The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Preview: Akron at Ohio State
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar


Trophy1_2011- Saturday, September 3, 2011

- Ohio Stadium - Columbus, OH

- 12:00 p.m. (ET)

- TV: ESPN, ESPN3  -

The Akron Zips provide the opposition for Luke Fickell’s head coaching debut at Ohio State on Saturday, as the Buckeyes will finally put their tumultuous off-season behind them with a noon kickoff at the Horseshoe. 18th-ranked Ohio State will take the field for the opener without six nine players who are serving suspensions, and without the man in the sweater-vest who led them to seven Big Ten titles and a national championship.

Fickell said it himself at his introductory press conference...Ohio State football is bigger than any one coach...and one of his primary themes for this team has been “moving forward”. But none of that will remove the specter of Jim Tressel from this football game. Maybe that presence will diminish as the season goes along, but for this one Ohio Stadium Saturday at least, The Vest will be there in spirit.

The Akron Zips (1-11)  were among the nation’s worst teams last year, and they look like the perfect opponent for a young Buckeye squad that has to generate momentum and growth for their long season. Akron did administer OSU’s last loss to a current MAC school, a 12-6 decision in 1894, (I think that predates Zippy).  And the Zips were respectable if not wholly competitive in losses to the Buckeyes in 2007 (20-2) and 2001 (28-14).

That 2001 win over Akron was Jim Tressel’s first game as head coach at Ohio State, played on September 8, just three days before the 9/11 attacks. That game’s 10th anniversary, marking the official end of his decade in Columbus, is one more reason he’ll be in mind Saturday. But the day will belong to Luke Fickell and a team that is itching to play a football game, and to do their talking on the field.

New Hardware

Trophy2_2011The Big Ten unveiled their new trophy, as you can see, with its 18-pound, removable, cast bronze football. Not shabby. There are not many...but there are a few distinguished analysts who think the team that won at least a share of the last six conference titles will be the team hoisting that shiny football in December.

I guess I’m less bullish on Ohio State’s chances to do that than Kirk Herbstreit and Urban Meyer are, (there are at least ten reasons why they shouldn’t...and besides, both Meyer and Herbie are Buckeyes born and bred), but if the Buckeyes could pull it off....well, books will chronicle the story.

Conference play is still a month away though, and after Akron is dispatched, this depleted OSU team team has to get through Toledo, (at) Miami, and Colorado before the Michigan State Spartans roll into Columbus on October 1. Right now I’m thinking a 4-1 record after the MSU contest would be something to feel good about, even knowing how difficult it will be to go to Lincoln, Nebraska a week later and come away with a win.

By kickoff time this weekend you’ll be weary of hearing about new beginnings and fresh starts, but that’s what this Saturday really represents. Akron shows up for their $850,000 pay day, and Ohio State football gets off the front page, and back in the sports section.  Luke Fickell begins his “era” unsure if it will last till Christmas, and a bunch of young Ohio State players begin to grow into the system, making the inevitable mistakes along the way.

Maybe it’s a year to set aside thinking about the destination....and concentrate on enjoying the journey.

JordanHall5Not so fast, my friend...

Late Thursday afternoon Ohio State announced that it has suspended three additional players for the opening game of the season, “disclosing that they had received impermissible benefits of $300 or less each in total at a charity event they attended earlier in the year.” Starting tailback Jordan Hall, (#7 at right), starting cornerback Travis Howard, and second string safety Corey Brown will sit out the Akron game after the university discovered and self-reported the violations to the NCAA, and immediately applied for the players’ reinstatement following the one-game penalty.

If you count Terrelle Pryor, that makes six starters and three backups that are missing from the Ohio State lineup as a result of NCAA violations of one kind or another. Hall and Howard are among the team’s best players on offense and defense respectively, especially in the absence of the offensive starters already suspended (DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Dan Herron).

The other shoe is yet to drop.....

Before you get too mesmerized by that shiny bronze football, remember that Ohio State’s final reckoning with the NCAA is yet to come, and the possibility remains that a ban on postseason play for 2011 will be imposed. If that happens, it also means that the Buckeyes will not be permitted to play in the inaugural Big Ten championship game come December.

It had become the prevailing opinion of late that the NCAA would stop short of a postseason ban for OSU, and pretty much accept the penalties already self-imposed by the university. Adding three more names on Thursday to its already long list of rules violators can’t help their cause.

