July 19, 1999
After posting 11 wins in 1997, the Buckeyes racked up eight last year for the programs highest two-year victory total since 1986-87. In order to continue its winning ways in, OSU will have to blend some new faces with some experienced returners against one of the more difficult schedules in school history. Because of the mixture of upper and underclassmen, the goals for this season have been made very simple.
“First and foremost, I feel we will be successful if we are disciplined, organized and strong,” Bluem said. “The results will come if we can accomplish those goals.”
While Ohio State did lose six starters from last years 8-9-3 team, the nucleus, which has played a good deal of minutes the past two years, returns. Combine the core of the squad with one of the stronger recruiting classes in the programs history, and this team should prove to be the deepest of the Bluem era.
And they will need to be. This years schedule will be challenging. Matches against Akron, Indiana, Virginia, Clemson, Butler and Penn State dot the ledger. Each of these teams received an NCAA tournament bid a year ago.
And with the difficult schedule the Buckeyes will be playing, success this year could yield big things – like a first ever birth in the NCAA Championship. An expanded 48-team field increases the Buckeyes chances of accomplishing that feat.
“Nine of our opponents were in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Thats half of our season,” Bluem said. “We try to play as many top-ranked teams as we can. We need to knock off a couple of those good teams and win the games we should win. If we do that, well be successful.”
Plenty of Rising Stars
Defender Chad Campbell, a member of OSUs largest first team all-Big Ten class from a year ago, returns and should make the OSU defense one of the Big Tens best. The tall sweeper, one of the better one-on-one defenders on the team, assumes the role of captain this year and will be expected to be a leader on the field.
Another first team all-Big Ten pick that returns in 1999 is Brooks Humphreys. Described by Bluem as “a hard worker that is incredibly competitive,” Humphreys, along with second team all-Big Ten pick Tony Monroe, have been mainstays in the OSU midfield. This year, however, they may be asked to take on more of a defensive role.
“Brooks has the ability to be a great defender,” Bluem said. “And Tony Monroe can mark up anybody and take them out of the game. Hes incredibly athletic, fast, quick and smart.”
Bluem also highlights the returns of defender Trey Halberdier and goalkeeper Kerry Thompson as crucial elements to this years squad. Both were injured last year and were redshirted.
“Both Trey and Kerry were key figures in the team two years ago,” said Bluem. “They should play a big role on this years team, so their return is welcome.”
Coming off a year which saw him lead the team in goals (seven) and points (15), Big Ten Freshman of the Year John Monebrake seems poised to wreak havoc on opposing defenses again this year. Brian Feldhaus and Roger Roush team with Monebrake and should rack up a large number of minutes at the midfield position.
Up front, senior Peterson Jerome returns and should provide some spark to the offense. After finishing third on the team in scoring last year with 12 points, Jerome could be a player to watch offensively this year.
“Peterson is capable of having a big year for us,” Bluem said. “Hes a very slippery player that we hope will create and score goals.”
Fresh Faces Add Depth
A talented cast of freshmen and transfers will make a push to contribute immediately. Freshman defenseman Todd Grossnickle and freshman midfielder Tony Earp are two players that could make an impact right off the bat. Midfielder John Tomaino, forward Andy Kreinbrink and goalkeeper Ryan Hamilton are three other freshmen that give Bluem plenty of talent.
Miami (O.) transfer Andy Kreinbrink and Cleveland State transfer Andy Bossell combine with freshmen Jacob Traeger and Christian Villareal to comprise the rest of the newcomers. Freshman Justin Cook will redshirt this year due to injury.
“This entire incoming group is ready to play and contribute right away,” Bluem said. “They all should see a lot of playing time.”
Adjusting The Game Plan
Depth at the midfield and defense positions will allow Ohio State to change away from the 4-4-2 formation that has been traditional of OSU teams the past couple of years. Last season, the Buckeyes played a more defensive style that reacted to opponents. But with the depth and talent of this years squad, Bluem may elect to open things up.
“We have a great number of players at defense and midfield, so we have the luxury of having different guys play a number of different roles,” said Bluem. “I think that well go back to a 3-5-2 formation this year. Thats sort of flexible – a 3-5-2 can become a 3-4-3. As the quality of the players we have here improves we can be more flexible with what we do.”
The shift to defense of Monroe and Humphreys should continue the trend of impenetrable Buckeye defenses. Since Bluem took over in 1997, OSU has given up more than two goals only once and has an overall goals against average of a miniscule 0.85.
The Keeper Situation
Unlike last year, when the Buckeyes entered the season knowing who their goalie would be, the 1999 OSU team is waiting for someone to step above the fray and declare himself the man.
Thompson returns to action after redshirting last year due to an injury. The sophomore went 3-1 in 1997 in his four starts and had a 0.42 GAA.
Another returner is senior Kris Kern. After not seeing any time last year, Kern is looking to make his mark on this Buckeye squad. The new face to the keeper postion is freshman Ryan Hamilton.
“The goalkeeping position is wide open right now,” said Bluem. “Well wait and see which one of the players steps up and performs well in practice. But we have three very solid players to choose from that can all help the squad.”
A Source Of Pride
Ohio State will begin play this season in the beautiful Jesse Owens Memorial Complex. Expected to be completed before the 2000 season, the facility will be one of the nicest in the Big Ten and the nation.
“Its going to give our players an incredible amount of pride,” said Bluem. “Our goal is to make this a nationally recognized program. One thing that helps you do that is having a first-class facility. We are in the midst of creating an atmosphere that is very exciting.”
And the exciting atmosphere should get started immediately. Ohio State hosts the NIKE Classic Sept. 3-5, in which it will take on national power Clemson. Other visitors to the new facility include Butler and Big Ten foe Penn State.
“By the Fall of 2000, I think we will have the nicest situation in the Big Ten,” added Bluem. “When we bring in players, we can show them the stadium and show them what they will be playing in.”