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The Best Offense? // Photo Via IllinoisLoyalty.com

Dave Thurman (3:20 pm)

July is nearly here which means it is only about a month until fall practice begins.  I can hardly wait.  In the meantime let's consider the best and worst the Big Ten has to offer in 2009:

Best Player (Offense): Arrelious Benn (Illinois) - Probably the most physically imposing receiver in the nation, he only needs to find the endzone more often to become a household name.  Both Daryll Clark and Terelle Pryor are poised to give Benn a run for his money.

Best Player (Defense): Sean Lee (Penn State) - Although there are plenty of names to consider here including Brandon Graham, Corey Wootton and Kurt Coleman, I think Lee will return from his injury with a vengeance.

Most Overrated Player: Juice Williams (Illinois) - Maybe this is the year Juice puts it altogether, but so far in his career he has been erratic, possessing a touchdown to interception ratio of 44-37.  He can run with the best of them, but needs to throw the ball like he did at OSU in '07 if he is to live up to the hype.  Although he gets less ink I think Clark is a better qb.

Most Underrated Player: Jammie Kirlew (Indiana) - The Hoosiers are rotten but this defensive end can flat out play.  Last year he posted 74 tackles, 19.5 tfl and 10.5 sacks.

Best Coach: Jim Tressel (Ohio State) - Ferentz gets a lot of love from the national media but this is a no-brainer in my opinion.

Worst Coach: Bill Lynch (Indiana): Lynch is a nice guy but he couldn't win at Ball State and he is in over his head at Indiana.

Coach on the Hot Seat: Bret Bielema - The wins have declined each year since he took over for Barry Alvarez, and if that trend continues this year he will be packing his bags.

Easiest Schedule: Wisconsin - Badgers don't have to play Penn State or Illinois and have non-conference creampuffs like Wofford (are you kidding me?) and Northern Illinois.

Toughest Schedule: Iowa - The non-conference slate is pretty easy but the Hawkeyes have Big Ten road games at Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State.

Best Offense: Illinois - They need more production from their running backs, but have the potential to be explosive.

Best Defense: Ohio State - The Silver Bullets are being retooled and should be very fast.

Most Stocked Position in Big 10: Quarterback - Daryll Clark, Terelle Pryor, Juice Williams, Adam Weber, Ricky Stanzi and Dustin Sherer all return promising an air show in '09.

Least Stocked Position in Big 10: Surprisngly it is Running Back, with the loss of Beanie Wells, Javon Ringer, Shonn Greene, PJ Hill, Tyrelle Sutton and Kory Sheets.

Fastest Ascending Team: Minnesota - Tim Brewster has the Gophers on the move, fueled by excellent recruiting.

Fastest Descending Team: Purdue - Basketball on grass was succesful as long as the Boilers had a good quarterback and receivers, but poor recruiting has left them quite pedestrian. 

Biggest shoes to Fill:

Illinois - Vontae Davis (CB)

Indiana - Kellen Lewis (QB)

Iowa - Shonn Greene (RB)

Michigan - Terrance Taylor (DT)

Michigan State - Javon Ringer (RB)

Minnesota: Willie VanDeSteeg (DE)

Northwestern: Tyrelle Sutton (RB)

Ohio State: Malcolm Jenkins (CB)

Penn State: Derrick Williams (WR/KR)

Purdue: Kory Sheets (RB)

Wisconsin: Kraig Urbik (G)

That's how I see it.  What do you think?  Drop us a line and let us know.

Even though the conference may be down a little, it should be an interesting year with lots of young players getting their feet wet.  Let's get the party started!

 
 
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C.J. Fiedorowicz // Via NW Hearld

Drew Thurman (10:28 pm)

I would be lying if I said the 2010 recruiting class has not frustrated me daily. I have tried to put every imaginable spin on why this class has started slow or why things might heat up later on, but my attempts are coming up short. What adds insult to injury is the way the tight end recruiting in this class has transpired, which seems to have taken up many of the headlines. It seems like the staff offers a new tight end everyday, and with each offer there seems to be more desperation. Tressel and company want a top tier tight end, but as most of us already know, why would one come to just to block for the Buckeyes?

