Stories Sports RappUp Stories http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories.aspx http://backend.userland.com/rss Rapp Around: Well Hello, LBJ A recruiting company saw that my resume, floating around somewhere in cyberspace, matched up with a current job opening and asked me if I’d like to apply.<br /> <br /> The position was for an online beat reporter covering the Cleveland Cavaliers. The job actually was posted before The Return but the timing of the query still made me laugh.<br /> <br /> <strong>LeBron James</strong> is heading back to Cleveland. Would you like to come be his shadow?<br /> <br /> Unlike a lot of my colleagues who cover Ohio State athletics, I’ve never even lived in northeast Ohio and I’m not much of a Cleveland fan. Still, I’m a lover of basketball and would even consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of the sport.<br /> <br /> I’ve covered roundball on the prep, AAU, college and professional level and I’ve been comfortable around the sport my whole life. People I’ve interviewed mano y mano include <strong>Michael Jordan</strong>, <strong>Bobby Knight</strong>, <strong>Anthony Davis</strong>, <strong>John Havlicek</strong>, <strong>Red Auerbach</strong>, <strong>David Robinson</strong>, <strong>Kevin Love</strong>, <strong>Pat Riley</strong>, <strong>Gary Williams</strong>, <strong>Thad Matta</strong>, <strong>Sean Miller</strong> and <strong>Fred Taylor</strong>.<br /> <br /> I once had the gall to go introduce myself to <strong>Magic Johnson</strong>, my childhood idol, at the Final Four, and he graciously chatted with me for a few minutes about the power of the Big Ten. I remember bumping into <strong>Bill Self</strong> in the press box of an Illinois football game and ribbing him about being nicknamed “Hollywood.”<br /> <br /> And I even had some face time once with LeBron, spotting him at his own Nike showcase and approaching him to see if I get could him to answer a couple quick questions.<br /> <br /> “I did my media yesterday, boss,” he told me while seated next to his mother.<br /> <br /> I just wanted to ask him about <strong>Jared Sullinger</strong> and a couple other players at the camp but his response was understandable. The Decision was afoot – he made it the next day – and LeBron wasn’t going to risk letting any information slip to a reporter he didn’t even know.<br /> <br /> The King’s ascension to the throne has been mesmerizing, especially for someone who witnessed his greatness in person at the Ohio high school state tournament from 2000 to 2003. By the time James was a senior he was a national sensation whose Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary games were even occasionally found on ESPN.<br /> <br /> When James was a scrawny sophomore, SVSM scheduled a game against Oak Hill Academy out of Virginia and the site was Battelle Hall in Columbus. I made sure to get a media credential for the event and charted a sequence in which LeBron made about eight or nine mind-boggling plays in a two-minute window.<br /> <br /> We often hear references to upside and high ceilings but very rarely do you see someone dominate and affect all areas of a game virtually at once. I knew when I saw that we were dealing with a freak of nature. Yes, I was already a Witness.<br /> <br /> Ohio resident <strong>Ivan Harris</strong> ended up playing for that same Oak Hill program and got to face of with LeBron in another nationally televised prep game in Cleveland. Harris also was named to play in the 2003 McDonald’s All-American Game in Cleveland, which drew me another courtside seat to see LeBron.<br /> <br /> To say he was the star of the show would be a vast understatement. Everyone knew James was going to be the first pick of the NBA draft and there was hope the Cavaliers would have the pick. Either way, the McDonald’s game served as a sendoff into professional superstardom and a tribute to perhaps the greatest player ever to play high school basketball in Ohio.<br /> <br /> James first showed off his amazing court sense, passing skills and unselfishness but setting up teammate <strong>Charlie Villanueva</strong> with several alley-oops. Then Akron’s finest took over and rocked downtown with several spectacular plays and finishes.<br /> <br /> Before the game, <strong>John Wooden</strong> himself motioned The King over and gave him some advice – a Kodak moment, to be sure.<br /> <br /> LeBron was so good in high school it was almost comical that <strong>Jim O’Brien</strong> was criticized for not pursuing him heavily.<br /> <br /> “I don’t recruit posses,” Obie famously said to a group of us during interviews when the subject arose.<br /> <br /> It’s just as funny to hear James say he would have gone to Ohio State if he picked a college – not that I doubt his in-state allegiance. It’s just that it’s akin to me naming what lunar station I planned to live in next year.<br /> <br /> LeBron was never going to bother with college. He was ready – and he most certainly already had a posse.<br /> <br /> Still, I find it interesting that in his letter to Sports Illustrated explaining the thinking behind his return to Cleveland, James compared his four years in Miami to his college experience. That’s a healthy approach, and I’m sure he had plenty of fun on South Beach.<br /> <br /> But the time in Florida gives James the ultimate peace of mind because he made it to four NBA Finals in that span and won two championships. Nobody can be considered the greatest player in the NBA without that kind of hardware, and the monkey has now disappeared.<br /> <br /> LeBron is a two-time NBA champion, the best all-around player in the game today and, finally, this highest-paid player on his team (is there anything more amazing about his career thus far than the fact it took 11 years for the latter to occur?).<br /> <br /> He showed impeccable PR savvy in his handling of his free agency and eventual announcement – even if he didn’t write it – as well as laudable maturity by forgiving owner <strong>Dan Gilbert</strong> for his ridiculous letter/anti-LeBron rant.<br /> <br /> Cleveland may not deserve LBJ but he’s coming back anyway. And now he has contract leverage, the city in his hand and, presumably, plenty of say in all pertinent team matters and roster decisions.<br /> <br /> The only thing left is to seek another championship in Cleveland, which has been as elusive as an Academy Award for <strong>Tori Spelling</strong>.<br /> <br /> It’s about as compelling a storyline as there is in sports right now and perhaps in a long time.<br /> <br /> So would I like to get another front-row view? Yeah, why not. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take my talents to C-Town.<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-07-19/Rapp_Around_Well_Hello_LBJ.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-07-19/Rapp_Around_Well_Hello_LBJ.aspx 77df6aeb-f092-46c0-af75-84b0f88ac547 Sat, 19 Jul 2014 22:40:40 GMT Dream Summer Continues For Ahmad So far, <strong>Esa Ahmad</strong> is having a summer most kids can’t even fathom.<br /> <br /> While his Shaker Heights High School classmate are heading off to the pool or perhaps highlighting their down time with a venture to an amusement park, Ahmad has been nose-to-nose with the best basketball players in the world as well as some of the elite of his class.<br /> <br /> A 6-7, 220-pound forward with eye-opening ball-handling and passing skills, Ahmad entered the summer among the top 20 power forward prospects and is now considered one of the fast-rising seniors-to-be in the nation.<br /> <br /> His AAU season actually kicked into gear in April as he and his All-Ohio Red squad stood out at a tournament in Milwaukee. They also conquered the field at the Run-n-Slam All-Star Classic, which was held the first weekend in May at the Spiece Fieldhouse in Fort Wayne, Ind.<br /> <br /> Ahmad played in that event with a smile on his face since he had just embarked on a visit to Ohio State that included a complete tour of campus and one-on-one time with head coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong>.<br /> <br /> At Spiece, Ahmad didn’t put the scoring load on his shoulders and instead made sure to get his teammates involved knowing tougher tourneys lay just ahead.<br /> <br /> “I feel like I’ve been playing great,” he told SportsRappUp.com in Fort Wayne. “I’m really trying to create for my teammates and be a playmaker. That’s what I’ve been trying to work on.”<br /> <br /> A four-star recruit who continues to draw interest from major programs, Ahmad also made a visit to another Big Ten school – Maryland – on his way to Washington, D.C., to participate in the <strong>Kevin Durant</strong> Skills Academy.<br /> <br /> Ahmad also spoke well of that visit and his rapport with Terrapins head coach <strong>Mark Turgeon</strong>.<br /> <br /> At KD Camp, Ahmad actually played in a pickup game matched with Durant and scored seven points with the Oklahoma City superstar shadowing him.<br /> <br /> Recruiting has hit a “dead period” – coaches are unable to observe prospects in the first half of July – but Ahmad has stayed busy. He’s currently in Las Vegas for the <strong>LeBron James</strong> Skills Academy, another premier Nike event, and, sure enough, he ended up facing the King.<br /> <br /> Word traveled quickly that James jumped into a game with campers considering he currently is weighing his options and appears to be down to staying in Miami or returning to Cleveland. For whatever reason, he made sure the Cleveland-area kid was matched with him at the camp.<br /> <br /> Even so, Ahmad still considers being offered a scholarship by Matta among his best moments this summer. He went down to Columbus the Thursday before the Run-n-Slam and soaked in the entire day.<br /> <br /> “I was talking to Thad Matta on my visit and he offered,” he said with a smile. “It was a big moment for me, just having grown up watching the Buckeyes. It was a good deal.<br /> <br /> “The whole day was great. They just showed me around campus, took me through the facility, and I liked it. I liked everything.”<br /> <br /> Ahmad said he visited with current OSU forward <strong>Marc Loving</strong> and also met several former Buckeyes on the visit, including the recently departed <strong>Aaron Craft</strong>.<br /> <br /> “I like that guy a lot,” he said. “I just look up to the way he plays, the effort he gives every time he takes the court.”<br /> <br /> Ahmad has been working on being a consistent force in his own right. He certainly filled the net with regularity as a junior last season, logging averages of 26.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists per game for Shaker Heights.<br /> <br /> That production enabled him to be named Cleveland.com’s Player of the Year last season as well as the POY of the Northeast Lakes District. Also, he was tabbed first-team all-state in Division I by The Associated Press.<br /> <br /> ESPN.com considers Ahmad as the No. 51 recruit nationally in the 2015 class. According to a composite compiled by 247Sports.com, he ranks No. 64 in the class.<br /> <br /> The next time those ratings are updated, chances are Ahmad will have moved up into the top 40. Already considered a four-star prospect by virtually every service, the youngster has rare all-around skills that have put him in demand.<br /> <br /> Earlier this summer when asked about his recruiting outlook, Ahmad gave a rather standard reply: “Right now I’m real open,” he said. “I really don’t have a top 10 right now.”<br /> <br /> Still, it appears there is some focus developing.<br /> <br /> In addition to OSU and Maryland, Big Ten schools Indiana, Iowa, Penn State and Rutgers have issued solid offers. Other schools in contention include Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa State and West Virginia while Ahmad also is listening to overtures from Wisconsin, Connecticut, UNLV, Arizona and Texas Tech.<br /> <br /> Ahmad said he wants to have a more refined list by the end of the summer and is planning to take visits to Michigan, Michigan State, West Virginia, Iowa, Iowa State and Indiana.<br /> <br /> Ahmad is most intrigued with the idea of playing as an essential point-forward at the next level, and he added Ohio State is among the schools expressing an interest in that kind of role for him.<br /> <br /> When asked if style of play could be a deciding factor, Ahmad told SRU, “It’s very important. Style of play, the coaching staff, the players that are there. I’m really looking at those things.”<br /> <br /> As far as the rest of the summer is concerned, Ahmad said he is trying not to audition for colleges and instead wants to cherish his final months of AAU tournaments and camps.<br /> <br /> “I still really enjoy it,” he said of the offseason basketball. “You can work on your game and you always want to play with and against the best. It’s also fun when you’re playing well and playing together, and that’s what we’re doing.”<br /> <br /> When asked if his role for All-Ohio Red is different than when he plays for Shaker Heights, Ahmad added, “It’s not really different. I pretty much do the same things in high school. It’s not a big difference.<br /> <br /> “I’m going to continue to do what I do, keep working on my ball handling an try to play at a high level.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-07-10/Dream_Summer_Continues_For_Ahmad.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-07-10/Dream_Summer_Continues_For_Ahmad.aspx e56a9410-7d43-4451-941d-0aa4f5c246e0 Thu, 10 Jul 2014 21:18:38 GMT Rapp Around: Meyer Aims Higher I’m always a little humored by those who think rankings and other ambiguous figures are sure indicators of how a college football prospect will pan out.<br /> <br /> If you actually believe that, let me just save you some time: They aren’t.<br /> <br /> I don’t follow football recruiting religiously but I’ve been close enough to it for decades now to fully understand what a crap shoot this whole endeavor can be. And I’m old enough and finger-wavy enough to be able to come up with <strong>Buster Howe</strong>/<strong>Mike D’Andrea</strong>-like examples of recruiting busts.<br /> <br /> (Seriously, look those guys up.)<br /> <br /> Most who flood message boards and chat rooms with pleas that “we have to get this guy” are basing their opinion on numbers and perhaps who else Joe Prospect is considering. If Joe is down to Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Florida, Oklahoma, USC and Ohio State then “we have to get this guy.”<br /> <br /> What they often fail to realize is despite all the online articles about Joe the vast majority of the information about him is being put out by people who have never seen him play. And often times those who can attest to seeing Joe in person became witness to him running sprints and shuttle drills without a shirt on let alone pads and a helmet.<br /> <br /> Hell, even I can look fast like that.<br /> <br /> (OK, actually not – and sorry for the visual.)<br /> <br /> Still, there’s a point here.<br /> <br /> I make the football/basketball comparison all the time because basketball recruiting is an entirely different animal. We can follow Joe during his high school season and AAU, and we can see how he stacks up at major tournaments and camps against other top players in a competitive setting.<br /> <br /> When <strong>Jared Sullinger</strong> was dominating down low and winning a state title at Columbus Northland it was pretty easy to see he was a special talent. When he was schooling everyone on the AAU circuit and at national showcases it became clear he was one of the top prospects in the country.<br /> <br /> Football recruiting doesn’t really work that way, but it manages to become really enjoyable for me when there are memorable success stories such as <strong>Troy Smith</strong> going from afterthought “athlete” to Heisman Trophy winner and <strong>James Laurinaitis</strong> going from three-star recruit and novelty (son of a professional wrestler) to a star linebacker and centerpiece of an NFL defense.<br /> <br /> And what’s great about covering a program like Ohio State football is there are as many <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong>s and <strong>Marcus Marek</strong>s as there are Ray Smalls and Paul Breeds.<br /> <br /> There are kids out there who are well-rated and have the drive and ambition to live up to the billings. There are those out there who are below the elite line and will use that perceived snub to drive them to success on the next level. And there are youngsters who are barely a blip on the radar because they are late developers or, for whatever reason, have been completely overlooked, and they, too, will find a niche on a college roster and even have their day in the sun,<br /> <br /> So there are wonderful stories out there – always are.<br /> <br /> Sometimes it’s difficult to see them coming; sometimes it’s pretty apparent.<br /> <br /> When <strong>Eddie George</strong> was signed out of a military academy in Virginia he was already an intriguing prospect. He was a topflight recruit in Pennsylvania and <strong>Joe Paterno</strong> wanted him to play at Linebacker U. as, well, a linebacker, but <strong>John Cooper</strong> eventually roped him and told him he could try to make a mark at running back.<br /> <br /> Ohio State’s backfield was a crowded house at the time – <strong>Robert Smith</strong>, <strong>Raymont Harris</strong>, <strong>Jeff Cothran</strong> and <strong>Butler By’not’e</strong> were already entrenched – but it was easy see George would earn some time. The guy had an incredible work ethic, was built like a brick outhouse and had a chip on his shoulder.<br /> <br /> Cooper was turning a corner with recruiting and George was part of a stellar incoming class that would set the tone for years to come. Guys like him, <strong>Bobby Hoying</strong>, <strong>Mike Vrabel</strong> and <strong>Matt Finkes</strong> begat <strong>Andy Katzenmoyer</strong> and <strong>Antoine Winfield</strong> and led to hardworking out-of-staters such as <strong>Greg Bellisari</strong>, <strong>Joe Montgomery</strong> and <strong>Joe Germaine</strong> wanting to join ranks and earn their keep.<br /> <br /> That’s an even bigger success story – when recruiting reaches a level when the coaches are no longer begging and merely presenting.<br /> <br /> Longtime recruiting coordinator <strong>Bill Conley</strong> – who played for <strong>Woody Hayes</strong> and served on the OSU staff under <strong>Earle Bruce</strong>, Cooper and <strong>Jim Tressel</strong> – used to always say the players, Ohio Stadium and the overall state of the program used to win recruits better than any pitch from a coach.<br /> <br /> <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> now has the recruiting train rolling and it just gained more steam when five-star defenders <strong>Justin Hilliard</strong> and <strong>Jashon Cornell</strong> committed on Wednesday with a live announcement on ESPN.com.<br /> <br /> Don’t worry, I’m not going to rain on that parade.<br /> <br /> Hilliard is a case of high ceiling. He was hurt part of last season and only played in seven games for Cincinnati St. Xavier. However, he’s a premier athlete at 6-2, 230 and his older brother, <strong>C.J. Hilliard</strong>, already is at Iowa and has a promising future there.<br /> <br /> Plus, Justin is considered by some to be the top linebacker prospect in the country and as high as No. 13 overall by ESPN.com.<br /> <br /> I know I just knocked the rankings system as a projector but it’s safe to say you have to have high-end talent to be rated that highly.<br /> <br /> What’s more exciting, I think, is that most seem to rave about Hilliard as a person and that he comes from such a well-respect family.<br /> <br /> Meyer has vowed to turn around OSU’s outlook at linebacker, an area that was shockingly thin when he arrived, and he has responded by signing <strong>Raekwon McMillan</strong>, <strong>Dante Booker</strong> and now Hilliard – just to name a few of the highly regarded LBs who have become Buckeyes in the last couple years.<br /> <br /> McMillan, out of Georgia, was considered the top inside linebacker in the country last year and Booker, who prepped at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, was the first defensive player to win Ohio’s coveted “Mr. Football” award since Katzenmoyer.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Cornell (6-3, 265) is ESPN.com’s No. 16 overall prospect and the No. 5 defensive end – another area where Meyer is compiling an embarrassment of riches.<br /> <br /> A prep star in Minnesota, Cornell had a laundry list of schools but cited his excitement of playing for new OSU assistant coach <strong>Larry Johnson</strong>, calling him “one of the top defensive line coaches in college football.”<br /> <br /> While most recruiting “victories” still need to be met with some level of caution, Hilliard and Cornell certainly appear to be low-risk as well as a potential positive jolt in terms of future efforts. Each brings instant notoriety and has said he will be involved in helping the coaches land more topflight talent.<br /> <br /> Among those the Buckeyes are hotly pursuing are running back Damian Harris of Kentucky and wideout <strong>Christian Kirk</strong> of Arizona.<br /> <br /> But again, the goal here is not simply to compile the top-rated class in the country but to create the “culture” that Meyer so desperately wants.<br /> <br /> If nothing else, this week showed Meyer is deathly serious about addressing his needs on one side of the ball.<br /> <br /> Hilliard could decide he hates <strong>Chris Ash</strong>’s system and transfer to Notre Dame. Cornell could blow out his knee this fall and never regain form. And Lord knows what else could happen.<br /> <br /> But their dual commitment is still cause for celebration – and further proof that Meyer is hyperfocused on getting his defense to an elite (read that SEC) level.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-07-03/Rapp_Around_Meyer_Aims_Higher.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-07-03/Rapp_Around_Meyer_Aims_Higher.aspx 16ff77a5-390f-4efb-8845-ba1420ef3884 Thu, 03 Jul 2014 17:47:38 GMT Athlon Digs Ohio State Again As summer sets in and anticipation for the upcoming college football season swells, various annual preview publications begin to show up on store shelves.<br /> <br /> In fact, it seems they come sooner every year and in more abundance.<br /> <br /> One of the best of the bunch is Athlon, which just released a typically slick and comprehensive 184-page magazine chock full of outstanding information and crystal-ball-like opinion.<br /> <br /> During its existence, Athlon has expressed a pretty lofty opinion of Ohio State and this year is no exception. Despite the Buckeyes dropping their final two games of the 2013 season – a 34-24 setback to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game and a 40-35 shootout loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl – the publication lists <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>’s squad as the preseason No. 3 team.<br /> <br /> Defending titlist Florida State is picked as the favorite followed by Alabama, OSU, Oklahoma and Auburn. Oregon, UCLA, Georgia, South Carolina and Baylor round out Athlon’s preseason top 10.<br /> <br /> Rose Bowl champion Michigan State is next at 11, joining Ohio State, Wisconsin (15) and Penn State (22) in the preseason top 25. Iowa just missed out at No. 26 and Nebraska is at No. 29.<br /> <br /> Of the Buckeyes, Athlon points out <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>’s decision to return at quarterback and another stellar recruiting class offset the bad taste left from two straight postseason losses.<br /> <br /> “All of a sudden, plans for an SEC-style program on the Olentangy were raging forward once again,” the magazine said. “The Bucks must re-tool their O-line and secondary, while making sure a big-time back emerges. But woe to the Big Ten when the young talent at OSU matures. They’ll think they have been transported somehow to Tuscaloosa.”<br /> <br /> As for Michigan State, OSU’s sudden rival in the newly formed East Division of the Big Ten, Athlon points out the goal is for head coach <strong>Mark Dantonio</strong> and defensive coordinator <strong>Pat Narduzzi</strong> to emulate the 2013 nastiness.<br /> <br /> “Last year, the Spartans’ defense was so strong that it could have kept Putin’s goons out of the Crimea,” Athlon said.<br /> <br /> The mag predicts marks of 7-1 in regular-season league play and 12-1 overall (including a Big Ten title game win over Wisconsin) for the Buckeyes. It has Michigan State just a notch behind at 10-2, 7-1.<br /> <br /> The publication also has a very high preseason opinion of Penn State and new coach <strong>James Franklin</strong> – and believes the Nittany Lions can pull off a 10-2 season. It also points out PSU has a soft preconference schedule and won’t play four teams in the Big Ten West that are picked to finish in the top five of the division standings.<br /> <br /> Athlon again takes a thorough look at the conference and tabs top games to watch, a preseason all-league squad out to three teams, and rankings for every position group for all 14 teams.<br /> <br /> Ohio State made the top five for every unit ranking including first for quarterbacks and defensive linemen and second for linebackers and defensive backs.<br /> <br /> The publication doesn’t have nearly as many good things to say about archrival Michigan, however, and the state of the Wolverines’ program.<br /> <br /> Athlon deems UM’s running backs to be 13th in the conference and its offensive line to be 12th. It contends the Wolverines, who were 7-6 last year, will end the regular season at 8-4 and in fourth place in the East. It also suggests fifth-year quarterback <strong>Devin Gardner</strong> will be fighting for his job this season – and that <strong>Brady Hoke</strong> could be looking for one if he doesn’t turn it around.<br /> <br /> In an article titled, “Time To Panic?” which outlines the state of UM football, author <strong>Michael Bradley</strong> writes, “Fans and media are indeed unaware of the inner machinations of a football program, They only know what they see, and last year the optical evidence against Michigan was pretty damning.<br /> <br /> “The Wolverines lost to both Michigan State – the Spartans punched them in the mouth – and Ohio State. They finished 102nd nationally running the football and 105th in sacks allowed, slaps to the face of a program that has boasted about its toughness since <strong>Bo Schembechler</strong> first growled on an Ann Arbor sideline in 1969.”<br /> <br /> However, Athlon points out the cupboard is not exactly bare at Michigan as wide receiver <strong>Devin Funchess</strong>, linebacker <strong>Jake Ryan</strong> and cornerback <strong>Blake Countess</strong> all were listed as preseason All-Big Ten first-teamers.<br /> <br /> Ohio State had four players on the first team – Miller, tight end <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong>, guard <strong>Pat Elflein</strong>, and defensive tackle <strong>Michael Bennett</strong>. Six more Buckeyes were on the second team (OT <strong>Taylor Decker</strong>, DEs <strong>Joey Bosa</strong> and <strong>Noah Spence</strong>, DT <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong>, CB <strong>Doran Grant</strong>, and P <strong>Cameron Johnston</strong>) and four on the third team (RB <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong>, WR <strong>Devin Smith</strong>, LB <strong>Josh Perry</strong>, and S <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong>).<br /> <br /> The publication also lists a top 30 of incoming recruits for the conference and identifies a whopping 14 OSU rookies among them including six of the first seven. That includes top newbie <strong>Raekwon McMillan</strong>, who is expected to play right away at middle linebacker.<br /> <br /> Athlon points out the Buckeyes will need to overcome the loss of four starters up front but that Miller and a stingier defense will give them a chance each time out. In the end, the magazine sees Ohio State getting to the Rose Bowl and taking on Alabama there as part of the sport’s first-even four-team playoff.<br /> <br /> “Ohio State has struggled on defense under Meyer,” it said, “but the defensive line should be stout, and changes on the coaching staff should help. Provided the Buckeyes can win at Michigan State and Penn State, they should be in the mix for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-06-30/Athlon_Digs_Ohio_State_Again.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-06-30/Athlon_Digs_Ohio_State_Again.aspx 91cde722-1d10-4372-85b1-a82792017bc2 Mon, 30 Jun 2014 15:19:11 GMT NBA Takes Pass On Craft, Ross Concerns about <strong>Aaron Craft</strong>’s shooting kept his name from the proceedings Thursday night and former Ohio State teammate <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> apparently picked a bad year to seek early entry.<br /> <br /> The NBA draft went two full rounds and past midnight and none of the eligible Buckeyes were selected.<br /> <br /> There was no expectation of guard <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> being among the 60 collegians and foreign players to be drafted but the 6-1 Craft and 6-8 Ross were listed in some mocks leading up to the event.<br /> <br /> It’s been a rarity in the <strong>Thad Matta</strong> era for no Buckeyes to be chosen. In fact, the oh-fer marks the first time in eight years the NBA draft did not include one of his players.<br /> <br /> Both Craft and Ross are expected to sign with teams as free agents to play in the NBA Summer League in July and try to earn an invitation to a team’s preseason training camp. Smith’s intentions are not known.<br /> <br /> The Big Ten still was well represented with five players – <strong>Nik Stauskas</strong> and <strong>Mitch McGary</strong> of Michigan, <strong>Adreian Payne</strong> and <strong>Gary Harris</strong> of Michigan State, and <strong>Noah Vonleh</strong> of Indiana – going in the first round. That’s the most from the conference since 1990.<br /> <br /> The record for the Big Ten is six first-rounders in 1980 – a draft that included top overall pick <strong>Joe Barry Carroll</strong> of Purdue, <strong>Kevin McHale</strong> of Minnesota (third) and Ohio State point guard <strong>Kelvin Ransey</strong> (fourth).<br /> <br /> Ohio State owned the best run of consecutive years with at least one player being selected, but that streak ended Thursday. Kentucky tied that mark with two players, <strong>Julius Randle</strong> and <strong>James Young</strong>, taken in the first round. Randle was the seventh overall pick of the Los Angeles Lakers; Young went 17th to the Boston Celtics.<br /> <br /> Boston also had the sixth overall pick, using it to select Oklahoma State point guard <strong>Marcus Smart</strong>. It was just the third time the Celtics and Lakers each had a top-10 pick in the same draft.<br /> <br /> Randle is eighth lottery pick from Kentucky since <strong>John Calipari </strong>became the Wildcats’ coach in 2009. UK produced first overall pick in 2010 with guard <strong>John Wall</strong> and two years later with center <strong>Anthony Davis</strong>.<br /> <br /> The Cleveland Cavaliers have utilized the first pick in three of the last four drafts – <strong>Kyrie Irving</strong> of Duke in 2011, <strong>Anthony Bennett</strong> of UNLV last year and <strong>Andrew Wiggins</strong> of Kansas on Thursday. Wiggins was a standout freshman forward for the Jayhawks and was rated slightly ahead of Duke forward <strong>Jabari Parker</strong> in the Cavs’ war room.<br /> <br /> Parker was the second pick of the Milwaukee Bucks and will get to play professionally not far from his childhood home in Chicago.<br /> <br /> Kansas center <strong>Joel Embiid</strong>, who will miss the next few months because of foot surgery, still went third overall to Philadelphia. Stauskas, the reigning Big Ten Player of the year, became the first player selected from the conference when he went eighth to Sacramento.<br /> <br /> Harris dipped all the way to 19th – four picks after MSU teammate Payne of Dayton – even though some mocks considered him the highest rated Big Ten player. As the draft continued, several other players who might have been lottery picks in other years were tabbed.<br /> <br /> “This is one of the best drafts we’ve seen in a long time in terms of depth of talent,” analyst <strong>Jay Bilas</strong> said during the ESPN broadcast.<br /> <br /> It wasn’t good timing for Craft or Ross, who led OSU with 15.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season.<br /> <br /> Craft was not a premier scorer during his Ohio State career – he averaged 8.9 points per game in his four seasons – and he didn’t strike fear into opposing teams with his outside shooting. However, he was widely regarded as one of college basketball’s premier on-ball defenders the last few years and left OSU with 337 career steals, an all-time Big Ten record.<br /> <br /> Craft also was a steady distributor of the ball, averaging between 4.6 and 4.8 assists a game throughout his OSU career.<br /> <br /> He may be in a better situation by trying to earn his keep with an NBA and showing his wares over the course of several months in an organization.