Since last we published the Blitz, there have been a few subtle changes in the football program at The Ohio State University. You may have previously read about some of them.
For the uninformed.....their head coach has been banished...their star quarterback has hit the highway ...three other high profile starters are on the suspended list....and, finally, consider the 2010 season The Nightmare on Olentangy.
Otherwise, it's business as usual for these Buckeyes who haven't faced this much adversity since Woody Hayes delivered a parting shot to Clemson's Charlie Bauman at the 1978 Gator Bowl.
Thousands of Scarlet & Gray supporters remain in denial of stunning revelations which cost Jim Tressel his job and cast dark shadows on OSU's entire athletic administration.
How long the evolving fallout continues remains uncertain heading into Saturday's 2011 season opener against Akron in Ohio Stadium.
A majority of fans will be happy just to have something to cheer for the first time since the Buckeyes' January Sugar Bowl conquest against Arkansas in New Orleans.
That 31-26 victory, of course, was wiped off the slate a result of Ohio State's self-imposed sanctions, a directive officials hope in some small way, pacifies NCAA investigators still highly capable of lowering the boom when a final verdict is revealed sometime this fall.
For his part, Luke Fickell was, by necessity, superfluous to outside distractions surrounding the tarnished program and suddenly finds himself in a unique position - leader of the Buckeye Nation.
Now, about those Zips. What better time for second-year Akron coach Rob Ianello to bring his team to Columbus?
It should be noted Akron owns an all-time 1-22 record versus the Big Ten. The Zips' lone victim? Ohio State, of course, in that memorable 12-6 shocker on Sept. 5, 1894.
Expect no repeat performance Saturday with the short-handed Buckeyes decisive favorites.
Ironically, a majority of OSU-Akron outcomes have proven reasonably competitive. In fact, UA has held Ohio State to 28 or fewer points in the past four meetings.
The in-state opponents last met Sept. 8, 2007 at Columbus where Tressel's Bucks led by only 3-2 at halftime before eventually prevailing, 20-2.
With OSU in a mix-and-match scenario at several key positions, Buckeye fans have an opportunity to witness a few potential stars in the making.
Starting at quarterback where highly-regarded Braxton Miller is expected to see action Saturday.
Though Fickell has named redshirt senior Joe Bauserman as starter, Miller (6-3, 210) figures to earn meaningful minutes.
Bauserman has been OSU's primary backup the past two seasons and played in 24 career games. In limited duty, the 6-1, 230-pound Virginia native has completed 25-of-47 passes for two touchdowns.
In the absence of deposed running back Boom Herron, 5-9, 195-pound junior Jordan Hall, is slated to start at tailback.
A former prep teammate of Terrelle Pryor at Jeanette, Pa., Hall has experience primarily as a kick returner though he logged 37 carries for 161 yards and two TDs last year. Against Michigan, Hall returned a kickoff 85 yards to the house.
Sophomore Carlos Hyde (6-0, 238) and redshirt freshman Rod Smith (6-3, 230) are listed as Hall's backups on the depth chart.
A familiar face lines up at fullback where 6-0, 252-pound junior Zach Boren has 18 career starts. The Pickerington native is regarded as a powerful blocker and a receiving option out of the backfield.
The Bucks' MIA list includes productive wideout DeVier Posey, another rules violator sitting out OSU's first five games.
Which makes redshirt junior Jake Stoneburner the most experienced senior in Saturday's starting lineup. Stoneburner (6-5, 245) was the fourth leading pass catcher in 2010, landing 21 receptions for 222 yards and two TDs.
Expected to operate in wideout roles are 5-11, 182-pound sophomore Corey "Philly" Brown out of Upper Darby, Pa., and 6-0, 195-pound redshirt frosh Verlon Reed, a Columbus Marion Franklin product.
The Buckeye depth chart is listing true freshman Evan Spencer (6-1, 190) as Reed's primary backup. Spencer is the son of ex-Buckeye running back great and St. Clairsville native Tim Spencer who's expected to be in attendance for Saturday's encounter.
Two mainstays return along the offensive front, including senior All America center Mike Brewster, rated among college football's elite.
Brewster (6-5, 305) is an Orlando, Fla. native and a four-year starter in Scarlet & Gray. Last fall, Brewster was the only junior to rank among finalists for the prestigious Rimington Trophy.
The Bucks are also strong at right tackle where 6-7, 300-pound J.B. Shugarts returns.
A trio of sophomores round out the starting front five - 6-6, 303-pound left guard Jack Mewhort; 6-5, 308-pound left tackle Andrew Norwell; and 6-5, 315-pound right guard Marcus Hall.
Sophomore Drew Basil will handle PAT, field goals and kickoffs in place of the graduated Devin Barclay. Hall and Philly Brown are listed as top punt return candidates with Hall or redshirt sophomore Chris Fields running back kickoffs.
On the defensive side, the Bucks are led by left end Nathan Williams, a 6-3, 255-pound senior and potential Ted Hendricks award winner at season's end.
Another prime-timer lines up at left tackle in the person of 6-2, 270-pound junior John Simon. The former Cardinal Mooney prep standout is considered a rising star destined to make a noted impact this fall.
Redshirt junior Garrett Goebel starts at nose guard with 6-3, 355-pound Jonathan Hankins holding court at right tackle.
With graduation claiming the Bucks' top four tacklers (Brian Rolle, Ross Homan, Jermale Hines, Devon Torrence), a lineup of new faces will emerge.
OSU's linebacking corps figures to open with senior Andrew Sweat (6-2, 238) redshirt junior Etienne Sabino (6-3, 242) and 6-2, 230-pound sophomore Storm Klein.
Sweat is a returning starter at weakside backer and earned an eventual starting role when Homan was sidelined by injury.
The secondary is headed by redshirt junior Travis Howard (6-1, 190), expected to open at left cornerback. The Miami, Fla. native made his presence felt last season with a 30-yard pick-six against Penn State.
Redshirt freshman Bradley Roby from the Peach State of Georgia, has apparently earned the starting nod at right corner.
Returning starter Orhian Johnson (6-2, 205) is at strong safety with 6-0, 190-pound redshirt sophomore C.J. Barnett roaming at free safety.
Junior Ben Buchanan returns as the Buckeyes' punter after netting a 41-yard average via 44 kicks last fall.
Following Saturday's opener, Ohio State remains home to face another Mid-American Conference rep Saturday the 10th in the Toledo Rockets. Kickoff is again at 12 noon.
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