What's that? We have the first game in a home and home with Ohio State this year? Yes, yes we do! This year, we face the Bucknuts out in CALumbus. Next year, we welcome them to Strawberry Canyon! This should be an exciting set of games against a college football blue blood. We haven't gone up against a out of conference blue blood like this since the 2006-2007 set against Tennessee. That time, the away game ended........poorly. Hopefully, this team can do better than the Marshawn/DeSean/pre-injury Longshore team of 06 and take it to OSU in the Big Oval or the Large Man Sandal or whatever it is they call their stadium.
This will be OSU's first game of the season against a BCS team as they play Miami (OH) and Central Florida before us. We'll be OSU's first real test. This will be Cal's first game against OSU since 1972 (OSU won 35-18 in Berkeley) and Cal's first trip to CALumbus since 1971 (OSU won 35-3).
OSU is in a stage of great transition right now. They are trying to move past embarrassing scandal from the Tressel era to the Urban Meyer era. They can't even make a bowl game this year! We needed somebody who majored in Meyerology. We needed to talk to somebody who knew all things OSU. To find out more about where they are with this transition, we talked with Luke Zimmermann over at Land Grant Holy Land. Land Grant Holy Land is SBN's most recent OSU site. They seem to go through Ohio State sites like Spinal Tap goes through drummers. But I have a good feeling that this OSU site is going to stick!
Their answers are after the jump. Many thanks to Luke Zimmermann and the whole LGHL crew! GO BEARS! BEAT THE BUCKEYES!1. What were the core questions that you had hoped would be answered by Spring Practice? Were conclusions reached?
Given the tumultuous nature of the past 18 months in Columbus, I guess one of the only real 'core questions' was "is it over?" followed closely by "is there life after Tressel?" I think after Urban Meyer's first spring, the majority of Buckeye aficionados can safely answer 'yes' to both.
2. Any major style changes coming our way in the fall? New offense or defense installed?
Ohio State is reinventing itself from the ground up. The archaic 1960's indebted offense with an occasional fever dream shotgun package is replaced with a no-huddle slash-and-burn-fense which has basically all Ohio State fans positively randy. The defense schematically should be no different, which I think is fine with just about everyone involved.
3. What players emerged on offense? On defense?
Offensively, incoming freshman Michael Thomas was the real star of the spring. Getting consistency at the wide receiver position was an impossible dream last season so having anyone looking like they knew what they were doing was more than a welcome change during spring practices (and OSU's spring game). Defensively, I'm not sure you can call anyone "a breakout player". Corners Doran Grant and Adam Griffin (yes, Archie's son) were unexpected surprises and one should emerge as the team's nickel back at the conclusion of the summer session. The rest of the defense were known quantities, though John Simon seems to have continued his evolution from starter to possibly one of the best defensive linemen in the country.
4. What are your biggest worries coming out of spring ball for the fall?
The secondary. God, the secondary. Last year's incarnation was very possibly the worst group of the last 20 years and while with some new faces coaching wise around to hopefully get things pointed in the right direction, it's completely possible as well that last year's group (which return almost in whole) are just a year older and not necessarily a year better.
5. Project your season. Contender? Pretender? Middle of the pack?
I'm trying to be realistic about the team's strengths and weaknesses and I'm going to guess they fall somewhere between Urban Meyer's first year at Florida and Lane Kiffin's first year at SC.
6. Any frosh you can't wait to get on campus?
I'm not sure any non-early enrollee freshman will crack the two deep right off the bat, but defensive lineman Noah Spence was arguably the biggest coup of Meyer's inaugural class. Ohio State's defensive line, which being perfectly blunt is probably the best in the country, gets even scarier with his addition.
7. Who will you miss the most from last season? Who will be stepping up to fulfill those shoes?
Joe Bauserman. He provided infinite humor and tears alike, and if you laugh and cry in the same day, it was a pretty good day. In all seriousness, left tackle Mike Adams leaves literally and figuratively the biggest hole to fill. The second round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers improved the line immeasurably upon returning from a five game suspension and the Bucks will be hard pressed to find a left tackle half that good. Junior Andrew Norwell, who has 14 career starts on the line to his name, or Jack Mewhort, who's seen time at both guard and center, are expected to attempt to fill the gap but both are clear downgrades.
8. Any particular Pac12 match-up/rivalry you are looking forward to this Fall?
I used to love USC/UCLA for the novel purity of both teams wearing their home jerseys on the field at the same time, but the prettiest girl in the world, Rick Neuheisel, had to go and ruin that for everyone. USC/Oregon in the Coliseum should be pretty bat shit crazy in early November though I'd be lying if I didn't say Mike Leach's Pac-12 debut against Colorado in Pullman was my most anticipated conference game of the year.
9. What are the specific injury concerns coming out of this spring?
Jordan Hall (along with Corey "Philly" Brown, and yes, there are two Corey Browns) is widely expected to play the "Percy Harvin" role in the offense but he was banged up most of the spring. Also, given how thin the wide receiving unit is, having every warm body healthy to get the best possible play out of that group will be huge.
10. Based on what you've seen, who is ready to take a major leap this fall?
Carlos "El Guapo" Hyde could be the first legit power back in an Urban Meyer offense. He was solid in limited duty last year, but along with Hall is widely expected to be in the mix to be "the guy" at tailback this fall.
11. Who do you want to punch in the face?
Brady Hoke. Always Brady Hoke.
12. Who's got the best nickname on the team?
I'm extremely fond of the unofficial Hyde "El Guapo" nickname (conned affectionately by Johnny Ginter of Eleven Warriors) but since "Corey Black" is a pretty racist monicker, let's go with super stud DT Johnathan Hankins' pseudonym, "Big Hank".
13. Which one of your assistant coaches is in the hot seat?
Technically no one as its a new administration but I'll go out on a limb and suggest defensive line coach Mike Vrabel. Vrabel very nearly wasn't retained but only on the recommendation of Patriots head coach (and friend of Meyer) Bill Belichick did he get a stay of termination. In addition, he'll be moving from coaching linebackers to working with the defensive line, though it's worth pointing out, he inherits a frankly unfair freakishly good group of d-lineman to "coach up".
14. So, Urban Meyer. He's dreamy, isn't he?
15. The Buckeyes shockingly lost 4 straight to end the season. What are the biggest problems that Urban Meyer needs to fix to avoid those types of performances this year?
The secondary and the passing game. Ohio State was below their usual lofty standards in the first and just dreadful at the second last year. There might be growing pains in the offense, but getting those issues righted could easily account for a 2 or 3 game swing.