<br /> <br /> However, the exclusion of Craft and Ross from the draft ends a stretch that began in 2007 when <strong>Greg Oden</strong> became the first-ever No. 1 overall pick of the NBA draft from Ohio State. Fellow freshmen <strong>Mike Conley Jr.</strong>, and <strong>Daequan Cook</strong> also were first-rounders that year and the program produced one drafted player the next six years – <strong>Kosta Koufos</strong> in 2008, <strong>B.J. Mullens</strong> in 2009, <strong>Evan Turner</strong> in 2010, <strong>Jon Diebler</strong> in 2011, <strong>Jared Sullinger</strong> in 2012 and <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong> in 2013.<br /> <br /> That brings the total to nine OSU players in seven years to be selected. Prior to that, the Buckeyes had nine players drafted in a 26-year span.<br /> <br /> Diebler and Thomas were second-round picks and are yet to play for an NBA team. They both play professionally in Europe.<br /> <br /> <p>Diebler was drafted by Portland and his rights were traded to Houston. Thomas’ rights were retained by San Antonio, and he is expected to play for the Spurs’ summer league squad.</p> <p></p> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-06-27/NBA_Takes_Pass_On_Craft_Ross.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-06-27/NBA_Takes_Pass_On_Craft_Ross.aspx f150ed6f-2ebe-4a45-8a5a-167a7c928367 Fri, 27 Jun 2014 17:07:48 GMT Loading Up The OSU Defense As <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> and staff continue to put together what promises to be another knockout recruiting class, the acquisition that has garnered the most attention so far is the commitment of quarterback <strong>Joey Burrow</strong>.<br /> <br /> The son of Ohio University assistant head coach <strong>Jimmy Burrow</strong>, Joey is a rising in-state star, an accomplished slinger of the football and a weapon as a runner as well. As a potential quarterback of the future at Ohio State, he becomes an immediate headliner of the 2015 class.<br /> <br /> However, it is now even more noteworthy that the OSU coaches are beginning to load up with defensive personnel that appear to fit the unit’s new approach, which is spearheaded recently appointed co-defensive coordinator <strong>Chris Ash</strong> and line coach <strong>Larry Johnson</strong>.<br /> <br /> In fact, the class swelled from six to nine last week with verbals from three well-rated defensive prospects in consecutive days.<br /> <br /> First on board of that group was local standout <strong>Nick Conner</strong>, a tackle machine at inside linebacker for Dublin Scioto. Conner committed to Ohio State on Tuesday to become the first linebacker in the class.<br /> <br /> The following day, the OSU coaches received good news from <strong>Dre’Mont Jones</strong> of Cleveland St. Ignatius, who may be the best defensive line prospect in the entire state.<br /> <br /> On Thursday, the Buckeyes added to a suddenly deep well of talented young defensive backs by landing <strong>Denzel Ward</strong> of Macedonia (Ohio) Nordonia.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes made a statement at the very beginning of this class by nailing down commitments from four-star cornerbacks <strong>Eric Glover-Williams</strong> of Canton McKinley and <strong>Jamel Dean</strong> of Cocoa, Fla. – premier athletes who will have a chance to impact the OSU secondary quickly.<br /> <br /> Earlier this month, OSU also enjoyed another three-day run of commitments with good word coming from safety <strong>Tyler Green</strong> of Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha, offensive tackle <strong>Grant Schmidt</strong> of Sioux Falls (S.D.) Roosevelt, and long snapper <strong>Liam McCullough</strong> of nearby Worthington Kilbourne.<br /> <br /> The following is a closer look at the most recent additions to Ohio State’s 2015 class:<br /> <br /> <strong>Nick Conner<br /> LB<br /> 6-3, 225<br /> Dublin (Ohio) Scioto</strong><br /> According to some who track recruiting closely, the expectation was that Conner would end up at Michigan State and fill a similar role to that of recently departed middle linebacker <strong>Max Bullough</strong>.<br /> <br /> It turned out that Ohio State had plenty to offer the local star.<br /> <br /> Conner is considered an inside linebacker prospect and certainly looks comfortable there with 129 tackles and 5.5 sacks last season as a junior. However, he has 4.60 speed and possibly is athletic enough to play on the outside at the next level depending upon his development.<br /> <br /> Position coach <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> likes reliable and smart defenders, two attributes which Conner clearly possesses. And the youngster also has the aggression that Ash and Meyer are seeking on defense.<br /> <br /> Last season, Conner picked off three passes and also forced a fumble, which is not surprising considering how much he is around the ball.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes added some special talent to the position with the signing of <strong>Raekwon McMillan</strong> and <strong>Dante Booker</strong> in February. A Georgia product, McMillan enrolled early and already is vying for major time in the middle of the OSU defense. The speedy Booker of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary was named Ohio’s “Mr. Football” as a senior – the first defender to receive that honor since <strong>Andy Katzenmoyer</strong> in 1995 – and also has a blinding future.<br /> <br /> OSU also roped in 6-6, 230-pound <strong>Sam Hubbard</strong> of Cincinnati Moeller, a freakish athlete, as well as the talented <strong>Kyle Berger</strong> of Cleveland St. Ignatius.<br /> <br /> Therefore, Conner may have to wait his turn. In fact, he appears to be an ideal player to redshirt – someone who is already sold on the program and willing to see the big picture.<br /> <br /> Even so, the OSU coaches are going to keep plugging to load up at the position, which has had a glaring lack of depth in Meyer’s first couple years at the helm.<br /> <br /> Along with Conner, the other top LB prospects in the state are <strong>Justin Hilliard</strong> of Cincinnati St. Xavier and <strong>Jerome Baker</strong> of Cleveland Benedictine. Some close to the recruiting situation believe the OSU coaches would be thrilled to lock down those two players and put a bow on the linebacker outlook for now.<br /> <br /> Both Hilliard and Baker are expected to give Ohio State heavy consideration.<br /> <br /> <strong>Dre’Mont Jones<br /> DE<br /> 6-5, 250<br /> Cleveland St. Ignatius</strong><br /> St. Iggy keeps producing topflight talent and Jones is the latest standout. A natural strongside defensive end, Jones had 43 tackles, 5.0 sacks and 8.5 TFLs last season but that only hints at his impressive upside.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes offered Jones a scholarship in the spring and Johnson, who had been aware of his talents for a while, reportedly closed the deal.<br /> <br /> Composite rankings show Jones to be considered the 15th-best player in Ohio, the 12th-rated SDE in the country and among the top 300 prospects in his class regardless of position.<br /> <br /> Notre Dame and Michigan were among Jones’ top pursuers when he decided to end his recruitment and commit to OSU coaches in person last week. It didn’t hurt that he is a close friend of Berger.<br /> <br /> Jones shows good leverage for a young man of his size and can be disruptive up front. Ohio State is fairly well stocked with solid young defensive linemen at the moment but will lose the likes of <strong>Michael Bennett</strong> and <strong>Steve Miller</strong> after the 2014 season.<br /> <br /> <strong>Denzel Ward<br /> DB<br /> 5-11, 165<br /> Macedonia (Ohio) Nordonia</strong><br /> Like many of the top-rated defensive backs in Ohio, Ward is not yet filled out and able to make many plays because of his speed and instincts. However, some analysts believe he is a future safety if he can fill out and become more physical around the ball.<br /> <br /> But for now Ward figures to arrive to OSU as a cornerback. In fact, corners coach <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong> was his prime recruiter.<br /> <br /> Ward emerged during his sophomore season and followed up with an even more promising junior season. Most head-turning, though, is that he has been clocked as fast as 4.31 in the 40-yard dash.<br /> <br /> After the youngster showed off those wheels at OSU’s one-day camp last week, Meyer confirmed the scholarship offer and Ward accepted on the spot to become the ninth member of the 2015 class.<br /> <br /> Most observers agree that Ward still has some work to do as his ball skills and coverage skills are not even close to polished. And his tackling will have to improve if he is to see the field with regularity as a Buckeye.<br /> <br /> Still, the raw talent is in place, and it wouldn’t be odd to see Ward get a chance to return kicks and even find spot time in the secondary early in his college career.<br /> <br /> He might even get a few reps on offense as a slot receiver as the OSU coaches will exhaust all avenues to using his breakneck speed.<br /> <br /> What is clear is that the Buckeyes have begun to fill holes at defensive back with elite athletes – Dean, Glover-Williams and Ward.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-06-23/Loading_Up_The_OSU_Defense.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-06-23/Loading_Up_The_OSU_Defense.aspx cfed024b-ebf9-4bfd-99e1-038a058769ae Mon, 23 Jun 2014 15:36:10 GMT Fourth Time The Charm? While NFL players participate in OTAs this month and recently drafted rookies are inking contracts, no doubt <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> has at least taken a moment to ponder the idea that he could have joined them in professional football.<br /> <br /> Most would agree that Miller made a prudent decision to return for his senior season at Ohio State given that he is recovering from shoulder surgery in February, the draft was rife with talented quarterbacks, and even his own coach, <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>, declared him not quite NFL-ready.<br /> <br /> Plus, there are concerns about Miller’s durability and supposed inability to read defenses.<br /> <br /> Still, there’s no denying that Miller is a supremely gifted athlete and capable of leading Ohio State to another bushel of wins this fall. If he plays up to that capability, shows impressive development and keeps the Buckeyes in the title hunt, Heisman Trophy votes are sure to follow – again.<br /> <br /> But what are reasonable expectations for Miller? And can he really ascend to an All-American level?<br /> <br /> Considering Ohio State will have four new starters along the offensive line and that the offense also will be without leading rusher <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and leading receiver <strong>Philly Brown</strong>, it’s easy to see that a lot rests on the shoulders of Miller – and did we mention his throwing one just went under the knife?<br /> <br /> Maybe it’s just as noteworthy to point out that the roster also no longer includes <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong>, OSU’s backup QB extraordinare who saved the Buckeyes when Miller was out with a banged up knee and might have done it again if Meyer would have rolled the dice and used him in the final moments of the Orange Bowl.<br /> <br /> So the Buckeyes will start over with no proven commodities behind Miller and with holes surrounding him. While young players such as <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong>, <strong>Jalin Marshall</strong> and <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> try to exhibit some measure of reliability, Miller is going to have to carry the offense.<br /> <br /> The good news is his teammates wholeheartedly believe he is up to the challenge and tough enough to bounce back from injury as he has done throughout his career.<br /> <br /> “You’re going to get bumps and bruises,” tight end <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong> said late last season when asked to assess Miller’s toughness. “You’re going to have things not always go your way. There’s no reason to be concerned.<br /> <br /> “Braxton plays a huge role in this offense, especially with his legs. So he's moving around a lot, he’s throwing the ball, he’s got a bunch of reads. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. But I don’t think there’s any major concern about the way he plays. He’s a dynamic, incredible athlete.”<br /> <br /> Despite still being knocked for not making the OSU offense appear more sophisticated, Miller did improve his passing percentage considerably in 2013, raising it from 58.3 as a sophomore to 63.5. In fact, his passing attempts were virtually identical – 255 last season compared to 254 in 2012 – and he improved his touchdown passes by nine (24 to 15) and his QB rating by almost 18 points (158.1 to 140.5).<br /> <br /> He also managed another 1,000-yard rushing season despite missing two-and-a-half games because of his knee and improved his rushing average from 5.6 to 6.2 yards per carry.<br /> <br /> Miller comes into his senior campaign with 557 career carries for 3,054 yards and 32 TDs. He’s been sacked 88 times and hit countless others.<br /> <br /> “He’s strong,” Meyer told CBSSports.com this spring, noting the shoulder injury occurred with Miller still in the pocket. “Can he take a lot of hits? He’s had some dings. It’s not just running. Quarterback is a violent position. It’s the most unique position in all of sports where you’re not ready for the contact. We’ll get the ball out fast, break contain and then teach him when it’s coming, get out.”<br /> <br /> However, Meyer pledged to cut down on Miller’s designed runs this season.<br /> <br /> “Two years ago he was our whole offense,” said the coach. “Last year, we leaned on him too heavily in the Michigan State game. He’s still the best player. Some of those are just scrambles. Two years ago almost all his rushing yards were called runs. This year it was scrambles.”<br /> <br /> On one hand, Miller enters his final season in scarlet and gray with a chance to be an all-timer. On the other, he needs a bit of a start-over.<br /> <br /> In the last three games of the season – a one-point win over Michigan, a loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, and the 40-35 setback to Clemson in the Orange Bowl – Miller completed just 50.0 percent of his throws for 468 yards with five TDs and three interceptions.<br /> <br /> He did most of his damage against UM and MSU as a runner but Clemson banged him around early and held him to 35 yards rushing. Miller ripped off a 33-yard run in the bowl game but didn’t do much else on the ground and threw two costly picks.<br /> <br /> If the Hubert Heights (Ohio) Wayne product can get his groove back, he will threaten several major school records. He needs 2,256 passing yards to top <strong>Art Schlichter</strong>’s school-record total of 7,547, six more touchdown passes to surpass Bobby Hoying’s record total of 57, and is 505 yards away from Ohio State’s total offense mark of 8,850 yards, also held by Schlichter.<br /> <br /> Still, records and Heisman talk aren’t what seem to drive the soft-spoken Miller, who always is most at ease in the aftermath of victory.<br /> <br /> “I want to help this team win a Big Ten championship next year,” Miller said in a statement after he decided to return for his senior season. “Plus, I want to improve as a quarterback in all aspects of my game. I’m looking forward to working for another year with Coach Meyer and (quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator <strong>Tom</strong>) <strong>Herman</strong>. And I want to graduate, so this will help get me closer to my academic goal.”<br /> <br /> Miller isn’t immune from a few rough patches on Saturday and those may resurface. But the bottom line is his teammates believe in him.<br /> <br /> “Everyone has bad games,” defensive lineman <strong>Michael Bennett</strong> said. “He does a good job of not letting that affect him, though. He has confidence in his O-line and in his receivers to go out and get the ball. And he creates a lot out there.<br /> <br /> “He’s still mortal. But we know what he can do – and we’ve always believed in his ability.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-06-10/Fourth_Time_The_Charm.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-06-10/Fourth_Time_The_Charm.aspx aaef3226-d446-45c0-9648-efd96d3443bf Wed, 11 Jun 2014 03:40:36 GMT Rapp Around: Oh, Bubba <strong>Hideki Matsuyama</strong> is the latest champion at Muirfield Village Golf Club.<br /> <br /> The Japanese golfer has familiarity with the course after having played on it in October for the The Presidents Cup. In fact, many American and Internationals did well this week at The Memorial.<br /> <br /> Matsuyama tamed Muirfield all week – a solid 70 on Thursday followed by three rounds in the 60s – and made the fewest mistakes on Sunday while others faltered. Even after breaking his driver on his 72nd hole of the tournament, he still managed to birdie No. 18, which was as mean as a viper to most of the remainder of the field.<br /> <br /> He also took advantage of <strong>Kevin Na</strong>’s poor tee shot on the very same hole moments later and won the playoff, earning all the spoils, including a check for $1,116,000 and a congratulatory handshake from tourney host <strong>Jack Nicklaus</strong>.<br /> <br /> Na blistered the course for a 64 on Sunday, sat in the clubhouse for hours as the low man in at 13-under and the total would have held up if not for Matsuyama’s heroic 3 on 18.<br /> <br /> Na was one of nine Americans to finish in the top 12 at The Memorial, a group that included local boy <strong>Ben Curtis</strong> (-9) as well as Presidents Cup teammates <strong>Steve Stricker</strong> (-9) and <strong>Bill Haas</strong> (-8). Another notable who vied for the championship was Australian <strong>Adam Scott</strong> (-10), who also was here last fall.<br /> <br /> But the reality is all of them were sidenotes, even Matsuyama and the world’s top-ranked player (Scott), to the man they call “Bubba” – Gerry Lester Watson, Jr.<br /> <br /> I suspected with <strong>Tiger Woods</strong> home nursing a balky back (he also declared himself out of the U.S. Open in a couple weeks) that <strong>Bubba Watson</strong> was going to draw the largest galleries this past week. That was exactly the case, especially after the popular product of Bagdad, Fla., bolted onto the leaderboard and was a fixture there over the weekend. Everywhere he roamed you could see a guy holding a cup of beer simply blurting out “Bubba!” It feels good to say it; it’s an easy association.<br /> <br /> Watson is naturally boyish looking, left-handed, 6-3 and slender. He uses a pink driver and buttons his shirts all the way up to the collar. Plus, his talent is immeasurable. Still, despite his uniqueness, he’s a man of the people. They love that he never took a lesson and isn’t afraid to take chances. They cheer as he invents shots. Oh, and they especially like that with his unorthodox swing he can mash the ball like a rotten tomato.<br /> <br /> Watson is a household name after winning two Masters and he’s that player you can’t take your eyes off as he strolls around the course and readies to strike the ball. Bubba has the name, the game, the charm and the swagger – and it’s OK if he doesn’t win all the time, doesn’t stare down the course or his opponents the way Woods does, the way a hyena looks at a carcass.<br /> <br /> So as the tide shifted throughout the weekend and the tournament remained up for grabs all the way until the last group was on the course and Watson missed a bender of a birdie putt attempt on No. 18, the spectators – or “patrons” as they are called around here – merely enjoyed the Bubba show.<br /> <br /> And it was pretty entertaining.<br /> <br /> Hitting a wide variety of drives, approaches, blasts and flip shots, Watson was must-see TV all week. He had one of the best rounds of anyone on Thursday with a 66 and followed with a pair of 69s that were riddled with both brilliance and lost opportunity.<br /> <br /> On Friday, I watched his group play 14 and got a treat. While others play the short and delicate par 4 with care, Watson, ripped his tee shot up a hill and behind a tree where it settled on the cart path.<br /> <br /> “He’s not actually going to hit it from there, is he?” a woman near me said to her male companion. “No, they get to take a crop from there,” he said.<br /> <br /> But as Watson quickly surveyed the situation and perhaps realized a drop would have trickled down the hill twice before he got to place the ball, he pulled a Bubba. Whack. Right off the tar and pebbles went his wedge. The ball somehow flew the green and landed safely. The crowd roared.<br /> <br /> It was great theater except Watson bogeyed the hole. And the decision left me wondering how much time would have been spent at that same spot with marshals and an exhaustion of options if, say, Woods were the one figuring out the next move. It wouldn’t have taken 30 seconds, I can assure you that.<br /> <br /> But that’s Bubba.<br /> <br /> On Sunday, Watson strolled to the tee at No. 9 in charge of the tournament. He hooked his drive and mishit his punch out shot, leaving him to have to steer a draw onto the green to even have a chance at par. He did, but missed the putt.<br /> <br /> Next came two birdies and two pars then more shenanigans at 14. Another wayward tee shot left him another difficult approach, this time from the rough, but he hit a low screamer 146 yards that ran to the back of the green and 10 feet from the cup. The crowd roared again.<br /> <br /> “Bubba!”<br /> <br /> Watson just missed the putt and then made the mistake of the tournament, blasting his driver to the right on No. 15, a testing uphill par 5.<br /> <br /> Watson’s follow-through was enough indicator that the ball was on its way to Pluto yet he had hope it would scrape a tree branch and fall somewhere in view. Instead it ended up in a back yard where a family and a dog found it.<br /> <br /> Classic Bubba.<br /> <br /> He pulled another ball out of his golf bag and hit a provisional fearing he may not find his drive only CBS analyst <strong>David Feherty</strong> already was trekking straight up the fairway to track Watson’s tee shot. When Feherty was unable to hear people yelling and imploring him to move to the side because his headphones were covering his ears, Watson simply lined up and cranked another drive – whistling it 50 feet right over Feherty’s head.<br /> <br /> No friggin’ way Tiger would have done anything like that with a tournament title on the line. But Tiger ain’t Bubba.<br /> <br /> Watson ended up with a 7 out of the whole mess and finished the day at 12-under. In other words, a par would have been good enough to win the trophy.<br /> <br /> One bad decision and it cost me two shots,” said Watson, lamenting not using his 4-wood instead of his driver. “Trying to be a hero.<br /> <br /> “It’s not a comfortable tee shot for me, because I like to cut it. I was trying to go over the tree and I just pulled it.”<br /> <br /> Watson talked to reporters with his 2-year-old son, Caleb, on his lap. After explaining the mistake at 15 he shrugged and added, “I could slice my 4-wood off the tee (too).”<br /> <br /> On the last 10 holes, Watson hit just two fairways. When his tee shot at No. 17 ended up in a cavernous bunker he knew he needed a birdie on one of the last two holes to tie Na and had to try to fly one to the green. He did … but barely missed the putt again.<br /> <br /> At 18, Watson was left having to hole a shot from just off the green. He flopped a soft shot well above the hole in hopes it would trickle down to the cup but left it too high. Just about any other golfer would have banged something toward the hole or played it safe fearing bogey or double bogey would be very costly.<br /> <br /> But Bubba doesn’t seem to worry about money or image or even his record. He just plays the way that best suits him.<br /> <br /> “I’m not trying to be the next great champion,” he said Saturday with a three-day lead on the field. “I’m just trying to play golf.'”<br /> <br /> Watson admits he sometimes struggles to concentrate. On Friday, he had words for a rude fan seconds after he made a par-saving putt on No. 18. When in doubt, he tries to rip the ball off the tee or attempt a high-risk, high-reward iron shot.<br /> <br /> Bubba is not the next Tiger. Few if any have that kind of drive, focus and flesh-eating competitiveness. But Watson clearly is a character who is good for the game and its following. Like another charismatic lefty, <strong>Phil Mickelson</strong>, he’s good enough to win several majors, play for the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and win the hearts of even passing fans.<br /> <br /> Congratulations to Mr. Matsuyama. Now, anyone know Bubba’s Thursday tee time at the U.S. Open?<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-06-03/Rapp_Around_Oh_Bubba.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-06-03/Rapp_Around_Oh_Bubba.aspx 19568c72-33da-4568-8d9c-c60055386704 Tue, 03 Jun 2014 18:20:47 GMT Rapp Around: CBJ All Set Up It’s been a full month since the season ended for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but there is now time to look back at what just transpired and look ahead to a promising horizon.<br /> <br /> Only four teams remain in the Stanley Cup Playoffs picture, two hanging on by a thin thread of elimination and it’s safe to say the Blue Jackets are not yet on a final-four level. It’s also now actually feasible to think they aren’t all that far away.<br /> <br /> The CBJ didn’t just make the playoffs and finally vacate the position of NHL doormat, they played right with the super-talented Pittsburgh Penguins before succumbing in six games. Five of those contests, amazingly, had final scores of 4-3 including the fateful sixth one April 28 at Nationwide Arena.<br /> <br /> I was there and won’t soon forget what I witnessed – and what the evening represents in terms of hope for the franchise.<br /> <br /> No, the Blue Jackets didn’t just squeak into the playoffs; they played a series all the way through. In the process, they put belief into the organization and the growing fan base. They showed their ability is nearing their grit and that the NHL had better take notice.<br /> <br /> These are exciting times in the Blue Jackets offices, even with the NHL season winding down and the cannon fire on hold during the offseason.<br /> <br /> The front office appears to be in its best hands with majority owner <strong>John P. McConnell</strong>, team president <strong>John Davidson</strong>, and general manager <strong>Jarmo Kekalainen</strong> at the controls. Coach <strong>Todd Richards</strong>, clearly the right man for the job, just had his contract extended two years to the end of the 2016-17 season.<br /> <br /> As Fox Sports Ohio’s <strong>Dave Maetzold</strong> pointed out, Richards’ extension is in step with the CBJ’s “brick-by-brick” approach.<br /> <br /> Also, the roster is in good health and has essential building blocks such as award-winning goaltender <strong>Sergei Bobrovsky</strong> (25), forward <strong>Matt Calvert</strong> (24) and center <strong>Ryan Johansen</strong> (21). Center <strong>Boone Jenner</strong> and defenseman <strong>Ryan Murray</strong> don’t turn 21 until later this summer. Meanhwile, Kekalainen figures to tab more your talent in the upcoming draft.<br /> <br /> Key figures such as <strong>Brandon Dubinsky</strong> and <strong>Jack Johnson</strong> are proven leaders. <strong>Nick Foligno</strong>, who provided an all-time thrill with a game-winning goal in overtime of Game 4, is now a fan favorite and an outstanding team spokesman.<br /> <br /> <strong>Cam Atkinson</strong> can fly and isn’t shy about firing in at the net. <strong>Jared Boll</strong> and <strong>Nikita Nikitin</strong> can knock people around. <strong>Fedor Tyutin</strong> has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and had a plus/minus rating of plus-6 last season.<br /> <br /> And the mix of experience is fairly ideal. The leading scorer, Johansen, will turn 22 in July. The team’s second-leading scorer this past season, defenseman <strong>James Wisniewski</strong>, is a much more tenured 30.<br /> <br /> The shift to the Eastern Conference coincided with a breakthrough – a record of 43-32-7. Twenty-two of the wins came at home, 21 on the road.<br /> <br /> That trend continued in the postseason as the Jackets showed equal fight in Pittsburgh and when playing before the rowdies in downtown Columbus, rallying in each win.<br /> <br /> The landscape is set up for success and the organization even gets to land in the spotlight next year when hosting the NHL All-Star Game.<br /> <br /> By all accounts, the Jackets are in the strange position of future contender.<br /> <br /> “They’ve turned a corner,” Fox Sports Ohio’s <strong>Mark Wyant</strong> told SportsRappUp.com.<br /> <br /> Consider not only the Jackets’ fairly miserable existence over the years but the surge that has occurred lately. In fact, since the team opened the 2012-13 campaign a lowly 5-12-2, the CBJ has gone 62-37-12, which equates to 136 points in 111 games.<br /> <br /> Much of that has to do with the very encouraging development of recently acquired players. And it appears that trend will continue.<br /> <br /> “Our young players want to keep getting better and improve,” Richards said at the press conference to announce his contract extension. “They’re sponges. There’s lots to be excited about.”<br /> <br /> But most of all, the optimism is linked to the unforgettable finale a month ago. Yes, the Jackets lost – 4-3, of course. However, they looked completely out of synch and overmatched in falling behind 4-0 to the Penguins. Playoff experience, talent and guile finally appeared to be separators.<br /> <br /> And then it happened – one of the most exciting rallies I’ve seen in sports. The CBJ broke the seal and scored with 9:39 remaining and changed the momentum. Furious it was.<br /> <br /> Tyutin, Anisimov and Foligno scored in a span of 4:52 and set Nationwide ablaze. Late in the game, the Jackets nearly poked in another and had the puck in front of the net when the final horn sounded. Not a single fan, as far as I could tell, sat down during the explosion. The Jackets were in desperation mode but also were playing on pride and emotion – and showed Pittsburgh and perhaps the league what a scary combination that is.<br /> <br /> “We said in here we’re going to leave it all on the ice and see what happens,” Johansen said.<br /> <br /> Foligno said the Jackets were never going to just fold their tents, especially at home.<br /> <br /> “I think it’s to a man,” he said. “The character that we have in this room allows us to battle like that and have that pride. I think every guy in here is a proud player and wants to make that difference, and when you have 20 guys like that together it’s going to show some sparks and you’re going to see some comebacks.”<br /> <br /> Athletes show resiliency, especially when their season is on the line. But this felt beyond the norm. Columbus fell back in love with their gutty Blue Jackets and this time the investment was completely justified.<br /> <br /> The crescendo actually came at the moment of elimination. After the two teams shook hands, the sellout throng on hand went wild with admiration and erupted into a building-shaking chant of “C-B-J! C-B-J!”<br /> <br /> “We can’t tell you how much we appreciate that,” said Johnson, who came over from the Los Angeles Kings in the <strong>Jeff Carter</strong> trade three years ago. “I’ve played in a few playoff buildings and that was the best playoff building I’ve ever played in. That was awesome. We plan on making this place rock like that many, many more times.”<br /> <br /> “That was amazing,” Foligno added. “You could see the energy build when we started getting going. It was loud. And the way they saw us off the ice was real special. We’re building something here and we’re proud of the support we get from our fans. We want to keep the winning ways going and have that same kind of atmosphere.<br /> <br /> “You’re going to look back with the what-ifs and that’s just part of hockey and it’s part of sports. But we have to be proud of a lot of things we’ve accomplished this year. We have to get regrouped and focused and understand how hard it is to win in this league and in the playoffs. Hopefully that motivates us for a real good summer and we come back and push further than the first round.”<br /> <br /> Johansen agreed.<br /> <br /> “We gained some experience against a great hockey club and found a way to win a couple games,” he said. “I still feel we could have taken it to a Game 7 at least, but I’m really proud of the guys and the way they played the series – and all year.<br /> <br /> “We got our first franchise win in the playoffs – which is a step, for sure – but we’re not satisfied. We learned a lot of things individually and as a team and now it’s about moving forward.”<br /> <br /> In other words, now it’s time to ascend; time to get greedy.