Friday, December 31, 2010

BUCKEYES PREPARED FOR TALENTED ARKANSAS DUO OF MALLETT, DAVIS

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
NEW ORLEANS — When asked his thoughts on Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, Ohio State senior linebacker Ross Homan — like he does on the football field — went head on with the answer.

"He is probably the best quarterback we have seen all year," Homan said Friday, inside the media hotel in New Orleans.

Ohio State has faced some pretty decent signal callers in 2010, like Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien, Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Michigan's Denard Robinson. However, none of the aforementioned players brings to the table what Mallett does.

"(Mallett's) different from the other quarterbacks we've played this this year," OSU senior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa said. "I don't think we've played anyone similar to him. We've played a lot of mobile quarterbacks, but he's more of a guy that stays in the pocket longer and then makes throws.

"So he's a different style from what we've seen all year."

Mallett is perhaps the best pure passing quarterback in the country. The junior — who's been projected as a first round NFL draft pick by many scouting gurus — has thrown for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns this season, and possesses a quarterback rating of 170.5 (3rd FBS). It's no secret, the kid can spin it.

For the Buckeyes to have any success against the Razorback passer, they must apply plenty of pressure or that nine-game slide against the Southeastern Conference in bowl bouts is going to reach double-digits.

"We don't have to blitz to (get pressure on him)," OSU senior linebacker Brian Rolle said. "But if we need to our front seven can do a great job of putting pressure on him. We have to force him to make bad throws and give our secondary a chance."

Easier said than done.

As Rolle puts it, Mallett is as dangerous between the ears as he is with his arm.

"He is a great quarterback, I'll tell you that," Rolle said of Mallett. "He does a great job making decisions. He does a great job of checking off. Most quarterbacks get back on the line and go with a running play that was called. But you can tell that if he comes out and doesn't like what he sees, he is going to check the play and put them in the best position.

"I feel like that is where he can become dangerous. If you don't have enough guys in the box, he is going to check for a run and if there is a stack in the box, he is going to pass the ball.

"I feel that he being as smart as he is is probably the thing you have to watch out for."

Chekwa said that even when Mallett was a freshman at Michigan in 2007, he knew that he was going to be something special.

"My red-shirt freshman year (in 2007), when we played Michigan, Mallett played a lot in that game," Chekwa said. "We knew back then he was going to be a great quarterback. He's a guy a lot of people talked about as being the next great Michigan quarterback.

"Watching him on film back then, we knew he was a good quarterback. Obviously he's a bigger guy now, with a stronger arm, he can make all of the throws on the field. He's someone who's going to be successful on the next level."

Knile Davis
(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
BUT ... THE BUCKEYES AREN'T FORGETTING ABOUT DAVIS ... With all of the attention being paid to Mallett, one might forget that Arkansas does posses one of the finer running backs in the SEC — sophomore Knile Davis.

Davis has rushed for 1,183 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, and most of it has come during the second half of the season where he has totaled more than 110 yards in five of the last six games (all wins) and at least two touchdowns in four of those contests.

"A lot of people see Ryan Mallett, but nobody realizes that the passing game opens up the running game," Homan said. "Knile Davis is unbelievable. He is very strong. He really runs hard. It should be a challenge for us (to stop him)."

Davis has a great mixture of size (6-0, 220), speed and quickness — very similar to another tailback who gave the Buckeyes problems earlier in the season.

"He has the size and runs like a John Clay," Homan said, comparing Davis to the Wisconsin star runner. "But he is quick like a scat-back."

Chekwa said that Davis just adds another feature to an already complex and talented Razorback attack.

"I've watched (Davis) on film. He's a tough runner," Chekwa said. "I've seen him get a lot of big runs on plays, and he's a guy who's going to make you focus not only on the pass but the running game. I think their last few games they've done even better than in the earlier part of the season.

"We've got to be prepared for everything. We can't just focus on any one part of the game. We have to be prepared for everything."