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Mr. B Sticks To The Basics

This is a Bucket of Bullets about politics and…no, wait! How about – just for once - an apolitical Bucket about football and humor? And you get to choose which is which. I know this will drive down the number of comments at the end of the Bucket but – hey, I want what you want. Plus, this is sure a hard way to make a living. I don’t know how Bill Maher and Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert get away with it …

I'm back, baby! Albeit briefly ...

We took advantage of the “offseason” to move off to new intergalactic headquarters last week. The move was complete chaos just as we had planned it and we’re now firing on most cylinders again. I was going to show pictures of the move me carrying the heavy boxes, the radio tubes spilling out, etcetera, but instead, I just have a few photos attached today of the bits and pieces of the move.

Enjoy! And on with the show…

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Our top 10 versus their top 10 … Michigan football has had a lot of ground to make up in the talent wars and they are off to an aggressive start recruiting this year, to the quiet dismay of many Ohio State recruiting fans. UM snagged 17 commits before the end of March, kinda like Penn State’s strategy for the past few years. And also Texas’s. And how did that translate into wins for those two programs recently?

Regardless, with 17 verbals, Michigan quickly vaulted to the top of the fantasy league recruiting ratings just on sheer quantity if not quality. There are a few things to remember in this marathon-that-is-not-a-sprint:

1) A lot of the best players emerge in their senior season as they develop or show up at camps or come out of “nowhere” to the attention of us know-it-all recruitniks.

2) The recruiting services can be wrong – way wrong – and they tend to discretely re-grade the prospects over the next few months.

3) A great coach recruits guys for systems and for talent holes, not for recruiting service rankings.

We finally found the Bucknuts beer chest but everything was flushed by then ...

4) As for Michigan bragging about recruits they “stole” from Ohio, so far they have exactly one player from the Buckeye state that we exactly actually offered!

5) Only about 10 of any class’s new recruits will be impact players and the rest are long-shot two and three deep-ers, so that premier group should really be the focus.

So, since we are only going to play 10-12 of these guys on average over the next 4-5 years, let’s look at their top 10 recruits (so far) versus our top 10 and analyze who really has the best class as it fits their respective teams. I am going by the national rankings (overall) from the three credible recruiting services (Rivals, 247Sports and Scout) and I aggregated the rankings if they were available from all three. The average/aggregated number is how they rank amongst all recruits, any position, on a national level.

Michigan’s Top 10

1) Shane Morris (QB); 247Sports: #18, Scout #28, Rivals #16; Average #21
2) Dymonte Thomas (RB/DB); Average #51
3) Kyle Bosch (OT); Average #51
4) Chris Fox (DT); Average #79
5) Logan Tuley-Tilman (OT); Average #118
6) Taco Charlton (DE); Average - Not Rated
7) Ben Gedeon (LB); Average # 165
8) Michael McCray (LB); Average #140
9) David Dawson (OL); Average #232
10) Patrick Kugler (OL); Average #97

Ohio State’s Top 10

1) Jalin Marshall (RB/WR); #15, #34, #41 - Average #30
2) Joey Bosa (DE); Average #20
3) Cam Burrows (DB); Average #37
4) JT Barrett (QB); #37 (247Sports)
5) Marcus Baugh (TE); Average #123
6) Eli Woodard (DB); Average #71
7) Alex Anzalone (LB); Average #122
8) Evan Lisle (OL); Average #97
9) Billy Price (DL); Average #159
10) Ezekiel Elliott (RB); Average #59

Two caveats: Some services have yet to rank a couple of the kids and these overall ranking will change – maybe significantly – before the final tallies are out. As examples: Taco Charlton won’t be in the top 250 in the end and Billy Price will be (or should be) in the top 75.

I asked for half a dozen copies of the Bucket to send out to all of my readers but the damn copier broke again!

Moving on. First off, let’s address and undress the question: Is Brady Hoke is kicking ass in Ohio? Of the eight players that have verbaled from the Buckeye state, we only offered one (Dymonte) and that was before Urban and there’s a 50-50 chance we will get him regardless (!). Some great inroads, eh? For you nit-pickers, Gedeon had a soft offer.

Now, to compare the rest of the class:

Mano a mano, here’s how we do it to see who has the Real Life advantage (Real Life is far different than “Recruiting Fantasy Life,” a life skewed by league and geographical and fan support bias; see: “Notre Dame” or “southern schools” as excellent examples).

