Friday, August 29, 2008

2008 Buckeyes: Predictions, Thoughts And Other Words (In English)

I waited too long to post this sucker, but whatever.

There won't be any consistency to what you're about to read. My goal here is to comment on everything going through my head regarding the 2008 Ohio State Buckeyes. Some of it will seem ridiculous, some of it might seem unkind and some of it might seem obvious. But I have to get it all out there - every last thought. Part of the reason I started blogging was to make preseason predictions about the stuff I'm passionate about. There's a simple formula working here, which I stole from FBI serial killer profilers: Throw out a bunch of ideas and (by and large) only your correct predictions will be remembered.

So I missed on a few things last year, but my accuracy was pretty impressive. Here's to hoping for the same success rate in '08...

Without further ado, I unleash Ohio State Football: Predictions, Thoughts and Other Words (In English):

1. I just have to get this out of the way: He's been gone a month, but I miss Antonio Henton already. If given the choice, sure, I'd rather have Terrelle Pryor, but I know Henton could've been a star in Columbus. He's a better runner than Troy Smith, but he was no one trick pony; the guy had a fairly accurate cannon for an arm. If Pryor committs to Michigan, Henton splits snaps (maybe 75/25) with Boeckman and prepares for a monster final two years at OSU. I really believe that. and I don't want to hear how Joe Bauserman had moved ahead of Henton, either - Henton was a headcase after Pryor came in and the writing was on the wall. Regardless, I can't help thinking how unlucky Henton was...Austin Moherman started more games at Ohio State than Henton. Zwick, too. Hell, Bellisari started for three years and never got any better.

So now I'm a Georgia Southern fan in the same way I'm a Texas Rangers fan. Antonio Henton = Josh Hamilton.

(By the way, I'll bet you $6.45 that Henton has a longer pro career than Boeckman...)

2. Terrelle Pryor. I try to keep my eyes wide open, but sometimes I just can't help myself. I'm like everyone else with this Pryor guy - I can't wait to watch him play and I believe he's capable of just about anything at this point. The great thing about freshmen is that they haven't revealed any flaws. Especially Pryor. Not only is he a genetic marvel, but he seems to be more humble than I ever expected. The vets have all said great things about him, and it appears he's a much better thrower at this point than anyone realized. The Tim Tebow/Vince Young comparisons are wildly unfair, but that's what sports have become - who's next?

Anyway, I'm curious to see how this experiment plays out in year one. This team has legitimate championship potential, and frequent fumbling/poor decision making can bring it to a screaching hault. Can Pryor be trusted in big spots? Will he be allowed to throw the ball in the red zone? A lot of questions need to be answered, and USC isn't too far away. Expect to see a lot of Pryor in weeks one and two, and if he can avoid being a deer in the headlights, he could make a real impact versus the Trojans.

Prediction: 450 rushing yards and no more than 75 pass attempts. 10 total TDS. Goal line nightmare for opponents. And one game-changing WOW! play against USC.

3. Dear Lord, please allow Evil Todd Boeckman to get lost on the way to California. Not that Good Todd Boeckman is anything special, but at least he won't start chucking the ball into quintuple coverage at the first sign of pressure. Note to Boeckman: There's nothing wrong with mimmicking Krenzel's abilty (yes, abilty) to take a sack or throw the ball away.

4. Chris Wells. There is nothing left to say about the man. He's the best back in Ohio State history. And he's definitely gone after '08. Appreciate the thirteen games you have left with him, boys and girls.

5. Brandon Saine will have more receiving yards than rushing yards in '08. He's a decent runner with great speed (which makes him effective), but he has great hands out of the backfield (which makes him quite the weapon). Besides...

6. Boom Herron is better than him.

7. Does Austin Spitler = Mo Wells? Wells now appears to have no role a year after being the main kick returner. Was he kept around for his senior year as insurance? Would he have transfered if he was stuck on the bench in '07? You never know, but one can only guess. I mean, Herron was better than him last year, but a No. 4 spot on the depth chart might have been Sayanora for Wells.

Which brings me to Spitler. Yeah, he's No. 2 at MLB, but Etienne Sabino could have a stranglehold on that position by spring. My guess is that Spitler never starts a game, and remains a special teams cog through '09.

8. Kurt Coleman's ankle injury interests me. I've gone on record as saying he is the weak link of the defense (with apologies to the DTs) and now Jermale Hines has been given the chance to give Coleman the Wally Pipp treatment.

