Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Friday, February 17, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – Quarterbacks Preview

"In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest." ~ William McKinley

I have to give some props to President McKinley.  Born in Niles, Ohio, McKinley was the last American President to have served in the military in The Civil War, so McKinley certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to defeats and victory.

To say that the 2016 Ohio State football season ended with a thud is an understatement.  While I certainly believed Clemson was capable of defeating Ohio State in The 2016 Fiesta Bowl, I never thought Ohio State would be so thoroughly outplayed, and, let's be honest Ohio State fans, outcoached.  

As badly as I felt about that loss on New Year's Eve, the Ohio State coaches and players felt the sting of that loss much more so.  Dramatic overhauls along the coaching staff, combined with early departures of players for the 2017 NFL Draft, have Ohio State with questions to answer as spring football begins in Columbus on March 7th.

For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 15th, 2017. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.

9th ~ Quarterback

Players Lost:  Stephen Collier.  Collier missed the entire 2016 season due to injury, then announced at the beginning of 2017 that he was retiring as a player.  If you have not read Collier’s letter to Ohio State fans, you are truly missing out.  It is entirely possible that a transfer may take place after spring practice concludes on April 15th, but it would be surprising.

Returning Players/Incoming Players:  J.T. Barrett (5th Year Senior), Joe Burrow (Redshirt Sophomore), Dwayne Haskins (Redshirt Freshman), Tate Martell (Freshman).
A few things to keep in mind for this position group…
  • In the words of Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer regarding J.T. Barrett…, “He’s our quarterback.”.  Barrett has already set so many Ohio State passing records, but with a big year in 2017, it will be difficult for other quarterbacks to break them.  With new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson on staff, look for Barrett to make a big leap forward as a passer, back to the form Barrett displayed in 2014 as a redshirt freshman.
  • The big battle to watch will be at the backup quarterback position.  Joe Burrow played well in limited spot duty in 2016, and recently addressed transfer rumors.  Dwayne Haskins redshirted in 2016, but earned rave reviews throughout the bowl practices from his teammates.  As for true freshman Tate Martell, all Martell has accomplished in his high school career is go undefeated and was named the Gatorade National Player Of The Year.
  • How do I think it will all shake out?  I have not the foggiest idea.  I do know that watching the quarterbacks battle will be one of the highlights for fans during the upcoming spring game on April 15th in Ohio Stadium.  With so much talent, and such tremendous coaching on hand to guide and nurture this talent, this is why I ranked the quarterback position ninth in overall concerns heading into the 2017 season.
The 2016 Ohio State football season did not end on a positive note.  Spring practices in 2017 can show the Ohio State coaches, players, and fans that the 2017 season will not end in a similar fashion.

Friday, February 10, 2017

2017 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: A Tour Of Redemption – Defensive Line Preview

"In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest." ~ William McKinley

I have to give some props to President McKinley.  Born in Niles, Ohio, McKinley was the last American President to have served in the military in The Civil War, so McKinley certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to defeats and victory.

To say that the 2016 Ohio State football season ended with a thud is an understatement.  While I certainly believed Clemson was capable of defeating Ohio State in The 2016 Fiesta Bowl, I never thought Ohio State would be so thoroughly outplayed, and, let's be honest Ohio State fans, outcoached.  

As badly as I felt about that loss on New Year's Eve, the Ohio State coaches and players felt the sting of that loss much more so.  Dramatic overhauls along the coaching staff, combined with early departures of players for the 2017 NFL Draft, have Ohio State with questions to answer as spring football begins in Columbus on March 7th.




For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 15th, 2017. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.

10th ~ Defensive Line

Players Lost:  None.  As I write this, all of the defensive linemen on the official roster are slated to be on the 2017 team.  It is entirely possible that some transfers may take place before, during, or after spring practice concludes on April 15th.

Returning Players/Incoming Players:  Joshua Alabi (Redshirt Sophomore), Malik Barrow (Redshirt Freshman), Nick Bosa (Sophomore), Rashod Berry (Redshirt Sophomore), Jerron Cage (Freshman), Jonathon Cooper (Sophomore), Jashon Cornell (Redshirt Sophomore), Haskell Garrett (Freshman), Davon Hamilton (Redshirt Sophomore), Michael Hill (Redshirt Senior), Jalyn Holmes (Redshirt Junior), Sam Hubbard (Redshirt Junior), Dre'Mont Jones (Redshirt Sophomore), Robert Landers (Redshirt Sophomore), Tyquan Lewis (Redshirt Senior),  Darius Slade (Redshirt Junior), Tracy Sprinkle (Redshirt Senior), Dylan Thompson (Redshirt Junior), Chase Young (Freshman)