The process started off badly when the Alex Smith (West Chester, Ohio) committed to play for Brian Kelly and the Bearcats before Tressel even could throw an offer his way. So the staff decided to go after Alex Welch (Elder HS) and C.J. Fiedorowicz (Johnsburg, IL). Welch quickly jumped at the opportunity to follow his Catholic roots to Notre Dame, and one can't blame him, Charlie Weis and the Irish have made a player out his former teammate Kyle Rudolph.

So, that leaves the Buckeyes with C.J. Fiedorowicz. That is not saying he is a "plan B" option, actually I think he has all the skills Kyle Rudolph did a few classes ago, and he was ranked the number one tight end in his class. The problem is that Fiedorowicz has slowly dropped the Buckeyes on his list. A little over a month ago he was torn between Ohio State and Iowa, but his latest comments have no mention of coming to Columbus. His top three are Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

So where do the Buckeyes stand now?

Well there is always the chance Tressel and company will go after a lesser ranked player, but they have done that the last two years with Fragel and DiLillo. Obviously Fragel could follow Tressel's mold of playing offensive line, but regardless it's clear that he wants a play making tight end. So, with the options limited now in 2010, the staff has already moved into the 2011 class by offering Ben Koyack (Oil City, Pa). Sorry if I am cynical, but I have a hard time believing the fate with Koyack will be any different than the others aforementioned.  

I know I probably sound completely negative, which is not normally my style, but I think the staff needs to take a hard look at how they recruit tight ends. They either need to change the offensive style to better utilize tight ends or quit wasting time chasing top tight ends (who can watch ABC and see that they will be nothing more than a glorified tackle for the Buckeyes).

 
 

Drew Thurman (3:16 pm)

Taylor Graham of Wheaton, Illinois has verballed to the Buckeyes ending the quarterback saga in the 2010 class. I'm glad the staff can put this behind them and focus on the rest of the class and Braxton Miller next year!

 
 
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Melvin Felllows // Photo via Jim Davidson (TheOzone.net)

Drew Thurman (11:04 am)

I am finally back from my travels to Arizona and California, and am ready to jump back into the world of blogging for the Buckeyes. Thanks for sticking with us through the transition. Anyways, to some news:

1) Saturday night saw the Ohio squad capture a 38-31 victory over the team from Penn's Woods in the Big 33 Game. Seven future Buckeyes played in the game, and of them Jonthan Newsome drew some of the best reviews. The man that stole the show for Team Ohio was Austin Boucher, and as Adam Rittenberg says, has many Buckeye fans wondering what could have been.

2) In the recruiting world, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has put the Illini at the top of his list according to IlliniHQ.com. Even worse, the Buckeyes don't even find themselves in his top three. Once again, the lack of tight end love in Tressel's system has scared another top recruit away. Very frustrating...

3) Another running back in the 2010 class is dreaming of playing for the Buckeyes. Robert Marshall from Mesquite, Texas came up for camp, and made it clear that the Buckeyes are a frontrunner for his services. He lacks an offer though, and will likely be a backup plan for Roderick Smith and Spencer Ware.

4) The recap of the Block O Table is now up on Our Honor Defend. This takes a ton of work for Vico and is always well written, so please go check it out...

 
 
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Dave Thurman (1:55 PM)

Many of the experts are touting Penn State as a national title contender in 2009 which kind of surprises me.  Phil Steele, who I respect as much as anybody in the business of forecasting college football, has PSU picked first in the Big Ten and fifth in the nation.  Meanwhile, a couple of the writers for Scout's "College Football News" list the Nittany Lions as a sleeper BCS title team, and just about everyone has them in their top ten.   

Maybe I'm missing something but here is why I'm not so sure the Nits will be as good as predicted:

1. Joe is losing it.  I love Joe Paterno, and he is an icon of the game, but he needs to be taking his grandkids fishing at this point in his life.  While he has abdicated most of the power to his assistants, I still think he plays a major role in coaching and, last year aside, I think his best days are behind him.