Shane Morris versus JT Barrett: Their top overall recruit versus our top quarterback. Since we have Braxton for three more years and they don’t; since we are going to feature our back-to-the-future spread and they are reverting to the back-to-the-past drop-back QB (think John Navarre), we really have an advantage here, particularly with Jalin Marshall as a throw-in (although not likely to play the position). Advantage? Even (fair and balanced, man…)

Dymonte Thomas versus Ezekiel Elliott: Thomas is listed as an RB but will likely be a DB. He is listed as a Wolverine but could end up a Buckeye. Until those two occur, well…Advantage? Michigan

Taco Charlton versus Joey Bosa: Really!? Taco is barely three stars and Joey is really five. No contest – silly rating for Charlton anyway. Advantage? Ohio State

Chris Fox versus Billy Price: Michigan’s only out-of-area player versus the Buckeyes’ most under-rated. Price? Think “bigger John Simon.” Fox? Think “good d-lineman.” Advantage? Ohio State

Ben Gedeon versus Cam Burrows: Gedeon (average LB) had a soft OSU offer and Burrows is a legit 5-star national kid (DB). Comparing two positions here but there is no comparison. Advantage? Ohio State

My wife took this picture of my new reserved parking space - and with arrows to aim at!

Michael McCray versus Alex Anzalone: McCray (OSU legacy) wanted to be a Buckeye. The staff passed on him and took Anzalone. If Anzalone re-commits, it’s easy (but unlikely). If Meyer corrals a player of similar ilk, which IS likely: Advantage? Ohio State

David Dawson versus Evan Lisle: Our best (only) O-linemen versus their lowest ranking OL. Advantage? Ohio State

Kyle Bosch versus Marcus Baugh: Getting tougher to compare with not-really-the-same positions. This is Michigan’s best OL in a good overall haul and Baugh is the nation’s #3 TE. Advantage? Even

Jalin Marshall versus anybody (OK, let’s put in Logan Tuley-Tillman): Jalin is the only “consensus” five-star guy for either side. T-T might be a four-star guy. Advantage? Ohio State

Patrick Kugler versus Eli Woodard: Athlete to athlete, Woodard wins easily. But you have to give Michigan props for a good O-line recruiting year, so…Advantage? Even

And even with my obvious bias and a weird player-to-player comparison, the scoreboard says Ohio State 6-1-3. And if you want to be more conservative (give them extra props for Morris and the O-line, you might stretch to something like 4-3-3.

What we know is our best players are already better than their best players and we have four less total players so that divide will widen by February. Once we get a couple of offensive linemen and another 5-star guy (Vernon Hargreaves or Su’a Cravens or Robert Foster or Vonn Bell)? And if Dymonte flips? Hoo boy…

As the Beach Boys sang so long ago, “Don’t worry, baby. Everything will turn out alright”.

At the old office, we posted to our dozens of daily visitors that we weren't there but some wiseacre ruined that poster ...

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Where do they come from – where do they go?... Tressel “built the fence” around Ohio, but to keep the fence stable and impenetrable, he ended up taking players that were two-deepers in potential, often in order to maintain pipelines to certain schools. It was a good enough defense of our turf, it seemed, as it effectively kept out Michigan and Penn State and (except for Cincinnati) Notre Dame.

If you hadn’t noticed, those times, they are a’changing. The Meyer recruiting brain trust still wants Ohio’s best but they are recruiting the nation for the best players at positions of need.

What a concept!

The best players in Ohio?

The players that have committed to Ohio State as of this week are comprised – geographically - as six from Ohio, one from Florida, one each from Texas, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Missouri and North Carolina.

And when Bill Kurelic ran his “Hot List” of the 22 best recruits Ohio State was in on last Sunday, the geography broke down as just three more from Ohio, three from Florida, two from Virginia, two from Illinois and then one each from California, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Arizona, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia and Indiana.

As stark contrast, Michigan’s vaunted class breaks down as five from Michigan, eight from Ohio, two from Illinois, one from Pennsylvania, and one from Colorado. It’s their Midwest all-star team versus our national all-star team.

Will Big Hank lead the defensive line in '13? A kid can dream, right?

As Woody liked to say, “You win with people.” A higher corollary might be that you win more often with the best people…

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Great Buckeye defenses – the next five years … I want to win five Big Ten titles in the next five years (including the unofficial one this year…). Is that so much to ask? And maybe two national titles in the same time period, as well. Yes, I have high expectations and they all start with defense – where championships are truly won. So before Al Gore and my other detractors start peppering comments with false inconvenient truths, let’s take a look at why we can pull off this quinella.

It starts with the defensive line. We all know how good - in theory – this unit will be in 2012 but I submit we just get better after that. If Big Hank comes back in 2013, we have him and Michael Bennett and Tommy Schutt up the middle (and Chris Carter for goal-line stands!). The DE’s are even better with a college hall of fame line-up that includes Nate Williams and Steve Miller this year (with Simon and Bennett bouncing outside) and Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence, Se’Von Pittman and Joey Bosa plus players to be named later in those imminent years to come.