A few things to keep in mind as it relates to this position group…
  • Darius Slade, Tracy Sprinkle, and Dylan Thompson all fall into a category of returning players, but for different reasons.  Slade ruptured his Achilles tendon before the season started and missed all of 2016.  Tracy Sprinkle suffered an injury to his patellar tendon early in the first game of the 2016 season against Bowling Green, and was out the remainder of the season.  Dylan Thompson was academically ineligible for 2016.  It will bear watching to see how much Slade and Sprinkle participate in spring football.  Thompson has played sparingly throughout his Ohio State career, due to injuries.
  • While Ohio State was able to land Jerron Cage, Haskell Garrett, and Chase Young as recruits in 2017, none of the three are among the early enrollees for spring football.
  • While Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard were listed as starters throughout most of the 2016 season, will Nick Bosa emerge with more playing time in 2017?  Bosa was arguably the crown jewel recruit of the 2016 recruiting class.
  • Even if the true freshmen are taken out of the equation, Ohio State has sixteen defensive linemen possibly participating in spring football practice.  The tremendous depth, and returning talent, are the reasons why I ranked this position group as the one I am least concerned about heading into the 2017 season.
The 2016 Ohio State football season did not end on a positive note.  Spring practices in 2017 can show the Ohio State coaches, players, and fans that the 2017 season will not end in a similar fashion.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Not A Lot Of "OH" In 2017 Ohio State Football Recruiting Class



The well-deserved accolades and superlatives continue to come in for the 2017 Ohio State football recruiting class.  Ranked as the second-best recruiting class in the country, Ohio State was able to land arguably some of the top players in the country at designated positions of need at defensive back, linebacker, offensive line, and wide receiver.  It would not be surprising to see many of these true freshmen playing considerably throughout the 2017 season, and possibly even starting.  Nine of these twenty-one recruits are already enrolled and on campus, meaning Ohio State fans will have an opportunity to see them playing in the upcoming Ohio State Spring Game on April 15th.




For all of the praise and heightened expectations, even Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer lamented one area that did not please him entirely about this recruiting class...




Out of the twenty-one players signed, only seven were from the state of Ohio.  In essence, Ohio State fell a solid twenty percent below reaching Coach Meyer's desired goal of having half the class from Ohio.

When looking back at Coach Meyer's recruiting classes since his hiring in late November 2011, Ohio State's recruiting classes have usually been close to the mark, but never quite reaching it.  The notable exception was the 2012 recruiting class, which was more of a compilation of players who committed to former Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel, interim head coach Luke Fickell, and Coach Meyer.  Ever since the 2012 recruiting class, none of Coach Meyer's recruiting classes have met the designated 50% mark.  The 2017 recruiting class marks the lowest number of Ohioans in an Ohio State recruiting class since Coach Meyer became the head coach.



 If I could adjust a focus of the coaching staff, it would be to concentrate upon specific Ohio players first and foremost, before trying to reel in players from around the country.  In this year's class, Ohio State had a verbal commitment from Akron Archbishop Hoban RB Todd Sibley.  Sibley was told that he would need to grayshirt in order to gain a scholarship from Ohio State.  Sibley decommitted, and was able to sign with Pittsburgh.




Was this a terrible thing?  No, as Sibley was able to gain a scholarship from Pittsburgh, and Ohio State was able to use Sibley's scholarship on another position.  I would simply argue that instead of pursing RB Cam Akers from Mississippi for most of the 2016 season, only to see Akers sign with Florida State, Ohio State should have been content with a player like Sibley who was in the backyard of the Buckeyes.

It is not as though this is a recent development with Ohio State.  Another example would be current Michigan State RB L.J. Scott.  In 2014, Ohio State actively recruited Damien Harris of Kentucky, while keeping Scott on the backburner.  Harris eventually signed with Alabama, and Scott signed with Michigan State.  Scott has had two straight years of strong games against the Buckeyes, in both 2015 and 2016.  It is to Ohio State's credit that the Buckeyes were able to sign Mike Weber at the critical RB spot.  My question is why didn't Ohio State focus more on L.J. Scott from the beginning, versus chasing after a player from further away?

The 2017 Ohio State football recruiting class is certainly one for the ages.  Like Coach Meyer, I would simply focus more on identifying players from Ohio who want to become part of the flagship program in 2018 and beyond.



Friday, January 27, 2017

Six Buckeyes Depart To The NFL With Gratitude Of OSU Fans

Despite coming off a tremendously disappointing conclusion to the 2016 season, six Ohio State players have decided to forego another year in Columbus, focusing on getting better for potential NFL careers.  In certain respects, some of the players who are leaving actually have two years of eligibility remaining.

CB Gareon Conley ~ Signed in 2013, Conley redshirted his first year.  After two years of starting in 2015 and 2016, Conley elected to give up his final year of eligibility.  Conley has been projected as a possible first round draft choice.