<br /> <br /> “I think that’s the only approach you can have,” Johnson said. “You set the bar that high and everyone else rises up to accomplish that goal. By no means are guys happy with losing in the first round. It’s pretty disheartening. We know we’re going to have to be bigger and better next year.”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-05-30/Rapp_Around_CBJ_All_Set_Up.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-05-30/Rapp_Around_CBJ_All_Set_Up.aspx 46adb3b6-b658-4233-993e-8fc8f4af50f3 Fri, 30 May 2014 16:07:56 GMT Matta Has His Shooter When college programs land well-rated recruits, their fan bases usually greet the news with giddy approval.<br /> <br /> That seemed to be doubly the case earlier this month when 6-5 <strong>Austin Grandstaff</strong> of Rockwall, Texas, announced he was committed to Ohio State men’s basketball coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong>.<br /> <br /> Those who follow the Buckeyes are well aware of their need for more shooters, both on the current team and down the line. Grandstaff, who scored 51 points in a game for Rockwall High School as a sophomore last season, seems to fit that bill.<br /> <br /> He’s known for his outstanding form and range on his jump shot as well as the ability to fill the basket. While Matta continues to try to load up the 2015 class he can now do so knowing he’s got an accomplished outside shooter.<br /> <br /> But the news, which broke on May 4 right after Grandstaff made an unofficial visit to campus, is even more encouraging than normal. That’s because the addition of Grandstaff seems to signal that 2015 forward <strong>Mickey Mitchell</strong> might be willing to honor his commitment.<br /> <br /> A 6-7 lefty forward, Mitchell previously committed along with 5-9 point guard <strong>A.J. Harris</strong> of Dayton Dunbar. However, speculation and doubt as to Mitchell’s future grew when his older brother, <strong>Mike Mitchell</strong>, bolted from the Ohio State football program.<br /> <br /> Mike claimed he wanted to be closer to the family home in Plano, Texas, because of his father’s health concerns, but those close to the situation say the real issue was the linebacker barely seeing the field last season after head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> all but promised the elder Mitchell immediate playing time.<br /> <br /> With Mike apparently disappointed and/or his father ailing, many were left to wonder if Mickey ever would become a Buckeye.<br /> <br /> But that outlook has brightened with the addition of Grandstaff, who said Mickey Mitchell made a strong pitch for him to join the OSU class.<br /> <br /> Just about every reputable recruiting service considers Grandstaff to be a four-star prospect. Rivals.com has him slotted at No. 30 in the country among juniors-to-be. Grandstaff averaged right around 27 points per game last season and has continued to light it up on the AAU circuit.<br /> <br /> He originally committed to Oklahoma State, but in early February re-opened his recruitment. Others in contention for Grandstaff’s services include Arizona, Florida, Virginia, Georgetown, Marquette, Texas, and Maryland.<br /> <br /> “I just loved the people there,” Grandstaff told Eleven Warriors after his Ohio State visit. “The relationships are great.”<br /> <br /> Grandstaff also admitted being an admirer of outgoing Buckeye point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong>, who was working out at The Schott when the youngster visited. The two met at the <strong>LeBron James</strong> U.S. Skills Academy last summer.<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-05-23/Matta_Has_His_Shooter.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-05-23/Matta_Has_His_Shooter.aspx 1691f619-a029-418d-b566-f1525024ebcb Fri, 23 May 2014 18:21:38 GMT Rapp Around: Hailing The Hall Maybe it’s appropriate that the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame is a hidden gem in the local sportsworld.<br /> <br /> After all – and no disrespect to the origins and massive popularity of football in the state – roundball just doesn’t have quite the same panache when compared in these parts to the reach of the NFL, college and even high school football.<br /> <br /> That isn’t likely to change, but it needs to be pointed out from time to time that the state actually has a phenomenal basketball track record and heritage. All-time great basketball players, successful coaches, memorable teams – there is no shortage of them in the Buckeye State.<br /> <br /> Therefore, the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame now enters a very important phase of its mission. The charter class of 2006 was loaded with such recognizable names as <strong>Jerry Lucas</strong>, <strong>Bob Knight</strong>, <strong>Jim Jackson</strong>, <strong>Clark Kellogg</strong>, <strong>Fred Taylor</strong>, <strong>John Havlicek</strong>, <strong>Jay Burson</strong>, <strong>Bill Hosket</strong>, <strong>Katie Smith</strong> and <strong>Gary Bradds</strong> – former Ohio State greats all. It also included <strong>Oscar Robertson</strong>, <strong>Wayne Embry</strong>, <strong>Nate Thurmond</strong> and <strong>Bevo Francis</strong> since the Hall includes those from Ohio or who played, coached, broadcasted or officiated in Ohio.<br /> <br /> The Hall has continued to honor some of the best and brightest in the sport over the years, a group that includes <strong>Robin Freeman</strong> and <strong>Scott May</strong> (2007); <strong>Jim Cleamons</strong>, <strong>Bob Huggins</strong> and <strong>Herb Williams</strong> (’08), <strong>Tracey Hall Yarbrough</strong>, <strong>Michael Redd</strong> and <strong>Joe Tait</strong> (’09); <strong>Lenny Wilkens</strong> and <strong>George Wilson</strong> (’10); <strong>Charlie Coles</strong> and <strong>Paul Ebert</strong> (’11); <strong>Mark Price</strong>, <strong>Vonda Ward</strong> and <strong>David West</strong> (’12); and <strong>Randy Ayers</strong> and <strong>Brad Daugherty</strong> (’13).<br /> <br /> Many great teams also have been enshrined including the OSU national championship squad of 1960, the Wittenberg men’s teams of 1961 and ’77, and the <strong>LeBron James</strong>-led Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s teams from 2000-03.<br /> <br /> I’ve followed basketball my entire life and been close to the game as a reporter who has had the privilege of attending countless Ohio State games, Big Ten Tournaments, NCAA Tournament games, the MAC postseason tournament, high school state championships, premier prep clashes, AAU events, recruiting showcases and even NBA games all over the country.<br /> <br /> So when I was afforded the opportunity to attend the Hall of Fame’s 9th Annual Induction Ceremony at the Greater Columbus Convention Center on Saturday night, I wasn’t about to spoil the chance. It turns out this is not only a well-run, high-end event, the organization itself continued to show it has impeccable taste when it comes to identifying a worthy new batch of inductees.<br /> <br /> The 2014 class that was honored over the weekend follows:<br /> <br /> <strong>Brian Agler</strong>, best known in central Ohio as the man who coached Smith when they were together on the ABL championship Columbus Quest squad as well as at various WNBA outposts. Agler also was the starting point guard on Wittenberg’s aforementioned 1977 team.<br /> <br /> <strong>Dean Chance</strong>, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who scored 1,378 points at West Salem (Ohio) Northwestern and helped that school capture a state title in 1958. The following year as a senior, Chance averaged right around 25 points and 16 rebounds per game and was named the Class A Player of the Year.<br /> <br /> <strong>Vince Chickerella</strong>, a coaching legend in central Ohio who won boys high school state championships at Columbus Linden McKinley (1967) and Columbus St. Francis DeSales 20 years later (1987). He also posted a 10-year mark of 179-72 at Capital University.<br /> <br /> <strong>Helen Darling</strong>, a standout at Columbus Brookhaven High School, Penn State University and during a 10-year career in the WNBA. She led Brookhaven to the 1995 state title and became the first Penn State basketball player to be named Big Ten Player of the Year.<br /> <br /> <strong>Henry "Hank" Finkel</strong>, a 7-foot center who helped put University of Dayton basketball on the map and also logged nine seasons in the NBA. Finkel left UD as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,968 points and still ranks third in that category.<br /> <br /> <strong>Walter Harrop, Sr.</strong>, who became a high school basketball coach almost by accident as a 17-year-old in 1919. After serving as captain of both the football and basketball teams at Muskingum College, he enjoyed a prosperous 36-year tenure as boys basketball coach at Shawnee High School, racking up a record of 516-242.<br /> <br /> <strong>Dennis Hopson</strong>, the all-time leading scorer in Ohio State men’s basketball history. “Hop” ranked second in the nation in scoring in his senior season of 1986-87 with an average of 29.0 ppg and was the third pick of the NBA draft that summer when the New Jersey Nets selected him. He won an NBA title with the Chicago Bulls in 1991.<br /> <br /> <strong>D’Artis Jones</strong>, one of the greatest players in history at Ohio Northern after transferring from Northwestern University. Jones immediately led the Polar Bears to the 1993 NCAA Division III national championship and averaged 19.9 ppg in his ONU career.<br /> <br /> <strong>Ed Jucker</strong>, who, amazingly, won NCAA national championships in his first two seasons at the University of Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to title-game victories over favored Ohio State in both 1961 and ’62. Jucker nearly turned it into a hat trick before UC lost in the 1963 national championship game to Loyola of Chicago.<br /> <br /> <strong>Helen Ludwig</strong>, a pioneer for women’s athletics at Ohio Northern who graduated from the school in 1944 and was a prominent athletics administrator there from 1963-84.<br /> <br /> <strong>Joe Pangrazio</strong>, a Dennison, Ohio, native who was a player and coach in the area while also working at his family’s pizza parlor then became a highly respected high school and college referee. The 89-year-old Pangrazio served as an official for more than 50 years and still observes Ohio State games on behalf of the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> <strong>Campy Russell</strong>, the former Cleveland Cavalier great who previously starred in the Big Ten at the University of Michigan. Russell was an outstanding shooter and scorer who also rebounded his position with aplomb. He was the eighth pick of the 1974 draft, spent six seasons in Cleveland, three in New York and finished up his NBA career briefly with the Cavs in 1984.<br /> <br /> <strong>Jerry Scheve</strong>, the 2004 Division III National Coach of the Year after directing Wilmington College to the NCAA championship. Wilmington’s coach since 1990, Scheve has amassed more than 400 wins and eight regular-season conference titles.<br /> <br /> <strong>Georgia Schweitzer Beasley</strong>, a Gahanna, Ohio, native who starred at Columbus Bishop Hartley before helping build Duke women’s basketball into a national power. The ACC Player of the Year in both 2000 and ’01, Schweitzer Beasley became the first Duke player to record at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists and 150 steals.<br /> <br /> <strong>Nick Weatherspoon</strong>, a former Canton McKinley star who played collegiately at the University of Illinois and for several years in the NBA. A sleek 6-7 forward, Weatherspoon scored 1,431 points at McKinley and set the mark at UI with 1,481. He was an All-Big performer with the Illini who left with career averages of 20.9 ppg and 11.4 rpg.<br /> <br /> Also, two national championship teams were honored: the 1982-83 Wright State University men’s squad that captured the NCAA Division II crown and the 2003-04 women’s team at Wilmington College that won the Division III title.<br /> <br /> <strong>Highlights Aplenty</strong><br /> <br /> The program honoring this magnificent class was a three-hour extravaganza filled with entertaining and heartfelt highlights. Hall member <strong>Jim Burson</strong>, father of Jay, made opening and closing remarks, WBNS 10-TV’s <strong>Jeff Hogan</strong> served as emcee, and Agler spoke on behalf of the class after all the awards were doled out.<br /> <br /> A record turnout of more than 600 was on hand including 13 tables full of people representing Wilmington women’s basketball. Family, friends, fans and basketball aficionados filled the ballroom to celebrate the new class.<br /> <br /> Unlike other banquets I’ve attended, not many war stories arose. However, there were lots of hearty thank-yous, shared memories and even some tears, especially when Pangrazio, while leaning on a cane because of a fractured hip, talked about losing his wife of 66 years, growing up the son of Italian immigrants and saying repeatedly with a shaken voice, “I am so blessed” when looking back on his life.<br /> <br /> Many organizers and inductees made sure to praise <strong>Sheila Fox</strong>, a professional event planner who became involved with the organization in 2010 and recently was named the Hall’s executive director.<br /> <br /> Those who may have wondered if the organization could continue to top itself or find suitable new inductees certainly lost those doubts on this night.<br /> <br /> The latest class is an impressive bunch as well as a wide-reaching array of basketball excellence.<br /> <br /> Five of the inductees entered the Hall posthumously – Chickerella, Harrop Sr., Jucker, Ludwig, and Weatherspoon – while Finkel was not able to attend because of health concerns.<br /> <br /> Longtime Dayton coach <strong>Don Donoher</strong>, himself a Hall member, accepted on behalf of Finkel. The others were represented by family members.<br /> <br /> “My dad always had a special place for his players,” <strong>Tom Chickerella</strong> said at the microphone. “That bond that he formed with his players was very special, and I know if he were here tonight he’d be so tickled to have a lot of those folks here.”<br /> <br /> While his imprint on basketball wasn’t as great, Chance also made his mark as prep standout. The famous hurler said winning a state basketball title in high school was “one of the greatest thrills in my athletic career.”<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Russell gave some of the credit for his success to Weatherspoon, who died in 2008.<br /> <br /> “I was a hotshot sophomore on the cover of Sports Illustrated and we played the University of Illinois, and Nick Weatherspoon probably gave me one of the biggest awakenings of all time,” Russell said. “He really brought the house down on me that night, so badly that I remember leaving the arena and walking home in my uniform. That’s how disappointed I was.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Hop Was Tops</strong><br /> <br /> Russell was a top attraction as was Hopson, the sweet-shooting former OSU forward who could tickle the twines from just about anywhere on the court.<br /> <br /> His induction was especially enjoyable for me since we went to school together. In fact, we are one day apart in age.<br /> <br /> Still attached to the game as a coach – Hopson served as an assistant at Bowling Green under <strong>Louis Orr</strong> the past five years – the northwest Ohio native was gracious and humorous during his acceptance speech.<br /> <br /> “The reason I averaged 29 points a game is because I never passed the ball,” he joked. “I shot it every time I touched it. I’ve got a teammate back there, <strong>Tony White</strong>, who can attest to that. I shot it every time.”<br /> <br /> Of course, that wasn’t entirely true. Hopson also managed to average 3.6 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game during his incredible senior season. He also shot 51.8 percent from the floor, 41.9 percent from three-point range, and 81.4 percent from the free-throw line.<br /> <br /> The 6-5 Hopson thanked many including former Ohio State coaches <strong>Gary Williams</strong> and <strong>Eldon Miller</strong>, the latter of which also in attendance. And he took time out to realize that he actually overachieved.<br /> <br /> “Growing up, basketball wasn’t something that I wanted to do,” he admitted. “I didn’t like the game. But a lot of people recognized the talent I had and pushed me to play this game, and I appreciate that.”<br /> <br /> Hopson also cited four driving forces that led to his success: commitment, dedication, love and passion.<br /> <br /> “Once I developed all four of those things, that’s when the game became easy for me, and that’s something that I live by today,” he said.<br /> <br /> <strong>What I Learned</strong><br /> <br /> * Chance, while being honored for his hoops exploits, of course, is best known for the sport of baseball. Given his Major League success, one can only assume he was a dominant force in high school. How dominant? Well, while prepping at Northwestern High School, Chance tossed 17 no-hitters. Hello.<br /> <br /> * Darling took a year off from her professional basketball career because she was about to become a mother, which happens occasionally at the WNBA level. Her reason for sitting out the entire 2002 season, however, wasn’t merely related to overcoming the physical toll of the pregnancy and childbirth. Darling also needed a readjustment period after delivering … triplets.<br /> <br /> * Russell’s nickname actually is a derivative of his middle name. His full given name is Michael Campanella Russell. Some of his teammates also called him “Camperson.” The gregarious former NBA forward was a two-time Michigan high school player of the year and set multiple records in his two years at the University of Michigan, where he averaged 23.7 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Russell closed his well-received acceptance speech with “How did get here? I’m from Michigan.”<br /> <br /> * Schweitzer Beasley returned to her alma mater to help coach the Lady Blue Devils and also entered Duke’s medical school in 2004. She did cancer research in conjunction with her master’s program and has been a surgeon for the last several years. She admitted her goal is to return to central Ohio to take up a medical residency.<br /> <br /> * Donoher said Finkel was instrumental is helping build UD’s basketball program and bypassed multiple opportunities to leave school early to head to the NBA. In fact, he was drafted after his sophomore and junior seasons but opted not to sign with a professional team either time. “With the prevalence of today’s one-and-done, we should celebrate his decision of four-and-more,” Donoher said.<br /> <br /> After leading the Flyers to a pair of Sweet 16 runs, Finkel did, in fact, latch on in the NBA. He was drafted 17th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers and also had stints in San Diego and Boston. Filling the center role vacated by all-time great <strong>Bill Russell</strong>, Finkel helped the Celtics win the 1974 NBA title.<br /> <br /> * Even those who may recall Wright State had a championship team in 1983 may not know that the Raiders had to upend District of Columbia in the title game that March. That may not sound like a tall order, but it was.<br /> <br /> The Firebirds were the defending Division II national champs and were led by a pair of All-Americans who were later drafted by NBA teams – <strong>Michael Britt</strong> and <strong>Earl Jones</strong>.<br /> <br /> A slender 6-6, Britt was dubbed “The Flying Pencil” during his playing career. He was drafted by the Washington Bullets after leaving UDC. The 6-10 Jones was a first-round pick of the mighty Lakers in 1984.<br /> <br /> One of UDC’s victims during the 1982 postseason run was Virginia Union, which featured eventual NBA power forward <strong>Charles Oakley</strong>.<br /> <br /> * Much like Taylor, Jucker was a baseball standout and an aspiring coach in both sports. In fact, the Norwood, Ohio, native, recruited and mentored <strong>Sandy Koufax</strong> at UC while also serving as an assistant coach for the Bearcats' basketball program. After seven years on the staff, Jucker was head-spinningly successful at his alma mater but lasted only five years as head coach.<br /> <br /> He resigned in 1965 citing job pressure that was affecting his health. When he did, he owned a record of 113-28 at UC.<br /> <br /> * The Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame is a growing organization that awards scholarships and plans to “build a brick-and-mortar museum” some day. Contributions can be made ranging from a nominal amount of $25 for students all the way up to Legend status ($10,000 and above).<br /> <br /> For more information, visit <a href="http://ohiobasketballhalloffame.com/">ohiobasketballhalloffame.com</a>. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-05-20/Rapp_Around_Hailing_The_Hall.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-05-20/Rapp_Around_Hailing_The_Hall.aspx 9cdf29c5-20a5-4fd4-84df-1b681c69b986 Tue, 20 May 2014 21:15:02 GMT Rapp Around: Professional Grade In all the years I have watched professional sports drafts I’ve always been amazed how much upside and potential wins out over production.<br /> <br /> Guys like <strong>Chris Spielman</strong> and <strong>James Laurinaitis</strong>, for example, dropped to the second round because they didn’t quite fit the physical prototype that NFL scouts covet. I always seem to respond to this with, “Did you watch him play?”<br /> <br /> Consistency, tenacity and reliability aren’t established with just a good game here and there or an occasional play that makes the highlight reel. They are accomplished over time and through blood, sweat and tears.<br /> <br /> You want a warrior? Go find a guy who never shied away from the war.<br /> <br /> <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong>, who also happens to be a former Ohio State linebacker, is just such a guy. He also happens to be someone who was stellar in all his predraft workouts, which is a big reason why he was the first Buckeye taken in this year’s NFL draft, going in the No. 15 slot to the Pittsburgh Steelers.<br /> <br /> The Steelers are good at this. They tend to take tough, proven guys, usually from major conference teams. The New York Giants have the same philosophy. Not surprisingly, they seem to have fewer draft busts than most other teams.<br /> <br /> Some are skeptical about Shazier. At 6-2, 230 he’s not quite up to NFL standards for outside linebackers. Also, he played in a 4-3 defense at Ohio State, not the 3-4 scheme that Hall of Fame defensive coordinator <strong>Dick LeBeau</strong> likes to employ.<br /> <br /> But the Steelers aren’t worried about their critics. They know the trend now is to have front seven players who can chase down mobile quarterbacks like, oh, say, <strong>Johnny Manziel</strong>, who is headed to the rival Cleveland Browns.<br /> <br /> The Rams invested similarly recently by drafting speedy and tenacious OLB <strong>Alec Ogletree</strong> knowing they were going to have to hunt down the likes of <strong>Colin Kaepernick</strong> and <strong>Russell Wilson</strong> year after year.<br /> <br /> Plus, Shazier has been too steady to find minor fault with and mistakenly pass by in the draft. In 2013, he amassed 144 tackles – 102 of them of the solo variety – for an averaged of 10.3 per game. He also led the Big Ten with 7.0 sacks and 23.5 tackles-for-loss while mixing in four fumbles forced, four passes broken up and six QB hurries.<br /> <br /> In short, Shazier was all over the field last year – and the year before that, for that matter. He’s a much-improved tackler and reader of plays, and he’s got the instincts, speed and desire to run around and slam ball carriers all day.<br /> <br /> Will he make an impact in the Steel City? I wouldn’t bet against it.<br /> <br /> <strong>Roby Also A First-Rounder</strong><br /> <br /> One of my first reactions to seeing <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> walking on stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City wasn’t just that another former Buckeye had made it nor the risk the Broncos supposedly took, but the humble beginnings to his college career.<br /> <br /> Yes, he was considered a standout recruit when he signed with Ohio State. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, and star performer at Suwannee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge, Roby came from a football-rich environment and was born with athletic aggression.<br /> <br /> He has decent size (5-11, 195) for a defensive back but also a nose for the football and sub-4.4 speed.<br /> <br /> It’s not shocking at all that he parlayed his wonderful natural talents and the opportunity to play on the highest plane of college football into a chance to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft.<br /> <br /> However, he was just a guy in the OSU secondary trying to make a name for himself not that long ago. He was clean-cut – no dreadlocks. And he looked to have just as good a chance to see the field as a safety or even a nickel back in the early going.<br /> <br /> But then one blustery, raw day in the spring after his first fall on campus he started smacking people. And covering people. And breaking up passes. And picking off passes.<br /> <br /> All of the reporters holding onto their ballcaps in the south stands of Ohio Stadium could see, even from a distance, that the kid was starting to show he had the goods. Sure enough, he played on special teams and emerged in the defensive backfield. The following year as a redshirt sophomore he became a star – so good that no one would have been too surprised if he decided to bolt for the NFL after the 2012 season.<br /> <br /> But Roby told reporters he wanted to come back and try to win a national championship and maybe a Thorpe Award along the way.<br /> <br /> It didn’t happen. He had a disappointing season that began with a suspension, included missed tackles in several early games, a disputed dismissal from another contest for targeting, an embarrassing one-on-one lesson from Wisconsin wideout <strong>Jared Abbrederis</strong>, and an injury that conveniently left him off the field for the Orange Bowl – and possibly saved him from being exposed by Clemson’s high-octane passing game and receiver extraordinare <strong>Sammy Watkins</strong>.<br /> <br /> Still, I see no reason to be angry at Roby for still ending up in the first round. The raw ability always was there. He still showed a penchant for breaking up passes and coming up with game-turning plays on special teams. He still was respected by his teammates.<br /> <br /> Did Denver reach a little too far in selecting him 31st overall? Maybe. Maybe not. Super Bowl teams can roll the dice on players like Roby, who just may end up being the best corner in the entire 2014 draft when it’s all said and done.<br /> <br /> <strong>Hyde, Mewhort Plucked On Day 2</strong><br /> <br /> Shazier and Roby each left a year of eligibility on the table and managed to cash in from the decision. That’s not a new concept, of course. In fact, a record 102 players applied for early entry and 15 of them managed to be selected on Thursday during the first round of the draft.<br /> <br /> However, Friday was less about teams seeking youth and potential and more about filling needs. That paved the way for a couple seniors who had highly successful careers at Ohio State – <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong>.<br /> <br /> Like Shazier, Hyde is a Florida native who has been a standout his entire football life. He definitely can play with the big boys but just needed a team to give him the chance.<br /> <br /> That opportunity was a bit slow in coming as most draft experts assessed Hyde as the best running back in the draft yet he ended up going third among all runners. Also, a year after no running backs went in the first round since the common draft was instituted in 1967, teams put even less of a premium, believe it or not, on ball carriers.<br /> <br /> <strong>Bishop Sankey</strong> of Washington was the first RB to go at No. 54 overall – a record wait for the position. Hyde, the first tailback to crack the 1,000-yard single-season rushing barrier under <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>, finally landed in San Francisco with pick No. 57.<br /> <br /> Before that, receivers fell off of trees and four tight ends were selected. Still, the initial disappointment of not receiving first-round money goes away eventually, I suspect, for players who land in good situations. And Hyde certainly appears to have found one.<br /> <br /> The 49ers are a power team in the NFC and play in a division that values the power rushing attack. In fact, San Francisco added Hyde to a roster that already includes <strong>Frank Gore</strong>, <strong>Kendall Hunter</strong>, <strong>LaMichael James</strong> and <strong>Marcus Lattimore</strong>.<br /> <br /> Hyde grew up idolizing Gore and considers the veteran to be the running back after which he patterns himself.<br /> <br /> Eventually, the Niners are going to have to give Hyde his shot. After all, he is coming off a season in which he totaled 1,521 rushing yards despite missing the first three games of the season. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry and topped 100 yards in the last nine games of his terrific college career.<br /> <br /> Hyde burst into the end zone 16 times in 2012 and another 15 times last season. He’s never averaged below 5.0 yards per carry as a football player. Most of all, he’s a gamer. Hyde will play through pain and bring the thunder when necessary. He’s also shown he’s an outstanding option when the game is on the line.<br /> <br /> Another Buckeye who endured two head coaching changes and emerged as a force for the offense is Mewhort. A product of Toledo, Mewhort worked all along the offensive line, excelled as a blocker and became a team leader, especially under the tutelage of current line coach <strong>Ed Warinner</strong>.<br /> <br /> He went just two picks after Hyde at No. 59 overall when the Indianapolis Colts called his name.<br /> <br /> Indianapolis was without a first-round pick thanks to the trade in which the franchise acquired running back <strong>Trent Richardson</strong> from Cleveland. Snagging Mewhort in the second as the team’s first pick of the 2014 draft is as sure a sign as any that the Colts addressed a starting need and will to commit to Mewhort.<br /> <br /> That means, he, too, just had a very good day.<br /> <br /> As for Mewhort now having to look across the line at Houston defensive ends <strong>Jadeveon Clowney</strong> and <strong>J.J. Watt</strong>, well, welcome to big-boy football.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-05-10/Rapp_Around_Professional_Grade.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-05-10/Rapp_Around_Professional_Grade.aspx bcd81332-26bd-44d3-b8d1-5c76389ac77b Sat, 10 May 2014 14:51:11 GMT Rapp Around: Craft Can't Be Sole Answer <strong>BUFFALO, N.Y. –</strong> As <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> was facing reporters Sunday night, discussing Ohio State’s just-announced NCAA Tournament draw and coming to the realization that his next college basketball game could very well be his last, a thought crossed over me.<br /> <br /> Actually, two thoughts.<br /> <br /> One, why do we garner so much entertainment and euphoria from an event that actually is filled with so much heartache? And, two, what box was left to be checked on Craft’s March Madness dossier?<br /> <br /> Allow me to attempt to answer my own queries after watching Craft and the Buckeyes ride the emotional teeter-totter in the final seconds of a 60-59 loss to in-state foe Dayton on Thursday.<br /> <br /> First of all, the vast majority of those wrapped into the tournament really have nothing at stake – except maybe $5 and a little office pride.<br /> <br /> The thrill of NCAA victory and the agony of tournament defeat is Romanesque theater to the casual and occasionally obtuse sports fan. It’s not our livelihood and it’s not our lifelong reputation.<br /> <br /> The athletes, meanwhile – student-athletes, if you must – are elated to participate in the spectacle that is the NCAA Tournament and to “shock the world.”<br /> <br /> “Any competitor wants to play against the best and have a chance to prove they’re the best, and this tournament is no different,” said OSU junior forward <strong>Sam Thompson</strong>, who certainly lived up to the moment with a game-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting.<br /> <br /> So, that means that being on Cloud Nine about taking part in an event in which 67 of the 68 teams go home disappointed lends itself to the idea that there actually is more to gain – the satisfaction of taking that best shot, perhaps.<br /> <br /> Therefore, I asked Thompson if that means he’ll be able to some day look back with affection for the experience of this year’s NCAA Tournament.<br /> <br /> “No,” he said sternly. “I don’t exactly call losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Dayton an experience, so it’s not something I’ll come to grips with. It looked like they wanted it more than us and they played like it.”