Linebackers? We are covered for the next couple of years with Curtis Grant and Storm Klein (this year) up the middle and Etienne Sabino/Ryan Shazier on the outside. I like Luke Roberts and love the incoming backers (Camren Williams, David Perkins, Jamal Marcus and Josh Perry) but they have yet to be proven. We need some Top 2-3 kids in 2013 and 2014 like Jaylon Smith, and I think we will get at least one each year.

Safeties? We are good-but-not-great this year with the likes of Orhian Johnson, CJ Barnett and maybe Corey (The Other) Brown or Ron Tanner. I didn’t list Christian Bryant because he could be great or could get the lifetime “matador award.” But look whose coming: Devan Bogard and Tyvis Powell this year and Cam Burrows next.

And corners? We could be great+. Brad Roby is a lockdown corner and sure tackler and only a soph. Travis Howard seems ready to back up on the field his lofty feelings about himself off the field. Then there are the high potential guys like Doran Grant and Armani Reeves and Najee Murray (both arriving in August) and Eli Woodard (coming in a year).

See any holes there? Any reasons we can’t get some crystal? My crystal balls say, “Bring it on.” The next five years will seem like a beat-down when we are on defense.

Could Tanner be a safety valve?

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Pretty good Buckeye offenses – the next five years … Yes, we have to play offense, too, to get to “Mr. Bucknuts’ Promised Land.” If for no other reason than to take some pressure off the defense! (See: circa 2011, and epic failure to do so...). I am not worried or discouraged or skeptical or pessimistic. I am more leaning to the edge of irrational exuberance.

Why? Well, we have something we didn’t have in 2011 and for some years before that: a strategy; a game plan. That’s right. It can only help and get us away from those cringe-worthy series where we had to get off the field just to keep from screwing up field position for the defense! In the new spread attack, well…you are going to like it. In the next five years, we break it down like this:

Quarterbacks: We have the magician, Braxton, here now (he can make your worries disappear) and the Braxton-esque JT Barrett on the way. The top two dual-threat QB’s in the nation in their respective high school classes.

Running backs? In descending order of eligibility, we go Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith, Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball – almost all premier backs (and some pretty good receivers in there). We already have Ezekiel Elliott in the fold and the Urb will draw in a national five-star guy in the next year or two. Locked and loaded.

Wide receivers? Do not cry, my Argentinean critics. Out of the current group of Michael Thomas, Verlon Reed (here, but forgotten?), Devin and Evan, Philly Brown and Ty Williams, they are young and diverse and talented. Then add in Riquan Southward coming this fall and Jalin coming next year; plus, factor in that we will throw often to the backs and tight ends now as well as the yet-to-formally commit types and I see this as a growing strength in the new offense.

Tight ends? Stoneburner has one last rodeo and then turns it over to Heuerman and Vannet (Good? Yes. Great? Dunno…) with Marcus Baugh already signed on for ’13 and at least two more 4-5 star guys to come in the next 2-3 years.

Finally, the O-line. First off, the spread takes pressure off of sustaining Bollman’s dreaded five-second blocks. Second, Bollman himself is gone and that’s huge addition through subtraction. Third, we have a pretty good bunch of starters, of which everyone but Reid Fragel will be back the following year, buying us time to reload. Then you have the building blocks of potentially great tackles in Dodson and Decker as well as an impressive Jacoby Boren. And then you have 2-3 years for Meyer to wipe away the Bollman Blemish of no depth and no development.

The Brew Crew did not exactly ferment as expected.

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Whose crew is loose? When “five” went to “zero”… Remember when the Brew Crew was going to change the face of Ohio State football and college football in general? That’s right: Mike Brewster and Mike Adams and JB Shugarts and Josh Jenkins and Kyle Long were all predicted (by one site, at least) to be Buckeye “locks” and blood brothers that would have OSU opponents bleeding profusely. (I think that Shugarts got an early start on his commitment and that put him about five yards behind others in the class…)

Well, that was the theory, Bucknutters. Maybe five+ years ago. Since then, reality has intruded

The one truly missing piece of the puzzle was Kyle Long. Despite the “insider site” telling us that he would play football at Ohio State. Actually – it was close – he played baseball at Florida State (for about 60 days) and then went all Jack Kerouac on us. Tress and Co. tried to get dad Howie and brother Chris and immature Kyle to come home to Columbus (?) and a key advisor was here in Dayton, also pressing for a commitment. Once again, a rogue site declared that if Kyle EVER played football, it would be for Ohio State. Uh, I guess that was supposed to be after a “long time” off and a stint at JC. But in his last possible season of eligibility, Kyle committed to an “O” but he didn’t help our “O”. He is Oregon bound – a place where misfits and payments and recruiting fun never stops.

