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CFN offense/defense breakdown


2 time Reigning BuckeyePlanet Poker Champion
Basically ... The offense was almost non-existent at times last year, and now several key starters need to be replaced, most notably QB Craig Krenzel. The quarterback situation will get all the attention with Justin Zwick needing to live up to his big billing with a relatively inexperienced receiving corps to work with. The offensive line, in time, should end up being more productive than last year paving the way for a good group of backs.

<TABLE cellSpacing=6 width="30%" align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD width="100%">
[font=Arial, Helvetica]Returning Leaders
Passing: Justin Zwick
4-8 for 24 yds, 0 TD, 0INT
Rushing: Lydell Ross
193 carries for 826 yds and 10 TDs
Receiving: Santonio Holmes,
32 catches for 549 yds and 7 TDs

Returning Starters (5)
[font=Arial, Helvetica]QB - Justin Zwick, 6-4 225 Soph.
Troy Smith, 6-1 215 Soph.
Todd Boeckman, 6-5 235 RFr.

RB - Lydell Ross, 6-0 225 Sr.
Maurice Hall, 5-10 205 Sr.
Roshown Parker, 5-11 220 Sr.
Michael DeMaria, 5-9 200 Sr.

FB - Branden Joe, 6-0 235 Sr.
OR Brandon Schnittker, 6-2 250 Jr.
Stan White, 6-3 238 Soph.
Colby Staubs, 6-0 200 Soph.

SE - Roy Hall, 6-3 228 Soph.
John Hollins, 6-2 205 Sr.
Devin Jordan, 6-2 205 Fr.

FL - Santonio Holmes, 5-11 185 Soph.
Bam Childress, 5-10 185 Sr.
Tony Gonzalez, 6-0 200 Fr.

TE - Ryan Hamby, 6-5 250 Jr.
Jason Caldwell, 6-5 265 Sr.
Stan White, 6-3 238 Soph.

LT - Robbie Sims, 6-4 310 Jr.
John McLaughlin, 6-6 300 Sr.
Steve Rehring, 6-8 320 Fr.

LG - Doug Datish, 6-5 295 Soph.
Andree Tyre, 6-3 290 Jr.
John Conroy, 6-3 295 Jr.

C - Nick Mangold, 6-4 290 Jr.
Steve Winner, 6-6 290 Jr.

RG - Mike Kne, 6-4 303 Sr.
R.J. Coleman, 6-5 295 Soph.

RT - T.J. Downing, 6- 305 Soph.
OR Tim Schafer, 6-5 290 Soph.
Kirk Barton, 6-6 305 Fr.

Star of the offense: Senior RB Lydell Ross
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Justin Zwick
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Ryan Hamby
Best pro prospect:
Junior OT Robbie Sims
Top three all-star candidates: 1) WR Santonio Holmes, 2) Ross, 3) C Nick Mangold
Strength of the offense: Running back
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback experience

Projected Starter
- Justin Zwick, Soph. - Zwick was a huge recruit for the Buckeyes and will be the team's key player this year. He's a big passer with a fantastic arm and a little bit of mobility, but only time will tell if he has the same heart and ability to win the big games like Craig Krenzel did. While he looked good at times this spring, he didn't take the job by the horns and is in a battle with Troy Smith for the number one role.

Top Backups
- Troy Smith, Soph. - Smith has excellent all-around skills with a big-time arm and the best mobility among the quarterbacks in the mix. He showed flashes this spring that he could be a good starter, and now he has to be a more consistent passer. He's getting every shot to win the starting job.
- Todd Boeckman, Fr. - The 6-5 true freshman is over the knee problem that plagued him his senior year of high school and should be a solid backup as the year goes on. He'll get plenty of reps after getting plenty of action this spring.

