Hits, Misses In OSU Recruiting Class Of ’82

Where were you 27 years ago? If you were an Ohio State football fan, you might have been poring over a list of head coach Earle Bruce’s newest recruits. It was a 23-member class that was top-heavy on in-state talent and split almost evenly between offensive and defensive prospects.

Just a week before signing day in 1982, Bruce was beginning to wonder about his recruiting numbers. The class number was stalled at 17, making the final weekend of official visits crucial for the Buckeyes. Unlike in recent years, though, OSU closed with a big finish, getting six verbal commitments just hours before National Signing Day dawned.

Among that half-dozen were two of the best players in Ohio – offensive lineman Bob Maggs of Youngstown Cardinal Mooney and running back Keith Byars of Dayton Roth. Both players were somewhat of a pleasant surprise for Bruce. Maggs was thought to be leaning toward a commitment to either Notre Dame or Penn State before signing with the Buckeyes. Meanwhile, Byars was thought to be headed for UCLA before deciding to play his college ball a little closer to home.

The other late-deciding members of the class of ’82 were defensive back Scott Leach of Bridgeport, Conn.; linebacker Tom Bose of Stow, Ohio; offensive lineman Tim Odom of Cincinnati Moeller; and defensive lineman Gene Hulshult of Hamilton (Ohio) Badin. Of those four, the Buckeyes seemed to be most impressed with Leach and Hulshult.

Leach picked Ohio State over offers from USC, Tennessee and Syracuse, and was described as a Jack Tatum clone, capable of delivering punishing tackles. Hulshult, meanwhile, was projected as a player ready to make an early impact on the depth chart.

“I think I have a good shot at playing,” Hulshult told Buckeye Sports Bulletin at the time. “I think I can go in and play. Maybe not as a freshman but as a sophomore or junior.”

Despite the fact Bruce often did much of his recruiting in his home state, he uncharacteristically went outside Ohio to sign the two quarterbacks in the 1982 class. Jim Karsatos of Fullerton, Calif., joined Walter Norley of Warrington, Pa., as new Buckeyes. At the same time, Bruce allowed one homegrown signal caller to escape his grasp.

That was Parade All-American QB Bernie Kosar of Youngstown (Ohio) Boardman, who signed with Miami (Fla.). After redshirting with the Hurricanes in 1982 behind starter Jim Kelly, Kosar broke into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in ’83 and led Miami to its first national championship.

Here is a complete list of Ohio State’s recruiting class of 1982. See how many of them you can remember.

Dan Bachorski, OT, Bridgeville (Pa.) Chartiers Valley – Bachorski played both offensive and defense in high school and earned all-state honors as an offensive tackle in 1981 as a senior. Unfortunately, he reported for his first Ohio State about 35 pounds overweight and spent most of his first few years as a Buckeye trying to keep his weight under control. Bachorski finally looked like he had turned the corner during spring practice in 1985 but he left the team shortly thereafter and won no letters during his OSU career.

Roman Bates, RB, Memphis (Tenn.) Hamilton – The 6-0, 207-pound Bates had lots of speed and plenty of power. He could bench press 365 pounds and squat lift 665. As a high school senior, he rushed for 1,616 yards and 19 TDs, and then lettered for the Buckeyes in 1983 and ’84 as both a tailback and fullback. In those two seasons, he totaled 447 yards and averaged a nifty 5.0 yards per carry. But Bates was plagued by injuries and run-ins with the law during his OSU career. He was limited to only a handful of games during his junior season in 1985, and then shortly before the 1986 season opener, Bruce announced he had dismissed Bates from the team for “violating team regulations.”

Tom Bose, LB, Stow, OhioBose was a two-sport from Stow and served as captain of his high school’s football and basketball teams as a senior. He won third-team All-Ohio honors in 1981 as a linebacker but was versatile enough to have also played offensive tackle and tight end for the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, he could not duplicate that success at Ohio State. Bose never lettered for the Buckeyes.

Keith Byars, FB, Dayton (Ohio) Roth – Over the last three decades, Byars is one of the most gifted all-around athletes to play football at Ohio State. He was a four-sport star at Roth and excelled at everything he tries. Byars rushed for 1,701 yards and 14 TDs as a senior; started at forward on two state basketball championship teams; played center field on the baseball team and hit .520 as a junior and .480 as a senior; and ran on the state track championship 440-yard relay team. After spending his freshman season as a backup fullback, Byars broke out as a sophomore with 1,199 yards and 20 TDs in 1983, and then had a junior season of epic proportions. In addition to rushing for 22 touchdowns, he broke the OSU single-season record with 1,764 yards. He also added 42 receptions for 479 yards and two more scores. That year, Byars finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting to Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie. Unfortunately, Byars broke a bone in his foot prior to his senior season in 1985 and was limited to only a handful of games. Nevertheless, he went on to become a first-round draft pick of Philadelphia in the 1986 NFL draft, and Byars enjoyed a 14-year pro career with the Eagles, Dolphins, Patriots and Jets.

Jeff Cargile, RB, Cincinnati (Ohio) Roger Bacon – The 6-1, 203-pounder did a little bit of everything in high school, earning a total of nine letters combined in football, basketball and track. He had 2,715 yards and 25 career TDs for the Spartans, and earned all-city honors as a senior. Because of a glut of talented running backs ahead of him, Cargile switched to defense and earned letters in 1983 and ’84 as backup to starting roverback Sonny Gordon. He left the program before the 1985 season.

Tom Glancy, OL, West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman – Glancy was an accomplished high school athlete who won letters in football, wrestling and track, and he also dabbled in racquetball and swimming. The 6-4, 264-pound was recruited to play offensive guard for the Buckeyes and appeared ready to contend for the starting spot in 1985. But he couldn’t break into the two-deep and eventually left the program with no letters.

Steve Hill, DB, Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) ChoctawhatcheeHill was an Air Force brat who grew up all over the world. He was an excellent two-sport star in high school, and lettered in baseball as well as football for the Buckeyes. Hill hit .310 and played outfield for the baseball Buckeyes to win his only letter in 1985, and he earned three football letters from 1983-85 as a backup cornerback. His athletic career ended in the spring of 1986 when he suffered a freak kneecap injury while playing baseball, but he served the final year of his scholarship as a student-coach for the football team.

Dennis Hueston, LB, Toledo (Ohio) Macomber – At 6-1 and 204 pounds, Hueston was a bit undersized to play linebacker but that didn’t stop the Buckeyes from recruiting him. He was good enough to earn all-city honors on both offense and defense, and he earned third-team All-Ohio mention as an outside linebacker. Hueston lettered for the Buckeyes in 1983, and registered 35 tackles, including a pair of sacks, the following season. He left the team prior to the 1985 season.

John Hutchison, LB, Atwater (Ohio) WaterlooThe 6-3, 236-pound Hutchison was versatile enough to play quarterback and linebacker for his high school team. He began his OSU career as an outside linebacker, but switched to tight end in the spring of 1983. Hutchison spent the remainder of his career backing up starter Ed Taggart, but he was valuable enough to earn three letters from 1984 to ’86.

Gene Hulshult, DL, Hamilton (Ohio) Badin – An all-state defensive tackle for the Rams, the 6-4, 246-pound Hulshult was envisioned as a potential hole-plugger for the Buckeyes. OSU coaches described him as a “fundamentally sound” defensive lineman, and he came from a winning program that posted a record of 33-5 during his three years as a starter. Unfortunately, his college career never got started and he never lettered as a Buckeye.

Thomas “Pepper” Johnson, LB, Detroit (Mich.) MacKenzie – The 6-3, 216-pound all-state terror earned his unusual nickname from an aunt who observed him regularly sprinkling pepper on his breakfast cereal. Johnson teamed with Chris Spielman in 1984 and ’85 to give the Buckeyes one of the most awesome one-two linebacker punches in college football history. Johnson topped 140 tackles in each of his last two seasons and was voted the team’s defensive most valuable player both years. Earning All-America honors as a senior, he was also voted as one of the team captains in both his junior and senior seasons. Johnson was a second-round selection in the 1986 NFL draft by the New York Giants and he anchored a defense that won Super Bowl championships in 1986 and 1990. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and spent 13 seasons in the NFL with the Giants, Browns, Lions and Jets. Since 2000, he has been an assistant coach for the New England Patriots, first with linebackers and now with the defensive line, and has won three more Super Bowl rings with that team. Johnson’s son, Dionte, played four seasons at fullback for Ohio State from 2004-07, and when the younger Johnson was voted team co-captain for the ’07 season, it made the Johnsons only the third father-son combination in school history to serve as captains. The others are Jim and Kirk Herbstreit (1960 and 1992) and James and Jeff Davidson (1964 and 1989).

Jim Karsatos, QB, Fullerton (Calif.) Sunny Hills – After an excellent high school career that included throwing for 4,426 yards and 40 touchdowns, Karsatos took a while to get his Ohio State career going. He was actually part of the team’s 1981 recruiting class, but he underwent knee surgery and delayed his enrollment. He redshirted in ’82, and then suffered a stress fracture in his back the following summer. By the team he had regained his health, Karsatos was locked in behind starter Mike Tomczak. Once Tomczak graduated, though, Karsatos took over and was the Buckeyes’ QB in 1985 and ’86. He became the first Ohio State quarterback ever to enjoy back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons and finished his career with 5,089 yards and 36 TDs. The yardage figure is eighth all-time in school history and the touchdown total ranks sixth.

Mike Kee, LB, Columbus (Ohio) Eastmoor – Kee earned all-state honors as a senior for the Warriors and was named to play in the Ohio North-South All-Star Game. Unfortunately, he blew out a knee in a summer league basketball game and missed the entire 1982 season. Kee returned to letter as a backup linebacker and special teams player in 1983, but injuries limited him to only two games in ’84. Again, he rehabbed and eventually became at starter at linebacker in 1986. Kee totaled 93 tackles, including seven for loss, and also caused three fumbles for the Buckeyes during his senior season in ’86.

Mike Lanese, RB, Mayfield, OhioLanese was recruited as a tailback after rushing for 1,417 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. After displaying his quick moves and penchant for catching the football, it didn’t take the Buckeyes long to move him to a receiver position, however. Lanese was the starting flanker in 1984 and ’85, and finished his career with 73 receptions for 1,175 yards, an average of 16.1 yards per catch. In addition to his accomplishments on the field, Lanese was also an honor student in the classroom. He was a two-time Academic All-American, a National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Scholarship winner and a Rhodes Scholar.

Scott Leach, DB, Bridgeport (Conn.) Bassick – With a 6-3, 214-pound frame and good speed, Leach was a terror in the defensive backfield and earned co-player of the year honors in Connecticut as a high school senior. He blew out his knee as a freshman at Ohio State in 1982 but rehabbed and became a valuable backup and special teams player for the Buckeyes. Leach was a three-year letterwinner from 1984 to ’86.

Byron Lee, LB, Columbus (Ohio) Eastmoor – Lee was overshadowed on a team that also featured All-Americans such as Johnson and Spielman, but he had a workmanlike attitude and was a member of one of college football’s best linebacking corps during the era. Lee was a three-sport star at Eastmoor, and made an almost immediate impact when he joined the Buckeyes. He was a three-year starter on the outside and was consistently the team’s best player at getting after the quarterback. Lee established a new school record in 1984 by sacking Indiana quarterbacks for 32 yards in losses. That mark was equaled by Vernon Gholston in 2007 against Wisconsin, but it has never been bettered. Lee completed his career with 10 sacks for 111 yards in losses.

Darryl Lee, DL, Columbus (Ohio) Marion Franklin – The 6-3, 258-pounder had a perpetual motor and once registered 30 tackles in a high school game. Lee also seemed to be in the right place at the right time, including his freshman year when he blocked a punt in the end zone against Minnesota that gave the Buckeyes a touchdown. The four-year letterman started at defensive tackle in 1985 and ’86, and totaled 69 tackles, including 9.0 for loss and 3.0 sacks, during those two seasons.

Bob Maggs, OL, Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney – The 6-5, 274-pounder earned prep All-America honors at Mooney, and the Cardinals posted a 22-1 record during the two seasons he was a starter. Maggs started his career as a tackle, but switched to center when starter Kirk Lowdermilk broke his leg eight games into the 1984 season. Maggs continued his stranglehold on the position for the remainder of his career and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in both 1985 and ’86.

Tom McCormick, OL, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward – Long before nearly every offensive tackle prospect stood 6-5 or taller, the 6-7 McCormick was one of the tallest OSU prospects at the time. He earned first-team All-Ohio honors and had exceptionally quick feet for a big man. McCormick couldn’t crack the lineup with the Buckeyes, however, and never lettered.

Walter Norley, QB, Warrington (Pa.) Germantown AcademyNo one really knows just how good Norley could have become at Ohio State. After throwing for more than 2,100 yards and 25 TDs in 2½ high school seasons, the 6-3, 196-pounder broke his collarbone in the fifth game of his senior season and missed the rest of the year. Then, before he got to OSU, Norley injured his back in a summer all-star game and decided to delay his enrollment for a year. Norley never became a Buckeye and eventually enrolled at Georgia, where he was a backup quarterback and won his only letter in 1983.

Tim Odom, OL, Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller – Odom had a superlative high school career, earning All-Ohio and All-America honors as a guard and helping the Crusaders to back-to-back state championships in 1980 and ’81. When he got to OSU, the Buckeyes moved him to center where he was a backup to Lowdermilk and Maggs in 1984. Odom won his only letter than season as a chronic knee injury forced him to miss the entire ’85 season and eventually give up football.

Mark Pfister, LB, Upper Arlington, OhioPfister was a talented 6-2, 232-pound bruiser who starred at linebacker in high school, helping the Golden Bears to a three-year record of 28-4-1. Power was one of his attributes with a bench press in excess of 400 pounds and a squat lift of 625. Unfortunately, a litany of injuries followed Pfister throughout his OSU career. He suffered an ulcer, a severely sprained knee, a separation shoulder, a hand injury and a second shoulder separation before finally giving up the game after lettering in 1983 and ’84.

Rich Spangler, K, Geneva, OhioSpangler was a gangly 6-2, 180-pound kicking specialist that more than one teammate initially mistook for a team manager. By the time he had graduated four years later, he was one of Ohio State’s all-time leading scorers. Spangler kicked 39 field goals during his career, which still ranks fifth on the school’s all-time list, and booted a 52-yarder in the 1985 Rose Bowl against USC, the longest field goal in Ohio State bowl history. Spangler also benefited from a potent OSU offense during his career to convert 177 of 184 PAT attempts. Both numbers remain school records nearly a quarter-century after Spangler last kicked for the Buckeyes. His 294 career points still ranks sixth all-time behind Mike Nugent (356), Pete Johnson (348), Dan Stultz (342), Keith Byars (300) and Vlade Janakievski (295).

Barry Walker, FB, Lancaster, OhioWalker maximized his talents despite suffering several injuries and struggling with asthma throughout his playing career. He rushed for 1,129 yards as a high school senior and also set an Ohio prep shot put record at 69 feet, 10¾ inches. When he got to the Buckeyes, he flip-flopped between fullback and tailback and suffered shoulder injuries as well as a couple of concussions. Nevertheless, he shouldered on and won four letters between 1983 and ’86. He also started at the fullback position in 1984, rushing for 154 yards on just 30 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per carry.

