My apologies for the tardiness of this post, as I had to get to several other items today. But to answer several of you, I was in Columbus on Friday visiting with Ohio State. I'll take a more in-depth look at Ohio State later this week, but here are some thoughts and tidbits from my trip to central Ohio.
Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel had an interesting comment about his team's last two bowl appearances. While most fans wouldn't group the Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas with the Rose Bowl win against Oregon, Tressel doesn't see much difference between how his team performed, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. "A year ago this time, we were coming off a very tough game with Texas, a very good team and really, we played very well," Tressel told me. "Fast-forward a year, and we played against a very good Oregon team. I don't know if we played as well this year in our bowl game as we did a year ago in our bowl game, but we won." Ohio State certainly looked more dominant in the Rose Bowl than the Fiesta, but the competition in Glendale was a little stronger as well.
Etienne Sabino has the inside track for Ohio State's third starting linebacker spot alongside Ross Homan and Brian Rolle. "He's the guy," co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell said after Friday's practice. "I know he's going to be a junior, but he's still only 19 years old. You'd like to have more time with him, but he's coming along. This has been his best spring so far." There was a lot of buzz about Sabino last summer, but Ohio State went with experience (Austin Spitler) when the season rolled around. It sounds like Sabino is ready to take the next step in 2010.
Speaking of high praise, Rolle gave some to defensive lineman John Simon, who appeared in all 12 games as a true freshman last year and should see significant playing time this fall. Rolle expects Simon to earn All-America honors before his career is done, in large part because of the work he does in the weight room and the film room. "If somebody's going to try to outwork him, they'll going to have to work really hard," Rolle said. "And he's going to outwork that effort. He's going to be a guy who will be a star here the next couple of years." Rolle also is seeing good signs from Solomon Thomas, who is stepping into the Leo (rush end) spot vacated by Thaddeus Gibson. Thomas could have a tough time beating out Nathan Williams, who has had a good spring.
Terrelle Pryor showed no limitations from offseason knee surgery in practice and moved around well. He has some obvious chemistry with DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, but Ohio State needs a No. 3 wide receiver to emerge. The hope is Taurian Washington can take that role, although Duron Carter should re-enter the mix when he gets out of Tressel's dog house. Chris Fields is another name to watch at wideout.
Devon Torrence didn't have the best day, but I still like his potential at cornerback. Torrence is an excellent athlete who could be a factor on punt returns, and he displays good aggressiveness going after the ball. I liked what I saw from Donnie Evege, who won't start at corner but could work his way into the rotation there. Evege made several nice plays during a red zone passing drill.
Jaamal Berry worked mainly with the third-team offense Friday, and the redshirt freshman running back has several players to leapfrog on the depth chart. I like his power with the ball, and though Jordan Hall isn't a big guy, he's pretty crafty and runs hard. Dan Herron appeared to hurt his ribs midway through practice, so I didn't see too much of him.
Homan is the senior member of the linebacking corps, but I really like the vocal leadership Rolle provides. He said he has always been a talker, but as a senior coming off of a strong 2009 season, he'll command more respect this fall.