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June 20, 2008

Friday Fact or Fiction

It's been a while, but "Friday Fact or Fiction" is back. Marc Givler joins OhioVarsity.com analyst's Mike Parris and Steve Hare to provide another opinion and offer further insight on some of the hot topics surrounding the Ohio high school sports and recruiting scene.

Here are some of the current topics and issues creating banter across the state.

1. Ohio is making a big mistake by playing the North-South and Big 33 All-Star games on the same day.

Mike: FACT

Everyone in the state wants to claim Ohio boasts some of the top talent anywhere in the country, yet the state has lost three consecutive Big 33 games to Pennsylvania, all by double-digit deficits. The talent in the past three years has been diluted by playing the North-South game on the same date as the Big 33 contest, creating a weaker roster for the Ohio team facing Pennsylvania.

Some may argue that the current method creates a more well-rounded talent display or that it is a moot point because it's "just an all-star game" and is for fun only. Nonsense. Ohio should put together the best 33 players in the state that want and are able to play and move the North-South game to a week or two later.

Doing so would not only put forth a better representation of Ohio's talent against Pennsylvania's, but also allow fans to take in both games and not have to choose on which to attend.

Steve: FACT

Putting together three all-star teams to play on the same night is tough for any state, even talent-rich state's like Ohio, when one of those teams has to play against the best from Pennsylvania.

Personally, as much as I've enjoyed the Big 33 over the years, I'd scrap the game and focus on the nation's longest running all-star event, the North-South game. After all, if it's about showcasing the best Ohio players, let's do it in-state so high school football fans everywhere can remain interested in the game and boost attendance.

Turn the North-South game into a star-studded affair. What the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association did this year was a start-moving the game to Ohio Stadium and playing the championship game of the state 7-on-7 tournament at halftime. But, next year, let's add an Alumni Flag Football game featuring some of the state's top alumni-Notre Dame plays an alumni flag football game before the start of their annual spring game and it's a big hit for fans.

Continue to play the 7-on-7 championship games at halftime and after the game, how about a concert or fireworks?

Also, it wouldn't hurt to rotate the game to various locations across the state-like Cincinnati, Dayton, Cleveland and Canton.

Marc: FACT

There really hasn't been any sort of positive impact from playing these games on the same day. Not only is it weakening the teams for both games but it's hurting attendance as many people would rather stay at home and watch the Big 33 Game than travel to Columbus to watch a watered down North-South contest that is missing most of the top players in the state.

The games should be played on separate weekends with the best players having the option to play in both if they so choose. This would make Ohio more competitive in the Big 33 game, which was an absolute battle in the 1990's when Ohio's best were participating, and would help the attendance for the North-South game as more top players would be able to participate in that contest as well.

2. The talent at the skill positions in Ohio has significantly declined over the past several years.

Mike: FACT

The bottom line is that there simply haven't been many blue-chip level quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers coming out of Ohio as there had been in years past. This is most apparent at quarterback, where Ohio is really struggling to produce even a four-star signal caller, let alone a player worth considering for a Rivals250 list. Sure there have been guys like Ada's Zac Dysert who have put up unsightly numbers, but he did so playing at a low division while throwing the ball 50 times per game. But there hasn't been a legitimate Big Ten level prospect at QB in at least two years. And Ohio State fans wonder why they are recruiting elsewhere for quarterbacks.

Some might argue that Ohio had a terrific crop of wide receivers last season in Cordale Scott, Devier Posey, and D.J. Woods, but until they prove something at the college level I will hold off anointing them. In terms of running backs, there have been some nice prospects in Brandon Saine, Dan Herron and Darius Ashley, but the overall depth at running back has been top-heavy.

Let's face it: Ohio simply doesn't have the explosive athletes as other states. We do, however, know how to produce some fine linemen and linebackers year in and year out.

Steve: FICTION

While Ohio's top-ranked prospects tend to be offensive and defensive linemen as well as linebackers, the Buckeye-state has produced some very talented skill players.

Last season, two Ohio running backs were ranked among the Top 25 nationally-Ohio State's Chris Wells (No. 11) and Michigan State's Javon Ringer (No. 21). Ball State quarterback Nate Davis (No. 14 in the country) and Bowling Green's Tyler Sheehan (No. 23) each threw for more yards than the highly regarded Dan LeFevour of Central Michigan. Cincinnati's Ben Mauk and Ohio State's Todd Boeckman both ranked among the top 15 nationally in passer rating.