John Wooldridge, RB, Akron (Ohio) Central-Hower – Wooldridge was an All-Ohio running back in high school and totaled more than 1,500 yards and 22 TDs as a senior. A blend of speed (4.42 in the 40) and power (squat lift of 600 pounds), he became the perfect backfield complement to Byars. Wooldridge was a four-year letterman and took over the starting tailback spot when Byars was sidelined for most of the 1985 season, leading the Buckeyes with 820 yards that year. The 5-11, 190-pounder returned to a backup position during his senior year as sophomore Vince Workman took over the starting tailback spot. Wooldridge finished his OSU career with 1,483 yards and four TDs.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Among the worldwide luminaries celebrating birthdays this 5th day of March: Hockey Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt is 91; former MLB catcher and manager Del Crandall is 79; Eighties TV actor James B. Sikking (Lt. Howard Hunter in “Hill Street Blues”) is 75; actor and former NFL player Fred “The Hammer” Williamson is 71; former MLB reliever Kent Tekulve is 62; reggae musician Eddy Grant (“Electric Avenue”) is 61; Dire Straits keyboardist Alan Clark is 57; comedian/magician Penn Jillette is 54; The Proclaimers frontmen Charlie and Craig Reid (“I’m Gonna Be 500 Miles”) are 47; Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin is 43; Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante is 39; former MLB outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds is 38; St. Louis Cardinals reliever Ryan Franklin is 36; actor Kevin Connolly (Eric Murphy on “Entourage”) is 35; actress Eva Mendes is 35; actress Jolene Blalock (Commander T’Pol in “Star Trek: Enterprise”) is 34; model Niki Taylor is 34; Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko is 33; and Cleveland Cavaliers guard/forward Wally Szczerbiak is 32.

Today also marks the 46th anniversary of the country version of “When The Music Died.” On March 5, 1963, county legend Patsy Cline was killed when her small airplane crashed in a forest just outside of Camden, Tenn., about 90 miles from Nashville. Cline, who recorded such standards as “Walking After Midnight,” “I Fall To Pieces,” “She’s Got You” and “Crazy,” was only 30.

Others who have passed into history on March 5 over the years include: Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev; Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin; St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Pepper Martin; actor Jay Silverheels (he portrayed Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s faithful companion); actor William Powell; and comic actor John Belushi.

I WISH THEY WERE JOKING … BUT THEY’RE NOT

Did you know there are currently three bills in committee in the U.S. House of Representatives concerning the Bowl Championship Series? Unbelievable given the economic circumstances we find ourselves in, but true nonetheless.

One bill, sponsored by Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.), would withhold federal funds from any Division I-A school that doesn’t participate in a playoff. Another, whose main sponsor is Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), would prohibit a national championship game on the grounds that it was unfair and deceptive. The third would reject the BCS as an illegal restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and it is sponsored by Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii).

Honestly, is this the kind of thing we sent you people to Washington to do? I humbly suggest you write to these three nimrods and tell them to get their eyes back on the ball – and I don’t mean football.

AND FINALLY

** That poor 40 time in the NFL Combine seems to have sent Malcolm Jenkins’ stock plummeting like that of AIG. Before the draft, Jenkins was projected by most analysts as a top-10 pick. On Monday, Jamie Dukes of the NFL Network released his latest mock draft and Jenkins is nowhere to be found in the first round. Dukes projects Beanie Wells and James Laurinaitis as the lone Ohio State players to be taken in the opening round – Wells to Philadelphia at No. 21 and Laurinaitis to Baltimore at No. 26.

** NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. evidently agrees with Dukes. Kiper had Jenkins at No. 12 on his “Big Board” before the combine. After the workouts in Indianapolis, Jenkins dropped off that board which features Kiper’s top 26 draft prospects. Still, Kiper rates Jenkins as the No. 1 cornerback available this year. “Jenkins has all the qualities you look for except topflight catch-up speed, which is an obvious concern,” Kiper wrote last week after the combine. “Even so, he’s too good an overall performer to pass up in the middle portion of Round 1. Hopefully, he’ll run a little better than the 4.55-second 40 time he posted at the combine workout.”

** For anyone who still thinks Joe Paterno entertains any notion of retirement, look at what former Penn State receiver Derrick Williams told reporters at the NFL combine: “Joe Paterno’s one of those coaches that he eats, sleeps, dreams everything about football. That’s what’s keeping him going. He’s very young at heart. We know that if he was going to retire, something would have really, really had to been wrong, like he died on the field or something like that. I never even thought about it. I thought this year might have been the year and the next thing I hear is, ‘I can’t wait to run out on the field next year.’”

** Some major college programs are interested in playing marquee series while others are not. Every Ohio State fan knows the Buckeyes will play Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech and Oklahoma in the coming years, while LSU and West Virginia recently announced their home-and-home series will begin in 2010. Then there are schools such as Missouri and Wisconsin. The Tigers have announced they will fill out their 2009 schedule with Furman while the Badgers completed their 2011 slate with South Dakota. I understand the reasoning behind scheduling I-AA opposition, but schools should at least put representative teams from the so-called Football Championship Subdivision. Furman went 7-5 last year and South Dakota was 6-5.

** One of the most talked-about college quarterback prospects of the future is David Sills of Bear, Del. He is currently working with QB tutor Steve Clarkson, who has also mentored the sons of Wayne Gretzky and Joe Montana, who share quarterbacking duties at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, Calif. The most unusual thing about Sills? The thing that currently sets him apart from Clarkson’s other pupils? He’s 12.

** When it’s time for me to go, I think I’d like Liev Schreiber to give the eulogy. In case you didn’t know, Schreiber is the narrator of all those great HBO sports documentaries.

The Best OSU Football Player Ever?

Whenever Ohio State fans gather to debate the best player ever to wear the Scarlet and Gray, several names will enter the conversation.

When the time comes to discuss the greatest individual performance in the long and storied history of the Buckeyes, however, no one can match the performance of Vic Janowicz on a late October afternoon in 1950.

Janowicz, who would have celebrated his 79th birthday today, was one of those rare individuals who excelled at everything he ever tried to do. But even his great talent reached new levels when the Buckeyes hosted Iowa on Oct. 28, 1950.

In just one afternoon, the junior speedster scored two touchdowns, threw for four scores, recovered two fumbles each of which led to OSU touchdowns, was responsible for kicking 10 extra points, kicked off eight times, carried the ball six times for a 5.1-yard average and completed 5 of 6 pass attempts for 128 yards.

Once the dust had cleared, Ohio State owned an 83-21 victory over the Hawkeyes – a point total that still stands as the most ever scored by the Buckeyes against a Big Ten opponent – and Janowicz was on his way to becoming only the third underclassman to win the Heisman Trophy.

By the time he arrived in Columbus to play for head coach Wes Fesler, Janowicz was already well-known throughout Ohio.

Born Victor Felix Janowicz on Feb. 26, 1930, he was a triple-threat player at Elyria High School, starring on offense, defense and special teams. There was nothing Janowicz couldn’t do on a football field. His speed made him a threat to score a touchdown every time he touched the ball as a halfback or kick returner, and he played safety on defense with reckless abandon. His athletic talents were so great that he was also his team’s punter and placekicker.

Although recruiting was not followed at the frenzied pace that it is today, Janowicz’s exploits in high school made him one of the most highly sought-after prospects in the nation. More than 60 colleges and universities offered full scholarships, many of them promising to build their entire teams around Janowicz.

However, the Buckeyes had a little something extra going for them as they pursued the services of “Vic the Quick.” The previous year, an organization known as the Frontliners was formed to help recruit top talent for the Ohio State football program. Alumni Association field secretary J. Edward Weaver – who would later serve as the school’s athletic director from 1970-77 – joined with longtime assistant coach Ernie Godfrey to form the group comprised of prominent alumni, top businessmen and well-heeled program supporters. The group’s main purpose was to help direct top high school talent to Columbus.

One of the group’s members was property developer, thoroughbred breeder and Pittsburgh Pirates owner John W. Galbreath, who took an immediate liking to Janowicz. The feeling was evidently mutual and the Buckeyes were able to land one of the most prized high school recruits in many years.

Janowicz first arrived at Ohio State in the fall of 1948 and immediately made a name for himself on the Buckeyes’ freshman squad. The following season, he was one of several talented sophomores who worked their way into playing time with other talented players such as Pandel Savic, Fred “Curly” Morrison, Ray Hamilton and Jimmy Clark. Janowicz saw playing time on offense and defense as OSU had one of its best seasons in many years. He scored his first collegiate touchdown during a 46-7 win over Indiana, and later scored again during a 30-17 homecoming victory against Illinois.

The Buckeyes finished the 1949 season tied for the Western Conference championship and earned their first Rose Bowl bid in 29 years. Best of all, they got to avenge their 28-0 loss to California in the 1921 game by getting a fourth-quarter field goal from Jimmy Hauge for a 17-14 victory over the Bears. Janowicz didn’t see much action on offense in the contest, carrying the ball only once for a gain of just 1 yard. But he managed to play well on defense, picking off an interception early in the game and returning it 44 yards.

Years later, Savic would remember that “Vic’s interception and return turned things around for us, and it really took the spirit out of California’s attack.”

That kind of game-changing play would be in full display the following season as Janowicz took center stage for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State had lost its 1950 season opener, a 32-27 decision to Southern Methodist. The team regrouped, however, and rattled off three straight victories, outscoring Pittsburgh, Indiana and Minnesota by a combined 115-21 score. But the Buckeyes were just getting started when Iowa invaded Ohio Stadium on an unseasonably warm late October afternoon.

The annual Dad’s Day crowd of 82,174 was the third-largest ever in the Horseshoe at the time, and they had barely had a chance to settle into their seats before Janowicz lit the fuse on the offensive fireworks display.

The drama of the game was packed into the early minutes. Iowa won the toss and elected to receive but that allowed Ohio State to choose defense of the south goal, giving them the advantage of a gusting wind. That decision paid off quickly when Janowicz’s opening kickoff sailed far over the Iowa kick returners’ heads, hitting 10 yards behind the end zone and rolling to the cinder track that encircled the playing field.

That gave Iowa the ball at its own 20-yard line, and when Jerry Faske fumbled on the first play, Janowicz pounced and recovered the loose football at the 23.

The Buckeyes quickly moved to the 11-yard line and then Janowicz took over. He tried to break through a hole in the line on a trap play, but was hemmed in about the 7 by four Iowa defenders. But after making two of them miss and getting a block from Julius Whitman, Janowicz steamed over the last Iowa defender and into the end zone for the touchdown. He added the extra point and the Buckeyes were off and running with a 7-0 lead.

When the Hawkeyes got the ball back, they didn’t do much with it. They had a motion penalty on first down, a short run on second down and an incomplete pass on third down to force a punt. Iowa punter Glenn Drahn lofted a beautiful spiral into the crystal blue sky, sending Janowicz back in full gallop to field the kick. But Drahn’s effort was too good. His 70-yard boot had not only sailed farther than Janowicz had anticipated, it also outkicked the Hawkeye punt coverage.

Janowicz circled back to field the punt at his own 39-yard line, turned upfield, got a couple of key blocks and didn’t stop until he was in the end zone with a 61-yard touchdown return. He added the PAT again, and the Buckeyes enjoyed a 14-0 advantage only three minutes and 29 seconds into the contest.

And they were just getting warmed up.

On Iowa’s next play from scrimmage, the Hawkeyes fumbled again and Janowicz recovered at the 26-yard line. Three plays later, he ran wide to the right on what appeared to be a sweep but quickly stopped, jumped and threw a pass to Tony Curcillo, who was waiting in the end zone and made a leaping catch for the touchdown.

That made it Ohio State 21, Iowa 0, with 9:50 still remaining in the first quarter.

“It was like a dream,” Janowicz would say years later. “Everything we tried just seemed to work. It seemed like every time we got the ball, we scored.”

The advantage swelled by two more scores after a 43-yard run by Walt Klevay and a fumble recovery in the end zone by OSU lineman Jerry Manz. Janowicz added the PAT after both scores to give the Buckeyes a 35-0 cushion – and more than three minutes still remained in the first quarter.

The Hawkeyes counted seven possessions in the first quarter alone, and had the ball for more than 11 minutes to less than four for the Buckeyes. But Iowa fumbled away four of their possessions, and the three others resulted in punts, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Janowicz.

A holding penalty early in the second quarter momentarily stalled the Buckeyes, but on the next play, Janowicz flipped a short pass into the flat to Bob Grimes. The Buckeye receiver gathered in the ball, stopped for a moment to let an Iowa defender fly by, and then finished off a 40-yard touchdown play by outrunning a pair of Hawkeyes to the end zone. Janowicz added the extra point for a 42-0 lead.

As if the score wasn’t already out of hand, touchdown No. 7 for the Buckeyes featured some trickery. After a three-and-out on their next possession, Iowa punted to Fred Bruney, who fielded the ball on his own 13-yard line. As he scampered to his left, teammate Bob Demmel came from the other side of the field to offer some interference. However, when the two crossed paths, Bruney shuffled the ball to Demmel, who never broke stride.

Most of the Hawkeyes continued to track Bruney, and by the time they discovered what had happened, Demmel was well on his way to an 87-yard touchdown romp. Janowicz added another PAT, pushing the Buckeyes’ advantage to 49-0.

Ohio State tacked on one more touchdown in the second quarter. This time, faced with third-and-15 at the Iowa 25, Janowicz threw a strike to Richard Anderson in the end zone, who pivoted at the exact time the ball arrived.

The touchdown pass made it 55-0 in favor of the Buckeyes before Janowicz pushed his point-after kick attempt wide. An account the next day in The Columbus Dispatch characterized the missed kick was “just to show the guy is human – perhaps.”

The Hawkeyes finally got on the scoreboard at the 9:43 mark of the second period, tallying a short touchdown pass, and then they got another score on the final play of the second quarter to make it 55-14 at the break and close what was probably the most frenzied first half in Ohio Stadium history. The teams had combined for 10 touchdowns, including two on punt returns and one defensive score. The first half also featured 69 points, 476 total offensive yards, eight turnovers and 12 penalties.

Janowicz had already accounted for five TDs in the first 30 minutes. He had rushed twice for 19 yards, including his 11-yard score; passed four times, completing three (all for TDs) for 77 yards; and returned a punt 61 yards for another score. He also punted for a 33-yard average, kicked off nine times and converted seven PAT kicks.

The second half was simply a cherry on top of the sundae. The Buckeyes scored four more touchdowns that afternoon, including a third-quarter pass from Janowicz to Fred Bruney that covered 43 yards.

For the game, Iowa committed 12 turnovers, losing seven fumbles and five interceptions. Meanwhile, Ohio State could easily have cracked the century mark on the scoreboard because the Buckeyes turned the ball over three times on three interceptions, and also had a punt blocked.

Nevertheless, it was one of the most high-scoring afternoons in stadium history. The Buckeyes wouldn’t crack the 60-point barrier again until the 1969 season opener against Texas Christian, a 62-0 blowout. And they wouldn’t break 70 again until a 70-6 win over Northwestern in October 1981.

But an Ohio State team has not topped the 80-point mark since that late October day in 1950. Likewise, the program has never again witnessed a single player account for points by running, throwing, returning a punt and kicking an extra point since Janowicz achieved the feat against the Hawkeyes.

Janowicz went on to earn the 1950 Silver Football Trophy, symbolic of the Big Ten’s most valuable player, and then became the school’s second Heisman Trophy winner. He won the award in a landslide, more than doubling the vote total of his nearest competitor, SMU senior halfback Kyle Rote.

