Fiesta Bowl: Players to Watch, Or Not

Buckeye CommentarySenior Analyst IJanuary 4, 2009

Players to Watch

Beanie Wells
The junior is most likely playing in his last game as a Buckeye and will want to make a statement. Wells is not happy. He’s mad he hurt his foot this season and he’s mad that his line has caved faster than the levees in New Orleans. Beanie is at his best in big games and will be calling for the football. He was the best player on the field against LSU last year, but after carrying 39 times for 222 yards against Michigan, he only got 20 carries for 146 yards. Would it have been a different game if Ohio State got up 10-0 and rushed Beanie 45 times? We’ll never know. Tressel will want to open up the offense for the Fiesta Bowl, but never expect him to deviate far from Wells.

Terrelle Pryor
Pryor arrived on campus for fall practice and assumed the starting role the 4th game of the season. Not a whole lot of time dedicated to learning and development. The most improved player between the season and bowl should be Pryor, due to his high ceiling and relatively limited experience to date. He’s been improving his footwork and throwing technique. Texas gave up a 101 yards to Baylor’s Griffin on the ground, but limited him to a loss-causing 6/19 passing. If Pryor can get his reads and hit his targets, it should be a big number day. A backfield of Pryor and Wells easily gives Ohio State the most athletic QB and RB that Texas has faced all year.

Jim Tressel
Okay, I cheated. He’s not a player. But if Ohio State is going to have a good day, Tressel is going to have a good day. He’s already confirmed that Pryor and the senior [citizen] Todd Boeckman will be in the same backfield. “We might. In fact, we will. Let me go that far. We will.” Tressel said. Will we see any other trickery? You betcha. LSU and Florida games notwithstanding, he’s generally taken chances in the bowls. A fake field goal against Miami, Ted Ginn reverse against ND, etc. He really needs to show that he scouts his own team as well as his opponents and the players need to execute. The playbook better be wide open, because Texas scores points.

Cover Your Eyes

Marcus Freeman
Hampered by injuries the latter part of the season, Marcus Freeman has no doubt used the time off to get healthier. A healthy Marcus Freeman, at least against Youngstown State, looked fast and furious. Against USC, he suffered from poor tackling and a blown coverage on USC’s fullback Stanley Havili that lead to an easy score. A taped and battered Freeman was more of a liability than a force down the stretch, including the Penn State game, missing tackles and failing to make a game changing INT. When healthy, mentally and physically, Freeman can be a force and should finally be healthy and looking to make an impact. My guess is, we won’t see a lot of Ross Homan due to the wide open nature of Texas, so it’s on Freeman to be the every down linebacker opposite JL.

Anderson Russell
Probably one of the more athletically gifted players on the Buckeye Squad, Russell often struggles to make an impact on the game from his Free Safety position. He is good at the details and can provide good zone coverage, but he’s struggled with timing and recognition against more accurate passers. Nothing stands out more than USC’s TD pass to the TE when Russell neglected to acknowledge the possibility of a pass. Buckeyes still haven’t received the official notice from the NCAA that TE’s can, in fact, catch balls. Tackling, as with Freeman, can be a concern at times, especially in space.

Bryant Browing
If Ohio State learned anything against Florida and LSU, or even Purdue, it surely hasn’t been shown by Browning. Replacing Kirk Barton was a tremendous task, even Barton can’t find a spot in the NFL, and Browning looks capable against the power rush. Speed rush? Whole ‘nother story. In the Penn State game, PSU split its defensive ends wide and used their speed to get to Pryor and Wells. While the DE’s were smoking weed and starting brawls at the QB, Browning was still standing at the line, waiting for the next play. He may want to learn a quick first step by Monday or Tressel will need to place a TE and a FB behind him if he’s lined up against Orakpo.