From last week’s blog:
(Todd Boeckman) is most definitely staring his destiny squarely in the eye. If he cannot produce Saturday night against USC, he must know that Tressel may try to jump-start the offense with freshman Terrelle Pryor.
If that happens, the writing is on the wall for Boeckman no matter how Pryor performs. If he can’t get anything going, it probably spells defeat for the Buckeyes. If the freshman succeeds, it could mean the beginning of the end of the Boeckman era. And if you don’t think they replace senior co-captains as the starting quarterback at Ohio State, ask Greg Hare. He started for the Buckeyes in 1972 and was voted team captain in 1973 only to cede his position to sophomore Cornelius Greene.
The bottom line is this: Is Boeckman the next Craig Krenzel or the next Greg Hare? Most people think they already know the answer. We’ll see on Saturday night.
I’m not trying toot my own horn as much as I’m trying to make a point. In his seven-plus seasons as head coach at Ohio State, Jim Tressel has made no secret of his affinity for upperclassmen, especially seniors who have paid their dues. He has stuck with several of them over the years when it seemed the more prudent thing to do – at least in terms of winning ballgames – was to replace those seniors with a more talented underclassman.
Now comes the all-too-clear indication that Tressel is not only thinking about supplanting Boeckman as his starting quarterback, he is sharing those thoughts with the media.
Earlier this week, when asked about the starting quarterback situation, the coach first reverted to his tried-and-true mumbo jumbo known in most circles as Tresselspeak: “The nice thing about football,” he said, “is you probably need to think that the only thing that’s important is what I need to do better. But the reality is what we all need to do better is going to make the difference and all of that will help Todd, all of that will help Ohio State, all of that will help our defense and on and on.”
Later, he stripped away a little of the varnish.
“If we had a game last (Monday) night with what we were planning to do,” Tressel said, “we envisioned that it would be 50/50 (playing time between Boeckman and Pryor). But it will be affected by what we do in practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and obviously what occurs during the course of the game.”
Then Tressel became even more to the point, praising Pryor’s play last weekend against USC and underlining Boeckman’s mistakes.
“Terrelle has progressed with the lack of snaps in practice and the game more than you think he would,” the OSU head coach said. “I’ve seen a freshman get thrown into the fire and grow every practice and grow every game because he got so much experience. (But) I’ve seen (Terrelle) grow with a little bit less experience, which means he’s done a good job of learning by observing, which is the hardest thing for a player to do. … That’s been impressive to me about Terrelle – he’s had limited snaps yet considerable improvement.”
As for his senior co-captain, Tressel mentioned the sack that caused Boeckman’s fumble in the third quarter. While some offered the opinion that left tackle Alex Boone missed a block or tailback Dan Herron blew a blitz read, Tressel confirmed the mistake was made by Boeckman.
“It was the quarterback’s hot read, and unfortunately the play before they had brought a similar look, but they peeled off on the back,” Tressel explained. “Todd incorrectly assumed that they were coming with the same one, and so as he peeked at his hot read, he thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to peel off on the back again,’ and he thought, ‘OK, I’m safe back there.’ He took his eyes off of it, and he erred.”
Finally, we got as close to public criticism of a player that we have ever gotten from Tressel. When asked if he was surprised at how the quarterback situation between Boeckman and Pryor has evolved so quickly, he replied, “I don’t think at the outset I thought, ‘OK, now this might happen because what you practice and what you talk about and so forth is not having interceptions and is not missing a read, a hot throw or whatever.”
There is no doubt that Tressel is still in firm control of the Ohio State football program. Those who opined in the aftermath of the USC loss that he would be forced to make changes in his approach or coaching staff were either talking out of their hats or guilty of wishful thinking. While losses in the last two national championship games and the big nonconference battle at USC are troublesome for the national perception of OSU football, the fact remains that Tressel’s team remains positioned for a fourth straight Big Ten championship and a seventh victory in eight years over archrival Michigan.
While it is the order of the day to level criticism at the program, it is doubtful that many in the Buckeye Nation ever want the day to come when winning the Big Ten title and beating Michigan every year isn’t good enough.
But make no mistake here: We may be seeing a significant change in the Jim Tressel we think we’ve come to know. He has had talented freshmen on his roster before and been reluctant to use them in place of more veteran players. That philosophy may have gone out the window at USC.
As interesting as watching a potential national championship season unfold would have been, it may be even more intriguing to watch the transformation of a veteran head coach who appears ready to get the future of the Ohio State football program started immediately.