After leaving Ohio State following the 1951 season, Janowicz spurned offers to play in the NFL and instead played two seasons of major league baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Following the 1954 season, however, Janowicz decided to return to football and signed a contract with the Washington Redskins.

After easing his way back into the game in ’54 primarily as the Redskins’ kicker, Janowicz appeared to be back to form the following year. He rushed for 397 yards and four touchdowns, caught 11 receptions for 149 yards and two more TDs and booted six field goals and 28 PATs as Washington finished 8-4, just a game and a half behind Cleveland for the NFL East Division championship.

The following summer, Janowicz was primed for a breakout season but it was not meant to be. During training camp in 1956, he was nearly killed in an automobile accident. He suffered serious head injuries that left him partially paralyzed, ending his athletic career.

But Janowicz did not give up. After years of rehabilitation, he overcame the paralysis and spent many years as administrative assistant to the state auditor.

He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976, and one year later was in the inaugural class of inductees into the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1992, he received perhaps his highest honor when the Columbus Downtown Quarterback Club named him Ohio State’s greatest athlete of the previous 50 years.

Janowicz continued to be much in demand as a public speaker, especially at schools where he would cheerfully display his Heisman Trophy. He took great delight in telling children to rub the back leg of the player on the trophy for good luck.

He continued to tour the state as a goodwill ambassador for the university until his death from cancer on Feb. 27, 1996 – just one day after his 66th birthday.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s other Buckeye birthday belongs to former Ohio State basketball player Treg Lee.

Treg Lee was born Feb. 26, 1968, in Cleveland, Ohio, and named for his father’s four best friends – Tony, Ronnie, Eddie and Greg. Lee became an all-state performer and Class AAA player of the year at St. Joseph’s High School, leading the Vikings to the state semifinals as a senior while averaging 18.8 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists. He also earned consensus prep All-America honors in 1987 and was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. Lee signed with Ohio State but missed his freshman season as a Prop 48 academic casualty. He eased into the lineup as a sophomore and became a valuable backup as junior before starting at power forward for the Big Ten champion Buckeyes in 1991. Lee is probably best remembered for his game-winning shot that capped a terrific 97-95 overtime victory over Indiana, a game that is replayed often on ESPN Classic and the Big Ten Network’s “Greatest Games” series. Lee finished his OSU career with 643 points and 347 rebounds. After college, Lee played professionally in the Continental Basketball Association and also in Europe. Recently, he has been running General Lee Sports, his own basketball skills and fundamental business in the Cleveland area, and also officiating high school games.

Other luminaries sharing birthdays this 26th day of February: former game show host Tom Kennedy is 82; R&B legend Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino is 81; Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is 81; political columnist Robert Novak is 75; Sixties TV actress Marta Kristen (Judy Robinson in the original “Lost in Space”) is 64; Detroit Wheels frontman Mitch Ryder (born William S. Levise Jr.) is 64; contemporary crooner Michael Bolton is 56; Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is 51; Grammy winning singer Erykah Badu (born Erica Abi Wright) is 38; former NFL running back Marshall Faulk is 36; and eight-time Olympic gold medal swimming Jenny Thompson is 36.

A distinguished group of late celebrities also shared Feb. 26 as their birthday. They include English dramatist Christopher Marlowe; French author Victor Hugo; eponymous jeans maker Levi Strauss; American frontiersman William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody; Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander; comedic entertainer Jackie Gleason; actor Tony Randall; music legend Johnny Cash; and actor William Frawley, who has been on television almost nonstop since the early 1950s. Frawley, who died in 1966 at the age of 79, played Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy.”

AND FINALLY

** NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. says that the four top quarterbacks taken this year will be underclassmen because this year’s crop of senior QBs is “the worst senior quarterback group” he has ever seen. Even so, Kiper doesn’t have much good to say about the guys who will follow Matthew Stafford of Georgia, projected to be the overall No. 1 pick to Detroit. Kiper said that both USC’s Mark Sanchez and Kansas State’s Josh Freeman should have stayed in school – “Freeman is a roll of the dice. Same with Sanchez.” – and Nate Davis of Ball State had a poor finish to his college career and measured small at the combine. Kiper’s idea of a quarterback steal in this draft? Curtis Painter of Purdue, who is expected to be taken in the late rounds.

** Bracketology warning! Beware about picking some Cinderella team like Arkansas-Little Rock to go far in the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans are currently 20-7 and leading the Sun Belt West. But you should also be aware that leading scorer Steven Moore, who had 10 performances of 16 points or more this season, was recently dismissed from the team.

** Like father like son – in some things. Texas Tech basketball coach Pat Knight was suspended for one game following his complaints about the officiating after his team lost a 79-73 decision Feb. 21 to Texas A&M. That loss sent the Red Raiders’ record to 12-15 in their first full season under Knight. Know how many losing seasons his old man had during his 42-year Hall of Fame career? Two. His 1971 Army team was 11-13 and his 2006 Texas Tech team went 15-17.

** Speaking of coaching as a family business, new Illinois State head coach Brock Spack has hired Dan Shula as an offensive assistant. Shula is the son of former Cincinnati Bengals coach Dave Shula, nephew of former Alabama head coach Mike Shula, and grandson of former Miami Dolphins head coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Shula.

** Sign of the economic times? Northern Iowa has announced it will drop its baseball program after this season, saving the university approximately $400,000. As a point of reference, new NIU athletic director Troy Dannen was hired with a four-year contract that pays him $155,000 annually. Also, football coach Mark Farley, who has been in Cedar Falls for seven seasons, recently was given a five-year extension on a deal that is worth $220,000 with additional incentives based on team athletic and academic performance.

** Some top-rated high school football players have yet to sign national letters of intent and already the 2010 recruiting season is well under way. Texas head coach Mack Brown just received a verbal from cornerback Carrington Byndum of Lufkin, Texas. That gives Brown a even dozen commitments for next year already.

Carter, Spielman Crowned 1984 Recruiting Class

I thought I’d step into the Recruiting Wayback Machine again and take a look back a quarter-century ago at the Ohio State class of 1984.

Twenty-five years ago, the Buckeyes signed 25 high school players to national letters of intent and several of them turned to be stars. Two became among the top performers at their position in school history – some would even argue the best wide receiver and linebacker to ever suit up for the Scarlet and Gray.

OSU head coach Earle Bruce had just completed his fifth season in Columbus and was in the middle of a seven-year streak of three-loss campaigns, a stretch that had earned the coach the derisive nickname of “Ol’ 9-3 Earle.” However, lost over time is the fact the 1983 team came within an eyelash of contending for a national championship.

The Buckeyes went 9-3 that season, but their three losses came by a total of just 13 points, all to ranked teams and all on the road. As a result, OSU finished ninth in the final AP poll that season and eighth in the UPI rankings. The team that year featured such future NFL stars as offensive tackle William Roberts, tight end John Frank, center Kirk Lowdermilk, linebacker Pepper Johnson and quarterback Mike Tomczak. Just those five players alone went on to combine for 59 NFL seasons and seven Super Bowl championship rings.

Roberts and Frank were among those graduating after the 1983 season, so Bruce and his coaching staff put heavy recruiting emphasis on restocking the roster with offensive linemen and tight ends. At the same time, OSU broke tradition in a couple of different areas. The Buckeyes did well in the Cincinnati area, where Bruce had experienced trouble keeping top players away from Notre Dame, and they uncharacteristically signed a couple of junior college standouts.

Two of the most highly rated players came from Ohio. Recruiting analysts are often a hit-and-miss bunch, but even the most myopic of the gurus could have foretold future greatness for receiver Cris Carter of Middletown and Chris Spielman of Massillon Washington.

That duo was the foundation upon which the Buckeyes’ class of ’84 earned the grade of “B to B-plus” from West Virginia recruiting expert Doug Huff. Illinois was given Big Ten honors followed by OSU and Michigan in a tie for second place. The Illini, who were defending conference champions, were given top marks for signing so many college-ready athletes. Head coach Mike White signed a whopping 12 JUCO transfers, including 11 from California.

In addition to landing Carter and Spielman, Huff gave Ohio State upgrades for landing a bevy of talented offensive line prospects. He listed junior college transfer Ron Paulsen and Chicago-area high school star Mike Durham as major “gets” for the Buckeyes. (If you recall either player, consider yourself a real student of Ohio State recruiting history.)

Bruce and his staff followed their tried and true recruiting philosophy in 1984, concentrating most of their efforts on Ohio-grown talent. As a result, 20 members of the class came from the Buckeye State with OSU signing one player each from Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania as well as junior colleges in Kansas and California.

As with nearly every recruiting season, though, the Buckeyes couldn’t sweep Ohio completely clean. They fought hard for linebacker Frank Stams of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, but it those days it was extremely different to pry any credible SVSM player away from Notre Dame. (After all, St. Vincent-St. Mary also plays as the Fighting Irish). Stams indeed signed with Notre Dame and became an All-America defensive tackle, helping those Irish win the 1988 national championship. He later had a seven-year NFL career with the Rams, Browns and Chiefs.

Other top-rated Ohio players who got away from the Buckeyes in 1984 included Akron Garfield running back Charles Gladman, who signed with Pittsburgh, and Cleveland St. Joseph tight end Mike Kovac, who signed with Michigan. Gladman became one of only nine Pitt running backs to rush for 2,000 or more yards in his career. Kovac, meanwhile, never lettered for the Wolverines.

Huff rated USC’s class as the nation’s best for an all-around effort by head coach Ted Tollner and his staff. The Trojans were able to sign national player of the year Ryan Knight, a running back from Riverside (Calif.) Rubidoux. Knight lettered four years for the Trojans, but never turned out to be anything more than a backup. (His younger brother, Sammy, also played at USC and has been an NFL safety since 1997.) Also signing with the Trojans that season was quarterback Rodney Peete of Shawnee Mission, Kan.

Here is a complete list of Ohio State’s recruiting class of 1984. See if you can remember some of these names.

Tom Anderzack, OLB, Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic – Anderzack was an athletic prospect who had been named Toledo’s defensive player of the year during his senior season. He was 6-3 and 210 pounds, a sprinter on the track team and president of his junior class. Unfortunately, none of that success carried over to his college career. He redshirted in 1984, played only sparingly during the next two seasons and never lettered for Ohio State.

Sean Bell, DB, Middletown, Ohio – Bell was the younger brother of Todd Bell, who starred for the Buckeyes from 1977-80 and then had a pro career with the Chicago Bears. Sean was the total package at 6-2, 185 pounds and 4.5 speed, but he could never match his older brother’s performance. Sean was a three-year letterman for OSU from 1985-87, but a broken leg suffered during the first week of fall practice in ’86 hindered his progress and he could never crack the starting lineup.

Mike Bloemer, OL, Cincinnati (Ohio) Aiken – An All-Ohio and honorable mention All-America offensive tackle, Bloemer was another excellent all-around prospect from the class of ’84. In addition to football, he played basketball for the Falcons and was an honor student, graduating 11th in a class of 345. Bloemer redshirted in 1984 and fought his way to No. 2 on the depth chart at tackle before an ankle injury slowed his progress. He never lettered for the Buckeyes.

Jim Carroll, TE, Berea, Ohio – The 6-4, 238-pound Carroll was supposed to be in line to succeed Frank at tight end after catching 51 passes during his high school career, including 20 for 350 yards as a senior. He saw action in two games as a true freshman in 1984 and entered the ’85 season in contention for the starting position. But he never earned a letter at OSU.

Cris Carter, WR, Middletown, Ohio – Carter exploded onto the scene as a true freshman in 1984 and continued to get better every year he was a Buckeye. He led the team in receiving as a sophomore and junior, becoming the first OSU receiver ever to record a 1,000-yard season when he caught a school-record 69 passes for 1,127 yards in 1986. Improper dealings with a sports agent cost him his entire senior year, but despite playing only three seasons, Carter remains second all-time at Ohio State in career receptions with 168. He went on to a Hall of Fame-worthy career in the NFL, earning eight Pro Bowl berths in 16 seasons with Minnesota, Philadelphia and Miami. Carter ranks third in league history in receptions (1,101), fourth in touchdown catches (130) and seventh in receiving yards (13,899). In 2009, his son Duron will join Ohio State as a receiver.

Gary Clift, QB, Brunswick, Ohio – Clift was a three-sport star in high school, but excelled as a dual-threat quarterback on the gridiron. He completed 190 passes for 2,286 yards during his final two years for the Blue Devils and added another 12 rushing touchdowns as a senior. A torn tendon in his throwing shoulder that required surgery forced Clift to move to defense in 1985 and then to a receiver position in the spring of ’86. He remained there for the remainder of his OSU career and Clift won his only letter in 1987.

Jeff Compton, PK, Ottawa (Ohio) Ottawa-Glandorf – Compton was a converted soccer player who didn’t play football in high school until his junior year. He was a quick learner, however, and earned a scholarship based on making 12 of 15 field-goal attempts as a senior. Compton was locked in behind veteran kickers Rich Spangler and Matt Frantz during the early part of his career and wound up never lettering for the Buckeyes.

Jim Davidson, OLB, Westerville (Ohio) North – The 6-5, 225-pounder was the son of former OSU captain and All-America tackle Jim Davidson. Jim Jr. earned second-team All-Ohio honors as a high school senior and was also a standout in the classroom, graduating as valedictorian of his class and serving as president of the National Honor Society. He lettered in 1985 as an outside linebacker, but was moved to the offensive line to bolster depth there. Davidson eventually was forced to accept a medical waiver prior to the 1987 season because of chronic neck and shoulder injuries. His brother, Jeff, later became a two-year starter at guard for the Buckeyes in 1988 and ’89 and is currently offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.

Dino Dawson, WR, Detroit (Mich.) Cooley – Dawson was a quick all-star prospect who had 4.46 speed and was a championship hurdler. He caught 48 passes for 925 yards and 12 TDs as a senior, and was projected along with Carter to give the Buckeyes a pair of deep threats for many seasons to come. After lettering in 1984, however, Dawson left OSU and transferred to Kent State, where he led the team in receptions in 1989. Dawson finally earned his degree from Wayne State in 1991 and began a college coaching career that has included stops at Wayne State, Illinois State, Bowling Green, Toledo, Cincinnati, Tuskegee and Illinois. He is currently offensive coordinator at Alcorn State.

Mike Durham, OL, Evanston (Ill.) Loyola Academy – An excellent prospect who was a two-year starter at Loyola Academy, the 6-6, 254-pound Durham earned Chicago area All-Catholic and Catholic All-America honors in 1983. Injuries plagued him throughout his OSU career and he never lettered.

Alex Higdon, TE, Cincinnati (Ohio) Princeton – The 6-5, 234-pound Higdon was an excellent all-around athlete. In addition to football, he played forward on the Vikings’ basketball team, was a pitcher on the baseball team, threw the discus and ran hurdles for the track team and even dabbled in boxing. After a prep All-America career, he became a four-year letterman for the Buckeyes, who used his versatility all over the field. Higdon won his first letter as a backup tight end, his second as a defensive tackle and his third as an outside linebacker before returning to tight end and taking over the starting position as a senior. Higdon tied for second on the team in receptions in 1987, grabbing 26 balls for 252 yards.