<br /> <br /> OK, dumb question.<br /> <br /> So I went over to coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong>, who has made a living off of postseason runs, and asked him a different version: “Is this tournament cruel?”<br /> <br /> “It’s the profession,” he said flatly.<br /> <br /> True, but that statement comes for the wisdom of being around this postseason frenzy for two full decades.<br /> <br /> Even a youngster as grounded as Craft has a hard time dealing with such a fate, as evidence by him linking this bitter disappointment to ones of the past when the Buckeyes were dumped from the Sweet 16 (2011), Final Four (2012) and Elite Eight (2013).<br /> <br /> “I’ve lost by nine points total in my four NCAA Tournament losses – two points, two points, four points and now one point,” he said with a pained expression. “Those are all one-possession and two-possession games, and that’s the most frustrating part. We didn’t value possessions early in the game; we didn’t value possessions early in the second half.”<br /> <br /> And because of it, because of Craft’s astute observation that the Buckeyes were simply too casual for extended stretches of the contest with Dayton, the 6-2 senior point guard got to notch one final essential category for postseason drama – missing the game-winning shot at the buzzer.<br /> <br /> This, of course, is unfair even to point out since Craft was a nuisance to UD for much of the afternoon and had just 3.8 seconds to race the other way with the ball after Dayton guard <strong>Vee Sanford</strong> played hero and banked in a runner for the game’s final points.<br /> <br /> However, Sanford did score over Craft, who allowed him to go to his strong hand.<br /> <br /> “I thought we were getting stops when we needed to, then on the last shot the guy made a good play,” OSU’s <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> said. “Basically, we were going to switch everything with all guards on the floor. The guy just drove strong right and was able to finish.”<br /> <br /> After Craft failed to answer, he couldn’t lift his body off the First Niagara Center floor for several seconds.<br /> <br /> In the interviews afterward and again in the locker room, his voice shook while trying to address questions.<br /> <br /> But Craft insisted he wasn’t awash in sentimentality about his four-year career and the hurt that accompanied its very sudden end.<br /> <br /> “To be honest with you, I’m more upset we lost the game,” he said. “I’m not upset that I’m done and I’m not upset that I don’t get to play for Ohio State again. I’m angry at myself for letting him get a shot over me with his right hand and not making one more play down the stretch. That’s what hurts right now.<br /> <br /> “It’s done now, and now it’s on these guys to learn from what this season has been and how hard it has been.”<br /> <br /> But what is the lesson other than losing in the final seconds of a single-elimination tournament stings like grabbing an electric fence?<br /> <br /> That was the question for which there really was no answer – at least not from this group and not after a 25-10 campaign that seemed to elicit more head-scratching than back-patting.<br /> <br /> “We put ourselves in a position to win and we couldn’t make the plays down the stretch,” Craft said, his voice trailing off. “They punched more than we did.”<br /> <br /> “I think it’s mostly mental,” added Ross. “We knew Dayton was going to come out with energy and we needed to match it, and I didn’t think we did that.”<br /> <br /> Senior guard <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> made an even stronger statement.<br /> <br /> “We didn’t come to play today,” he said. “Our coach is trying to fire us up and give us energy in the NCAA Tournament, and they couldn’t do it. You shouldn’t need a coach to fire you up when it can possibly be the last game.”<br /> <br /> Shannon Scott agreed.<br /> <br /> “I feel like if we would have come in with a different mentality it would have been a whole different ballgame,” he said.<br /> <br /> Certainly, the Buckeyes entered with some flaws and as a 6-seed were no guarantee to get by 11th-seeded Dayton (24-10), especially considering the extra incentive the Flyers had playing the big-name in-state school and that leading scorer <strong>Jordan Sibert</strong> is an OSU transfer.<br /> <br /> Still, not being ready to play? That one can’t be explained to the fan base.<br /> <br /> “They deserve an answer,” Craft said. “Nothing is guaranteed, and that’s one of the toughest things to get across to people.”<br /> <br /> Craft has made his share of mistakes this season and some of them came at very inopportune times. Just five days ago in Indianapolis, for example. he was racing upcourt with a chance to fire in a tying three-pointer against rival Michigan and the ball never made it cleanly to his shooting hand, spilling away.<br /> <br /> Unexplainable miscues and painful shortcomings – that would be one way to describe the 2013-14 season.<br /> <br /> But no one could accuse Craft of not understanding the magnitude of the moment and not giving his all.<br /> <br /> Against Dayton he racked up 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals to go along with several dives onto the floor for loose balls.<br /> <br /> It was Craft who scored nine quick points after the Buckeyes fell behind 10-7 and looked lifeless in the game’s first five minutes. It was Craft who gave OSU leads of 22-21, 52-51 and 59-58. And it was Craft who also tied the game at 55 with a huge three-point play with 2:05 to play moments after Sibert canned a trey.<br /> <br /> Still, he was left to be the goat as Sanford attacked him. No one helped defensively. Heck, other than Thompson no one helped offensively. Post men <strong>Amir Williams</strong> and <strong>Trey McDonald</strong> combined to eat a doughnut – no points.<br /> <br /> Ross had 10 points but was just 2 of 7 in the first half and sulked around on defense. Smith finished with just six points and three rebounds.<br /> <br /> However, Dayton didn’t have a single player with more than a dozen points and was a middling 22 of 40 (44.9 percent) from the field.<br /> <br /> The real difference seemed to be in effort plays – or lack thereof – and, as often was the case this season, empty possessions down the stretch.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know what it is,” Thompson whispered. “These are the games where we had to find a way to win and we didn’t, and it cost us our season.”<br /> <br /> Added Smith, “We get super close and we can’t close it out because we’re not tough enough. The season definitely shouldn’t have ended this way. We allowed it to happen because we couldn’t answer the call.”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-20/Rapp_Around_Craft_Can_t_Be_Sole_Answer.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-20/Rapp_Around_Craft_Can_t_Be_Sole_Answer.aspx 6f2b961a-1ff7-44c4-940f-e9f5f48406e0 Fri, 21 Mar 2014 00:31:35 GMT The New King At SVSM Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, no stranger to athletic success, again boasts one of the top teams in Ohio and could very well cut down the nets at the Schottenstein Center this weekend in celebration of another state title.<br /> <br /> And if that happens, the dominance of the Fighting Irish will be only part of the story.<br /> <br /> That’s because for the first time since a guy named <strong>LeBron James</strong> led SVSM to basketball glory at the beginning of the millennium, the school is home to one of the most gifted wing players in the entire country.<br /> <br /> His name is <strong>VJ King</strong>, and he’s a marvel. Already a legitimate 6-7 and still only a sophomore, King is not quite as good as King James – who is? – but he possesses a fluid and pretty much unstoppable floor game.<br /> <br /> SVSM has advanced to the Division II state semifinals in Columbus and is the favorite to win another crown despite arriving with nine losses, the most of any of the 16 boys teams still playing.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Dru Joyce</strong> accepts the blame for the 19-9 record since he scheduled several games against national competition, mostly to showcase King. Some of the losses also are a result of King missing the first half of the season with a fractured wrist.<br /> <br /> But King is all healed and ready to put on a show in the state tournament, which concluded Saturday with championships in all four divisions.<br /> <br /> In one particularly noteworthy contest back in January, the Irish showed they were a true Midwest power team by posting an 89-78 win over the University Pioneers of Normal, Ill., at Flyin’ To The Hoop in Dayton. In that game, King was matched with Ohio State signee <strong>Keita Bates-Diop</strong>, also a 6-7 forward, and made an impression.<br /> <br /> Bates-Diop put on a splendid show for the OSU fans in attendance with four made threes in the first period, 31 points and 10 rebounds (for a look at his performance, click <a href="http://www.sportsrappup.com/sections/stories/14-01-26/KBD_Offers_Glimpse_Into_Future.aspx">HERE</a>).<br /> <br /> However, King matched him with 30 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot. He was 9 of 18 from the field, 10 of 11 from the free-throw line and looked comfortable throughout as the Irish romped.<br /> <br /> “He’s very good,” Bates-Diop said afterward of King. “He’s only a sophomore and he’s very smooth with the ball. He plays more mature than he really is. He plays like a senior. If you didn’t know, you’d think he was.<br /> <br /> “He’s a great player. He can shoot and do a lot of different things.”<br /> <br /> King returned the compliment and also labeled Bates-Diop “a great player.”<br /> <br /> “Just before the game he just told me to slow down and let the game come to me, and that’s what I did,” said King, who also faced Bates-Diop in his first varsity appearance last season. “We have similar games, so we were talking throughout the game. He really gave us tough matchups out there and we threw a whole bunch of people at him.<br /> <br /> “We didn’t really shut him down but we got the win. That’s all that matters. We knew the offense was going to be there, and my shot was hitting tonight, so it was a good team win for us.”<br /> <br /> Bates-Diop hinted he wouldn’t mind being a teammate with King some day.<br /> <br /> “He’s not a selfish player,” he said. “He’s a good guy. I’d love playing with him. We talked a little out on the court, but I’m trying to win, he’s trying to win, so we didn’t talk a whole bunch.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Thad Matta</strong> is trying to make that happen, of course. King and AAU teammate 6-5 guard <strong>Luke Kennard</strong> of Franklin, Ohio, are priority recruits for Ohio State, but King, who is ranked sixth nationally in the 2016 class, it <em>the</em> priority.<br /> <br /> King already has a boatload of offers from all over the country. Ohio State is trying to fend off Big Ten brethren Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa along with the likes of Arizona, Georgetown, UConn, Iowa State and Cincinnati. Those who follow the situation closely also believe Duke and North Carolina will get involved and could vault right to the forefront.<br /> <br /> But, of course, most who know King would love him to become a Buckeye.<br /> <br /> “Ohio State is a great program,” Joyce said. “Thad has done a great job. But there’s no pressure. That’s just the reality of college basketball. We have a great program here in the state. I’d love for him to stay in Ohio but that’s their family decision and I’m going to leave that up to them.”<br /> <br /> King said his father his handling his recruiting for now and he hasn’t bothered to whittle his list much.<br /> <br /> “I really don’t have favorites out there,” he said. “I didn’t really watch college basketball until my seventh- or eighth-grade year.<br /> <br /> “I couldn’t tell you (which school is in the lead), to be honest with you. I’m focusing on my game and trying to finish high school.”<br /> <br /> King, though, admits he is aware the spotlight is beginning to shine on him.<br /> <br /> “It’s pressure because of who I am, and you all know who went to this school before I did,” he said. “There’s definitely pressure, but I try not to focus on that and I try to work on my game and do whatever I can to win.<br /> <br /> “I haven’t really talked to (James) about college. He just talked to me about my high school career. He just told me to start a new chapter and just play my game, and that’s just what I’ve been doing.”<br /> <br /> Added Joyce, “We tell him to control what he can control, and that’s the basketball. We can’t control what you guys (in the media) do. That’s what I told LeBron and that’s how we went about it back then. Just control what you can control with your attitude and your effort.<br /> <br /> “Hey everybody’s in your face now, but if you trip up they’re going to be gone.”<br /> <br /> While he handles the microscope that comes with being a top recruit, King also is tasked with doing what James did before him, which is make the Fighting Irish a state superpower once again. However, he knows that doesn't happen overnight, or with just one person taking all the key shots.<br /> <br /> “We’ve gotten closer together, we’ve got more chemistry and we like playing with each other more," he said. "I’m more comfortable with this team and the coaches are really trusting my game now. So I feel I’ve grown a lot and the coaches are helping me progress my game.”<br /> <br /> Part of that trust and progression simply has come from Joyce allowing King to explore all he can do on the court, which appears to be just about everything.<br /> <br /> “The offense is kind of wipe open,” Joyce said. “Like I used to say with ’Bron is ‘Look, if you guys guard, if you defend, I’m going to give you a lot of freedom. I’m not going to try to chain you down to run a whole bunch of sets. I’m going to let you play. But you’ve got to guard.’ ”<br /> <br /> King appears to be garnering the concept. He’s also showing an aptitude for time-and-score situations and when to take a higher percentage shot. In the matchup with Bates-Diop, he already had hurt University with long-range jumpers, drive and free throws, but when the game tightened he created offense out of the low post.<br /> <br /> “That’s him understanding,” Joyce said excitedly. “That’s the basketball IQ.<br /> <br /> “People forget. When we needed a basket, LeBron got his butt down in the post and went to work. So I’ve told him, ‘You’re 6-7. When I need one, it doesn’t have to be from beyond the three-point line. Go get me one.’ And that’s what he’s understanding: The more things you add to your game, the tougher it is to guard you.<br /> <br /> “And by the time he’s a senior, look out.”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-19/The_New_King_At_SVSM.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-19/The_New_King_At_SVSM.aspx 81578454-eef7-4ea9-8c3a-cf47944a48ef Wed, 19 Mar 2014 19:40:31 GMT Numbers, Geography Don't Matter It’s funny how this Mach madness stuff works out.<br /> <br /> Had Ohio State beaten Michigan in Saturday’s semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament, the Buckeyes likely would have secured a 5-seed, maybe even a 4, in the NCAA Tournament, which begins Tuesday.<br /> <br /> They also might be packing for Spokane or San Diego, which are three time zones away.<br /> <br /> Instead, Ohio State (25-9), which failed to make it to the BTT finals for the first time in six years, fell to a 6-seed and was placed in the loaded South Region of the NCAA field of 68.<br /> <br /> However, the Buckeyes also ended up in the best possible geographic shape as they will face in-state foe Dayton (23-10) in a 6-11 game in Buffalo on Thursday (12:15 Eastern, CBS).<br /> <br /> Granted, Buffalo is no San Diego when it comes to climate and aesthetics, but the Buckeyes will take it.<br /> <br /> “I thought we’d be a 5,” OSU coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong> told reporters moments after finding out his team’s position in the bracket. “As many Big Ten teams that get in, how it was explained to me, we might have gotten bumped, which is fine.”<br /> <br /> Plus, the Buckeyes claim they will be just as motivated as before even though the program has advanced to the Sweet 16 as a 1- or 2-seed the past three years.<br /> <br /> “We know whatever seed we get, wherever we’re placed in the NCAA Tournament, there’s no such thing as an easy game, there’s no such thing as an easy opponent,” junior swingman <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> said. “We have to bring our best basketball for 40 minutes if we want to have success in the tournament. Whether we have a 2 next to our name or a 6 next to our name that doesn’t change.”<br /> <br /> Perhaps more eyebrow-raising than OSU’s position and seeding is the second-round – the play-in games in Dayton now comprise the first round – opponent that awaits. Dayton received an at-large bid for the first time since 2009 and enters the tourney a confident team.<br /> <br /> The Flyers have won 10 of their last 12 games against competition in the Atlantic 10 – a conference, like the Big Ten, that is sending six teams to the Big Dance. In fact, the only team to defeat UD since Jan. 25 is A-10 tournament champion St. Joseph’s.<br /> <br /> The last time Ohio State faced Dayton was in the 2008 NIT quarterfinals. The Buckeyes dealt with a pesky Flyers team and hordes of UD fans but won that contest at the Schottenstein Center, 74-63, to advance to New York City. OSU ended up winning the event – and has been back in the NCAA Tournament every year following.<br /> <br /> “I think for this team it’s a great thing,” Matta said of his Buckeyes drawing Dayton, “and I say that because there won’t need to be a wakeup call, a ‘Who is this? Where are they? What conference is this? I haven’t heard of that guy’ or any of that. So I like that from that perspective.”<br /> <br /> On the other hand …<br /> <br /> “My first initial reaction was I was so excited to see Dayton up there, because I wanted Arch (coach <strong>Archie Miller</strong>) to get in the NCAA Tournament,” Matta said. “Then it was like, ‘uhh, here we go.’ ”<br /> <br /> Matta well recalls that the 2007 run to the Final Four and last year’s Sweet 16 matchup with Arizona included battles with his best friend, <strong>Sean Miller</strong>, who replaced him as the head coach at Xavier in 2004 when he came to Columbus. Sean and Archie are brothers and each has worked directly with Matta – Sean at Miami (Ohio) and Xavier and Archie at OSU.<br /> <br /> In fact, Archie Miller was a Matta assistant at OSU in 2007-08 and, ironically, helped scout the Flyers before the Buckeyes faced them in the 2008 NIT.<br /> <br /> “It’s funny because we talk all the time,” Matta said. “It’s a little like playing Arizona last year. He knows a lot about my team; I know a lot about his team.”<br /> <br /> Matta also has experience facing an in-state foe in the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes had to get by Cincinnati two years ago in the Sweet 16 and followed that with a win over Syracuse to advance to the 2012 Final Four.<br /> <br /> Matta shrugged about the matchup then and is shrugging now.<br /> <br /> “No matter who you play in the NCAA Tournament, it’s going to be a really, really good basketball team,” he said. “The fact that we’re playing a team an hour away five hours away, it’s kind of irrelevant to me. Eventually it all kind of comes full circle.”<br /> <br /> Still, the subplots persist. Dayton assistant <strong>Kevin Kuwik</strong> also once served under Matta at OSU. Plus, the Flyers are led by 6-4 guard <strong>Jordan Sibert</strong>, who was a prominent member of the 2010 recruiting class along with <strong>Jared Sullinger</strong>, <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong>, <strong>J.D. Weatherspoon</strong> and current OSU seniors <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> and <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong><br /> <br /> A former prep star at Cincinnati Princeton, Sibert transferred after two somewhat underwhelming seasons at OSU, sat out last season, and is now Dayton’s top scorer at 12.5 points per game. He also is one of the A-10’s top three-point shooters at 43.9 percent from behind the arc.<br /> <br /> Craft said he still keeps in touch with Sibert, who also was his AAU backcourt mate. Smith, meanwhile, knows the media will play up a rivalry between him and the UD off-guard.<br /> <br /> When a reporters asked him is he expected Sibert to be extra motivated Thursday, Smith said, “Trying to put myself in his shoes, absolutely. But at the same time we’re both in the same boat – you lose, you go home.”<br /> <br /> If there was animosity between the two, Smith didn’t address it.<br /> <br /> “We were brothers, we were teammates,” he said. “We had support for each other in hard times. I guess things really didn’t pan out for him as well as it did for me. I guess I was just the fortunate one to get that starting position and remain here and play. Then again, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty happy with what he did with his decision and he’s looking forward to playing us.”<br /> <br /> Added Matta, “When he left he said, ‘Look, I want to play a lot,’ and he’s definitely doing that and he’s having a great career there. I’m one of these guys that as long as everybody’s happy in terms of where they are and what they’re doing, I’m happy for them.”<br /> <br /> Sibert, though, is no one-man show. <strong>Devin Oliver</strong>, a 6-7 senior forward, is logging 12.1 points and 7.5 rebounds a game for UD while 6-6 <strong>Dyshawn Pierre</strong> is at 11.1 ppg and 5.6 rpg. <strong>Vee Sanford</strong>, a 6-4 senior guard, is yet another threat (9.9 ppg).<br /> <br /> If the Buckeyes can survive their 10th all-time meeting with Dayton, they will play the winner of the Syracuse-Western Michigan 3-14 game Saturday in Buffalo. That means the strong possibility of another important encounter with the Orange and <strong>Jim Boeheim</strong>’s vaunted zone defense – with less than two days of preparation.<br /> <br /> “I just hope I see it,” Matta said.<br /> <br /> Two wins in Buffalo would mean a trip to Memphis but could set up contests with the likes of Kansas and Florida.<br /> <br /> Daunting as that may be, Matta believes lots of team’s have a sporting chance to make the Final Four this year.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know if you have that one dominant team where you say, ‘They should win the national championship,’ ” he said. “Wichita State obviously is undefeated, Florida is rolling, Arizona is very, very talented as well. I haven’t seen Virginia but they must be playing well. I think the tournament is wide open.<br /> <br /> “I still can’t get over that a guy is willing to pay a billion dollars if somebody gets it right. It must be pretty up in the air. You’re going to see some crazy things.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-17/Numbers_Geography_Don_t_Matter.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-17/Numbers_Geography_Don_t_Matter.aspx 723137a2-3586-45df-897c-771fd79001ef Tue, 18 Mar 2014 04:27:14 GMT Another Comeback, But An Exit On Saturday at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, a few trends continued for the Ohio State men’s basketball team as it tangled with rival Michigan in the first semifinal.<br /> <br /> For example, the fifth-seeded Buckeyes again dug themselves a deep hole and again they returned to the hardwood at Bankers Life Fieldhouse despite the deficit. <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> led the way offensively and, as was the case in Friday’s win over Nebraska, an unlikely surge of production came from a reserve.<br /> <br /> Now for the bad news (and form-breakers): Ohio State lost to the Wolverines for the first time in seven league tournament matchups with UM. Also, OSU failed to advance from the semifinals to the Sunday final for the first time in the 10-year era of coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong>.<br /> <br /> After failing behind 15-2 in the early going and as much as 16 points (32-16), the Buckeyes rallied to take a brief lead and continued to look like a team of destiny. But top-seeded Michigan made a couple more key plays down the stretch to post a 72-69 victory.<br /> <br /> No. 8 UM (25-7) survived and earned a date with in-state foe Michigan State, the 3-seed, in the championship. The No. 24 Buckeyes (25-9) failed to make the BTT finale for the first time in six years, but Matta still found the positive.<br /> <br /> “We’re a better basketball team today than we were when we got here,” he said. “I think some guys showed they can make plays when they need to make plays.”<br /> <br /> The 6-8 Ross certainly was one of them. He had 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds in OSU’s 63-61 survival against 12th-seeded Purdue on Thursday and followed up with a career-best 26 points and 13 rebounds in the quarterfinal clash with Nebraska, a 71-67 win.<br /> <br /> On Saturday, Ross brought it again with 19 points and six boards, although he missed all five of his three-point attempts. <br /> <br /> Wing <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> struggled mightily with just thee points and a 1-for-7 shooting day but backup guard <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> picked up the slack much the way <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong> did the previous day. The speedy junior riddled Michigan with 18 points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals.<br /> <br /> “Shannon was tremendous,” Matta said. “I thought his shot preparation and what he was doing on the court was huge. He got us back in the basketball game.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Nik Stauskas</strong> had 18 points and <strong>Caris LeVert</strong> had 17 to lead the Wolverines, who won for the seventh straight time. UM also got 11 points from <strong>Glenn Robinson III</strong> and eight from center <strong>Jordan Morgan</strong>.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes did a much better job on the boards than they did in the 70-60 home loss to the Wolverines, holding a 31-26 edge there, and were a respectable 7 of 19 from long range (36.8 percent) and 27 of 56 from the field overall (48.2 percent). They also committed just 11 turnovers.<br /> <br /> Still, considering the deep-shooting show the Wolverines put on, it’s hard to believe the Buckeyes still had a chance until <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> lost control of a three-point pull-up just before the buzzer.<br /> <br /> Michigan nailed six of its first eight shots from behind the arc and finished 12 of 23 (52.3 percent).<br /> <br /> But a day after crawling out of a 48-30 chasm against Nebraska the Buckeyes again showed the heart and grit necessary to put suspense back into the ballgame. In fact, they grabbed a lead of 61-60 with 7:57 to play when <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> threw down a patented alley-oop dunk and also led 68-65 with 4:12 on the game clock.<br /> <br /> Michigan cut the Ohio State lead to 68-67 on an 18-foot jumper from Stauskas, the recently named Big Ten Player of the Year, and retook the lead for good when Robinson made two free throws with 2:55 to play.<br /> <br /> UM owned a 71-68 lead when Ross drew a foul but only made 1 of 2 at the free-throw line.<br /> <br /> Michigan’s <strong>Spike Albrecht</strong> had a chance to ice the win with 6.2 seconds left but after making his first free throw – and a timeout – he missed the second.<br /> <br /> Craft grabbed the defensive rebound and raced the other way through the middle of the floor. He appeared to have enough control and room to launch a three from the top of the key but lost the ball while going into his shooting motion.<br /> <br /> The Wolverines came up with the loose ball and Stauskas threw down a one-handed slam after time had expired for an exclamation point. UM advanced to the BTT final for the first time since the initial tournament in 1998. The Wolverines won that event but the title has since been vacated because of NCAA rules.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes put together a 21-9 run to produce a manageable halftime deficit of 41-37 but Michigan started the second half like it did the first and quickly up the lead to 54-42.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes used a 9-2 spurt to get within 56-51 and also put together a 10-2 run to take the lead mainly with Craft on the bench with four fouls.<br /> <br /> Still, it wasn’t enough this time.<br /> <br /> When reminded his team would at least get an extra day of rest for not making it to Sunday – which would have meant a record 13th BTT game for Craft and Smith – Matta shrugged at the notion.<br /> <br /> “We’ve played 21 straight games (against Big Ten teams) and the last four games have gone down to the horn,” he said. “That can really take a toll on a team.<br /> <br /> “Still, I’d probably rather have the exhaustion.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-16/Another_Comeback_But_An_Exit.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-16/Another_Comeback_But_An_Exit.aspx 4357e465-ffaf-4d04-a7b9-192408327abf Sun, 16 Mar 2014 21:52:41 GMT What Just Happened? <strong>INDIANAPOLIS –</strong> As his Buckeyes continued to sputter and Nebraska built a second-half lead of 18 points in the second quarterfinal Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, <strong>Thad Matta</strong> often turned to his assistants and offered a “what else” look of bewilderment.<br /> <br /> After the game – which included an epic comeback by No. 24 Ohio State and a hard-to-explain 71-67 win by the 5-seed over the 4-seed – the 10-year OSU head coach was asked what was entering his mind.<br /> <br /> “How long does it take to get back to Columbus?” he replied.<br /> <br /> The fan version of that may have been, “Where’s the remote?’<br /> <br /> In reality, though, Matta never was going to give up on a team, flawed as it is, that has never given up on him this season.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes (25-8) fell out of the top five of the polls and Big Ten contention after a 15-0 start, but none of their league losses was by more than 10 points.<br /> <br /> Plus, the Buckeyes had rallied feverishly in a December win over Notre Dame in New York City, sent the game to overtime and nearly won at Michigan State after trailing by 17 points with seven minutes to play, and completely turned it around in several other contests including a home win over Minnesota last month.<br /> <br /> The outlook against Nebraska, though, may have been the most bleak of all. Looking to secure an NCAA Tournament bid and continue their torrid play of the last few weeks, the Cornhuskers (19-12) grabbed a 31-28 halftime lead and ballooned it to 48-30 with 13:45 to play.<br /> <br /> “The way we closed out the first half, the way we started the second half, was bad,” Matta understated. “I gauge that by three fouls in the first two minutes and 10 seconds of the half, the missed free throws, those types of things.<br /> <br /> “But these guys stayed together, they fought, they clawed and found ways to pick up the defensive intensity. The greatest thing is everyone of those guys who made those mistakes played their way out of it, and that was the difference in the game.”<br /> <br /> One of the culprits/heroes was junior forward <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong>, who was whistled for a technical foul after shoving a ’Husker and was contributing to a turnover-plagued first half.<br /> <br /> He ended up with game highs of 26 points and 13 rebounds to outduel Big Ten leading scorer <strong>Terran Petteway</strong>, who fouled out with 20 points and five boards.<br /> <br /> OSU’s second-leading scorer, amazingly, was sophomore guard <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong>, who finished with 12 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals – all of them seemingly vital.<br /> <br /> Matta stuck with a five-guard lineup and played Della Valle 16 minutes in the second half yet could have pulled him after the youngster missed a pair of free throws.<br /> <br /> Point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong>, who embodies OSU’s guttiness, was just 2 of 7 from the field but finished with six points, six rebounds and six assists. He also came up big in the final minutes.<br /> <br /> And <strong>Shannon Scott</strong>, dismal in the first half with four turnovers, suddenly tortured Nebraska during the frantic rally. He logged nine points, four rebounds and five assists.<br /> <br /> Even with so many players suddenly finding their game, the sellout crowd still was left with mouths agape as the scarlet-clad Buckeyes ripped off a 41-19 closing salvo.<br /> <br /> How could that have just happened? And why are the Buckeyes never out of a game?