Three Questions is a new feature that we are going to try and run every week or two where we conduct an e-mail interview with a member of the mainstream sports media that covers one or all of the teams we love. The first edition of Three Questions features Tony Castricone, Ohio State football and basketball beat reporter and radio pregame show host on 1460 The Fan (WBNS-AM) in Columbus.
Sons of Nev: Tony, thanks for taking the time to talk with us here today.
ESPN features about Jim Tressel using Barack Obama-isms aside, the biggest story in Buckeye-land this spring has been the late commitment of QB Terrelle Pryor. What role, if any, do you think Pryor will play on the OSU offense this year? How much did missing spring practices hurt him?
Tony Castricone: Pryor is too talented not to play at least a little bit for the Buckeyes, but Tressel is too loyal to his upperclassmen to take the reins away from senior quarterback Todd Boeckman without reason. Expect Ohio State to ease Pryor into the complex world of college quarterbacking by creating a simple package of plays for him. Think Tim Tebow in 2006. Certain down and distance situations should lend to Pryor’s talents more than Boeckman’s. It’ll give Pryor a little experience, yet keep his confidence up by protecting him from being in over his head. Even though several freshman made it to spring workouts, there’s no way you can say missing spring hurts a freshman, since they’re never supposed to be there in the first place. It’s hard to tell how much he would have gotten out of spring ball anyway, since the coaches took a different approach this spring with a veteran-laden team.
SoN: With most of last year’s national runner-up team returning, most fans know who these players are and what they are about; give us a couple players that fans may not be familiar with yet who you expect to have a breakout season.
TC: I didn’t see the spring game, but I saw the jersey scrimmage the week before, which is sometimes an even better indicator of where players stand and how they look. True freshman linebacker Etienne Sabino was always around the ball and I think can be the next great Buckeye linebacker. Fans started to familiarize themselves with Brandon Saine last year in his rookie season, but this year as a true sophomore, he’ll be a much bigger player in the offense. Not only will Saine run the ball, but there are a lot of packages to throw it to him out of the backfield or the slot, making him a Percy Harvin type of threat to opponents. I was really excited by the way Daniel “Boom” Herron ran the football in the jersey scrimmage, but it’s hard to tell how many touches he’ll get as a redshirt freshman because they’re so deep at running back. Taurian Washington saw limited time as a freshman wideout last year, but he worked out both ways this spring and has the potential to make an impact on both sides of the ball.
SoN: Only judging by spring football, the Big Ten looks like it will be having a down year in football outside of Columbus. Who is Ohio State’s closest conference competition this year?
TC: I like Illinois because of Ron Zook’s ability to continue to bring top-notch talent to Champaign. They take a hit with the loss of Rashard Mendenhall and J Leman, but with Juice Williams back at quarterback, they should be solid. Penn State is decimated with suspensions. Wisconsin has enough talent to challenge Ohio State for the conference crown, especially since the teams meet in Madison. Watch out for Michigan. The Wolverines aren’t going to win the conference, but first-year coaches always exceed expectations in the OSU-Michigan rivalry, and even though Rich Rodriguez won’t have all the tools he needs for his offense this year, he’s molding the players he does have into one mean, nasty, scrappy football team. Remember, that was still his football team that ran over Oklahoma with a Mack truck in the Fiesta Bowl.
SoN: Bonus Question! As an alumnus of Ohio University, what is your ideal outcome at Ohio Stadium on September 6th?
TC: I plead the fifth. I’m not mixing my heart and my work, but anyone who knows me knows the answer to that question. I mean, sure Ohio State’s the better football school, but “The Pigskin” is pretty enjoyable in Athens, too.
Our thanks again to Tony Castricone. He can be heard on 1460 The Fan in Columbus before every Ohio State football and basketball game, as well as his Sunday OSU football wrap-up show, The Sunday Sports Brunch 11am-1pm.