2. The lines are much weaker this year.  Games are usually won in the trenches, and that's why PSU was so tough last year.  However, the offensive line lost three starters inculding their anchor, A.Q. Shipley.  And, the defensive line lost their pass rush specialists from the past couple of years, and will be hard pressed to get as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  I'm not saying their lines will be weak, but I don't see them dominating like they did in '08.

3. Who is going to catch the ball?  The incredibly talented and experienced trio of Deon Butler, Derrick Willams and Jordan Norwood is gone, and they made life pretty easy for Daryll Clark last fall.  Again, I'm sure they have some talented players in the wings, but you can't convince me that PSU won't miss the reliable and explosive talents of that terrific trio. 

4. The secondary.  Last year PSU was fantastic at defending the pass - at least until they got manhandled by USC in the Rose Bowl.  However all four starting db's are gone, and while the guys filling the holes have some experience, they will be hard pressed to match last year's production.

Now, on a positive note, Penn State returns a very solid and battle-tested quarterback in Clark, two fine, if not spectacular, running backs in Evan Royster and Stephfon Green, and some excellent linebackers who are buoyed by the return of Sean Lee.   Don't get me wrong, there's pelnty to like about PSU, and they have a soft schedule, with four sacrifical lambs in non-conference play, and Ohio State on their home turf, at always intimidating Beaver Stadium.  However, the Nits do take to the road against Illinois and Michigan State, which are both losable, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Pennsylvania native Terrelle Pryor will be cooking up some revenge for his miscue last year.  So count me as skeptical when it comes to the title talk coming out of State College. The Lions will be good in '09, but not elite.

 
 
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Drew Thurman // Class of '09

Sorry for the lack of updates.  Drew recently graduated from college, and as a proud father I will tell you he did so with honors. He has begun his post-college life in Phoenix, Arizona, having started a new job last week.  Right now he is in California, on a work-related trip, and so he has not had time to post any news.  I was in Montana last week myself, but am now back in the good, old midwest and trying to get caught up on all things Scarlet and Gray.

In this dead period, as far as Buckeye football is concerned, there has been very little in the way of news, but what has come out is not positive. 

First off, we learned that Ray Small is having academic problems, and some have speculated that he is done at OSU.  However, it seems that if he passes all of his classes this summer he can still be eligible in the fall.  Of course Ray was an academic risk from the get-go so this isn't a huge surprise.  Considering how well he played this spring, we have to keep our fingers crossed that Ray can take care of business in the classroom and be on the field when fall practice begins. 

We also learned recently that some recruiting targets have been taken off the board, having committed elsewhere.  The fact that Nick Montana opted to go elsewhere was not a shock, although few predicted Washington as his final destination.  The loss of William Gholston hurts worse, in my opinion, for two reasons.  First he opted for a Big Ten school in Michigan State, which means we'll have to face him in the years to come.  But it also hurts because I suspect we would have signed him if we had only offered earlier.  The good news is that defensive end is a strong position in Ohio this year, and we have other options. 

Nobody knows for sure what the fate of Jamel Turner will be, but this is also an area of concern and there is no guarantee that he will be a Buckeye even though he verballed way back in December, '08.  Supposedly he has a lot of work to do in the classroom, and has skipped school a great deal.  In addition he was kicked off the Ursuline basketball team at midseason and appears to be a bit of a headcase.  Boy, we've never had any of those out of Youngstown, have we?  Maurice Clarrett, and Louis Irizarry immeditaly come come to mind and make one wonder what will happen with young Mr. Turner.  Here's hoping he gets his act together. 

So the news hasn't been so great, and we continue to wait on another verbal, the last having been Scott McVey on April 25th.  Like most fans I am starting to get antsy and hope my next recruiting post is filled with good news instead of bad.  Until then, keep the faith Buckeye nation!

 
 

Drew Thurman (8:12 pm)

This edition of the Block O Table focuses on the heart of the fan. The questions come via El Caballo, who is both an active member of both 11W and OHD. For recap, please check out Our Honor Defend.

