Inside The Bloggers Unwashed, Unshaven Studio 2011: Ohio State Edition

2 Sweatervests, 1 Handshake.(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)


ITBUUS forges ahead into the latter half of the November schedule with a second-straight trip to Columbus to face those poisonous nuts from Ohio. Here to talk about all things Ohio State, is our good frenemy, Vico from the popular OSU blog Our Honor Defend.

Just an advance warning: Vico LOVES to write your eyes off, and is the blogging equivalent of a ditzy chick. Therefore, I suggest you print this interview out and save it for some quality bathroom reading.

Well, it's official: Murder is legal at Ohio State. What are your initial thoughts on the NCAA's decision? Do you think this 10TV story that just popped up the other day will re-open the case? Does this suddenly make the overall outlook on the season much brighter than before?

Ah yes, I sense the general unhappiness emanating from all corners of college football not located in the venerable Buckeye State over this decision from the NCAA.

I'm relieved with the NCAA's decision, though no one outside of Ohio State's fan base is.  Funny that you should mention the 10TV story as it underscores a recurring theme throughout this entire calendar year: how easy it is to rely on pre-processed point of views and to not actually read anything for yourself.  It's perilous.  Read the 10TV story again and find the relevant pieces of information that it references.  The reference in question comes from a December 16th, 2010 meeting shortly after getting notified by the federales about the tattoo parlor in question.  Therein, when asked if he knew anything regarding this case as it pertained to Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey, Jim Tressel noted he heard "general rumors" regarding "off-the-field" "social choices" and did so in a manner that was vague and evasive.  10TV then interpreted this as evidence that Jim Tressel told compliance in December (which, by the way, is well after April) and that the end game must have been some cover-up by the athletic director or the compliance staff to ensure, umm, participation in the bowl game?  It's not clear what the implication was, but it was met with some immediate gasps in Ohio and lauded nationally as another addition to the narrative that would result in Southern Methodist-flavored lashings by the NCAA.  Actually reading the material in question leads to the more tenable realization that we are not compelled to accept 10TV's implicit conclusion from the evidence presented.  The information cited had been public for several months and, if anything, provides more support for the athletic department's narrative that Jim Tressel is solely responsible for what happened.

Cynics are likely noting that Ohio State will avoid more serious sanctions because the NCAA's investigative branch is limited in scope and must be able to punish contingent on what they can prove (and not what they think is happening).  Thus, George Dohrmann said he couldn't get his pseudonymous "Ellis" on the record because of a fear of reprisal from Ed Rife and that this spared Ohio State.  This is somewhat true, actually.  I still don't think George Dohrmann did anything of value beyond note that Jim Tressel rigged a raffle before I was born (that scoundrel!) and only one of his new players referenced could actually be confirmed as using Ed Rife as a source of free tattoos.  Many have no tattoos, come from decent money, are known to have no drug problems and have never been in Rife's parlor.  With that said, I don't doubt Terrelle Pryor was capable of treating Rife, or even Talbott, as an ATM and I put nothing beyond Ray Small and his running mate Rob Rose.  Without subpoena power over program alumni Small and Rose and unable to credibly punish Terrelle Pryor further for stonewalling after he conceded his final year of eligibility, the NCAA will go off what they know.  What's left is an athletic department self-reporting this violation from the start and taking progressively proactive measures at mollifying the competitive advantage gained from the violations.  The NCAA defines the institution separate from the individual coach, which is sparing Ohio State from "failure to monitor" and "lack of institutional control".

And yes, this is unquestionably great news for Ohio State and it's the first bit of positive news they can boast regarding this whole ugly ordeal.  Before that, the program had been a piñata for the national media.  Few discussions of the case were void of comparisons to it being "worse than USC".  Bowl bans seemed certain and even TV bans were mentioned, if casually.  Recruiting for the 2012 class suffered immeasurably for it, leaving the program at the mercy of other coaches who could point to Ohio State's NCAA woes and, more importantly, the uncertainty and contrast that with stable situations in Madison, East Lansing and even, just by comparison, Ann Arbor.  Now, finally, Ohio State has some leverage over the situation on the recruiting trail and can credibly signal to prospective recruits that they may be affected by what's going on only at the margins.  Namely, I think Ohio State still gets docked several scholarships for what happened.  Scholarship reductions are a bit of a standing penalty, an off-the-shelf response to most violations by a college football program.  I'm thinking Ohio State will lose anywhere between 10-15 scholarship over 4 years on top of the existing penalties.  But, as it stands, that might be it and Ohio State fans can finally look toward this issue being resolved.



