Ohio State Football, Sports

Ohio State Football: 2007 Preview

08.26.07 | 3 Comments

Originally I’d planned to do this as a series of entries, but real life intruded and the time simply was not available. So, rather than skip it altogether, I’ve condensed my thoughts and insights into the 2007 football season into this entry. As a point of reference, I am just a fan. I have no special access or connection to the team other than being a fan. I read most information publicly available about the Bucks, so I do have a base of knowledge that is being used for this entry.

The Offense

Last year was the year of the offense if you look back at production. A healthy running game accounting for 2,100 yards, the passing game 2,700 yards, resulting in an average of 36 points per game. The stars are gone, Smith, Pittman, Ginn, and Gonzales are all in the pay for play league now along with two starting offensive linemen. Does that mean the offense will stink this year? No, but it certainly will take a step back from the production we saw last year, particularly in the earlier games as key players gain experience.

The Offensive Line

Kirk Barton, OT for Ohio State University Football Team
Attribution: Bucknuts

The starters this year are projected to be: LT Alex Boone, LG Steve Rehring, C Jim Cordle, RG Ben Person, and RT Kirk Barton(C). Unlike last year where the entire second string line would rotate in, I expect more spot substitution this year. The starting line is big and experienced averaging 315 lbs and 6’6″. The left side of the line is enormous averaging 327 lbs and 6’8″. There are three keys to this year’s line play. 1) Jim Cordle has to step up at the center role. 2) Injuries need to be kept to a minimum as this line unit is not very deep. 3) The line needs to play fast and attack (think of the last time we saw them in action, they did not look good especially at the edges.)

Tight Ends

Expect more production out of the ends this year, both Rory Nichol and Jake Ballard will see more time and more balls thrown to them than in prior seasons. Expect more 2 TE sets to provide options in the running and passing game. Both Ballard and Nichol are good blockers and Ballard looks to have excellent receiving skills as well.


Brian Robiskie, Receiver for Ohio State University Football Team
Attribution: Bucknuts

While it’s true the Bucks just lost 2 talented receivers, this unit looks ready to reload. Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline figure to be receivers 1 and 2. There seems to be a battle for the #3 spot with true freshman Dane Sanzenbacher winning at present. Ray Small, Albert Dukes, Devon Lyons, and true freshman Taurian Washington all have the potential to contribute as well. While it won’t be the air show we saw last year with the Smith to Ginn/Gonzales express, this group looks ready to take advantage of balls thrown their way.


Last year with all the spread that was run, the fullback position all but disappeared from the field. This year, with a new quarterback and new receivers, expect to see the fullbacks pretty frequently. Dionte Johnson(C) will be the #1 fullback and he’ll be backed up by Trever Robinson. Expect excellent blocking from this unit, a periodic carry, and even a periodic catch during the course of the season. If you like the power running game, you’re going to be happy this season.


Chris Beanie Wells, Tailback for Ohio State University Football Team
Attribution: Bucknuts

The story here is Chris “Beanie” Wells, a bruising back who contributed over 500 yards rushing as a backup to Pittman last year. Maurice Wells, a smaller shake-n-bake back will provide a change of pace (and hopefully he won’t be asked to run between the tackles – he needs to get the ball in open space to be effective.) True freshman Brandon Saine and Daniel “Boom” Herron are competing for time as the #3 back with Saine establishing the edge at this point. Expect more out of the running game this year, Beanie should have a breakout season and I expect that Saine will be the #2 back by mid-season.



Todd Boeckman, Quarterback for Ohio State University Football Team
Attribution: Bucknuts

Todd Boeckman will be the Buckeye starting quarterback next week. A 5th year junior, Boeckman knows the system and should have amassed the knowledge base to enable him to be an effective game manager. Rob Shoenhoft will be a capable backup and Antonio Henton, a Troy Smith-clone, is competing to get into the mix. The key to quarterback play this year will be consistency and good decision making. One of the most outstanding aspects of last years team was the lack of turnovers, only 7 interceptions over the course of the season. This unit has talent and potential, what it doesn’t have is experience. There’s only one way to fix that….