Here's the deal: Coleman's no bust, obviously, but I don't see what he really brings to the table. He's undersized for a safety and doesn't bring the wood - plus, he's not a disrupter who forces fumbles and hauls in interceptions. He's a safer bet than O'Neal, but that's not saying much.

As for Hines, let's see: He missed the first half of last season and yet Tressel put him in there on special teams the second he was eligible; that says a lot. Also, he's only played safety for a short time but has already moved ahead of plenty of true safeties (Patterson, Gant, Oliver, etc.) and now is the starter while Coleman is down. I have no idea how this situation is going to play out, but I wouldn't be surprised if Hines cuts into Coleman's playing time after he returns.

9. It's probably unfair to lump these guys together, but it's time for Ray Small, Lawrence Wilson, Ross Homan and Rob Rose to make a splash. Let's look at each individually:

a. Small: One of the few guys I've been wrong about. I really expected greatness out of him, but maybe I put too much stock into what Ted Ginn, Sr. had to say about one of his former guys. Small still has two years to get his act straight--and he certainly has the ability--but I'm selling on him.

b. Lawrence Wilson: His ability is obvious, and his luck has been crappy. But it's not like he hasn't played at all. Anyway, a recent Sporting News article about breakout players quoted an anonymous scout as saying the following of Wilson: "Saw him a couple of times as a freshman, then saw him in the spring before last fall, before he got hurt in the first game of the season. Still have my notes: 'Wilson better than Gholston?' The complete package. He can stop the run, and his size and wingspan -- he's 280 pounds, for goodness sake -- are impossible for those poor (offensive) tackles."

Sure, Wilson excites me - but I'll believe it when I see it. I'm buying, though.

c. Ross Homan: Blew everyone away before injury in '06 preseason practice, and didn't do anything spectacular last year. Seems to have trouble staying out of the training room, but the coaches gush about him. He's a decent bet to be an All-Big Ten player in '09 and '10. I'm buying. I alos say that he'll be better than Freeman.

d. Rob Rose: Is he even that talented? Or did his shoulder injuries turn him into a shell of himself? Should he be playing inside? We'll find out soon. I'm selling.

10. Last year I predicted Hartline to have a better year than Robiskie. I saw Hartline as more athletic (which he is) and thought that would make the difference. While their stats were similar down the stretch, Robiskie clearly had the better season - and is the better college player. But on the pro level? I'm not high on either, but I'm taking Hartline...Robiskie's just not fast enough.

11. Something else I predicted last year, but was derailed by injury, was Dane Sanzenbacher being described as "deceptively fast" approximately a billion times as a result of his skin color. I also predict that such ignorance will enrage me.

12. I don't know why this is stuck at No. 12, but here goes: James Lauarainitis, Marcus Freeman, Malcolm Jenkins and Alex Boone are all (a.) pretty great, (b.) somewhat overrated. Maybe I've just seen all their flaws, I don't know, but I wouldn't bet my life on any one of them ever making a Pro Bowl. Again, and I can't scream this loud enough, the aforementioned guys are outstanding college players (especially Lauarainitis and Jenkins), but somewhat overrated. Which reminds me...

13. Cameron Heyward is the best player on the defense...and maybe the second best on the team (behind Wells, of course).

14. Not to offer advice to 20-year-olds I've never met, but Tyler Moeller should probably transfer to UC, where he would be an All Big East player. He seems to be lost in the LB shuffle, and Hines appears to be a better LB-turned-safety. He's obviously a plus athlete, and Tressel's only knock on him is that he goes too hard every play (nice problem to have). Add all that up and he might be better off at UC with his former high school coach, Kerry Coombs. Just seems like a perfect fit (not that I want him to leave).

15. Brian Rolle will be a star. Trust me. He blows up plays the way I wish Laurainitis and Freeman did.

16. If Curtis Terry jumped in Doc Brown's DeLorean and went back to 1992, he'd be a stud OLB. He was one of my favorite guys on the '06 team, but let's face it, he's not athletic enough to start at Ohio State. I wish he would have stayed at fullback.

17. 2002 saw below-average players like Llydell Ross (solid games, UC and Indiana), Maurice Hall (TD, Illinois) and Brandon Schnittker (reception, Miami - don't laugh) I'm wondering...who will come out of nowhere to make a contribution--if even for a play--in '08? Shaun Lane? Nick Patterson? Maurice Wells?

