Will Pryor Be Pryor? Doesn’t Sound Like It

I was going to write a column for next month’s football preview issue of Buckeye Sports Bulletin with a request for Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel.

The plea? Let Terrelle Pryor be Terrelle Pryor.

Apparently there is no reason for that column to be written. During Big Ten Media Days in Chicago earlier this week, Tressel intimated that he prefers his mobile quarterback remain a little more stationary. According to the head coach, the reason is simple – survival.

“I’m not looking for my quarterback to act like a fullback,” Tressel said. “I’m not looking for my quarterback to get hit 20 times a game. I guess I’m talking about the old saying about discretion being the better part of valor. There’s a reason why the career of an NFL running back doesn’t last very long. The guy with the ball gets hit the hardest. I’m not looking for my quarterback to be the guy on our team that gets hit hardest the most times in a game.”

There is no doubt the coach has a salient point. After all, he doesn’t have 218 career victories and make upwards of $3.5 million because he doesn’t know the finer points of the game.

Still, Pryor seems like he could be one of those once-in-a-lifetime type quarterbacks. He threw for more than 4,300 yards in high school but he also ran for 4,200. He’s 6-6 and 235 pounds, and recently turned in a 40-yard dash time of 4.33 seconds – the fastest on the team. It seems only natural that you would want to allow a player of that caliber to unleash all of his God-given talents on the opposition.

Big, strong-armed quarterbacks with fast wheels also seem to fit the blueprint for national championships. Just think Vince Young (6-5, 233) or Tim Tebow (6-3, 235).

Young wasn’t a run-first quarterback when he led Texas to the title in 2005 and neither was Tebow when he guided Florida to last year’s title. Young threw for 3,036 yards and 26 TDs in ’05 while Tebow piled up 2,746 yards and 30 TDs last season. You have to be able to stand in the pocket for the majority of your plays to compile those kinds of numbers.

Still, the running game was a big gun in both quarterbacks’ arsenals. Young carried 155 times for 1,050 yards and 12 TDs during his team’s title run and Tebow added 673 yards and 12 TDs on 176 carries for the Gators last year.

Moreover, it wasn’t just the yardage. It was the fact that opposing defenses were forced to respect the possibility that Young or Tebow could take off at any time, making their passing attack that much more potent. Anyone knows the threat of a mobile quarterback can freeze linebackers and safeties, giving potential receivers that split-second they need to get open.

Looking at Pryor and expecting him to be another Young or Tebow, however, is the old apples-to-oranges comparison, according to Tressel.

“First of all, Terrelle is a lot different from Tebow,” the OSU coach said. “Terrelle is not a power runner. Secondly, you have to take what the defense gives you. You can’t design your offense around your quarterback running the ball all the time. You can sit there and say, ‘Well, Terrelle is that good and that fast, so he ought to always be able to get the yards we need.’ There’s a little more it than that. You have to have some balance. Hey, we all like ice cream cones but you can’t eat 15 of them. You have to have some balance.”

So what exactly how will Pryor’s role be defined?

“Our goal has always been to throw for 250 yards and run for 200 in every game, and that hasn’t changed,” Tressel said. “Our philosophy is that our receivers have the most touches in a game, then the running backs and then the quarterback. You attack with your receivers, then your running backs and the quarterbacks are the final part of that equation.”

Sound thinking, of course – in a perfect world. For Ohio State to achieve the goal of throwing for 250 yards and rushing for 200 in every game would make it imperative that the offensive line fired on all cylinders. We know that hasn’t been the case for at least the last couple of years, and that was largely with a veteran cast of characters. With new starters slotted at four positions – not to mention a left tackle spot still very much up for grabs – it seems somewhat of a gamble to rely so heavily on that unit.

Guess what else a running quarterback can do? Ease the pressure on an evolving offensive line.

Of course, we have seen this before and the results were pretty darned good – up to a point. Troy Smith had a run-first mentality for much of his career before turning into a pocket passer in 2006. That year, he broke several school records on his way to the Heisman Trophy.

