There’s a new spring in our step and spring hopes eternal here at the Bucket as we put a wrap on Urban’s first spring sessions and the all-important exhibition game yesterday. Throughout the spring, we have followed the Buckeyes (and other teams of Buckeye interest) and we have learned – at least – the following:
1) This year, we have actual strategy and tactics on offense. What a change!
2) Nobody other than Ohio State fans seems to like Urban Meyer and that doesn’t seem to bother Urban Meyer.
3) We are really deep at some positions (defensive line, running back) and really untested still at others (offensive line, wide receiver)
4) With 15-20 players out or limited by injury and with another 15+ new players even more limited by the fact they haven’t arrived on campus yet (the incoming freshmen), this was more of a skills test than true game conditions.
5) And with the squad split, units like the offensive line or defensive backfield aren’t so much a team as they are, well … individuals.
But in that rush to judgment that we desperately seek, there were Moments and there were Indications, and we live and die by those in the spring season. So here are a few.
Luke Fickell lost his fifth straight game as head coach, this time of Team Gray, and I am sure Meyer feels even more secure in his job now. In other news, we got to see players that seemed formerly to be in a witness protection program, like Kenny Guiton, for instance.
With relatively few turnovers, I have a Bucket list of some other takeaways that made my list of hemming and hawing (the official list won’t be out until September…):
Braxton leads a talented cast of signal callers ...
1) Quality depth is a wonderful thing. When you see a roster of D-linemen for Team Scarlet of Michael Bennett, Chase Farris, Joel Hale, Big Hank, JT Moore and Se’Von Pittman face off against Team Gray’s Adam Bellamy, Garrett Goebel, Steve Miller, John Simon and Nate Williams, you have to wonder: and we get Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, too?
2) Linebacker depth (at a quality level) has improved greatly but not so much for offensive line depth wherein Team Scarlet “featured” new-position players Darryl Baldwin and Reid Fragel plus other notables such as walk-ons Eric Kramer and Tim Trummer. Gray’s scholarship players were Brian Bobek, Jacoby Boren (Fr), Tommy Brown, Taylor Decker (Fr), Andrew Norwell and Antonio Underwood. ‘Nuff said…
3) Onto the spring game itself. And on the first play? I fell in love all over again. The team pushed to the right, Braxton sprinted out to the left and hit freshman Michael Thomas for a quick completion. That would have been one of the top five schemed plays of all of 2011!
4) You can’t teach “Braxton Miller feet.” You can only use them more to the team’s advantage. Wow – what a weapon. You can teach Braxton Miller judgment, however, and that’s something they will work on.
5) Urban showed off his clout by bringing crappy fall weather into the stadium for the game and even with the rain and cold temps, more than 81,000 people showed up to root for their beloved Buckeyes. Remember that number!
6) Sometimes it doesn’t take long to recognize natural talent and with Brionte, I am one and Dunn. He’s an instinctive runner and a surprisingly good receiver and he will move up through the pack of a talented group of RB’s.
7) I was also pleasantly surprised at the talents and poise of Kenny Guiton who might be “Braxton Light” but he’s still light years ahead of Bow Wow Bauserman. What WERE they thinking last year, anyway?
8) Philly Brown dropped a pitch but he didn’t drop a pass. Malcolm Jenkins – I mean Michael Thomas (as well as Devin Smith) - also looked sound out there and just need the ball in space to do their thing(s).
Mr. B is taken by the newcomer Dunn (left) and the resurgent Guiton.
9) The cadence. Last year, all 22 players on the field seemed to know it and that’s not a good thing for an offense. This year? The QB signals he is ready and the center decides the snap. +1, Urban…
10) With a mish-mosh of linemen and ‘backers, it was hard to zero in on defensive analysis but Michael Bennett really stood out – and he will again in the fall with some very talented colleagues. And Chris Carter? Not many 360 pound nose tackles but we might have one…
11) Recruiting is off the charts. Alex Anzalone was in yesterday and likely two more either before you read this column or shortly afterwards. My next Bucket will go into all you need to know about Michigan versus OSU recruiting.
12) This team looked twice as crisp and three times as polished on offense already versus last year’s team and it is still spring and Braxton didn’t run and Jordan Hall (Meyer’s “Percy Harvin”) didn’t play and, well…you get the picture.
