Offenses need to step up for OSU and A&M

Ohio State and Texas A&M will both need their offenses to be better in '03, while Maryland and Kansas State have no such problems and UCLA field have a tough defense.

Updated: June 3, 2003, 2:56 PM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. |
Q: The Ohio State Buckeyes were underrated by everybody in 2002. Are they capable of repeating as national champions this year even with the loss of five starters on defense? -- Tim King, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Craig Krenzel
Craig Krenzel will be counted on to carry more of the load for Ohio State this year.
-- The Buckeyes won some close games last year, and good fortune is sometimes hard to duplicate. Ohio State is returning all 11 starters on offense, though, so that side of the ball won't be much of a concern. But how the defense responds to significant losses will have a huge impact on how far this team goes.

Defensive tackle Kenny Peterson, linebackers Matt Wilhelm and Cie Grant, and safeties Mike Doss and Donnie Nickey all moved on to the NFL, so the pressure will be on their replacements and the experienced offense to pick up the slack.

Coach Jim Tressel is fortunate that defensive ends Darrion Scott and Will Smith opted to stay in school -- particularly Smith, who is one of the best pass-rushers in football and may have been a first-round choice if he had declared this year. Will Allen and Nate Salley are also set to provide some reinforcements in the defensive backfield, but there is no question that OSU may take a small step back on defense this year.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst
Mel Kiper has served as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN since 1984. He is a regular contributor on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio and writes weekly for ESPN Insider.