18. Devier Posey won't be the star he's projected to be. Not that he won't be solid, but I just don't see him as an explosive WR. (Note: This is based on a very tiny sample - HS tape, Army game, etc.)

19. Lamaar Thomas will be a superstar. When everyone assumed he would redshirt, I yelled NO FREAKING WAY! Athletes as special as Thomas don't redshirt, no matter the competition. Percy Harvin is one of the best players I've ever seen, and Thomas can do much of the same things. Expect him to be involved early, and expect him to make a few big plays down the stretch. He should be the punt returner from day one. Just trust me on this guy. Reagrdless of what happens with Thomas in '08, his versatility is going to terrorize opponents when teamed with Pryor in the spread.

20. Prediction: Jake Stoneburner redshirts and comes back next year as a TE. He could be turn out to be a good WR, but his size/speed would make him an incredible tight end. Remember, Kellen Winslow was recruited to Miami as a bigger receiver, too. Then he swallowed his pride and became the best college TE this decade (and maybe the last twenty years).

21. Is Taurian Washington destined to become the next Albert Dukes or Devon Lyons? All of them saw playing time as freshmen, but Dukes and Lyons got buried (albeit with poor attitudes), and Washington may not contribute much this year. I'm interested to see how this plays out.

22. The fullback position doesn't worry me, but it would have been nice to see a healthy Aram Olson in Scarlet and Grey. Did you watch his high school tape? That guy was a devastating blocker.

23. Which Anderson Russell is showing up this year? He wasn't the playmaker in '07 that he was in '06. I'm blaming the ACL injury, and banking on a return to '06 form.

24. Is Jake Ballard good? Or is he just best guy on the roster? Does he make big strides in year three? I gots no answers here, people.

25. I'm just going to come out and say it: I can't wait to see Brewster, Shugarts and Adams challenge the vets sooner rather than later. I can only imagine what the depth chart would look like if all three were healthy.

26. Remember when Iowa was down to their seventh RB a few years back? Well, if OSU gets hit that hard with injuries, I believe they could win most games with Marcus Williams. Call me crazy, but I think he'd be a decent MAC back.

27. Aaron Pettrey's comments after the kicking scrimmage suggest he's a headcase. He was pretty good as a true frosh, but I'm starting to think Ben Buchanan is your kicker in '09 and beyond. I'll also say that Buchanan will break all of Nugent's scoring records.

28. Speaking of kickers, what was the deal with Ryan Pretorious having so many kicks blocked in '08? Was that just a fluke? Why can't they all be Nugent? Questions, man. Questions.

29. Will the kickoff coverage be any better this year? Has to, right? They just have too many athletes (Rolle, Hines, Moeller, etc.) not to be a dominant unit. My guess is that Tressel won't allow a letdown for a second straight year.

30. Not-so-wild prediction: Chimdi Chekwa doesn't relinquish starting job when Donald Washington returns from suspension. As much as i love Washington, I think Chekwa is better. Regardless, Tressel's ability to pluck semi-unheralded corners (Jenkins, Washington, Chekwa) is truly remarkable

31. Does anyone step up at DT? Does Nader Abdallah have a Roy Hall/Jay Richardson senior year? Is Dexter Larimore the best DT on the roster? God, this position scares me.

32. Thaddeus Gibson spin-moves his way to seven sacks - I love when the best athletes move closer to the ball. I will say, though, I was sad to see him change numbers. No. 37 is just an odd look for defensive ends, and No. 90 is unoriginal. Shame on him

33. Does Mark Johnson smell like a transfer to you? He does to me. His entire time in Columbus has been spent injured and/or nowehre near meaningful playing time. Plus, and most importantly, he was a highly touted LB from Los Angeles...that just seems like a recipe for transfer.

34. Who's the off-the-radar true freshman? It was Jenkins in '05; last year it was Heyward. So who's going to be the truw freshman who not only avoids a redshirt, but contributes? I have no predictions here. How could I?

In the end, I think Ohio State cuts down the nets (or whatever) and officially removes the monkey off of the Big Ten's back (or at least for six months).

End of words. Go Buckeyes! Or something. (And forgive me for typos - the friggin' spell check ain't working.)

Brad Spieser (

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