Friday, August 8, 2008

Ohio State Football Is Consistently Overlooked

Because I'm insane, I will now write sentences about Ohio State's under-appreciated defensive end. Begin.

It started a month ago, when I purchased Phil Steele's College Football preview, the only preseason magazine that's managed to hold up during the Internet age. Remember Athlon's and Lindy's and all of those crap magazines? They were always crap, but we never knew it, because Bruce Feldman didn't have a blog, and there was no such thing as the Heisman Pundit. So we were forced to read about Tulane's backup QBs (or whatever) in one of the aforementioned crap producers. Those were the bad old days. Thank God they're over.

Except they're not completely over (see Phil Steele). I don't know how Steele remains relevant well into August when his magazine is published in the spring. But he pulls it off. Somehow. He goes more in-depth than the Street and Smith's of the world, and his preseason predictions come true more often than anyone else. Plus, almost everything he writes has a Vegas twist to it (Note: I can go back and find out Baylor's record against the spread in 2003!).

Anyway, along with predicting bowl matchups and postseason award winners, Steele also ranks the top players at each position. It's not a top twenty list, either: If you want to find out who the nation's 46th best punter or 69th best free safety is, Steele's your man.

Which brings me to Ohio State's under-appreciated defensive end, sophomore beast Cameron Heyward, quite possibly the best defender on a team that features James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins.

And a guy Phil Steele ranks as the 52nd best defensive end in the nation. Hogwash!

Listen, I try not to get myself riled up over stuff like this, as it's just one man's opinion. But the one man in this instance is Phil Steele, a guy who knows stuff about things. Regardless, I'll give him a mulligan, because others have made the same mistake (more on that in a minute). Besides, this isn't about Steele, it's about Heyward.

To prove that I'm an equal opportunity discoverer of nonsense, I should point out that College Football News, in their Ohio State preview, ranked the ten best players on the team. Guess what? No Cameron Heyward. They even listed the kicker and punter on the list! What gives? There's a very real chance that Heyward is the second best player on the team, behind Chris Wells.

Heyward contributed an eye-popping ten tackles for loss as a true freshman. At Ohio State. That doesn't just happen by accident. Look, you can tell me all you want about the double teams Vernon Gholston drew, or the playing time Heyward was given after Lawrence Wilson broke his leg, and I can't argue any of that. But the fact remains: ten tackles for loss as a true freshman at Ohio State is unheard of (and maybe unprecedented).

Heyward is a 6'6 monster, and approaching 290 lbs. He's light on his feet and he never takes a play off. The coaching staff always raves about his work ethic, while using words like like aptitude and intelligence and coachable. Heyward doesn't have the potential to be a star - he's a star right now. He might not have Gholston's upside (who does?), but he's almost certainly a future first round pick.

So why don't the experts see what I see?

I doesn't have the answers. But I know I'm right about this.

See me in three months.

-Brad Spieser (