RB Maurice Hall

2003 Statistics

Coach: Jim Tressel
32-7, 3 years
2003 Record:11-2
at Wisconsin LOST 10-17
IOWA WON 19-10
at Indiana WON 35-6
at Penn State WON 21-20
at Michigan LOST 21-35
Kansas State WON 35-28

2003 Final Rankings
AP-4, Coaches-4, BCS-5

2004 Outlook

Ohio State is a team that will be looking to establish a new identity under a new starting quarterback. The revamped-yet-will-eventually-be-improved offensive line will allow Justin Zwick the time to develop into the classic field general for which coach Tressel recruited him to be. Zwick can run, too, so once defenses are forced to respect his multiple talents via play-actions, roll outs, and draw plays, the frozen opposing LBs will be easier to run through. The talented new hands in the receiving corps will contribute to the offense's face-lift, too, providing options Tressel need only access, if/when he does (run-to-pass ratio under coach T is four-to-three). This line will allow less sacks and increase third-down production rates. The offensive areas that needed attention have now seemingly been altered enough to give promise. It just may take until half way through the campaign, which will mean a few early losses that need not alarm any on High Street. Or it could be tightened up right away, so don't be surprised by anything that happens in this range.

Defensively, the script reads very similarly. This year's line will be a bit less productive, but they will control the flows of games by season's end. The LBs, though mostly new, too, will be further ahead on the learning/maturity curve and will be the strongest early foundation. The secondary/backfield members will be just as good as their predecessors. The whole thing boils down to trying to decrease the number of pitfalls while on the way to forming this quality eleven.

The overview from above is that coach Jim Tressel's fourth season will have many of his personally orchestrated components coming together. Tressel's systems, along with scholarship players he has chosen, are now reaching fruition. Tressel-led OSU squads have so far been patient and methodical, but this was primarily with players he was originally dealt. Look for this newest generation to fit perfectly the roles for which Tressel recruited them.

This will mean less/little adjustment/jell time, which will ultimately mean the Buckeyes sneak up on anyone underscoring their turnaround. Ohio State has but four real challenges on their slate. Mid-October's (at) Iowa and Wisconsin tilts should tell quickly if the Buckeyes are in line for a Big Ten title or not. Closing at Purdue and then at home in the only game that matters - Michigan - means these guys have only non-cons Marshall and North Carolina State standing between them and a third straight BCS bowl. A weaker Big Ten and marginally rebuilding Michigan team mean the boys from Columbus have as good a chance as they have the past three years. Seeing how that has panned out recently, this will be good news for those who may have thought otherwise. Win one this year for Mr. Joe, ok guys?

Projected 2004 record: 8-3
QB - 3.5 DL - 4
RB - 3.5 LB - 4.5
WR - 4 DB - 4
OL - 2.5 ..

Passing: Justin Zwick, 8-4-0, 24 yds., 0 TD

Rushing: Lydell Ross, 193 att., 826 yds., 10 TD

Receiving: Santonio Holmes, 32 rec., 549 yds., 7 TD

Scoring: Mike Nugent, 16-19 FG, 38-38 PAT, 86 pts.

Punting: None

Kicking: Mike Nugent, 16-19 FG, 38-38 PAT, 53 long

Tackles: A.J. Hawk, 106 tot., 52 solo, 13 TFL

Sacks: Bobby Carpenter, 4.5 sacks

Interceptions: Dustin Fox, 3 for 6 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Maurice Hall, 10 ret., 19.8 avg.

Punt Returns:
Santonio Holmes, 7 ret., 4.3 avg.


CB Dustin Fox
OFFENSE: Michael Jenkins-WR, Drew Carter-WR, Adrien Clarke-OG, Alex Stepanovich-OG, Bryce Bishop-OG, Shane Olivea-OT, Ben Hartsock-TE, Craig Krenzel-QB, Scott McMullen-QB, Louis Irizarry-TE (transferred)
DEFENSE: Darrion Scott-DT, Tim Anderson-DT, Will Smith-DE, Fred Pagac-MLB, Robert Reynolds-SLB, Will Allen-SS, B.J. Sander-P, Chris Gamble-CB (NFL)

Justin Zwick was possibly the most regionally heralded starting QB Ohio State has ever seen coming in. He is an in-state legend who eclipsed 10,000 yards and 100 TDs in prep play, as well as being a sprinter and basketball player. His older brother, Jared, was under coach Tressel at Youngstown, so it all comes home to roost for the entire Buckeye offensive effort in this regard. The junior has an uncanny quick-release. Zwick's past stats prove how he prefers to settle into the pocket, but he is an adept scrambler who takes his knowledge of where defenders are and turns it into smart improvisational efforts. Justin has the size and speed to assure all in Columbus that he has no perceived weakness but his lack of real-game reps. Krenzel never was such a master, but he was mistake-free on the whole, so Zwick need just to keep it together and it will all work.