Luke Fickell may no longer have the 'interim' tag looming over him, but let's be honest: Is he really going to be the head coach at OSU for the next few years?

Fickell still kinda has the "interim" tag looming over him.  Unofficially, Ohio State fans are hearing that Luke Fickell might be given 2012 as well, but that the athletic department is still considering an outside hire and that Fickell is still keeping the seat warm for someone else.

I hope you don't mind if I plagiarize myself here for a moment.  I wrote about this on my dumb blog, arguing that Luke Fickell should be the priority for Ohio State.  The problem is one of throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Jim Tressel did something stupid and lost his job for it, but is leaving behind a great institutional design at the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex in his wake.  For example, relations between and among members of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association have "never been better" than they were under Jim Tressel.  High school coaches appreciated the camp system maintained by Ohio State and, understanding the "business" element of college football recruiting, appreciated how Tressel's camps made sure that MAC coaches (many in the Buckeye State) were well aware of potential prospects.  The fact high school football coaches are in large part (though not obviously not unanimously) considering a "tribute" to what essentially is a disgraced college football coach speaks highly of what Jim Tressel designed as coach in Columbus.

But that's just the institutional status quo and not necessarily a comment on Fickell's abilities.  Beyond being an integral part of a successful system under Jim Tressel, Fickell is our second best recruiter (after Tressel himself if we include him in the sample) and is the reigning AFCA assistant coach of the year.  Most Buckeye fans were expecting that he was the heir apparent.  That is, if none of this happened, Tressel would be handing the keys to Luke Fickell after 2014 (when Tressel's contract expired) as it would be foolish to scrap a successful system with an outside hire.  Fickell would thus be getting a deserved opportunity to carry a legacy and put his own stamp on it.  But for Tressel's folly, Luke Fickell might be deprived of that opportunity a priori because it's too easy to think Ohio State should start over with an outside guy.  And, so help me God, if Ohio State even thinks about ditching Fickell for Paul Rhoads, I will burn Gene Smith's house down, couches included, because that's what Buckeyes do.

I conclude that post (I again hope you don't mind the plagiarism) by noting that if Luke Fickell can not demonstrate that he is competent, then Ohio State is truly screwed.  We'll start over with a new guy, who will scrap the existing institutional status quo.  Recruiting will suffer for lack of familiar faces and NCAA uncertainty and the glory years of the 2000s will fade back to square one.  Mind you, Fickell is already entering adverse circumstances.  The season has several land mines, including road trips to Miami and Nebrasky, playing Sparty with one hand behind our back and hosting pre-season favorites Wisconsin (who is weirdly in the whatever-we're-called division and not in the more natural whatever-the-other-one-is-with-the-more-"Western"-teams division).  Oh, and your Penn Shtaters are coming to town too, so yeah.

If Fickell is able to demonstrate competence and his teams show spirit and grit, even in defeat, then Fickell should be given the standard five year plan that most coaches get.  Fickell is young enough to ride whatever storms follow from the NCAA's final judgment and has a great support staff with the likes of Paul Haynes, Jim Heacock, Doc Tressel and newbie Mike Vrabel.  That said, most Ohio State fans are expecting a decent-sized overhaul of the offensive staff should Fickell have his say, but that's a different discussion.



It seems like that Great Wall Of Ohio Tressel built for recruiting is collapsing, thanks in large part to the NCAA case and Brady Hoke. Can the wall be re-built, or is it too late?