The Skinny: This could be one of the most scrutinized position battles in the country going into 2004. Barring a disaster, the job is most likely Justin Zwick's, and now he has to show that he's going to be a star in the system. Troy Smith and Todd Boeckman will be excellent backups as the year goes on and with more and more practice time. Check back in 2005 as this could be one of the nation's strongest quarterback situations.
Player to keep an eye on: Troy Smith ... Quarterback Rating: 6

Running Backs
Projected Starter
- Lydell Ross, Sr. - Ross had to battle through criticisms that he wasn't producing like Maurice Clarett would've, along with some nagging injuries, to grow into a very good back rushing for 825 yards and ten touchdowns. Most importantly, he became a force over the second half of the season giving hope that he could be one of the Big Ten's breakout runners this year. He's not lightning fast, but he's a powerful back in great shape who's becoming strong around the goal line.
- Fullback Branden Joe, Sr. - Joe missed time last year with a torn pectoral muscle, but he still was able to run for 99 yards and be the team's top lead blocker. He's an excellent athlete for a 235-pound back and an excellent lead blocker.

Top Backups
- Maurice Hall, Jr. - Hall adds more speed to the equation than the powerful Ross, but, due to knee problems, he wasn't all that effective last year averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry rushing for 315 yards and a touchdown. He's also used as the team's top kickoff returner.
- Roshawn Parker, Sr. - The 220-pound Parker is expected to play a big role this year as the third back in the mix. He's expected to be fine after a slight shoulder injury knocked him out of the spring game.
- Brandon Schnittker,Jr. - Schnittker is 250-pound sledgehammer who'll rotate at fullback with Branden Joe. Used primarily as a blocker, he won't carry the ball as much with only four carries for ten yards last year.

The Skinny: Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall are a solid rushing tandem if they can stay healthy. Ross became a top runner when the team needed him most last year and should carry his great finishing kick into the fall. If Hall can become a home-run hitter, the running game will be strong. Freshman Tony Pittman could end up adding even more production to the already solid position looking fantastic this spring. The fullbacks should be excellent.
Player to keep an eye on: Roshawn Parker ... Running Back Rating: 8.5

Projected Starters
- Santonio Holmes, Sr. - Holmes was a fantastic complementary receiver to Michael Jenkins last year catching 32 passes for 549 yards and seven touchdowns, and now he should flourish as the team's top receiver. He's a big-play, big-game playmaker with two touchdown grabs in the Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State and was sensational against Michigan. He has tremendous speed and is tremendous in the open field averaging 17.2 yards per catch last year.
- Roy Hall, Soph. - A big, strong receiver, the 6-3, 228-pound sophomore could bulk up a little more and become a devastating tight end if he doesn't work out as a wideout. He's coming off a six catch, 69-yard season and needs to emerge as a top playmaker to help take the pressure off Santonio Holmes.
- Tight end Ryan Hamby, Jr. - Hamby is a solid replacement for top tight end Ben Hartsock after catching 18 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns last year. He still has a little bit of work to do as a blocker, but he's a gifted pass catcher with tremendous hands.

Top Backups
- John Hollins, Sr. - Hampered by a knee injury early in his career, he hasn't done much so far in his Buckeye career. Now he has to use his size and speed to be a reliable backup behind Roy Hall.
- Bam Childress, Sr. - Childress was a spot starter last year and saw time in every game catching 11 passes for 133 yards. He's extremely quick and is just about impossible to stay with one on one. Now he has to be more of an impact player working behind Santonio Holmes.
- Jason Caldwell, Sr. - The 265-pound senior won't see too many passes come his way, but he'll use his blocking skills to take over the number two tight end job after Louis Irizarry's arrest and suspension on felony assault charges.