Unfortunately, by the time the national championship game rolled around, Smith had apparently forgotten how to run the football. Had Smith tried to run straight at rather than away from the Florida defense, the complexion of that BCS title game might have been much different. Would the Buckeyes have won that night? That’s difficult to say but I think the game could have been and would have been much more competitive.

If Tressel insists upon Pryor staying in the pocket against USC, he will holster one of his main weapons in what many believe is a must-win game for his program. My only question: Why would he do that?

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s Buckeye birthday belongs to former Ohio State safety Sonny Gordon, who turns 44.

Denman Preston Gordon was born July 30, 1965, in Lynn, Mass., but grew up in Middletown, Ohio, where he was a high school football star for the Middies. He was a starter at the rover position from 1984-86 and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior in ’86. That season, he set career-highs with 94 tackles, seven interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Gordon was Cincinnati’s sixth-round selection in the 1987 NFL draft but never played with the Bengals. He signed with Tampa Bay and played seven games with the Buccaneers in ’87, his only season in the NFL. Following his playing career, Gordon entered private business and has been a longtime sales rep and territory manager for Columbus-based Worthington Industries.

Among the others celebrating birthdays this 30th day of July: H&R Block co-rounder Henry Bloch is 87; children’s television producer Sid Krofft is 80; Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is 75; blues guitarist/singer Buddy Guy is 73; firm director Peter Bogdanovich is 70; former U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) is 69; singer/composer Paul Anka is 68; jazz saxophonist David Sanborn is 64; California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is 62; law professor and ex-Clarence Thomas colleague Anita Hill is 53; former Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle is 52; former NBA center and current Phoenix Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright is 52; singer/songwriter Kate Bush is 51; country singer Neal McCoy is 51; two-time Olympic decathlon gold medalist Daley Thompson is 51; actor Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus in the “Matrix” trilogy and Dr. Raymond Langston in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”) is 48; actress Lisa Kudrow is 46; actor Simon Baker (Patrick Jane in “The Mentalist”) is 40; two-time Academy Award winning actress Hilary Swank is 35; actress Jaime Pressly (Joy Farrah Darville/Hickey/Turner in “My Name Is Earl) is 32; and British golfer Justin Rose is 29.

Also on this day in history: the city of Baghdad was founded in 762 while Baltimore, Md., followed in 1729; English novelist Emily Brontë is born in 1818; President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Act of 1965 into law, establishing Medicare and Medicaid, in 1965; Apollo 15 landed on the moon with the first Lunar Rover in 1971; Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa disappeared from a Bloomfield Hills, Mich., restaurant parking lot in 1975; the final old-style Volkswagen Beetle rolled off a Mexico assembly line in 2003; and Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh died in 2007.

AND FINALLY …

** It seems the U.S. Military Academy and the New York Yankees have forged a partnership. Army will play four games in the new facility over the next several years, including 2010 when the Black Knights host Notre Dame. Army will also take on Rutgers (2011), Air Force (2012) and Boston College (2014) in Yankee Stadium.

** Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald told reporters at Big Ten Media Day that the Wildcats continue to explore possibilities of playing one of their home games at Wrigley Field. Fitzgerald said, however, that his team would like to make a trip to Wrigley only a once-in-a-great-long-while thing.

** Congratulations to MLB umpire Joe West. When he works the Washington-Milwaukee game tonight, it will mark his 4,000th major league game. Only 14 other umpires have ever reached that milestone.

** I rarely agree with ESPN the Magazine columnist Rick Reilly, but he’s dead on with his assessment of Tiger Woods’ churlish behavior on the golf course. The world’s best golfer can be extremely engaging away from the course and very accessible when things go right. But the pursuit of 100-percent perfection in a game that almost never allows that sort of thing turns Woods into a profane, boorish lout. As I wrote some time ago, I have no doubt that Woods will ultimately break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships. But if he continues to act the way he does in defeat, Woods will never surpass Nicklaus in terms of class. In fact, he’ll never ever come close.