Lining Up

In light of the latest developments, here’s the way the Buckeyes will start the game against the Zips:

Brewster3rOffensive Line:

Left Tackle: #78 - Andrew Norwell - Sophomore - 6’ 5”, 308 lbs
Left Guard: #74 - Jack Mewhort - RS Sophomore - 6’ 6”, 303 lbs.
Center: #50 - Mike Brewster - Senior - 6’ 5”, 305 lbs. (#50 at right)
Right Guard: #79 - Marcus Hall - RS Sophomore - 6’ 5”, 315 lbs.
Right Tackle: #76 - J.B. Shugarts - Senior - 6’ 7”, 300 lbs.

Receivers and Tight Ends:

Wide Receiver: #9 - Verlon Reed - RS Freshman - 6’ 2”, 195 lbs.
Wide Receiver: #10 - Corey “Philly” Brown - Sophomore - 5’ 11”, 182 lbs.
Slot Receiver: #80 - Chris Fields - RS Sophomore - 6’ 0”, 180 lbs.
Tight End: #11 - Jake Stoneburner - RS Junior - 6’ 5”, 245 lbs.

Offensive Backfield:

Quarterback: #14 -Joe Bauserman - Senior - 6’ 1”, 230 lbs.   OR
Quarterback: #5 - Braxton Miller - Freshman - 6’ 3”, 210 lbs.
Fullback: #44 -Zach Boren - Junior - 6’ 0”, 252 lbs.
Running Back: #34 - Carlos Hyde - Sophomore - 6’ 0”, 238 lbs.

Also possibly seeing some action on offense would be running back Rod Smith (who has just switched from uniform #24 to #2), backup tight ends Reid Fragel (#88) and Jeff Heuerman (#86) and freshman receivers Evan Spencer (#16) or Devin Smith (#15).  Running back Jaamal Berry has been troubled with a hamstring injury for most of fall camp and would have to be considered doubtful for this one.

The defense had been hit less hard by suspensions, at least until their #1 cornerback Howard got Saturday off. Sophomore Dominic Clarke will probably take his place for the day, and this is the way the rest of the defense will line up:

Defensive Line:

Simon13Defensive End: #54 - John Simon - Junior - 6’ 2”, 270 lbs. (#54 at right)
Defensive Tackle: #52 - Johnathan Hankins - Sophomore - 6’ 3”, 330 lbs.
Nose Guard: #53 - Garrett Goebel - RS Junior - 6’ 3”, 290 lbs.
Defensive End: #43 - Nathan Williams - Senior - 6’ 3”, 255 lbs.


Strongside LB: #6 - Etienne Sabino - RS Junior - 6’ 3”, 242 lbs.
Middle LB: #32 - Storm Klein - Junior - 6’ 2”, 240 lbs.
Weakside LB - #42 - Andrew Sweat - Senior - 6’ 2”, 238 lbs.

Defensive Backs:

Star Back: #26 - Tyler Moeller - Senior - 6’ 0”, 210 lbs.
Cornerback: #25 - Bradley Roby - RS Freshman - 5’ 11”, 185 lbs.
Cornerback: #5 - Dominic Clarke - Sophomore - 5’ 9”, 190 lbs.
Safety: #19 - Orhian Johnson - RS Junior - 6’ 2”, 205 lbs.
Safety: #4 - C.J. Barnett - RS Sophomore - 6’ 0”, 190 lbs.

Jim Heacock’s defense plays about half the time in the nickel (5 DB’s) package, which will bring Moeller onto the field replacing the SLB. In camp, Klein had been coming off the field and Sabino moving over to MLB in the nickel look, but Sabino’s broken hand, which he intends to play with in a cast, could change the coaches’ thinking about that, and we could see Klein staying in there.

Heacock will try to use as many as eight defensive linemen in his rotation, with Adam Bellamy (#93) playing a lot for sure, as he is the first backup for three of the DL positions (excepting Williams’ “Leo” end spot). Redshirt freshman J.T. Moore (#50) will back up Williams, and other defensive linemen you’re likely to see out there include freshman Michael Bennett (#63), and senior nose guard (#68) Evan Blankenship. Solon’s Darryl Baldwin (#90) has had a good camp too, and could get some field time at either end or tackle.