Ball State's Dante Love finished the year ranked ninth in receiving yards per game (102.4) while Michigan's Mario Manningham finished No. 12 with 99.6 yard per contest.

At tight end, Southern Cal's Fred Davis was an All-American.

That's only a handful of players, but those players represented the state well and put Ohio in a position to be comparable to any other state when it comes to producing top talent.

There are many other players from the Buckeye state that were top producers for their individual teams.

Marc: FICTION
While there have been some down years at certain positions recently, I don't see this as something that has been a steady trend for a while or a trend that will necessarily continue. I don't believe that Ohio has ever been a great state for producing quarterbacks and I think a down year or two at the running back position can be expected every now and then. Ohio is still producing excellent backs with players like Chris Wells and Javon Ringer having big time college careers. While the last two years may not have produced a "five-star" back, guys like Brandon Beachum and Mike Shaw will have a chance to show what they can do at Michigan and Penn State, two schools known for having big time running backs.

With the receivers, I think last years crop was an excellent group and that while previous classes may have lacked "star power" many of the kids that were under the radar in high school have turned into pretty good players at the college level. An example of that would be Brian Robiskie who was a kid that not many schools offered but now has a chance to be a late first to early second round pick in the 2009 draft.

3. John Simon's drop out of the Rivals100 was justified.

Mike: FICTION

It really makes no sense to me why the 6-foot-3, 275-pound Simon made such a drastic slip in the national rankings. He has committed to one of the top programs in the country, is an athletic specimen with Herculean strength, and played against top-flight competition. What more can you ask for?

I can only assume that Simon dropped because he hasn't been very visible at off-season camps and combines and overall his statistical line last season wasn't eye-popping. But he wasn't called upon last season to be a primary playmaker, but rather to occupy blockers to free up Mooney's outstanding linebacker trio of Mike Zordich, Brandon Beachum and Taylor Hill. He will be called upon to be more of a force as a senior, and I expect him to rise to the challenge and quiet any doubters of his talent.

Steve: FICTION

I've never been one to put too much into rankings-surprising, huh?

But even this move had me shaking my head. Making matters worse was the fact that six other Ohio players were ranked higher than Simon. When the OhioVarsity.com Top 100 comes out in the next couple of weeks, I'd be very surprised if Simon isn't ranked as one of the top two or three prospects in the state.

No. 2? Sure. No. 3? Sure. But, No. 7? I don't think so.

I heard from one national analyst that said an NFL scout called Simon one of the most overrated players ever. That scout worked for a team ranked 29th out of 32 NFL teams. It's just an opinion, but that team might need to look for a new scout, especially as it relates to defensive prospects.

I've also heard that Simon simply didn't produce like a game-breaking defensive tackle should have. The No. 1 defensive tackle in the country, Jamarkus McFarland, posted just 67 tackles and six sacks. Ask Monroeville, Pa., Gateway (then ranked No. 10 nationally) how productive Simon was. The Gators could muster no offense against a talented Mooney defense, led in part by Simon, as Mooney went on to win 27-6.

Not enough?

How about Mentor, you know, the big-school state runner-ups. Mooney beat Mentor and its high-powered offense, 21-10. Mentor had no run game because Simon dominated the line of scrimmage.

When a player draws double and triple teams all season, he may not put together the most impressive highlight tape, but he sure is a valuable member of the squad.

While the NFL scout might consider Simon to be one of the most overrated players, the coaches that actually know something about defense disagree. Ohio State's defense was No. 1 in the country last season-the Buckeyes offered Simon early and he verbally committed shortly after. Even Pittsburgh offered. The Panthers' defense was No. 5 in the country last year. Who knows how many offers Simon would have picked up had he not made the early verbal commitment.

Marc: FICTION

This one is a head scratcher to me. On film, Simon is quite possibly the most disciplined player in the state. He's never out of position and he reads screens as well as any defensive tackle that I've ever seen at the high school level. He's also strong as an ox and does a great job taking on blockers and occupying space. He's everything a coach would want in a defensive tackle as opposing offenses have to either double team him or run away from him, both of those options result in opportunities for his teammates to make plays. John Simon is clearly one of the top two or three players in Ohio for the 2009 class, in my opinion.

Share your opinions on these issues in the Ohio Varsity Football Forum.


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