** It’s difficult to criticize a guy on his birthday, but here goes anyway. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig must rule on the Pete Rose situation and he must do it now. Either he is in favor of reinstating Rose or he isn’t. He can no longer have it both ways. Either he’s going to listen to Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan and Mike Schmidt who are in favor of reinstating Rose, or he’s going to listen to Bob Feller, Stan Musial, Duke Snider and Bobby Doerr and keep Rose on the sidelines. Some criticize Selig for being unable to make the tough decisions. My criticism is that he doesn’t make any decision. His legacy is going to be boring interleague play, the ridiculous notion that the winner of the All-Star Game should dictate home-field advantage in the World Series and presiding over his sport’s biggest scandal in nearly a century. I only hope that when it comes time for Selig to be considered for the Hall of Fame, he joins Rose on the outside looking in.

** I’ve said it before, I said it again at Big Ten Media Days and I may as well say it here. If I had the choice (and I clearly do not), I’d take Charissa Thompson over Erin Andrews. Every day of the week.

Schlichter Belongs In OSU Hall Of Fame

With all due respect to Andy Katzenmoyer, Pandel Savic and the rest of the most recent class of inductees into the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame, it has always seemed a bit strange that the school’s all-time leading passer remains on the outside looking in.

Your powers of deduction don’t have to be much to figure how why Art Schlichter remains a hall of fame outsider. Nothing besmirches a reputation quite like a decade-long stretch in prison for a much-publicized gambling addiction.

In 1977, the athletic department, in cooperation with the Varsity “O” Alumni Association, established the hall of fame. According to the Varsity “O” constitution and bylaws, the hall was established “to pay tribute and extend the recognition to those individuals who through the years have contributed to the honor and fame of The Ohio State University in the field of Athletics, and who have continued to demonstrate, in their daily lives, the values learned in Intercollegiate Athletics.”

There are several specific qualifications for nomination to the hall and Schlichter meets nearly every one of them. It has been five years or more since the graduation of his class, he earned the minimum of one varsity letter, and his records are so outstanding that there is no question as to the qualifications necessary for induction.

Schlichter continues to be Ohio State’s career leader in passing yardage despite the fact he played his final game in scarlet and gray more than a quarter-century ago and passing attacks have evolved greatly since his career ended. By way of comparison, Schlichter’s career total of 7,547 yards is more than Rex Kern, Kirk Herbstreit and Cornelius Greene – combined.

Additionally, he remains the only quarterback in school history ever to have a 400-yard passing day, shares the single-game mark for completions at 31 and is just one off the all-time career record with 497 completions.

Perhaps he falls short in the interpretation of Chapter VIII, Section 3, Paragraph F of the hall of fame qualifications, which reads, “Consideration shall be given for personal conduct in life and personal contributions to the high ideals of Intercollegiate Athletics.”

Then again, the final sentence of the preceding Paragraph E reads, “The selections shall be on merit only and never of a political nature.”

If it’s contrition the Varsity “O” hall of fame board wants, Schlichter has issued a number of apologies over the years. Surrendering his freedom for so many years, not to mention the toll his gambling addiction inflicted upon his family, was also an expensive price to pay.

No one knows if Schlichter can continue to handle his addiction and lead a productive life. From all indications, he is making a supreme effort. He gives regular talks on the evils of gambling, provides counseling for others who are haunted by the same demons, and has co-authored a new book on his life titled, “Busted: The Rise and Fall of Art Schlichter.”

Public perception on how Schlichter’s problems may have somehow sullied the university’s reputation really isn’t the point. When you’re part of a family, you’re supposed to forgive. It seems to me it’s time to welcome Schlichter back into the fold and find room in the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame for the greatest quarterback in school history. 

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s Buckeye birthday belongs to former basketball co-captain Je’Kel Foster, who turns 26.

Born July 22, 1983, in Natchez, Miss., Foster was star for his hometown high school team before playing one year at Howard Junior College in Big Spring, Texas, and one year at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla. At Chipola in 2004, Foster was the Florida JUCO player of the year after averaging 17 points, 5.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds. He played for the Buckeyes in 2005 and ’06, serving as team co-captain for the 2006 squad that won the school’s first outright Big Ten championship in 14 years. Foster finished his two-year career as a Buckeye with averages of 10.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Foster is currently in his fourth season playing pro basketball in Europe and beginning his second year with a team in Oldenburg, Germany. Last season, he averaged 12.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in the German league and sank the game-winning free throw to lift Oldenburg to its first championship ever.