<br /> <br /> “It’s a combination of a things,” junior <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> explained. “I think, one, we’re just a tough group of guys. We have a lot of pride in what’s across our chest and what this program is about. And we know that we’re never going to give up on a game.<br /> <br /> “We’re confident. We’ve been down eight with 50-some seconds left vs. Notre Dame. We were way down at the Breslin Center vs. Michigan State. We didn’t win that game but we were right there. We had a shot in regulation to win it and a shot in overtime to win it.<br /> <br /> “We know that no lead is insurmountable and we can always come back as long as we do what we do.”<br /> <br /> Added senior <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong>, who ceded his spot to Della Valle the majority of the second half, “It was a team win. We fought to the end and guys out there on the floor got energy from the bench. We fell apart momentarily but from that point we rallied as a team and drew a line in the sand.”<br /> <br /> That line looked nearly pointless when the Cornhuskers appear to gain total control of the contest minutes into the second half.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes shot 50.0 percent in the first half but trailed at the break thanks to nine turnovers and a 1-for-8 showing from behind the arc.&nbsp; Despite a very sloppy start to the second half, a basket by Ross kept the deficit manageable at 36-30.<br /> <br /> That’s when NU posted a 12-0 surge to open up a 48-30 lead. In that stretch, OSU missed three layups and a tip-in attempt, committed a pair of turnovers and also committed five fouls including Ross’ technical.<br /> <br /> Petteway made the two free throws, <strong>Benny Parker</strong> added a basket and Petteway dropped home two more freebies after the shove to push the lead to 18.<br /> <br /> That’s when the Buckeyes woke up and cranked up their fullcourt pressure with aplomb.<br /> <br /> “It was kind of like an NBA game where a player or coach gets fired up, you get a technical and then you start rallying around it,” Craft said. “I don’t condone that. I’m pretty sure we got down 16 from it, so you don’t want that to happen. But if it works out, it works out.”<br /> <br /> Ross actually started the comeback by splashing a three to cut the lead to 48-33.<br /> <br /> “That play was over,” he said of the T. “I wasn’t thinking about that play again. I looked up and saw the score and knew how bad we were down. We just had to get some motivation to come back in that game.”<br /> <br /> The turnaround came from fierce defense.<br /> <br /> “If you’re down 18 and trade buckets, it doesn’t do us much good,” Thompson said. “We had to get some stops and get ourselves going.”<br /> <br /> Many of those key defensive possessions came with Craft and Scott in the backcourt, Smith on the wing, the 6-5 Della Valle at power forward and the 6-7 Thompson at center.<br /> <br /> “We’ve never done that, but it was time to play,” Thompson said. “There’s really no time to ask questions at that point in the game. You’ve got to find a way to get it done.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Shavon Shields</strong> had 12 points for Nebraska but just four in the second half. <strong>Ray Gallegos</strong> had eight points by halftime and a doughnut thereafter.<br /> <br /> Della Valle allowed OSU to switch easier on the perimeter and he also managed to affect the Cornhuskers in the open court.<br /> <br /> His defensive rebound and coast-to-coast drive cut the lead to 48-37 and moments later he provided a steal and a another hanging basket to make it 48-39.<br /> <br /> A dunk by Thompson with 4:39 to play trimmed it to 58-56 but <strong>Walter Pitchford</strong>, who hurt OSU with three treys and 15 points, made a 21-footer from the top of the key for a 61-56 edge.<br /> <br /> Della Valle responded with consecutive blocked shots and three-point to pull OSU back to within a hoop at 63-61. He added four made free throws in the final 12 seconds, providing the Buckeyes with a four-point lead each time.<br /> <br /> “He’s a gamer,” Craft said. “He’s done a phenomenal job of just humbling himself and waiting for his opportunity, and he took advantage today. That’s what we see in practice on a daily basis.”<br /> <br /> “Amedeo is a great player, man,” Ross added. “You can see what he did in the summertime over there in his league (in Italy), winning MVP and he won a championship. He plays with a swag. I don’t know, it’s something about his body. He’s able to do some stuff that I didn’t think he was supposed to do.”<br /> <br /> Della Valle drew a horde of reporters afterward but shrugged at the idea of being an impact player.<br /> <br /> “Really my confidence doesn’t go down,” he said. “I know the player I can be even though sometimes I don’t show it on the court. I know what I do in practice and how hard I work.”<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Ross scored in double figures for the 15th time in his last 17 games and set a new career high.<br /> <br /> “He’s been great,” Della Valle said. “He’s been good for us, scoring the ball when we need him to, even playing defense. I think he’s really stepping up.”<br /> <br /> With the win, OSU improved to 21-5 at the Big Ten Tournament in the Matta era and will move on to face rival Michigan in the first semifinal on Saturday afternoon (1:40 p.m. Eastern, CBS). The top-seeded Wolverines 24-7 also had a fright but edged 9-seed Illinois 64-63.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes will be playing on the third consecutive day but are used to such challenges. Smith and Craft, for example, will be playing in their 12th BTT game and figure to have some fight left in them.<br /> <br /> “It’s Michigan,” Smith said. “There’s no other team we’ll pull together and have energy for more than those guys. They’re just as good as anyone in the country and we’re looking forward to it.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-14/What_Just_Happened.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-14/What_Just_Happened.aspx 52eac3fe-b8a1-4931-b2be-94510c464e88 Sat, 15 Mar 2014 01:12:35 GMT Q On One End, Lenzelle On The Other <strong>INDIANAPOLIS –</strong> You can’t put lipstick on a pig but sometimes you’ve got to use that swine to get you from point A to point B – like from Thursday to Friday.<br /> <br /> The 24th-ranked Ohio State basketball team did basically that on the first day of the Big Ten Tournament here at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, edging league bottom feeder Purdue 63-61 in the 5-12 game to advance to the quarterfinals.<br /> <br /> For the Buckeyes (24-8), the victory even counts as momentum considering they came up with a bevy of key defensive stops in a 69-67 regular-season-ending win over Michigan State on Sunday and that they dropped their share of tight contests during the conference season.<br /> <br /> “It’s another ugly game that we’ve found ourselves in, and we’ve been in quite a few this year,” point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> said. “It’s nice to find a way to win one.”<br /> <br /> Like on Sunday, the blueprint centered on the defensive end of the court. The Buckeyes trailed for much of the second half and never led by more than five points down the stretch but came up with clutch plays while digging in on defense.<br /> <br /> After PU’s <strong>Kendall Stephens</strong> nailed a three to tie the score at 54 with 6:06 to play, the Boilermakers (15-17) made just 2 of 6 shots and committed four turnovers, many of them under intense pressure.<br /> <br /> Still, they stayed right in the fray with four players in double figures and pivot <strong>A.J. Hammons</strong> adding nine rebounds and five blocked shots to his team-high 15 points.<br /> <br /> “They got experienced guards, guys who attack you, they’ve got Stephens knocking down all kinds of shots, and A.J. Hammons is always a load and always gives us trouble, so it’s not your typical 12-seed,” OSU junior <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> said.<br /> <br /> “They’re a not a team that you can just brush over. You’ve got to go out and beat them. It wasn’t pretty but we got it done – but this is definitely the last game we can come out and play like this and win in March.”<br /> <br /> Certainly the path tightens quickly. Fifth-seeded Ohio State, playing on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since <strong>Thad Matta</strong>’s initial season as coach (2004-05), next faces 4-seed Nebraska (19-11) on Friday (approx. 2:30 Eastern, ESPN).<br /> <br /> The Cornhuskers, who went 11-7 in the Big Ten regular season after most experts picked them to finish dead-last, are on top of their game and coming off a huge home win over Wisconsin.<br /> <br /> Ohio State might not be able to match their firepower but has a hot hand in forward <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong>, who notched his fifth career double-double with 19 points and a career-best 15 rebounds vs. the Boilermakers.<br /> <br /> Ross was not incredibly efficient – he was 8 of 21 from the field – but he held up through 37 bruising minutes of court time and befuddled Purdue.<br /> <br /> “I’ve got to give him credit, he kept playing today,” Matta said. “If he thought something should have been called, he kept playing, he stuck with it, and really had a heck of a game.”<br /> <br /> Ross spun, drop-stepped and twisted into traffic to flip and float up soft attempts in the lane. He also took a three in the second half just to keep the Boilers honest.<br /> <br /> “Finding different ways to score is what I do, so that’s always been a part of my game,” said the gangly 6-8 junior. “I’m fine either way, as long as the ball goes in the hole. That just shows my versatility being able to go outside to shoot the three or down in the paint to handle what I can.”<br /> <br /> Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Ross was up to the task of scoring down low on a day when they were a miserable 1 of 14 from behind the arc.<br /> <br /> “When you’re having quote-unquote one of those days, you’ve got to find ways to generate points and today Q was a great generator of productivity for us,” Matta said.<br /> <br /> However, Purdue actually outscored the Buckeyes in the paint, 42-36, thanks in large part to the yeoman work of 7-foot, 251-pound Hammons, who continued to create problems for OSU.<br /> <br /> “That’s a big dude,” Ross said. “He’s in the paint disturbing shots or blocking shots and he takes up a lot of space.”<br /> <br /> Hammons came into the game with 29 points and 23 rebounds in two regular-season contests with the Buckeyes and did more damage in perhaps his last game as a collegian. The sophomore is contemplating whether or not to seek early entry into the NBA draft.<br /> <br /> Craft was able to offset Hammons with 16 points and added two rebounds, five assists and three steals.<br /> <br /> Perhaps the top performer of the outing, though, was senior backcourt mate <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> Even though he didn’t have a made field goal in the second half, his defensive prowess and three made free throws were the difference.<br /> <br /> With OSU trying to protect a 62-60 lead, Smith broke up a handoff to PU guard <strong>Terone Johnson</strong> and zipped the other way with the ball. He was fouled with 5.1 seconds and made 1 of 2 free throws.<br /> <br /> “I hit the ball and he bobbled it,” Smith explained. “In my mind it was ‘ go score,’ but I remember what happened to us at Wisconsin, so it was ‘slow down, get fouled, make the free throws.’<br /> <br /> “That’s big-time right there. Any time you get a stop you want to capitalize off of that. It takes the gusto away from teams.”<br /> <br /> Earlier, after Craft kept alive a key possession by stealing the ball from Hammons on his way down with a rebound, Smith had fought his way for position for an offensive rebound of a missed three by Thompson and drew a foul on <strong>Errick Peck</strong>. He made both free throws with 28 seconds remaining to push the OSU lead to 61-58.<br /> <br /> After Smith provided the 63-60 lead, Matta elected to have <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> purposely foul <strong>Ronnie Johnson</strong> with 2.7 seconds remaining, a tactic that nearly backfired.<br /> <br /> Ronnie Johnson made the first free throw, purposely missed the second, and, after officials checked the monitor for several minutes, ruled the ball went off Smith’s fingertips.<br /> <br /> “That was a great call,” Smith said. “They got that one right.”<br /> <br /> Purdue coach <strong>Matt Painter</strong> called timeout and drew up a potential winning play as Terone Johnson found himself lining up a three with a tick to go. Smith swerved around Hammons to fly out on the shot, which was on line but short.<br /> <br /> “In my history here I think that was just as good a screen as any,” Smith said. “Hammons, obviously, is huge, and at that point I had a decision to stay on the screen and call for help or try to fight around it as much as possible.”<br /> <br /> He chose correctly and again was a difference-maker.<br /> <br /> “Those are game-winning plays, and that’s exactly what we need this time of year,” Craft said.<br /> <br /> “He turned it around,” Matta added when asked about Smith. “He was not very good in the first half and to his credit he played a lot better basketball in the second half.”<br /> <br /> Matta subbed in <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong> with 12:05 to play and left the sophomore on the floor until the 7:16 mark, allowing Smith to be fresh for the stretch.<br /> <br /> It turned out the Buckeyes needed every ounce of that energy just to survive.<br /> <br /> “You don’t come into these games expecting it to be easy,” Craft said. “Anything worth having you’ve got to work for.”<br /> <br /> Matta improved to 20-5 in the Big Ten Tournament, which is the best record by any coach in the history of the event, and many of the victories were pre-weekend squeakers like this one.<br /> <br /> “Despite how we played this game we know our main goal was to find a way to win, so we’re satisfied,” Scott said. “There’s not enough time to dwell on how we played today. That would affect us the rest of the tournament.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-13/Q_On_One_End_Lenzelle_On_The_Other.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-13/Q_On_One_End_Lenzelle_On_The_Other.aspx 102cd8f0-5111-43cf-aed1-106255da2b1c Fri, 14 Mar 2014 01:17:42 GMT Look Out, Indy -- Matta's Back If any of the 12 member institutions have an intimidation edge heading to the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis this week, it could be argued that it is Ohio State.<br /> <br /> No, the Buckeyes did not mop up the league and win the regular-season crown as in some recent years. And, no, OSU is not the hottest team in the Midwest right now.<br /> <br /> Far from it.<br /> <br /> However, the Buckeyes still have <strong>Thad Matta</strong> as their coach and his success at this time of year is, well, staggering.<br /> <br /> In Matta’s 10 seasons at the helm of the program, the Buckeyes are a very robust 54-14 in March, which equates to a winning percentage a shade below 80. No OSU team under his watch has lost more than two games in the most crucial month of college basketball and his teams simply find a way in the postseason.<br /> <br /> The Big Ten Tournament, for example, has been a playground for Ohio State. The Buckeyes have advanced to Sunday’s tournament final five years in a row and are the defending champs after cutting down the nets at Chicago’s United Center last year.<br /> <br /> This time the tourney returns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Buckeyes reigned in 2010 – who can forget <strong>Evan Turner</strong>’s 37-foot buzzer beater against Michigan? – and again in 2011, when they wiped the field and headed to the Big Dance as the nation’s No. 1 team.<br /> <br /> The last time the event was in Indy, 2012, Ohio State lost in a doozy of a championship game with Michigan State but went on to the Final Four.<br /> <br /> So it seems there are almost good results and major momentum for Matta’s crew at the conclusion of the league tournament.<br /> <br /> “I’ve had a lot of coaches call me and ask (about the success,” Matta said. “But in terms of preparation, in terms of pregame speeches, in terms of what we eat, it’s kind of always the same. I wish I had a secret.”<br /> <br /> While Matta can’t explain the phenomenon, he is proud of his 19-5 mark in the BTT – and seven conference tournament titles in his previous 13 seasons as a head coach.<br /> <br /> “It does make you feel good,” he admitted. “It probably says, hey, you’re playing pretty good basketball at the end of the year. It means a lot more, I think, to the players and fans than all the coaches combined.”<br /> <br /> To enjoy another extended stay, Matta has stressed concentration, effort and toughness as much as X’s and O’s.<br /> <br /> “All he wants is for us to come out and play our best basketball for 40 minutes,” junior wing <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> said. “He doesn’t care about our tournament seeding, he doesn’t care about the regular season we had, he doesn’t care about anything going on. He just wants to win the next basketball game we’re going out to play.”<br /> <br /> The fifth-seeded Buckeyes (23-8) are favored to do just that as they’ll face league doormat Purdue (15-16) in the 5-12 game on Thursday (approx. 2:30 Eastern, Big Ten Network).<br /> <br /> No. 8 Indiana and No. 9 Illinois clash in the first game of the tourney and the Buckeyes and Boilermakers follow.<br /> <br /> A win for OSU sets up a date with No. 4 Nebraska, perhaps the hottest team in the conference, on Friday afternoon. If the Buckeyes should make it to Saturday’s semifinals they likely could find themselves paired with top-seeded Michigan.<br /> <br /> And even the first test will be no picnic. OSU swept the season series with Purdue with a 78-69 win in West Lafayette and a 67-49 wipeout of the Boilers last month in Columbus. Still, Matt Painter’s team is known for its physical play, ball pressure and the presence of 7-foot center <strong>A.J. Hammons</strong>, who had a combined 29 points and 23 rebounds in the two regular-season contests.<br /> <br /> “We have seen them over the course of the last couple weeks play some unbelievable basketball,” Matta said of the Boilers.<br /> <br /> Even if OSU can get by Purdue it may come with a price. And weariness is sure to set in at some point if the Buckeyes make it to the weekend.<br /> <br /> “Last year when we played Wisconsin (in the championship), guys’ legs were heavy and there was a little bit of fatigue going on, but I still think I’m a young guy,” Thompson said. “I still remember playing five games in eight hours in AAU. We’re in good condition, we have the player that can do it, and I think we’re tough enough to do it.<br /> <br /> “Everything we do in June and July and August is geared towards March and hopefully April.”<br /> <br /> Experts and even casual fans, though, would dispute the idea of the Buckeyes playing deep into March this year. After all, they have to play on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since Matta’s initial season of 2004-05 and have been maddeningly inconsistent throughout the season and even during the course of several games.<br /> <br /> OSU even limped into the regular-season stretch drive with consecutive losses at Penn State (Feb. 27) and Indiana (March 2). However, the Buckeyes appear to have some mojo back after Sunday’s 69-67 survival against Michigan State on Senior Day.<br /> <br /> “We didn’t play perfect on both sides of the ball by any means – our offensive could have played better, our defense could have played better – but I think that we really fought for 40 minutes,” Thompson said. “They went on a few big runs in the second half and every time they went on a run we punched back. That’s just what we need to bring in the tournament.”<br /> <br /> And, if you’re lucky enough clothes and personal items for a four-day stay.<br /> <br /> “I know there’s a mall down there and you can get something if you shop there,” Matta joked.<br /> <br /> Matta won’t field an elite team this year, but he knows the conference tournament will have an anything-goes flavor to it, especially after a regular season rife with upsets like Illinois winning at Michigan State, Penn State sweeping OSU and Northwestern rolling at Wisconsin.<br /> <br /> “I think this year’s Big Ten Tournament could be one of the classics of all-time,” said the OSU coach, who played some of his college ball in Indy at Butler University. “I see where <strong>Warren Buffett</strong> is giving a billion dollars (to someone who picks every game correctly in the 2014 NCAA Tournament). I’d like to see somebody pick the route of this one as well.”<br /> <br /> Added senior point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong>, “Hopefully we can play a few games. It’s another opportunity to play more basketball and hopefully we can take advantage of it.”<br /> <br /> Thompson said the one-and-done nature of the postseason will be reason enough for the Buckeyes to give maximum effort.<br /> <br /> “It’s always a different mind-set when you get to tournament time,” he said. “Something small can end your season.<br /> <br /> “We’re packed for four days. We expect to stay through Sunday.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-12/Look_Out_Indy_--_Matta_s_Back.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-12/Look_Out_Indy_--_Matta_s_Back.aspx 7785ac81-2e7b-472b-8c08-6bb126d1f33c Thu, 13 Mar 2014 03:13:38 GMT Vintage Craft, Perfect Sendoff <strong>Tom Izzo</strong> was in a foul mood after his Michigan State Spartans lost a palpitating 69-67 decision to Ohio State Sunday evening.<br /> <br /> Foul as in he couldn’t stop talking about the foul trouble MSU encountered, which, of course, is coach code for THE REFEREES STUNK.<br /> <br /> But just before The Iz got up to head to the bus and back to East Lansing, a reporter decided to fire off a question about OSU seniors <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> and <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong>, who were honored prior to their final game at the Schottenstein Center.<br /> <br /> “I think they stand for everything that I would want a player to stand for and I was honored to coach against them for four years,” the longtime MSU coach said with his scowl still drawn on his face.<br /> <br /> Izzo then turned his comments specifically to Craft, OSU’s pain-in-the-rump point guard who also embodies what hard-nose basketball is all about.<br /> <br /> “He represents everything that I think is right,” Izzo said. “He struggled a little bit this year for a lot of different reasons but he made some big plays and had a very good game on Senior Night. A kid like that deserves to, and that was kind of his staple, so it was probably a poetic justice way to end the game the way he did it, and I give him a lot of credit for that.”<br /> <br /> Izzo referred basically to the final 4:30 of the game, when the Spartans went scoreless. Or maybe he was talking about the 9-2 run the Buckeyes (23-8, 10-8) used to close the game that included 1-for-5 MSU shooting and five turnovers by the No. 22 Spartans (23-8, 12-6).<br /> <br /> Or maybe he was thinking of the diving rebound by Craft or the way he flew out onto shooters with the game on the line or that he caused <strong>Denzel Valentine</strong> to travel on a key possession or almost single-handedly thwarted MSU’s fast break or how he suffocated <strong>Gary Harris</strong> and forced him to short a jumper on the game’s final shot.<br /> <br /> No matter how you look back on it, Ohio State came up with a must-have, not-so-pretty, blood-and-guts win thanks to blinding defense – and No. 4 was the key to all of it.<br /> <br /> Poetic justice indeed.<br /> <br /> Craft not only waved goodbye to the sellout crowd of 18,809 and set the all-time Big Ten record for career steals, he also was vintage Craft down the stretch, flaws and all.<br /> <br /> The most memorable moment, though, came with 29 seconds to go in the game. That’s when, trailing 68-67, Izzo drew up a play for <strong>Adreian Payne</strong> to launch a go-ahead three. <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> flew out on Payne and bothered the shot and Craft then swan-dived onto the rebound as it hit the floor.<br /> <br /> The Findlay, Ohio, product rose to his feet and pumped his fist, turning an already throaty crowd into delirium.<br /> <br /> “As only Aaron Craft can do,” OSU head coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong> said, “he comes over (to the huddle) and says, ‘Why did you call time out? It was a possession, you didn’t have to waste the timeout.’ I said, ‘I didn’t call the timeout’ Sam Thompson chimes in and says, ‘I called the timeout.’<br /> <br /> “But for him to have that awareness and question my coaching intellect … I will forgive him.<br /> <br /> “It was just a big-time play. I would say that would probably be the most fitting end to an Ohio State guy’s career in his last home game to make that play. For him to come up with that, I don’t know if you could describe his career any better than that.”<br /> <br /> A former high school quarterback who quickly won over Ohio State fans with his toughness, hustle and derring-do, Craft, of course, bloodied his elbow on the play.<br /> <br /> “At that moment, that’s what I have to do for our team,” Craft said with some of the blood stained on his jersey.<br /> <br /> Craft, however, was fouled with 21 ticks left and made just 1 of 2 free throws, which set up the gut-wrenching final seconds as All-Big Ten guard Harris headed the other direction with a chance to ruin Senior Night.<br /> <br /> “He’s a taller guy so I just wanted to keep him from getting to the basket and try to contest his shot as much as possible,” Craft said. “I didn’t want him to get a three off because that beats us, so the worst thing I wanted to happen was for us to go to overtime.<br /> <br /> “He made a good move, got a good shot off and luckily it was short. And Lenzelle did a phenomenal job of tipping the ball so Adreian couldn’t tip-dunk it to make it go into overtime.”<br /> <br /> Game over. Craft and Smith embrace to celebrate their 117th win together at OSU – the most for any group in program history – and last at home. They helped guide OSU to 52 Big Ten wins, a Final Four appearance, two Elite Eights, and three Sweet 16s. The duo combined to record 2,260 points, 1,007 rebounds, 863 assists, and 408 steals.<br /> <br /> Craft recorded 12 points, three rebounds, seven assists and four steals vs. the Spartans – a seemingly ideal line. He will walk away as the program’s all-time leader in assists (673) and steals (328), the latter now four better than the conference mark set decades ago by Illinois’ <strong>Bruce Douglas</strong>.<br /> <br /> When a reporter congratulated him on that feat, Craft replied, “What? Oh. All right. I honestly thought I had it already.<br /> <br /> “It feels good, though. It doesn’t mean a ton right now but looking back when I’m older I can tell the people around me I was decent playing basketball back in the day.”<br /> <br /> Few student-athletes actually attain the status of beloved, but Craft would be very high on that list as well. His father, <strong>John Craft</strong>, told SportsRappUp.com it’s because of his fierce play, obvious passion to win, and statements like the sheepish reaction to the steals record.<br /> <br /> “I think what it goes back to is he’s very genuine,” Mr. Craft said. “What you get is truly what is there. He is very much a genuine person whether it’s academics, whether it comes to helping his community or the basketball team. And the other thing is, he’s a true Buckeye. And he will be that way for the rest of his life.”<br /> <br /> Craft was a freshman bench player in 2010-11 on one of the best Ohio State teams of all-time. All five starters and several reserves on that team were Ohioans born and bred. This season, Craft is the only one with such roots.<br /> <br /> During that initial season until now, the former Liberty Benton two-sport standout has become an all-time great Buckeye.<br /> <br /> “I remember the night <strong>David Lighty</strong>, <strong>Jon Diebler</strong>, <strong>Dallas</strong> (<strong>Lauderdale</strong>) and <strong>Eddie Days</strong> had their Senior Night (in 2011),” John Craft said. “It was spectacular and everything that went with it and what the game meant, but it seems like it was just a couple months ago. For this day to be here, it’s kind of out there for me.”<br /> <br /> “The other thing is our attention has been diverted with the women, which is kind of a blessing. We’ve been driving back and forth from Indianapolis the last three days. We haven’t really had a chance to fret over this or think about it too much because we’ve been so excited by the way they’ve started playing.”<br /> <br /> Mr. Craft referred to his daughter, <strong>Caity Craft</strong>, who is a sophomore guard for the Ohio State women’s team and turned in a sensational showing at the Big Ten Tournament.<br /> <br /> The women saw their season end in a tough 77-73 semifinal loss to Iowa, but that allowed the entire family and Aaron’s fiancée, <strong>Amber Petersen</strong>, to attend the Senior Night festivities.<br /> <br /> The presence of Cait may have been as important as anything to Aaron.<br /> <br /> “If they weren’t brother and sister they’d be soul mates,” John Craft said. “They confide in each other in things. He’ll tell her things that he won’t tell anyone else, and there’s been that trust there, which has been a huge part of his support system. He has a great support system in place, Buckeye Nation has been great for him, but to have Cait here and have him be able to be here for Cait, it speaks volumes.”<br /> <br /> When asked if his son seemed sentimental about his final home appareance, Mr. Craft said, “He might have gone through a couple periods of that but I think right now his main concern is this single game and what he needs to do to help the team win. Knowing him as well as I do, I think he’s probably shut everything out about the Senior Day.”<br /> <br /> Aaron agreed.<br /> <br /> “The toughest time was being around my parents before the game,” he said. “After that, once we got back in the locker room it was back to business and doing whatever we had to do to win this game. It’s a lot more fun right now than if we would have lost.”<br /> <br /> That was evident in the joyous scene after the final horn sounded. Craft had helped improve Matta’s record to 9-1 in senior sendoffs, but, more important, he and Smith – who had nine points, eight rebounds and four assists – put the Buckeyes in the right frame of mind with the postseason just ahead.<br /> <br /> “It means a lot to me personally, but this is a huge step for our team,” Smith said. “It just shows that when we come to play and fight for one another, we can beat anybody in the country, I think.”<br /> <br /> Added Craft, “I’m not worried about how I’m going to be remembered and any of that. It’s all moving forward. This is what we need to continue to do, this is how we need to play, especially down the stretch.<br /> <br /> “The way we played defense and really stepped up is what needs to be our calling card, and when we don’t do that we’re not going to win too many games.”<br /> <br /> That, too, is Aaron Craft in a nutshell – a competitor ever-determined to find the edge.<br /> <br /> “He’s pretty much the same person he was when he came down here four years ago, and it would have been real easy for him to divert away from that,” his father said.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-10/Vintage_Craft_Perfect_Sendoff.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-10/Vintage_Craft_Perfect_Sendoff.aspx d8c01050-74f4-4019-b23f-71137c49f015 Mon, 10 Mar 2014 14:25:00 GMT Fickell Says He Never Fretted Thursday provided a second day of workouts for the Ohio State football team, which is trying to spit out the bitter taste of the end of the 2013 season.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes are more than happy to be back to work, especially the coaches, after seeing their 24-game win streak end in a Big Ten Championship setback to Michigan State followed by a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.<br /> <br /> The defense was sieve-like in both of those contests, leading to speculation that <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> might relieve <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> of his defensive coordinator duties or even fire him.<br /> <br /> Cooler heads prevailed, and Meyer instead made two noteworthy pickups to the defensive staff – longtime Penn State D-line coach <strong>Larry Johnson</strong> was hired to replace the departed <strong>Mike Vrabel</strong>, and former Wisconsin and Arkansas assistant <strong>Chris Ash</strong> moved into the safties/co-coordinator role of <strong>Everett Withers</strong>, now the head coach at James Madison.<br /> <br /> Even when Ash was brought aboard, some followers of the program assumed Fickell’s role would be devalued. But that is not the case. On Thursday, Fickell addressed the media as he has many times, as OSU’s top defensive coach, and reporters asked how he handled all the conjecture about his job.