2007 Record: 11-2, 7-1 Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Ohio State Players Drafted:
Vernon Gholston - DE - Round 1 - NY Jets
Larry Grant - OLB - Round 7 - San Francisco
Kirk Barton - OT - Round 7 - Chicago
Top Recruits for Ohio State:
Terrelle Pryor - QB - 6’5” - 225 - Jeannette, PA
Michael Brewster - OL - 6’5” - 298 - Orlando, FL
Mike Adams - OL - 6’8” - 315 - Dublin, OH
DeVier Posey - WR - 6’5” - 205 - Cincinnati, OH
Etienne Sabino - LB - 6’3” - 230 - Sonny Isles, FL
Jake Stoneburner - WR/TE - 6’6” - 230 - Dublin, OH
Andrew Sweat - LB - 6’2” - 225 - Washington, PA
J.B. Shugarts - OL - 6’8 - 299 - Klein, TX
Lamar Thomas - WR - 5’11” - 185 - Fort Washington, MD
Key Players Returning for the Buckeyes:
Malcolm Jenkins - CB - Sr.
Chris Wells - RB - Jr.
James Laurinaitis - LB - Sr.
Alex Boone - OT - Sr.
Marcus Freeman - LB - Sr.
Brian Robiskie - WR - Sr.
Steve Rehring - LG - Sr.
Brandon Saine - RB - Soph.
Todd Boeckman - QB - Sr.
Brian Hartline - WR - Jr.
Cameron Heyward - DE - Soph.
2008 Ohio State Offensive Outlook
Senior QB Todd Boeckman returns for his second year at the helm of the Ohio State offense. In his first season as the starter, Boeckman threw for 2,379 yards and 25 touchdowns. His 14 interceptions did become a concern at times throughout the season, but a year of experience may improve his decision making. The tools he has to work with at the skilled positions, and a rock solid line up front should have Boeckman putting up big numbers this year. Then there is Terrell Pryor. The highly-touted QB ranked as the top high school player in the nation did not choose Ohio State to stand on the sidelines for a full season. It should be interesting to see how Tressel fits Pryor into the offense.
Chris “Beanie” Wells thrived in his first season as the feature back for the Buckeyes in 2007. He finished the season with 1,609 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. He is a workhorse with surprising speed and has a knack for breaking big runs at crucial times during games. Beanie, a junior, does not catch many passes out of the backfield, but he enters the season on the list of Heisman candidates. The backfield has nice depth with senior Maurice Wells and sophomore Brandon Saine. Maurice Wells provide a different look with his smaller size, but his athleticism and speed provide a nice option for a third down back. Saine has tremendous speed and is useful in the passing game.
The Buckeyes have what may be the best tandem of receivers in the Big Ten. Senior Brian Robiskie will look to build on his 935 receiving yards last season. Robiskie proved to be a Boeckman’s favorite option around the red zone, and the 6’3”, 200 pound receiver caught 11 TD passes. Junior Brian Hartline snagged 52 receptions last year, just behind the 55 receptions by Robiskie. Hartline and Robiskie are a duo that requires defenses to maintain awareness of both of them at all times. Junior Ray Small and sophomore Dane Sanzenbacher will each see time in the offense this year as well.
The offensive line will be one of the best in the conference again this year with four returning starters. Seniors Alex Boone and Steve Rehring man the left side of the line at LT and LG, respectively. They bring experience and leadership to the line that has the ability to dominate the line of scrimmage. Junior Jim Cordle had a solid first year as a starter last season at center. Senior Ben Person also returns as the starting RG. Sophomore Bryant Downing will step in to fill the RT position that was previously held by NFL draftee Kirk Barton. Downing has some game experience. Tressel has been known to utilize many linemen during the course of a game, sending in different units to keep the line fresh. This also pays dividends in the long run as players get key playing experience.
The Ohio State defense is loaded with hardnosed playmakers. The excitement starts up front on the defensive line where the Buckeyes replace stars like Vernon Gholston with Lawrence Wilson. Wilson returns to the team after missing all of last year with a broken leg, and brings an intimidating 6’4”, 275 frame back to the Buckeye defense. Sophomore DE Cameron Heyward stepped in for the injured Wilson last season and solidified his role disrupting plays in the backfield. Junior DT Doug Worthington is back as a starter, and a core of players consisting of Todd Denlinger, Dexter Larimore, and Nader Abdallah will rotate in depending on game situations.
LB James Laurinaitis has become the face of the Buckeye defense after winning the Butkus Award last year. The “Little Animal” is considered by many as the fuel for the Buckeye defense, and his reckless style of play puts him in on what seems to be every defensive play. Laurinaitis and fellow senior Marcus Freeman each finished the 2007 season with more than 100 tackles. Freeman is no doubt another player on the Buckeyes defense that will eventually be playing on Sundays next year. Senior Curtis Terry will see expanded playing time this year as he steps in to a starting role. This season will be interesting for the linebacker position as fans will most likely see another linebacker emerge as the playmaker of the future. Sophomores Ross Homan and Tyler Moeller along with junior Austin Spitler may be the candidates to surface in 2008.
The defensive backfield returns with a wealth of experience. Senior Malcolm Jenkins may be the top CB in the nation and is a prime candidate to win the Thorpe Award. He intercepted four passes last season and teams often choose to throw away from Jenkins. Junior Donald Washington had a strong showing last year playing opposite of Jenkins at CB. Two juniors complete the secondary for the Buckeyes at safety with Anderson Russell at FS and SS Kurt Coleman. Senior Jamario O’Neal will also be used in defensive packages. For the second straight year the Buckeyes were exploited during the BCS National Championship game through the air. The secondary did not create many turnovers last season, and the Buckeyes will look for more results in the turnover department in 2008.
The kicking game for Ohio State always seems to be stable, and veteran legs are ready to provide consistency. Senior A.J Trapasso averaged 41.5 yards per punt last season, and senior Ryan Petorius had a decent 2007 campaign connecting on 18 of 23 field goal attempts. Junior Aaron Pettry is awaiting his opportunity and could step in if Petorius has any issues. One concern in the kicking game comes with loss of both long snappers from last season. Sophomores Jacob McQuaide and Patrick Howe will vie for the opportunity to lock down the position.
Brian Hartline settled in as the punt returner last season and showed he can handle the job after his electrifying 90-yard punt return for a TD against Kent State. The Buckeyes did not have as much success in the kickoff return area with Ray Small serving as the primary returner. Look for Brandon Saine to get some opportunities returning kicks this season to see if his speed can be the key to good field position.
The 2008 version of the OSU offense should be exciting to watch. Nine starters return on the offensive side of the ball and fans in Columbus, OH are ready for the Buckeyes to start this season and make another run at the BCS Championship Game. Although, what they do if they get there is definitely the question. The defense will be stifling, but turnovers will be a focus. Last season the Buckeyes did not create turnovers as often as Coach Tressel would like to see. With stars at nearly every position on defense, opponents will find it difficult to match the output of the Ohio State offense.
The Buckeyes have a huge test in their third game when they play at USC. This game will play a major role in the National Championship run for the Buckeyes. Two Big Ten games away from The Horseshoe could be problematic when the Buckeyes play at Wisconsin and at Illinois. Michigan comes to play in Columbus this year, and the new look Wolverines with Rich Rodriguez will look to spoil the Buckeyes shot at a third straight shot at the BCS Title. There is no hiding that the expectations in Ohio are nothing short of 12 wins in the regular season capped off with a win in January.