Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Friday, February 5, 2016

The 2016 Ohio State Recruiting Class, By The Numbers

Congratulations to the twenty-five young men who signed letters of intent with Ohio State on National Signing Day. By most estimates, Ohio State has secured a top five recruiting class, which should keep the Buckeyes in contention for B1G championships, and possibly opportunities to advance to The College Football Playoff.

I would like to approach this article from a different perspective – looking at the recruits from more of a numerical approach. Let me get started with the tremendous tweet from Mark Pantoni, Ohio State’s Director Of Player Personnel…




I am not nearly as creative as Mark Pantoni, but below is a quick visual to give Ohio State fans an idea as to how many recruits are from specific states…


2016 OSU Recruits By State


Looking at the numbers of the recruiting class, Ohio State signed 5 offensive linemen, 5 defensive backs, 3 tight ends, 2 wide receivers, 2 running backs, 2 linebackers, 2 defensive ends, and at least one quarterback, defensive tackle, punter, and an athlete designation in Malik Harrison, who was the last player to commit to the Buckeyes on National Signing Day.

It is difficult to classify anyone within a class this highly ranked as a “sleeper”, but I must confess that I am openly rooting for OL Gavin Cupp and DB Jahsen Wint. Cupp had a highly publicized recruiting saga this past summer, with his Michigan State scholarship revoked by attending Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights. Fortunately for Cupp, Cupp was able to earn his Ohio State scholarship. My impression of Cupp, without watching any of his game tape, is of a player willing to scrap and fight to get onto the field.

As for Wint, he was a later addition to the recruiting class, officially committing to Ohio State at the beginning of 2016. Wint is listed at 5’11”, 186 lbs, and at safety – his reputation is one of a tenacious hitter. I will be hoping to see if his reputation is well-deserved, beginning this fall.

Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer has made the statement that he wants to play eighteen of the twenty-five players who signed on National Signing Day. Will that come to pass? With many open positions, as well as positions lacking depth, these freshmen will be given every opportunity to make it so.





Friday, January 29, 2016

2016 OSU Recruiting: Buckeyes Secure Most Top OH Players, But Sparty Takes A “Layne”

National Letter Of Intent Signing Day is on February 3rd, 2016. With the date rapidly approaching, Ohio State fans such as myself are eagerly anticipating the new crop of talented recruits that Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer and his staff will be welcoming into Columbus for the 2016 season and beyond.

Ohio is one of the top football states in the country. It is inevitable that other programs will try to come into Ohio, and recruit top players to their respective programs. Ohio State can do their best to keep these players at home, but it is almost impossible for Ohio State to sign all of them.
Below are some top players from Ohio who have Ohio State offers, but have decided to go elsewhere to further their football careers…

1. OT Tommy Kraemer, Cincinnati Elder ~ Kraemer will be signing with Notre Dame. The top rated player in the state of Ohio, Kraemer committed to Notre Dame back in October 2014.

2. OT Liam Eichenberg, Cleveland St. Ignatius ~ Eichenberg committed to Notre Dame last April, despite Ohio State’s strong recruiting effort. Eichenberg ranks as the fourth best player in the state of Ohio.

3. ILB Brendan Ferns, St. Clairsville ~ Ferns has not yet announced a decision, but will probably choose between West Virginia and Penn State. Ferns seemed like an Ohio State commitment last spring and summer, but Ohio State does not offer a petroleum engineering major, and Ferns wants to go to a school that offers that course of study.

4. ATH George Hill, Hubbard ~ Hill was actually the first player to verbally commit to Ohio State back in June 2014, but rescinded his commitment in October 2015. Hill will be signing with Pittsburgh.

5. WR Justin Layne, Cleveland Benedictine ~ Layne verbally committed to Michigan State in April of 2015. Layne stated that Ohio State’s recruitment of him “went about things the wrong way.”. Layne may be a thorn in Ohio State’s side over the next four to five seasons, so this one will bear watching for certain.

6. DE Prince Sammons, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy ~ Sammons was extended an Ohio State offer, but never visited. Sammons has not yet announced, but it could be Auburn, Michigan State, Duke, or Oregon, based on the 247Sports recruiting timeline of Sammons. Hoping it is not Michigan State, as the Buckeyes would then have to face him every season for the next few seasons.
Considering Ohio State has landed a significant number of the top twenty players in the state, Buckeye fans need not be overly concerned or worried. Losing both Kraemer and Eichenberg hurts, but Ohio State will not face these players, unless in a bowl game, and Ohio State has been doing well in that capacity when given the chance. Same for Hill and possibly Sammons; Ohio State won’t see these players, unless in a bowl game.