<br /> <br /> “You know what, like I do everything else,” Fickell said. “Statistics, at the end of the year, you really look back at them, do you want to dive into statistics? Well, where were you in scoring defense? What is the most important? You can always find something that you can get better at, you’ve got to find something that you can hang your hat on.<br /> <br /> “But the reality is as you go on battling, if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. But what are you going to do, live your life worried about everything? How would that be? How much excitement, what would that do for you? You know what, you’re confident in what you do and you believe in what you do. If that’s what the plan is, that’s what the plan is. I want what’s best for this place. Coach Meyer knows that and we talked about that from day one.<br /> <br /> “If something is better for this place, then so be it because I want what is best for my alma mater, my university. Obviously, we have enough confidence in what it is that we do. We don’t just look at one single stat. I know you keep dwelling upon it and everybody dwells upon it, but the reality is this is a team game. People ask all kinds of questions. Why is this the best sport known to man? Because it’s a team sport. It’s more like life. If something happens to one of your buddies and he doesn’t pick you up, do you de-friend him for the rest of his life? Things like that. That’s what you learn from this.<br /> <br /> “The examples we set for our guys are the same examples we all live our life by. You can’t worry. Because there was a bombing in the World Trade Center a few years ago, do you never want to fly again? What are you going to do? I know it’s comparing it to different things, but the reality is you have confidence in what you do and believe in what you do and whatever happens, happens.”<br /> <br /> Fickell was asked if he could pinpoint what went wrong for OSU defensively last season.<br /> <br /> “There was a combination of things,” he said. “It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish. And when things start to go and you lose your confidence, it’s tough. As coaches, you try and put a finger in all the holes you’ve got. You try and stop everything and you can’t stop anything.<br /> <br /> “As you look back, that’s the one thing you could say, ‘Hey, man, we tried to stop everything and we didn’t do a good job of stopping one thing in particular,’ and it cost us.”<br /> <br /> Fickell said he will continue to coach with the wishes of Meyer in mind.<br /> <br /> “He wants to be great,” Fickell said. “It’s pretty self-explanatory. We want to challenge everything now and say you’re going to give up a play here or there, but we can’t lose confidence in what we’re doing. If a guy catches one, he catches one. The idea of bend but don’t break is not exactly the mentality that Coach Meyer likes.<br /> <br /> “As we get into our third year together, you figure out each other and hopefully you can do a better job with it.”<br /> <br /> Fickell, who also tutors the linebackers, was quick to remind that OSU still posted 12 wins last year but also said he is open to change with the approach. With spring drills afoot, he said the concentration right now is to make sure all four defensive assistants – <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong> will continue to work with the cornerbacks as well as serve as special teams coordinator – are on the same page.<br /> <br /> The first step is simplifying the defense.<br /> <br /> “I think that’s where it’s got to start,” Fickell said. “The offenses, in everything they do, make you prepare for every single thing. That’s the hard development for young guys. The idea is to go back and simplify things and let those young guys play fast.”<br /> <br /> As for working with Ash and Johnson instead of Withers and his buddy Vrabel, Fickell assured there would be no issues.<br /> <br /> “The most important thing is we ask our guys to do their one-11th and play together,” he said. “It’s not any different for the coaches. It doesn’t matter about titles. Coach (Meyer) has challenged us. For the last month, we have been in there and battling through things so we can be on the same page.<br /> <br /> “Chris brings that ability to broaden yourself. You’ve done things a certain way for a long time. There are a bunch of different ways. In my time here at Ohio State, we’ve probably played every different kind of defense. He brings a different perspective on where he’s been, whether it was in the SEC or Wisconsin or Drake, where he went to school.<br /> <br /> “Just like having Larry, you have a guy who has done it a long time and you have a guy who brings some calmness and confidence to your room. It’s how the four of us mesh together. That’s been the most exciting thing for me the last four weeks.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Shoring Up The Middle</strong><br /> <br /> Fickell has two returning starting linebackers at his disposal but will be hard-pressed to find a suitable replacement for All-American <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong>, OSU’s leading tackler the past couple years.<br /> <br /> Shazier left after a monster junior year for the NFL draft and just ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at Ohio State’s Pro Day on Friday.<br /> <br /> Back to claim their starting spots – if they can hold off all challengers – are <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> and <strong>Joshua Perry</strong>.<br /> <br /> A senior who has failed to live up to the hype as a topflight recruit, Grant says he is healthy and ready to hold down the fort at middle linebacker. Perry came on strong last year on the strong side, often taking advantage of opponents’ preoccupation with Shazier.<br /> <br /> In the very early going, redshirt freshmen <strong>Darron Lee</strong> and <strong>Chris Worley</strong> have taken the majority of reps at Shazier’s weakside spot.<br /> <br /> Pushing Perry will be <strong>Camren Williams</strong> and <strong>Trey Johnson</strong> while true freshman <strong>Raekwon McMillan</strong>, already enrolled, is breathing down the neck of Grant. Walk-on <strong>Joe Burger</strong> also is getting work in the middle.<br /> <br /> “We will rely on those older guys,” Fickell said of Grant and Perry. “They have been through a lot of battles and a lot of ups and downs. They’ve been through a 24-game winning streak and a two-game losing streak. They have to feed off of those experiences they’ve had.”<br /> <br /> Grant confirmed he was slowed for much of last season with a high ankle sprain and pinched nerve in his back. He’s now full-go.<br /> <br /> “I think he is refocused,” Fickell said. “We need senior leadership. You’re best when your seniors play best. When they play really good, you’re going to have a good season.”<br /> <br /> Adding to that focus is the presence of McMillan, considered by some services as the nation’s top interior LB prospect while dominating as a Georgia prepster. McMillan, who will don No. 5, is a 6-2, 240-pound specimen who admitted on National Signing Day that he is thinking about starting right away for the Buckeyes.<br /> <br /> Fickell, though, was cautious about talking up the youngster too much after just two days on the field with him.<br /> <br /> “It’s hard because nobody has put a true helmet on anybody yet,” Fickell said. “But you can see the confidence of a guy and a guy who has a lot of true instincts. It’s something you hold your breath on. Coach (Meyer) keeps coming over to me. I said I’m going to hold my tongue until we put some shoulder pads and get out of the underwear stuff.<br /> <br /> “Raekwon is a great kid. He is level-headed. He’s not walking around like he’s an angel because he was a five-star (recruit). You wouldn’t know it. He doesn’t get caught up in all of that stuff. He’s working hard and he’s grinding.”<br /> <br /> And that, believe it or not, is music to the ears of Grant.<br /> <br /> “He is very talented,” Grant said of McMillan. “He came in with a lot of things that a lot of freshmen don’t come in with. He brings in good competition. When a guy comes in like that, it makes you want to work on your craft even more and do the things you have to do to get better.<br /> <br /> “That’s like my little brother. Part of my job is to help him and make sure he doesn’t get caught up in some of the things I did. He’s doing great so far and I know he’s going to have success here, and I want to share in that.”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-07/Fickell_Says_He_Never_Fretted.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-03-07/Fickell_Says_He_Never_Fretted.aspx b53208ef-05b6-4177-ac8e-41681785b4cc Fri, 07 Mar 2014 18:59:43 GMT In Fourth Place And Desperate Athletes usually don’t like to describe their outlook as desperate, but Ohio State swingman <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> had no problem admitting that’s his mind-set with the team heading to Penn State with just three regular-season games remaining.<br /> <br /> The No. 22 Buckeyes (22-6, 9-6 in the Big Ten) are not exactly downtrodden – a lot of college teams would love to swap positions with them – but they want to at least hang onto fourth place in the conference and find some more momentum with the Big Ten Tournament beckoning.<br /> <br /> Winners of six of its last seven games after a stunning 71-70 overtime loss in Columbus to PSU on Jan. 29, Ohio State begins its stretch run Thursday night (7 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2) in Happy Valley and also treks to Bloomington to face Indiana on Sunday before hosting the regular-season finale with rival Michigan State on March 9.<br /> <br /> The scenario has the Buckeyes thinking tic-tac-toe … with a W in each box.<br /> <br /> “It’s definitely desperation,” Thompson said. “Every game from here on out is a must-win. These last three games do a lot for our seeding in the Big Ten Tournament and hopefully the NCAA Tournament. And obviously when we get to those tournaments it’s one and out.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes can’t envision heading into the postseason soon after being swept by Penn State and they will do everything in their power to erase that possibility.<br /> <br /> The Nittany Lions (13-14, 4-10) are the doormat of the Big Ten but are feisty and have been very competitive in the vast majority of their games. Plus, they’ve already proved they can handle Ohio State.<br /> <br /> On the flip side, the Buckeyes now know what to expect and will have revenge on their minds.<br /> <br /> “We know what they want to do offensively, we know what they want to do defensively, and we’ve got the added incentive from the loss we had here at home,” Thompson said.<br /> <br /> In the first meeting, the Lions took ownership of the boards, knocked around OSU leading scorer <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> and got a monster night from veteran guard <strong>D.J. Newbill</strong>, who went off for 25 points and hit several big shots including a three that sent the game to overtime.<br /> <br /> How will the Buckeyes counter?<br /> <br /> “Just stick to our principles,” Thompson said. “I don’t want to take anything away from (Newbill), he hit some big shots, but the shot at the end of regulation, that’s a messed-up switch on our part on just a guard-to-guard handoff. We usually switch those and we didn’t switch that. So I think if we stick to our principles we’ll do a better job.<br /> <br /> “They’re one of the hardest-playing teams in the Big Ten, they’re one of the most physical teams in the Big Ten, and they obviously have confidence against us. We have to come out with a high level of focus, a high level of intensity to get the win.”<br /> <br /> OSU’s focus and intensity certainly have varied during the season but the Buckeyes seem to be steadying. They opened February with wins at Wisconsin and Iowa – who sit just above them and just below them in the league standings, respectively – and wiped away Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern and Minnesota by an average of 15 points.<br /> <br /> “It’s amazing when you look at where we were at that point and the level that we’ve been playing at (lately),” said head coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong>.<br /> <br /> The turning point appears to be the loss to Penn State, which left senior <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> sniffling in postgame interviews and labeling the setback “embarrassing.”<br /> <br /> “I think that was an attention-getter,” Matta said.<br /> <br /> This month has brought welcome performances from several Buckeyes, especially Thompson, who found his outside shooting stroke vs. Northwestern and helped launch a second-half explosion against Minnesota by torturing the Golden Gophers with several awe-inducing fastbreak finishes.<br /> <br /> When asked if he believes he can be a consistent secondary scorer to Ross, Thompson said, “I think so. I have to continue to be aggressive, continue to make plays, and do so in the flow of the offense and in the flow of the team.”<br /> <br /> Added Matta, “As long as Sam keeps the focus on the right things in terms of taking what is given to him and making the most of those opportunities. I like the energy he’s playing with and defensively he’s really, really doing a heck of a job for us. And the fact that he is scoring the ball has been very beneficial to us.<br /> <br /> “He’s made some timely baskets for us, and that’s good to see. I want Sam being aggressive.”<br /> <br /> Ross continues to lead OSU with 14.3 points per game, but he’s as excited as anyone to see others rise up and held the cause.<br /> <br /> “I think we’re a way better team when everybody is being aggressive and trying hard to attack on the offensive end,” he said. “When we’re playing offense like we play our defense, I think we’re a great team.”<br /> <br /> Matta has admitted struggling to push the right buttons at times this season, but believes the Buckeyes finally may be clicking. <br /> <br /> “We’re showing signs of getting a lot better,” he said. “We’ve had some letdowns here and there, but seeing us play out of them is important to me in terms of how we’ve done it.<br /> <br /> “I think our defense is hitting its stride in terms of what we’re trying to do. We’re getting better at attention to detail. I think offensively our execution is getting better. We seem to be getting more sound in terms of pace and the right reads that we want to make.”<br /> <br /> Thompson, a junior who moved into a starting role midseason, agreed.<br /> <br /> “I like where we are as a team right now,” he said. “I think we’re peaking at the right time. Offensively we have a certain swagger about us. Defensively, I think we’re really trying to play some of the best defensive basketball that we’ve played.<br /> <br /> “And individually you have guys that are getting into rhythms and really contributing to this team. So we’re looking to make a run.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-27/In_Fourth_Place_And_Desperate.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-27/In_Fourth_Place_And_Desperate.aspx a583adde-ceca-4c95-9159-ebe0b44722ce Thu, 27 Feb 2014 21:11:04 GMT Matta, Thompson Lift Ohio State For the entire first half of its all-important Big Ten matchup with Minnesota, Ohio State put on a clinic of how to deflate a sellout weekend crowd.<br /> <br /> And for the next 20 minutes, the No. 24 Buckeyes managed to turn the Schottenstein Center into a Saturday night funhouse.<br /> <br /> Tale of two halves, indeed.<br /> <br /> Ohio State trailed 28-18 to the Golden Gophers at the break when <strong>Thad Matta</strong> opened up on his team and offered a simple analysis.<br /> <br /> “In essence I said, ‘There’s nothing I can draw up on the board, there’s nothing I can talk about until we play better basketball,’ ” Matta told reporters after the contest, which the Buckeyes somehow went on to win 64-46.<br /> <br /> Minnesota (17-11, 6-9), which defeated OSU 63-53 on Jan. 16 in Minneapolis, matched their hosts first-half ineptitude with 18 second-half points. The Gophers had just four turnovers in the first half compared to nine in the second and were a miserable 7 of 24 from the field after intermission.<br /> <br /> Fifteen of OSU’s 17 points off of turnovers came in the second stanza, many of them coming in the form of crowd-pleasing finishes by junior wing Sam Thompson.<br /> <br /> “We highjack ourselves,” disconsolate first-year UM coach <strong>Richard Pitino</strong> said. “We do things that don’t allow us to win. We do things that are inexplicable and turn the ball over, and you can’t do that against a good team.”<br /> <br /> The stat that put the most acid in Matta’s stomach at halftime was seeing his team had managed to go 20 minutes without collecting a single steal. The Buckeyes (222-6, 9-6) had seven thefts after his tongue-lashing and the open court helped them to a 17-for-30 shooting display after halftime.<br /> <br /> “We knew in the first half we didn’t come out with the juice,” forward <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> said. “We know what’s at stake and we decided to play hard.”<br /> <br /> That, of course, came with some prodding.<br /> <br /> “He just flat-out told us to play better,” Thompson said of Matta’s address. “There were no X’s and O’s. He was fired up. He wasn’t too happy with us at halftime.”<br /> <br /> Thompson had the most noteworthy response. He took a pair of deep shots in the first half, made one of them, and went to the locker room with three points. When he walked off the floor after the 18-point win, he had logged a season-high 19 points going 7 for 12 from the floor including 2 of 5 from deep.<br /> <br /> “I think I’m getting into a pretty good rhythm right now,” said the athletic swingman, who made 4 of 5 jumpers in a win over Northwestern on Wednesday and had a vicious two-handed dunk waived off when the officials ruled an NU defender had fouled <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> on the floor before an off-the-backboard pass.<br /> <br /> “Sam is one of those guys in his three years here has worn a lot of different hats,” Matta said. “That’s what we always want guys to do, to continue to adds things. I hope he continues to score like that because that position opens up a lot of things for us.”<br /> <br /> Thompson not only helped the Buckeyes to click, he made sure the 18,809 on hand Saturday night got a more complete show by torturing Minnesota on the fast break.<br /> <br /> The Gophers actually scored first after halftime as point guard <strong>DeAndre Mathieu</strong> tallied to increase Minnesota’s lead to 30-18. But the groaning in the stands finally ceased when <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> skied to pull down a carom of a Thompson miss and laid the ball in to cut the score to 30-20.<br /> <br /> That actually set off a 17-0 run in nearly seven minutes of court time that was as impressive as any stretch the Buckeyes had put together all season.<br /> <br /> Mathieu misfired on a three and Ross grabbed the rebound to put OSU in business again. This time Smith – who finished with 13 points and six rebounds after posting a double-double vs. Northwestern – went hard to the hole and rolled in a scoop shot for a 30-22 score.<br /> <br /> Moments later, Craft raked the ball away from <strong>Joey King</strong> and the top of the key and headed to the other end untouched. King’s miss on the next possession and Smith’s rebound led to Thompson gliding to the basket and the crowd ready to explode.<br /> <br /> Thompson missed on the attempt, but he was just getting warmed up.<br /> <br /> Williams got loose inside for a dunk and on the next trip he grabbed an airball and outletted it to Thompson, who skied in for a one-handed flush.<br /> <br /> After another empty possession by the Gophers, Smith jacked up a quick three in search of the lead. He missed, but with a media timeout at the 15:24 mark The Schott was in full sway.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes did grab a 31-30 lead on a three-point play by Ross. On the next trip, they forced the Gophers to launch a long three with a second left on the shot clock and attacked again – Smith missing a fastbreak runner but Ross cleaning it up for a 33-30 edge.<br /> <br /> Pitino called a timeout but couldn’t stop the bleeding. The spree stretched to 17-0 when Craft came up with a steal along the Minnesota baseline and went all 94 feet to the basket untouched.<br /> <br /> Minnesota finally showed a pulse when <strong>Andre Hollins</strong>, who led the visitors with 13 points, nailed a three with 12:11 to play to cut the OSU lead to 38-35. But that only set up the feature act.<br /> <br /> Thompson countered with a three of his own to take the lead right back up to six (41-35) and Craft came up with a loose ball after Mathieu was out of control on a drive.<br /> <br /> The OSU senior shot the ball ahead to Thompson, who made a change-of-direction move in the lane and dropped home a high lefthanded scoop. Before the Gophers could recover, OSU had the ball again and <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> connected with Thompson on a lookaway alley-oop that the springy Thompson rocketed home with two hands.<br /> <br /> Timeout, Minnesota. Again.<br /> <br /> With the crowd fully engaged and enjoying a 45-35 lead, the Buckeyes had scored on 12 of their last 15 possessions after scoring on just eight possessions in the entire first half.<br /> <br /> When asked to assess the Jekyll-and-Hyde performance of his team, Matta found the positive.<br /> <br /> “I think they’ve got heart,” he said. “I like the fact that they came back and fought and clawed and put the run together.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes bumbled through the first half with a 6-for-22 shooting effort and eight turnovers. The miscues included center Amir Williams making a clean catch in the post, turning and falling forward to the ground for a traveling call.<br /> <br /> But after their halftime metamorphosis, the Buckeyes looked like a team worthy of a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament and a “danger” label for the postseason – which is exactly what they are trying to attain.<br /> <br /> Next up for OSU is a trip to Penn State on Thursday night (7 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2), and once again a slip-up won’t be acceptable.<br /> <br /> “Every game is like the biggest game of your life in this league,” Matta said.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-22/Matta_Thompson_Lift_Ohio_State.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-22/Matta_Thompson_Lift_Ohio_State.aspx 16a386b5-16cd-4f04-99fd-19c31a8964f9 Sun, 23 Feb 2014 02:44:51 GMT ... And An Entertaining Game Broke Out You have to give the Big Ten basketball this much: Unpredictability makes for an entertaining couple hours.<br /> <br /> Momentum is more fleeting than ever. League grinders can transform into high-scoring affairs – and vice versa.<br /> <br /> Teams that should be more motivated sometimes appear to be less so.<br /> <br /> And just when the conference race seems to be settling, Michigan and Michigan State lose at home. In fact, everybody is losing at home.<br /> <br /> Ohio State, for example, has dropped three league games at the Schottenstein Center this season – and new high (or is it low?) in the <strong>Thad Matta</strong> era.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes were coming off a look-away-bad 48-39 survival at Illinois and have been their own worst enemy in the late stretches of several contests. They’ve been known to putz around with less talented teams. And Northwestern arrived for Wednesday night’s matchup with its standard underwhelming record but also with the confidence that comes from dumping likes of Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota away from home this season.<br /> <br /> So when the ball was tipped before well-below-capacity crowd of 15,878 at The Schott, no one would have been surprised if the Buckeyes found themselves in a first-one-to-50 snooze-fest with the Wildcats – and maybe even flirting with some peril.<br /> <br /> After all, this is the same team that forgot to close down Penn State and lost a 71-70 overtime decision to the Nittany Lions at the end of January.<br /> <br /> Instead, Ohio State found its swagger as well as an offensive rhythm in a 76-60 blowout – hey, free French fries – of NU in perhaps the most entertaining home tilt of the campaign.<br /> <br /> Here are some highlights:<br /> <br /> <strong>March To March –</strong> The No. 24 Buckeyes (21-6, 8-6) have lost just once in February and actually seem to have some steam now. This, of course, is a Matta trademark.<br /> <br /> OSU’s 10-year coach improved his February record to 49-23 (.680), including 5-1 this season. Next up is a home date with Minnesota (17-10, 6-8) on Saturday night (6 p.m. Eastern, Big Ten Network) and a trip to Penn State on Feb. 27 (7 p.m. Eastern, ESPN/ESPN2).<br /> <br /> The Golden Gophers were whacked at home Wednesday night by last-place Illinois and the Buckeyes owe them for a 63-53 setback in Minneapolis on Jan. 16. Revenge also would seem to be the theme when OSU goes to Happy Valley, especially considering the home loss to PSU was Matta’s only setback vs. the Lions.<br /> <br /> Matta, by the way, has an even more sterling record in March: 53-13 (.803). But it’s safe to say the Buckeyes need to keep taking down lower-level Big Ten teams now if they expect to have any kind of postseason run. A 16-point win over NU certainly aids the outlook.<br /> <br /> <strong>Points! –</strong> The 76 points tie for third-most for the Buckeyes in a conference game this season and were a welcome sight for the coaching staff considering all the recent shortcomings on offense.<br /> <br /> Ohio State fell behind 25-16 in the first half but managed to take four-point lead to the locker room thanks to aggressive play, excellent ball movement and a flurry of baskets in a 21-6 surge.<br /> <br /> It was more of the same in the second half as the Buckeyes outscored their guests 24-7 in the first 11 minutes of the second half.<br /> <br /> Matta agreed with the notion that the middle 20 minutes of the game was about as well as his team has played this season – and it wasn’t simply from converting turnovers.<br /> <br /> <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> was an efficient 5 of 8 from the field, 2 of 3 from deep and a 4 of 4 at the free-throw line while scoring a team-high 16 points (before being ejected late as a result of a skirmish). <br /> <br /> <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> also had his shooting stroke – 4 of 5 from the field including 3 of 4 from behind the arc en route to 11 points. Seniors <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> and <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> each had 14 points and Smith added a game-high 10 rebounds for a double-double.<br /> <br /> Also in the backcourt, reserve <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> added nine points in just six field-goal attempts.<br /> <br /> <strong>Freebies –</strong> The Buckeyes had a built-in advantage with quickness and clearly their offensive game plan was centered around driving the basketball. Matta set a goal of 25 free throws knowing the Wildcats would have difficulty in cutting off his quicker guards and wings.<br /> <br /> But the result was even better than expected. OSU made several jumpers out of drive-and-dish kickouts and also got to the foul line for 29 attempts. And here’s the best part: They made 23 of them.<br /> <br /> OSU came into the game with a team free-throw percentage of 69.3, second-worst in the conference, but topped that figure by 10 points on this night by making 79.3 percent.<br /> <br /> Craft was 6 of 7, Smith 5 of 6, and center <strong>Amir Williams</strong>, much-improved from the line, was 4 of 4 like Ross.<br /> <br /> <strong>Rise Of Craft –</strong> <strong>John Havlicek</strong> and <strong>Larry Siegfried</strong>. How’s that for a pair of names in Ohio State basketball lore? Well, Craft passed both of them on the school’s all-time scoring list during the win over the Wildcats.<br /> <br /> His 14-point outing brought his career total to 1,232 points, now better than Havlicek’s 1,223 and Siegfried’s 1,228. Craft now has former OSU guard and current radio broadcaster <strong>Ron Stokes</strong> (1,240) in his sights. After that rung is former Craft teammate <strong>Jared Sullinger</strong> (1,282), who currently sits in 30th place all-time.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Craft grabbed four steals vs. NU to bring his career total to 317, which ranks second on the career Big Ten list. Former Illinois guard <strong>Bruce Douglas</strong> tops them all with 324, but Craft is on pace to crush that mark.<br /> <br /> The 6-2 Craft also is Ohio State’s career leader in assists with 653.<br /> <br /> <strong>Oh, Yeah, Defense –</strong> While Northwestern had the same number of makes and attempts from the field as the Buckeyes (23 of 50), Chris Collins’ club was just 5 of 21 from three-point range, which foiled any attempt at a second-half comeback.<br /> <br /> That’s in line with the seasonal trend as the Buckeyes came into the game ranked fourth nationally and tops in the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage defense (27.3). OSU also ranked eighth nationally in scoring defense, allowing 58.5 points per game, and 12th in fewest fouls per game (16.1) entering the contest.<br /> <br /> NU managed only two second-chance points as the Buckeyes did a much better job on the boards than normal, winning that battle 34-23 and holding the ’Cats to just four offensive rebounds.<br /> <br /> And while NU swingman <strong>Drew Crawford</strong> put on a show with 22 points and canned four three-pointers, Matta actually was relatively pleased with the defense Thompson and Smith put on him when they weren’t running into picks.<br /> <br /> Crawford is that good. He’s capable of going off for 20-plus against anybody and has the strength and lift to get his shot off against solid defense.<br /> <br /> <strong>Tre Demps</strong> also made some tough shots and scored 14 points, but no other Wildcat players was in double figures. NU went down low to center <strong>Alex Olah</strong> early and Olah responded with eight first-half points, However, he was held scoreless in the second half while the Buckeyes pulled away.<br /> <br /> <strong>Back In Play –</strong> Matta now owns a 223-25 record as Ohio State head coach against unranked teams. That includes a home record of 148-3. Overall, the Buckeyes are a stellar 169-17 under Matta in home games including a mark of 71-14 against Big Ten opponents.<br /> <br /> Yes, the Buckeyes have looked mortal this season and allowed Iowa and Michigan to pull away from them on their home floor. But they can get their edge back by mowing down Minnesota, holding up well on the road, and giving league favorite Michigan State all it can handle in the season finale on March 9.<br /> <br /> Ohio State is supposed to beat Northwestern at home – the Wildcats haven’t won in Columbus in 37 years – but Wednesday night’s showing was much more than a simple punch of the time card.<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-20/And_An_Entertaining_Game_Broke_Out.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-20/And_An_Entertaining_Game_Broke_Out.aspx 72981d5e-7eff-4b7a-afaa-51f685521a81 Thu, 20 Feb 2014 07:33:00 GMT Wildcats Come Adorned With Warning Label On one hand, <strong>Thad Matta</strong> has to like the fact that his Buckeyes, while still offensively challenged, get to follow up Saturday’s win at Illinois by hosting Northwestern, a second-division Big Ten team, tonight (7 p.m. Eastern, Big Ten Network).<br /> <br /> On the other hand, this is exactly the kind of game that needs to come with a warning label.<br /> <br /> Homecourt advantage is almost becoming an oxy moron this season in the Big Ten and Northwestern, which is led by first-year coach <strong>Chris Collins</strong> and outstanding senior <strong>Drew Crawford</strong>, has pulled off a few surprises in opposing gyms of late.<br /> <br /> Ask Indiana. And Wisconsin. And Minnesota.<br /> <br /> The Wildcats (12-14, 5-8) dumped all of those league foes on the road and if they do the same to Ohio State they will log their first win in Columbus since Jimmy Carter was a fledgling president (1977).<br /> <br /> But No. 24 Ohio State has a lot more at stake. The Buckeyes (20-6, 7-6) are 15th in the latest RPI rankings and can finish in the top four of the league and possibly receive a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a strong finish.<br /> <br /> OSU has revenge games with Minnesota and Penn State coming up and would have a reasonable chance to win at Indiana’s Assembly Hall – or wherever that game would be played – on March 2. That all leads to the regular-season finale and senior sendoff for <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> and <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> vs. Michigan State on March 9.<br /> <br /> But first the Buckeyes have to take care of NU, which could prove to be challenging – especially considering road teams have won 22 of the last 40 Big Ten games.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know exactly what it is,” Matta, who has endured three league losses at home this season, said of the trend. “It’s just kind of the nature of this league and the nature of college basketball right now. Every game is sort of a one-game-type season no matter where you’re playing.”<br /> <br /> The Wildcats don’t enter town with a lot of momentum. They’ve lost three straight including Sunday’s 54-48 setback vs. Minnesota on Sunday.<br /> <br /> Still, as they were for years under coach <strong>Bill Carmody</strong>, the ‘Cats are tough to domesticate. Collins also instructs his team to control tempo, which is why Northwestern is 346th nationally in scoring (60.7 points per game), but a very respectable 31st in scoring defense (63.3 ppg).<br /> <br /> Keeping teams close and then having the temerity to come up with winning plays allows the Wildcats upset opportunities.<br /> <br /> “They’ve got guys that can really make plays,” Matta said, “they execute their offense very well, they’ve got guys that can shoot it, and their post game is something they haven’t had in a long time but the big kid finishes well down there and commands the basketball.”<br /> <br /> The “big kid” is center <strong>Alex Olah</strong>, who is questionable to play vs. Ohio State. Olah rolled his right ankle a couple days ago and is listed as day-to-day with his recovery.<br /> <br /> Still, NU features three double-figure scorers who can play on the perimeter, the most dangerous being the 6-5 Crawford, a guard/forward who is comfortable on just about any spot on the floor and leads the team with 15.6 ppg.<br /> <br /> “He’s inside, he’s outside, he drives, he gets to the foul line,” Matta said. “Honestly, (he’s) a very, very, complete basketball player in terms of his offensive skill package.”<br /> <br /> Similarly, Ohio State’s wing scoring has been a key all season as forward <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> (14.4 ppg) and off-guard <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> (11.7 ppg) are the leading scorers. Also, the Buckeyes have some potential scoring punch off the bench in freshman forward <strong>Marc Loving</strong>, who broke out of a prolonged slump at Illinois with eight points.<br /> <br /> “It felt good to see a little it of reward from some hard work, and just moving on from here forward, hopefully, to be consistent,” Loving said.<br /> <br /> “Some of it was mental. A lot of the game is mental. So just seeing the ball go through basically gives you a mind-set that it works. The ball does go through.”<br /> <br /> Matta still believes Loving can fill an important role with March beckoning.<br /> <br /> “If it’s scoring, we’ll gladly welcome (it) with open arms; bring it on,” the coach said. “To have that in our back pocket is probably a good thing.”<br /> <br /> Guard <strong>Shannon Scott</strong>, another reserve, also has come on of late.<br /> <br /> “He’s playing basketball the way we need him to play, and that’s aggressive on both ends of the floor,” Matta said.<br /> <br /> Ohio State’s four-man bench of Scott, <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong>, Loving and <strong>Trey McDonald</strong> was on the floor together when the Buckeyes posted a 12-0 run that set up OSU’s 48-39 win at Illinois.<br /> <br /> “We felt comfortable,” Loving said.<br /> <br /> Added Matta, “Those guys have given us some very, very valuable minutes in some very important stretches of this season. They had a great rhythm, a great flow to what they were doing in terms of their execution on both ends of the floor.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes may need another jolt from their second-teamers since Northwestern has been a headache defensively. Indiana shot just 25 percent at home in its loss to NU while Wisconsin was no better at 26 percent.<br /> <br /> OSU is 69-14 all-time at home vs. Northwestern including a 13-0 mark at the Schottenstein Center.<br /> <br /> As a ranked team, Ohio State is 36-2 vs. the Wildcats.