All’s good. Real good. Now, how about some of the other Buckeye-related spring seasons across this great land?
Some things are as predictable as the cherry blossoms and in-fighting in Washington D.C. every year. And like those cherry blossoms, everything seemed earlier this year. As we watch our Buckeye stock and expectations soar, other programs shifted from theory to reality and a few dropped into reality like a North Korean rocket. Michigan? Whew – fans that saw it thought they were in slow motion. Who dey think dey gonna beat our Buckeyes? And watch out for the slow-motion arc of Florida State dropping as they start to actually play games in the fall. It is the “Notre Dame Syndrome” where fans’ delirious and delusional expectations meet, well…the opponents.
The spring also showed a real edginess from the other Big Ten coaches as Bret Bielema added to his list of complaints (notwithstanding his recent marriage) as well, Brady let loose with some Hoke-isms and Mark Dantonio got testy when asked about Michigan’s thinking that their two main rivals were Ohio State and Notre Dame.
“We’re laying in the weeds,” Dantonio told ESPN’s Brian Bennett. “We’ve beat Michigan the last four years. So where’s the real threat?”
Can you name these three Ohio State linebackers (hint: the one in the middle is the newest to pledge the fraternity)?
One of my favorite message board wags got off the best summation of the Michigan morass of arrogance: The only thing missing now is for Hoke to begin referring to Michigan State as “Michigan.”
As for “The Others,” Alabama turned out 78,000 at their spring game as they reload and USC had about 35,000 in a town of both great expectations and numerous other distractions. Michigan? Just 25,000? And a resurgent Pitt program – just 4,600! Remember that Buckeye stat – crappy weather and 81,000 fans.
Finally, Illinois is another B-10 program to keep under observation as they intend to become “Buckeye Light” under ex-OSU coach Tim Beckman. Tim takes great glee in surprising teams and right now he is trying to surprise his own. Wait - and who had the worst omen for their spring game? That would be Nebraska, which sold about 40,000 tickets and then cancelled the game due to impending weather. The fans got out in time but didn’t get their money back. Could be another season of Bo not giving his fans their full value…
And now, the waiting for fall officially begins. There’s a peace across the Buckeye landscape, but as Thomas Jefferson once cynically remarked, “Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everyone stands around reloading.” In Columbus, there is very little standing around, but we are re-locked and re-loaded.
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The growing stain of yellow sports “journalism”… I know this seems like late analysis but these sudden Urban Meyer expose stories started months late and my own tardiness to respond is measured in mere days…
It’s the 95% of the sports journalists give the other 5% of us a bad name. Yes, we are absolutely in that exclusive 5%! Look, here at Bucknuts, we certainly have a bias. It is pronounced and we are consistent. We love the Buckeyes. The 95% of journalists that are shit-heels out there – the true hypocrites – are those slime balls that espouse they have no bias but it evidences itself in their “reporting.” George Dorkman, Matt Hayes, and Mark May immediately spring to mind. As Duane Long put it on last week’s Bucknuts Front Row Radio: “It’s the kind of journalism that hurts journalism”
Even though Jim Tressel has moved on, the panting wanna-be writers that hated on Ohio State before just can’t kick that odious habit. Our collective football backs still have big targets on them. We became the media darling’s team that they love to hate. Like the Yankees or the Cowboys. This is the same group of disgruntled gunslingers that did their damnedest to run Tressel out of town on some flimsy badinage. Put him up there for the whole world to scoff at. Yes, he did not forward a memo that created suspicion about players selling/trading their own sports stuff for some tattoos. Guilty! Should be buried and forgotten. Place it all on the same morality scale as Pete Carroll covering up the funding of his Heisman Trophy winner (Pete got millions more and moved on) or Rick Pitino for having sex with a waitress on the table, presumably after he finished dinner (Rick apologized and played for the national title this year) or that other Louisville transient Bobby Petrino for hiring his mistress and then cavorting (OK – so he was fired).
Yup, real menacing. Real menacing indeed, Hayes.
No, the new coach is Urban Meyer. An edgier, even more competitive version of the coach the media ran out of town (without much of a fight from our school officials). Urban is even more of a – can we coin this term? – more of a “Buck-aneer.”
