The-Ozone Note and Quotebook
By John Porentas
Better to Receive than Not: The Buckeyes have plenty to prove this week against Southern Cal on the national level. They also have a little bit to prove to themselves, particularly the Buckeye receiving corps.
OSU receivers had a tough week last week against Ohio, dropping several balls that potentially cost the Buckeyes scores. That kind of performance would be devastating for the OSU offense against Southern Cal. The Trojans like to load up on the run and dare people to pass. It's a great strategy but leaves the Trojan corners manned up on the opposition wide receivers. If the Buckeyes are going to get the front seven to back off to open up the running game, they're going have to complete some passes.
"They have a great front seven, so they like to put a lot of pressure on with the front seven and play man on the outside," said wide receiver coach Darrell Hazell. "We have to be doing things to make sure we're able to handle that front seven pressure."
Brian Hartline, who was guilty of dropping a couple of balls last week against Ohio, is looking forward to the matchup.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"There's a lot of man coverage which we're drooling about," said Hartline.
"It's time for us to step up to the plate and go after it a little bit. Zone is no fun to run against but when you get man to man there are huge big play opportunities so we're real excited to get out there and play," Hartline said.
"There's great opportunity for receivers this week," Hartline added.
Hazell says the key to beating man defense in the secondary is what you might expect, speed.
"The more explosive receiver can handle man to man a little bit better," said Hazell.
The Buckeye receiver who might fit that description best is Ray Small who has emerged as a bona fide receiving threat thus far this season. None to soon if the Trojans do in fact try to man up against the Buckeye wide outs. Hazell said there is at least one OSU freshman that fits that description as an explosive receiver and might match up well with the USC man defense, Devier Posey.
"He's an explosive player who runs very well and has good hands. I'd like to get him a few snaps this week," said Hazell.
The Pryor Factor: There is all kind of speculation as to how big a factor Terrelle Pryor might be in the game. The OSU coaching staff has played it close to the vest on that issue this week. Pryor's teammates, including Todd Boeckman, have no problem with the idea that Pryor might be in the game against the Trojans.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"It's not a big deal. If he's out there making plays and we're winning, then go with it," said Boeckman.
Boeckman said that using Pryor as a change of pace guy would not bother him in the least.
"If it all works out, and it worked out for the last couple of teams who won the national championship, then I'm all for it," Boeckman said.
Pryor seems to have the trust of his teammates.
"I definitely have confidence in the guy," said Hartline.
"If our coaches have confidence in him then I have confidence in him. They're not trying to lose the game either. If you're good in their book they're good in my book."
Like Hartline, senior corner Malcolm Jenkins has confidence in Pryor, but doesn't think Pryor is quite ready to be the main guy at quarterback.
"I wouldn't put a whole game on his (Pryor's) shoulders but I definitely think he can play a part in the game and help us out a little bit. I think he brings a change of pace for a defense," said Jenkins.
As for Boeckman, he seems to be excited about the opportunity to play against the Trojans.
"I've been looking forward to this game for quite a long time now. I can't wait to get out there and have some fun with it," said Boeckman.
"It's prime time.
"This is a game we all look forward to. This is one of those game where the whole country is going to be watching. We want to go out there and make a statement and say that we are one of the best football teams in the country."
"I think the receivers are very comfortable with both guys even they are a little different throwing the ball and running the ball," added wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell. "I have confidence that those guys will adjust to whoever is in the game."
Bunker Mentality: There are plenty of nay-sayers about OSU's chances against the top-ranked Trojans as the game nears, particularly in view of the recent news about Beanie Wells' probable status. Buckeye defensive end Lawrence Wilson says the outside world might be doubting but the Buckeyes themselves aren't ready to concede anything.
"It's (winning) extremely important, because nobody believes in us except us. Nobody outside our locker room thinks we have a chance," said Wilson.
"I'm pretty excited. I don't even sleep good at night thinking about Saturday and what's going to happen and how we're going to play. It's a big game. We're excited to play again," Wilson said.
The big game aspect of the matchup has Wilson excited, but so does the opportunity to prove that the lackluster performance against Ohio U, and for that matter, the losses in two-consecutive national championship games, are not representative of how good or bad the Buckeyes really are. All those circumstances has served to focus the Buckeyes on the upcoming game.
"We're not worried about last week. Last week is in the past. We're focused on what's happening now, and that USC. We're not worried about how we played against OU or last year or two years ago in the national championship game. We're just worried about the present and that's USC," said Wilson.
Wilson said the key for the OSU defense against the USC offense is a familiar one; affect the quarterback.
"It's extremely important (to pressure Sanchez) because if he gets rolling their offense is hard to stop," Wilson said.
"He leads their offense. We have to affect him if we want to stop their offense."
No-Trend Trojans: USC isn't just talented, they are also versatile, at least as far as their offense goes. According to Malcolm Jenkins, the Trojans do so much on offense that it's impossible to get a handle on what they might do at any given moment.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"They run so many plays that it's hard to find a tendency," said Malcolm Jenkins.
"When you do a breakdown on them there are only four or five plays that they've run more than once."
Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock agreed with Jenkins' assessment.
"The have no tendencies, and each game you're going to get something different," said Heacock.
"The stuff we've been working there's a pretty good chance we won't see it. They change a lot. They do a lot of different things."
According to Jenkins, the key to stopping the Trojans is to avoid the big mistake on defense.
"Teams like SC, LSU, Florida, those are teams that bank on you making a mistake," Jenkins said.
"They'll take advantage of every single one of them. You can get away with it with lesser talented teams but when you play in huge games like this every single mistake counts. That's all we've been talking about all week. 'Guys, just do your job,'" Jenkins said.
The key to getting that done according to Jenkins is to play within the defense.
"One of our coaches said it best. Don't try to do something that extraordinary, just do the things that are ordinary great."
The Cavalry Arrives: The OSU defensive backfield has been hit hard by injury, suspensions and transfers this season, but will get a shot in the arm this week when both Donald Washington and Jamario O'Neal return to action, just in time for the USC game.
"It's great to have them back," said defensive coordinator Jim Heacock.
"First and foremost it helps you in the kicking game. It gives you two more guys that can play in certain situations. The bad thing is they haven't played and its kind of a first game for them," Heacock said.
"The good thing is they've both been around. Jamario started the national championship game a couple years ago and Donald started all of last year so they at least have some experience under their belt."
In other personnel notes, along with Beanie Wells, Todd Denlinger is hobbled a bit by an ankle injury but made the trip to Los Angeles and will probably play. Linebacker Tyler Moeller, however, is recovering from a leg injury and did not make the trip west with the Buckeyes.
On the Road: The Buckeyes left yesterday for Los Angeles, their first road trip of the season. The NCAA allows 70 players to travel for non-conference games and the Buckeyes took the full 70. That, however, meant some players stayed home.
"One of the hardest parts about the first away game is about 105 guys have been practicing everyday and now about 35 of them are walking out the other door. It's disappointing, but it's part of what we do," said OSU Head Coach Jim Tressel.
The players who made the trip are essentially the players who have played in the YSU and OU games with a couple of exceptions.
"Some of the young d-linement like Nathan Williams, his mom lives out there so it's kind of a neat thing that he made it, and Keith Wells is a young guy that was kind of close (but made the trip)," said Tressel.
The OSU travel party also included two VIPs, former Head Coaches Earle Bruce and John Cooper.
"Earle got hurt and has one year left," joked Tressel, who then added, "We need everybody. I told them we need to have our top squad with us and asked them come, and they're both ecstatic."