<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-19/Wildcats_Come_Adorned_With_Warning_Label.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-19/Wildcats_Come_Adorned_With_Warning_Label.aspx cdc0baf2-038f-4d19-8fea-8ffe469f6c1f Wed, 19 Feb 2014 19:52:07 GMT Bringing The Fire Back <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> could have gone in a lot of directions when safeties coach <strong>Everett Withers</strong> approached him and informed the Ohio State head coach that he would be leaving the program.<br /> <br /> Often playfully teased by Meyer for being the only coach on the OSU staff without Ohio ties, Withers grabbed an opportunity to become the head coach at James Madison University, although he stayed around long enough to coach in the Orange Bowl.<br /> <br /> That game, a 40-35 loss to Clemson, shone even more light on the Buckeyes’ problematic back end of the defense and created even more furor over the coaching situation.<br /> <br /> Some called for defensive coordinator <strong>Luke Fickell</strong>’s head; others wanted Meyer to napalm the entire defensive staff and start over with young players.<br /> <br /> When Fickell’s close friend, <strong>Mike Vrabel</strong>, also left the defensive line post to return to the NFL as a coach, even more speculation followed.<br /> <br /> But Meyer halted much of the hand-wringing by landing longtime Penn State D-line coach <strong>Larry Johnson</strong> to replace Vrabel and hiring <strong>Chris Ash</strong> to serve as co-coordinator and head the OSU secondary.<br /> <br /> Meyer is yet to officially announce the new role for former cornerbacks coach <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong> but it is now rather apparent Coombs will aid Ash in some capacity during practices and also run OSU’s special teams.<br /> <br /> Like Johnson, Ash has a Big Ten background. The Iowa native gained a strong reputation as a D-coordinator and secondary coach at Wisconsin in recent years and followed <strong>Bret Bielema</strong> to Arkansas last year.<br /> <br /> At Wisconsin, Ash’s defenses ranked 15th nationally in total defense in 2011 and 2012. He was particularly adept at slowing down opposing passing games – a rare commodity nationally and an especially elusive one at OSU the past couple seasons.<br /> <br /> In 2012, Meyer’s first at OSU, the Buckeyes defeated Wisconsin in overtime but had a difficult time putting together drives against UW’s defense. In fact, they gained only 236 yards.<br /> <br /> “We’ve competed against a Chris Ash defense before, and I have respect for him as a coach,” Meyer said after hiring the 40-year-old Ash in late January. “I like the fact he has experience in the Big Ten Conference and that he is a great recruiter. He was highly recommended by everyone I spoke to.”<br /> <br /> Among those who approved the move was Bielema, a nemesis of Meyer despite having just one head-to-head battle.<br /> <br /> “Coach B has been nothing but great to me,” Ash said when speaking to reporters on National Signing Day. “Before I worked at Wisconsin with him I had a good relationship with him. During my time with him at Wisconsin and Arkansas he was outstanding to me. And when I approached him about the opportunity here, he was great.<br /> <br /> “Coach B wants great people in his program but he also understands that if you help people reach their professional goals then great people are going to come replace the people that left.”<br /> <br /> So Ash, who is the father of two children, didn’t hesitate to join ranks with Meyer and now has his sights set on very high goals.<br /> <br /> “In your career you want to have the opportunity to win a national championship, and I believe here at Ohio State we have that opportunity,” he said.<br /> <br /> When a reporter followed up by saying, “That simple?” Ash replied, “Yeah, that’s it.”<br /> <br /> Having already coached in the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 – Ash had two stints on the staff at Iowa State – the intense coach has a true understanding of just how difficult it is to rise to the top of college football. And Ash is adamant it can’t be accomplished with a leaky defense.<br /> <br /> “You have to be able to play great defense to win it all,” he insisted. “You don’t have to be the best defense in the country but you have to be pretty darn solid to be able to say you have what it takes to win 14 games. You can’t have an average to subpar defense and get that done.”<br /> <br /> Now the challenge is to return the OSU defense to prominence, which will be no small feat with the exit of leading tackler <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong>, former All-American cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> and a bevy of safeties including longtime starters <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> and <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong>.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes still boast plenty of young talent, especially up front, but Ash intends to help Fickell organize and assess the group then put the most capable playmakers on the field.<br /> <br /> “We’re going to align and we’re going to play with great technique and great effort and fundamentals,” Ash said. “We’ve got to get that done. But we also understand we’ve got to create issues for an offense. We’ve got to create problems and put pressure on the quarterback, and we have to make sure in our package we can do that. And then when you get to third down you’ve got to create confusion, and we’re going to do that.”<br /> <br /> Ohio State traditionally has been very successful in getting offenses off the field in the Fickell era but the past couple seasons haven’t followed suit. Opponents picked up 36 percent of their third-down conversions in 2013, hit loads of big plays, and racked up 268.0 passing yards per game.<br /> <br /> Ash, of course, was brought on board to change that, and he’s certainly committed to the task. Few coordinators spend as much time as he does studying film and looking into new ways to achieve success.<br /> <br /> “If you ask me what one of my strengths is, I’m a student of the game,” he said. “I study football year-round and I’m relentless in my pursuit to identify new ideas that can help me become better – as long as they fit what we try to do defensively. That’s very important.”<br /> <br /> However, Ash said he has no interest in being too cute and employing an unnecessary array of defenses when only a few will do.<br /> <br /> “All of that stuff sounds good, but you’re going to do what your personnel allows you to do,” said Ash, who reportedly will be paid an annual salary of $520,000. “If you have a great nickel (defense) and what the offense does requires you or allows you to play nickel, you put the best athletes on the football field.<br /> <br /> “Sometimes or some years you don’t have a nickel guy, so you play with three linebackers out there. You want to put the best 11 players on the football field. I don’t want to play nickel just to say you’re playing nickel when you’ve got a third linebacker who’s a really good player standing on the sideline. That doesn’t make much sense.”<br /> <br /> Therefore, Ash also will devote much of his time getting to know the OSU defenders and seeing what they can do. When asked if enough talent is already in place, he said, “It’s hard for me to say still because I’m still in that discovery mode here where I’m trying to identify exactly what we do have.<br /> <br /> “I do think we have tremendous players here and a lot of talent. Some of it is inexperienced talent but regardless it’s talent, and it’s going to be our job is to teach them. By the time we get through spring practice and training camp there will be no inexperience anymore.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-17/Bringing_The_Fire_Back.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-17/Bringing_The_Fire_Back.aspx 8ec3e15f-bca7-4f9b-a643-b878ec8a4f68 Tue, 18 Feb 2014 04:51:21 GMT Rapp Around: Glub, Glub, Glub I’ve seen just about every Ohio State men’s basketball game ever played at the Schottenstein Center and I can attest that it is indeed a rare sight to witness a visiting team completely take hold of the proceedings the way Michigan did while posting a 70-60 win Tuesday night.<br /> <br /> Sure, Ohio State was outclassed by North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge once upon a time, but the Buckeyes were young and transitioning in 2007. West Virginia came to town and wiped away OSU a year later, but that was right after <strong>David Lighty</strong> was lost for the season to injury and <strong>Noopy Crater</strong> was packing bags to go elsewhere.<br /> <br /> Sandwiched around those nightmares are two entire seasons – 2006-07 and 2010-11 – in which the Buckeyes didn’t lose a home game.<br /> <br /> OSU has lost some tough ones at The Schott over the years but you have to scour to remember when someone really took the place over – until this season, that is.<br /> <br /> Iowa fired the first warning shot on Jan. 12. The Hawkeyes posted an 84-74 over an OSU team that was ranked No. 3 at the time and pulled the feat on national television (CBS). That late collapse was so ego-crushing that the Buckeyes ventured out on the road and looked like lost lambs in a 63-53 setback at Minnesota and a 68-62 shocker at Nebraska.<br /> <br /> Those three outcomes tacked onto the overtime loss at Michigan State left OSU with four straight defeats and wondering if the NCAA Tournament was even in the cards. Then Thad Matta’s team showed typical resilience with three straight wins – a one-point survival at Wisconsin, payback at Iowa and an 18-point drubbing of Purdue last Saturday night.<br /> <br /> A follow-up win over the hated Michigan Wolverines in the only meeting between the rivals this season would have cemented OSU’s postseason status and sent a message that the Buckeyes are just getting warmed up.<br /> <br /> Sure enough, they played an inspirational brand of basketball in the first half by harassing UM at every turn and attacking the basket on offense.<br /> <br /> Still, Ohio State led just 30-26 at the break with two daunting statistics – a 1-for-10 showing from behind the arc and a 19-14 disadvantage on the boards.<br /> <br /> No. 15 Michigan then resumed its status of Big Ten championship contender in the second half. That wasn’t surprising, although UM’s 12-0 run that turned a 43-37 OSU lead into a 49-43 Michigan edge certainly was concerning for the sellout crowd of 18,809.<br /> <br /> What was more telling as to the current state of the Buckeyes was how they responded from there – or rather failed to respond.<br /> <br /> Center <strong>Amir Williams</strong> did manage to score inside to stop the bleeding and cut the deficit to four, 51-47, with plenty of time remaining – 7:52. However, <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> missed a pair of free throws moments later.<br /> <br /> After Ross somewhat atoned with a three-point play to brought the score to 51-50, the Buckeyes bumbled through the game’s next five minutes and trailed 64-52.The only OSU tally in that time frame was a dunk by forward <strong>Sam Thompson</strong>.<br /> <br /> The ineptitude was staggering. Williams missed a tip-in attempt. <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> shot an airball three. Ross missed a layup. The Buckeyes couldn’t come up with a loose ball, couldn’t grab a key rebound, and couldn’t keep point guard <strong>Derrick Walton Jr.</strong>, a 6-1 freshman, off the backboards.<br /> <br /> Walton finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Center <strong>Jordan Morgan</strong> grabbed six of UM’s 14 offensive rebounds. Michigan managed to come up with open shots out of scramble plays and hit 8 of 17 threes compared to OSU’s dreadful 3-of-20 display.<br /> <br /> “At the end of the day, they just wanted it more,” Ross said afterward.<br /> <br /> The Wolverines shot just 41.3 percent from the field and had just eight assists and still were able to make all the right plays at all the right times.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, meanwhile, remain an unsolved puzzle.<br /> <br /> Ross, for example, led all scorers with 24 points but was 0 of 4 from long range and shriveled on key possessions, which has been a trend this season.<br /> <br /> <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> had 13 points and made all three of OSU’s triples but added just three rebounds and one assist. Craft had eight points and helped slow down UM wing <strong>Nik Stauskus</strong> but misfired badly on both three-point attempts. Thompson threw down a pair of dunks but added nothing else on offense.<br /> <br /> The bench also fell short. <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> was a flurry of activity and sparked OSU in the first half but took the court with the Buckeyes leading 41-35 in the second stanza and couldn’t slow down Michigan’s 12-0 spurt.<br /> <br /> The rest of the reserves – <strong>Marc Loving</strong>, <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong> and <strong>Trey McDonald</strong> – failed to score and each went 0 for 1 from the field.<br /> <br /> Usually, the Buckeyes are able to feed off the emotion in their own building and come up with plenty of momentum-turning plays. But it didn’t matter that the Schott can be a strong equalizer for the Buckeyes on this night – or that Matta owned a 17-4 mark against Michigan, or that OSU had a healthy 93-73 lead in the all-time series including a record of 53-26 in Columbus.<br /> <br /> The cream rose and the Buckeyes weren’t floating in it; they were sinking.<br /> <br /> Matta has endured just 23 nonconference losses in his time at OSU and only a handful of those came at The Schott. His Big Ten record is still a highly impressive 136-56 and very few league teams have managed to pull away from the Buckeyes on Ohio State soil – or hardwood, as the case may be.<br /> <br /> OSU owns staggering marks under Matta when leading at the half (223-26) and with five minutes left (252-11).<br /> <br /> But that trend line has ceased this season.<br /> <br /> Now the Buckeyes (19-6, 6-6) are still looking for win No. 20 and a path to respectability in the Big Ten. Michigan (18-6, 10-2), meanwhile, is in position to claim a league title a year after advancing all the way to the NCAA championship game.<br /> <br /> Ohio State, which also lost at home to Penn State this season, has to head to Illinois on Saturday (8 p.m. Eastern, Big Ten Network), has home games with Northwestern and Minnesota, faces two more road tests, and closes the regular season against Michigan State at home.<br /> <br /> “Every night is a war,” a spent Matta said. “What you see in this league now is a bad three-minute or four-minute stretch can cost you.<br /> <br /> “You’ve got to find way to make plays. We’ve lost six games this season, and we’ve led in the second half in five of them.”<br /> <br /> Making this loss even more painful is that OSU bolted to an 11-5 lead and then built the margin to 10 points twice (26-16 and 28-18) in the first half.<br /> <br /> However, Michigan began to take ownership of the boards, finishing with a 39-27 advantage there, and enjoyed an 18-4 edge in bench points.<br /> <br /> It was a sobering result with sobering statistics – and it left the Buckeyes and their disappointed fan base even more aware there may be no net cutting this season.<br /> <br /> “As much as this may hurt, we’ve got to move forward,” said Craft, a senior who is now facing a harsh reality.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-12/Rapp_Around_Glub_Glub_Glub.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-12/Rapp_Around_Glub_Glub_Glub.aspx 0fd308c1-2767-427e-b614-dcfa9f40c3fc Wed, 12 Feb 2014 16:48:38 GMT Buckeyes Continue February Surge After a January that Thad Matta and Ohio State basketball fans are trying to forget, the Buckeyes are getting their act together in February.<br /> <br /> The month began with a one-point win at Wisconsin, just the second victory over a Bo Ryan-led UW team at the Kohl Center by OSU. On Feb. 4, the Buckeyes put together their best performance against a high-quality team with a 76-69 win at Iowa.<br /> <br /> And on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 18,809 packed into the Schottenstein Center, Ohio State pulled away from Purdue in a very steady 67-49 win.<br /> <br /> The three consecutive victories moved OSU to 47-22 all-time in February games under Matta and improved the Buckeyes to 19-5 overall, 6-5 in the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> Not only did OSU jump back over the .500 mark, but the league outlook suddenly looks much better. Next to visit is No. 10 Michigan on Tuesday night&nbsp; (9 p.m. Eastern, ESPN) and a win over the rival Wolverines could tighten the race.<br /> <br /> The other team out in front of the pack is Michigan State, which has been dealing with an assortment of injuries and will invade The Schott on March 9 in the regular-season finale.<br /> <br /> Purdue (14-10, 4-7), on the other hand has fallen out of the Big Ten race and any NCAA Tournament consideration. The Buckeyes won by nine point in West Lafayette on New Year’s Eve and doubled the margin in the return game.<br /> <br /> OSU led just 48-45 with nine minutes to go and fans may have been nervous for the stretch run considering the Buckeyes lost their last home appearance 71-70 in overtime to Penn State. However, a 19-4 closing run quelled any concern.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes held Matt Painter’s squad to a season-low output and also put together an efficient performance against one of the conference’s top defenses.<br /> <br /> “I like the way we’re playing right now,” Matta said. “We did not play what I would consider a perfect game. But we made some plays offensively and defensively that opened the game up for us.”<br /> <br /> “It was all stimulated with our defense,” added OSU guard Lenzelle Smith Jr., who canned four three-balls and finished with 16 points and five assists. “Our stops led to great offense. It picks us up as a team. It gives us great energy. Guys were high-fiving and it was an electric feeling in the building.<br /> <br /> “Our crowd is into it and that’s the type of basketball we like to play because that’s our best basketball.”<br /> <br /> LaQuinton Ross led Ohio State with 17 points and six rebounds. He, too, was encouraged afterward.<br /> <br /> “It’s a group effort,” Ross said. “When everyone is making shots, I think we’re almost unstoppable on offense. Winning cures all and everybody is feeling better.”<br /> <br /> Like Ross, Smith was 6 of 10 from the floor. His four triples came in just seven attempts.<br /> <br /> “It feels great because if I can show my team I can make three-pointers I know they are going to look for me,” Smith said. “It’s a great feeling knowing that the ball is coming to you. I don’t have to worry about anything but getting my feet set and shooting the ball.”<br /> <br /> The flow also returned for the Buckeyes with Sam Thompson remaining in the starting lineup and playing comfortably while Shannon Scott continued to thrive off the bench.<br /> <br /> Thompson woke up his team and the crowd after Purdue opened a 6-0 lead by throwing down an alley-oop dunk. He finished with eight points, all of them coming in the first half, while Scott came through with nine points and five assists off the bench.<br /> <br /> Center Amir Williams also had nine points and added five rebounds and three blocked shots. Point guard Aaron Craft, who has just four games remaining in his record-breaking career, added seven points, four assists and three steals.<br /> <br /> Kendall Stephens led Purdue with 12 points and fellow reserve Raphael Davis added 11. Center A.J. Hammons, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds in the first meeting with OSU, also had 11.<br /> <br /> It wasn’t enough production for the Boilermakers, who were just 10 of 30 shooting in the first half and lost for the fifth time in their last six games.<br /> <br /> “In the first half, it was our inability to make a layup,” Painter said. “We had the ball at the rim a handful of times and didn’t finish. In the second half, it was our (nine) turnovers as well as their ability to score in transition.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes led 31-25 at halftime and just 38-34 at the first mandatory timeout. A three-point play by Williams, a Smith trey and a runout by Scott off a perfect outlet feed from Smith opened the advantage to 46-36.<br /> <br /> Purdue responded with a 9-2 burst that didn’t end until Smith knocked down another three to make it 51-45 with 8:31 to play. Moments later, Williams drew a foul and made a pair of free throws and the Buckeyes then brought out the dagger.<br /> <br /> Hammons, who had trouble all night recognizing OSU’s help defense according to Painter, was stripped in the lane by Scott, who igniting a semi-break that led to yet another three by Smith.<br /> <br /> Ross added another exclamation point with a two-handed dunk from a fastbreak pass by Craft.<br /> <br /> Purdue, meanwhile, couldn’t counter OSU’s aggression in the game’s final telling minutes. After pulling to within three points of OSU, the Boilers were 2 of 7 from the floor with six costly turnovers.<br /> <br /> “We just imploded at that time,” Painter said. “We had it down to a one-possession game, but then we had a call go against us and we self-destructed. We turned the ball over and you can’t do that against a team like Ohio State.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes have regained their winning hand but they know they have to bring it again Tuesday even though Michigan was bombed 85-67 at Iowa over the weekend.<br /> <br /> “We have a great opponent coming in here,” Smith said. “We have to get ready. They are playing some really good basketball. We have to be prepared to play even better basketball if we’re going to get the win here.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-09/Buckeyes_Continue_February_Surge.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-09/Buckeyes_Continue_February_Surge.aspx ada7b5f2-a3a5-4c93-9671-766e6ea11659 Sun, 09 Feb 2014 15:54:00 GMT Inexact But Enticing After he received 23 signatures on national letters-of-intent on Wednesday, football coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> was asked if he had just roped in his best recruiting class at Ohio State<br /> <br /> “Oh yeah,” he said instantly.<br /> <br /> After a pause, Meyer added three more sentences.<br /> <br /> “I think so.”<br /> <br /> “We’ll see.”<br /> <br /> “Who knows?”<br /> <br /> And with that the 13th-year head coach summed up National Signing Day.<br /> <br /> Certainly, there is much to like about the class, which has landed in virtually every services top five and is considered just a notch behind Alabama at No. 2 or No. 3 nationally.<br /> <br /> The OSU coaches continued the pipeline to Cleveland Glenville with the signing offensive lineman <strong>Marcelys Jones</strong> and defensive backs <strong>Marshon Lattimore</strong> and <strong>Erick Smith</strong>, and also were able to pull other well-rated players out of topflight in-state programs such as Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (wide receiver <strong>Parris Campbell</strong> and linebacker <strong>Dante Booker</strong>), Cleveland St. Ignatius (linebacker <strong>Kyle Berger</strong>) and Cincinnati Moeller (linebacker <strong>Sam Hubbard</strong>).<br /> <br /> That was important in a relatively down year for Ohio senior talent. Ohio State also responded to that challenge by doing extremely well out of state and luring in New York City standout and blazing hybrid back <strong>Curtis Samuel</strong>, highly rated Georgia linebacker <strong>Raekwon McMillan</strong>, well-sought Florida wide receiver <strong>Johnnie Dixon</strong>, and Illinois offensive lineman <strong>Jamarco Jones</strong>, who visited Michigan State last weekend after committing to OSU, which put a scare into Bucknuts everywhere – and Meyer.<br /> <br /> “Jamarco Jones, that would have been a fake smile in here today if we didn’t get him,” Meyer admitted.<br /> <br /> On the flip side, Ohio State was able to change a couple minds and add to the class at the end. Local product <strong>Brady Taylor</strong> of Columbus Bishop Ready was committed to Virginia Tech but eventually was offered by OSU and accepted. And with Signing Day beckoning, the staff – or better put, new assistant <strong>Larry Johnson</strong> – was able to sway well-regarded defensive lineman <strong>Darius Slade</strong> of Montclair, N.J., prodding the youngster to switch allegiances from Michigan State to Ohio State.<br /> <br /> Slade is a three-star prospect but with lots of upside. He possesses the frame to fill out into Big Ten lineman size and has plenty of quickness to go with it. He racked up 40 sacks his last two seasons of high school.<br /> <br /> Johnson already had ties to Slade and convinced him to make a visit to Ohio State. Word spread Tuesday night that Slade had flipped to OSU and his signed NLI was sent to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Wednesday afternoon.<br /> <br /> As for addressing needs, Ohio State appeared to do that emphatically by bringing in four elite linebackers – including the nation’s top inside LB prospect in McMillan – and five top-100 offensive linemen, a group led by Jamarco Jones of Chicago and <strong>Demetrius Knox</strong> of Fort Worth, Texas.<br /> <br /> Meyer said two of the five new O-linemen need to make the depth chart this fall and insisted all of them will play “unless something happens.” He feels the same way about linebacker since all four of them come from high-level prep coaching and have college-ready bodies.<br /> <br /> While McMillan is the headliner and appears to be an immediate candidate to start in the middle of OSU’s defense, Booker, Berger and Hubbard are highly ranked as well and will receive consideration at OLB.<br /> <br /> Meyer and staff also were able to address the constant need for speed.<br /> <br /> Five of the 23 signees are wide receivers ranked among the nation’s top 30 in their position group who can catch and zip with the ball. Two of those players are early enrollees Samuel and Dixon, who are blazers.<br /> <br /> Dixon has run the 40 in a reported 4.37 seconds and is rated as high as the No. 5 receiver in the country. Samuel, the hybrid “H” back that both Meyer and running backs coach <strong>Stan Drayton</strong> labeled as “electric,” is regarded as the No. 5 “athlete” in the class according to one service. He averaged 15.8 yards per carry as a senior at Brooklyn (N.Y.) Erasmus James playing in the Public School Athletic League.<br /> <br /> <strong>Noah Brown</strong> of New Jersey also is considered highly athletic for his size (6-2, 225) while Campbell is a nationally accomplished track star with bests of 10.77 seconds in the 100 meters and 22.09 in the 200.<br /> <br /> OSU also added 2013 Indiana “Mr. Football” <strong>Terry McLaurin</strong> to the fold. He had 1,773 receiving yards his last two years at Indianapolis Cathedral High School and was rated as the seventh-fastest prospect in the 2014 class with a reported 40 time of 4.41.<br /> <br /> The class also reflects the need to improve the back of the defense, an issue that also was addressed with the hiring of new secondary coach <strong>Chris Ash</strong>, who gained his reputation under <strong>Bret Bielema</strong> at Wisconsin and last year at Arkansas.<br /> <br /> Smith and <strong>Malik Hooker</strong> of New Castle, Pa., project to move up quickly at safety while Lattimore and <strong>Damon Webb</strong> of Detroit have the goods at corner. Webb was a U.S. Army All-American.<br /> <br /> Meyer has loaded up at defensive line since he's arrived and he made sure to get more help there. OSU coaches had to venture out of state to land <strong>Jalyn Holmes</strong> of Norfolk, Va., and <strong>Dylan Thompson</strong> of Lombard, Ill., as well as Slade.<br /> <br /> OSU also got creative by going to Georgia to find quarterback <strong>Stephen Collier</strong> and to Kentucky for new placekicker <strong>Sean Nuernberger</strong>, who figures to slip right into the role at Ohio State with <strong>Drew Basil</strong> departed.<br /> <br /> Even though only nine Ohioans are in the class, Ohio State had a good batting average with top-ranked players in the state according to most services. One of the first to commit for 2014 was Lancaster, Ohio, product <strong>Kyle Trout</strong>, who ended up being a top-30 offensive tackle prospect when the major services came out with their final ratings.<br /> <br /> Hubbard was the first to fax in his NLI, doing so at 7:10 a.m. Meyer’s smile broadened as the other 22 followed.<br /> <br /> “I think we won today,” the coach told reporters. “I made it clear to our guys – very pleased with their efforts today. That was a good class. I think it’s a great class.