What you need to know ...
Good-bye Tressel ball, and hello Tressel ball with a
kick. QB Troy Smith should make the spread offense sing making
big play after big play with his legs as well as his arm. The
receivers are big, fast, and talented with Ted Ginn Jr.
appearing to be ready to blossom into a superstar wideout. The
backfield is full of talent with star freshman Chris Wells ready
to push possible All-Big Ten runner Antonio Pittman. The line
might be the best in the Jim Tressel's six years in Columbus
with a world of talent, especially at tackle.
Passing: Troy Smith
149-237, 2,282 yds, 16 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Antonio Pittman
243 carries, 1,331 yds, 7 TD
Ted Ginn Jr.
51 catches, 803 yds, 4 TD
Star of the offense: Senior QB Troy Smith
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior TE
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Alex Boone
Best pro prospect: Boone
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) WR Ted Ginn
Jr, 3) RB Antonio Pittman
Strength of the offense: Experience, speed, quarterback
Weakness of the offense:
Proven number two running back, proven tight end
Troy Smith will forever have a place in the hearts of
Buckeye fans for his performances against Michigan over the last
two seasons, and now he has to lead the potent offense to a
national title level. Knowing the offense, he'll put up huge
numbers as both a runner and passer. Justin Zwick could start
and keep the offense humming. While he doesn't have too much
mobility, he's arm is strong enough to keep the passing attack
moving. Todd Boeckman and Robbie Schoenhoft are nice reserves
who'll need time to be groomed for next year's battle for the
The key to the unit: Smith has to use all his
experience to make the offense even more effective. The young
number three and four backups need meaningful playing time.
Quarterback Rating: 9.5
- Troy Smith, Sr. - 149-237, 2,283 yds, 63%, 16 TD, 4 INT,
136 carries, 611 yds, 4.5 ypc, 11 TD
Could Smith be this year's version of Vince Young and be a
do-it-all star who carries his team to a title? After being
suspended for the season opener and coming off the bench for the
Texas game, he took over and was fantastic showing off an
accurate arm along with tremendous rushing skills. He's not a
bomber, but he's a great decision maker who's great at making
big plays and is icy cool in the clutch. A perfect fit for the
read-option offense, he'll be a statistical machine who could be
a front-runner for the Heisman if he can pull off a win at
- Justin Zwick, Sr. - 42-58, 359 yds, 72%, 1 TD, 1
INT, 12 carries, 25 yds, 2.1 ypc
The superstar recruit has now turned into a more-than-reliable
backup. He's 6-4 and 225 pounds with a decent arm and good
accuracy, but he doesn't have the magical quality of Troy Smith.
He has taken to the role as the number two man, but he'll still
see plenty of action in mop up duty and if Smith falls into any
sort of a rut.
- Todd Boekman, Soph. - 5-7, 67 yds, 71%, 1 TD
Boekman has been in the mix for a few years and knows the
offense. He's a big, talented passer who saw a little bit of
time in the opener against Miami University. While he has the
edge in experience, he'll have to battle with Rob Schoenhoft for
the number three job.
This should be interesting.
Antonio Pittman emerged as a star last season with eight
100-yard games, but it's possible he's the team's third best
back. Quick Maurice Wells was a bit tentative as a true
freshman, but he could be a superstar if he figures out what
he's doing. The real excitement is over top recruit Chris Wells,
who could do for this year's team what Maurice Clarett did in
The key to the unit: The two young Wells have to be
reliable enough to get meaningful carries to keep Antonio
Pittman fresh. More big runs would be nice.
Running Back Rating: 8.5
- Antonio Pittman, Jr. - 243 carries, 1,331 yds, 5.5 ypc,
7 TD, 17 catches, 161 yds, 9.5 ypc
Pittman was always a decent producer, but he wasn't a touchdown
maker with only one career score up until late October of last
year. Then he turned it on ripping apart Minnesota for 186 yards
and two touchdowns and ended up scoring at least once in each of
the final five games. While he won't run over anyone, the 5-11,
195-pound junior has a nice blend of speed and power with a home
run hitting ability. He proved he can be a durable workhorse
last year with 243 carries, but he likely won't have to carry so
much of the load again with other backs to help him out.
- Fullback Stan White, Sr. - 3 catches, 21 yds, 7 ypc
The 6-3, 242-pound White isn't flashy and he isn't going to
catch the ball, but he's a heck of a lead blocker and can
occasionally catch the ball. He'll combine with Dionte Johnson
for the job.
- Maurice Wells, Soph. - 61 carries, 199 yds, 3.3 ypc, 1 TD, 1
catch, 1 yard
A superstar high school recruit, Wells looked good as a
freshman, but he wasn't eye-popping and was a bit too
indecisive. He has the speed and quickness to get to the corner
and potentially rip off big runs, but he needs to show that he
can tear of yards in chunks. Getting him to grow as a receiver
to get him in space will be a must as the year goes on.
- Chris Wells, Fr.
Considered by some as the nation's top running back prospect,
the 6-1, 225-pound freshman has speed, power, and a killer
instinct around the goal line with 47 touchdowns along with
4,073 rushing yards over his final two years at Garfield High in
Akron. Expected to be a do--it-all back with the strength to run
inside and the quickness to bounce outside, he might quickly
turn into the key back in the attack. He looked great in the
spring game with 94 rushing yards.
- Erik Haw, Soph. - 14 carries, 61 yds, 4.4 ypc, 1 TD, 2
catches, 6 yds
Will he be lost in the shuffle? He has the measurables with size
and 4.3 speed, but he looked a bit lost when he got his carries
last season. He has to be lights out in practices to work into
the number two job.
- Fullback Dionte Johnson, Jr.