The Skinny: Santonio Holmes is a superstar just waiting to break out, but he needs help from the rest of the corps. There are great prospects and good athletes to work with, and now they have to become factors in the attack. Thanks to Ryan Hamby, don't expect any sort of drop-off in tight end production after losing Ben Hartsock, but WR Michael Jenkins will be hard to replace.
Player to keep an eye on: Ryan Hamby ... Receiver Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line
Projected Starters
- Tackle Rob Sims, Jr. - A tremendous athlete for a player of his size, the 6-4, 310 Sims should grow into one of the best players on the line. He showed the poise and presence early to play a major role as a freshman in the national title run, and then built on it with a good 2003. Now he has to become a leader of a line that needs to be far better.
- Guard Doug Datish, Soph. - The 295-pound Datish, a superstar recruit, will battle throughout the summer with Andree Tyree and John Conroy for the starting left guard job. Datish can play tackle if needed, but will get is versatile enough to grow into the guard role.
- Center Nick Mangold, Jr. - The anchor of the line, Mangold stepped in when Alex Stepanovich went down with an ankle sprain last year and started over the second half of the season. His emergence as a force in the middle allowed Stepanovich to moved to guard. It'll be tough to be the Big Ten's best center in a conference with Minnesota's Greg Elsinger and Wisconsin's Donovan Raiola, but Mangold has all the tools to be the best of the lot.
- Guard Mike Kne, Sr. - Kne has worked himself into the starting role getting the nod at right guard. He has the size and quickness to be a decent tackle if the coaching staff decides to change things around.
- Tackle T.J. Downing, Soph. - It'll be up to Downing and Tim Schafer to take over for top tackle Shane Olivea. Downing is a little bigger and a little more polished than Schafer, but it'll be a battle going into the fall.

Top Backups
- T Tim Schafer, Soph. - Schafer is a former defensive lineman who has looked decent on the offensive side. He's neck-and-neck with T.J. Downing for the starting right tackle job.
- G R.J. Coleman,, Soph. - The former tight end has bulked up to become an athletic backup guard. He won't get the starting spot on the right side over Mike Kne, but he has the talent to grow into a good reserve.

The Skinny: The 2003 line should've been one of the best in America with five starters returning and a boatload of good reserves waiting in the wings. It didn't happen only paving the way for 126 rushing yards per game and allowing 33 sacks. This group is relatively inexperienced, but it should turn out to be fine if guards Mike Knee and Doug Datish come through. Robbie Sims has the potential to be an All-American with a little more work, while center Nick Mangold is a budding star. The concern is with the depth as there's almost no experience backing up the front five.
Player to keep an eye on: Mike Kne ... Offensive Line Rating: 7
Basically ... The Ohio State defense was loaded, experienced and dominating last year and now has to deal with the loss of several key performers. None might be bigger than the loss of defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio to Cincinnati. The raw talent is there for another huge season, but the experience isn't with the line the biggest concern. The linebacking corps should be scary good as Air Force transfer Anthony Schlegel and Indiana's John Kerr make and already strong group outstanding. The secondary will be excellent if E.J. Underwood plays as well as he did this spring.

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[font=Arial, Helvetica]Returning Leaders
Tackles: A.J. Hawk, 106
Sacks: Bobby Carpenter, 4.5
Interceptions: Dustin Fox, 3

Returning Starters (4)
[font=Arial, Helvetica]DE - Simon Fraser, 6-6 280 Sr.
Jay Richardson, 6-6 270 Soph.
Redgie Arden, 6-4 260 Jr.

LT - Marcus Green, 6-3 290 Jr.
David Patterson, 6-3 285 Soph.
Stan Cotton, 6-4 295 Fr.

RT - Quinn Pitcock, 6-3 295 Soph.
Joel Penton, 6-5 275 Soph.
Brandon Maupin, 6-6 300 Soph.

DE - Mike Kudla, 6-3 255 Jr.
Marcel Frost. 6-5 255 FR.
Reggie Smith, 6-3 250 Fr.

SLB - Bobby Carpenter, 6-3 255 Jr.
Marcus Freeman, 6-2 230 Fr.

MLB - Anthony Schlegel, 6-2 245 Jr.
OR Mike D'Andrea, 6-3 248 Jr.
John Kerr, 6-1 246 Soph.

WLB - A.J. Hawk, 6-2 238 Jr.
Thomas Matthews, 6-2 220 Sr.
Curt Lukens, 6-3 228 Fr.

