October 2, 2008

Inside look at the Buckeyes

MADISON, Wis. - Everybody who follows college football knows Ohio State is always one of the Big Ten, if not the nations, elite teams. This year's squad is no different. With Chris Wells and Terrelle Pryor comprising the Buckeye backfield, the Badgers will unquestionably have their hands full Saturday night.

But like any other team, 11 guys line up on each side of the ball every play. The following is an inside look at Ohio State's lineup:

Quarterbacks:

Terrelle Pryor: Over the past few seasons, the Badgers have had major difficulties slowing athletic, mobile quarterbacks in the spread offense. Well, Pryor, even as a true freshman, may be one of the Big Ten's elite. It will be interesting to see how he handles his first start in a hostile environment.

Todd Boeckman: Do not forget that Boeckman was the starting quarterback in 2007 and led his team to their second straight national championship game. He started off 2008 as the starter, but has since been replaced by Pryor. He is not as athletic and mobile as Pryor, but he has good pocket presence and a solid ability to read the defense.

Running back:

Chris "Beanie" Well: He claims to be playing around 75 percent, and even with that acknowledgement, he torched Minnesota for 106 yards on only 14 carries. The last time the Badgers squared off with Wells, he dominated the Badgers defense, particularly in the second half, rushing for 166 yards and three touchdowns.

Wide receivers:

Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie may be one of the conference's most underrated receiving duos. So far in 2008, the two have caught a combined 30 passes and recorded 372 receiving yards. They are also responsible for six of the team's eight touchdowns through the air. Do not forget about Ray Small and his blinding speed that stretches defenses and opens things up for the other two. The Badgers must defend the pass very well to keep Pryor honest in the backfield.

Offensive line:

Alex Boone, in his fourth year as starting left tackle, is the headliner of a very strong offensive line. Jim Cordle, Mike Brewster, Ben Person and Bryant Browning join Boone as fellow starters in the trenches. So far, the Buckeye's line has helped the backs average 186.6 yards per game.

Defensive line:

It's been impressive how good OSU's front four have been considering their relative youth. Lawrence Wilson, Cameron Heyward, Doug Worthington and Thaddeus Gibson are either juniors or sophomores respectively. Gibson is tied for the team lead with two sacks and Wilson, along with backup Nader Abdallah have one each.

In 2008, the only running back to top 100 yards is USC's Joe McKnight who finished with 105.

Linebackers:

Through five games, all-everything James Laurinaitis leads the Buckeyes with 47 tackles. Joining him is Marcus Freeman who has 29 tackles of his own. The Badgers, who love establishing the run, will have to do so against arguably the Big Ten's best linebacking unit. Having three quality backs can only benefit the Badgers as the game goes on, because the Buckeye linebackers are everywhere on the field and pack a hefty punch.

Secondary:

Corners Malcolm Jenkins, Chimdi Chekwa and Donald Washington as well as safety Kurt Coleman have all intercepted at least one pass so far in 2008. The Badger wide receivers have been slow developing so far this season, and the Buckeye secondary probably will not be the team they break out of their slump against.

Special teams:

Both kicker Ryan Pretorius and punter A.J. Trapasso are fifth year seniors. So far Pretorius has connected on nine of 12 field goal attempts including one from 50 yards out. Trapasso averages 44.2 yards per punt and has placed five inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

Small is one of the conferences best punt returners with his average of 18.9 yards per return. His speed and big play ability gives OSU a realistic touchdown threat every time an opponent punts.

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