Dave Thurman (9:05 am)
All summer long columnists and bloggers have weighed in on what to expect from the 2010 version of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
We filled our time guessing about strengths and weaknesses, based off last season's performances combined with spring practices. But a lot has changed in the past few months.
While the real answers won't come until the games are played, there are some things we know now that we didn't a month ago.
We Now Know That the Offensive Line Isn't as Deep as Anticipated
Marcus Hall played pretty well last year and checked into fall practice looking lean and mean. Without doubt the team looked at him as a key cog in a deeper, more athletic line. Now that he is redshirting for off the field issues, things don't look quite so bright. Outside of Andrew Miller (who is serviceable at best) and Corey Linsley, there doesn't seem to be much reliable depth.
A name we have heard little about is Jack Mewhort, who I thought would be a solid player this year. The coaches do like Linsley a lot, and most seem to think true freshmen Andrew Norwell is going to be a player, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Still, fans are left to hope for few injuries again this year, which is getting to be an old song and dance.
2. We Now Know That Our Backfield Is Deep but Not Necessarily Powerful
The deepest position on the roster coming into fall practice appeared to be tailback. It still looks that way, but we may have to wait a little longer to see a power back in the lineup.
Brandon Saine and Boom Herron are good backs who are battle-tested. Jordan Hall is talented and fearless, and Jaamal Berry is beginning to realize his vast potential. None of these four is overly big or strong, however.
Unfortunately, Carlos Hyde, who some believe could be a true "bell cow," has been injured and probably won't play any significant minutes, at least in the early games. We are also still waiting on the NCAA (which continues to make the U.S. Post Office seem fast and efficient) to clear Roderick Smith for action. At this point it is obvious that Smith will redshirt.
Without Hyde or Smith playing, there will be no power back for short yardage and goal line situations.
We Now Know That the Defensive Line Isn't As Strong As Advertised
Don't get me wrong: this line has the potential to be very good, but it doesn't have the depth of last year's fierce group. Jim Heacock spoke in glowing terms this spring, saying he thought this would be his best D-line ever at OSU. Count me as a skeptic.
The starters look excellent, and some young guys are stepping up, especially in the interior of the line. Reports on tackles Garrett Goebel, Adam Bellamy and Johnathan Hankins are all positive.
But what about defensive end? Keith Wells left school, Solomon Thomas continues to underwhelm, and Melvin Fellows is still not 100 percent. Will there be a consistent pass rush? What happens if there are injuries? These questions leave me feeling that the D-line could be less than anticipated.
We Now Know That Receiver Depth Is a Work In Progress
Duron Carter's academic woes have left the team in a bit of a quandary. Certainly DeVier Posey, Dane Sanzenbacher, and Jake Stoneburner can catch the ball. But questions surround the rest of the receiving corps, and no firm answers have come out of fall practice.
Taurian Washington is an all or nothing player. He makes great plays on occasion but can't consistently catch the "easy" balls a receiver must haul in. Chris Fields is not physical enough yet and has not separated himself from the pack. The best bet looks to be Corey "Philly" Brown, but you know he will make some freshman mistakes.
Hopefully players like Fields and Brown will progress as the season unfolds and they get some game action.
We Now Know That Terrelle Pryor Is Ready to Lead This Team
It is one thing to give lip service to leadership, but Pryor is backing it up. This is a much more mature player than we have witnessed the past two years. Time in the Jim Tressel school of leadership has paid off, and I think Terrelle realizes the offense is greatly on his shoulders and the team is looking to him to set an example.
I could be wrong, but I don't think there will be a meltdown like last year in West Lafayette. This fall has shown us a more relaxed and mature quarterback, and that bodes well for the season.
We Now Know That the Class of 2010 Isn't As Weak As Advertised
On signing day most Buckeye fans were wringing their hands due to the lowest-ranked recruiting class in many years, made worse by the Jamel Turner saga. But after a number of practices and scrimmages, this group appears more talented than advertised.
Taylor Graham has the most explosive arm on the team. When healthy, Carlos Hyde is a load (and we're still waiting for the arrival of Rod Smith). Andrew Norwell appears to be a Big Ten tackle. All the receivers are talented as well, led by Philly Brown, with Verlon Reed providing a positive surprise.
On defense, the staff loves big Johnathan Hankins and is favorably impressed with J.T. Moore. David Durham is a name that has been tossed around in a positive fashion as well, although not as favorably as Scott McVey. Christian Bryant and Bradley Roby also have coaches excited about their ability as playmaking defensive backs.
Tressel has proved in the past that he can do great things with three-star recruits, and so far this class looks better than publicized.
Finally, We Now Know That JT Will Be Bombarded With Questions Every Time Pryor Throws Fewer Than 25 Times!
Without doubt we have more knowledge than we possessed a month ago. Now let's take on the Marshall Thundering Herd and get some truly firm answers for the coming year.