Jody Victor: It looks as though Jim Tressel might want to consider hanging a vacancy sign outside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The veteran Ohio State football coach has 12 vacancies following the 2006 season in which the Buckeyes posted a 12-1 record, won the outright Big Ten championship and finished second in the national polls.
The Buckeyes spent the first 12 weeks of last fall in the No. 1 spot in the polls and twice defeated No. 2 teams (Michigan and Texas). They averaged 34.6 points and 384.5 yards per game on offense and allowed 12.8 points and 280.5 yards on defense.
Few teams in the history of Ohio State football have generated as much excitement. But graduation and the early departure of three juniors for the National Football League have left six holes on each side of the ball – the 12 vacancies.
The list of players who will not be returning includes All-American Troy Smith at quarterback and Quinn Pitcock at defensive tackle. Smith, last year's Heisman Trophy recipient and one of the most celebrated players in Ohio State annals, was 25-3 as a starter under Tressel. Smith's many accomplishments include a 3-0 record against Michigan.
Also gone are Smith's two leading receivers, Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez, who combined for 110 receptions and 17 touchdown catches; and leading rusher Antonio Pittman, who finished the year with 1233 yards and 14 of the Buckeyes' 25 rushing touchdowns. All three were juniors who, from now on, will be playing their games on Sunday.
Up front the Buckeyes must replace center Doug Datish and guard T.J. Downing, both first-team All-Big Ten selections in 2006.
Defensively, the Buckeyes lose three-fourths of their defensive front, including David Patterson, who teamed with Pitcock to give the Buckeyes one of the top tackle tandems in the country.
But while the losses are significant on both sides of the ball, the Buckeyes do return a total of 38 lettermen – 18 on offense and 20 on defense and the majority of those players have logged quality minutes in Tressel's revolving door system that rewards younger players with game experience.