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Twenty Questions? - Gerd Has the Answers (Part II)
By Tony Gerdeman

Well, we gave the twenty question treatment to the college football world at-large, now it’s time to question our backyard.

Following are twenty questions and answers concerning the Buckeyes in 2006.

(Actually, I don’t know if they concern the Buckeyes, but they do concern me.)

Will Jim Tressel's oft-intended (but rarely reached) goal of 250 yards passing and 200 yards rushing per game be attainable this year?

Absolutely. But with the Buckeyes’ ability to run the ball and Coach Tressel’s penchant to not throw the ball unnecessarily with a decent lead, I think the 250 yard aspect of the equation may lean more towards the running game. Last season, the Buckeyes averaged 226 yards passing and 197 yards rushing per game. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine both of those numbers increasing in 2006. However, with Ohio State breaking in a new defense, it might be wise to run the ball (and the clock) as much as possible.

How much defense will Ted Ginn play?

Somewhere between none and not at all. If this is Ted Ginn’s last season, then there should be a concentrated effort to use him on offense as much as possible. This, of course, would negate using him on defense. The only way I can see him on defense would be if there were no other viable candidates to play cornerback. It would have to be similar circumstances to the situation that saw Cie Grant become the world’s heaviest cornerback back in 2001.

The losses on defense will be too much to overcome, right?

I guess it depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Last year’s defense played in two losses. Can this year’s defense accomplish that? Yes.

What does Troy Smith need to do to win the Heisman?

Three things: 1) Have no more than one loss; 2) Adequate numbers: 2,500 yards passing, 500 yards rushing and at least 30 total touchdowns; and 3) Have a quality quantity of signature plays. Smith isn’t going to put up the numbers that Brady Quinn will, simply because the Buckeyes won’t pass as much. However, his 230 yard passing day can trump a 360 yard passing day because of the constant stream of 3rd and longs that Smith picks up with his feet and arm. His leadership skills will also help him nearly as much as his stats will.

Who will surprise on defense?

Linebacker Marcus Freeman. Some may not think this is much of a surprise, but he did miss an entire year due to injury, so let me have this one. Freeman will continue the legacy of the true Linebacker U by making plays when they need to be made. He will be a leader on defense from the start.

What can we expect from Antonio Pittman?

More improvement. The statistics may not dramatically improve, but the running will. The improvement that Antonio Pittman made from his freshman year to his sophomore year was pretty impressive. As a freshman, Pittman would look to the sidelines in order to avoid contact. As a sophomore, when he approached the sideline, more often than not he would look to lower his head and deliver the blow on the defense. As a junior, he may just end up picking out guys in the huddle to run over. Also keep in mind that as a running back at Ohio State, you can’t just sit back and relax, because there are new guys and old guys looking to get carries. 2006 will be no different.

In that same vein, what should we expect from Chris Wells in 2006?

Applying one of John Cooper’s favorite sayings to this Buckeye team, “If a dog’s gonna bite, he’ll bite as a pup.” If you have been a starting running back under Jim Tressel, you have had at least one one-hundred yard rushing game as a freshman. (We can debate whether or not you want to consider Maurice Hall a “starting running back”, but for the purposes of my point, I do not.) Lydell Ross ran for 124 yards against Indiana, and finished with 419 yards and six touchdowns 2001. In 2002, some freshman ran for 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns, though the name escapes me right now. In 2004, Antonio Pittman ran for 144 yards against Indiana, on his way to 381 yards rushing for the season. So, if we average those numbers out, we get 679 yards and eight touchdowns. So why don’t we expect that.

Do the Buckeyes have a lockdown cornerback for 2006?

Yes, Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins came in last year and immediately made people take notice of him. So much so that he was in the two-deep relatively quickly. When Tyler Everett went down, Jenkins was placed in the starting lineup. While he did look like a freshman at times, he also looked very comfortable out there. Ashton Youboty came in and got early playing time as a freshman and it proved extremely valuable. The experience that Jenkins got last year will prove the same. And his skills will be needed even more than Youboty’s were last year. This is a defense in transition, and if Jenkins can be one of those guys that controls one side of the field, it makes life easier on everybody else—including the new starting safeties.

Who will lead the Buckeyes in tackles?

Marcus Freeman. In fact, if any linebacker leads the Buckeyes in tackles, consider that a good thing. If a safety leads the Buckeyes in tackles, consider that a bad thing. Getting back to Freeman, let me be the first to say that he will be All Big Ten First Team. (Though, to be fair, I don’t know that I’m the first to say it. I am, however, the first to get it down on paper and into this column.)

Along those lines, which other Buckeyes will be First Team All Big Ten?

In list form: Troy Smith, Antonio Pittman (Coaches’, but not Media), Ted Ginn, Alex Boone, Quinn Pitcock, and Malcolm Jenkins.

What does Ted Ginn need to do to win the Heisman?