Frank Hoak, WR/TE, Richeyville (Pa.) Bethlehem Center – Hoak was another excellent all-around athlete in the class of ’84. The 6-2, 205-pounder caught 100 passes for 1,989 yards and 24 TDs during his high school career, punted for a 38.1-yard average and converted 45 of 50 PAT attempts. Hoak, who is the nephew of former OSU tight end and assistant coach Fred Pagac, also lettered in basketball and baseball and enjoyed playing golf. After redshirting in 1984, Hoak was switched to the fullback position and spent a year there before returning to tight. He won his only letter in 1987.

Jamie Holland, WR, Butler County (Kan.) Community College – Holland was a speedster originally from Wake Forest, N.C., who became a JUCO star. He had been an all-state running back in high school before being converted to a receiver who used his speed to score 11 touchdown on only 31 receptions in 1983. Holland won his only OSU letter in 1986. That year, he led the Buckeyes in kickoff returns, averaging 20.9 yards on 24 runbacks. Holland also caught eight passes for 142 yards and one TD in ’86.

Tim James, OL, Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder – James was following in the footsteps of his father, Dan, who played center for Woody Hayes at Ohio State from 1956-58 and then spent eight years in the NFL, mostly with San Francisco. Tim earned All-Ohio honors as a guard for Elder, and was an athletic prospects who also enjoyed softball, golf and rugby. He redshirted in ’84, but was considered a candidate for one of the starting guard positions the following season. It was not to be, however, and James never won an OSU letter.

Mike Madigan, OL, Wapakoneta, Ohio – Madigan was twice named his league’s lineman of the year and he earned honorable mention all-state honors as well as being named to play in the Ohio North-South All-Star Game. He redshirted in 1984, and then broke his arm during spring practice in ’85. He never lettered at Ohio State.

Michael McCray, OLB, Dayton (Ohio) Dunbar – McCray had an excellent prep career at two different high schools. As a freshman and sophomore, he attended Dayton Roth and started on the team that won the 1982 state championship in basketball. He later transferred to Dunbar, where he was a prep All-American in basketball and track. McCray earned three letters during his OSU career and was a two-year starter at linebacker in 1986 and ’87. But he is probably best remembered for recovering a fumble in the 1987 Michigan game, a turnover that began Ohio State’s comeback from a 13-0 deficit. McCray’s recovery led to a 61-yard touchdown pass from Tupa to Everett Ross and touched off the Buckeyes’ eventual 23-20 win in Bruce’s final game as head coach.

Ron Paulsen, OL, Norwalk (Calif.) Cerritos Community College – After an all-state career as an offensive tackle in Long Beach, Calif., Paulsen played two JUCO seasons before joining the Buckeyes in ’84. He was redshirted that year with an eye toward contending for one of the starting guard positions the following season. But a knee injury that required minor surgery set his progress back, and although Paulsen managed to win a letter in 1985, he left the team before the ’86 season began.

Scott Powell, QB, North Canton (Ohio) Hoover – Powell first made a name for himself as an outside linebacker, but when the Vikings needed a quarterback, he switched positions before his senior year and completed 119 of 220 passes for 1,580 yards and 17 TDs. That was good enough for the Buckeyes to offer him a scholarship, which he accepted. Powell was equally versatile for Ohio State, playing a variety of positions during his career including returning to an outside linebacker position and serving as the holder on PATs and field goals. He earned three letters from 1986-88.

Greg Rogan, DB, Urbana, Ohio – Rogan was generously listed at 5-10 and 180 pounds, but he oozed athleticism from every pore. He won All-Ohio honors as a defensive back but just as easily could have won them as a running back after gaining 1,800 yards as a senior. Rogan was a four-year starter at cornerback for the Buckeyes from 1984-87, but his senior season was cut short after only five games. Rogan sustained a broken left ankle early in the fourth quarter of his team’s 31-10 loss to Indiana.

Dwight Smith, DB, Middletown, Ohio – Smith was a two-sport star for the Middies, playing for championship football and basketball teams. He bounced back and forth between cornerback and safety during the early part of his Ohio State career before finally settling in as a backup safety and special teams player. He earned letters in 1987 and 1988.

Chris Spielman, LB, Massillon (Ohio) Washington – Spielman was born to play football and proved that assertion at an early age. After tearing up his parents’ house and the sandlots around Canton, Spielman moved with his family to Massillon and became an outstanding star for the Tigers. He earned prep All-America honors and was even pictured on the front of a Wheaties box while still in high school. Once he reached the college ranks, he never slowed down. Spielman begged Bruce to start him as a freshman and then spent the next four years as one of college football’s best linebackers. By the time his OSU career was over, Spielman had established a still-standing school record with 283 solo tackles, earned back-to-back consensus All-America honors and won the 1987 Lombardi Award. Detroit made him its second-round selection in the 1988 NFL draft, and Spielman played eight seasons with the Lions, averaging 127.5 tackles per year and making four Pro Bowls. He spent two years in Buffalo before a neck injury ended his career. Spielman is currently a college football analyst on Columbus radio as well as for ESPN, and is a tireless fundraiser for breast cancer research.

Tom Tupa, QB/P, Broadview Heights, Ohio – Tupa quarterbacked his high school team to the Ohio state championship in 1983, and then concentrated on punting when he got to Ohio State and wound up the school’s career leader in punting average at 44.7 yards per kick. (Andy Groom later broke the record with his career mark of 45.0.) Tupa also has the best two single-season punting averages in OSU history – 47.1 as a freshman in 1984 and 47.0 as a senior in 1987. Tupa doubled as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback in ’87, completing 134 of 242 passes (55.4 percent) for 1,786 yards and 12 TDs. He was a third-round pick by the Phoenix Cardinals in the 1988 NFL draft and spent 15 seasons in the NFL with the Cardinals, Patriots, Jets, Browns, Buccaneers and Redskins. His career punting average of 43.4 yards ranks 28th all-time in NFL history. Tupa also threw for 3,430 yards and 12 TDs as a pro quarterback.

Jeff Uhlenhake, OL, Newark (Ohio) Catholic – Uhlenhake anchored the offensive and defensive lines for the Green Wave teams that made three consecutive state finals and won the title in 1982. When he got to Ohio State, Uhlenhake started at guard as a sophomore and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. The following year, he switched to center and was named a first-team All-American at that position as a senior. Uhlenhake was drafted by Miami in the fifth round of the 1989 NFL draft and started for five seasons for the Dolphins. He later spent two years each with New Orleans and Washington, and started for both of those teams. He retired following the 1997 season after starting 112 of the 119 NFL games in which he had played. After his playing days were over, Uhlenhake got into coaching and was an assistant at Cincinnati and with the Cleveland Browns. In 2007, he returned to his alma mater has spent the last two years as coordinator of strength and conditioning on Jim Tressel’s staff at Ohio State.

William White, DB, Lima (Ohio) Senior – Overshadowed by some of the other names in the class of ’84, White was one of the best cornerbacks Ohio State has ever produced. He was a dangerous tailback and punt returner in high school before concentrating on defense when he became a Buckeye. White was a rare four-year starter at cornerback and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior in 1987. He finished his career tied for third on the career interceptions list with 16, is one of only six OSU players ever return two picks for touchdowns during his career, and one of only nine Buckeyes ever to record three interceptions in a single game. White was a fourth-round selection by Detroit in the 1988 NFL draft, and he played 11 pro seasons with the Lions, Chiefs and Falcons. When he retired after the 1998 season, White had totaled 20 career interceptions, averaging 15.5 yards per return, and recovered three fumbles, returning two of those for touchdowns.

Greg Zackeroff, OL, Warren (Ohio) Harding – A hard-working, lunch-bucket kind of guy, Zackeroff came to the Buckeyes after winning All-Ohio honors and being named Trumbull County offensive lineman of the year. He toiled away on the scout team during his first season before earning his first of four letters in 1985. The following season, Zackeroff was inserted into the starting lineup at right guard and anchored that position for the next three seasons.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s Buckeye birthday belongs to former defensive end Matt Finkes.

Matthew Scott Finkes was born Feb. 12, 1975, in Piqua, Ohio, and starred for his hometown high school, earning Division I all-state and district lineman of the year honors as a senior. Finkes signed with Ohio State in 1993 and made an immediate impact. He broke into the starting lineup in ’94 as a sophomore and teamed with fellow defensive end Mike Vrabel to terrorize Big Ten quarterbacks for the next three years. The duo combined for 125 career tackles for loss – 66 by Vrabel and 59 by Finkes – and those totals remain first and second in OSU history. Finkes also had 25 sacks during his career, and that ranks third in school history behind only Vrabel (36) and Jason Simmons (27½). Finkes was a sixth-round selection by Carolina in the 1997 NFL draft, but never played for the Panthers. He was signed off waivers by the Jets and appeared in eight games for New York during the ’97 season. Finkes later played for Scotland in NFL Europe before returning to his hometown of Piqua where he owns his own construction business.

Also celebrating birthdays this 12th day of February: former baseball player and broadcaster Joe Garagiola is 83; Fifties quiz show scandal figure Charles Van Doren is also 83; U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is 79; NBA Hall of Fame center Bill Russell is 75; veteran character actor Joe Don Baker is 73; children’s author Judy Blume is 71; three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford is 71; The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek is 70; Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak is 67; actress and two-time Bond girl Maud Adams (“The Man With The Golden Gun” and “Octopussy”) is 64; former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett is 59; singer, former Doobie Brothers frontman and (some say) Mark Rea lookalike Michael McDonald is 57; TV actress Joanna Kerns (Maggie Seaver on “Growing Pains”) is 56; former talk show host Arsenio Hall is 54; Oscar-nominated actor Josh Brolin is 41; Wilson Phillips singer Chynna Phillips is also 41; model/celebrity wannabe Anna Benson is 33; and actress Christina Ricci is 29.

Also, Happy 200th Birthday today to Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.

Congratulations are also in order today for our friends in East Lansing. On this date in 1855, Michigan State University was established as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan. Happy birthday, Sparty.

AND FINALLY

** College football is evidently serious about cracking down on taunting, so much so the NCAA rules committee is considering disallowing a touchdown if a player is flagged for taunting during a scoring play. Citing an increasing concern over unsportsmanlike conduct, rules committee chairman and Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti said yesterday that the group is considering a major change to the taunting rules. Taunting, baiting or ridiculing an opponent verbally is currently considered a dead-ball foul with penalty yardage assessed on the next kickoff. If the rule is changed, penalty yardage would be marked off from the spot of the foul and the touchdown would be nullified. I don’t like taunting but I also dislike wringing every drop of emotion out of college football. There has to be a better way.

** I still love baseball despite all of its flaws. But I guess I’m numb to the steroids issue because the owners and their puppet commissioner looked the other way when they knew players were taking performance-enhancing drugs. That’s why everyone should just shut up about Alex Rodriguez and how his admittance of taking PEDs will ruin the game. A-Rod is a great player, and just like Barry Bonds, he was great before he took steroids. But no one player is “the game.” It was being played more than a hundred years before A-Rod arrived on the scene and it will be here long after his shadow has faded.

** While we’re on the subject, why not release the other 103 names from 2003 who tested positive for steroids? I have no particular affinity for Rodriguez, but why must he be the only one made to pay a price?

** The Washington Nationals are rapidly becoming an eastern version of the Cincinnati Reds. When Adam Dunn signed a two-year, $20 million deal Wednesday with the Nats, he joined fellow ex-Cincinnati players Austin Kearns, Aaron Boone, Dimitri Young, Wily Mo Pena and Ryan Wagner in the Washington organization. Nationals GM Jim Bowden has also invited several other former Reds such as Javier Valentin and Corey Patterson to the team’s spring training camp.

** The most recent mock draft from NFL draft analyst Chad Reuter has Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford going to Detroit with the No. 1 pick. Reuter has Cleveland taking outside linebacker Aaron Curry of Wake Forest at No. 5 and Cincinnati taking Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin at No. 6. Reuter forecasts cornerback Malcolm Jenkins as the first Ohio State player taken, going to Green Bay with the No. 8 selection. Two others Buckeyes are projected first-round selections: linebacker James Laurinaitis at No. 20 to Detroit and running back Beanie Wells to Philadelphia at No. 21.

Whatever Happened To The Class Of ’85?

Ohio State football fans had plenty to cheer about Wednesday as head coach Jim Tressel restocked his roster with 25 new players including five-star recruits Dorian Bell, Melvin Fellows and John Simon.

Every reputable recruiting service seems to agree the class put together by Tressel is one of the best in the nation – Scout.com even rated it No. 1 – and several of the freshly-minted players are expected to see immediate playing time for the Buckeyes in 2009.

The consensus wasn’t quite as rosy two dozen recruiting classes ago as head coach Earle Bruce signed a defense-heavy class of 22 high school prospects. No one was blogging about recruiting in 1985 mostly because the Internet was in its infancy. Additionally, there weren’t nearly as many recruiting experts back then and the ones who were in the business decided the Buckeyes’ efforts rated only a C+.

“It’s not a bad year but it’s not a great one either,” national recruiting expert Tom Lemming said at the time. “I’m putting them either fourth or fifth in the Big Ten.

OSU’s class of ’85 was light on players at the skilled positions but was overloaded with seven linebackers. That was a little mystifying to some observers since the Buckeyes already had such LBs as Eric Kumerow, Byron Lee, Pepper Johnson and Chris Spielman on the roster.

That stockpile of talent seemed to chase away Brent White, a 6-5, 225-pound linebacker from Dayton Stebbins High School who was rated the best athlete in Ohio. White signed with Michigan, where he was moved to defensive tackle and had a rather nondescript career despite earning four letters.

Every expert’s selection for the biggest “get” in Ohio State’s 1985 class? That would have been defensive lineman Bill Smith, a 6-6, 260-pound defensive line prospect from Middletown, Ohio. Smith got particular praise from then OSU recruiting coordinator Bob McNea as well as Lemming, who called Smith “the kind of nasty-type defensive lineman they need at Ohio State now.”

(Even then, when the so-called experts concentrated on only a handful of prospects, recruiting was filled with hits and misses.)

Another sharp contrast from 1985 to 2009 was the way OSU employed its recruiting strategy. While Tressel signed 11 out-of-state prospects, Bruce and his staff stayed mostly at home. Seventeen Ohio players were signed with two from Pennsylvania, one from New York and one from Canada.

Thirteen members of the class eventually became starters for the Buckeyes, four of them were drafted by NFL teams and two had pro careers of six seasons or more.

Here is a recap of Ohio State’s 22-member recruiting class in 1985, and if you remember some of these names, consider yourself a true Buckeye fan.

Tom Bolyard, QB, Orrville, Ohio You would have expected big things from a guy from Bob Knight’s hometown as well as the Smucker’s jelly and jam headquarters. But the 6-4, 190-pounder, who was supposed to come in and contend for the starting quarterback job, never got his college career going. After earning first-team All-Ohio honors as a senior, Bolyard failed to supplant Jim Karsatos at quarterback and switched to punter. He had averaged 42.1 yards per kick in high school, but a college career wasn’t to be for Bolyard. He never earned a letter at Ohio State.

David Brown, DB, Utica (N.Y.) Notre Dame – Brown was a classic overachiever whose speed more than made up for a smallish (6-0, 180) frame. He quickly worked his way up the depth chart and wound up a starting safety as a redshirt freshman in ’86. Brown finished his career as a four-year starter – three at safety and one at cornerback during his senior season in ’89. He finished his OSU career with 212 tackles and 12 interceptions. Brown returned one of his picks 100 yards for a touchdown against Purdue in 1986. It established a new school record which has since been equaled by Marlon Kerner (at Purdue in 1989) and Will Allen (vs. San Diego State in 2003).