Oy, yes.  This recruiting class has been painful and it's all a function of the NCAA problems.  There are two issues going on right now.  First is the obvious uncertainty regarding the ongoing investigation and the potential punishments from the NCAA.  No high school football recruit wants to walk into a bad situation.  College is uncertain by itself, and storm clouds from the NCAA are most unappealing.  Second, most of the people we had our eyes on wanted to play for Jim Tressel, who fell on his sword as a result of this.  Sometimes I wonder if potential college football players care more about the coaches and the prospects of the NFL than they do about the program's lore and various traditions.  Ultimately, they want to know who they will be working with for 4-5 years and whether they believe they can learn from that particular coach.  A lot of the players we've lost as a result of this are players we lost because Jim Tressel resigned.  This includes Tom Strobel and Kyle Kalis, both Michigan commitments.

We're hardest hit at defensive end.  2012 was supposed to be the year of the defensive end in the Buckeye State.  Before any of this happened, Ohio State fans were asking themselves how they could fit most of the really good ones into a limited recruiting class with needs elsewhere.  Now, we have a big 0-fer in that category.  Tom Strobel and Pharaoh Brown are Michigan verbals.  Greg McMullen is a Nebrasky commitment and Se'Von Pittman opted for a few Sparty, No! moments instead of Ohio State's uncertain future.  Remaining are Chris Wormley and Adolphus Washington, the two prospects with whom we felt little chance of getting a commitment.  Wormley is a strong Michigan lean and Washington, from that rogue city-state of Cincitucky, wants to head south for college football.

I don't put any weight on Hoke beyond him rightly realizing you have to start beating Ohio State for some of the better Ohio prospects if you want to actually start beating Ohio State on the field.  More than anything, I think Hoke has been the biggest beneficiary of anyone.  Wisconsin snagged Kyle Dodson (an offensive lineman) and Notre Dame, Sparty and Wisconsin have pilfered the Buckeye State of some gems through the past several months.  The only program that really hasn't made any good in-roads in the state is, surprisingly, Penn Shtate.  The Nitts have Anthony Stanko from exactly where I would have expected Penn Shtate to strike (Youngstown area), but Stanko, while a decent prospect, is the extent of it.  I also don't think Ohio State would have offered him like we have the other players mentioned.

The good news for Ohio State fans is that no recruit is a must-get.  Any program that uses those words ends up like Minnesota, who used that terminology with Seantrel Henderson, a recruit who really never entertained the idea of staying in-state.  Further, recruiting classes are mostly 4-5 year projects and there's always time to recover.  Important for Ohio State, though, is to recover.  Ohio State needs to use the momentum from the NCAA's notice to recover for 2011, solidify Bri'onte Dunn's commitment, work on Kyle Dodson (who may be interested) and try to finish strong before committing hard to winning 2013.



I noticed you've slowed down considerably on the Drive-Thrus. Granted, you have quite a bit in the OHD vault, already. Any upcoming Drive-Thrus Penn Staters should be aware of (*cough* 1995 *cough*)?

Yeah, I have.  It's not that I don't have more games to upload.  I think I have about 100 games in my collection.  It's more an issue of time, really, and how little of it I have. Time spent on the videos could be time spent on something that will further my career.  There are times when I hate myself for starting the blog because I wonder how much better I could be at what I get paid for if I didn't start it.  I've met some great people as a result of it, and ultimately don't regret it, but it does have its down sides.

My interest in the Drive-Thrus is mostly in games that people don't remember.  Too many Buckeye fans will leave a comment asking to see the 2006 Michigan game, the 2006 Penn Shtate game, the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, or anything that they really valued watching the first time around.  My interest is in non-conference games that they forgot. I love the interesting inter-sectional games, which is why I'm really proud of the 1985 game at Colorado. 1985 wasn't a special season, and that game was fairly blasé beatdown, but that's why I love it. If anything, I'm searching for more obscure games. Rather than give Buckeye fans what they want, like the national title win against the Miami Hurricanes, the next video I upload will likely be the 1991 tilt against Howard Schnellenberger's Louisville Cardinals.  Why? Because I can. That's why.

It's thus disconcerting to buy games and find out they're missing key scores or huge stretches of the game altogether.  For example, I so want that 1985 night game against Pitt, the first night game in Ohio Stadium's history.  We won that game 10-7 in the final seconds, but missing in that game is the final minute.  Further, my copies of the 1998 West Virginia game, the 1981 Stanford game and the 1990 Boston College game (all neat non-conference games) are missing important scores and important stretches of the game.  It can be a bit deflating, which is why I'll focus on work or something else (beer, maybe) instead of finding a substitute.