Putting it all together

Last year saw 56% passing and 44% running plays and was explosive with many big plays. This year, that ratio is likely to flip in favor of the running game and the number of big plays will decrease. That doesn’t mean it’s three yards and a cloud of dust, but I wouldn’t expect a bunch of empty backfield sets either. Based on prior observations of the team in different situations, I would expect a healthy diet of two TE sets and 3 wideout with an H-back or fullback sets. One of these will emerge as the base of operations and the ball will get spread around. Now, I expect that every OSU opponent will have watched the way Illinois and then Florida handled the offensive line using small, fast, strong defensive ends to simply run around the massive tackles and sack the QB. It’s going to be a long season if the offensive coaches haven’t addressed that shortcoming. Overall, I expect an efficient, but not flashy offense. If mistakes can be limited and drives can be sustained more than 60% of the time, this team will pleasantly surprise. Unfortunately, if there are lots of turnovers and the defense is called on to be on the field the converse will be true.

The Defense

Last year all the questions were on defense, well, the defense over-achieved as a unit on a season basis. The defense allowed an average of 273 yards per game, took away 22 interceptions, and allowed only 10 points per game – this is stellar performance when one considers there were only two returning starters from an excellent 2005 defense. This year the key question is the defensive line with 3/4 of the line as new starters. The defense was very good last year, the defense has a chance to be great this year. If the defensive line plays up to expectations, this unit could improve on last year’s production.

Defensive line

Vernon Gholston, Defensive End for Ohio State University Football Team
Attribution: Bucknuts

Vernon Gholston is the lone returning starter on this unit. Lawrence Wilson will man the other defensive end spot and Todd Denlinger and Doug Worthington will step into the defensive tackle positions. The backup ends are Alex Barrow and Robert Rose and the backup tackles are Dexter Larimore and Nader Abdullah. Even though 75% of the starters are new, expect this unit to perform well. There is good experience as the philosophy has been to rotate defensive linemen frequently. Thus, all of the starters this year have some experience. Expect the rotation to continue this season too. If the line play reaches just average levels, the defense will be spectacular overall.


James Laurinaitis, Linebacker for Ohio State University Football Team
Attribution: Bucknuts

The strength of the defense is the linebacker unit. Remember, it was just last year we were all wondering how AJ Hawk & Company would be replaced. Well, James Laurinaitis(C) & Co. stepped in. The other starting linebackers are Marcus Freeman and Larry Grant. The second unit is pretty darned good too consisting of Curtis Terry, Austin Spitler, and Ross Homan. These ‘backers fly to the ball and have played the pass just as tough as the run. Provided the defensive line can hold the point of attack, this unit will be very productive in the coming season.


Malcolm Jenkins and Donald Washington are the starters at cornerback. Jenkins is expected to leave after this year for the NFL and Washington shows signs of greatness. We’ll find out sooner rather than later because teams will pick on Washington as the odds are not good on the other side of the field. The backups are Chimdi Chekwa and Shaun Lane. A concern on this unit is depth, if either Jenkins or Washington are injured, the talent and production drop off pretty quickly. The nickleback is likely to be Chekwa.


Anderson Russell, Safety for Ohio State University Football Team
Attribution: Bucknuts

The play of this unit last year was up and down. This year, barring injuries, expect a more even performance. The starters are Anderson Russell and Kurt Coleman. Before a season ending injury last year, Russell was a budding star and Coleman seems to be around the ball constantly. Jamario O’Neal and Nick Patterson will work as the backups. Last year, O’Neal was a starter after Russell’s injury and thus has plenty of experience. Expect this unit to bring the wood in the tradition of Mike Doss and Jack Tatum. These fellows can hit.


Putting it all together

Last year’s defensive production was a very pleasant surprise. Statistically, the 2006 defense was better than the 2005 unit, though it clearly lacked the star power of that 2005 team. The 2007 team should maintain the tradition of strong and attacking defense. Sitting back is a recipe for disaster as we saw in the bowl game last year. Expect the defense to take a page out of Florida’s book and attack, attack, attack using the speed mismatch to play havoc on the opponent’s backfield. It would be very surprising if this wasn’t one of the strongest defenses in the Big 10 and perhaps in the nation.