So, as you likely know by now, there was an Urban-critical article penned by Matt Hayes – a Florida grad – writing a timeless filler piece in the Sporting News and talking about what a bad guy Urban Meyer is. He didn’t file this report when Urban was HIS guy or turn in the “expose” even a year later. No, only when Meyer was hired to helm the hated Buckeyes. He came up with some truly awful stuff like:
1) Urban is a cut-throat recruiter. Bad Urban, BAD Urban!
2) Coach Meyer favored his best players and gave them some preferential treatment. A first, I suppose, in college football…
3) And – wait for it – players left the program when Urban was their coach. They left when Will Muschamp took over later but that’s another thing entirely.
The only one really appreciating this expose turns out to be Will Muschamp, Meyer’s successor, who is sucking air right now. Muschamp is a guy that said, “This team is 15-11 over the last two years. I always look at the difference between reality and perception. Sometimes perception isn’t always what reality is.” I don’t know what he was talking about exactly but he was spot on with the issue of the day: his ability to coach and recruit versus Urban. Perception IS reality, fellas. And Matt – you can’t negotiate with physics.
Yes, there were the inevitable “who’s he?” players that complained and individual anecdotes. I am far too lazy of a reporter to look into the allegations (and way too dignified, of course,) so I asked Urban’s official biographer what’s what. Buddy Martin wrote me back the following in order of refutations of the main points of this “story”:
“Here are a few thoughts on the Sporting News three-month investigation and "expose."
About the guy that provided Hayes with his “inside scoop
1)Who's Bryan Thomas, anyway (a prominent whiner about Meyer in the article…)? I had to look him up. A reserve safety who barely saw the field and then transferred to Northern Alabama.
About the fact that there were arguments with players
2)So there was a blowup between a coach a player. And some people received preferential treatment. (Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, etc.) How is this different than any other team?
About the fact there was preferential treatment for certain players
3)Of course there's a double standard. That's what the Champion's Club was all about.
4)A bunch of rehashed stuff meant to cast Urban in a bad light. And not all that much new.
Did Urban make mistakes? Does any coach NOT make mistakes? But look at this, fans:
2 National Titles
2 SEC Championships
0 NCAA investigations
Call me when somebody beats that at Florida. Or Ohio State. And may I remind folks that Urban is no longer the coach at Florida?
I am pretty sure that Urban is also responsible for global warming, however.”
Now, those are fighting words, Buddy. Even the most reprehensible amongst us sports reporters don’t make fun of global warming!
Finally, it took that paragon purveyor of gossip Sports Illustrated – to be fair and balanced and jinxed, as always. Thursday, they released a warm and cuddly family puff piece on Urban that made him sound more like he came from the Nelson family than the Manson family. And in defending his character?
“To anyone that has watched him turn around programs, Meyer has always operated with a near-total absence of regard for what others think of him. In the convocation of Big Ten coaches he is very much the unpolished arriviste. Between that glower and his SEC pedigree, there seems to be something Machiavellian and cutthroat about him. His coaching peers are right to feel threatened.” They like him guys. They really like him!
And like we saw at Bowling Green and then Utah and then famously in Gainesville, Urban knows how to win. And if there really are any sins out there in his regime, the winning covers a lot of them. The whining will go away…
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It’s spring and if you are feeling listless? I have a Top Ten list of facts and factoids that will snap you out of it!
Stuff that’s a little more interesting than your everyday humdrum sports stories…
1) Fine line between fact and fiction … Organizers at the Arab Shooting Championships held a couple weeks back in Kuwait, mistakenly played the parody version of the Kazakhstan national anthem, taken from the movie “Borat.” It was a rendition that included lines such as “Greatest country in the world/All other countries are run by little girls.” This followed Kazakh shooter Maria Dmitrienko being awarded a gold medal in a shooting event. This is as reported by SI, which is at least as credible as Borat in some instances, of course…
2) More chances than Carter’s got pills … Duron Carter remained absent from practice in Alabama at his third try to qualify to play college football. The Duron melodrama do run on and on, of course, as evidenced by the circus surrounding his removal from the online roster at RollTide.com last week. In reality, though, Carter has not been listed on the official spring roster circulated to the media all spring and there has been no change in his official status. As was the case in the last spring update, the odds are low Tide-ers will ever see him on the field in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
3) The Chinese are applying themselves … Chinese students have their sights set on U.S. graduate schools. How this affects football rosters is yet to be studied. But application volume from that country rose 18% for U.S. master’s and doctoral programs starting this fall, according to a new report from the Council of Graduate Schools that provides a preliminary measure of application trends. Specific programs of interest include engineering, business and earth sciences.