Foster is joined by a host of celebrities celebrating birthdays this 22nd day of July: former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole is 86; film and TV actor Orson Bean is 81; fashion designer Oscar De la Renta is 77; Oscar-winning actress Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”) is 75; novelist Tom Robbins (“Even Cowgirls Get The Blues”) is 73; Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek is 69; funkmaster George Clinton is 68; Triple Crown winning jockey Ron Turcotte is 68; U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) is 66; Sixties teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman is 66; Supertramp co-founder and keyboardist Rick Davies is 65; former MLB reliever Albert “Sparky” Lyle is 65; actor/activist Danny Glover is 63; screenwriter Paul Schrader (“Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” and “Auto Focus”) is 63; Palau President Johnson Toribiong is 63; comic actor Albert Brooks is 62; Eagles co-founder Don Henley is 62; Oscar and Tony winning composer Alan Menken is 60; four-time Olympic gold medal distance runner Lasse Virén is 60; film and stage actor Willem Dafoe is 54; seven-time MLB All-Star MLB pitcher Dave Stieb is 52; Indigo Girls singer/musician Emily Saliers is 46; film and stage actor John Leguizamo is 45; comic actor and Saturday Night Live alum David Spade is 45; pro wrestler Shawn Michaels (born Michael Shawn Hickenbottom is 44; 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown is 43; former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson is 37; singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright is 36; 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon is 29; and St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson is 26.

YOUR REPUTATION PRECEDES YOU

An online sports betting service, BetUS.com Sportsbook, posted odds recently on the colleges most likely to commit the next major violation. Winning the dubious honor was USC with odds of 8-to-1. It was unclear if the website actually meant the program “most likely to commit the next NCAA violation” or “the next program most likely to be found guilty of major violations.” In that case, USC is a no-brainer with the Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo cases pending.

Next on the list with 9-to-1 odds? Ohio State.

The Buckeyes were followed by Florida, Memphis and Ole Miss at 10-to-1, with North Carolina, Connecticut, Michigan State and Florida State each at 12-to-1.

BetUS.com Sportsbook claimed it included football and basketball programs in determining its odds.

AND FINALLY …

** Based upon what I know right this second, it’s going to be awfully difficult for me to cast my Heisman vote for anyone else but Tim Tebow. His Florida team – at least on paper – looks very much capable of marching to another national championship. If that happens, I don’t know how you keep the trophy out of Tebow’s hands.

** If the Gators do win the title this year, they would become only the third team to win three championships in four years since the wire services became the authority on such matters in 1936. The others are Notre Dame (1946-47, ’49) and Nebraska (1994-95, ’97).

** Head-scratcher of the week? Iowa extending head coach Kirk Ferentz’s contract through the 2015 season at more than $3 million per year. Ferentz is a solid coach and a solid guy, but what exactly makes him worth three mil? In his 10 seasons, the Hawkeyes have no outright Big Ten championships (they have shared the title twice) and averaged only seven wins per year. Easy math tells you that if your team is averaging only seven victories, it’s also averaging five losses. Three million bucks for an average record of 7-5 every year seems a bit steep.

** Speaking of coaching contracts, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops – the guy working on a five-game losing streak in BCS contests – is also getting a new deal. Stoops’ new contract calls for the university to pay him (bonuses included) more than $30 million through the end of 2015. That computes to an annual average of about $5 million.

** Stoops’ compensation begs this question: If he’s worth $5 million, how much is Florida going to have to pony up if Urban Meyer wins another national championship this year? In case you wondered, Meyer’s current contract pays him $3.25 million per year. That’s pretty good but only third highest in his own league. Nick Saban of Alabama ($3.9 million) and Les Miles of LSU ($3.75 million) make more.

** As if you didn’t already know, college football is right around the corner. Watch lists for 10 of the major awards are scheduled to be announced on ESPN’s College Football Live show beginning Aug. 3. The watch lists for the awards will be announced one per day at 3:30 p.m. Eastern for two weeks.

