View from Row Two
By John Porentas
The next time you are in Ohio Stadium take a good look at the press box, then think about this.
You know that seat somebody offered you in the last row of C-deck that you decided was too high? The press box is higher, much higher.
Truth is that the lowest level of the press box is higher than the highest seats in the stadium, and that's not all.
The press box has several levels. The lowest level is the camera deck where photographers and videographers can get long shots of the stadium floor. It's now also where the broadcast crews who are calling the game operate. They used to be on a different level, but it was so high they couldn't see the game very well, so now they are "down" on the camera deck.
The next level up is where the suites are for the high rollers. It's getting pretty high, but not as high as the area where the actual press sits in the press box.
The top-most level
of the press box is where the press sits, but it too is divided into levels which makes it approximately two stories high. Within that area there are three rows of seating. The top row is no more than 8 or 9 feet from the the press box roof. It is high, really really high.
In case you never noticed, there are vertical supports running through the press box windows. You probably also never noticed that there are twice as many of them at the top of the window than there are in the middle and bottom.
Though the press box capacity is around 1,300 for actual press, there are still more people wanting to cover OSU football than there are seats in the press box. That means seats must be allocated.
Seating in the press box is assigned by the OSU Sports Information Department. Since the new press box opened, the pecking order has been clear: Web publications were the lowest priority, so web publications sat in the third and highest row along with radio stations and other forms of lowlife.
That meant a couple of things. The obvious one is that you are high, very, very high, and we don't mean that in a '60s recreational kind of way. We mean you have altitude, lots of it. It also means something else. Remember those vertical supports of which there were twice as many at the top of the press box window? When you sit in the top row, you spend the entire game trying to get a view of the game around them. It's kind of like sitting in B deck behind a pillar. Granted, these pillars aren't as big, but there a lot more of them.
All those things being true, we still felt fortunate to be in the press box. At first we had one seat, then earned another for a second writer. Now we have three occupied by Brandon Castel, Tony Gerdeman and myself. Life is good.
Life got even better this season. After 16 years of covering OSU football, about a fourth of which we had no seat in the press box and the remainder of which we sat in the worst seats possible, we have been been moved to the second row of the press box this season.
It was kind of like the first time you got to sit at the adult table at Thanksgiving. No more sitting with the little kids, we were with the big people. To top it off, we weren't even asked to sit in the first row, but got the second row. The first row is considered better than the third, but not as good as the second. In the first row you can't see the replay monitors, and on sunny days you actually bake while sitting there.
What We Saw
I have developed the habit of asking myself a question after every game. I ask it immediately after the game ends and before we go to the post-game. I ask myself "what did I just see" and I actually write down the answers on a note pad, or more precisely, type them into a word document that I save. I find it helps me ask better questions and formulate a game story line.
After years of doing that, I finally got to ask that question after actually seeing the game from a great vantage point in the second row. I found my notes to be more detailed and thought I'd share them here. My instinct yesterday was to compare what I saw yesterday to what I saw all last season, and found I tended to compartmentalize my thoughts by position group and skill sets. Here's what I wrote.
Linebackers: Major upgrade this season. Sabino looks like a new player and was around the ball all day. Shazier picked up where he left off prior to his injury last year. Looking at the final stats, they were the first and third top tacklers vs. Miami. Curtis Grant wasn't on the field much because they were in nickel most the day, but still managed three assists.
Defensive Line: Certainly did not live up to preseason hype. Did not get pressure with a four-man rush. Spence was able to get there some when he played. Did not disrupt the passing game. Can't understand why they played so conservatively since Miami has no running game whatsoever.
Defensive backs: Corners were actually pretty good, but the safety play in the passing game was worrisome. The completed deep balls in the first half are probably on them.
Tackling: Much, much improved over last year. Saw very few missed tackles and lots of swarming to the football. Very encouraging.
Defensive game plan: It seemed so vanilla that it made white milk look like a rainbow. Very little blitzing, though when they did blitz it was very effective. Hopefully they just didn't want to show much against an opponent they thought they could handle without giving much away to upcoming opponents.
Special Teams: Very much upgraded from last year, particularly the coverage teams. Last year every kickoff and punt was an adventure. Had no sense of that this year. Much better.
Quarterbacks: Miller is improved, but not as much as his numbers say. Didn't get the impression he was fully in control of the offense mentally yet, and his passing was so-so, but has been put in a much better situation as far as being able to capitalize on his unique skills. His play making ability is off the charts. If he can get total grasp of the offense and operate it efficiently he will win a Heisman. Kenny Guiton does not have the play making ability of Miller, who does, but the offense seemed to operate very smoothly and efficiently with him in the game. I think he does a better job of that than Miller. You can win with Kenny Guiton on the field. You can win big with Braxton Miller on the field. You can win a national championship with Braxton Miller on the field if he can operate the offense the way Guiton does.
Running backs: Extremely impressed with Carlos Hyde. He ran very hard, broke a lot of tackles, made great cuts and showed very good speed. His running was very determined and he did not go down easily. Rod Smith looked serviceable, and Bri'onte Dunn certainly looked good with a lot of upside. Don't know how any of them performed relative to blocking and assignments, but judging just on the times they had the ball in their hand, Hyde was extremely impressive and the other two looked at least competent.
Offensive Line: Not sure if Miami really offered them much of a challenge, but they seemed to operate very effectively from the second quarter on. Pass protection was good and running lanes were there all day. Also a distinct lack of mental mistakes like penalties etc.
Receivers: The difference between this year and last is almost ridiculous. The receiving corps went from being a liability to being a huge asset. Devin Smith, Corey Brown, Evan Spencer and Jake Stoneburner all made plays when called upon, and even bailed out Miller a time or two by making catches on throws that were less-than stellar to say the least. The tight ends made three catches. Oh the humanity.
[Editor's Note: The receiver comments were inadvertently left out when this piece originally published and have been added since it's original publication.]
Overall Impression: Young team that is already pretty good, but still has a lot of upside. Will be interested to watch Miller for progress as a field general and passer. Also will watch the defensive line for better pass rush. Safeties have to get better, and appeared to do that later in the game.
Maybe I can turn this into a feature? I'll give it a whirl. If they like it I'll do it every week. I hope they hate it. Just more work.
That's the View from Row Two