RCB - Dustin Fox, 6-0 190 Sr.
Harlen Jacobs, 6-1 197 Sr.
Mike Roberts, 5-11 185 Soph.

FS - Nate Salley, 6-3 215 Jr.
brandon Mitchell, 6-3 205 Soph.
Antonio Smith, 5-10 190 Soph.

SS - Donte Whitner, 5-11 200 Soph.
Tyler Everett, 6-1 165 Jr.
Rob Harley, 6-2 202 Sr.

LCB - E.J. Underwood, 6-1 175 Jr.
Ashton Youboty, 6-2 18 Soph.

Returning ST Starters (1)
PK - Mike Nugent, 5-10 180 Sr.
Josh Huston, 6-1 195 Sr.
P - Josh Huston, 6-1 195 Sr.
A.J. Trapasso, 6-1 220 Fr.
Star of the defense: Junior LB A.J. Hawk
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior DT Marcus Green
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB E.J. Underwood
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Simon Fraser
Top three all-star candidates: 1)
Hawk, 2) Fraser, 3) FS Nate Salley
Strength of the defense: Linebackers
Weakness of the defense:
Defensive line experience

Defensive LineProjected Starters
- Defensive end Simon Fraser, Sr. - Fraser will have to be the leader of the line as the only returning starter. He went from being a pass rush specialist to a good all-around end making 34 tackles and seven tackles for loss while breaking up five passes. He has to get in the backfield a little more than he did last year to take the heat off the rest of the line..
- Defensive tackle Marcus Green, Jr. - The 290-pound Green has had a few knee problems, but he's expected to be a rock in the middle after making 15 tackles as a backup.
- Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock, Soph. - Pitcock is a high-motor tackle with good size and tremendous strength coming off a season as Tim Anderson's backup making 17 tackles and three sacks.
- Defensive end Mike Kudla, Jr. - Kudla has been a key reserve over the last few years now taking over for Will Smith after spending last year getting back into shape following a viral infection after the national championship win. He's a decent pass rusher who needs to be consistently in the backfield.

Top Backups
- DT David Patterson, Soph. - The 285-pound Patterson proved to be a solid backup last year making seven stops and two sacks. He'll back up Marcus Green on the left side and be a regular in the rotation.
- DE Marcel Frost, RFr. - A fascinating defensive end prospect, Frost was a top tight end coming out of high school. He's a great athlete and could turn into something special with more time.
- DE Jay Richardson, Soph. - The 270-pounder sophomore has a little bit of experience and is one of the team's most promising young pass rushers. He'll back up Simon Fraser.

The Skinny: The tremendous line of last year has to rebuild in a hurry with several young, inexperienced players. Simon Fraser is a good player to start with, and now he needs to play better than ever for the line to be anywhere near as strong as last year's. This will be a far better line by the end of the season.
Player to keep an eye on: Quinn Pitcock ... Defensive Line Rating: 7

LinebackersProjected Starters
- Bobby Carpenter, Jr. - Mostly a backup to Robert Reynolds last year, Carpenter made 37 tackles and 4.5 sacks showing a knack to make the big hit as well as get into the backfield. He's more than ready for the full-time starting job on the strongside.
- Anthony Schlegel, Jr. - Schlegel was one of the Mountain West's best linebackers making 118 stops and ten tackles for loss at Air Force in 2002. With Academy life not for him, he sat out last year and should become a big-time factor in the Buckeye linebacking corps. He's tough as nails and always around the ball.
- A.J. Hawk, Jr. - Hawk turned in an All-America caliber season leading the Buckeyes with 106 tackles. He's not just a good run stopper, he has the speed and athleticism to get in the backfield and also become a tremendous pass defenders with two interceptions and five broken up passes for go along with four sacks and 13 tackles for loss on the weakside. He was limited this spring after surgery on his right knee.

