Jordan Hall off the list, but at least as a freshman I do not see him offering any intangibles that these other running backs don't.

Anyways, they may not compare to the four horsemen (pictured above), but it is exciting to see the raw talent these four offer on paper.

What do you think? How are the carries going to be distributed?

 
 

Dave Thurman (6:37 PM)

Yesterday we looked at how JT has done the past eight years in recruiting offensive positions; today let's examine the defense:

Defensive End:

Highest Ranked Signing: Melvin Fellows - It will be interesting to see how he does the next few years as hopes are high

Biggest Surprise: Vern Gholston, who was a good recruit but exceeded expectations

Biggest Flop: Robert Rose, who was nearly as highly rated as Fellows is this year. Big Rob now has only one more year to make an impact

Overall Position Grade: B (Some good pass rushers have been brought in or converted from OLB) 

Defensive Tackle:

Highest Ranked Signing: Quinn Pitcock

Biggest Surprise: Nader Abdallah, who made himself into a pretty good player

Biggest Flop: Sian Cotton, who was gone from school before his star rose

Overall Position Grade: C (The rankings don't lie, as the Bucks haven't had enough big time recruits at this position.  Maybe Goebel and Simon change things the next four years) 

Linebacker:

Highest Ranked Signing: Mike D'Andrea (consensus # 1)

Biggest Surprise: Pick between A.J. Hawk and James Laurinaitis, both 3 star recruits who produced 5 star results

Biggest Flop: D'Andrea, who battled injuries his whole career.  He would have had a hard time living up to the hype, regardless.

Overall Position Grade: A (Great talent has been consistently brought into Columbus at this position and it is has produced super results)

Safety:

Highest Ranked Signing: Eugene Clifford, by a nose over Donte Whitner and Jamario O'Neal

Biggest Surprise: Anderson Russell, who nobody but OSU thought much of, and who has had a pretty good career

Biggest Flop: Jemario O'Neal, who unlike Clifford, spent four years in Columbus without having much impact

Overall Position Grade: B (Some good ones here like Whitner and Coleman, but plenty of misses, too)

Cornerback:

Highest Ranked Signing: Ted Ginn (consensus #1), but he moved to WR, so let's go with Corey Brown from the class of '09

Biggest Surprise: Malcolm Jenkins, without a doubt.  From a no-name to a first round draft pick!

Biggest Flop: E.J. Underwood, who had all the tools but didn't like hitting the books (though Dareus Hiley also comes to mind)

Overall Position Grade: A- (So many guys surpassed their rankings. e.g. Jenkins, Washington, Chekwa, and Youboty)

Conclusion:  There you have it - my analysis of Tressel's recruiting, one position at a time.  What do you think?  Who did I miss?  Let us know as we fix our glance to the class of 2010, and hope for more highly ranked recruits!

 
 

Dave Thurman (9:07 pm)

As winter drags on and little news comes out of Columbus concerning the 2009 Buckeyes, let's take some time to look back over the past 8 National Signing Days and assign grades to Tressel's recruiting efforts thus far, position by position.  Individual player rankings are based off of a consensus arrived at by combining and averaging the ratings from various recruiting services (such as Rivals, Scout, SuperPrep, etc.).

Quarterback:

Highest Ranked Signing: Terrelle Pryor (consensus #1)

Biggest Surprise: Troy Smith, brought in as an athlete at the last minute he merely went on to win the Heisman Trophy!

Biggest Flop: Justin Zwick, who was tagged as a superstar before he even started shaving

Overall Position Grade: B (Some excellent recruits here although a few transferred out)

Running Back:

Highest Ranked Signing: Pick between Maurice Clarett and Beanie Wells (both #1's) 

Biggest Surprise: Antonio Pittman

Biggest Flop: Lydell Ross, but he could soon be passed by Brandon Saine if he doesn't get his act together

Overall Position Grade: B+ (Brought in some great ones but also suffered through the Ross and Hall era)

Wide Reciever:

Highest Ranked Signing: If you don't count Teddy Ginn, who came in as a cornerback, then it would be DeVier Posey

Biggest Surprise: Santonio Holmes, considered a 3 star recruit

Biggest Flop: Roy Hall, thought to be a superstar but failed to contribute until late in his career

Overall Position Grade: B- (Saved by Teddy and Gonzo who were recruited as defensive backs, but overall filled with many 3 star recruits)

Tight End:

Highest Ranked Signing: Probably Jake Ballard, unless you consider Jake Stoneburner a TE as some services did