** To say the College Football Hall of Fame likes to stretch its induction ceremonies would be a bit of an understatement. Last Sunday, more than a year after it was first announced, the 2009 class of inductees was finally and formally enshrined into the hall during ceremonies in South Bend, Ind. It was nice to see Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George in attendance to help celebrate the induction of former Ohio State head coach John Cooper.

** Army and Notre Dame have announced they will play one another in the new Yankee Stadium on Nov. 20, 2010. It is the first college football game scheduled for the new facility, located right across from the original.

** Did you know that Walter Cronkite got his start by covering high school and college football games for his hometown newspaper? He did so while growing up in the Houston area and continued after he attended the University of Texas. In 1937, he got his start in radio by broadcasting Oklahoma football games.

Title Aspirations Start With Ohio State Offensive Line

I don’t think it’s stretching it to say that the offensive line has been the Achilles heel for the Ohio State football team these past few years.

Since 2005, the Buckeyes have enjoyed almost unprecedented success with four consecutive seasons of 10 victories or more, tying a school record. During those past four seasons, the team has 43 victories in 51 games, a winning percentage of .843.

What most critics choose to focus upon, however – whether they’re right or whether they’re wrong – are the eight losses. Seven of them have come against ranked teams. (Only the home loss to Illinois at the tail end of the ’07 season came against unranked competition.) And six of the seven losses to ranked teams have come against opponents ranked among the nation’s top three.

More often than not, Ohio State has also been highly ranked in those games and one of the major tipping points in those contests has been the play of the Buckeyes along the offensive line. It couldn’t protect Todd Boeckman last year against USC and it couldn’t protect Boeckman in the 2008 national championship game against LSU. Likewise with Troy Smith in the title game against Florida. You could even argue that the offensive line was the major culprit in the losses to Penn State and eventual national champion Texas in 2005. Hurried quarterbacks at critical junctures led to game-changing turnovers in both of those games.

So, what have we learned? If Ohio State is to make a run at a national championship in 2009 – and I mean a serious run – the Buckeyes will need their offensive line to rise to the occasion. It also means that the team is going to have to solidify its starting tackle positions early in fall camp. Will it be Mike Adams, J.B. Shugarts or Andy Miller on the left side? Will it be Jimmy Cordle on the right side? It should be an interesting battle, but the battle had better be decided quickly.

That said, here is my all-time top 10 Ohio State offensive tackles. All of the aforementioned players should aspire to get their names on this list – and if they do, this coming season could turn out to be very, very entertaining.

1. Orlando Pace – No less an authority than 1995 Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George sums it up nicely. “If it wasn’t for Orlando Pace,” George once said, “you’d have never heard of me.” Pace was the most decorated offensive lineman ever to play at Ohio State and he was a star from the first time he set foot on campus during his freshman season of 1994. Had he not left early for the NFL and returned for his senior year in 1997, he could have been the first lineman ever to win the Heisman Trophy. Simply put, he was just that good. As it was, Pace filled his trophy case with two All-America honors, back-to-back Lombardi Awards and the Outland Trophy. He was also named the 1995 Big Ten player of the year making him the only offensive lineman in the last 45 years to have been named conference MVP.

2. John Hicks – Hicks was 6-3 and 258 pounds, but had the mobility of a much smaller player. He was a rare blend of size, strength, speed, attitude and coachability that comes along only once every so often. In fact, Woody Hayes made a highlight reel of Hicks’ blocking technique and used it as a teaching tool for the remainder of his coaching career. Hicks topped off his college career in 1973 with a second All-America honor as well as the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award. He was finished runner-up in the Heisman Trophy balloting to Penn State running back John Cappelletti, the highest finish ever for a lineman in the Heisman voting,

3. Chris Ward – Ward began a three-year run as the starting left tackle for the Buckeyes in 1975 and paved the way for Archie Griffin to win his second Heisman Trophy before blocking for the likes of Jeff Logan in ’76 and Ron Springs in ’77, both of whom became 1,000-yard rushers. Ward was a two-time All-American who started 36 consecutive games and was part of an offense that piled up 1,469 points over four seasons – an average of 30.6 per game. He was also part of a team that won or shared the Big Ten championship every year he was a Buckeye.

