As we head into the back end of the summer, our focus on football becomes more intense. Likewise, we edge closer to the end of our preview of other incoming B1G recruiting classes. With that, this week, we turn our attention to the capital of the Evil Empire, Columbus, Ohio and check in on the Buckeyes of Ohio State...As an aside, what the hell is a buckeye?
2011 Season Recap:
By Ohio State standards, 2011 was an unmitigated disaster for the Buckeyes. What started with such promise during Spring Practice quickly became a flaming wreck. As you all know by now, venerable head coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign amid allegations that his players improperly sold memorabilia to the owner of a Columbus, Ohio tattoo parlor. After Tressel's resignation, the unenviable task of guiding the Buckeyes through a tumultuous season fell upon Luke Fickell.
The season saw Ohio State struggle to play consistent football, finishing 6-7 overall (3-5 in the B1G). However, it is important to note that the Buckeyes were 4-4 against ranked teams and finished the regular season bowl eligible. Ohio State ended their season with a 24-17 loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl.
Urban Meyer, Head Coach: This is, by far, the most important signing in the B1G this year. Despite rumors of Central Pennsylvania real estate purchases, Meyer became the Buckeyes coach on November 28, 2011. The master of the spread offense, Meyer brings the highest winning percentage among active FBS coaches (.842) and two BCS National Championships to Columbus. Meyer still has to contend with a one year post-season ban and loss of three scholarships per year for the next three years. However, his record at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida suggests that he will be able to overcome these (in retrospect) mild NCAA sanctions and put Ohio State back on top of the Leaders Division in relative short order.
Noah Spence, DE-6'4", 245 lbs., Harrisburg, PA: This one hurts. The former Penn State target committed to Ohio State almost exactly one month after IT happened. Spence is the most dominant pass rusher in the entire B1G freshman class. He has size, speed and technique that belies his age and experience. In addition to the physical skills and talents, Spence has a tenacity and relentlessness that promises to be a nightmare for ball carriers, quarterbacks and offensive linemen for the next four years. The only bright spot for other B1G schools is that Spence may very well decide to hit the lottery after his junior year and enter the NFL draft where, if he stays healthy and progresses normally, he will likely be a top 10 pick.
Adolphus Washington, DE-6'4", 251 lbs., Cincinnati, OH: As if one very good defensive end wasn't enough, Washington is another bookend Defensive End. Like Spence, Washington has good size and speed and is relentless in pursuit of the ball carrier and/or quarterback. While not as polished, technique-wise, as Spence, he may be faster than Spence. Regardless, with Spence, it seems likely that Ohio State will be able to dominate on the edges of the defensive line assuming both stay healthy. This poses an obvious problem for B1G offensive coordinators, which is that, on passing downs, two tight end sets will be necessary to provide help against these two monsters, thereby lessening the amount of receivers available to catch passes. Obviously, this allows the linebackers and defensive backfield to employ all sorts of creative blitzes and coverage packages. In short, for B1G offenses, this is a nightmare.
Joey O'Connor, OG-6'4", 295 lbs., Windsor, CO: O'Connor is a massive kid from Colorado who is blessed with strength (330 bench/515 squat) and surprising speed (5.3 40 yard dash). In addition, O'Connor, who played tackle in high school, has awesome technique for an incoming freshman. On run plays, O'Connor is usually able to use his size and strength to drive defensive linemen into the second level, which frees his running back for substantial gains. In addition, O'Connor demonstrates the ability to pull out on sweeps and clear running room for the ball carrier. As good of a run blocker as O'Connor is, his pass block ability is most impressive. Usually, a young offensive lineman still needs some refinement in this area. However, O'Connor routinely demonstrates an ability to keep his hands in the chest of defenders, holding them at the point of attack. In addition, he stays low enough that he is rarely put off balance, which denies the defensive end an opportunity to use a swim or rip technique against him. Assuming he stays healthy, O'Connor should follow in the footsteps of other great Ohio State linemen.
Overall Analysis:As a fan of a rival school, there is much to dislike about Ohio State. However, as a football analyst, there is much to respect about the tradition of the football program and much to admire about Urban Meyer. In addition, there is much to like about this recruiting class. Certainly, Meyer brings a certain cache to the living room. As such, Ohio State welcomes 12 4-star recruits this fall, including 5 members of ESPN's top 150 players in America. As much as it pains me, the only reasonable conclusion is that, after serving their one year post season ban, Ohio State will be back in the FBS National Title picture in 2013...Damn. Overall Grade: A
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