Dave Thurman (3:34 pm)
Experienced starters return at every position but four as the Scarlet and Gray prepare for a new season. So who fills the holes for the departed starters? Let’s run down the options at each position:
Fullback: With Aram Olson’s career apparently over due to injury the Buckeyes are left with no healthy scholarship players at this position. Although this appears rather bleak it may not be as bad as it seems. First of all the Bucks may run a good deal of the time out of an ace formation, possibly even employing the spread on occasion. And, there is talk of using tailbacks Brandon Saine and Beanie Wells in the backfield together, with Saine swinging out quite often for passes. When Tressell wants to run out of the vaunted “I” he will probably turn to converted walk-on linebacker Ryan Lukens, a senior who is up to around 240 pounds. Another walk-on, freshman Spencer Smith, hails from Cincinnati Colerain, and is listed on the roster as a fullback. But there is also a chance that 5th-year senior Curtis Terry will split time between outside linebacker and fullback, something he is eager to try. Other linebackers, like Austin Spitler and Andrew Sweat played fullback in high school, and have the right physical and mental makeup to succeed at this position. Pencil Lukens in to start on August 30th, but look for a number of people to get auditions during the first couple of games.
Offensive Tackle: Kirk Barton’s graduation leaves one large spot to fill on the offensive line, and it appears to be Bryant Browning’s job to lose. Reports are that third-year sophomore Browning has worked very hard, has good footwork, and is extremely intelligent. He will need to play well, however, as true freshman Mike Adams is waiting in the wings. If healthy and cleared to play this fall following shoulder surgery, the highly recruited Adams may get some playing time right away. This position is critical to keeping Boeckman off the seat of his pants, and it will be interesting to see how things progress.
Defensive End: Vernon Gholston’s decision to depart with one year of eligibility remaining leaves a gaping hole on the line, since he was the only lineman to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The silver lining here is that fourth-year junior Lawrence Wilson is ready to assume this spot, after spending last year healing from an injury sustained in the first game of the season. Wilson is a solid player who many thought would have a breakout year in ’07. Now the hope is that he will have that kind of impact in ’08. Converted linebacker Thaddeus Gibson is also getting rave reviews as a rush end, and will no doubt play in passing situations, when Cameron Heyward moves inside from defensive end to tackle. Hopefully between Wilson and Gibson the Buckeyes can recover the 14 sacks they lost when Gholston opted for the play-for-pay league.
Outside Linebacker: An underappreciated part of last year’s stellar defense was departed linebacker Larry Grant. However, there is no shortage of potential replacements at what may be the deepest position on this year’s squad. So who will get first crack? I think it will be Curtis Terry, the aforementioned senior from Cleveland Glenville who missed last season after a productive ’06 campaign. But there are many who think it will be Ross Homan, a highly recruited player, who also was shelved last year due to injuries. Either way the Bucks get a solid, experienced player who could be ready to shine. Another outside linebacker to keep an eye on is sophomore Brian Rolle, who excelled on special teams last year, and combines great speed with a penchant for hard hits. In summation, this spot does not seem to be a concern at all!
It is always interesting to see how it all shakes down once the old pigskin is kicked off for the first time. Nothing is written in stone, but there are few positions to fill, and plenty of candidates to consider. If the Bucks can adequately fill these four spots, and have decent health at the other positions tn ought to be a special year.
Next up: Which young guys crack the two deep, and who surprises in ’08!