Top Backups
- Mike D'Andrea, Jr. - D'Andrea is the biggest linebacker in the mix and will combine with Anthony Schlegel for the job on the inside. He's a physical player and, at the very least, a great backup making 24 tackles and three tackles for loss last year. He missed spring ball recovering from a shoulder problem.
- Thomas Matthews, Sr. - Part safety and part linebacker, Matthews has mostly been a special teams player so far making five tackles last year. He'll backup A.J. Hawk on the weakside.
- John Kerr, Soph. - Kerr led Indiana with 114 tackles in 2002 to go along with six tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception. He adds even more depth to the corps playing behind Anthony Schlegel and Mike D'Andrewa in the middle.

The Skinny: With the addition of Air Force's best linebacker, Anthony Schlegel, and Indiana's best linebacker, John Kerr, there's a ridiculous amount of talent here. Oh yeah, and A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Mike D'Andrea are also back to give the Buckeyes one of the nation's best linebacking corps.
Player to keep an eye on: Bobby Carpenter ... Linebacker Rating: 10

Projected Starters
- Cornerback Dustin Fox, Sr. - Fox is one of the best tackling corners in college football making 77 tackles last year to go along with his three interceptions and nine broken up passes. He's a good sized corner with excellent athleticism who got picked on last year with teams staying away from Chris Gamble. The main concern is his head suffering a concussion this spring.
- Free safety Nate Salley, Jr. - Salley can play corner, but he's better suited for safety with his 6-3, 215-pound size. He made 77 tackles last year and should be in the mix for All-Big Ten honors with his highlight reel blows and great speed.
- Strong safety Donte Whitner, Soph. - Whitner was an excellent reserve last year making 22 tackles and two interceptions. He's a big-time hitter who just needs a few more reps before becoming a top Big Ten safety.
- Cornerback E.J. Underwood, Jr. - It'll be up to Underwood to take over for Chris Gamble in the starting mix. The 6-1 junior was a key player in the mix last year supposed to push for the starting corner job so Gamble could play more at receiver, but he slashed his thumb on a bottle of A-1 sauce and only played in five games. He was one of the stars of spring ball and should be an adequate replacement.

Top Backups
- Cornerback Asthon Youboty, Soph. - A top recruit a few years ago, Youboty came in as a safety prospect but has the speed to be a fantastic corner behind E.J. Underwood. He's 6-2 and 188 pounds with great speed and a little bit of experience last year making 14 tackles.
- Strong Safety Tyler Everett, Jr. - Everett has been a solid reserve over the last few years and should be a great backup behind Donte Whitner. He's a taller player than Whitner and can also hit with 19 tackles last year, an interception and three broken up passes.

The Skinny: The M.O. of the Buckeye secondary is to bend, but not break allowing 234.5 yards per game but only 14 touchdowns. The safeties should be intimidating led by the huge-hitting Nate Salley, while the corners need to prove they can lock down on the top receiving corps without a Chris Gamble to rely on. Dustin Fox has been a more-than-solid corner over the last few years, but he's not necessarily your dream number one. Coming this fall will be superstar recruit Ted Ginn Jr. adding more athleticism to the secondary.
Player to keep an eye on: E.J. Underwood ... Secondary Rating: 8

Special Teams
- Placekicker Mike Nugent, Sr. - He should be just about everyone's All-American this year and the favorite to win the Lou Groza Award. He had another tremendous season last year connecting on 16 of 19 field goals nailing six of seven from beyond 41 yards.
- Punter Josh Huston, Sr. - Along with being the backup placekicker, Huston will take over for B.J. Sander and his 43.3 yards average. No pressure here; Huston is the next punter in line after All-Americans Sander and Andy Groom. Kyle Turano led the punters in the spring game averaging 43 yards on two kicks.

The Skinny: The Buckeye special teams weren't as strong as they should've been despite have one of the best kicking games in the nation. They were awful at returning kicks averaging a mere 17.6 yards per kickoff return and 6.7 yards on punt returns. The coverage units were strong, so the focus has to be on getting more pop from the kick returners and getting production from the punters after the loss of B.J. Sander.
Special Teams Rating: 7