Running Back
The same two tailbacks return, so, with the new line, expect little more than their bottom-third NCAA ranking again. Both seniors, Hall and Ross have not lived up to what it seemed they were as they backed Clarett in 2002. My observation has been that neither gets a real good first step, and neither is then able to get any real mid-body power to plow through defenders if they are in the OSU backfield. Both are able to streak through holes and make moves when in the secondary, but this doesn't happen enough to warrant calling it a common occurrence. We will again find this to be the case, unless Zwick can get hot and distract that eighth man out of the box. Joe Branden will be good for two to four carries a game, and he is an extremely physical lead blocker who punishes whoever gets in his way. The line will determine if this area increases production or not (only averaged 3.3 yards per carry as a team all year in 2003). The talent behind the starting two-deep is there, but Tressel has shown unusually little pension for grabbing this depth and developing it.

Wide Receiver
This will be a breakout year for Santonio Holmes. He isn't as big as the now-departed Jenkins, but he is just as sure-handed and will be even more open with his extreme speed. Holmes ran on the Florida state champion 4 x 400 meter in his junior and senior prep seasons, as well as being part of Glades Central runner-up basketball squad in his senior year. This means he can go and go, and will not get tired in the fourth. He's proven to stretch the gridiron, so mark him down as a constant deep threat that will be accessed early and often. We see the other receivers as untapped, talents just waiting to emerge. Soph. Roy Hall will be key. His size and strength can replace the possession, underneath routes Jenkins ran with similar effectiveness, as well as being superior in jump-ball situations, both deep and short. The smallish Bam Childress is a big time player just waiting for a QB like Zwick who can get the ball to him as quickly as he gets to where he's supposed to be. Any receiver rotated in will shine, really. Depth exists in this unit for the Buckeyes.

Tight End
Tressel knows how to employ the tight end, proven through the standout work produced through the now-departed Ben Hartsock. Ryan Hamby is a junior who will easily replace Hartsock, with speed and hands to make opposing LBs always have to keep an eye on him. Ryan had 18 snags and three TDs (one more than Hartsock), so he needs not prove himself for why he deserves such praise.

Offensive Line

This is an area that we in the prognostication business call "iffy". As you read above or may have already known, the Buckeyes had a pitiful run-push, and this unit is ostensibly the reason they failed to repeat as national champs. Also, they allowed 33 sacks, but Krenzel was no runner. Alas, four of the main cogs of that under-achieving line have vacated. Any OSU fan must realize this to be a glass-half-full situation - the talent coming in behind them will now be Tressel-recruited, seasoned, and ready to go as upperclassmen. Rob Sims and Nick Mangold are such players, and the others who fill in during spring ball will be eventually better than those leaving. It just may take a while for it all to jell, but a mobile Zwick will help them get the needed confidence, as umpteen possibilities offensively means the box will then be less crowded more often.

Even in the two-TE sets made for running and drawing defenses in, Ohio State failed to produce their classic, physical running results (slipped from 31st in rushing offense in 2002 to 84th, gaining 65 yards less per game in 2003). We all knew the offense's strongest suit in that national championship campaign was consistency. They barely beat most of those foes to win it all, and that kind of marginal luck never lasts. We digress to tell you that the facelift the offense gets will do the Buckeyes right for years to come. Zwick and company will have obvious growing pains to start, but the long run is what this squad is playing for. Until they can find the back that can get the job done, Zwick will have that much less success. But look for the same classic two-back (and then sometimes three-receiver) sets, with more facets of Zwick's talents highlighted as Justin gets the system underneath him. Don't expect that to take very long, and thus a new era of efficient Buckeye offense will be born.


