In many ways the start of conference media days is an inauguration for the season. Although Big Ten personalities won't take the podium until early August, the SEC kicks off their annual Bacchanalia tomorrow. While southern message boards will be swimming with soundbites, things will be all quite on the Northern front.
Since we've got a little downtime, how about a hypothetical exercise I came up with the other day while waiting in line at my favorite Santa Monica deli?
It's easy as fans to put 98 percent of our energies into learning everything we can about our own teams, and treating other conference rosters as afterthoughts. Sure, you read about your opponents, but do you really think objectively about them?
Imagine, for a moment, that you had the opportunity to trade up to six members of your roster (three offense, three defense) for other players around the conference in the same positions. Who would you take?
Here's the catch. For every player you "swap" you have to give up two players from your starting depth chart, and replace them with backups. In other words, if you're a Penn State fan dying to dump Kevin Newsome you can trade him for Terrelle Pryor (don't lie, you know you want him), only, you then have to bid farewell to two other starting offensive players and replace them with their backups.
If you "swap" for a second player, you have to replace two more players with backups. (Note: You can choose to re-replace a backup you pulled up in the first round, but you then have to take his backup. In other words, you'll be starting a third stringer).
Can you build a better roster on both sides of the ball?
Here are my picks:
Obviously, I'll be playing with Ohio State. According to the preseason pundits, the Buckeyes are a legitimate championship caliber club, so I don't want to re-invent the wheel. That being said, if Ohio State makes it to Glendale, I want to make sure they're ready for anything.
Let's start with the current depth chart. Ohio State's first team offense is as follows:
Starting Depth Chart
If the scarlet have a need on this side of the ball, it's a viable third option at wide receiver. I've got my eye on Purdue's Keith Smith. Smith led the Big Ten in receptions per game in 2009, and after Iowa senior Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, he was my favorite set of hands in the league last year. I think Smith's size and speed would compliment DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, and instantly make the Buckeyes deadly in the five wide.
Welcome to the team Mr. Smith.
So who am I willing to give up to get him? Well, I could start with Brandon Saine and Zach Boren. Hear me out. Ohio State is blessed with a stable of running backs, starting with Dan Herron, Jordan Hall, and Jermil Martin. Although I hate losing Saine's physicality and explosiveness, I think we could make up the most ground playing backups at his position. Similarly, although Zach Boren has showed an impressive ability to bulldoze defenders, by virtue of his position he provides less utility than other members of the offense.
So, it's a done deal. I'll trade Brandon Saine and Zach Boren for Purdue's Keith Smith.
Although I just went on about running back depth, I still think the Buckeyes could use a real bruiser. I'd love nothing more than to bring in Wisconsin's John Clay.
Here's the problem, to net Clay, I'd need to cut another two members of the offense, and frankly, there isn't anyone to spare. Although Mike Adams is the obvious weak link on the offensive line, I'm not going to disrupt the chemistry of what has the potential to be Tressel's best line in half a decade. Especially, since Jim Bollman's offense lives and dies by the boys up front. The next most likely candidate would be tight end Jake Stoneburner, but there are way too many indications Tressel is ready to utilize the position for more than blocking to let Jake go.
Because I'm trying to build wide receiver depth I can't lose Posey or Sanzenbacher.
Accordingly, I'm going to pass on John Clay.
Final Depth Chart
QB Terrelle Pryor
Brandon Saine Dan Herron
Zach Boren Adam Homan
WR DeVier Posey
WR Dane Sanzenbacher/Keith Smith
TE Jake Stoneburner
OT Mike Adams
OT J.B. Shugarts
OG Justin Boren
OG Bryant Browning
C Michael Brewster
Let's see if we can do more damage on the defensive side of the ball.
Starting Depth Chart
The most glaring weakness on the defensive side of the ball is at strong safety where Orhian Johnson takes over for Kurt Coleman. Johnson is the lone underclassmen in the secondary. To shore up our pass protection, I'm opting to replace Johnson with Iowa's Tyler Sash. Sash led the Big Ten with six interceptions in 2009, including an epic 86-yard return for a touchdown against Indiana. I think his speed and ability to assist in run defense could be invaluable as the Buckeyes chase a national title.
Ohio State's new secondary is high flying.
Now the hard part. Who do I drop along with Johnson to bring Sash on board? Etienne Sabino is the best candidate. Although, it's hard to drop him, I think we have enough talent in the wings to ease the transition. Andrew Sweat, Sabino's replacement has a good amount of game experience and might have landed the starting spot anyways save for injuries that limited his play time last season.
One more thing...
Now I know what you're thinking. You want me to go get Adrian Clayborn. Okay, here's how I'm going to do it. Let's lose Nathan Williams to free up the end spot, and Devon Torrence. Torrence has a habit of letting receivers get behind him, and I'm comfortable trusting Tyler Sash to cover any growing pains injecting Donnie Evege into the lineup may cause. Plus, with Clayborn and Cameron Heyward up front, it's not like quarterbacks are going to have time to let receivers get too far upfield.
Let's quit while we're ahead...
Final Depth Chart
DE Cameron Heyward
Nathan Williams Adrian Clayborn
DT John Simon
DT Dexter Larimore
Etienne Sabino Andrew Sweat
LB Ross Homan
LB Brian Rolle
CB Chimdi Chekwa
Devon Torrence Donne Evege
Orhian Johnson Tyler Sash
S Jermale Hines
What do you think of my picks? Did I take Ohio State from title contender to title lock, or was this an exercise in winning the battle but losing the war?
I hope you'll use the comments section to put your own team's roster in the blender.