4. Korey Stringer – Overshadowed somewhat by fellow offensive tackle Orlando Pace, Stringer was one of the reasons why Ohio State fielded such offensive powerhouses in the mid-1990s. The big, burly Warren, Ohio, native cleared opposing tacklers like a hot knife through butter and finished second in 1994 in both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award voting. Nevertheless, Stringer was a consensus first-team All-American that season, and then was selected in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Before his tragic death in 2001, Stringer played six seasons in Minnesota, during which the Vikings made the playoffs five times including the NFC championship game twice.

5. Chuck Csuri – An All-American at tackle, Csuri was voted the team MVP during the 1942 national championship season. That year, he led a rushing attack that averaged 5.2 yards per carry and 281.2 yards per game in addition to 33.7 points per contest. Csuri left OSU after that season to join the military, but he returned to finish his collegiate career in 1946 and earned his third varsity letter. After graduation, he became a national leader in the field of computer graphics.

6. Dave Foley – Foley started at right tackle in 1966 and ’67 before moving to the left side in 1968. The move coincided with the Buckeyes rolling to the national championship and Foley was in the middle of the proceedings. He was one of the team captains that season and helped pave the way for fullback Jim Otis to rush for a then school-record 985 yards. Foley earned consensus All-America honors in ’68 and the third of his three Academic All-American honors. Following his college career, Foley was a first-round selection (26th overall) by the New York Jets in the 1969 NFL draft, and he played nine seasons with the Jets and Buffalo.

7. Bob Vogel – Vogel held down the left tackle spot for the Buckeyes from 1960-62, and was one of the guys who blew open holes regularly for All-America fullback Bob Ferguson. After finishing his college career, Vogel had a 10-year pro career with the Baltimore Colts blocking for the likes of Johnny Unitas and Tom Matte, and he made the Pro Bowl five times. Vogel played in two Super Bowls, including Super Bowl V when the Colts defeated Dallas, 16-13, on a last-second field goal by Cincinnati Aiken High School product Jim O’Brien.

8. Dick Schafrath – A two-sport star as a schoolboy in Wooster, Ohio, Schafrath turned down a baseball contract from the Cincinnati Reds to play college football at Ohio State. He played offense and defense for the Buckeyes, and teamed with future pro football hall of famer Jim Marshall to give OSU one of the top tackle tandems in the country. The duo anchored the line that helped the Buckeyes win the 1957 national championship. Schafrath was a team co-captain in 1958, and then became a second-round selection by Cleveland in the 1959 NFL draft. He was a fixture at left tackle for the Browns throughout his 13-year career, not only protecting the blind side of quarterbacks but opening holes for such Hall of Fame running backs as Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell and Leroy Kelly. Schafrath was a seven-time Pro Bowler and was voted the Browns’ most valuable player in 1963.

9. Robert Karch – Karch was a tackle for the Buckeyes who helped blow open holes for Chic Harley during the 1916 and ’17 seasons, allowing Ohio State to claim their first-ever Western Conference championships. During his senior season in 1917, Karch was named to the All-America team.

10. Jim Tyrer – Tyrer was extremely versatile for Woody Hayes, starting at left tackle as a sophomore in 1958 and then switching to the right side in ’59 and ’60. Tyrer, a native of Newark, Ohio, blocked for fullbacks Bob White and Bob Ferguson during his college career, and he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior. Tyrer went on to enjoy an excellent professional career, mostly with the Kansas City Chiefs. He won three AFL championship rings with the Chiefs as well as Super Bowl IV following the 1969 season. Tyrer was named the AFL’s offensive lineman of the year in ’69. Unfortunately, Tyrer did not meet with the same success in his life after football. Following a series of business misfortunes and heavily in debt, Tyrer shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself on Sept. 15, 1980. He was only 41.

