Aug. 28, 2006

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Depth Chart
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The No. 1-ranked Buckeyes take on Northern Illinois in the 2006 opener for Ohio State. The game will kick off at 3:36 p.m. and will be available to a regional audience on ABC television. The Buckeyes return eight starters on offense and another two on the defensive side. Led by Heisman Trophy candidates Troy Smith at quarterback and Ted Ginn Jr. at receiver, the Buckeye offense has been lauded throughout the offseason for its high-octane potential, which was last put on display in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl victory (34-20) over Notre Dame. The Ohio State defense, bolstered by an experienced defensive line, is anchored by senior linemen Quinn Pitcock, David Patterson and Jay Richardson. Several stalwarts from the 2005 Buckeye defense, which finished No. 1 nationally against the run (73.4 yards per game allowed) begin careers in the NFL this season making room for the next wave of 20 young defenders who lettered a season ago. Ohio State, Big Ten co-champions in 2005, has won 37 of its last 38 non-conference games in Ohio Stadium since 1991. The Buckeyes fell to No. 2 Texas in 2005 in Columbus to snap a 36-game home non-conference win streak.

The Buckeyes enter the game vs. Northern Illinois with a 53-9-1 record when ranked as the top team nationally. The Buckeyes were last ranked atop all of college football in a regular-season game Nov. 7, 1998 in a loss to Michigan State at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State had won eight-consecutive games as a No. 1-ranked team before the loss to the Spartans. OSU finished the 2002 season No. 1 after defeating Miami (Fla.) for the national title. The Hurricanes entered the title game ranked No. 1. Overall, the Buckeyes are 283-68-9 when carrying a Top 10 ranking and 390-123-14 as a Top 25 team. Ohio State has opened the season No. 1 seven times, second only to Oklahoma (9). The Buckeyes own the record for appearances (53) in the first (of 57 total) Associated Press poll of the year.

Jim Tressel, Ohio State head coach, said the Buckeyes are capable of reaching the lofty expectations placed upon the team by the preseason polls, national analysts and fans.

“I think we have a lot of work to do to live up to the expectations that are out there,” Tressel said. “But if we play up to our capability, the sky is the limit. I hope we are thinking more about getting better as a team than we are about being No. 1.”

Season Openers as No. 1

Date Opponent Result Score
10/17/42 Purdue W 26-0
9/27/58 No. 20 SMU W 23-20
9/27/69 TCU W 62-0
9/26/70 Texas A&M W 56-13
9/13/80 Syracuse W 31-21
9/5/98 at No. 11 WVU W 34-17
9/2/06 N. Illinois

Several Ohio State players are listed on the various postseason awards watch lists. Senior Troy Smith and junior Ted Ginn Jr. both are preseason Heisman Trophy candidates. The pair also is listed on the 2006 Walter Camp Player of the Year watch list. Senior center Doug Datish (Rimington, Lombardi), Ginn Jr. (Biletnikoff), Smith (Manning), junior offensive tackle Kirk Barton and senior defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock (Lombardi), and junior running back Antonio Pittman (Doak Walker) all could be in the running for various national honors this season.

The Buckeyes have an all-time opening day record of 100-12-4 and have won their last 27 home openers. OSU’s last opening day loss at home was to Penn State in 1978. The Buckeyes last opening day loss on the road was to the University of Miami in the 1999 Kickoff Classic.

This will be the first meeting between the Huskies and Buckeyes. Over the years, Ohio State has posted a 20-1 record against teams from the Mid-American Conference. The lone loss was to Akron in 1895 (14-6).

Ohio State vs. the Mid-American Conf.

Akron 5-1
Bowling Green 3-0
Buffalo 0-0
Kent State 1-0
Marshall 1-0
Miami (Ohio) 4-0
Ohio 5-0
Ball State 0-0
Central Michigan 0-0
Eastern Michigan 0-0
Northern Illinois 0-0
Toledo 1-0
Western Michigan 0-0
Totals 20-1

Ohio State returns 11 of its 22 starters from a year ago when the Buckeyes closed out the season by winning seven-consecutive games to finish with a 10-2 record and the No. 4 spot in both the final USA Today/coaches and Associated Press/media polls.

The offense has eight holdover starters, including the junior wide receiver tandem of Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn Jr., who combined for 79 receptions and seven touchdown catches in 2005.