As for Layne, and possibly Sammons? Anytime Ohio State has to face an Ohio player in conference play, especially the way Ohio State and Michigan State have battled these past few seasons, only will make watching Layne’s career and performances against the Buckeyes even more tantalizing.

Here is to wishing all of these young men on this list, as well as all of the Ohio players who will sign on the dotted line on February 3rd, the very best in their respective college playing careers.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Going Into 2016, Buckeyes May Be Carrying a “B1G” Burden

As soon as the calendar turned from 2014 into 2015, the entire B1G was riding a wave of optimism and positive accolades. Rutgers defeated North Carolina 40-21 in the Zaxby’s Heart Of Dallas Bowl. Penn State had defeated Boston College 31-30 in an overtime victory in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Michigan State had defeated Baylor, a team many thought could have been a worthy College Football Playoff participant, 42-41 in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. Wisconsin defeated Auburn 34-31 in overtime in the Outback Bowl. Of course, Ohio State delivered the most emphatic statement, beating SEC and perennial college football bully Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl 42-35, en route to winning the inaugural College Football Playoff championship over Oregon 42-20.
Even though That Team Up North had not qualified for a bowl, praise was showered for the arrival of Jim Harbaugh as the new Wolverines head coach for the 2015 season. Talented coaches such as Harbaugh, Mark Dantonio, James Franklin, and Urban Meyer all were admired for making The B1G East Division such a competitive division, worthy of whispering in the same category as the mighty SEC West Division.
Going into the 2015 bowl season, optimistic thoughts were rampant for fans of The B1G. Indiana would lead off the B1G bowl game slate against Duke in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on December 26th. Michigan State had been able to outlast Iowa in The B1G Championship, carrying The B1G banner into the College Football Playoff against Alabama, again in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. Iowa would battle Stanford in The Rose Bowl, in a traditional B1G/Pac-12 matchup. Ohio State, smarting from a three point defeat at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans, would have an opportunity to showcase their talent against Notre Dame, another team who came tantalizingly close to a College Football Playoff spot, like the Buckeyes. Other B1G teams, such as That Team Up North, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Northwestern would all have opportunities to battle SEC opponents, while Nebraska and Minnesota were both awarded bowl berths, despite finishing their respective seasons with 5-7 records.
We all know how this turned out ~ Indiana lost on a disputed field goal in overtime. Michigan State and Iowa? Both were beaten like Rocky Balboa in his first bout against Clubber Lang; actually, it was worse, as Rocky at least seemed to get some decent shots in at the onset of his fight – Michigan State and Iowa never knew what hit them. Penn State made it worthwhile, but was being embarrassed by a Georgia team that was essentially without a coaching staff; Penn State lost 24-17. At least Penn State made it somewhat competitive against its SEC opponent; Northwestern was whupped soundly by Tennessee 45-6 as 2016 began. Of the ten B1G bowl teams, only Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and yes, That Team Up North, came out on the winning side of the ledger.
If you have not done so, do yourself a favor and listen to this Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody episode, with @ramzy from elevenwarriors.com. Listen to Ramzy Nasrallah’s typically astute analysis of where things stand as they relate to teams within The B1G.
When one takes a discerning look at the victories, it is painful to remember that both Nebraska and Minnesota were 5-7, and essentially gifted into their respective bowl appearances. Wisconsin won over USC, yet has lost its well-respected defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to LSU. That Team Up North won handily over Florida, a team that was offensively challenged throughout the latter portion of the 2015 season. You know who that leaves to carry The B1G mantle into the 2016 season, against the ESPN talking heads, Paul Finebaum-types, when they chatter on about the big, bad SEC?
Yep. You guessed it. The Ohio State Buckeyes.
You are probably saying, “Hey Chip – The B1G had only five bowl wins after last season. Why are you sounding so glum and pessimistic?”. Fair point. Here is why – the bigger the stage, the more important it is to represent your team, and conference, well. Last season, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State truly seized the moment, in front of the national college football fans’ television audience.
This year? Go back up a little in this piece, in case you have forgotten how everything turned out on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, with the exception of the Buckeyes and That Team Up North.
William Shakespeare once wrote, “Uneasy is the head that wears a crown…”. In 2016, Shakespeare could possibly be making that same comment, albeit about the young men who wear a football helmet adorned with Buckeye leaves, as it relates to upholding The B1G Conference’s reputation and standing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Why The Jersey # 15 Will Always Be “Eze” To Remember

In years past, I have written about how certain Ohio State jersey numbers are always associated with specific players. For example, I can vividly recall back in 1996 the minor brouhaha that erupted when prized recruit Andy Katzenmoyer requested, and was granted, the jersey number 45 – anyone with even a small understanding of Ohio State lore knew that the jersey number 45 was, and would always remain, the great Archie Griffin.