If you would like to take a look at my top 10 players at other positions, here are the links:

OSU’s Top 10 Quarterbacks

OSU’s Top 10 Tailbacks

OSU’s Top 10 Fullbacks

OSU’s Top 10 Wide Receivers

OSU’s Top 10 Tight Ends

OSU’s Top 10 Offensive Guards

BIG TEN BEEFS UP ’09 SLATE

A quick check of the 2009 nonconference schedules for Big Ten shows a little more bite than in recent years. Just two years ago, only one league team featured a nonleague schedule against teams that had combined for a winning record the season before. This fall, that number rises to seven.

Michigan State is picked by many as a dark horse candidate for the conference championship and the Spartans are going to battle-test themselves with a nonleague slate that features teams that posted a combined 31-20 record in 2008 – Western Michigan (9-4), Central Michigan (8-5), Notre Dame (7-6) and I-AA Montana State (7-5).

Close behind Sparty is Illinois with nonconference opponents that recorded a combined 31-21 mark a season ago. Taking on the Illini this year will be Cincinnati and Missouri, teams that combined to go 21-7 last year. Also on the docket: always-tough Fresno State (7-6) and I-AA Illinois State (3-8).

Illinois head coach Ron Zook is also preparing for the schedule expansion past Thanksgiving which goes into effect in 2010. Zook has switched around his team’s ’09 schedule to include a pair of open dates, including the week before taking on Ohio State in late September. The Illini will also wind up Big Ten play on Nov. 14 – a week before everyone else – and then finish their regular-season schedule at UC on Nov. 27 (the day after Thanksgiving) and in Champaign against Fresno State on Dec. 5.

As they have for the past couple of years, Penn State and Northwestern have fattened their nonconference diet with cupcakes. Neither team plays an opponent who finished over .500 last season while none of the Wildcats’ four nonleague opponents notched more than three victories.

The Nittany Lions play a trio of teams that finished 5-7 in 2008 – Akron, Temple and i-AA Eastern Illinois – as well as Syracuse, which posted a 3-9 record. Northwestern also has Syracuse on its schedule along with Eastern Michigan and I-AA Towson, each of which also finished 3-9. The Wildcats also play Miami (Ohio), which was 2-10 last season.

Nine of the 11 conference schools have Division I-AA opponents on their schedules for 2009, and some of those smaller schools are aiming to be this year’s version of Appalachian State. Wisconsin hosts Wofford, who finished 9-3 last season, while Iowa takes on instate rival Northern Iowa. The Panthers were 12-3 last year and made it to the I-AA semifinals before bowing 21-20 to eventual national champion Richmond.

Here is the full slate of nonconference games for Big Ten teams. Division I-AA teams are in italics.

Illinois: Missouri (10-4) @ St. Louis, Illinois State (3-8), @ Cincinnati (11-3), Fresno State (7-6)

Indiana: Eastern Kentucky (8-4), Western Michigan (9-4), @ Akron (5-7), @ Virginia (5-7)

Iowa: Northern Iowa (12-3), @ Iowa State 2-10, Arizona (8-5), Arkansas State (6-6)

Michigan: Western Michigan (9-4), Notre Dame (7-6), Eastern Michigan (3-9), Delaware State (5-6)

Michigan State: Montana State (7-5), Central Michigan (8-5), @ Notre Dame (7-6), Western Michigan (9-4)

Minnesota: @ Syracuse (3-9), Air Force (8-5), California (9-4), San Diego State (2-10)

Northwestern: Towson (3-9), Eastern Michigan (3-9), @ Syracuse (3-9), Miami-Ohio (2-10)

Ohio State: Navy (8-5), USC (12-1), Toledo (3-9) @ Cleveland, New Mexico State (3-9)

Penn State: Akron (5-7), Syracuse (3-9), Temple (5-7), Eastern Illinois (5-7)

Purdue: Toledo (3-9), @ Oregon (10-3), Northern Illinois (6-7), Notre Dame (7-6)

Wisconsin: Northern Illinois (6-7), Wofford (9-3), Fresno State (7-6), @ Hawaii (7-7)

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s Buckeye birthday belongs to former running back Jonathan Wells who turns 30 today.