That is on top of a 21% jump last year and a 20% rise in 2010—and is the seventh consecutive year of double-digit gains from China, according to the graduate-school industry group. Applications from China now comprise nearly half of all international applications to U.S. graduate programs. At least the balance of imports from China is settled – now will they export themselves or turning to ex-sports like the rest of us?
4) A Burger with everything … A story we broke and one that we will follow for the next 4-5 years is the feel good real live “Rudy” in the personage of one Joe Burger, an outstanding walk-on linebacker in 2012. He turned down numerous scholarship offers to walk on at Ohio State
Joe’s LaSalle high school coach feels that Joe will someday be a starter at LB for OSU and while that may seem outlandish to some, judging by Joe and his family history, it won’t surprise those that know him or them. It wouldn't really be all that much of a surprise.
Joe’s dad and brother both went to Notre Dame as walk-ons with Dad being a starter and his brother playing in the two–deep. Two other uncles also played for the Irish. LaSalle Coach Grippa emphasized that Burger knows what he is doing. And to play for the Bucks, he not only turned down the obvious follow-the-family walk-on route to Notre Dame (who offered him that) but he was also accepted to both Harvard and Princeton. This kid really wants to be on the field as a Buckeye and who amongst us is going to root against that?
5) The sound and the fury… And the replays. Ohio State is installing a new HD scoreboard and hi-tech sound that they aver will offer us fervent fans “Larger, high-definition scoreboard features improved viewing angles and clearer sound.” Clearer sound won’t be tough since you can’t make sense of ANY of the sounds now. The $7 million improvements project will replace the 11-year-old Ohio Stadium scoreboard and audio system with a larger, high-definition screen flanked by two clusters of speakers with new LED ribbon boards running the length of the South Stands. The project will commence April 23 with a completion date set for early August.
The new HD, Panasonic scoreboard will be 42-feet-by-124-feet (the current scoreboard is 30-by-90 and is not HD) and will utilize Surface Mount Diode LED technology that will provide a sharper, clearer and brighter picture with extra wide viewing angles of over 140 degrees.
As to that sound? According to the same press release: “Sound in the stadium will be significantly, if not dramatically, improved as a Pro Sound line array audio system will cluster a total of 25 speakers on each side of the scoreboard for improved directional sound. Additionally, speakers under the various decks of the stadium will be environmentally refurbished; older speakers will be replaced with new speakers fitted into the existing framework. A clearer, crisper and, in some cases, more intelligible audio sound will be present in all parts of the stadium this fall.”
Now here’s an idea (at no extra cost): How about letting us fans that pay a fortune for our seats have replays like those fans that are watching for free? OSU resolutely refuses to show any controversial replays which – of course – are the only ones that the fans want to see. Now, update that!
6) Can’t keep up?... We switch programs, add memory, and now add servers with vast storage and we still can’t keep up with data and analysis at Bucknuts. But neither can anyone else. In his critique of the book “Abundance,” Michael Shermer noted that, “If every image made and every word written from the earliest civilization to the year 2003 were converted to digital information, the total would come to five exabytes. An Exabyte is one quintillion bytes or the number one followed by 18 zeroes.” Sounds like a lot? Well, it’s nothing compared to what’s happened from 2003 to 2010, a time in which we created five exabytes of digital information every two days. Like Buffett’s bank account, what are we going to do with all this excess? And like the sports world, we are not just changing and change is not just accelerating but the rate of acceleration of change is itself accelerating.
7) What stat you say?... No one does stats better than Major League Baseball. In fact, that might be all they do well anymore! So - to me – the more obscure the stat, the more delicious the game. How about this one: The Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 have 5 players whose last names begin with “Mc” (McCutchen, McDonald, McGehee, McHenry and McLouth). That’s not the neat part. The neat part is that baseball guys actually know that it’s the most “Mc’s” on any one team since 1912! Who says nothing counts anymore?
8) Another Bucket investing tip … Just thought I'd pass along some advice my old broker gave me on Friday. I called and asked him what I should be investing in, as I assume interest rates will rise as they did during the late 70's early 80's. I told him I thought we ought to be looking to get out of bonds and finding a safe haven in which to invest. I asked him, “Should we move to precious metals, foreign currency or what?” He responded, "If the current President is in office much longer, canned goods, water and ammunition are probably your best bet."
