Holtz: Buckeyes Will Compete ‘Right Away’
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the last nine years, Ohio State was the class of the Big Ten. In many ways, they were also the face of the conference.
During Jim Tressel’s decade in Columbus, the Buckeyes won seven Big Ten championships, six BCS bowl games and one BCS national title. They also won their first Rose Bowl since 1997.
The drop-off from 12-1 a year ago to 6-6 has been sudden and severe, but it could be equally short-lived. The Buckeyes are only hours away from introducing Urban Meyer as their new head football coach, and Lou Holtz sees nothing bight brighter days ahead in Columbus.
“They could not have gotten a better guy to bring Ohio State back to national championship contention than Urban Meyer,” said Holtz, who won 249 games as a head coach at the collegiate level.
“Look at everywhere he went. They were 2-8 at Bowling Green and he took them to 8-3 the next year. I think they expect to compete for the (Big Ten) championship next year.”
That is how much of an effect Meyer could have on the Buckeyes. He is widely considered to be one of the top active coaches in college football, and has already turned around three different programs, including the Florida Gators, who had lost 14 games in three years under Ron Zook.
“I don’t want to put any pressure on him, he has a enough on his own, but I don’t see any reason in the world why they can’t be a great football team immediately,” said Holtz, who has worked as a college football analyst for ESPN since retiring from his job at South Carolina in 2004.
“Going into this season before they had all the suspensions, Ohio State was expected to be a top five school. If they didn’t break the rules, they would have been a top-five team again this year.”
The Buckeyes lost only one game last season, and that was a hard-fought battle against Wisconsin in Madison under the lights. They manhandled Michigan for the seventh-straight season and outlasted Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.
Although they lost a lot on defense, the offense would have been one of the best in recent Ohio State history if not for the suspensions of Boom Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and of course Terrelle Pryor, who opted to defect to the NFL’s supplemental draft instead.
That left the Buckeyes with a brand new quarterback, a first-time head coach and very little experience at the skill positions on offense. As a result, they dropped three of their first six games to start the season before finally getting Herron for their week seven win at Illinois.
Ohio State would struggle to find consistency on either side of the ball the rest of the year, but it is easy to see how this team is still loaded with talent that Tressel and his staff brought to Columbus.
“Make no mistake about it, Ohio State has excellent talent and excellent athletes and they always will,” said Holtz, who grew up in Ohio and coached the defensive backs at Ohio State under Woody Hayes in 1968.
“You are the school in the state of Ohio where high school football is very, very popular.”
If there are no early defections, the Buckeyes would return 10 starters on defense, including defensive end John Simon, who tied for second in the Big Ten in sacks during the regular season.
They would also return six starters on offense, including quarterback Braxton Miller.
“I love the quarterback. I think Braxton Miller has all the ingredients,” Holtz said.
“I’m not just talking about his ability to run and throw and have a strong arm, the guy loves the game of football. He’s competitive. You could see that in the Michigan game.”
Miller completed 14 of his 25 passes for a career-high 225 yards in Ohio State’s 40-34 loss in Ann Arbor. He also ran for 100 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown, on 16 carries, and almost led the Buckeyes to a late comeback.
“There’s enough talent there. And have a guy under the center at quarterback,” said Holtz, who coached Tony Rice, Rick Mirer and Ron Powlus at Notre Dame.
“I don’t care how good a coach you are, you aren’t going to be very successful without that.”
Meyer has his quarterback in place for the next 2-3 years and he also has a quality backup on the way in Cardale Jones, who spent the last season at Fork Union Military Academy. Both guys seem to fit what Meyer will want to do offensively.
The same goes for playmakers like Jordan Hall, Corey Brown and Jake Stoneburner, who might actually be the biggest beneficiary of the coaching change.
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