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Buckeyes and Sabermetrics
2004 Season Preview
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cap04.jpg
Senior captains Mike Nugent, Simon Fraser, Dustin Fox, and Lydell Ross

Last year I predicted a top 5 finish and national championship contention. Hopefully my prediction will not be as accurate this year. When I say that this or that will happen, understand that I am no insider, I have no inside scoop, it's simply my opinion based on the sources I read and the limited observations(spring kick and jersey scrimmages and Spring Game and of course previous seasons) that I have made myself.
QB
Sophomore Justin Zwick will be the starter and will do a fine job. I don't care what anyone says, Troy Smith will not be the QB when we kick off on September 4th. If Zwick plays poorly, certainly Troy will get a shot. But I don't see that happening. Zwick has all of the physical tools and while he lacks experience, nobody on this roster has any more than him. I think he will be the best passer we have had since Germaine(ie better AS A PASSER then Bellisari or Krenzel). My biggest concern with him is that he has thrown interceptions in both jersey scrimmages and the Spring Game(so has Troy I believe). Interceptions are killers. But I see a 55% completion rate and 7 yards/attempt as a reasonable if not low expectation. Troy should see some time and I believe that while Todd Boeckman has been a pleasant surprise, he will redshirt barring injury and seriously compete with Smith for the backup job next year.
HB
Senior Lydell Ross will have a big senior season. He is ready and if he can stay healthy, I think he will rush for 1000 yards. Lydell has averaged around 4 yards a carry for his career; some people would have you believe he's some kind of bum or something. I think that one of the freshman, hopefully for me Tony Pittman, could provide the same kind of push for Lydell that he did as a frosh for Jonathon Wells, who had a huge senior campaign. I still, perhaps stubbornly, assert that Erik Haw will redshirt. But from all accounts he has excelled this summer and could be ahead of Pittman for playing time. But Pittman enrolled early and looked great in the Spring Game. Hopefully senior Maurice Hall will finally have his knees not betray him and be able to provide a change of pace. He showed in the Bowling Green game last year that he can be a good complement to Lydell. Who knows, maybe the great walkon senior Roshawn Parker will find his way into a few carries.
FB
Senior Branden Joe is expected to get more carries this year like he did in the Fiesta Bowl. Joe can be the anti-Hall change of pace for Lydell, and get some big short yardage gains that Lydell has struggled at. Junior Brandon Schnittker can also help block at the FB position, but probably won't get many touches. Sophomore Stan White will also be back there in a backup H-Back type role, and freshman Dionte Johnson will probably take a redshirt.
TE
Junior Ryan Hamby will be the man at tight end, and after that, there are a few of guys who might get playing time but none are a sure thing. Redgie Arden(pre-attack) and Jason Caldwell were moved to DE, leaving it a potentially thin position. Recruit Chad Hoobler, potentially a TE, will play middle backer. Redshirt freshman Marcel Frost(moved from DE in a never ending carousel) is very talented, but has been hurt in camp. That has allowed freshman Rory Nicol from Pennsylvania to jump in and impress and he will likely see the field. Walkon Jordan Hoewischer and H-Back Stan White could also be in the mix here.
WR
A young group with lots of potential. Sophomores Roy Hall and Santonio Holmes will be the men at split end and flanker respectively. Senior and perpetual spring star Bam Childress will be a slot-type, third receiver. Redshirt frosh Tony Gonzalez and Devin Jordan should see time at FL and SE respectively(Jordan particularly as he is a Massilon teammate of Zwick and hooked up several times in the Spring Game). Senior John Hollins could finally get a chance and surprise in a Chad Cacchio type way. True freshman Albert Dukes and Devon Lyons could have too much to keep off the field(particularly Lyons at SE), but one or both could still redshirt. The wildcard here is freshman prospect Ted Ginn, who will certainly return kicks but could also be at WR or CB. Late update: Jordan broke his an ankle bone in practice and will not play in 2004.
OL
A pair of juniors who are already close to 1 1/2 year starters will anchor this unit, Nick Mangold at center and Rob Sims at left tackle. The guards will likely be sophomore Doug Datish and senior Mike Kne, but Datish is also the #2 center and could see regular time there with Mangold sliding over(as the Bucks did with Mangold and Stepanovich the last two seasons). Their backups include sophomore R.J. Coleman and senior walkon John Conroy. At tackle, Tim Schafer is the favorite at the right spot with freshman Kirk Barton, sophomore T.J. Downing, and walkon senior John McLaughlin competiting for time. Of the four true freshman recruits, Ben Person probably has the best shot at playing as a guard, while Kyle Mitchum and John Skinner could play and Steve Rehring will likely redshirt. Junior Andre Tyree is not on the preliminary roster but could provide help at guard as the season progresses. This group is not experienced except for Mangold and Sims but could well be an improvement over last year's much-maligned group.
DL
Losing three starters(DE Will Smith and DTs Darrion Scott and Tim Anderson) is never a good thing but the Buckeyes have the depth to replace them adequately, although this unit is not likely to be as dominating as it was a year ago. Senior and likely captain Simon Fraser is back at DE and he will be joined by junior Mike Kudla(if he has recovered from a scary neck/back/spine type injury in practice). Other DE prospects include senior Jason Caldwell, who could have a Tim Cheatwood type season as a guy bounced around from position to position finally finding a home as a fifth year guy and sophomore and potential QB terror Jay Richardson. One or both of freshman Vernon Gholston and Alex Barrow may be pressed into action due to the losses of Frost and Arden. There are perpetual rumors of Mike D'Andrea moving to DE, but that does not seem likely, although he could see spot action as a down lineman.