Special Teams

Place Kicking

Ryan Pretorius, Kicker for Ohio State University Football Team
Attribution: Bucknuts

In a reversal of last year’s performance, Ryan Pretorius is listed as the starting kicker based on a strong camp performance. He’ll handle the field goals and backup and former starter, Aaron Pettrey will handle kickoffs. As usual with Tressel-coached teams, this was an area of strength last year with a greater than 75% successful field goal average and a huge number of touchbacks on kickoffs. Despite the shakeup, similar production should be observed this season.


AJ Trapasso returns at the punter this year and will likely continue his strong play. Last year on 49 punts, he averaged nearly 41 yards per kick. Jon Thoma is expected to backup Trapasso.

Long Snapper

This position is one of the most important specialty skills on the team. After all, if the long snapper doesn’t get the ball to the punter or holder quickly and accurately, the kick will fail regardless of how talented the individual kickers may be. Drew Norman will be a big loss and two new long snappers are breaking in this season, projected starter Jacob McQuaide and backup Jackson Haas. If the kicking game is going to be productive, then this unit must produce under pressure. The kicking scrimmage results demonstrated some growing pains here, there were 3 blocked kicks and the field goal percentage was much lower than last season’s average. We’ll watch this unit develop with interest.


Malcolm Jenkins, Returner and Cornerback for Ohio State University Football Team
Attribution: Bucknuts

Ted Ginn is gone and he took with him over 1,000 yards of production and 2 TDs on kickoffs and over 900 yards and 6 TDs on punt returns. Ouch! This year’s unit consists of Ray Small, Maurice Wells, and Malcolm Jenkins. Of the three, Small is liquid and slippery and has the best chance to bring some electricity to the return unit. Overall though, expect the return game to be solid, but not spectacular. The wildcard in this equation is the play of true freshman Brandon Saine, look for him to make an impact over the course of the season with his world-class track speed and tailback durability.


Putting it all together

This unit must perform and perform well this year for the team to win games. It’s likely that since we’ll be breaking in a largely new offense that the kickers will be called on first to establish good field position and second to score. The rule change moving kickoffs back to the 30 yard line will make the return game that much more important (how many yards/TDs would Ginn have had with this rule in effect?) Well now the return unit will have to step up and make consistent positive yardage to give the offense opportunities on a short field. Conversely, the coverage units will also need to step up. The good news here is that there is a large supply of fast, large bodies to man the coverage teams. Expect a big year out of special teams provided the long snappers step up and the kickers keep it together mentally.


Leadership, leadership, leadership. That’s what we need to see this year. There aren’t many seniors (5 scholarship seniors) and the team is relatively young (experience wise, Todd Boeckman is actually older than Troy Smith!) What impact did the whipping delivered at the hands of Florida have? Will the team be tentative or hungry? All of the reports coming out of spring and fall practice indicate that the players have reported in shape and the coaching staff is serving a steady diet of “live” plays where the hitting is real. How will the new turf at the Horseshoe factor into the season? What is the character of this team? Well, we’ll find out starting next week…


Jim Tressel, Head Coach of the Ohio State University Football Team
Attribution: Bucknuts

Over the past six years, the coaching has been excellent and consistent. Coach Tressel is in the process of establishing a reputation at the top of the pantheon of Buckeye coaches, and perhaps by the end of his career, coaches overall. His assistants have been engaged and effective and this year, there have been relatively minor changes in the assistant ranks providing more stability than in years past. Don’t expect a thing to change here, the coaching staff will use the last two games of last season as motivation and will have the team prepared. This year won’t be without challenges (and losses,) but it will be a good platform for the coaches to make adjustments and maximize the talent on the field.

The Bottom Line

Unlike last year where expectations were high at the beginning of the year and lasted throughout the season, this year people expect something of a down season. The current Buckeye team is starting the season ranked on the cusp of the top 10 and is being picked to finish 3rd in the Big 10 behind favorite Michigan and Wisconsin. I believe the defense will perform as expected, special teams will be an adventure early on, and that the offense will pleasantly surprise people. A 10-2 season is not unrealistic and a couple of good breaks could improve that record. Expect tighter games and enjoy the season. I know I will! Post Michigan game, we’ll revisit this and see if my observations and predictions were even close to being right…