The electrifying Ginn had 51 receptions as a sophomore, including four scores. Gonzalez finished with three touchdowns on 28 catches.

Troy Smith will start at quarterback with senior classmate Justin Zwick, sophomore Todd Boeckman and redshirt freshman Rob Schoenhoft providing support from the sidelines.

Up front, the Buckeyes return three-of-five starters and are led by senior Doug Datish at center and Kirk Barton at right tackle. Datish moves from the left tackle spot this season to replace All-America center Nick Mangold.

Antonio Pittman, a junior tailback fresh from a 1,300-yard sophomore season, leads a talented group of runners. Sophomore Maurice Wells and true freshman Chris Wells both have earned opportunities and will see game action.

Senior Stan White Jr. is the No. 1 fullback. The versatile senior, who came to OSU as a linebacker, can also play tight end.

The defense returns two starters but many players with on-field experience.

The defensive front is the most experienced heading into the opener with the Huskies. Senior Quinn Pitcock is the unit leader from an interior line position along with classmates David Patterson, Jay Richardson and Joel Penton.

The linebackers are led by sophomores James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman along with senior John Kerr.

Senior Brandon Mitchell and sophomore Malcolm Jenkins are two notables in a young Buckeye secondary.

In the kicking department, head coach Jim Tressel will look to redshirt freshman Aaron Pettrey and sophomore Ryan Pretorius to take over the place-kicking chores. Sophomore A.J. Trapasso will again handle the punting duties. He averaged better than 40 yards an attempt with 19 of 43 season efforts called dead inside the opponent’s 20-yard line as a rookie.

“My guess is we will play a lot of people the first few games,” Jim Tressel, head coach of the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes, said. “One, we are young and need to find out who can step up and two, we know it is going to be hot the first couple of weeks. I know our players are excited to get going. This is the time of year they are ready to play against someone else. I am sure our young players, especially on defense, who are playing for the first time are nervous about the opener.”

Ahmed Plummer, who starred in the defensive backfield for the Buckeyes from 1996-99, will served as Ohio State’s honorary captain Saturday when the Buckeyes take on Northern Illinois. Plummer recently completed his NFL career and is back on the Ohio State campus working as a volunteer strength coach with the football team. He played six NFL seasons and 70 games with the San Francisco 49ers from 2000-05. He recorded 270 tackles and 12 interceptions as a professional. Plummer led the Buckeyes his senior season with five interceptions and tied for the team lead with nine passes broken up.

Members of the 1996 Rose Bowl Champion squad will hold its reunion this weekend and will be recognized at halftime of the Northern Illinois game. The 11-1 Buckeyes were co-Big Ten Champions and defeated Arizona State 20-17 in Ohio State’s last Rose Bowl appearance.

A league-best 18 Ohio State football players were named to the Big Ten’s All-Academic team last fall, marking the fourth year in a row the Buckeyes have led the conference in that area. Additionally, a record 46 Ohio State football players qualified for last spring’s annual OSU Scholar-Athlete Dinner, which requires a grade-point average of 3.00 or better for the past academic year. As a team, the Buckeyes have an overall GPA of 2.83. A total of 52 football student-athletes earned a 3.00 or better during Ohio State’s spring quarter and 46 had a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 after spring grades were calculated.

Quarterback Troy Smith (communications), center Doug Datish (history), strong safety Brandon Mitchell (political science) and fullback Stan White Jr. (finance) all are working toward graduate degrees while playing football for the Buckeyes this season. Two most recent student-athletes to earn their degrees are All-America linebacker A.J. Hawk and Richard Schafrath, who lettered from 1956-58. Both were awarded degrees following the 2006 summer quarter. Other 2005-06 graduates include Bobby Carpenter, Angelo Chattams, R.J. Coleman, John Conroy, Ryan Hamby, Rob Harley, Mike Roberts, Anthony Schlegel, Brandon Schnittker, Rob Sims, Steve Winner and Ashton Youboty.

Troy Smith is one of several quarterbacks listed on the Manning Award watch list released Aug. 23. The award, won a season ago by Vince Young of Texas, is presented following the bowl season to a quarterback in honor of the accomplishments of the Manning family (Archie, Peyton and Eli). Both regular season and bowl performances are considered by a national media panel and each of the Mannings when selecting the winner.