Katzenmoyer played well for Ohio State from 1996-1998, and did not tarnish the legacy of Griffin with his on-field performance. Ohio State officially retired Archie Griffin’s jersey on October 30, 1999, ensuring no other player would ever don the treasured jersey number 45.

Throughout my Ohio State fandom until now, I have always associated the jersey number 15 with former Buckeye quarterback Mike Tomczak. Tomczak was the quarterback from Ohio State from 1982-1984, led Ohio State to a Big Ten championship in 1984 and The Rose Bowl in 1985, and had a lengthy NFL career from 1985-2000.

As I wrote up above, “until now”. Henceforth, and probably forever more, the Ohio State jersey number will always be associated with Ezekiel Elliott in my mind. Elliott’s contributions on the field, wearing jersey number 15 for Ohio State, will be difficult for someone to supplant in future seasons.
In 2013, as a true freshman, Elliott made his mark on the coaching staff, fans, and the opposition, with his willingness to participate on special teams coverage…



Who will ever forget this triumphant run that sealed Ohio State's victory over Alabama in The 2015 Sugar Bowl?



Or how about Elliott's performance against Oregon in The 2016 National Championship?



Elliott's performance versus That Team Up North in 2015?



Or his Fiesta Bowl record-tying performance versus Notre Dame?

Perhaps this final video montage will help you understand why the jersey number 15 will always be "Eze" for me, possibly forever....


Friday, January 8, 2016

Bidding Best Wishes To Buckeyes As They Leave For Possible NFL Bounty

For several members of the 2012 recruiting class, it began with a 56-10 victory over Miami University on September 1, 2012, in Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer’s first game as Ohio State’s head coach in Ohio Stadium. True freshmen such as Joshua Perry, Jacoby Boren, Michael Thomas, Tommy Schutt, Taylor Decker, and Adolphus Washington all participated, albeit as backups in mop-up time, for a team coming off a 6-7 season in 2011. Cam Williams, a highly-touted recruit, contributed later in the season against Alabama-Birmingham, as a special teams coverage player. These were recruited players who signed on for a team that was going to be denied a bowl berth at the end of the 2012 season, despite the fact that these players signed in 2012 had absolutely nothing to do with the transgressions that led to the penalty.
Some of the players who helped to contribute to Coach Meyer’s tremendous 2012 season were players who signed to play for former Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel, battled through the tumultuous 2011 season under interim Ohio State Head Coach Luke Fickell, and were strong enough to stay during the transition to Coach Meyer. The most dynamic of these players was Braxton Miller, but Miller was joined in the 2012 season by classmates such as Bryce Haynes, Nick Vannett, Chase Farris, and Joel Hale.
Even though 2012 was an undefeated season, Coach Meyer knew that reinforcements were desperately needed to effectively transform the Buckeyes into the type of team that would be capable of challenging for B1G Conference championships – national championships were still too far to contemplate. In February 2013, players such as Joey Bosa, Vonn Bell, and Ezekiel Elliott were among those who signed with the Buckeyes and played during the 2013 season; much to Coach Meyer’s chagrin, so many of the talented players were regrettably redshirted in 2013.
During the 2013 season, assistance came in the form of some of the 2012 redshirted players, such as Warren Ball on special teams. Remember that Ball verballed to Coach Tressel, stayed with his commitment during 2011 under Coach Fickell, and was willing to help the team, even in a reduced manner, under Coach Meyer. It could be argued that one of the biggest contributions from the 2012 class came when most needed and most unexpected, as Tyvis Powell, a safety who redshirted in 2012, came up with an interception to preserve a victory in Ann Arbor over That Team Up North in 2013. Powell was the first player to verbal to Ohio State and Coach Fickell after Coach Tressel resigned in May 2011.
In 2014, several of those talented but redshirted freshmen from the 2013 recruiting class were ready and eager to contribute on the field for the Buckeyes. Jalin Marshall, Eli Apple, and Darron Lee seemingly came out of nowhere to play prominently. A former Georgia Tech scholarship player, who chose to walk-on at Ohio State, by the name of Jeff Greene contributed on special teams. Perhaps the biggest contribution came from arguably the most unheralded player from either the 2012 or 2013 classes, a player Urban Meyer seemingly did not want, by the name of Cardale Jones.
In 2015, a player named Jack Willoughby decided to end his collegiate career as a Buckeye, after a successful four year career for Duke. Even though Willoughby had not taken nearly as long of a road as so many others within the program, Willoughby’s contributions were tremendously appreciated by the coaching staff, his new teammates, and the Buckeye faithful.
There are so many memories from this group of Buckeyes, from the 2012 season until the 2015 season. Fifty wins over a four year span, equaling a record held by Boise State. I feel at a loss for words, so I will simply write…
Thank You.

Ohio State Video

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