Fresno, Ohio St. Take Early Look : Pigskin Classic: The teams meet at Anaheim Stadium eager for indication of what their seasons will hold.
Fresno State Coach Jim Sweeney is eager to get a look at his new quarterback, and to find out what life might be like this season without Trent Dilfer.
And Ohio State Coach John Cooper is a bit anxious about how some newcomers in his lineup will measure up even though the Buckeyes return nine starters from a team that shared the Big Ten championship a year ago.
Both will have a much better reading about where their teams might be headed in the new college football season after tonight’s Disneyland Pigskin Classic in Anaheim Stadium. Game time is 6 p.m., with a crowd of about 30,000 expected.
Fresno State last visited Anaheim Stadium on Dec. 29, 1992, for the Freedom Bowl and knocked off USC, 24-7, before 58,546.
Fresno State and Ohio State have been among the most successful in the nation in the ‘90s. Fresno State is 35-12-1 (.740) in the past three seasons; Ohio State is 33-12-3 (.719).
Adrian Claiborne, a sophomore from Riverside, will take over at quarterback as the replacement for Dilfer, who passed up his senior season at Fresno and was a first-round NFL draft pick by Tampa Bay.
“I’m really excited, getting to play Ohio State on national television in the first game of the season,” said Claiborne, who threw only nine passes in four appearances a year ago as Dilfer’s backup. Sweeney can’t avoid the inevitable comparisons between Dilfer and Claiborne. “We don’t want to put a lot of pressure on Adrian,” Sweeney said. “He’s a great athlete, but he doesn’t have to fill Dilfer’s shoes. I tell him he doesn’t have to be a magician. He just has to fill his own shoes.
“He has great mobility, and he has that ability to drop back and move with the football. (Roger) Staubach had that special kind of escape ability. Adrian has that kind of elusiveness as a quarterback. In a scrimmage the other night, it was very hard for our defense to contain him.” One big advantage for Claiborne is the talented and experienced corps of receivers, led by flanker Charlie Jones.
“Charlie is our big-play guy, but we’ve got four receivers who are as good as we’ve had,” Sweeney said. “We’ve got some outstanding speed in that group of players.”
Ohio State, ranked 20th in the Associated Press preseason poll, is expected to be strong defensively with a particularly formidable group of linebackers. Lorenzo Styles, an all-Big Ten selection last season, led the team in tackles last season with 117.
“I expect them to really come at me,” Claiborne said. “We’ve been working a lot on handling the blitz.”
The Buckeyes, however, were left with a huge hole at defensive tackle when Dan Wilkinson passed up his final year of eligibility and was the first player picked in the draft. Ohio State has only one returning regular in the secondary, cornerback Marlon Kerner.
“We’ll definitely be tested in the secondary with the new quarterback and those great wide receivers,” Cooper said.
Cooper thinks the early game will help him get a good indication of this team’s strengths and weaknesses. “We’ll be playing more new players than any time since my first year at Ohio State,” he said.
Ohio State returns quarterback Bobby Hoying, who passed for 1,570 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago. His favorite receiver is split end Joey Galloway.