Karl Coles, DL, Gahanna (Ohio) Lincoln – Coles was switched to the offensive line early in his OSU career and became a two-year starter at left guard. On signing day, Coles was listed at 6-4 and 233 pounds. During his final season with the Buckeyes, he had filled out to a 6-5, 295-pound frame.

Steve France, DT, Lancaster (Pa.) Catholic – The 6-5, 265-pounder couldn’t seem to find a home position with the Buckeyes. He was switched from defense to offense early in his career, and then was tried at center and tackle before finally settling in as a backup guard. France won one letter at OSU – his senior year of 1989.

Dennis Gossett, LB, Baden (Pa.) Ambridge – A two-time all-state performance, Gossett was a three-year starter at linebacker and a two-year starter at tight end. The 6-2, 225-pounder didn’t have nearly the same success as a Buckeye. He never lettered at OSU.

Dan Hirneise, OL, Marion (Ohio) Pleasant – The 6-3, 253-pounder was everything you could want in a recruit – a four-year starter at defensive tackle, a school record-holder in the shot put, and an honor student who was looking to pursue a career in engineering. Unfortunately, after a redshirt year in ’84, Hirneise suffered a severe knee injury in August 1985 that cost him all of that season and the next. When he rejoined the team in 1987, a sprained ankle sidelined him again. He finally accepted a medical waiver and never lettered for the Buckeyes.

Dedrick “D.D.” Howard, LB, Middletown, Ohio Howard was considered an excellent prospect after earning Ohio defensive lineman of the year honors from United Press International as a high school senior. He was strong, could run and had good size (6-3, 210). Unfortunately, he locked in behind several other linebackers and eventually bounced back and forth between outside linebacker and defensive tackle. He never lettered for the Buckeyes.

Derek Isaman, LB, Fremont (Ohio) Ross – The 6-3, 210-pound Isaman became a prototypical linebacker for the Buckeyes. He was a sure tackler and tough as nails as evidenced by playing several games in one season with a broken hand. Isaman was a two-year starter when he left the program after the 1987 season to pursue a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team. He then returned to finish his college career in 1989 and led the Buckeyes in tackles that year.

Charles Keenan, DL, Steubenville, Ohio – The 6-2, 215-pounder was Ohio’s Class AA lineman of the year as a senior, leading the Big Red to the state championship, and also served as class valedictorian with a perfect 4.00 grade-point average. He was also the state championship wrestler as a junior. Keenan played only sparingly in the early part of his OSU career, but earned his first letter in 1987 as a member of several special teams units. He made nine tackles in the 1988 spring game and was ready to contend for playing time at linebacker until a shoulder injury ended his career.

Mike Kuri, OL, Martins Ferry, Ohio The 6-5, 275-pounder became a career backup, spending time at all three offensive line positions. Kuri did make two starts at a tackle spot in 1988 and wound up his OSU career with two letters.

Tom Moore, C, Orrville, Ohio Moore was the last player in the class of 1985 to earn a scholarship offer. He was a specialist in high school, handling the long-snapping duties on punts, extra points and field goals, and performed the same tasks at Ohio State. The 6-3, 235-pounder served as the Buckeyes’ long snapper for four seasons from 1985 through 1988.

Tim Moxley, OL, Barnesville, Ohio Moxley was one of the largest offensive line prospects recruited by the Buckeyes in the mid-1980s and worked his way into the starting lineup by his third year in the system. At 6-7 and 310 pounds, Moxley was a road-grader for the OSU running back and often manned the starting position on the strong side of the field. Washington selected him with its ninth-round pick in the 1990 NFL draft.

Jim Palmer, LB, Loudonville, Ohio Injuries set Palmer back during his first three seasons as a Buckeye. But he blossomed in 1988 when he was moved to tight end and the 6-5, 250-pounder wound up as an excellent player. When starter Jeff Ellis was felled by a knee injury early in the ’89 season, Palmer filled in and finished second on the team in receiving with 28 catches for 308 yards and three touchdowns.

Everett Ross, RB, Columbus Eastmoor – With players such as Keith Byars ahead of him at tailback, Ross quickly changed to a receiver position when he got to Ohio State. The 5-11, 188-pound speedster had limited success during the early part of his career, but had a breakout year as a junior in 1987 when he caught 29 passes for 585 yards and five TDs. His 20.2-yard average per catch ranked second in the Big Ten that year. Ross later earned a measure of notoriety when he was the final player chosen in the 1989 NFL draft – No. 335 in round 12 by Minnesota. That earned him the title of “Mr. Irrelevant,” which since 1976 has gone to each player hearing his name called last in the draft. Ross was cut in preseason camp by the Vikings, but then joined the U.S. Army and served in the military through 1995.

Bill Smith, DL, Middletown, Ohio Unfortunately for Smith, academic difficulties ended what could have been a promising career. The 6-6, 250-pounder could not meet minimum grade requirements for freshman enrollment and never attained his college eligibility.

Edward Soltis, LB, Austintown (Ohio) Fitch – The 6-3, 215-pounder was a versatile player in high school, earning honorable mention All-Ohio honors as a linebacker and leading his conference in punting. Unfortunately, Soltis was not able to make it as a Buckeye. He never lettered at OSU.

Joe Staysniak, DL, Grafton (Ohio) Midview – Staysniak, who was a first-team All-Ohio performer as well as his high school’s kicker, moved to offense when he got to Ohio State and became a three-year starter at tackle. The 6-5, 287-pounder was strong and smart – three-time Academic All-Big Ten and Academic All-America honors in 1989. Staysniak was a seventh-round draft pick by the Chargers in the 1990 draft and he played 63 NFL games (including 33 starts) over six seasons with Buffalo, Kansas City, Indianapolis and Arizona from 1991-96.

John Sullivan, LB, Mentor (Ohio) Lake Catholic The 6-1, 215-pound Sullivan brought a lunch-bucket mentality to the linebacker position and fought off a myriad of injuries to break into the starting lineup as a senior in 1988. That year at outside linebacker, he led the Buckeyes in tackles with 88.

Mike Sullivan, LB, Mentor (Ohio) Lake Catholic Mike was John’s identical twin brother and was a two-year starter at nose guard. He was 215 pounds on signing day and lived in the weight room to add 25 pounds of muscle, finishing as the team’s second-leading tackler behind Chris Spielman in 1987. Sullivan finished his OSU career with 208 tackles, including 21 for loss and 6½ sacks.

Pat Thomas, DL, Centerville, Ohio The 6-1, 230-pounder played sparingly during his first three seasons with the Buckeyes. But work in the weight room that packed on 30 pounds to his frame and elevated his bench press to 400 pounds got him into the starting lineup at middle guard after Mike Sullivan’s graduation. Thomas totaled 59 tackles in 1989, including four for loss and two sacks.

Vince Workman, RB, Dublin, Ohio Workman was the eventual crown jewel of the 1985 recruiting class, and he rushed for 1,030 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore in 1986. Unfortunately, his OSU career was derailed by an ill-advised position change to flanker at the end of the 1987 season and his dealings with an agent that prematurely ended his days as a Buckeye in 1988. Workman was drafted in the fifth round in 1989 by the Packers and spent four seasons in Green Bay as a kick returner and running back. He wound up his NFL career with Indianapolis in 1996. For his eight-year pro career, Workman totaled 1,537 yards and 13 TDs rushing and as additional 1,294 yards and seven TDs receiving.

Srecko Zizakovic, LB, Weston (Toronto, Ontario) Collegiate – Ohio State jumped at the chance to sign Zizakovic after losing out on a highly rated Canadian-born player the year before. Zizakovic eventually filled out to a 6-5, 260-pound frame and became a two-year starter – at outside linebacker in 1988 and at defensive end in 1989.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

We have a pair of Buckeye birthdays today. Former OSU quarterback/punter Tom Tupa celebrates his 43rd while former receiver Doug Donley hits the big 5-0.

Thomas Joseph Tupa Jr. was born Feb. 6, 1966, in Cleveland, and quarterbacked his Brecksville High School team to the Ohio state championship in 1983. He concentrated on punting when he got to Ohio State and wound up the school’s career leader in punting average at 44.7 yards per kick. (Andy Groom later broke the record with his career mark of 45.0.) Tupa also has the best two single-season punting averages in OSU history – 47.1 as a freshman in 1984 and 47.0 as a senior in 1987. Making the latter mark even more remarkable is that Tupa doubled as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback in ’87, completing 134 of 242 passes (55.4 percent) for 1,786 yards and 12 TDs. He was a third-round pick by the Phoenix Cardinals in the 1988 NFL draft and spent 15 seasons in the NFL with the Cardinals, Patriots, Jets, Browns, Buccaneers and Redskins. His career punting average of 43.4 yards ranks 28th all-time in NFL history. Tupa also threw for 3,430 yards and 12 TDs as a pro quarterback.

Douglas Max Donley was born Feb. 6, 1959, in Cambridge, Ohio, and earned first-team All-Ohio honors as a running back during his senior prep season at Cambridge High School. In addition to winning three letters in football for the Bobcats, Donley also won three letters in basketball and four in track. When he got to OSU, Donley quickly was moved to a receiver position and used his speed to total 106 receptions for 2,252 yards and 16 TDs for his career. Nicknamed “White Lightning,” Donley was the second-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFL draft. He played four seasons in Dallas, totaling 55 catches for 898 yards and four TDs. Donley retired from football following the 1984 season and went into private business in the Dallas area.

Also celebrating birthdays this 6th day of February: actress Zsa Zsa Gábor is 92; British actor Patrick Macnee (the original John Steed in “The Avengers”) is 87; actor Rip Torn (Artie in “The Larry Sanders Show” and Zed in “Men In Black”) is 78; actor Mike Farrell (B.J. Honeycutt in “M*A*S*H”) is 70; author and television newsman Tom Brokaw is 69; Grammy-winning singer Natalie Cole is 59; actress Kathy Nijimy (the voice of Peggy Hill on “King of the Hill”) is 52; actor/director Robert Townsend is 52; Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose (born William Bruce Rose) is 47; author and TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau is 46; the Rick Roll man himself, British singer Rick Astley is 43; former world champion gymnast Kim Zmeskal is 33; New England Patriots defensive end Ty Warren is 28; and former Minnesota and current Toronto Raptors power forward Kris Humphries is 24.

Several other luminaries from the past shared Feb. 6 birthdays including U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr, baseball legend Babe Ruth, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, French film director François Truffaut, reggae immortal Bob Marley and actor Thurl Ravenscroft. Don’t know who Ravenscroft was? He was the booming voice of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes mascot Tony the Tiger and also sang “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” in the holiday cartoon classic “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”

AND FINALLY

** At a news conference last weekend honoring the newest inductees of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the sister of late Dallas Cowboys receiver Bob Hayes spoke on his behalf. The woman read a thank-you note supposedly penned by Hayes in 1999, three years before he died at the age of 59 due to kidney failure. Unfortunately, it appears the woman is a fraud and the letter is a fake. Hayes’ siblings and ex-wife deny that Lucille Hester is actually Hayes’s sister, and the signature on the thank-you letter does not resemble known signatures on Hayes memorabilia. Even worse, former Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach’s name is misspelled “Stauback” in the letter, and one would think Bullet Bob would have known how to spell the name of the man who threw so many passes to him in Dallas. But the killer is the report that the letter in Hester’s possession was typed in the Calibri font, which didn’t exist until five years after Hayes’ death.

** In doing my research for the 1985 Ohio State recruiting class, I came across a nugget that reported former Buckeye basketball players Clark Kellogg and Herb Williams were drawing NBA salaries of $406,000 and $200,000, respectively, from the Indiana Pacers during the 1984-85 season. Obviously, Special K and Herbie were born too soon. Nowadays, as a third-year player, Kellogg would have commanded a salary of at least $826,269 while Williams, who was in his fourth season in the league, would have been due at least $854,957. The minimum NBA salaries this season range from $442,114 for first-year players to more than $1.62 million for veterans with 10 years or more in the league.

** Congratulations to Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, who notched her 1,000th career victory last night. To put that into some sort of context, Ohio State has 795 wins in the entire 43-year history of its women’s basketball program.

** Our old friend Larry Coker is still looking for work after being fired at Miami (Fla.) in 2006. You might think there would be someone out there looking for a guy who has a national championship on his résumé, but evidently not. Coker recently expressed his interest in taking over the brand-new program at Texas-San Antonio. USTA, which will make its debut in 2011, told Coker they’d get back to him.

** A brief memo to the NFL: I watch the Super Bowl each year for the football not the officiating. Eighteen penalties for a total of 162 yards? Next year, tell your zebra crew that unless it is something resembling a total decapitation, keep your hands off your yellow hankies.

** In a recent ESPN poll, fans were asked if they thought a variety of sports were “fixed.” Among the more than 42,000 respondents, 11 percent said yes to college basketball, 14 percent said yes to college football and the NFL and 48 percent said yes to boxing. At the top of the list? Professional wrestling, a “sport” in which 75 percent of those responding said they thought was fixed. My question: Do the other 25 percent believe pro wrestling is the real thing?

Buckeyes Underdogs To Texas, And Deservedly So

Since appearing on the NFL Network last week and opining that Ohio State’s chances in the Fiesta Bowl would be greatly enhanced if Texas was distracted in some way, I have acquired a few new pen pals.

To say my new best friends agreed with me would be inaccurate. Likewise, vilification is little too strong. Let’s just say the state of my mental health has been called into question.

I take no delight in feeling the way I do, and I really hope my gut instincts are dead wrong. But after all the big-game collapses of the past couple of years, you’ll have to forgive my scarlet-and-gray tinted glasses for being a little on the foggy side.

Let’s stipulate right now that there aren’t many head coaches in college football I’d rather see at Ohio State than Jim Tressel. You can count them on the fingers of one hand. Likewise, you cannot dispute the man’s accomplishments in eight seasons with the Buckeyes – one national championship, one Heisman Trophy winner, two undefeated regular seasons, three trips to the national title game, five Big Ten championships, 24 first-team All-Americans, and perhaps most importantly, an unprecedented 7-1 record against Michigan.

Those who roundly criticize Tressel tend to forget the state of the program when he was hired. There were only five conference championship in the previous 17 seasons, the Wolverines had won 17 of the previous 25 games over the Buckeyes, and a national championship banner hadn’t been raised in Columbus in more than three decades.

Unfortunately for him, Tressel set the bar impossibly high, including wins in eight of his first 10 games against top-10 opponents. Anything less than perfection is seen as something akin to abject failure.

Expecting to win every single game – not to mention looking good in the process – is simply unfair. However, the 2002 national championship game and the euphoria attached to it is now six years in the history books. For some, that’s an eternity. The nature of college football today is what have you done lately, and what Ohio State has done lately is lose whenever a highly ranked team is on the opposite sideline.

That kind of pronouncement always angers the diehard members of the Buckeye Nation. They parade out the old mantra of “In Tress We Trust” and point to the coach’s excellent 32-11 record against ranked opposition. Yet, while Tressel’s mark against elite competition – teams in the top 10 – remains above the breakeven mark at 8-6, he is on a four-game losing streak. The cold, hard truth is that Ohio State has not taken down a top-10 team since that wild 42-39 win over second-ranked Michigan in the 2006 regular-season finale.

That performance was followed a month and a half later by a 41-14 spanking at the hands of Florida in the BCS National Championship Game, a mugging so severe that the argument could be made the Buckeyes as a team and their head coach in particular have never fully recovered for it.