Wells was born July 21, 1979, in River Ridge, La., and became a star at John Curtis High School in his hometown. He rushed for more than 4,600 yards during his prep career and led his high school team to consecutive state championships as a junior and senior. J-Dub signed with Ohio State in 1998 and was a four-year letterman but didn’t break out until his senior season in 2001 when he rushed for 1,294 yards and 16 TDs. That included 129 yards and three touchdowns against Michigan as the Buckeyes pulled off a 26-20 upset of the 11th-ranked Wolverines. Wells was a fourth-round selection by Houston in the 2002 NFL draft and played four pro seasons, all with the Texans. His best year was as a rookie in 2002 when he led the team with 529 yards and three touchdowns. His career numbers included 1,167 yards and 10 TDs on 374 carries, and 44 receptions for 323 yards and two scores.

Among the other luminaries celebrating birthdays throughout the world this 21st day of July: Fifties singer Kay Starr (“Wheel of Fortune”) is 87; film and TV actor Paul Burke is 83; film director Norman Jewison (“The Cincinnati Kid,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Moonstruck”) is 83; former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno is 71; actor Edward Herrmann is 66; film director Tony Scott (“Top Gun,” “Days of Thunder” and “Crimson Tide”) is 65; former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr is 63; singer songwriter Yusuf Islam (born Steven Georgiou and better known as Cat Stevens) is 61; Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau is 61; former MLB reliever Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky is 60; comedian and Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams is 58; comic actor Jon Lovitz is 52; Olympic gold medalist soccer player Brandi Chastain is 41; model/actress Ali Landry is 36; British pro golfer Paul Casey is 32; actor Josh Hartnett is 31; New York Yankees lefthander CC Sabathia is 29; and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow II is 26.

AND FINALLY …

** In case you missed it, former Ohio State assistant coach Dennis Fryzel died July 6 at his home in Duluth, Ga., after a battle with renal cancer. He was 67. Fryzel was a Cleveland native who was a star receiver at Garfield Heights High School and Denison University. He was an assistant on several college staffs including Columbia, Williams College, Air Force, Syracuse, Tampa and Ohio State, where he served from 1979-81 as Earle Bruce’s defensive coordinator. Fryzel, along with defensive line coach Steve Szabo and defensive backs coach Nick Saban, were fired by Bruce following the Buckeyes’ narrow victory over Navy in the 1981 Liberty Bowl. Fryzel left coaching after that and entered into successful business ventures in both commercial construction sales and telecommunications.

** Former Michigan State football coach and athletic director George Perles plans to enter next year’s Michigan governor’s race. He will place his name into the candidate pool for the Democratic primary. Perles coached the Spartans from 1983-94 and posted a 68-67-4 record. That included the Big Ten championship in 1987 and a Rose Bowl victory over USC.

** SMU is renovating its football offices, and the project includes the new Jerry LeVias Reception Area to honor the College Football Hall of Famer and SMU alum. LeVias was also the first African-American scholarship athlete and second African-American football player in the old Southwest Conference. Longtime Ohio State fans may remember LeVias from the 1968 season opener when he caught 15 passes for 160 yards in the Mustangs’ 35-14 loss to the Buckeyes in Columbus. SMU attempted 76 passes in that game, still a record for an Ohio State opponent.

** It seems like Oregon unveils new uniforms every year. Guess that’s what happens when you are the guinea pig for hometown Nike. Anyway, this year’s Ducks will have the option of 80 different jersey combinations. Not sure why a team that plays a maximum of 13 games needs more than six times that many jersey combinations, but there it is.

** When Nebraska hosts Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 26, it will mark the 300th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium. The streak began in 1962 when the Cornhuskers hosted Missouri in front of a then-capacity crowd of 36,701. Memorial Stadium’s current capacity is 81,067.

** As it often does, ESPN recently made a mountain out of a molehill when Florida head coach Urban Meyer told the Gainesville Sun, “I’m not going to Notre Dame. Ever. I’m going to be the coach at Florida for a long time – as long as they want me.” The hubbub started last December when Meyer mentioned coaching the Fighting Irish would be his “dream job.” Of course, I would put Meyer’s comments about never going to Notre Dame in the same category as Gary Williams’ claim that he would not leave Ohio State for Maryland or Brett Favre’s annual retirement announcement(s).

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