DB Malik Hooker ~ Signed in 2014, Hooker redshirted during the national championship year.  Hooker played primarily on special teams in 2015, but emerged as a playmaker in the role of former NFL great Ed Reed in 2016.  Even with two years of eligibility remaining, Hooker made the correct choice in declaring early for the 2017 NFL Draft.  Hooker will probably be selected within the first ten picks of the 2017 NFL Draft, based on plays like below...



H-Back Curtis Samuel ~ Samuel played a multitude of roles in his three years in Columbus.  Playing as a true freshman in 2014, Samuel was able to contribute running and receiving the ball.  Samuel became Ohio State's focal offensive weapon in 2016, leading the Buckeyes with 74 receptions while adding 845 yards on the ground, with a total of 15 touchdowns.  Samuel could sneak into the late first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but will probably be a second or third round pick.  No matter what kind of NFL career Samuel has, this play will immortalize Samuel in the hearts of Buckeye fans everywhere...



WR Noah Brown ~ Of all the players on this list, Brown probably qualifies as a surprise early entrant into the 2017 NFL Draft.  Brown played sparingly as a true freshman in 2014, and suffered an injury that eliminated his 2015 season.  Brown started off strong in 2016 before tapering off down the stretch.  With a strong performance at the NFL Combine and at workouts, Brown will look to elevate his draft stock, but Brown is looking like a day three NFL draft choice.



MLB Raekwon McMillan ~ Arguably the crown jewel of the 2014 recruiting class, McMillan vied for playing time as a true freshman during the national championship season.  Taking over the middle linebacker spot in 2015, McMillan led the Buckeyes in tackles in both 2015 and 2016.  With NFL teams playing more and more nickel packages, McMillan will probably be a day two pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

CB Marshon Lattimore ~ Lattimore was also highly-touted as a recruit in 2014, but battled hamstring injuries in both 2014 and 2015.  Lattimore emerged as one of the best defensive backs in the country in 2016.  Even with two years of eligibility, Lattimore made the right decision to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft, with his stock so high.  Lattimore should be a high selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.



Would I be happy if all six of these players were donning the scarlet and gray for Ohio State in 2017?  Absolutely.  Do I understand why all six of these players have decided to fulfill their respective dreams of a NFL career?  Absolutely.

Gentlemen, thank you for all of your contributions to Ohio State.  You will all be missed, but not forgotten.  #GoBucks!



Friday, January 20, 2017

Several Buckeyes Will Take "The Fifth" In 2017

"The Fifth...is an old friend and a good friend." ~ William O. Douglas

William O. Douglas was a former United State Supreme Court Justice, and was referring to the fifth amendment in the United States Constitution.  While Justice Douglas was discussing the importance of self-incrimination, Ohio State fans might take these words and think of them in a different context, as they apply to several Ohio State players who are going to use their fifth year of eligibility and compete for the 2017 Buckeyes.

From the vaunted 2013 Ohio State recruiting class, the following players have declared their intentions to use their final year of college eligibility and project as starters in 2017...

Billy Price - Recruited as a defensive lineman, Price was moved to the offensive line as a redshirt freshman in 2014.  With the departure of Pat Elflein at center, Price has elected to move from guard to center in 2017.

Marcus Baugh - Baugh had his share of off the field disciplinary issues earlier in his career.  With x receptions in 2016, Baugh's return at tight end solidifies another offensive position.

J.T. Barrett - Many Ohio State fans are conflicted with Barrett's return at quarterback, as Barrett had accuracy issues in 2016.  How much of that was on Barrett, and how much of that was on the previous offensive coaching staff?  I am willing to bet on the latter, and see a return to the form of 2014 that had Barrett finish fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting.

Michael Hill - Ohio State has an abundance of defensive ends, but not a tremendous amount of depth along the interior defensive line.  Hill should be part of a rotation at defensive tackle in 2017.

Tyquan Lewis - The return of Lewis in 2017 was a minor surprise; most had Lewis heading to the NFL after a solid 2016.  Lewis will headline an impressive group of defensive ends in 2017.

Chris Worley - Worley played well in his first year as a starter at Will linebacker.  With the return of Jerome Baker at the Sam linebacker spot, Worley's return will help to solidify the linebacker position group.

Those six players have declared their intentions of returning.  What about the following players who also have another year of eligibility?

Tracy Sprinkle - Sprinkle was lost for the season in the opener against Bowling Green.  Will Sprinkle be suiting up for the Buckeyes in 2017?

James Clark - Clark sustained an injury as a true freshman in 2013, and has struggled to make an impact ever since.  Will Clark stick it out for another year with the Buckeyes in 2017?

Justice Douglas stated how "The Fifth...is an old friend and a good friend.".  Ohio State fans may be making a similar statement in 2017 about many, if not all, of these Buckeyes.