How else can you explain the subsequent games against top-ranked competition? Against LSU in last year’s title game, and this year’s losses to Southern Cal and Penn State, the Buckeyes have played tighter than a new shoe. Obviously, the competition was tough and no team can beat top-ranked opposition with any kind of regularity.

But here are some stats from those three games.

Ohio State converted only 39.5 percent of its third-down situations (17 of 43) while LSU, USC and Penn State combined to convert 52.3 percent (23 of 44). The Buckeyes surrendered 11 sacks while getting to the Tigers, Trojans and Nittany Lions quarterbacks a total of only three times – once in each contest. Furthermore, OSU committed 21 penalties for 209 yards while their opponents were flagged 12 times for 112 yards, and the combined turnover margin was 8-2 against Ohio State.

I don’t know how you would describe those numbers, but the word “alarming” immediately comes to my mind.

And now the Buckeyes wade headlong into another big game on a big stage against a big-time opponent. Based upon their recent performances with those parameters, it’s no wonder they are double-digit underdogs.

Ohio State desperately needs a postseason victory this year and not for the reason you might think. National reputation and what the media thinks be damned. The Buckeyes need a win if only for a bit of their own personal redemption. Playing a team that should be considered one of this season’s best is a tough assignment. Likewise, there aren’t exactly sweet memories for veteran team members from their last trip to the Phoenix area.

A win over Texas won’t be easy but in the words of Woody Hayes, “Nothing worth a damn is ever easy.”

Can the Buckeyes beat the Longhorns? Of course, they can.

Will they? Good question.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

** For those of you who can’t wait until the start of the 2009 college football season, the folks over at NationalChamps.net have released their annual “Early Bird Preview.” Their pre-preseason top 10 for ’09: 1. Florida, 2. Alabama, 3. Texas, 4. Oklahoma, 5. USC, 6. Oklahoma State, 7. Ohio State, 8. Georgia Tech, 9. Georgia, 10. Penn State. Two other Big Ten teams made the top 25 – Iowa at No. 15 and Minnesota at No. 18.

** I had him second on my ballot, so I have no problem with Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford winning the Heisman Trophy. Bradford shaded runner-up Colt McCoy of Texas by only 122 points, the tightest margin of victory since 2001. That year, Nebraska quarterback Eric Couch best Florida QB Rex Grossman by a mere 62 votes.

** The closest finish in Heisman history occurred in 1985. Auburn running back Bo Jackson beat Iowa quarterback Chuck Long by only 45 votes. BYU quarterback Robbie Bosco was a distant third, finishing 1,005 votes behind Long.

** Florida quarterback Tim Tebow became the first player since 1956 to finish in third place in the Heisman voting despite being named on more first-place ballots than anyone else. This year, Tebow was named on 750 total ballots while Bradford was on 811. McCoy’s name appeared on 784 ballots.

** The player who finished third in 1956 despite garnering the most first-place votes was Oklahoma halfback Tommy McDonald. He earned 205 first-place votes to 197 for winner Paul Hornung of Notre Dame. Second-place finisher Johnny Majors of Tennessee – yes, that Johnny Majors – had 172.

** McDonald’s other claim to fame? At just 5-9 and 176 pounds, he is the smallest member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

** Third place in the Heisman voting hasn’t been a bad place to be in recent years. Some of the third-place finishers over the past decade: Brady Quinn of Notre Dame, Eli Manning of Ole Miss, Larry Johnson of Penn State, Drew Brees of Purdue and Leinart.

** Note to Bradford and his Oklahoma teammates. The last three Heisman Trophy winners have the bowl game immediately after their selections. USC quarterback Matt Leinert, the 2004 winner, led his team to a 55-19 victory over Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl.

** Of the last 10 Heisman winners before Bradford, only four won their bowl games – Ricky Williams of Texas, Ron Dayne of Wisconsin, Carson Palmer of USC and Leinart.

** In case you couldn’t keep track of all the postseason individual awards, here are the winners: Heisman, Davey O’Brien – Sam Bradford, Oklahoma; Maxwell – Tim Tebow, Florida; Walter Camp National Player of the Year – Colt McCoy, Texas; Bednarik – Rey Maualuga, Southern California; Biletnikoff – Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech; Groza – Graham Gano, Florida State; Ray Guy – Matt Fodge, Oklahoma State; Outland – Andre Smith, Alabama; Thorpe – Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State; Doak Walker – Shonn Greene, Iowa; Lott – James Laurinaitis, Ohio State; Rimington – A.Q. Shipley, Penn State; Nagurski and Lombardi – Brian Orakpo, Texas; Butkus – Aaron Curry, Wake Forest; Johnny Unitas Golden Arm – Graham Harrell, Texas Tech; Mackey – Chase Coffman, Missouri.

** Senior center Alex Mack of California took home the Draddy Award, known as the academic Heisman. Mack has already graduated magna cum laude from Cal with a 3.61 grade-point average and a degree in legal studies. He is a two-time All-Pac-10 selection, a two-time Rimington Trophy finalist and a four-team Academic All-Pac-10 honoree. Oh, yeah … he is also projected as a first-round pick in next April’s NFL draft.

** Speaking of the draft, here’s wondering if there will be room in it for running back Bernard Scott of Abilene Christian. After finishing second last year, Scott was named winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy, symbolic of the Division II player of the year. The 5-11, 200-pounder rushed for 2,156 yards and 28 touchdowns this past season and added 48 receptions for 826 yards and six scores.

** Bowling Green, San Jose State, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette. Remember those schools and dazzle your friends with trivia at your holiday party. That foursome were the only Division I-A bowl-eligible teams in 2008 who did not get a postseason invitation. A record 68 other teams filled the 34 postseason spots.

** Since we’re on the subject of trivia, here are a couple of BCS tidbits. USC will play in a record seventh consecutive BCS game while Cincinnati is the only school making its first BCS appearance this year. The Bearcats are the 43rd different team to play in a BCS game.

** So much for the argument that Utah doesn’t have a fan base willing to travel. Demand from Utah for online ticket purchases for the Sugar Bowl was so heavy last week that the server had to be closed down for part of last Friday. Orders were taken by phone and in person.

** There is no doubt that Turner Gill and his Buffalo team are a feel-good story. Gill led the Bulls to a victory over Ball State in the MAC championship game and has gotten his program well on the way to respectability. But one winning season does not a Vince Lombardi make. Gill’s three-year record at Buffalo is still only 15-22 and he has never been an offensive or defensive coordinator at any level. If he keeps the Bulls in the MAC title hunt for the next couple of years, then he might be ready for a step up to the likes of Iowa State or maybe even Auburn. Not yet, though.

** The first axe has fallen at Michigan and defensive coordinator Scott Shafer’s head was the one on the chopping block. Shafer resigned Tuesday after only one season on the job, a season that saw the once-proud Wolverines rank 10th in the Big Ten in scoring defense. “I take full responsibility for the demise of where Michigan’s program is at this time,” the assistant coach told the Detroit Free-Press. While that was admirable from someone who just lost his job, it wasn’t exactly on the mark. Shafer didn’t have anything to do with the Michigan offense, which ranked dead last in the conference in total yardage and scoring.

** Ole Miss is playing in its final Cotton Bowl since 1956, and the Rebels will help Texas Tech close down the old facility on the Texas State Fairgrounds. Next year, the Cotton Bowl moves to the new $1 billion Cowboys Stadium in suburban Arlington.

** HD is great, but 3-D? A California-based company said earlier this week that it had won the contract to shoot the BCS National Championship game in 3-D. The game between Florida and Oklahoma will be broadcast live in 3-D to 80 to 100 movie theaters in about 30 U.S. cities with tickets expected to cost $18 to $22. My question: Would you pay money to go to a theater and watch what you can watch at home for free?

** This item was buried in the national news sections, far away from the sports page. Now that O.J. Simpson is a convicted felon, the College Football Hall of Fame plans to review his status. National Football Foundation president Steve Hatchell has said that while Simpson’s status will be reviewed, there are no plans to remove him from the hall.

** Congratulations to Minnesota-Duluth, which completed a perfect 15-0 season last weekend to capture the Division II national championship. The Bulldogs capped one of the biggest one-season turnarounds in NCAA history after posting a 4-6 record a year ago. They finished off the turnaround with a 21-14 victory in the title game of Northwest Missouri State, which lost in the final for the fourth consecutive year. Those four defeats have come by a combined total of 19 points.

** Richmond will make its first appearance in the Division I-AA championship game after knocking off Northern Iowa last weekend. The Spiders scored with just 14 seconds remaining to pull out a 21-20 win, and will take on Montana in the championship game, set for Friday in Chattanooga, Tenn. Montana, the 2001 national champs and 2004 runners-up, got to this year’s title contest thanks to last Friday night’s 35-27 upset over top-seeded James Madison.

** It’s a clash of titans for the Division III championship. Defending title-holder Wisconsin-Whitewater meets nine-time champion Mount Union on Saturday in Salem, Va. The two teams are meeting in the D-III title game for the fourth straight year – Wisconsin-Whitewater won last season after Mount Union had beaten the Warhawks in 2005 and ’06.

** Mount Union running back Nate Kmic rushed for 310 yards last week in his team’s semifinal win over Wheaton (Ill.) and became the all-time, all-division career rushing leader in NCAA history. Kmic now has 7,986 yards, eclipsing the mark of 7,962 set between 2004 and ’07 by Danny Woodhead of Division II Chadron (Neb.) State.

** Today marks the 27th anniversary of a remarkable Holiday Bowl victory by BYU. On Dec. 18, 1981, the Cougars jumped out to a 31-7 advantage in the third quarter and then weathered a Washington State storm, hanging on for a wild 38-36 win. BYU quarterback Jim McMahon, the nation’s leading passer and winner of the inaugural Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, threw for 368 yards and three touchdowns to help keep the Cougars in front.

** Also occurring during this week in college football history: On Dec. 15, 1962, Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker accounted for the game’s only points on a record 99-yard run in Oregon State’s 6-0 Liberty Bowl win over Villanova; on Dec. 19, 2001, Marshall engineers the biggest comeback in bowl history, wiping out a 30-point deficit before claiming a 64-61 double overtime win over East Carolina in the GMAC Bowl; and on Dec. 21, 1946, North Texas scored with nine seconds remaining to steal a 14-13 decision away from the University of Pacific in the first and only Optimist Bowl. The contest was the final game in the fabled career of legendary head coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, who piled up 314 victories over a 57-year career with Springfield College, Chicago and Pacific.

** This week also featured a significant milestone in the career of Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. On Dec. 17, 1994, Tressel captured his second consecutive Division I-AA national championship as Youngstown State took a 28-14 victory over Boise State. The Penguins successfully defended their 1993 national title, and also took home championships under Tressel in 1991 and 1997.

FEARLESS FORECAST

As a rule, we tend to stay away from bowl games. It’s simply impossible to gauge how teams will play when they face opponents they’ve never faced before. Add in the myriad of other factors such as coaching changes, whether or not a particular team feels slighted about playing in what they perceive as a lesser bowl, and the emotion of senior players playing the final game of their college careers, and you never know what you’re going to get.

That said, we wade into the first week of action armed with regular-season records of 98-37 straight up and 70-60-1 against the spread.

DEC. 20 GAMES

EagleBank Bowl

Wake Forest vs. Navy: Hard to believe anyone was clamoring for a rematch of these two teams, but the first game of the 2008 postseason is exactly that. The Midshipmen took a 24-17 victory over the Demon Deacons back on Sept. 27, an outcome that was considered an upset at the time. Since then, Navy has become the best rushing team in college football while Wake has struggled with its consistency on offense. The Deacons won seven games this year, but were held to 17 points or less on six occasions. It all would seem to point to a win for the Middies, especially since their win earlier this season broke a four-game losing streak in the series. We might as well get the Upset Specials started early … Navy 24, Wake Forest 20. (11 a.m. EST, ESPN)

New Mexico Bowl

Colorado State vs. Fresno State: It has been an excellent year Steve Fairchild, who became the first coach in Colorado State history to get to the postseason in his first season. Meanwhile, longtime Bulldogs boss Pat Hill, fresh off a brief dalliance with Washington about its head coaching position, will seek a fifth victory in six bowl games since 2002. The Rams won their last two games to secure bowl eligibility, and those victories came at the expense of New Mexico and Wyoming, teams that combined to go 8-16 this season. There is also the small matter of Colorado State not having won a bowl game since 2001 … Fresno State 30, Colorado State 27. (2:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)

St. Petersburg Bowl

Memphis vs. South Florida: After a 5-0 start, USF fell off the radar and lost four of its last five games. What happened to the Bulls’ vaunted defense, their opportunistic offense and head coach Jim Leavitt’s genius? And how will their psyche be affected by playing a bowl game only about 30 miles away from campus? They have never seemed overly motivated in bowl games, losing two of their last three including last year’s lopsided 56-21 decision to Oregon in the Sun Bowl. Meanwhile, Memphis has a pretty good offense that averages better than 430 yards per game. Trouble is, the Tigers don’t do much in the way of defense and their six victories this year came against teams with a combined record of 19-47. Look for plenty of points in a game that should be dictated by the USF defense. But will it? … South Florida 27, Memphis 20. (4:30 p.m. EST, ESPN2)

Las Vegas Bowl

BYU vs. Arizona: Three things are given in life – death, taxes and BYU playing in the Las Vegas Bowl. This marks the fourth straight year for the Cougars in Sin City, but they don’t seem to mind. After losing to Cal in 2005, they beat Oregon in 2006 and UCLA last year. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are limping into their first postseason berth since 1998. They did beat instate rival Arizona State in the regular season finale, but had lost three of four games before that. Arizona has trouble stopping the run, and may have no answer for BYU sophomore Harvey Unga, a 239-pound bully who rushed for 1,061 yards and 10 TDs. The Wildcats can score pretty handily themselves, averaging 37.0 points per game. But a lot of that production came against lesser opponents – Zona played only four teams with winning records this season and lost three of the four … BYU 34, Arizona 31. (8 p.m. EST, ESPN)

DEC. 21 GAME

New Orleans Bowl

Southern Mississippi vs. Troy: Maybe you didn’t know that Southern Miss is playing in its seventh straight bowl game. Maybe you didn’t know the Golden Eagles had to win their last four games to qualify for the postseason. Maybe you didn’t know they have the best freshman receiver in the nation in DeAndre Brown (92.3 yards per game). Maybe you didn’t know any of those things but rest assured Troy and longtime head coach Larry Blakeney are well-acquainted with Southern Miss. They are also aware that Louisiana has not exactly been kind to their team this year – excruciating losses at Louisiana-Monroe and LSU, the latter a 40-31 defeat after leading the defending national champs 31-7 late in the third quarter. What do they say about the third time being the charm? … Troy 27, Southern Miss 24. (8:15 p.m. EST, ESPN)

DEC. 23 GAMES

Poinsettia Bowl

Boise State vs. TCU: This is the best matchup on the early portion of the bowl-game schedule and it isn’t even close. The Horned Frogs, who get absolutely no respect despite a 40-10 record over the past four seasons, present an extremely tough out for the undefeated Broncos. TCU plays defense with the best of them, ranking No. 2 nationally in both total and scoring defense, allowing only 215.1 yards and 10.9 yards per game. Anyone familiar with Boise and its high-wire offensive act knows that trick plays are possible at any juncture. What you may not know is that the Broncos have a pretty fair defense as well, ranking third nationally in scoring and 16th in total defense. This should be a pretty good game with turnovers making the difference … TCU 23, Boise State 21. (8 p.m. EST, ESPN)

DEC. 24 GAMES

Hawaii Bowl

Hawaii vs. Notre Dame: Most people believe the Irish’s nine-game losing streak in bowl games – the longest in NCAA history – will reach 10 this year. That’s probably because while Charlie Weis and his team stumbled down the stretch of the 2008 season, the Rainbows quietly won four of their last six, and one of the losses during that stretch was a 29-24 defeat to Orange Bowl-bound Cincinnati. Notre Dame lost four of its last five games, but to give the Irish their due, the defeats came against teams that combined to go 32-17 this year. Still, it’s difficult to see how such a shaky offense can navigate the sometimes-tricky Aloha Stadium winds. Plus, there is the small fact that the Rainbows are extremely tough at home – 45 wins in 55 games dating back to 2002 … Hawaii 27, Notre Dame 23. (8 p.m. EST, ESPN)

Here are the spreads for the aforementioned games: Wake Forest vs. Navy (+3); Colorado State vs. Fresno State (+2½); Memphis (+12½) vs. South Florida; BYU (+3) vs. Arizona; Southern Miss (+4) vs. Troy; Boise State (+2½) vs. TCU; and Hawaii (-1½) vs. Notre Dame.

