1) Beyond the disappointment of dealing with a tough loss, the Buckeyes are also dealing with criticism and outrage from fans. Do you feel the team bonds together after hanging with one of the best teams in the country, or will the USC loss a negative impact on the season?
Dave: I believe this is a defining week because Toledo is a lot better than expected. Personally I think the Buckeyes will rise to the occasion and use the USC loss as a catalyst. They be a little groggy in the first quarter, but I think they will win the game, and start to build back their season. However, some fans will still be unhappy, because Tressel teams don't usually blow out lesser opponents or hang 50 on anyone and that's what people want.
Drew: From what I got from Tressel's press conference, the team has responded very well after the loss. I have heard a few others say it, but this team has a good mix of upperclassmen and rising youngsters that should stay hungry rather than get defeated. I think this team realizes that it could be very good (esp. after having USC on the ropes) so there should be no reason not to be fired up. My only worry is if they lose to someone else along the way. Pryor especially seems to lose a little confidence with every loss, and losing again could cripple him this season.
2) The big news this week is that Cordle is out 3-4 weeks with an ankle injury. In his place we will finally get a chance to see how Shugarts looks. With the offensive line struggling for cohesion, is this a major setback or do believe Cordle can be replaced?
Drew: To say that this doesn't hurt, probably would not be truth. If Shugarts was such an unbelievable talent he would have beat out Andy Miller at left tackle. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Cordle is that great of an offensive linemen, but Miller and Shugarts at each tackle position scares me to death. On top of that, cohesion has been one of the big concerns for this unit and this hinders that yet again. I hope I eat my words, but things could be rough while he is gone.
Dave: Cordle has never impressed me that much, but he is a senior and they need him. I think this hurts particularly the next week against Illinois. Both Shugarts and Adams came to Columbus highly touted and its time for them to start living up to the expectations. I will say that the interior of the line should be a strength as he year progresses but I think OSU will struggle at tackle all year.
Dave: I don't think the criticism will eat him up for two reasons: 1) He is a confident kid; and, 2) I think Tressel does a pretty good job of keeping him (and the team) from having too much media exposure. Sure he gets on the internet and can read, but I think Terrelle's teammates and coaches surround him with love and keep him from being overwhelmed. However, I don't think he will ever completely live up to the hype coming out of high school. That's the consequence of being considered a once in a lifetime superstar.
Drew: I disagree, Pryor has already shown that he is struggling with the expectations on him to "carry the team." He looked more timid and scared this last Saturday than in the Texas game. So, I am interested to see how this impacts his play for the rest of the season. I have said, and will continue to say, that Pryor will be a Buckeye great eventually, I just hope fans and media members give him the chance to get there. As for the rest of the season, I think Pryor will never live up to expectations as long as he feels he need to carry the team. If the running game starts clicking and the defense stays tough, both could go a long way to help his mojo.
4) Outside of Pryor, the biggest frustration with the offense is the running game. Do you believe the Buckeyes will get over the hump with the running attack this season?
Drew: I think fans have not given the credit to USC's defense. I understand that our offensive line is less than stellar, but the Trojan defense gobbled up the run all night long. With that said, a variety in running backs and play calling is what is going to get the running attack back to Ohio State caliber. Herron is solid, but Saine needs to see more carries. I would also love to see Hall get a chance to show off the playmaking skills he showed in the fall. Herron just isn't 20-25 carry guy (at least for a great average), and the staff needs to mix things up. That is the only way we get over the hump!
Dave: Will it get better? Yes. Will it be a good Buckeye rushing attack? I doubt it. I love Boom's heart and intangibles (like blocking) but he isn't big and he isn't super fast. If he had Orlando Pace and Korey Stringer in front of him he would be fine, but with this line he will be a solid but unspectacular back. I think Saine will get more touches in future weeks, and he has the ability to hit the homerun, which this offense needs, so that will help. Somewhere along the way Pryor will bust one, and of course the freshmen may jump into the frey as well. So things should improve, but this team is a year away from an excellent running game.
Bonus: The Buckeyes haven't really utilized many of the freshmen yet (a little of Carter and Boren). Who do you feel steps up to become a major contributor by the time the season ends?
Dave: I have to think one of the young backs will be heard from before long. My gut says Jordan Hall over Jamaal Berry because JT likes backs who pick up the blitz and carry out their assignments, and I think he may be more capable in that regard. He also gives the team another back (like Saine) who can catch the ball out of the backfield. I would also love to see Dorian Bell or Storm Klein get some serious reps, but I am not confident that will happen.
Drew: Well, Duron Carter should be the biggest contributor for the Buckeyes by the end of the season. Not only is he already listed as a starter, but he has some remarkable skills going up and getting the ball. Outside of him I think we see two guys step up: John Simon and Jordan Hall. Simon continues to push for playing time on a defensive line that is solid. If there is any weaknesses on the line though, it may be more on the interior. We all know that Simon has some freakish skills in the weight room, and that strength may give him a chance to make a early impact. Finally, watch for Jordan Hall. As I stated above, Hall raised eyebrows with his play in fall practice and deserves a chance to prove what he has got on a team that is not running the ball solidly.