And the others of this seismic shift class?

1) Mike Brewster – Couldn’t snap the ball to anyone with hands not on his butt; and other teams found out he bobbed his head before the ball moved.

2) JB – Set the collegiate record for false starts in a career (25) and made it so that the snap counts all had to be on “one.” Other teams knew that, too.

3) Mike Adams – Had 1.5 really good seasons out of 4 and lead this group in partying, which was tougher than it sounds because Brewster and Shugarts were perennial challengers. Of our five sure-thing draftees, he was the only one actually drafted despite “going up in smoke” right before the event.

"Dude, this combine is AWESOME!!"

4) Josh Jenkins – Out with a knee at West Virginia last season. Symbolically, did he “take a knee” for this entire group?

5) Kyle Long – Gone to Oregon. Expectations have dropped about 99%.

This group didn’t change the course of history but it did give us something to talk about for four years. Strange Brew, this crew. The evil Bollman curse didn’t help, of course, but here’s a final indignity to wrap up the discussion: Walk-on rugby player Nate Ebner got drafted (by New England). Brewster and Shugarts didn’t get drafted at all. “Potential” is a bitch …

Keep those faucets turned all the way on! ... We are continuously amazed here at the Bucket by the prodigious achievements of the Coldwater High football program and the relative lack of recognition that small town and that small school program receives. The Cavaliers (no, their mascot really isn’t the “Faucets” – although they have played championship games in Fawcett Stadium), have generated a lot to fill the Bucket. They’ve done it under the radar and with their accomplishments on the field. As examples, in just this century (since 2000):

1) Their 144-22 record represents the most wins in the state of Ohio for any team, any division. In that time, Coldwater has made eight trips to the Final Four in just those 12 years.

2) An average of 12 wins per season since 2000.

3) Coldwater has won at least 10 games each year since 2000 (remember that the regular season schedule is only 10 games…)

4) The Cavs’ 46 playoff games over that tenure is the equivalent of more than 4 ½ extra seasons of football!

5) Of those 46 playoff games? They have won 44 of them, placing them now as seventh on the all-time state list for wins in Ohio – any division.

And do they produce big time players? Well, in addition to the Homan brothers, Tony Harlamert also played for the Buckeyes. But most of the kids just assimilated back into the landscape there after high school gridiron triumphs. They are proud to be the “no-names that beat the big names.”

But there was one Bucket favorite, Keith Wenning, who is still showing his Wenning ways at Ball State. I talked to Keith’s folks his senior year because he was also a high quality baseball player. I asked them if they would consider having Keith take a baseball scholly to the Bucks and play his way into a football scholarship. They liked the idea. Tressel did not. I didn’t realize he already had high hopes for another baseball pitcher who was only masquerading as a quarterback – Joe Bauserman.

Sloughing off the usual public disregard for Coldwater athletics, Wenning went on to Ball State where in his short two-year career thus far, he has played in every B-State game, has rushed for 328 yards and is 415-684 (61%) passing for 4,338 yards and a combined 38 touchdowns. Bauserman? Naah. Let’s never go there again.

As Dayton’s own offspring Charlie Sheen would say: “Wenning.”

Finally, in a more fitting tribute to Coldwater football than I can possibly do in this condensed space, there is a new movie that was released just last week called “Touchback,” based on Coldwater and their amazing football town. Don Handfield created and produced the film. And he described it to me as: “It's a positive message film, suitable for families - and though it has football action, at it’s core it's a love story.”

It's also, as far as we know, the only feature film ever shot in the Horseshoe, so that should be something for all the Bucknutters to check out on its own merits. “Touchback” is set in a fictional version of the town of Coldwater and the main character even mentions Huber Heights by name.

Don describes the movie thusly: “A former high school football star turned farmer and family man, Scott Murphy (Brian Presley) finds himself with a unique opportunity to revisit his glory days during the state championship game where he permanently injured his knee in a game-winning play. Given a second shot at his destiny, Scott seeks counsel from Coach Hand (Kurt Russell), Scott's longtime mentor on and off the field, to help him decide whether to let his fate unfold, or follow a path that will change his future.” Written and Directed by Handfield, Touchback also stars Melanie Lynskey (Win Win, CBS' "Two and a Half Men"), Mark Blucas (Knight and Day) and Christine Lahti (Obsessed, NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU”).

A final Coldwater note: when the gang gathers to talk football and to coordinate rides to away games, they gather at McSober’s the restaurant saloon. It’s either that or the good food at the bowling alley. Don’t laugh – enough kids went in and out of that alley that both the boys and girls bowling teams won the state titles this year!

So keep those “faucets” in your thoughts as the Bucket fills up with tales of other high school programs and stars that can’t possibly measure up to Coldwater’s lofty standards.

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