linch·pin or lynch·pin
1. A locking pin inserted in the end of a shaft, as in an axle, to prevent a wheel from slipping off.
2. A central cohesive element
Everyone knows the importance of players like Pryor, Saine, Posey, Brewster, Boren, Heyward, Homan, and Rolle. These guys will get most of the preseason press, and we all know how crucial they are to a national championship run. What often gets overlooked is the impact of some of the less flashy guys. The players who don't put up the best stats or have the most Buckeye helmet stickers, but are vital to the team. For some of these guys it's their play that makes them indispensable, coming up with the right plays at the right time, while for others its just the role they find themselves in. Regardless, I want to focus on 10 players who are linchpins for the Buckeyes in 2010. Let's start at No. 10 with Ben Buchanan.
Ben Buchanan is indispensable because of his role, not because of his performance thus far. Last season the special teams was by far the weak link of the team, especially the punting. Not to throw Jon Thoma under the bus, but he helped to contribute to the most anemic kicking unit in Tressel's tenure. His 37.9 yard average combined with numerous poorly timed punts, really provided a ton of frustration in 2009. Buchanan will need to be better than that for a championship run in '10.
He also is an important piece because it appears he may have some kicking responsibilities besides punting. Barclay hasn't shown the consistency that is needed this spring, especially on longer kicks, and Buchanan is pushing him for some of those duties. So, it's not hard to make a case that he is indispensable if he has multiple special teams roles.
What he did this spring:
Buchanan's spring has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. At times he has looked like a major upgrade, while at other moments he appears to be doing his best Thoma impersonation. One of the better moments for Buchanan was the kick scrimmage, where he really stood out. Ken Gordon of the Dispatch had this to say about his performance:
"There does not appear to be much doubt about who will handle punting duties. Buchanan has been impressive this spring - yesterday, he averaged 41.5 yards (unofficially) on nine kicks, most of which had good hang time."
Not only that, he kicked the 39 yard winning field goal for a Gray squad victory. This performance backed up what he did in Thoma's absence against Toledo in 2009, when he averaged 42.8 yards a punt. The spring game, on the other hand, was a very rough outing for him. Brandon Castel of TheOzone.net said this:
"Although he did blast a 51-yard punt in the spring game, it was mostly a day Ben Buchanan will want to forget. Coming off an up-and-down showing in the kick scrimmage, OSU’s probable starting punter averaged only 35.7 yards on his seven punts Saturday. He downed one inside the 20, but also had one sail into the end zone for a touchback. Along with his 51-yarder, Buchanan had punts of 28, 32, 33 and 16 yards in altogether ugly day."
Looking ahead to 2010:
Regardless of what he showcased in the spring game, I really think he will be a strong component this season. First, the punting game is going to be way more consistent. Not only does Buchanan have a much stronger leg than Thoma, but I doubt we see the 16 and 28 yard punts like in the spring game. We all know the field position war Tressel likes to wage on a weekly basis, so the punting duties will prove important down the stretch. I say look for him to progress as the season goes on, and most likely become one of the stronger punters in Tressel's era by the end of his career.
In regards to the kicking duties, it will be interesting to see what happens this fall. With Basil making a push for kick-off duties and Barclay and Buchanan battling for field goals, it's hard to predict what will happen. At this point though, it appears No. 17 will be getting a lot of playing time though.