I think I will stick with investing in OSU sports. Less controversial…
9) The screen door swings both ways…
January Statistics On Airport Screening From The Department Of Homeland Security:
Terrorists Discovered 0
Hemorrhoid Cases 3,172
Enlarged Prostates 8,249
Breast Implants 59,350
Natural Blondes 3
10) Scalpari reloads for 2012 and 2013 … John Calipari, the recruiting machine that has never left a college without them going on probation, recently asked his entire starting five at Kentucky this year to move on to the NBA to clear enough salary cap for a new group of one-and-done mercenaries. PayPalCal then brought in his fourth straight nation’s #1 class. Although Shabazz Muhammad committed to UCLA at the last minute, Coach Cal got all the rest of the guys that he bid on. How many championships can Cal squeeze in before the sanction guys show up? Someone please alert Dorkman or Matt Hayes, as I don’t know if they realize what’s actually going on here. Or anywhere else…
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The “Bucket Rule”… In honor of national tax day last Tuesday, and in recognition of Warren Buffet’s continuous whining, presidential politics and the concept of “fairness,” I am formally submitting a “Bucket Rule” to Jim Delany at the Big Ten. Just like the U.S. tax base, about 45% of the Big Ten teams contribute nothing to the football conference’s championship goals. Is that really fair? No. So what are we going to do about it?
My modest proposal is to help these non-contributors (let’s call them Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois and Minnesota, shall we? That’s about 45%) and let’s allow them to take any 2 of the up-to-25 new recruits from the traditionally successful teams (Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa and Penn State). That’s less than 10% of their new recruiting take, right? Traditional success and good fortune and investment in programs be damned. We are after fairness here and logic must take a back seat.
A second idea based upon the same sense of fairness and logic: Mark Emmert, the head of the NCAA is a lot like President Obama in that he can’t really quantify or articulate “fairness” but he knows it when he sees it. Like pornography, of a sort. So, let’s take the Buffett/Bucket rule one step forward and just have Emmert and his emmer-ates make a significant change: Every year. Take one whole Alabama class (about 30 new recruits) and sprinkle them around to the Have-Not teams around the country!
I know that you are waiting for me to make this analogy work for the U.S. government and I am sorry to disappoint. Because I have an even better idea there: If Warren Buffet or Bill Gates’ dad doesn’t think they pay enough in taxes, that the 45% of the country that doesn’t pay anything at all deserves an even better deal, then President Obama should just take either the Buffet or Gates estates – only one a year, let’s not get carries away. If you take Buffett’s 50 billion in 2012, that would be the sum total of ALL of the new taxes President O wants to raise by increasing taxes on the “mega wealthy”. That’s right, 50 billion should go a long way toward solving the 1.2 trillion dollar annual deficit, right? Despite the fact that we have the most progressive tax system in the world and the highest corporate taxes, it is still not nearly enough. This year, take Buffett. Please. Next year, take Gates. And maybe they all will just shut the hell up.
OK, here at Bucknuts, we might not be Swift, but at least we understand fairness.
Thank you. Good night. And God bless the Buckeye Nation…
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“Darling we’re out of time …The sweet days of spring are gone. The wine that pours from the keg is bitter and dregs. Some say we gave it our best; so let’s not bring up the rest. No sense in talking—we know where we went wrong.”
So sings one of my favorite groups, Cracker, in a song we use to conclude the all-new Bucknuts Front Row Radio show. You have to tune in and listen as we continue to re-tool what already is a Bucknuts favorite. “Too much is never enough,” you know. We have new studios and new contributors and the Bucknuts Front Row Radio Show is locked and loaded for spring and summer. Check in every Monday and Thursday for surprising guests, startling logic, eccentric musical collages and a darn entertaining 30 minutes or so.
It was a strange spring with strange sports stories, and pretty soon all the names began to run together. Remember Sean Peyton Manning, for instance? The player whose bounty was so high that he hurt himself? Yes, he’s wincing, too.
As we close in on May, we are a month from recruiting camps, two months from the players return to campus, three months until fall camp and four months until kick off. Then there will be three solid months of just kicking ass.
It simply doesn’t get any better than that!