At the tackle spot, junior Marcus Green and sophomores Quinn Pitcock and David Patterson all got time last year and could be good. Green and Pitcock are the likely starters, and Patterson could help out on the end if necessary. Sophomore Joel Penton and redshirt freshman Sian Cotton and Brandon Maupin should all get in some and could probably fill in at DE as well. True freshman Nader Abdallah could force his way into the rotation, but a redshirt is possible.
LB
This group is being touted as one of the deepest and best in the country and it's tough to argue. It is weird, particularly at OSU, to start a look at the LBing corps from the outside but junior A.J. Hawk is a candidate for All-America. He is simply all of the field making plays. At the strong side back, junior Bobby Carpenter should be an excellent replacement for Robert Reynolds. In the middle, junior Air Force transfer Anthony Schlegal and junior Mike D'Andrea are fighting it out for the starting role. Accounts from camp have D'Andrea impressing, but I assume Schlegal will actually start come September 4th, although I might well be wrong. It's a good problem to have. Senior Thomas Matthews was all over the place in the spring and could be a big help at OLB. Other backups will include (possibly) sophomore John Kerr, Indiana's leading tackler as a freshman, redshirt freshman Curt Lukens, and true freshman Marcus Freeman, Curtis Terry, and Brandon Smith. Kerr's status is unclear and he will definitely miss the UC opener. Lukens is a HS safety on the outside, Smith and Terry are likely to redshirt, and Freeman enrolled early and is going to make his presence felt on special teams at the least.
DB
The Buckeyes have just two sure starters, but the backfield has a wealth of depth. Senior Dustin Fox, much maligned by many, will be one of the guys at corners and he should do an excellent job as he has his whole career. Junior E.J. Underwood(who started a few games as a true freshman in the wake of Rich McNutt's injury before being replaced by the great Chris Gamble) will likely join him, but sophomore Ashton Youboty has pushed him hard. Freshman Ted Ginn could make some noise here, junior Mike Roberts is fast but has very little game experience, freshman Brandon Underwood might redshirt and his fellow classmate Shaun Lane is more likely too. Senior Harlan Jacobs made the big play on the punt team in the Fiesta Bowl and the new #13 could be an asset at CB as well.
At safety, junior Nate Salley will be the starter for the second straight year at the weak safety position. At strong safety, sophomore Donte Whitner was considered the favorite but junior Tyler Everett has been getting the rave reviews this summer. Both should see significant time either at SS or nickelback. The key backup at safety should be sophomore Brandon Mitchell, who actually started the season at WS last year before being replaced by Salley. He can lay some big hits but his tackling didn't seem to be as sure as you'd like. But he's had a year to improve and should really help out. Freshman Nick Patterson and Sirjo Welsh will likely redshirt. Senior walkon Rob Harley will see his famous family member's #47 retired and should play a lot on special teams.
ST
Senior captain Mike Nugent is one of the top place kickers in OSU history. His heir apparents are now on campus in freshman Jonathon Skeete, who should redshirt, and grayshirt freshman Aaron Pettrey. The punting situation is a little murkier. Freshman A.J. Trapasso was though to be the favorite, but will likely redshirt after two alcohol runins. That leaves seniors Kyle Turano and Josh Huston. Turano transferred from Bowling Green and late in camp was named the likely starter by Coach Tressel. He will also be the holder. Huston is a converted place kicker who may get a medical wavered sixth year for 2005. Ted Ginn will play a big role in both return games, with Ashton Youboty on punts, Maurice Hall on kicks, and potentially Santonio Holmes as other factors. Roy Hall did some returning last year but I would be surprised to see him. Senior Kyle Andrews returns as the long snapper.
Overall
After writing this review, I am more enthusiastic about the Buckeyes' chances then I was before. Before, I was thinking 8-3 or 9-2 and a shot at a B10 title. Now I am willing to predict a B10 championship. The Bucks may be reloading somewhat but so are so many other B10 teams. We have talent all over the field and lots of it at most places. Starters will step up and backup roles will develop and by the end of the season this team will be a force to be reckoned with. And they won't be chopped liver before that either. This team could win a national title, it could go 8-3; before I was leaning towards the negative, now I'm leaning towards the positive.
MY 2-DEEP
QB: #12 Justin Zwick SM/#10 Troy Smith SM
HB: #30 Lydell Ross SR/#28 Maurice Hall SR
FB: #38 Branden Joe SR/#43 Brandon Schnittker JR
TE: #80 Ryan Hamby JR/#81 Marcel Frost FM & #86 Rory Nicol FM
WR: #4 Santonio Holmes SM/#8 Roy Hall SM/#3 Bam Childress SR/#84 John Hollins SR
C: #55 Nick Mangold JR/#73 Steve Winner JR
G: #52 Mike Kne SR/#50 Doug Datish SM/#66 RJ Coleman SM/#59 John Conroy JR
T: #77 Rob Sims JR/#68 Tim Schafer SM/#74 Kirk Barton FM/#72 TJ Downing SM
K: #85 Mike Nugent SR/#23 Josh Huston SR
DE: #75 Simon Fraser SR/#57 Mike Kudla JR/#99 Jay Richardson SM/#87 Jason Caldwell SR
DT: #94 Marcus Green JR/#90 Quinn Pitcock SM/#97 David Patterson SM/#98 Joel Penton SM
OLB: #47 AJ Hawk JR/#42 Bobby Carpenter JR/#1 Thomas Matthews SR/#17 Marcus Freeman FM
MLB: #51 Anthony Schlegal JR/#5 Mike D'Andrea JR
CB: #37 Dustin Fox SR/#2 EJ Underwood JR/#26 Ashton Youboty SM/#13 Harlan Jacobs SR
WS: #21 Nate Salley JR/#32 Brandon Mitchell SM
SS: #6 Tyler Everett JR/#9 Donte Whitner SM
P: #86 Kyle Turano SR/#23 Josh Huston SR