Luminaries celebrating birthdays this Sept. 19 include baseball writer Roger Angell; “Inside the Actors Studio” host James Lipton; Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame outfielder Duke Snider; Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame second baseman and ESPN analyst Joe Morgan; former MLB pitcher Jim Abbott; TV actor David McCallum (Illya Kurakin on “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in the Sixties and currently forensics specialist Dr. Ducky Mallard in “NCIS”); singer Bill Medley (the bass half of The Righteous Brothers); composer Paul Williams (“We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “Just An Old Fashioned Love Song,” and the theme to the TV show “The Love Boat”); Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons; eponymous model Twiggy (born Lesley Hornby); TV hostess Joan Lunden; former Saturday Night Live cast member Cheri Oteri; fellow former SNL cast member Jimmy Fallon; musician/composer/producer Nile Rodgers; country singer Trisha Yearwood (also Mrs. Garth Brooks); CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien; Phoenix Suns guard Raja Bell; and actor Adam West, the one and only original Batman.
** When third-ranked Georgia travels to Arizona State this weekend, it will mark the Bulldogs’ first regular-season trip west of the Central Time Zone in nearly 50 years. UGA last traveled west during the regular season in 1960 when the Bulldogs fell 10-3 to Southern Cal in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
** Former Arizona State and Ohio State head coach John Cooper will be honored during that contest in recognition of his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Cooper, who coached the Buckeyes from 1988-2000, was head of the Sun Devils’ program from 1985-87.
** Despite almost constant national criticism, the Big Ten features six of the remaining 39 undefeated teams at Division I-A. Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State and Wisconsin are each 3-0 while Indiana is 2-0. The Big 12 and SEC lead the way nationally, each with eight undefeated teams.
** Think there might be something to this SEC media bias thing? Five conference teams are ranked in the AP top 10 this week – No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 LSU, No. 9 Alabama and No. 10 Auburn. That marks the first time in history that’s ever happened for the SEC.
** Care to hazard a guess as to the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation so far? That would be Iowa, which has given up only eight points so far in three games.
** Is it time to begin a Heisman Trophy campaign on behalf of Michigan State tailback Javon Ringer? After rolling up a career-high 282 yards last week against Florida International, Ringer has 498 yards in three games and ranks third in the nation in rushing with an average of 166.0 yards per contest. He is also the nation’s top scorer after three weeks with nine touchdowns. Another big performance this week against a still-suspect Notre Dame defense should begin to get Ringer some notice.
** Last week’s victory over Washington gave Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops his 100th career win with the Sooners. Only three other OU coaches have ever eclipsed the century mark in victories – Barry Switzer (157, 1974-88), Bud Wilkinson (145, 1947-63), and Bennie Owen (122, 1905-26). Switzer, Wilkinson and Owen are all College Football Hall of Fame members.
** A record Jones Stadium crowd of 53,383 turned out in Lubbock last Saturday to watch Texas Tech roll to a 43-7 win over SMU. The fact that the game was played at all was a minor miracle. Crews from the Lubbock Fire Department assisted school officials in pumping out over 300,000 gallons of water from the playing surface after torrential rains from Hurricane Ike overwhelmed the stadium’s drainage system.
** Air Force had 380 yards of total offense – all of it on the ground – last Saturday in a 31-28 win over Houston. Because of windy and rainy conditions caused by Hurricane Ike, the Cadets ran the ball 71 times in the game and failed to complete any of their seven pass attempts.
** Boise State has evidently started a trend with its blue “Smurf Turf” playing surface in Bronco Stadium. In preparation for resurrecting its football program in 2009, the University of New Haven, a Division II school whose alumni include Dallas Cowboys head coach Tony Sparano, recently installed the blue Sprinturf surface in its Ralph F. DellaCamera Stadium.
** Nine years ago yesterday, Cincinnati engineered one of the biggest upsets in program history. On Sept. 18, 1999, the Bearcats stunned ninth-ranked Wisconsin at Nippert Stadium, stopping the Badgers and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne by a 17-12 score. It marked the first victory in UC program history over a ranked opponent. Wisconsin went on to finish No. 4 in the final rankings while the Bearcats wound up with a 3-8 record.
** Also occurring this week in college football history: On Sept. 15, 1973, Northwestern snapped a six-game losing streak in season openers with a 14-10 win over Michigan State in Evanston; on Sept. 20, 1997, Florida State receiver Peter Warrick rolled up 372 all-purpose yards during a 35-28 win over Clemson, giving head coach Bobby Bowden his 200th win at FSU; and on Sept. 17, 1994, UNLV receiver Randy Gatewood set new NCAA single-game records with 23 receptions for 363 yards. The Rebels established six other national or conference records for offense in the game, but they somehow lost a 48-38 decision to Idaho.