Enjoy the start of bowl week everyone and we’ll visit again next week.

Woody’s Take On Recruiting

There is a school of thought these days that college football recruiting began in earnest just a few years ago. Some of those same people believe legendary head coach Woody Hayes had no sense of humor.

Both accepted principles are actually fiction.

While it is true that recruiting has experienced a huge explosion in popularity with the advent of the Internet, the practice of enticing high school players to matriculate to one college or another is as old as the game itself.

Likewise, Hayes not only had a sense of humor, he was proud of his ability to tell a joke. He carefully cultivated his public persona as an ill-tempered curmudgeon, apt to go off about anything at any time. But in private – and especially with his good friends and former players – Hayes let his hair down.

One clear example was the coach’s so-called “Guide To Recruiting.” He always gave credit to a sportswriter for coming up with the tenets of the guide, but Hayes repeated them so often through the years, the words became his own.

He analyzed each prospect’s abilities in different categories and then gave a rating to each player – Superstar (far exceeds expectations), Star (exceeds expectations), Starter (meets expectations), Substitute (hope this player doesn’t have to be a starter) and Not A Prospect.

Here are Hayes’ criteria for each category:

JUMPING ABILITY

Superstar – Leaps tall buildings with a single bound.

Star – Must take running start to leap over tall buildings.

Starter — Can leap over short buildings only.

Substitute – Crashes into buildings when attempting to jump over them.

Not A Prospect – Cannot recognize buildings at all.

QUICKNESS and SPEED

Superstar – Faster than a speeding bullet.

Star – Fast as a speeding bullet.

Starter – Not quite as fast as a speeding bullet.

Substitute – Would you believe a slow bullet?

Not A Prospect – Wounds self with bullets when attempting to shoot.

STRENGTH

Superstar – Stronger than a locomotive.

Star – Stronger than a bull elephant.

Starter – Stronger than a bull.

Substitute – Shoots the bull.

Not A Prospect – Smells like a bull.

ADAPTABILITY and LEADERSHIP

Superstar – Walks on water consistently.

Star – Walks on water in emergencies.

Starter – Washes with water.

Substitute – Drinks water.

Not A Prospect – Passes water under stress.

COMMUNICATION and STABILITY

Superstar – Talks with God.

Star – Talks with the angels.

Starter – Talks to himself.

Substitute – Argues with himself.

Not A Prospect – Loses those arguments.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s Buckeye birthdays belong to former linebacker Orlando Lowry and defensive end Mike Vrabel.

Orlando Dewey Lowry was born Aug. 14, 1961, in Cleveland, and played his high school ball at Shaker Heights, where he was a two-time All-Ohio performer. He lettered with the Buckeyes from 1981-83 and was a starter at one of the outside linebacker spots during his senior season. Lowry finished with a career-high 90 tackles in ’83, a campaign that saw the Buckeyes go 9-3 with all three losses by six points or less. Lowry signed with Indianapolis as an undrafted free agent prior to the 1985 season and embarked upon a five-year career in the NFL. He appeared in 67 games, including four starts for the Colts between 1986 and ’88.

Michael George Vrabel was born Aug. 14, 1975, in Akron, and was a star player at Walsh Jesuit High School before becoming one of the most feared defensive ends in college football. During his OSU career, he set more than a half-dozen new school defensive records including most career tackles for loss (66) and most sacks (36). Vrabel was a third-round selection by Pittsburgh in the 1997 NFL draft, but his pro career didn’t blossom until he was traded to New England in 2001. Since that time, he has been one of the anchors of a defense that has led the Patriots to three Super Bowl victories. Heading into the 2008 season, Vrabel has 51 sacks for his career as well as 542 tackles and 10 interceptions. He also has eight career pass receptions in the regular season – all for touchdowns. He has also caught two more TD passes in the postseason – one each in Super Bowl XXXVIII and XXXIX

It is also a big day in the celebrity world for birthdays. Here are just a few of those celebrating today: former Baltimore Orioles manager and Hall of Famer Earl Weaver; former NFL quarterback John Brodie; Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Juan Pierre; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Roy Williams; Seattle Seahawks running back Julius Jones; Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz; Florida quarterback and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer/songwriter David Crosby; football coach-turned-commentator Jimmy Johnson; NASCAR champion-turned commentator Rusty Wallace; actor Antonio Fargas (he played Huggy Bear on the original “Starsky and Hutch”); Seventies and Eighties television actress Susan Saint James (“McMillan and Wife,” “Kate & Allie”); TV actress Susan Olsen (Cindy on “The Brady Bunch”); TV actress Catherine Bell (Lt. Col. Sarah MacKenzie on “JAG”); actress Mila Kunis (Jackie on “That ’70s Show” and the voice on Meg on “Family Guy”); prolific romance novelist Danielle Steele; cartoonist Gary Larson (“The Far Side”); Oscar-winning composer James Horner (“Titanic”); Oscar-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden (“Pollock”); Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball”); Irish golfer Darren Clarke; comedian Steve Martin; and Basketball Hall of Fame guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

AND FINALLY

** Sporting News believes Georgia will win this year’s national championship despite its myriad offseason legal problems and the fact the Bulldogs just lost starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant for the season with a knee injury. SN does, however, hedge its bet by offering five other choices “who could win it all.” Those teams: USC, Ohio State, Missouri, Clemson and BYU.

** Remember Josh Jarboe? He’s the highly-rated receiver prospect that Bob Stoops kicked off his Oklahoma team between signing day and fall camp. Jarboe pleaded guilty in May to a couple of gun possession charges, but Stoops decided to let him keep his scholarship. That was until an Internet video of Jarboe rapping about guns and shooting people surfaced in early August. Jarboe has re-surfaced at Troy, although there is some question whether or not he will be eligible to play in 2008. The 6-3, 195-pound Jarboe caught more than 100 passes for better than 2,000 yards in his final two seasons at Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove.

** Things just got a little tougher for Illinois to repeat last season’s success. The Illini have lost starting defensive tackle Sirod Williams to a season-ending knee injury.

** Seattle can’t keep its NBA franchise but it wants another shot at a college football bowl game. The city’s sports commission said Tuesday that it is in the early stages of trying to bring a bowl game back to Seattle, hoping to develop a relationship with the Pac-10 as one of its anchor tenants for a game that could begin in 2010. Seattle staged bowl games in 2001 and 2002 before sponsorship money dried up. If the Emerald City gets its wish, that would make 35 (and counting) bowl games.

** Major League Baseball appears to be on the verge of employing instant replay for close calls such as home runs. My only question: What took them so long?

** The national media’s love affair with Brett Favre isn’t quite over. Favre is set to make his first start for the New York Jets on Saturday night against Washington and the game wasn’t originally scheduled for national TV. That was until the NFL Network decided to intervene. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Eastern in case you’re interested.

** Care to guess the final holdout of the NFL draft’s first-round selections? That would be Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey, who was taken with the eighth overall pick by Jacksonville. (The Jags traded up from No. 28 to get Harvey.) Today marks the 20th day of Harvey’s holdout, and that breaks a dubious franchise record. Quarterback Byron Leftwich held out for 19 days before signing in 2003.

** What the deuce is it about the Olympic Games that is so compelling? I mean, I found myself staying up past midnight last night to watch swimming and men’s gymnastics – two sports I wouldn’t be caught dead watching any other time.

Looking Back At OSU Recruiting – 2004

Sweeping 10 of the top 15 players in Ohio, four top players from Pennsylvania and a couple more from Florida made Jim Tressel a happy man on national signing day in 2004. In all, the Buckeyes signed 23 prospects to letters of intent and earned a seventh-place ranking as far as the national recruiting experts were concerned.

“It’s a very diverse class that we have,” Tressel told reporters during his annual signing day news conference. “We have 14 players from the state of Ohio, four from Pennsylvania, two from Florida and several others. We have guys with all different kinds of academic interests. The positions are diverse and all across the board. Right now, we have 12 on the offense and 11 on the defense, and today one of those guys asked me, ‘Which way are you putting me? Offense or defense?’ So it could be 11 on offense and 12 on defense.

“But I think the diversity is straight across the board. The needs that we felt we had to address to make this team as deep and as strong as it needs to be really symbolized this recruiting class. It’s an extraordinary group of young men.”

Although the Buckeyes sent a strong message about keeping the proverbial fence around their home state, a couple of teams did manage to sneak into Ohio. Among the five players ranked in the top 15 that Ohio State did not sign, three of them were in the top five. They were receiver Fred Davis of Toledo Rogers, offensive lineman Brandon Braxton of Youngstown Ursuline and defensive lineman Michael Massey of Cleveland St. Ignatius.

After moments of flip-flopping back and forth, Davis opted to sign early with Southern California while Braxton chose Oklahoma and Massey decided upon Michigan.

Davis had a rocky beginning with the Trojans but wound up a two-year starter and winner of the 2007 Mackey Award, symbolic of college football’s top tight end. He was a second-round selection by Washington in April’s NFL draft.

Braxton, who is now spelling his first name Branndon, has been a spot starter at right tackle the past three years for the Sooners. He enters the 2008 season as the favorite to anchor the right side of the OU line. Meanwhile, Massey will begin his senior season with the Wolverines in ’08 battling for the starting tight end position.

Even with those defections, none of the national experts seemed to mind.

“They did a great job in-state – I think Fred Davis is the only one they really wanted that they go – and a real good job out-of-state,” said national recruiting expert Tom Lemming. “(Ohio State is) getting even better with their out-of-state recruits, and I think they’re just going after the top players and doing a good job of getting them.”

Most of the experts couldn’t stop talking about the crown jewel of the class, defensive back Ted Ginn Jr. of Cleveland Glenville. He was rated the top prospect overall in Ohio and the No. 2 player in the nation.

Southern Cal easily outdistanced everyone else in the national rankings for the No. 1 spot, followed by LSU, Florida State, Miami (Fla.) and Michigan. The second five of the top 10 was Oklahoma, OSU, Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Here is a complete rundown of the players in the 2004 recruiting class along with career highlights:

Nader Abdallah (6-5, 290, 4.9), Metarie (La.) Archbishop Rummel

Rated as No. 24 prospect in Louisiana regardless of position

As a senior, totaled 78 tackles, 11 sacks, two interceptions and five pass deflections in just eight games

Selected to play in U.S. Army All-American Bowl

Signed with Ohio State over Colorado, Florida State, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Tennessee

Won first varsity letter in 2007 as backup defensive tackle

Alex Barrow (6-4, 250, 4.9) Dublin (Ohio) Coffman

Earned second-team Division I All-Ohio honors as defensive lineman

Rated as No. 24 prospect in Ohio regardless of position

Senior statistics consisted of 95 tackles, including 27 for loss and 14 sacks

Selected to play in Ohio North-South All-Star Classic

Signed with Ohio State over Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern and Michigan

Two-year letterman for Buckeyes (2006-07)

Decided to forgo final year of college eligibility after graduating from Ohio State

Todd Boeckman (6-5, 235, 4.75), St. Henry, Ohio

First-team Division V All-Ohio quarterback

Four-year starter for Redskins who led team to state championship game as freshman; threw for 2,520 yards and 23 TDs that season

Finished prep career with 7,021 yards and 64 touchdowns

Signed with OSU in 2003 but opted for a grayshirt year, delaying his enrollment; ranked as No. 19 quarterback nationally as a senior

Signed with Ohio State over Maryland and Pittsburgh

Started all 13 games for Buckeyes in 2007, completing 191 of 299 pass attempts (63.9 percent) for 2,379 yards and 25 TDs

Enters 2008 season as returning starter at quarterback

Albert Dukes (6-2, 185, 4.58), Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central

First-team all-state performer at wide receiver

Ranked as No. 14 receiver prospect in the country

Totaled 56 catches for 1,046 yards and a state-best 17 TDs as a HS senior

Also a star performer for his school’s basketball and track teams

Signed with Ohio State over Florida, Miami (Fla.) and North Carolina State

Redshirted during first season with Buckeyes (2004)

Ruled ineligible to play for team during Alamo Bowl in wake of charges of having improper sexual contact with a minor in his hometown the previous summer

Left school for winter quarter 2005 to deal with legal trouble

Returned to school and reinstated to team for spring quarter 2005

Played with Buckeyes through 2007 season

Left team prior to 2008 spring practice

Marcus Freeman (6-2, 240, 4.6), Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne

Consensus prep All-American

Earned first-team honors from USA Today and Parade magazine among several others

Rated as No. 3 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 4 inside linebacker prospect nationally

As a senior, totaled 127 tackles and four sacks, forced three fumbles and recovered three others

Selected to play in U.S. Army All-American Bowl

Signed with Ohio State over Florida, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Tennessee

Graduated high school early and enrolled at OSU to join team for 2004 spring practice

Starting linebacker for Buckeyes (2006-present)

Finished second on team in tackles with 109 total stops in 2007

Vernon Gholston (6-3, 238, 4.5), Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech

Rated as No. 12 prospect in Michigan regardless of position

Played both outside linebacker and defensive end in high school

As a senior, totaled 75 tackles and six sacks

Signed with Ohio State over Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa

Two-year starter at defensive end (2006-07)

Established new single-season school record with 14 sacks in 2007

First-round selection by New York Jets in 2008 NFL draft (sixth pick overall)

Ted Ginn Jr. (6-0, 170, 4.4), Cleveland Glenville

USA Today national defensive player of the year

Consensus prep All-American

Rated as No. 1 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 2 prospect in nation regardless of position

Saw time at quarterback, receiver, running back, cornerback and kick returner during high school career

During senior season, had eight INTs and returned five of them for touchdowns; one went for a state-record 102 yards

On offense, threw and ran for 1,777 yards and 29 TDs; also added one kickoff and four punt returns for touchdowns as a senior

Selected to play in U.S. Army All-American Bowl

World-class track athlete in hurdles; helped Tarblooders win Division I state track title as senior

Signed with Ohio State over Southern Cal, Michigan, Miami (Fla.) and Pittsburgh

Lettered in his first season with Buckeyes (2004)

Appeared in all 12 games in ‘04 for Buckeyes, including six starts at flanker

Led nation in individual punt return average as freshman (25.6 yards)