Junior Ted Ginn Jr. is listed at flanker for the Buckeyes, but that only tells part of the story. As a true freshman, Ginn also lined up at tailback and quarterback in addition to returning punts. Last year he returned kickoffs and finished second on the team with 51 catches for 803 yards and four scores. Ginn Jr. has had 200 or more all-purpose yards in four of his last six games, including a career-high 279 yards at Indiana Oct. 22, 2005 and a 260-yard effort in the 2006 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl vs. Notre Dame. He has a total of five 200-plus all-purpose yard games in his career and 10 with 100+ all purpose yards.

Ohio State enters the 2005 season with an all-time record of 775-300-53 in 116 seasons of competition. That includes a Big Ten record of 425-162-24 since 1913, an Ohio Stadium slate of 366-104-20 since 1922 and a bowl mark of 18-19.

COACH Jim Tressel
Jim Tressel is beginning his sixth season as head coach at Ohio State. His record with the Buckeyes is 50-13 (30-10 in the Big Ten) and his career record is 185-70-2 (.724) in 20 previous seasons as a head coach.

Tressel took over the Buckeyes in 2001, directing them to a 7-5 record that year. In 2002, he led Ohio State to a 14-0 record and the school’s first consensus national championship since 1968 and was nearly everyone’s choice as National Coach of the Year following the season. In 2003, the Buckeyes won their first five games to extend their winning streak to 19 and finished with an 11-2 record. The 2004 squad, which had to replace 14 NFL drafted players, won five of its last six games en route to an 8-4 finish.

A season ago, Tressel guided the Buckeyes to a 10-2 overall record with seven-consecutive victories down the stretch, which included a 34-20 victory over Notre Dame in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in January. The current seven-game win streak is second only to the 19-consecutive wins under Tressel in 2002 (14-0) and 2003 (5-0 to start season).

Tressel’s teams have appeared in five bowl games and are 4-1 in those contests, including three BCS wins in the Fiesta Bowl over the last four seasons. They also are 4-1 against Michigan in one of the most intense and storied rivalries in all of sport.

Eleven of Tressel’s players have won first-team All-America honors and four have won major awards, including linebacker A.J. Hawk, the recipient of the 2005 Lombardi Award. He was the 36th recipient of the honor and sixth Buckeye to be recognized as the top lineman (offensive or defensive) in college football. Ohio State leads all of college football in Lombardi awards ahead of Nebraska and Notre Dame, each with four.

Tressel is a master in close games. Since coming to Ohio State, he is 17-9 in games decided by a touchdown or less and 4-1 in overtime games.

He is at his best against the best with a 21-7 record against teams ranked in the Top 25 and a 7-2 mark against teams ranked in the Top 10.

The 53-year-old Tressel is a 1975 graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College.

Seniors Troy Smith, Doug Datish, Quinn Pitcock and David Patterson were voted by their teammates as captains of the 2006 Ohio State football team. Smith (QB) and Datish (C) will lead from the offensive side while Pitcock and Patterson represent the defense from the defensive tackle spot. The four enter the season with 128 games of combined experience as Buckeyes.

Quarterback Troy Smith is the all-time completion percentage leader in Ohio State history. He has connected on 61 percent of his passes (217-359) to date. He also is ninth all-time at Ohio State in career passing yards with 3,178 entering his senior season. He trails Craig Krenzel’s 4,493 career yards from 2000-03. Smith’s career total offense total of 4,142 yards is 12th all-time behind the 4,158 accumulated by quarterback Rex Kern from 1968-70).

Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is No. 20 all-time in career catches with 76 and in career yards receiving (1,162). Ginn Jr. set Ohio State single-season and career records for punt returns for touchdowns as a freshman in 2004 with four. He also set the school single-season and career records for average yards per punt return by averaging 25.6 yards on his 15 returns that year. The latter figure led the nation in 2004. He owns the single season (4) and is tied for the Big Ten career record (5) in punt return for touchdowns. He is three shy of tying the NCAA record for career punt returns for TDs.