WR Santonio Holmes


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Justin Zwick-So (6-4, 225) Troy Smith-So (6-1, 205)
FB Branden Joe-Sr (6-0, 245) Brandon Schnittker-Jr (6-1, 250)
TB Lydell Ross-Sr (6-0, 220) Maurice Hall-Sr (5-10, 200)
WR Roy Hall-So (6-3, 230) John Hollins-Sr (6-2, 205)
WR Santonio Holmes-So (5-11, 185) Bam Childress-Sr (5-10, 185)
TE Ryan Hamby-Jr (6-5, 250) ..
OT Rob Sims-Jr (6-4, 305) T.J. Downing-So (6-5, 300)
OG Doug Datish-So (6-5, 290) Andree Tyree-Jr (6-3, 300)
C Nick Mangold-Jr (6-4, 290) Steve Winner-Jr (6-6, 290)
OG Mike Kne-Sr (6-4, 300) Adam Olds-Jr (6-4, 290)
OT Tim Schafer-So (6-5, 290) Kirk Barton-Fr (6-6, 280)
K Mike Nugent-Sr (5-10, 170) Josh Huston-Sr (6-1, 195)
Justin Zwick....(rhymes with Quick)
Doug Datish....Dat-ish
Mike Kne....Knee
Brandon Schnittker....Shnit-ker
Andree Tyree....Aund-REE Tie-REE



Defensive Line
"Well, I think you get spoiled a little bit with the three seniors we had last year. I'm not disappointed (in drills) as much as I just have (had) a real high expectation level. I realize we have a real long way to go in the next seven months. You just expect guys to step forward and they need to do that. But I realize when I look at it that we've got about six months before our first game and we've got a long way to go to get ready."

So says defensive line coach Jim Heacock about what he has seen since winter conditioning began. Heacock is a man who (in his eight years at OSU that carry over back to the Cooper days) has produced some of the greatest college football DLs in recent history. He thinks the OSU DL can be great again, but we question how long in real-game time this may take. Senior Simon Fraser is the lone returning starter, and he has the proven stripes to contain runners. The man who may be a team captain has to pick up his sack production, though. The new void-fillers are not under-qualified, just not their predecessors. Sophomore David Patterson is freakishly large-but-mobile and joins Quinn Pitcock as the new middle-cloggers to watch. The ends are buoyed by junior Mike Kudla, who will start right away based solely on experience. The Buckeyes (under Heacock) rotate early and often, so expect the maturation period to be short as the unit and its backups strengthen and bond almost immediately. But individual identities will take some time to be established, such that the right mix of OSU linemen will also take time to find so that the quality of play reflected in recently past results (second in NCAA for rushing defense last year by allowing 62 yards per game) can be approached.

This is another area in which now Tressel-recruited phenoms will pop up. The Buckeyes go two deep across each linebacking specialty. Anthony Schlegel and John Kerr are both junior transfers who will push each other for the middle position. Both come with impressive letters of recommendation and will mean nothing is missed talent-wise. Fellow-junior A.J. Hawk can find the ball-carrier on the weakside as well as anyone playing at this level, shedding blockers like he was greased. Hawk is the returning centerpiece the newbies will play off, so he is evidently ready to become this second-tier leader. 2003-starter Mike D'Andrea is a wildcard whose separated shoulder is still keeping him out indefinitely. D'Andrea remains starting caliber and will be oft utilized, especially as a down-lineman, once healthy. A multitude of underclassmen are ready, too, so look for this quality unit to develop players and a personality for the next two campaigns to come.

Defensive Back
This may be hard to take, especially when considering how two all-time Buckeye greats (Will Allen, Chris Gamble) leave possibly the biggest tandem of Ohio State shoes to proverbially be filled from one specific unit at one time, ever (save the three linemen who just left!). But this secondary in '04 will eventually be as good a squad as the previous two versions. The talent is there. Senior CB Dustin Fox will be looked upon to step up vocally and physically as the leader they need. Fox is representative of the entire depth chart - he is a hard hitter and sizeable presence against taller receivers. Behind him will be Nate Salley at free safety, who will be another stanchion around which to build. The battle for strong safety can only mean good things in the end. Both underclassmen are worthy and have noses for the play and/or ball. The open corner spot will go to E.J. Underwood, but not with any permanence. Behind him are so many talented players that the nickel and dime packages will be spectacular, just watch. There are just too many of these versatile speedsters to list here. Keep an eye out for the USA Today Prep Defensive Player of the Year, Ted Ginn, Jr., who joins the team in the fall.

This side of the ball is what arguably kept Ohio State in their ball games during the last two stellar seasons. With only four returning starters, many would speak of transition. But with the heavy rotations Tressel practices on both sides of the ball, the defense will be a majority of semi-experienced young men, especially at LB, who will easily inherit the starting reigns with productive results. Look again for the front-seven to control many games. But the extra attention paid by them to stopping the underneath and mid-range stuff often puts the OSU secondary in 'island' situations. But since again physical and fast, the DBs will play tight and disrupt at the line if they are smart. Really, not much will change, especially when considering that the same coaches and therefore the same schemes will be practiced. Just expect a few big plays to get through with early opponents, plays which will not succeed at similar rates come October and into 2004's second half.