1) Why are you a Buckeye?

Though I did not grow up in Ohio myself, my family hertiage comes from the Buckeye state. The passion truly started with my father while in college, and was picked up by me while I was growing up. Probably the moment though that I realized just how much I love the Buckeyes was when I was eight years old. I sat 10 rows up on the 50 yard line at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, and got to watch Joey Galloway have a 90 yard return as the Buckeyes slashed the Hoosiers. That is why I am a Buckeye!  

2) What do you do when you meet a “hater”?

Well since most of my life has been spent outside of Ohio, I run into "haters" all the time. Lately I seem to be getting the "when was the last time the Buckeyes won a bowl game," line. I have to say, I wonder when the "haters" are going to get more creative. With that said, the most I probably ever do to a hater is expose the unfortunate truth of the team they are rooting for. It seems the majority of haters out there root for absolutely terrible teams, and have nothing better to do that rag on another fan's team. So, the truth is not often hard to expose.

3) Is it possible to hate Michigan rationally?

I like most fans would say yes to this question. With a rivalry like the one between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes there is a great amount of respect that each team has for each other, but with that respect also comes complete and utter disgust. That is what makes the rivalry so intense, and the best on the college football stage. I hear all the time of Buckeye fans avoiding the state of Michigan altogether, and the one's who decide to stay normally make a name for themselves. My cousin last year made a trip to Ann Arbor just to pee on the stadium with his young son. So yes, the hatred for Michigan makes us Buckeyes and it seems very rational!

#4: This is a two-parter - or a one-parter, depending on your circumstances. Or a hypothetical three-parter, I don’t know…call it open-ended. Anyway: How do you handle significant others/family/friends that AREN’T Buckeye fans? Do you just let them know upfront that there are three or four hours on Fall Saturdays that you’re just not available, or during which the TV has to be yours? Is it a deal-breaker if they don’t go along with that? Following on that, there are always going to be obligations in life that conflict with the Buckeyes - do you feed the Buckeye monkey or bite the bullet? Or are these questions moot in the age of the DVR?

Pretty much everyone in my life knows what Saturday's in the fall mean to me. My life works around the Buckeye games to the best of my ability, and normally people let that be. The only things that pulls me off my couch are the rare occasions of a huge event, which generally have to do with a wedding or a funeral. Weddings irritate me though, because unlike a funeral they could have picked any other day of the week! Besides that I stay pretty loyal to Saturdays. I have DVR but never feel the same not watching it live, so it is important for me to be present (I mean doesn't the team need me watching?).

5) What’s your policy on sporting Buckeye regalia? Do you roll loud and proud outside of Columbus and/or on non-game days?

This one is obvious, you have to support the Buckeyes whenever you can. I think this seperates the real fans from the "bangwagoners." Being a fan is not always easy, and often you take heat because of your team, but you still never give up. Every morning you wake up and put on your Buckeye gear again to show the world where your heart is!

Extra Credit: What’s your very favorite piece of Buckeye memorabilia? Or what would you like to have, if you don’t have any?

Our family has a Buckeye room that has a ton of Buckeye memorabilia, but my favorite has to be the two newspapers (Columbus Dispatch & Arizona Republic) that are framed with the National Championship win in 2002. Sure the dozens of autographs are cool, but it is extra special to have a piece of a championship that I have witnessed. Not every fan gets to see his/her team win the highest honor in their sport, and so my piece of the National Championship in 2002 is the most special to me.

 
 

Drew Thurman (2:43 pm)

Sorry for the lack of updates over the last week. Both of us have been out of town and away from our computers. Anyways, to some news...

Nick Montana has committed to Washington and Steve Sarkisian. He picked the Huskies over offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Stanford, LSU, Georgia, and Ohio State. This may not be huge news to some of you since Montana has been an apparent long shot for sometime now, but it could have either good or bad implications for the Buckeyes. 