There are three true freshmen and seven redshirt freshmen in the depth chart this week. On offense Jim Cordle at center and Brian Hartline at slot receiver are the redshirt rookies listed at No. 2. True freshmen Ray Small at flanker and Chris Wells at running back have made the two-deep for the season opener. On the defensive side redshirt freshmen Todd Denlinger (DT), Tyler Moeller (WLB), Andre Amos (field CB) and Anderson Russell (FS) are listed as backups at their respective positions. Russell also is the No. 1 nickleback. True freshman Ross Homan also is listed with Moeller as the backup at the mike (middle) linebacker spot. On special teams, redshirt freshman place-kicker Aaron Pettrey won the job in fall camp. Redshirt punter Jon Thoma is listed at No. 2.

Eric Lichter began his first season at Ohio State this past summer as the director of football performance. He will direct the strength and conditioning program, emphasizing speed, explosiveness and position-specific training.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels will be in the press box for the Buckeyes during the game as will cornerbacks coach Tim Beckman and co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.

Northern Illinois has won the Mid-American Conference West Division championship four of the last five years, including last year when it finished 7-5 after a 31-30 loss to Akron in the championship game. The Huskies have a string of six-consecutive winning seasons and finished 10-2 in 2003, a season that featured wins over Iowa State, Maryland and Alabama. Also on NIU’s 2006 non-conference schedule are Indiana State, Temple and Iowa (Oct. 28) in Iowa City.

The Huskies feature one of the most exciting rushers in the country in Garrett Wolfe. Last year, the senior from Chicago carried the ball 241 times for 1,580 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. He was second in the nation behind Memphis’ DeAngelo Williams with 175.6 rushing yards per game and had the second and third best single-game rushing totals. Southern California’s Reggie Bush had 294 yards vs. Fresno State, but Wolfe turned in 277 yards vs. Western Michigan and 270 yards vs. Akron in the MAC championship game. Against Big Ten competition last year (losses to Michigan and Northwestern), Wolfe gained 393 ground yards and scored four TDs.

Wolfe is the main reason Northern Illinois averaged nearly 450 yards of total offense per game last year, but the team also features one of the nation’s most efficient quarterbacks. Phil Horvath has been named the starting quarterback for the Huskies after leading the NCAA with a .706 completion percentage last season. He was sixth with a 159.45 passing efficiency in nine games before suffering a broken arm vs. Central Michigan.

The Huskies scored 32.4 points and averaged 444.1 yards per contest in 2005. Defensively, NIU allowed 22.8 points and 369.9 yards per contest, including 147.9 rushing and 222 yards passing. The scoring defense was second in the MAC and was a respectable 34th nationally. The defensive unit had 67 tackles-for-loss, including 19 sacks. It picked off the opposition 11 times and recovered 10 fumbles.

Columbus natives and brothers Chris and John Hauser will be coaching on opposite sidelines Saturday. Chris is in his first year as a defensive graduate assistant coach at Ohio State and John is in his third year, first as a full-time assistant, at Northern Illinois. He coaches the Huskies’ defensive backs. The pair graduated from Bishop Hartley High School before continuing their education and playing careers at in-state universities, with Chris going to Akron and John to Wittenberg.

Akron scored on a 36-yard touchdown pass and converted the winning PAT with 10 seconds left to get past Northern Illinois 31-30 in the Mid-American Conference championship game Dec. 1, 2005, at Ford Field in Detroit. The Huskies had built a 24-10 lead through three quarters, but Akron scored three touchdowns in the final stanza while holding NIU to a pair of field goals. Garrett Wolfe carried the ball 42 times for 270 yards and two scores though Akron outgained the Huskies in total offense by a 518-360 margin.

Joe Novak (Miami (Ohio), 1967) is in his 11th season at Northern Illinois, where he is 54-60. The Huskies were 10-2 in 2003 and beat Troy 34-21 in the Silicon Valley Football Classic. NIU finished 9-3 in 2004 before going 7-5 last season. His team has won the MAC West Division four of the last five seasons. Novak lettered two seasons on back-to-back MAC championship teams at Miami, coached by Bo Schembechler. He was an assistant for three years at Miami, three years at Illinois and three years at Northern Illinois before heading to Bloomington with coach Bill Mallory. Novak became the Huskies coach in 1996 after spending 12 seasons as the defensive coordinator at Indiana. Novak is a native of Mentor, Ohio, and began his prep coaching career at Warren Western Reserve High School. The school went 12-0 and won the Ohio state title in 1972.

Ohio State travels to Austin, Texas, to conclude the home-and-home series with the defending national champion Longhorns. The nationally televised game will kick off at 8:13 p.m. EDT on ABC.