Everything (except play defense). The Buckeyes haven’t had a 1,000 yard receiver since Michael Jenkins had 1,076 yards receiving during a 14 game schedule, so there’s one goal for Ginn. Ginn will have the benefit of 12 regular games to create as many highlights as possible. However, if he is in a position to win it, that means Troy Smith will be as well. Ginn’s year would have to be so far and above Troy Smith’s year that he completely overshadows Smith. And if the Buckeyes are in a national title hunt, it will be impossible to overshadow Troy Smith.

Besides Smith and Ginn, which other Buckeyes are legitimate candidates for individual awards?

Alex Boone, Outland Trophy. In truth, he’s probably a year away from gaining the recognition that he will be due. However, Boone will be the best left tackle in Columbus since Orlando Pace. Though he will be overshadowed by two other tackles in the Big Ten Conference in Penn State’s Levi Brown and Wisconsin’s Joe Thomas. (I would’ve also put the Lombardi Award in here, but the last offensive player to win the award was Orlando Pace in 1996.)

Will the legacy of Kicker U. continue?

Eventually, perhaps, but not right out of the gate. 2001 saw a competition at place kicker between Josh Huston and Mike Nugent. Both turned out pretty good—especially if you consider how meekly they both strove for mediocrity in 2001. 2006 will bring about another kicker competition between Aaron Pettrey and Ryan Pretorius. Both have big legs, though Pretorius has the experience edge, having had some kickoffs in 2005. The biggest contribution that either kicker could add would be to continue the stellar kickoffs that we have come to expect at Ohio State. Forcing the opponent to travel 80 yards for a touchdown and 55 for a field goal cannot be undervalued, especially with a young defense.

Who will lead the Buckeyes in interceptions?

Cornerback Andre Amos. Obviously, Brandon Mitchell would be a more obvious pick, especially if he’s starting at free safety. However, I expect the corner opposite Malcolm Jenkins to get picked on quite a bit, and I expect Andre Amos to win that spot opposite Jenkins. Given the fact that Amos was also a very good receiver in high school, I imagine he also has the ability to catch the ball while on defense—something Jenkins hasn’t yet displayed. Also, keep in mind that at the rate the Buckeye defense has been causing turnovers, one interception could end up tying for the team lead.

How do you replace Santonio Holmes?

By running the ball. The Buckeyes’ ability to run the ball will make their ability to throw it even more dangerous. Anthony Gonzalez in single coverage with no safety is just as dangerous as Santonio Holmes with safety help. There also won’t be just one person to replace Santonio Holmes. It will be a group effort. The Ohio State receivers all possess different skills, so they can all be used situationally when needed. It would also help to get the ball to Ted Ginn as much as legally possible.

Who will surprise on offense?

I would say left tackle Alex Boone, but his domination in 2006 should surprise nobody. So, instead, I’ll go with receiver Brian Robiskie. You can go ahead and put me on the Robiskie bandwagon. I understand that this is kind of a stretch. Robiskie will come in as, at best, the fourth receiver in 2006. Last year, Roy Hall was the fourth leading receiver among wideouts with 16 catches. Considering that that’s what Robiskie has to look forward to, this semi-educated guess seems like a stretch. However, there are sixty-two receptions that have graduated from 2005, so there’s opportunity out there for somebody. [Editor's Note: Mr. Ed says watch out for Brian Harline as well.]

Who will lead the Buckeyes in sacks in 2006?

Defensive end Lawrence Wilson. Since we’re not really sure who all of the linebackers are going to be, and who is going to slide down to the Leo position, I’m going to take the easy guess with Wilson. His relatively early insertion into the rotation should tell you most of what you need to know about how the coaches feel about him. Now that he is a year older, he is also a year smarter, stronger, faster, better, etc. (I would’ve put Freeman here, but you’re probably tired of hearing me talk about him.)

Which conference road game should we be most concerned about?

Iowa. The Buckeyes have about the best conference road schedule you could hope for. They go to Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois and Northwestern. Northwestern loses a bunch. Illinois will still be Illinois. Michigan State will be dangerous, but since the game is in the middle of October, the Spartan implosion should already be in full go. That leaves Drew Tate, Albert Young, and an extremely young defense. Whichever young defense panics least will win.

Should I buy tickets for the as of yet unnamed BCS Championship Game?

Sure, why not. If the Buckeyes don’t make it, you can turn your tickets around and make 400% profit, thereby funding your trip to whichever bowl game the Buckeyes may be in. (Remember, the more tickets you buy initially, the longer your alternate bowl trip can be.)

13-0 isn’t outlandish, is it?

Nope. The Buckeyes aren’t the only team breaking in new players. Every single team in the Top 10 has inexperience in key positions. When people want to talk about the nine starters lost on defense, remind them that there are seven guys coming back on defense who have started (Richardson, Patterson, Pitcock, D’Andrea, Laurinaitis, Mitchell, and Jenkins), and that the best player on defense (Marcus Freeman) isn’t one of them.

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