With Montana aside the Buckeyes will put the full court press on Andrew Hendrix, and can hopefully convince him of the need to stay in-state. With that said, the Irish also lost on the Montana sweepstakes, and will also be trying to pull in the Moeller product. He actually just visited the Irish, and something tells me they are the leader. I wish I had a better feeling about this folks, but another Cincinnati kid could easily bypass the Buckeyes!   

 
 
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Drew Thurman (1:01 pm)

The latest trash talk of the Sweater Vest comes from the Heisman Pundit. Tressel finds himself as the second most overrated coach on their "Top Ten Most Overrated Coaches" list. In their words:

"Is any coach more stubborn about his system and way of doing things?  Sure, he is successful to a point, but he gets a ton of talent every year and lately has found a way to get pummeled in the big games.  It’s almost as if he is satisfied to lose, as long as it is his way."

Just check out the other coaches on this list, it is a joke!

 
 
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Rodriguez has offered every kid this side of the Mississippi!

Drew Thurman (10:36 am)

There is no doubt that fans are getting frustrated with the lack of recruiting news coming out of Buckeye camp. Jump on any board or forum, and you will see fans psychoanalyzing Tressel and the staff on the recruiting moves that they have made so far. I have to say that I have fallen into this temptation as well, and I have expressed my frustration with the slow start on several occasions (which I am starting to regret).

Most of this disappointment stems out of so-called "late offers," to players like William Gholston, Alex Welch, and Christian Bryant. Fans have seen Tressel and the staff chase players out-of-state that have had limited interest in the Buckeyes, while losing ground on recruits that they have a better shot at. Maybe we are spoiled because so many players jumped on board early on last year or maybe we catch ourselves comparing numbers to Michigan, but the frustration is definitely evident.

In some ways though, these emotions may not be warranted. I am not saying that the staff didn't possibly hurt their chances with offering late to a guy like Gholston, but I think there are some other aspects that we all need to realize.

First of all, Tressel and the staff are using the same formula that brought the success of the last two classes. It basically goes like this, extend a lot of offers to top out-of-state talent while offering the best that Ohio has to offer. As players commit elsewhere or show limited interest, the staff crosses them off the list and offers the next possible player (many times a second tier Ohio talent in ranking). This philosophy stands in direct opposition to what coaches like Zook and Rodriguez do. They on the other hand offer every player and their brother, hoping the mass quantity of offers manifests itself into commitments.

At first glance this philosophy seems to be working. The Wolverines have 12 commitments right now compared to the Buckeyes 5, but further investigation shows a problem. Because the Wolverines have offered both first and second tier talent, they are watching many second tier talent players commit and ruining their chances with the four and five star players. This is even evident from the players that have committed to them from Ohio. Guys like Pace, Kinard, Williamson, and Robinson would have never been pursued by Michigan 10 years ago. If they had, it would have been very late in the process. So we need to quit counting commitments, because Michigan shows that there is more to recruiting than just that.

Second, Buckeye fans need to understand how special the 2009 class was. The reason that Ohio State was able to accumulate so many early commits in last year's class was becasue of the sheer talent that the state of Ohio possessed. The staff extended a lot of early offers to Ohio kids, and thus received in-state commitments early on. This class on the other hand does not have near the talent (in-state), especially at positions of need, and so offers will be coming later in the process. So be prepared for a lot of commitments later in this class, and not so early. Yet another reason to quit counting commitments in June.

Finally, look at the scholarships. If you look back at the 2008 class, which had a very similar scholarship situation (18-20 to give out), the Buckeyes were almost in the exact same situation entering June. At that point the Buckeyes only had eight commitments, and the staff was being very careful with who they handed offers out to. The only difference between that class and the class of 2010 is that the staff was having a little more out-of-state success. If we are patient though, guys like Roderick Smith, Lamarcus Joyner, and C.J. Fiedorowicz could put this class on the same course.

So quit counting commitments. Tressel and the staff have shown the last few years that they know how to put together a solid class, and we need to quit judging this one at the start of June. I would much rather be in our shoes than collecting a bevy of second tier players like Michigan!