Other key defensive backups to keep an eye out for are freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier (#10) and sophomore safety/Star Christian Bryant (#2). True freshman cornerback Doran Grant has also moved into the 2-deep already and you could see #12 rotating in there as well.

Rubber City Reclamation Project

AkronZips2Rob Ianello’s Akron Zips are another team looking for a fresh start in 2011. The glass-half-full approach would be to note that the Zips are on a one-game winning streak, having won their final game of the 2010 season to avoid a perfect 0-12 slate. Beyond that, they’re encouraged by the fact that they played a better brand of football in the season’s second half.

In the two games preceding their season-ending victory, the Zips played MAC East champ Miami tough in a 19-14 loss, and took Ball State to overtime before dropping a 37-30 decision. Ianello is in his second year at the helm in Akron after a stint as an assistant at Notre Dame, and he says he’s happy with the way the team has progressed in terms of attitude and also in picking up his  system.

Statistically, the 2010 Zips were a disaster, averaging just 15.6 points per game, to rank 118th out of 120 FBS programs. The defense gave up 35.1 points a game, good for 106th in the nation. They were 101st in rushing yards and 108th in passing get the idea.

Ianello has managed to assemble some talent on offense, starting with his projected starter at quarterback. Clayton Moore (6’ 1”, 210) transferred from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he was 155 of 257 passing, for 2,395 yards, and 23 TDs in 2010. Moore started out at Ole Miss in 2009 before going the JUCO route. He appears to have beaten out Patrick Nicely, who started for most of the last two seasons at Akron. Moore reportedly throws the deep ball pretty well, and he also has some running skills, as he rushed for six TD’s a year ago.

(If Moore doesn’t get some help on this Akron offense though, he could end up like his namesake. Yep...I knew that name sounded familiar.)

Another Zip who was first recruited by a BCS conference school is wide receiver Marquelo Suel, who committed to Indiana but failed to qualify academically and also took the junior college path back to the FBS. Suel has big-play ability and he’ll be a key target for Moore. Sophomore running back Broderick Alexander will split time with redshirt freshman Jawon Chisholm in the backfield. Both kids have decent size and speed, but neither played in 2010 as Alexander also took a redshirt year. Like most OSU opponents, Akron will not make a living running the football against the Buckeyes.

By the end of the day Saturday you’ll probably know who Tyler Williams is. The Zips’ little freshman scatback from Cincinnati Colerain is lightning quick and elusive at 5’ 7”, and 160 pounds. He’s the kind of player who jumps off the screen at you with his pure speed.

On defense, the Zips’ standout player is inside linebacker Brian Wagner. Coming off a season in which he tallied 130 tackles, Wagner made the Nagurski Award Watch List for 2011.
And defensive tackle Oren Wilson is another Zip with some Big Ten history. Wilson played at Michigan State for a couple of seasons, and will be suiting up for his first game for Akron.

Idle Speculation

There isn’t enough talent on the Akron Zips to hang with Ohio State for four quarters...and probably not even for two...but stranger things have happened. With the latest suspensions, this is a seriously weakened Buckeye team, but not weak enough to make this game close.

The defense will miss Travis Howard at corner, and they’ll now have two cornerbacks making their first ever starts for OSU, but it would still surprise me if the Akron offense got into double digits. Now...special teams...that could be a different story. The Bucks gave up at least four special teams scores last season, so look out for Tyler Williams.

People had been worried about there being enough carries to go around for all the talented Buckeye running backs, but things do have a way of working themselves out. Boom Herron suspended...Jordan Hall suspended for the opener...Jaamal Berry with a hamstring problem...that leaves Carlos Hyde and redshirt freshman Rod Smith toting the rock on Saturday. We should have an extended look into the future of the RB position by the time this one wraps up.

I’m going to doubt this Buckeye offense until I see it in action in a real game. In the scrimmages I’ve seen, they look very rough...but that may be because of the OSU defenders they’re up against. Still I’m skeptical about them covering the 33-point spread. I think the rough spots on offense will still be there, and unless the defense scores once or twice, it’ll be closer than the oddsmakers think.

I’ve got it 38-7 Buckeyes.



OSU Athletics Communications Game Notes

Ohio State Roster

University of Akron Roster


on Twitter at @dwismar


The TCF Forums