Another deflating element of the YouTubes can be when they're flagged and taken down for copyright.  My 2002 Wisconsin game was flagged and removed by YouTube for a copyright claim by, of all entities, the National Football League.  Yeah, you figure it out.

I really don't like uploading conference games, though I'm obviously not against it.  I actually don't have the 1995 game against the Shtaters, but I do have 1996 and 1998 somewhere in my stash.  I also have 2000, which I will upload eventually (though obviously edit out the Taliaferro injury since Taliaferro is a friend of Ohio State as well.  I've actually never seen a second of that game beyond an Eddie George touchdown.  If you can find it for me, it will go to great lengths to soothe the feelings you (yes, you) hurt by uploading the 1994 game.  Not cool. :(  



Obligatory basketball question: Jared Sullinger is back, but Jon THREEbler (aka Jon Diebler) isn't, along with a few other starters from last year. Is this still another re-loading year for Thad Matta and Company? Also, who would win a rap battle between Thad and Pat Chambers?

We're talking shooty hoops and it's July? Come on, dude. ;)

It's hard to say it's a "reloading" year when we have a coach who has won 20 games every single year he's been a head coach.  The difficulty is in replacing the solid 3pt shooting of Jon Diebler and the defensive presence of David Lighty.  To that end, Ohio State will likely try to do several things.  First, Jared Sullinger will be more of a moving target than he was last year.  It's a bit misleading to assume that Sullinger is just a bully on the blocks when, really, that's all he needed to be last year.  Ohio State ran a 1-in 4-out offense to capitalize on reliable perimeter shooting.  Sullinger simply needed to either suck defenders in to free a jump shooter or capitalize on his one-on-one opportunities if defenses were going to defend the three.  Second, Ohio State needs more solid production from William Buford, who will be a senior.  He is a bit of a "microwave" for us, who can take over games and disappear elsewhere (see: Sweet 16 game against Kentucky).  Third, Ohio State needs good contributions from its freshmen, namely Shannon Scott.  Expect Scott and Aaron Craft to split PG duties this year.

As for who would win that rap battle? Well, I'm compelled to support Thad Matta and have no doubts that life on the mean country roads of Hoopeston, Illinois would prove him the necessary tools to win a battle rap.  That doesn't mean I'd want to hear it though.

WORD ASSOCIATION:

Everybody

  • gets DUIs, has moxie, throws pick-sixes, is too country, whatever. 
Jim Tressel
  • "...and so forth."

John Cooper

  • soul-crushing disappointment in late November.

Eddie George

  • EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE

Jon Diebler

  • A Godsend for Gus Johnson, who was looking for a reason to bring an allusion to Friday (Deebo) into college basketball play-by-play.

Kirk Herbstreit

  • Vapid, truly, truly vapid.  How he, and not Todd Blackledge, is considered ESPN's best color commentator is beyond me.
  • Second word association: "looks good in a uniform"
  • Third word association: "makes plays in space"

1994

  • A mediocre season, the one blip in John Cooper's mid-90s renaissance of Ohio State football. At least, we beat Michigan. What, was there a particular game you had in mind? 

JoePa

  • No words, just show this video of JoePa from the BTN commercial:


Hail

  • Better as solid precipitation of ice stones crashing through a car windshield than a cheer for a particular university up north.

Brady Hoke


And finally: How many days will it have been since Michigan last beat Ohio State come November 27th?    

2,927. Fuck Michigan, ad infinitum.

Vico also had the following to add:

As a guy living in Tuscaloosa, my regards to Penn Shtaters for their generosity in the wake of the tornado.  It does not change my contempt for both programs, but it was a nice touch and your fan base should be commended for it.

With that in mind, I think the only way to provide healing and closure to Tuscaloosa is if your Nitts kick the shit out of them in Happy Valley.  I don't necessarily like your chances of doing that in 2011, but, should it happen, you will hear the cheers emanating from my apartment in Tuscaloosa.

We thank Vico for his participation and for the kind words about the PSU blogosphere's efforts to help out the Alabama tornado victims. 

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