Biggest Surprise: ? (Maybe Brandon Smith who wasn't highly recruited and did contribute at TE and FB)

Biggest Flop: Chad Hoobler, who was highly ranked, then switched positions, then left school

Overall Position Grade: C (Some decent recruits were hurt by the offensive strategy, but overall the numbers brought in at this position have been low)

Offensive Line:

Highest Ranked Signing: Alex Boone (consensus top 5 lineman)

Biggest Surprise: Nick Mangold, who became a star though he wasn't a huge national recruit (honorable mention to Kirk Barton)

Biggest Flop: You pick!  Honestly, it has to be Kyle Mitchum, who averaged out as the #6 ranked recruit at OL in the '04 class but failed to develop partially due to injuries (Connor Smith is on the prowl to unseat him, however)

Overall Position Grade: C (Guys like Mangold, Sims, and Barton help the overall grade, but too many guys have not performed and it is obvious that Bollman has done a poor job in developing this position.)

Defensive Analysis: coming tomorrow

 
 

Drew Thurman (8:02 pm)

The NFL Combine was in Indianapolis this weekend, and many of the former Buckeye players made a statement. I know many of you have been looking for information and results from this weekend, so here are some links:

1) The NFL Network has a video of the top performers from Sunday. First on the list was Brian Robiskie, who showed off a nice 40 time and some serious hands. He looks to be in great form on the video, and it is a pretty interesting thing to check out!

2) Also NFL.com officially has the results of the top performers at each position in every drill. Beanie of course makes the list for running backs in several of the drills, including his 4.59 forty yard dash. Also when scrolling through the list of drills you will see some other Buckeyes including Robiskie, Hartline, and Boone. Hartline was especially impressive posting top times for the wide receivers in the 3 Cone Drill, 20 Yard Shuffle, and the 60 Yard Shuffle. 

3) Finally I will just direct you over to NFL.com's photos from the combines. I personally always like getting an actual visual of what things look like, and these give you a look at several Buckeyes in the combine process. It's worth a few minutes to scroll through them.

 
 

Drew Thurman (4:39 pm)

I know there are a lot of you out there just trying to get any news possible on the Buckeye players at the combine, so I thought I would help direct you to a few free videos. Over on Buckeye Grove, they have a couple of interview videos with Beanie at the combine today. He checked in at 235 pounds, is finally healthy, and is enjoying himself throughout the process. Anyways check out the video to hear it all for yourself...

 
 

Dave Thurman (5:48 pm)

One of the big news items this winter (and let's face it it this is a down time for Buckeye football news) is the move of Jake Stoneburner to tight end, which had been rumored for quite some time, but was only recently substantiated.  Naturally there are divergent opinions on this subject, with some fans quite angry, hoping that Stoneburner would become a big downfield target, blending a rare package of size and speed.  And, many felt he would be a great option in the corner of the end zone, being employed kind of like Terrelle Pryor was in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas. 

Well I, for one, am quite excited by the possibilities of this change of position, and feel it might well signal the beginning of a new era in which Tressel begins to use the tight end as a viable offensive weapon, and not just a glorified tackle. 

Just how little has the tight end been used in our recent offensive scheme?  Is it just our imagination or have we truly failed to utilize this position adequately?  Well, take a look at the past three years and judge for yourselves:

2008 - All of 11 catches by the tight end (6 to Nichol; 5 to Ballard)! Brandon Smith did catch 8 balls but those were all out of the backfield as a fullback.

2007 - A whopping total of 32 catches (16 to Nichol; 13 to Ballard; and    
3 to Smith) which actually gave us momentary hope for the future!

2006 - 15 catches by our tight ends (13 to Nichol; 2 to Ballard)

To put that in perspective, consider that Travis Beckum of Wisconsin caught 75 balls by himself in 2007 (his last healthy season as he missed much of 2008 due to injury).

Obviously we have not maximized this position and it hasn't all been due to a lack of talent.  Ballard, in particular, has wonderful hands and should have been used more, but will never be considered a speed-merchant.  Jake Stoneburner, on the other hand, has excellent speed, and would likely be the fastest tight end in OSU history.  Putting a big time athlete like him at tight end would certainly seem to be for the purpose of adding another weapon to the OSU arsenal.  That gets my blood pumping in eager anticipation.

