Don't Worry, Be Happy
This week’s This and That: Too early to worry, college football’s Mouth of the South, I’ve become a Cat lover.
Don’t Fret Yet
Urban Meyer said the Buckeye defense is ahead of the offense right now and the offense didn't have a good day in Friday's scrimmage. But, he's been at this long enough to not be worried. Defenses are almost always ahead of the offense in the early days of a new season. The saying goes you put your best athletes on defense. I disagree. You put your best athletes on defense who are CRAZY PEOPLE. Stock your "stop troops" (another old school reference for my cousin, Kenn) with guys who fly around creating havoc. So, while the offense is trying to learn intricate blocking schemes and develop their timing, those crazy people on the other side of the ball are doing everything they can to make life miserable for them. Not surprised at all to hear the Buckeyes' CEO say the defense is ahead of the offense and he's not worried. If Urbz isn't worried, neither am I. Let's look at a few other storylines:
-The consensus among reports about the three-way quarterback battle is pretty much what we already knew. Dwayne Haskins is the best pure passer. Tate Martell the best pure runner and Joe Burrow is a combination of the two. Not exactly a revelation. Another week of spring practice is in the books and still no real separation between them. That separation is something Urban Meyer said he needs to see in order to name a starter by the end of spring.
The only thing which has really heated up is more and more talk of Burrow transferring, if he is not named the starter. Most of the talk has centered on Nebraska as his landing spot with their new head coach Scott Frost (best known for leading Central Florida to an undefeated season and national championship this past season-yes, you read that correctly). While Urban Meyer has acknowledged he's spoken with Burrow and his family about the possibilty of a transfer and will help in the process, if it comes to that, this is not even close to a done deal like far too many are making it out to be. Something to keep in mind is how much Meyer loves to rely on the spread option in tight situations. Haskins has struggled with it, at times, while Burrow is a very good fit. Don't count Joe Burrow out of this race just yet. By all accounts, he's had an excellent spring and, unless something drastic happens in the final two weeks of spring practice (including the spring game), I see Burrow being in a Buckeye uniform when they open the season on September 1st against Oregon State.
-The name Thayer Munford is one repeated often in discussions of who is having an excellent spring. While Meyer had anointed him the first-team right tackle before spring practice began, Munford is not sitting back and enjoying being at the top of the depth chart. He told Eleven Warriors, "I’m still fighting for that spot," Munford said. "I’m not going to be done until the (first) game comes. I got to take ownership of going in, watching film, coming in for extra practice, extra lifts to get myself better." In that same report by Eleven Warriors, he mentions the coaches have let he and Branden Bowen know the right tackle spot is theirs for the taking. Bowen is sitting out the spring while he still rehabs the broken leg, which caused him to miss the remainder of the season, after starting the first six games at right guard. I'm anxious to see how Munford handles Nick Bosa, Chase Young and Jonathan Cooper in the spring game. If he does well, my feeling is he puts a death grip on the position and Bowen goes back to right guard. Meyer loves versatile offensive lineman, so don't be surprised if, while he's the starting right guard, Bowen also is the backup to Munford at the tackle spot.
-Don't sleep on C.J. Saunders. He originally came to the Buckeyes as a walk on defensive back, but made the switch to receiver last spring. In 2017 he had 17 catches for 221 yards and made himself known with a 100-yard performance against UNLV, after the starters had left the game. Any receiver in Meyer's offense MUST block on the perimeter, so his size is a concern. Saunders has worked very hard in the off-season to add weight to his 5-10 frame and is up to 185 pounds. Since the team returns its top six receivers, it will be an uphill battle for the Columbus native to see regular playing time. However, he's an outstanding route runner and the one thing he does, which I absolutely love about him, is catch the football. I'll take a good set of hands on an under-sized receiver over someone physically gifted, who is inconsistent catching the ball, any day (that's a rather direct reference to Binjamin Victor).
-Meyer has said he expects linebacker Tuf Borland, who injured his achilles recently, won't return until September. That means the door is WIDE OPEN for Justin Hilliard, Baron Browning or someone else to step in and claim the starting job for the early part of the season and possibly longer.
The Mouth(piece) of the South
For those who don't know, Jimmy Hart is a longtime pro wrestling "manager" best known as the "Mouth of the South." During matches he keeps up an endless string of chatter, delivered through his trademark megaphone. He's minutely entertaining and quite annoying. Well, college football's "Mouth of the South", Paul Finebaum, has been at it again, calling the Big Ten “overrated.” Finebaum is a well-known “supporter” of SEC football, who was mostly known regionally until ESPN and the SEC decided to get married. Like Jimmy Hart, he’s annoying, loves to hear himself talk and is loud. His “megaphone” is ESPN, so that means he isn’t just loud, he’s VERY loud. Because of his appearances on the four-letter network, far too many see him as some sort of college football expert. He’s not even close. He’s a REGIONAL college football expert and that region is the south. He has spent years telling his legions of SEC fans, in his best “how dare they challenge us with their meager skills” tone, no other conference in college football can come close to matching the walk-on-water status of the mighty, mighty SEC.
Finebaum doesn’t have any credibility because he doesn’t have any objectivity. So, when he says things like he did the other day about the Big Ten being overrated, I tend to laugh and let it go. I suggest you do the same. Ol’ Paul has his knickers in a bundle right now because the Big Ten went 7-1 in bowl games this past season and people are beginning to talk about them in the same breath as his beloved SEC. The more he squirms and fusses over this, the louder and more whiny he gets. Just before the season begins in about five months, I’ll remind you to pay not a bit of attention to college football’s “Mouth of the South” and those like him.
The Villanova Wildcats are officially my second-favorite college basketball team. It isn’t just because they knocked off Michigan, 79-62, in the finals Monday night and punished the Wolverines for beating up a 90-year old nun in the semi-finals. No, my appreciation for Nova hoops goes back to 1985 when the Cats played a near perfect game to beat Georgetown, coached by the oh-so-likeable John Thompson, for their first championship. When they won their second two years ago, they ripped the collective heart out of North Carolina players and fans when Kris Jenkins nailed a three at the buzzer. Georgetown, North Carolina and Michigan. Three programs I don’t like. Three programs Villanova denied a national title and saved me from having to hear about those three programs I don’t like for an entire year. Yeah, I know North Carolina won it last year, but I enjoy any loss in a championship game for the Tar Heels.
I’m just happy to see an end to the four and a half month 3-point shooting contest that is the college basketball season. For the record, Bill Raftery makes me miss Billy Packer. Actually, Bill Raftery makes me miss ANY former color analyst.
A reminder the Ohio State’s hockey team plays Minnesota-Duluth in the Frozen Four Thursday at 6 PM on ESPN 2. A win puts them in the championship game Saturday night at 7:30 on ESPN.