A bigger option than Stan White, the son of former Buckeye great
Pepper Johnson will be used solely as a blocking fullback. That
doesn't mean he can't be effective with the ball in his hands;
he just won't get the chance.
Santonio Holmes left early for the NFL, but that wasn't a
shock. It's also not a major surprise that Ted Ginn Jr. now
appears ready to be a superstar number one target. Anthony
Gonzalez can do a little of everything well and should thrive in
the number two role. Big receivers like Roy Hall, Brain Hartline
and Brian Robiskie will combine to form a good rotation. The
tight end will be used more in the passing game this year with
good, big receivers in Marcel Frost and Rory Nichol.
The key to the unit: Ginn needs to adequately replace
Holmes, and Gonzalez has to adequately replace Ginn. The big
young backups have to come through early on.
Receiver Rating: 8.5
- Ted Ginn Jr., Jr. - 51 catches, 803 yds, 15.7 ypc, 4 TD, 12
carries, 83 yds, 6.9 ypc, 1 TD
What was wrong with Ted Ginn? That was the cry early last year
when one of college football's top all-around players failed to
make any top all-around plays. As it turned out, he just needed
a little time to breakout, and then he showed off his skills
tearing off some big punt returns and growing into a dangerous
receiver finishing off with an eight-catch, 167-yard, one
touchdown day against Notre Dame. The light has appeared to go
on and he should be the All-America, number one target he was
expected to blossom into last season.
- Anthony Gonzalez, Jr. - 28 catches, 373 yds, 13.3
ypc, 3 TD
The unnoticed big play target last year, Gonzalez goes from
being a quick number three receiver to a potentially dangerous
number two man. He isn't afraid to make the tough catch and has
grown into a great route runner. While he's not known for his
deep speed, he has the wheels to hit a few home runs.
- Tight end Rory Nicol, Soph.
Kept out last year with a leg problem, the 6-5, 260-pound
sophomore will be back as a dangerous safety valve who'll create
major mismatch problems. He's a little more of a blocker than
Marcel Frost and almost as athletic a receiver.
- Roy Hall, Sr. - 16 catches, 134 yds, 8.4 ypc
A big, medium-range target, Hall had a nice first three games
catching 11 passes, but then his production fell off the map. At
6-3 and 240 pounds, he has the size to create big mismatches
will all the focus on Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez.
- Brian Hartline, RFr.
Back from a leg injury, he's one of the X factors in the
receiving corps. He's one of the team's fastest players and has
big-time size at 6-3 and 180 pounds playing behind Anthony
Gonzalez. He'll be the number one target two years from now.
- Brian Robiskie, Soph. - 1 catch, 13 yds
Potentially a strong possession receiver, the 6-3, 190-pound
sophomore has nice speed playing behind Ted Ginn. He's a good
route runner with decent upside.
- Tight end Marcel Frost, Jr. - 7 catches, 70 yds, 10 ypc
He was supposed to be a good go-to option, Frost has deceptive
speed for a 6-5, 255-pound target with good hands, but he was
suspended for the season for violating team rules.
It's amazing the Buckeyes have had the success they've had
over the last few seasons without the benefit of a killer offensive
line. Despite struggling at times this spring, this year's group has the potential to be the best by far in the
Jim Tressel era if all the parts play as well as expected. Alex Boone is
an All-American waiting to happen at left tackle, while Kirk Barton is
on the verge of All-Big Ten stardom on the other side. There's a little
bit of movement to get the best players on the field with starting
tackle Doug Datish taking over at center to get Boone on the field. The
depth is big and athletic with enough options to play around with
several different combinations.
The key to the unit: Be consistent. This could be the
Big Ten's best offensive line if it plays up to its potential.
Offensive Line Rating: 9
- OT Alex Boone, Soph.
Considered by some to be the best Buckeye lineman prospect in over a
decade, the 6-8, 315-pound sophomore has first round draft pick written
all over him. He had a nice first season in the program, and now the
spotlight is on to see if he can up his game and be the type of
devastating all-around blocker the offense can revolve around.
- OG Tim Schafer, Sr.
A part-time defensive lineman over the course of his career, the 6-5,
290-pound senior is better for the offensive side. He's a tough,
physical blocker, but he also might be the weakest link on the line.
Consistency will be his key.
- C Doug Datish, Sr.
Datish was a solid tackle last season and now will move to the middle to
replace Nick Mangold. The 6-5, 295-pound senior can also play guard if
needed, but his experience, smarts and attitude make him a perfect
leader at center.
- OG T.J. Downing, Sr.
A bit unsung on last year's front five, the 6-5, 305-pound senior had a
nice season as the starter at right guard. He's not the most athletic
lineman around, but he has decent feet and can be a punishing run
- OT Kirk Barton, Jr.
While not the prospect Alex Boone is on the other side, Barton has
impressive size at 6-7 and 325 pounds and can move. Even though he's
more of a pass protector than a mauling run blocker, he should be an
All-Big Ten performer as he continues to improve on the right side.
- OT/OG Jon Skinner, Soph.
The top recruit of a few years ago hasn't made much of an impact yet.
Even so, he has all the tools with good athleticism in an extremely
strong 6-5, 300-pound body. He can play either tackle or guard.
- OG Kyle Mitchum, Soph.
A top recruit a few years ago, Mitchum has to start to play like like.
He'll get the backup spot at right guard behind T.J. Downing, but he's
expected to eventually become a rock on the line. Eventually.
- OT Steve Rehring, Soph.
The question is where he'll be a key reserve. At 6-8 and 329 pounds he
has the frame to become a top tackle, but he's strong enough to also
play guard. He was knocked out last season with pneumonia, and now he's
back to 100% starting out the year at left tackle behind Alex Boone.