Truth is, I have nightmares in which I see Kellen Winslow Jr. cutting across the middle for another big gain during the 2003 National Championship Game.  His size and speed made him a terrible mismatch when lined up against any linebacker, even the speedy Cie Grant.  USC used Fred Davis the same way during his senior season, and the aforementioned Travis Beckum tormented the Big Ten with over 130 catches during his sophomore and junior seasons.

That's why I like this move.  We need to get Jake on the field and there is a glut of talent at wideout.  On the other hand, tight end has only one experienced returner and we need to start utilizing this position, realizing that linebackers aren't usually equipped to be great pass defenders. 

So, here's hoping 2009 will be remembered as the year we rediscovered the tight end!

 
 

Drew Thurman (2:54 pm)

Former Buckeye basketball star Daequan Cook cruised by the competition two nights ago in the NBA three point shooting contest, and didn't even look like he cared. What does he care about you ask? Well for one, he wants you to read the headlines in this week's installment of News & Views...

1) ESPN's Todd McShay and Mel Kiper have been doing a draft special all day today. In McShay's latest mock draft Malcolm Jenkins has fallen to ninth with the Packers, but he has Beanie Wells up at #16 going ahead of Knowshon Moreno with the Chargers. On the other hand Laurinaitis' stock seems to be falling, at least according to Scouts Inc. They actually have all three USC linebackers ahead of him in the rankings, but they may change when workout time rolls around. 

2) The big news today is that Nick Montana is in Columbus for a visit with Tressel and the Buckeyes. I am a little shocked he is this interested in Ohio State, since teams like Texas, USC, and Tennesse all "supposedly" have better systems for pro-style quarterbacks, but that does not minimize how exciting the potential here is. For even more information on Montana and some of the other quarterbacks the Buckeyes have in mind, Our Honor Defend has a great piece on it!

3) I spent almost the entire past week looking at film of the most sought after guys for the Buckeyes in the 2010 class, and while I hate to say it, Jordan Hicks blows me away. He recently was named the number one player in Ohio in the 2010 class by Steve Helwagen, and the film shows you why. His instincts are incredible, and he comes up and makes plays with some serious speed and quickness. He may have only recorded 70 tackles last season, but he has potential that is through the roof. He has Texas listed as the early favorite, and even though the Buckeyes are loaded at linebacker, it will hurt to lose this young man.

 
 

Drew Thurman (4:27 pm)

If you haven't been fortunate enough to see ESPN Bottomline this morning; Iowa announced today that they have reached a seven year deal to keep Kirk Ferentz. I have seen a few ignorant people questioning the move, but in my opinion this was an important move not just for the Hawkeyes but for the entire Big Ten. If you read my stuff at all you know that I constantly make remarks about how the quality of coaches in the Big Ten is not up to par with what I feel it should be. Experts can make all kinds of comments about how the SEC recruits better because the players are in their backyard, but another element they fail to mention is the quality of coaches that the Southeastern Conference possesses.

This brings me to Ferentz, who I have a ton of respect for, and I think his 70-53 record and two Big Ten titles speak for themselves. I cannot imagine the difficulty of trying to bring recruits to the corn and soy bean torture known as the state of Iowa, and he has put up some solid teams even with those restraints (Why do you think Steve Alford left for New Mexico?).

Ferentz had been rumored as a possible candidate for several NFL jobs, including the Browns, and his departure would have hurt the conference. I think he one of the upper echelon coaches in the conference, and without him there is no way that Iowa Hawkeyes get better. The Big Ten is in period of transition for the good, and keeping Ferentz around should help another team in the conference continue to be a contender. Nice move Iowa!

 
 

Drew Thurman (11:33 pm)

I have had a pretty tiring week, but this video cheered me up. It's shot at a senior night at a high school in Maine, and the star of the video is manager Patrick Thibodeau. Patrick has Down's Syndrome, but has still managed the basketball team through high school and has even been part of practicing. On senior night though, he got to show off his skills and I am sure the whole town will never forget it. I think you will all enjoy it...

 
 

Drew Thurman (10:33 am)

Jerald Robinson, a wide receiver from Canton, Ohio, has decided to commit to Michigan. The 6-2 180 pound wideout is one of the top 25 prospects in the class of 2010, and his commitment to the Wolverines is a shocker. There have been some rumors that the Buckeyes were not going to offer, due to the bevy of wide receiver prospects they have brought in the last two years, but that is just speculation. Apparently the staff have bigger fish to fry. Regardless, Robinson is a talented player, and you hate to see a talented young man from Ohio head to the Wolverines!