LB A.J. Hawk


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Simon Fraser-Sr (6-6, 265) Jay Richardson-So (6-5, 245)
DT Marcus Green-Jr (6-3, 290) David Patterson-So (6-3, 285)
DT Quinn Pitcock-So (6-4, 285) Joel Penton-So (6-5, 255)
DE Mike Kudla-Jr (6-3, 255) Redgie Arden-Jr (6-4, 240)
SLB Bobby Carpenter-Jr (6-3, 240 Joe Bradley-Jr (6-3, 213)
MLB Anthony Schlegel-Jr (6-2, 245) Mike D'Andrea-Jr (6-3, 240)
WLB A.J. Hawk-Jr (6-2, 230) Thomas Matthews-Sr (6-2, 210)
CB Dustin Fox-Sr (6-0, 190) Harlen Jacobs-Sr (6-1, 197)
CB E.J. Underwood-Jr (6-1, 175) Ashton Youboty-So (6-2, 187)
SS Donte Whitner-So (5-11, 185) Tyler Everett-Jr (6-1, 185)
FS Nate Salley-Jr (6-3, 205) Brandon Mitchell-So (6-3, 190)
P Josh Huston-Sr (6-1, 195) Mike Nugent-Sr (5-10, 170)
Simon Fraser....Frazier
Mike Kudla....COOD-luh
Anthony Schlegel....Shley-gul
Donte Whitner....don-tay
Redgie Arden....Reggie
Mike D'Andrea....DEE-and-ree-uh
Ashton Youboty....You-boat-ee




Senior Mike Nugent returns with an 84% completion rate, having missed only three in all of 2003. Three is also the number of games OSU won due to his efforts. The ultimate compliment is that he will again favorably decide a few close contests, but with Zwick, he should have less pressure this way.

Well, there is no one slated at this juncture to fill B.J. Sanders spot here. We will let you know when this changes, which it obviously has to sometime soon. John Huston and Kyle Turano both have the inside tract, but more will develop here.

Return Game
Santonio Holmes is the logical replacement for Jenkins as the primary punt returner, while Maurice Hall is back as one of five who failed at kick returning in 2003. We say that because, of the six different players with multiple kick-returns, none was able to average over 20 yards per try. Darrell Hazell, the new receivers coach, has the weight of developing the return games resting on his shoulders.


Jim Tressel was pleased with the play of both Justin Zwick and Troy Smith at QB. If the season started now, Zwick would start but both would play. Smith actually is a QB first and an athlete second, but he helped return kicks last year so seeing him on the field at the same time as Zwick wouldn't surprise us. Hell, everyone else is doing it, right?... RB Tony Pittman impressed the coaches and many feel he could step in and contribute right away. He finished the Scarlet/Gray game with 109 yards on 21 carries. Staying with the RBs, Lydell Ross has added muscle and seemingly gotten a step quicker this offseason. TE Louis Irizarry and TB Ira Guilford have been suspended indefinitely and, "it appears likely they could lose their privilege to play for Ohio State in 2004", according to coach Tressel. In fact, Irizarry has already enrolled at I-AA Youngstown State. Losing Irizarry could mean switching Reggie Arden back from DE to TE (where started at OSU). Senior TE Jason Caldwell could also see more playing time in his swan song. RSF WR Tony Gonzalez will be something special- if he can get past this case of the dropsies.

DE Jay Richardson played well up front this spring and could easily challenge Mike Kudla for the #1 spot opposite Fraser. Also, keep an eye on RSF Marcel Frost, especially if Arden moves back to TE. But the biggest name this spring has been RSF DT Sian Cotton who has seen a lot of time with the first unit, teaming with Pitcock in the middle of that line... Buckeye fans that have never seen MLB Anthony Schlegel play are in for a real treat. We believe he will be just as good as Katzenmoyer or Wilhelm by the time he leaves State. Thomas Matthews helped lead his respective squad in the spring game and reminded viewers that talent at LB in Columbus is more than skin deep. He'll likely back-up A.J. Hawk, but gives the Bucks a wholesome extra in short/goal-line situations. Freshman Marcus Freeman has shown good speed and supplied some nasty hits on opposing ball-carriers. Anyone who follows Buckeye football knows this guy will see his day very soon… The play of FS Donte Whitner has us starting to think about some first-team all-conference honors by season's end. Nearly as impressive have been EJ Underwood and Ashton Youboty at the corner positions. Both are competing for the same spot, and, in the process, are making the other that much better.

RB Tony Pittman (fr)
WR Tony Gonzalez (fr)
LB Marcus Freeman (fr)