1. Name one (offensive or defensive) unit you expect to produce this season and one that makes you nervous.
Poe: Produce: Wide Receivers. Terrelle Pryor wants to “feed his guys” and the receivers should benefit in a big way. The Brians both got drafted and Robiskie should have been one of the best receivers ever at Ohio State, but the unit should have more athleticism and more big play ability.
Young and unproven, they could put up big numbers if they are allowed. Yards After Catch (YAC) have been almost nonexistent recently, whether it’s due to under thrown balls or the Amazing Falling Hartline. T
hese receivers will need YAC to be effective, because there will be some mental lapses and dropped balls. The team needs to play like it wants to be in the end zone every play.
Nervous: The Big Uglies, Offensive Line and Defensive Tackles. I’m still confident that Heacock and Bollman have no idea what they are doing, especially when it comes to line play. I’m no expert, but some experts have openly criticized the units and their play.
The offensive line could easily go in the ‘produce’ category will all new players and the addition of Justin Boren, but I’m just not sure.
Cassius: The unit that I most expect to produce this year, and this may be a shocker, is the O-line. Thanks to the inclusion of Justin Boren who apparently likes to play very, very angry, and the continued progression of Brewster and center I'd look for a line that will do a better job at run blocking and pass protection, and I don't think we'll have any more problems with bad snaps this year.
The unit that makes me the most nervous is the linebacker corps. Ohio State has effectively supplanted Penn State as linebacker U, but it doesn't change the fact that this will be the most green unit on the field come September.
Massey: I think the Ohio State secondary needs to acquit itself. In fact, I will go a step further and say that all pass defenders give me heartburn. For years I have been watching them play soft zone, bend-but-don’t-break coverage and it makes me nuts.
Still, that approach has been mildly successful (until it faces a true passing team) but that was with players like Malcolm Jenkins, Nate Clements, Chris Gamble, and Donte Whitner. When I look at the defensive secondary for 2009, I get very nervous.
Until Jamaal Berry’s arrest, I was feeling really good about the running back position. With the exception of Pittman’s final season when Wells was a freshman, I cannot think of a year when Ohio State had two legitimate running backs.
Saine and Herron are proven players (despite Saine's injuries), while Berry and Hyde rounded out what appears to be an impressive group. I understand that Berry and Hyde are all hype at this stage, but if Berry is still in the mix come August, I think Ohio State will be as stocked at tailback as they have been in years.
2. Do you consider this a rebuilding year for the Buckeyes?
Cassius: I'm reminded of the old cliché "we don't rebuild, we reload." But it’s a cliché for a reason, but I don't see this as being either a rebuilding or reloading year for the Buckeyes. If anything I'd call it a progression year.
There are guys that are going to be on the field that haven't been there before and some that will be returning, but in the end I think this year can be deemed "successful" if there is marked improvement by all units from the beginning of the year to the end and a good springboard is set in place for 2010.
Massey: I think the term “rebuilding” is just an excuse that bad teams use to manage expectations. It becomes a trap and I will not use it. Do I think Ohio State will be as good this season as they have been recently?
Yeah, but I am not sure that is reloading, either. The last two seasons have not been the type that any OSU fan would wish for, so for me to consider the Buckeyes “reloaded” they would need to play up to the 2006 level.
Anything less has to be viewed as treading water. I think the 2009 squad has tons of talent, which may blossom into a great team. But, if you pumped me full of sodium pentothal, I would probably say that OSU loses at least two games this fall. So, do I think the Bucks are rebuilding? Hell, no. Am I managing expectations? Big time.
Poe: Not to be clichéd, but: they don’t rebuild, they reload!!! Like it or not, Ohio State is a powerhouse, on par with Florida, USC, and Oklahoma and will always have top-notch talent waiting for a shot.
There’s just not any teams in the Big Ten consistently good enough to threaten Ohio State year in and year out like in the SEC (save for maybe Penn State, and that’s a stretch). USC and Ohio State don’t have to worry about rebuilding the way LSU did last year. Ohio State’s stuck in a weird spot between the upper echelon teams and the really good teams.
Imagine USC and Florida in the VIP while Virginia Tech and Georgia are waiting to get in. Well, Ohio State got past the bouncers but got lost in the coatroom. It’s like that. Ohio State will beat everyone they are supposed and might even have a surprise win along the way.
3. Do you expect Ohio State's defense to struggle with Navy in the opening game?
Massey: I vacillate on this one. On one hand I see Ohio's Boo Jackson running around and dodging would-be tacklers and I have nightmares about Navy’s option attack. On the other hand, I think about the great job Ohio State did against Kafka and Northwestern last season, and I breathe easier.
Ultimately, I think it is the difference between a running quarterback and a scrambling quarterback that gives the Bucks fits. Navy runs a regimented offense that, while difficult to defend, is not unpredictable. A little defensive discipline and the athletic superiority should be more than enough.
If Navy was the third game, I would feel differently, but they get all summer to practice for it.
Poe: Struggle is a relative term. Struggle like versus USC and Florida struggle or like versus Purdue in 2008 struggle? The last team to beat Ohio State that didn’t appear in a BCS bowl was Purdue, circa 2004. That’s five years ago. Sure, OSU might give up a big play or two, but Navy doesn’t have the skill or speed to do a ton of damage.
Navy is going to come out disciplined (hey, it’s a branch of the military. I had to say it) and tough and probably block the shit out of Ohio State. It’s still tackling the guy with the ball and Navy doesn’t have the manpower or firepower.
It should be noted that former Navy head coach Paul Johnson beat a Jim Tressel coached team in a D-1AA Championship game. That was a game against equally talented teams. For Ohio State versus Navy, Jim Tressel has the taller stack, the better hand, and is counting the cards.
Cassius: After the first game of the year the defense may be last in the country in yards allowed and close to last in points allowed. I point back to the overall inexperience of the linebackers and one can see why the defense may have some trouble with a Navy squad that runs a very unorthodox style of offense.
I don't see an upset happening, but it could be a close game.