Established new single-season and career records at OSU for most punt returns (4)

Finished OSU career with six punt returns and two kickoff returns for touchdowns

First-round selection by Miami Dolphins in 2007 NFL draft (ninth pick overall)

First-year stats: 16 games, 9 starts, 34 receptions, 420 yards, 2 TDs; 24 punt returns, 9.6-yard average, 1 TD

Erik Haw (5-11, 205, 4.4), Columbus Independence

Ohio Division II offensive player of the year

Rated as No. 14 prospect in Ohio regardless of position

His final two seasons as a prepster resulted in more than 4,271 yards and 44 TDs

Topped 3,000-yard mark as a senior and tallied 30 touchdowns; averaged more than 8.0 yards per carry

Turned in 4.21 time in 40-yard dash at OSU summer camp in 2003

Signed with Ohio State over Michigan, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh

Never lettered for OSU

Transferred to Division I-AA Jackson State after 2005 season

Was Tigers’ leading rusher in 2007 with 630 yards and seven TDs

Chad Hoobler (6-5, 225, 4.7), Carrollton, Ohio

Three-time first-team Division II All-Ohio performer

Rated as No. 7 prospect in Ohio regardless of position

Starred at both tight end and linebacker during prep career; owned his high school’s career tackles record by end of his junior year

Extremely tough individual who played most of his senior season with a broken bone in his leg

Also basketball and track standout for Warriors

Signed with Ohio State over Penn State

Two-year letterman with Buckeyes (2004-05)

Transferred to Division II Ashland College following 2005 season

Registered 37 tackles, including five for loss, for Eagles in 2006

Serious knee injuries ended his career in 2007

Dionte Johnson (5-11, 225, 4.5), Columbus Eastmoor Academy

First-team Division III All-Ohio fullback

Displayed excellent speed for fullback; utilizes excellent blocking skills learned while playing center on offense prior to senior season

Son of former OSU All-American linebacker Thomas “Pepper” Johnson

Signed with Ohio State over Bowling Green

Four-year letterman at fullback for Buckeyes (2004-07)

Team co-captain in 2007

Signed free-agent contact in 2008 with Arizona Cardinals

Dennis Kennedy (5-11, 190, 4.4), Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Stranahan

Speedy offensive and defensive player who was recruited to play running back at Ohio State

Rushed for 967 yards and seven TDs during senior HS year; totaled 54 tackles and three sacks as linebacker on defense; also returned punts

Standout track performer at Stranahan; personal bests were 10.8 seconds in 100 meters, 22.6 in 200 meters, 45-6 in triple jump

Also starred on high school basketball team, averaging 20.0 points per game

Signed with Ohio State over Wake Forest and Central Florida

Did not qualify academically to attend Ohio State through NCAA clearinghouse

Never played for Buckeyes

Eventually enrolled at Akron and became Zips’ leading rusher in 2006

Has rushed for 1,070 yards and 9 TDs over past two seasons

Shaun Lane (5-11, 175, 4.45), Hubbard, Ohio

First-team Division III All-Ohio running back

Rated as No. 10 prospect in Ohio regardless of position

First player in class to verbal to Buckeyes, committing in February 2003

Ran for 2,044 yards and 27 TDs as a junior, then added 1,700 more yards as a senior

Also totaled nine INTs over his final two prep seasons and returned punts for Eagles

Son of former OSU defensive back Garcia Lane, an All-Big Ten selection in 1983

Three-year letterman who has become valuable special teams player

Devon Lyons (6-2, 210, 4.45), Pittsburgh (Pa.) Woodland Hills

Rated as the No. 14 prospect in Pennsylvania overall and No. 5 safety nationally

Starred on offense and defense in high school

As a senior, recorded 52 tackles and four INTs on defense; caught 23 passes for 756 yards (32.9-yard average) and 14 TDs on offense

Also outstanding track prospect; personal best times of 10.9 seconds in 100 meters and 22.8 in 200

Signed with Ohio State over Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame

Battled injuries throughout OSU career; lettered only in 2004

Has transferred to West Virginia to play his senior season in 2008

Kyle Mitchum (6-6, 265, 5.0), Erie (Pa.) McDowell

Consensus prep All-American

Earned first-team honors from USA Today and Parade magazine among several others

First-team all-state performer on offense and defense

Rated as No. 4 prospect in Pennsylvania overall and No. 6 offensive tackle prospect in nation

Playing nose guard and defensive tackle, registered 75 tackles, including 18 for loss and nine sacks as senior; also caused six fumbles

Regarded as outstanding run and pass blocker on offense

Signed with Ohio State over Iowa, Michigan, Tennessee, Boston College, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin

Has battled injuries throughout his OSU career

Two-year letterman who figures into the offensive line rotation in 2008

Rory Nicol (6-5, 245, 4.75), Beaver (Pa.) Area

Three-year varsity starter

Rated No. 12 prospect in Pennsylvania overall and No. 4 tight end prospect in nation

During senior year, totaled 18 passes for 234 yards and five TDs; also lauded for dominating blocking skills with good hands and quick feet

Also a track and basketball standout; ran 110-meter hurdles in 15.8 seconds, and averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds as center on basketball team

Signed with Ohio State over Florida, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh

Starter at tight end for Buckeyes (2006-present)

Has 29 receptions for 235 yards and three TDs combined the past two seasons

Nick Patterson (6-2, 200, 4.5), St. Louis (Mo.) Hazelwood Central

Rated as No. 10 prospect in Missouri overall and No. 30 all-purpose athlete in nation

Two-way player who starred at receiver and defensive back in high school

During senior year, totaled 45 receptions for 876 yards and 11 touchdown on offense; registered 74 tackles, two INTs and two forced fumbles on defense

Signed with Ohio State over Missouri, Notre Dame and UCLA

Three-year letterman

Expected to play on special teams and provide depth at safety position in 2008

Ben Person (6-4, 305, 5.1), Xenia, Ohio

Considered one of the most potent run blockers in Ohio during senior prep season

Rated No. 8 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 10 offensive guard prospect nationally

Graded out at better than 80 percent blocking efficiency during senior season and did not allow a single sack

Played left tackle in high school but projected as either guard or tackle at college level

Signed with Ohio State over Boston College, Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Stanford

Starter at right guard for Buckeyes (2007-present)

Antonio Pittman (5-11, 195, 4.45), Akron (Ohio) Buchtel

First-team Division III All-Ohio running back

Rated No. 6 prospect in Ohio regardless of position and No. 13 running back prospect nationally

Missed three games of senior season with turf toe injury and still managed to rush for more than 1,300 yards with 17 TDs; also averaged better than 12 yards per carry

Signed with Ohio State over Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Toledo

Graduated high school early and enrolled at OSU to join team for 2004 spring practice

Leading rusher in 2004 Spring Game with 105 yards on 21 carries for victorious Scarlet team

Three-year letterman for Buckeyes (2004-06)

One of only five OSU running backs ever to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons

Finished career as No. 8 all-time rusher in school history (2,945 yards)

Fourth-round selection of New Orleans Saints in 2007 NFL draft

Released by Saint and signed with St. Louis before ’07 season began

Appeared in 11 games and rushed for 139 yards in backup role for Rams

Steve Rehring (6-8, 314, 5.4), West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West

Rated No. 15 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 29 offensive tackle prospect in nation

Regarded as excellent run blocker who is very quick in a limited space

Also is an excellent straight-ahead blocker who moves well laterally

Signed with Ohio State over Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, Virginia and Wisconsin

Graduated high school early and enrolled at OSU to join team for 2003 spring practice

Starter at left guard for Buckeyes (2006-present)

Jon Skinner (6-5, 285, 5.1), Mount Carmel (Pa.) Area

First-team Class 2A all-state offensive lineman

Rated No. 27 prospect in Pennsylvania overall and No. 39 offensive line prospect in nation

As big, durable and technically sound offensive lineman, helped team to 10-2 finish during senior year

Led squad to perfect 15-0 season and state championship as a junior despite playing with a torn ACL

Strong and intelligent; bench presses over 385 pounds and graduated high school with 4.00 GPA while scoring 1230 on SAT

Signed with Ohio State over Purdue, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Duke and West Virginia

Lettered in 2005 and 2006

Leg injuries have hampered him the past two years and seriously threaten his career

Brandon Smith (6-3, 230, 4.6), Euclid, Ohio

Earned Division I All-Ohio special mention as linebacker

Off-the-radar prospect who parlayed an excellent senior season into a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes

Totaled 125 tackles, four sacks and three INTS during senior HS year

Had 70 tackles as a junior

Blend of speed and power; runs 40 in 4.57 seconds, benches 320 pounds and has a squat max of 430.

Signed with Ohio State over West Virginia, Cincinnati and Connecticut

Three-year letterwinner for Buckeyes (2005-07)

Enters 2008 season as backup tight end

Curtis Terry (6-2, 205, 4.5), Cleveland Glenville

Off-the-radar prospect who played only one season of varsity football in high school

Raw talent who produced 48 solo tackles, including 25 for loss and 12 sacks, as a senior for the Tarblooders

Displays excellent speed and ran track for Glenville; 4.5 speed in the 40, 21.7 in the 200 and a vertical leap of 40 inches

Signed with Ohio State over Cincinnati and Akron

Three-year letterman (2005-07) who sat out last season with injury

Returns for senior year and could see action at fullback, linebacker and on special teams

A.J. Trapasso (6-1, 220, 4.6), Pickerington, Ohio

Two-time first-team Division I All-Ohio; earned honor as a placekicker during junior year and then as a punter during senior season

Averaged 40.9 yards per punt as HS senior

Also played running back and totaled 3,754 yards and 50 TDs during prep career

Excellent all-around athlete; also played baseball in high school

Signed with Ohio State over Indiana, Northwestern and Purdue

Graduated high school early and enrolled at OSU to join team for 2004 spring practice

Entering fourth season as Buckeyes’ punter

Career numbers: 145 punts, 40.9-yard average, 57 inside the opponents’ 20-yard-line, 0 blocks

Brandon Underwood (6-1, 170, 4.5), Hamilton, Ohio

Rated No. 13 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 16 cornerback prospect in nation

During senior year, totaled 60 tackles after a junior year that featured 50 tackles, three INTs and 15 pass deflections

Outstanding athletic ability; 4.45 time in 40-yard dash to go along with 38-inch vertical leap

Younger brother of OSU cornerback E.J. Underwood

Signed with Ohio State over Arizona State, Iowa, Maryland, Notre Dame, Penn State and Purdue

Lettered one season for Buckeyes (2006)

Scholarship revoked by OSU prior to 2007 season

Transferred to Cincinnati

Working to gain academic eligibility with Bearcats in order to play in 2008

Sirjo Welch (5-11, 180, 4.45), Columbus Beechcroft

First-team Division III All-Ohio defensive back

Rated No. 11 prospect in Ohio overall and No. 17 safety prospect nationally

Displays excellent ball skills and recovery speed; had eight INTs and 182 yards in returns during senior prep season

Helped Cougars to state playoffs as a senior playing both wide receiver and free safety

Signed with Ohio State over Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin

Two-year letterman for Buckeyes (2004-05)

Left OSU in 2006 because of academic problems

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Here is a list of those celebrating birthdays today: former middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta; author and TV producer Earl Hamner Jr. (“The Waltons”); Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver; rocker Ronnie James Dio; former Wimbledon, Australian and U.S. Open singles champion Virginia Wade; TV actor Ron Glass (Detective Harris on “Barney Miller”); folk singer Arlo Guthrie (Woody’s son); pop singer Greg Kihn (“Jeopardy”); Pet Shop Boys frontman Neil Tennant; former MLB outfielder Andre Dawson; banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck; antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan; Florida head football coach Urban Meyer; Rascal Flatts lead singer Gary LeVox; guitarist Elijah Blue Allman (son of Greg Allman and Cher); and singer/professional airhead Jessica Simpson.

AND FINALLY

** Hey, Dennis Dodd! Your “Dodds and Ends” blog on CBSSportsline.com can be very entertaining, but twice in the past week you have referred to Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis as “Jim.” The kid’s preference is James, so would it be too much trouble for you to call him James? Or would you just prefer we start calling you “Denny”?

** Things are bigger in Texas and so goes the Josh Hamilton legend. Last night, facing Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez – he of the major league-leading 35 saves – Hamilton golfed a 3-1 pitch over the right field fence in the bottom of the ninth inning for a walkoff homer. That gave Hamilton 20 home runs and 89 RBI with four games remaining before the All-Star break. He leads the American League in RBI, is third in home runs and his .307 batting average is 12th. No one has won the Triple Crown in batting since Boston outfielder Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. If you know the last NL batter to lead the league in homers, RBI and average in the same year, you are a true baseball trivia expert. I’ll give you his name at the end of this entry.

** If you are Cincinnati Reds fan still lamenting your team allowing Hamilton to be traded away, remember that Edinson Volquez came to the Queen City in that trade. Volquez is 11-3 with an NL-leading 2.36 ERA and I shudder to think how deep in the Central Division cellar the Reds would be without his first-half performance.

** Next time you think it’s a good idea to go to the website of an opponent and start flaming, check out what this idiot did. OU Cocaine Charges Are Internet Hoax. Hopefully after reading this, you’ll think twice about what you think is harmless fun.

** Arizona basketball signee Brandon Jennings has decided to back out of his commitment to the Wildcats and will instead play professional basketball in Europe. If you think this is a one-time deal, think again. It’s a wonder that Ohio State center Kosta Koufos didn’t do it last year, and the option of playing a year overseas – for money, free meals, free housing and free cars – and then declaring for the NBA draft sure sounds a lot better than slaving away in some biology class for nothing. Thanks again, David Stern, for your bit-by-bit decimation of college basketball.

** Here’s something you don’t see every day. Over the past couple of weeks, several college football players – including Michigan running back Kevin Grady, whose blood alcohol level was reportedly 3½ times the legal limit – have been arrested on drunk driving charges and pleaded innocent. It is assumed if you fight DUI charges and go to court, you can plead down to a reckless driving charge that carries no jail time and looks better on record when the insurance bill comes due. Then, there’s Tennessee punter Britton Colquitt, who was arrested for DUI and actually pleaded guilty to the charge. And perhaps the punishment Colquitt received for coming clean is why others are in no hurry to plead guilty. In addition to losing his license for a year, Colquitt received a suspended sentence of nearly a year in jail, a $350 fine plus court costs and a five-game suspension for the beginning of the 2008 season. Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer also revoked his scholarship. If you think that last part was rather harsh, understand that Colquitt was also suspended from the team as an incoming freshman in 2003 after a series of alcohol-related incidents.

** The last National Leaguer to win the Triple Crown for hitting was Joe Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals. Never heard of him? Maybe that’s became he won his Triple Crown in 1937. Medwick, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1968, had a 17-season career that lasted from 1932 to 1948 during which he posted 205 homers, 1,383 RBI and a .324 average. He died March 21, 1975, at the age of 63.

** To finish the Triple Crown trivia, only 11 batters have accomplished the feat since 1901– two of them twice. Rogers Hornsby did it for the Cardinals in 1922 and 1925 and Ted Williams won the crown in 1942 and ’47 for the Red Sox. Believe it or not, Williams – who always had a frosty relationship with the media – failed to win the American League MVP award in either year he won the Triple Crown, losing to a pair of Yankees – second baseman Joe Gordon in ’42 and outfielder Joe DiMaggio in ’47. Williams finished second both years.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.