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Pantoni Adds His Fingerprints</strong><br /> <br /> Like Meyer, Ohio State director of player personnel <strong>Mark Pantoni</strong> is most pleased with the combination of size and speed in the class and likes how it filled glaring needs in the roster.<br /> <br /> Like his boss and most others who follow recruiting, though, he also had to admit he is in the business of inexact science.<br /> <br /> “You never really know until four years from now,” Pantoni said. “My success rate is, ‘Do they make it to the NFL?’ or ‘Are they a program guy who is maybe not an NFL guy but he gets his degree and he’s a solid student?’ I don’t want to bring guys in here who are going to be a pain in the butt for the coaches, so you try to have a balance with the class where guys are great football players and great students as well.”<br /> <br /> Pantoni mostly is a master of social media and he volunteered his services to Meyer at Florida in 2009.<br /> <br /> “I never asked for a T-shirt, I never asked for anything and the coaches started to respect how hard I worked and I was there because I love what I do, and it paid off over time,” he said.<br /> <br /> Now 32, Pantoni stays connected to recruits and the youth culture through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, texting, etc.<br /> <br /> “Just being around our players keeps me young and dealing with recruits keeps me young,” he said. “I just have to keep up with the trends and hip-hop culture and what the fads are, and that helps keep me stay young.”<br /> <br /> Meyer is a firm believer in the importance of having someone like Pantoni connected to the program. And the work is never done. For example, Pantoni said he messaged McMillan every day for two years.<br /> <br /> He said like the full-time coaches he has to prioritize contact with recruits and added that he keeps tabs on most to “keep them warm.” Pantoni said social media is the best way to communicate because the recruits prefer it.<br /> <br /> He also uses it to monitor what other programs are doing and for confirmation as to what offers have gone out to prospects.<br /> <br /> “There’s a list of schools that you over time learn to respect their opinion and evaluation, so if they offer a kid it’s almost guaranteed we’re going to do it, too,” he said.<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong>2014 Ohio State Recruiting Class</strong><br /> LB Kyle Berger, 6-2, 225 Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius<br /> LB Dante Booker, 6-3, 215, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary<br /> WR Noah Brown, 6-2, 225, Sparta (N.J.) Pope John XXIII<br /> WR Parris Campbell, 6-1, 184, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary<br /> QB Stephen Collier*, 6-3, 210, Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County<br /> WR Johnnie Dixon*, 5-11, 195, West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer<br /> DL Jalyn Holmes, 6-5, 240, Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor<br /> S&nbsp; Malik Hooker, 6-2, 190, New Castle (Pa.) HS<br /> LB Sam Hubbard, 6-6, 230, Cincinnati Moeller<br /> OL Jamarco Jones, 6-5, 315, Chicago De La Salle<br /> OL Marcelys Jones*, 6-5, 340, Cleveland Glenville<br /> OL Demetrius Knox, 6-4, 285, Fort Worth (Texas) All Saints Episcopal<br /> CB Marshon Lattimore, 6-0, 180, Cleveland Glenville<br /> WR Terry McLaurin, 6-0, 190, Indianapolis Cathedral<br /> LB Raekwon McMillan*, 6-2, 242, Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County<br /> K&nbsp; Sean Nuernberger*, 6-1, 235, Buckner (Ky.) Oldham County<br /> HY Curtis Samuel*, 5-11, 185, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Erasmus Hall<br /> DL Darius Slade, 6-5, 240, Montclair (N.J.) HS<br /> S&nbsp; Erick Smith, 6-1, 195, Cleveland Glenville<br /> OL Brady Taylor, 6-5, 290, Columbus Ready<br /> DL Dylan Thompson, 6-5, 270, Lombard (Ill.) Montini Catholic<br /> OL Kyle Trout*, 6-6, 300, Lancaster (Ohio) HS<br /> CB Damon Webb, 5-11, 180, Detroit Cass Tech<br /> <br /> * -- Enrolled in January 2014 http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-06/Inexact_But_Enticing.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-06/Inexact_But_Enticing.aspx 8d46fd04-73dd-4ec4-8b4d-c829c133bcd6 Thu, 06 Feb 2014 18:10:36 GMT Craft Returns OSU To .500 The sellout crowd of 15,400 packed into Carver-Hawkeye Arena booed every time <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> touched the ball Tuesday night, but the reaction was even throatier whenever Ohio State’s wily point guard made a key play.<br /> <br /> Eventually the noises grew to a loud groan.<br /> <br /> Just a few weeks ago, Iowa came into OSU’s Schottenstein Center and pulled off a very rare feat by pulling away from a <strong>Thad Matta</strong> team in Columbus, 84-74.<br /> <br /> In the rematch in Iowa City, the No. 17 Hawkeyes were the clear-cut favorite and the Buckeyes arrived to town unranked for the first time since January 2010 – which predates Craft and fellow senior guard <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong><br /> <br /> However, showing renewed confidence from a one-point win at Wisconsin on Saturday, the Buckeyes (18-5, 5-5) found the shooting touch and finally cracked the 50-percent barrier in a 76-69 win.<br /> <br /> Craft led the way on both ends of the floor with a game-high 17 points, three rebounds, six assists and six steals. He was 6 of 7 from the field and canned both of his three-point attempts – and an important three-point play in the second half.<br /> <br /> With the win, Ohio State moved to a tie for fourth place in the Big Ten standings and just one game behind Iowa (17-6, 6-4).<br /> <br /> The Hawkeyes were led by point guard <strong>Mike Gesell</strong>’s 16 points while reserve forward <strong>Gabriel Olaseni</strong> added 14 on the strength of a 5-for-5 shooting night (and 4 for 4 from the free-throw line). He also recorded six rebounds and two blocks.<br /> <br /> It was a similar output to that of Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes days earlier when the Ohio product was 6 of 7 from the field and led the Badgers with 17 points.<br /> <br /> The Hawkeyes owned a 38-25 rebounding advantage buoyed by 15 offensive boards, which allowed them to take 11 more shots than their visitors. However, Iowa was only 3 of 20 from behind the arc and 27 of 60 overall, moving OSU to 14-0 in games in which holding the opponent to 45.0 percent shooting or below.<br /> <br /> OSU has won three of four games to draw even in the conference and returns home to face Purdue on Saturday night (6 p.m. Eastern, Big Ten Network) and Michigan on Feb. 11.<br /> <br /> The matchup appeared to be a tough one for the Buckeyes, especially after Iowa provided difficult in Columbus with its length, zone defense and shot making from the likes of <strong>Roy Devyn Marble</strong>, <strong>Aaron White</strong> and a host of reserves.<br /> <br /> But at Carver-Hawkeye, OSU shot over the top of the Iowa defense with early threes by <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> and <strong>Sam Thompson</strong>, the latter starting his second straight game in place of guard <strong>Shannon Scott</strong>. The Buckeyes finished 7 of 16 from deep (43.8 percent) and 25 of 49 (51.0) overall.<br /> <br /> Ross added 13 points, Smith and center <strong>Amir Williams</strong> added a dozen apiece, Scott came through with 11 off the bench and Thompson was just out of double figures with nine points.<br /> <br /> Craft had 14 of his points in the first half, and his three-point play put Ohio State ahead 66-59 with 1:17 left.<br /> <br /> The booing seemed to stop after that.<br /> <br /> Soon after, there was jubilation in the OSU locker room.<br /> <br /> “It’s huge, and it’s not big because people were doubting us or people aren’t behind us anymore,” Craft said. “This is just big for us.<br /> <br /> “If there’s anything that we’ve learned from this year is that it doesn’t matter about anything that is said outside of our locker room.”<br /> <br /> Craft also was instrumental in holding Marble to a 4-for-11 shooting night. Marble, Iowa’s leading scorer, ripped OSU for 22 points in Columbus.<br /> <br /> White also struggled. He was 3 for 9 from the floor and had two rare misses from the foul line as well.<br /> <br /> “We played hard; we didn’t play well,” Iowa coach <strong>Fran McCaffrey</strong> said. “We never really got in sync.”<br /> <br /> The Hawkeyes looked intent on making a second-half run and had a few chances to turn the momentum but either missed open shots or succumbed to OSU answers.<br /> <br /> Iowa trailed just 58-54 when Craft found Williams with a lob for a two-handed dunk off an inbounds play. Matta had called a timeout to script the play.<br /> <br /> Moments later, Thompson hit his second three and OSU had a commanding 63-54 lead with 3:56 to go.<br /> <br /> OSU also had a 9-0 run earlier in the game to open a 26-17 advantage as everyone in scarlet contributed.<br /> <br /> “I think we’ve finally found our groove,” Williams said. “We’re playing together, and I think once we continue to play together as a team we’re one of the best teams in the Big Ten.”<br /> <br /> And the Buckeyes are especially good when Craft is on his game – and ignoring those in the stands trying in vain to rattle him.<br /> <br /> “It was intense,” he said of the treatment from the Iowa crowd. “They got after it a little bit. But you just try to do your best to knock it all out. And the best way to get back at them is to make them go home quiet like they did tonight.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-05/Craft_Returns_OSU_To_500.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-05/Craft_Returns_OSU_To_500.aspx 58cb80fa-903d-4515-87e7-ed638d4725f3 Wed, 05 Feb 2014 19:07:36 GMT Rapp Around: Hold On A Sec The longer one is involved in or even observes competitive sports, the more apparent it is what a fine line exists between victory and defeat, success and failure, adulation and shame.<br /> <br /> Often that is true throughout the course of a game, and sometimes that one such game can greatly determine a defining path for an entire season.<br /> <br /> Therefore, it may sound melodramatic at first to say that the season was on the line for the Ohio State men’s basketball team in the waning moments of its tense affair with Wisconsin on Saturday – after all, February had just begun and the Buckeyes had played uninspiring basketball for weeks – but given the circumstances the 59-58 now resembles a life preserver.<br /> <br /> Four weekends ago, the Buckeyes were 15-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country, but the new year was unkind and OSU absorbed losses in five of its next six games to dip in the polls and raise a bright red flag. The most recent slip-up was a 71-70 overtime loss at home to lowly Penn State, <strong>Thad Matta</strong>’s first to the Nittany Lions in his 10 years at the helm of the program.<br /> <br /> Suddenly the Buckeyes were 3-5 in the Big Ten and staring at a trip to Wisconsin, the most difficult place to survive in the conference, and Iowa, a rising team that presents a troubling matchup as was proved in the Hawkeyes’ 10-point win in Columbus.<br /> <br /> You could almost hear the sarcastic “N-I-T!” chant off in the distance.<br /> <br /> Most Buckeye fans proclaimed their team to be out of the NCAA picture and were convinced a ruinous season was in force.<br /> <br /> But the Buckeyes found themselves in a nip-and-tuck affair at the Kohl Center, a place where they were a head-scratching 1-9 against the Badgers with <strong>Bo Ryan</strong> patrolling the sidelines and staring down referees with his maniacal glare.<br /> <br /> It would be downright depressing to re-examine OSU’s failures in Madison except for the comfort in knowing that almost no one beats UW there. Ryan has an astonishing home win percentage of 87 percent – and that’s just against Big Ten teams.<br /> <br /> Part of the reason for that is the homecourt consideration the Badgers seem to get from the guys in the striped shirts. Sure enough, Ohio State struggled to open up a lead of any magnitude in the second half as tight call after tight call went the way of Wisconsin.<br /> <br /> The fifth foul called on <strong>Sam Thompson</strong>, for example, left the OSU junior forward muttering to himself in disbelief and gave the Buckeyes even more reason to believe their month of woe was about to continue.<br /> <br /> Matta must have thought there was a voodoo curse on him when the Buckeyes got a key stop up a point in the final minute, <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> alertly got the ball zipped ahead for a fastbreak and <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> not only blew the layup, he was whistled for a travel when teammate <strong>Amir Williams</strong> bumped into him on the rebound and knocked him off his feet.<br /> <br /> That set the stage for a final possession for the Badgers and a gulpy moment that just may have saved the 2013-14 season for Ohio State.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes played very solid defense, but they did that on the last possession of regulation at Michigan State that led to a <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> steal and a missed contested layup just before the horn.<br /> <br /> They did that down the stretch at Nebraska, only to watch <strong>Terran Petteway</strong> impersonate <strong>Dwyane Wade</strong>. They did that just last week against Penn State yet still couldn’t keep <strong>D.J. Newbill</strong> from draining a huge three to send the game to overtime and a 14-foot pullup with Craft draped on him that was reminiscent of the painful final defensive sequence in the 2011 Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky.<br /> <br /> It happens. And it happens a lot in basketball. Either you open up enough ground to avoid such moments or tempt the fates of the hoops gods, who haven’t been overly generous to OSU this year.<br /> <br /> So even when the Badgers were cut off in their attempts to work for an open shot with the game on the line and even when <strong>Sam Dekker</strong> was left to force a one-handed, off-balance three that had little chance of finding the net, Matta and company had to hold their breath and hope.<br /> <br /> Dekker’s shot nearly banked in, but caromed away – and just like that the fog lifted. Or perhaps it shifted.<br /> <br /> Suddenly Wisconsin is now the team that has lost five of its last 6 games after opening the campaign 16-0, the best start in program history. Suddenly Ryan had absorbed his first three-game home losing streak at UW and was left to explain the “collapse.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, of course, are not out of the woods. They have a lot of work to do simply to avoid the first losing league mark under Matta let alone secure an invitation to the NCAA ball. But in my mind, their season was saved simply because they likely couldn’t have survived another shoulda-coulda-woulda loss, especially considering the barrel of hope the win now offers.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes (17-5, 4-5) are still likely to lose at Iowa and drop right back to two games below .500 in the conference. But if they play decently well and come home believing in themselves again there is reason to believe they can take down Purdue next weekend and maybe upset Michigan, a team that is overdue for a loss, after that.<br /> <br /> A quality win over an Iowa or Michigan or Michigan State at the end of the season along with the clutch one at Wisconsin would go a long way. And so would a 10-8 or even 9-9 record in the Big Ten, which appears to be the deepest and most balanced conference in the country.<br /> <br /> Even at 4-5 now the Buckeyes are just a half-game behind fourth place Northwestern – a program that has never played in the NCAA Tournament – in the standings and now hold the tiebreaker advantage over Wisconsin, also 4-5. The two teams do not meet again in the regular season. <br /> <br /> The other 4-5 team, Minnesota, comes to Columbus on Feb. 22, allowing the Buckeyes to even that series. The Buckeyes also have a road game at last-place Illinois and have to travel to Penn State and Indiana, teams that also are below OSU in the standings. None of them will be easy, of course – not this year in this league – but certainly look winnable now that the Buckeyes have logged a big win on someone else’s campus.<br /> <br /> It can all turn so quickly – in either direction. Ask Arizona. The Wildcats were undefeated and atop the polls but lost Saturday night at Cal and lost the services of forward <strong>Brandon Ashley</strong> with a foot injury. Momentum can be a most fleeting thing, especially in the game of roundball.<br /> <br /> Craft, for example, did not have a bucket in the game at UW until nailing a three from the top of the key with the Buckeyes trailing 54-50. He made another monster play with a hesitation dribble, drive, and score to provide a one-point lead.<br /> <br /> UW forward <strong>Nigel Hayes</strong>, a product of Toledo, was having the best college game of his life and canned his first six shots, but he missed his seventh and then started clanging free throws.<br /> <br /> Forward <strong>Frank Kaminsky</strong>, who was playing like an All-Big Ten first-teamer the first half of the season, was just 1 for 6. Dekker, a preseason all-conference forward, has just four points.<br /> <br /> Smith, who had picked up his game of late, was 1 for 7 including his embarrassing missed lay-in and pratfall with the game on the line.<br /> <br /> When the Buckeyes survived anyway, Matta had to embrace someone and he bear-hugged first-year video coordinator <strong>Jake Diebler</strong>. The feeling was just too strong to pass up.<br /> <br /> Major college basketball can make you feel like a king or turn you into a puddle of discontentment, and it can happen in the snap of two fingers.<br /> <br /> So we are left to let this madness play out into March – but go onward fairly assured that Saturday’s nail-biter at Kohl was significant.<br /> <br /> <strong>Also Noteworthy</strong><br /> <br /> * Matta finally tinkered with his lineup as many has suggested and started Thompson in place of Scott. However, the move was more about matchups and also illustrated how overblown the starting five arguments often can be.<br /> <br /> Scott still logged 29 minutes, second only to Craft’s 30, and was a key factor with nine points, four rebounds and three assists. Thompson was limited to 22 minutes and fouled out with two points, no rebounds and no assists.<br /> <br /> * While the Badgers don’t provide a lot of defensive pressure, Matta had to take it as a good sign that the Buckeyes committed just eight turnovers and no one had more than one. Thompson did not have a turnover; the other eight Buckeyes who played had one miscue apiece.<br /> <br /> * Freshman forward <strong>Marc Loving</strong> continues to struggle mightily. He did not score in 14 minutes and was 0 for 2 from the field. Loving had just one point against Penn State and was scoreless at Minnesota. However, in between he did have eight points at Nebraska.<br /> <br /> * <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> also dealt with foul trouble at Wisconsin but had an efficient game offensively. He scored 13 points in 21 minutes on the floor and was a perfect 6 for 6 at the foul line.<br /> <br /> * Hayes, a 6-7 product of Toledo Whitmer, led the Badgers with 17 points despite coming off the bench. Another Ohioan, point guard <strong>Traevon Jackson</strong>, was less effective, however. The son of former Ohio State standout <strong>Jim Jackson</strong>, Traevon had seven points but was just 2 of 9 from the field and had only one assist and two turnovers.<br /> <br /> &nbsp; http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-02/Rapp_Around_Hold_On_A_Sec.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-02-02/Rapp_Around_Hold_On_A_Sec.aspx 9f00d829-f111-4392-a70b-0841b18f7fba Sun, 02 Feb 2014 20:37:47 GMT Wheels Fall Off Against Lions <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> looked disgusted and, in fact, was, but fellow senior <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> best summed up Ohio State’s stunning home loss to Penn State on Wednesday night when his voice shook.<br /> <br /> Smith called the 71-70 overtime setback before a crowd of 15,453 the most painful of his OSU career and added that it was “embarrassing.”<br /> <br /> Then the 6-4 guard carried on, fighting back tears for a moment.<br /> <br /> “They had a cause; they wanted this game,” Smith said of the pesky Nittany Lions. “We’ve just got to get back to being a team, wanting to win. We were on a four-game losing slump, we beat Illinois, and everything was back to normal and we were happy. We acted like we didn’t lose four games in a row.<br /> <br /> “As a team, I don’t think we care enough. These losses don’t hurt enough. This is embarrassing. Every other team in our conference is laughing at us right now. Top-25 teams at home don’t lose these games, and we lost.”<br /> <br /> Penn State entered town with an even overall record and with just one win in Big Ten play, but it was the Lions (11-10, 2-6), losers of their previous 18 contests with Ohio State, that came up with the winning plays.<br /> <br /> The No. 24 Buckeyes, meanwhile, lost for the fifth time in six games after a 15-0 start and fell to 16-5, 3-5 in league play. OSU has never posted a losing conference record under <strong>Thad Matta</strong> but just getting back to .500 is even more daunting with games at Wisconsin (Saturday) and Iowa (Feb. 4) next on the agenda.<br /> <br /> “The worst thing we can do is to continue to hope things are going to get better, because we have to do something about it if we want things to get better,” Craft said.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes buzzed through the nonconference portion of the schedule unscathed, won by nine points at Purdue in the Big Ten opener on New Year’s Eve, and bombed Nebraska at home on Jan. 4. Since then the rest of January has included last week’s seven-point win over the Illini and five losses.<br /> <br /> Ohio State appeared to steady itself by out-executing Illinois in the final minutes on Jan. 23 but is reeling again with the first loss to Penn State under Matta, who is now 17-1 in the series.<br /> <br /> “I think we got punched in the mouth and we’re still wavering a little bit,” Craft said.<br /> <br /> Matta once again was left to try to find answers after his team blew an 11-point lead with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation. Reserve center <strong>Trey McDonald</strong> scored on a layup with 8:29 left to provide a 57-48 lead and another second-teamer, <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong>, grabbed a steal moments later, leading to <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> drawing a foul.<br /> <br /> Ross’ free throws with 7:58 left on the game clock seemingly put OSU in command at 59-48. The Buckeyes were stuck on 59 until Ross again made a pair from the line with 3:19 left and the count was 62-55, the same one the scoreboard showed at the end of the Illinois game.<br /> <br /> The only field goal the Buckeyes scored in regulation after the McDonald hoop was a difficult, change-of-direction, left-handed layup by Craft that broke a 62-all tie with 36 seconds to go.<br /> <br /> Ohio State was just 7 of 25 (28.0 percent) shooting in the second half and made just one bucket in the overtime with Ross on the bench for much of the extra session.<br /> <br /> “Seven field goals in 25 minutes,” Matta lamented. “You’ve got to score the ball.”<br /> <br /> However, defense – supposedly OSU’s calling card this season – also has been the culprit this month. The Nittany Lions canned 13 of 24 (54.2 percent) first-half shots, were 12 of 25 (48.0) in the second half and managed to get up nine shots to OSU’s two in overtime.<br /> <br /> <strong>D.J. Newbill</strong> connected on a pair of huge threes down the stretch of regulation and swished a 14-footer over Craft for the game winner en route to a 25-point night. Froward <strong>Brandon Taylor</strong> added 19 and 6-1 guard <strong>Tim Frazier</strong> finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.<br /> <br /> Ross led OSU with 16 points, Smith added 15 and center <strong>Amir Williams</strong> contributed 12 points and six rebounds, but the Buckeyes managed to lose at home to a Big Ten bottom-feeder on a night when they had 20 more free-throw attempts and just eight turnovers in 45 minutes of play.<br /> <br /> “This is a bad loss for this program and for me and Aaron, (but) I’ll never give up on my team,” Smith said. “I know that when we get a cause and we get hungry for wins and we stick together and we become a team again, I’ll take us against anybody in the country. We’ve got to find what we’re missing.”<br /> <br /> Smith vowed to lead that charge and become a better leader. He said he’s fully aware he needs to play and direct others with even more purpose.<br /> <br /> “It hurts me even more because this is one less game in this jersey and this is the greatest time in my life,” he said.<br /> <br /> Smith was able to fire what would have been a game-winning three in the final seconds of regulation and <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> missed a short two-handed follow at the buzzer, sending the game to an extra session.<br /> <br /> However, Smith looked determined to make a difference in overtime. His 17-foot pullup provided a 68-67 edge for the Buckeyes and after <strong>Sam Thompson</strong>, who had just checked in for Ross, ripped down a key defensive rebound, Smith drew a foul while shooting a three with 2:07 left.<br /> <br /> The lefty made two of three free-throw attempts for a 70-67. Thompson stayed tight to Newbill on the next possession and made sure to fight over screens so as not to allow the talented PSU guard get off a game-tying three like his did with 11 seconds left in regulation.<br /> <br /> Newbill slashed down the lane and scored with 45 ticks to go, and, after a timeout, the Buckeyes didn’t even manage a shot on the other end.<br /> <br /> The ball was swung to Ross, who drove in from the wing, got caught up in traffic and threw a difficult pass to the knees of Williams, who lost it out of bounds.<br /> <br /> With 13 seconds remaining, Newbill received the inbounds pass worked to the elbow area against Craft, and pured a pullup over the Big Ten’s most decorated defender with 1.9 seconds remaining.<br /> <br /> “That was a big-time shot,” Matta said.<br /> <br /> “I knew that they were going to try to stop me from going right because they had been shading me left all game,” Newbill said, “so I just made a quick right-to-left crossover and pulled up with confidence – and fortunately it went down.”<br /> <br /> Newbill said he wasn’t sure who would be assigned to him since Thompson had some success in the overtime.<br /> <br /> OSU had one last faint hope until Craft lost control of the ball across the midcourt line and wasn’t able to get off a shot as the final horn sounded.<br /> <br /> “I probably should have passed it to Lenzelle in the corner,” he said, head down. “I looked at the clock and though I had time to take a dribble and didn’t pick it up clean.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes were in position to avoid the whole mess. Craft tried to put the punctuation mark on a 13-6 run in the middle of the second half with a lob to the springy Thompson. When the pass sailed too high off Thompson’s hand, Ross alertly grabbed the ball before it trickled out of bounds and found McDonald alone underneath and basket for a lay-in.<br /> <br /> OSU pushed the lead to 11 but let the visitors have new life. Newbill split a pair of free throws and made two several possessions later. Frazier drained a jumper. After Craft hit 1 of 2 free throws, reserve big man <strong>Jordan Dickerson</strong> dunked home an airball three by Taylor and OSU’s lead was just 60-55.<br /> <br /> Another Dickerson layup with 2:20 left trimmed the score to 62-59. After a wild shot attempt by Scott along the baseline, the Lions stretched the boundaries of the shot clock and Newbill bottomed a three to tie the game at 62 with 1:08 showing. Frazier set up the play with an accurate crosscourt bullet pass.<br /> <br /> It appeared Craft lost the ball out of bounds on the next possession but the referees reviewed the play and awarded the ball to Ohio State with 42 seconds left in regulation and 12 ticks on the shot clock.<br /> <br /> That’s when Craft came through with his twisting drive and finish, which was set up by a bold behind-the-back dribble.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes appeared to be in business when Frazier missed a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left and Smith was fouled on the defensive rebound. However, Smith made just 1 of 2 freebies, setting up the second clutch three by Newbill.<br /> <br /> Matta said he considered instructing his team to foul with a 65-62 lead and seconds to go, but opted not to do so.<br /> <br /> “We did exactly what we were supposed to do, one guy didn’t, and we messed it up,” said the 10-year OSU coach. “But at home I thought we could get the stop.”<br /> <br /> Taylor led all scorers in the first half with 11 points and helped get the visitors off to a sizzling start. They hit their first four shots and finished the stanza above 50 percent.<br /> <br /> In the second half, it was the supposedly sad-sack Lions who showed more resolve and composure despite five losses by three points or less this season.<br /> <br /> “These guys have a really clear understanding of what we’re doing now,” PSU coach <strong>Patrick Chambers</strong> said. “They’re executing with great confidence and I’m happy for them. They deserved to get one back, so to speak.”<br /> <br /> Matta, of course, had a different perspective.<br /> <br /> “My gosh, they made incredible plays throughout the course of the game, but it’s just one of those things where we’ve got to be a tougher physically and tougher mentally basketball team,” he said.<br /> <br /> “I don’t like the position we’re in but it’s the reality of it. We’ve got to fight our way out of this.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Game Notes</strong><br /> <br /> * Ohio State still leads the all-time series with Penn State, 29-13. The Buckeyes are 15-4 vs. PSU in Columbus including a 9-1 mark at the Schottenstein Center.<br /> <br /> * Ohio State has played 40 overtime games at home and is an even 20-20 when having to go to extra time as the host team.<br /> <br /> * The Buckeyes are 67-57 all-time in one-point games, 33-25 at home.<br /> <br /> * Matta lost to an unranked Big Ten opponent for just the second time, dipping to 53-2 in such games. The Buckeyes had won 80 straight games at home against unranked foes.<br /> <br /> * Craft had a game-high four steals to give him 299 for his career. Ex-Michigan standout <strong>Gary Grant</strong> had 300 career steals and ranks second in Big Ten history, meaning Craft needs just two thefts to pass him. Former Illinois guard <strong>Bruce Douglas</strong> is the conference’s all-time leader with 324.<br /> <br /> * The Ohio State coaches wore athletic shoes as part of Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Awareness Weekend. They also wore lapel pins and with a purple ribbon to honor former OSU assistant <strong>Dan Peters</strong>, currently the Director of Basketball Operations at the University of Akron.<br /> <br /> Peters, who was at OSU from 2004-09, is in a battle with pancreatic cancer. Purple symbolizes that challenge and the ribbons have the words “4 Pete’s Sake.”<br /> <br /> Matta said after the game that the gesture added perspective to a basketball loss. He also praised Peters’ toughness.<br /> <br /> “He’s a fighter,” Matta said. “If anybody can beat it, he can.”<br /> <br /> Peters’ son, Danny, played for Matta at Ohio State, beginning his tenure as a walk-on. <strong>Danny Peters</strong> currently is a member of the coaching staff at Arizona, the nation’s No. 1 team. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-30/Wheels_Fall_Off_Against_Lions.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-30/Wheels_Fall_Off_Against_Lions.aspx 17c7c06a-eae1-443a-bab4-2f018747d1b8 Thu, 30 Jan 2014 16:14:51 GMT OSU Doubles Down On Smith The Ohio State University is still without an official president as <strong>Joseph Alutto</strong> continues to head the school in an interim role.<br /> <br /> Given the importance and scope athletics plays in the OSU’s collegiate prominence, it may be fair to say that <strong>Gene Smith</strong> is the most recognizable administrator at the school.<br /> <br /> And he’s certainly among the most well-compensated.<br /> <br /> Ohio State’s longtime athletic director had his contract extended through at least 2020 and has assumed the added title of vice president, the university announced Tuesday.<br /> <br /> The promotion is still pending approval by the Board of Trustees later this week.<br /> <br /> Smith also figures to attain a seven-figure salary soon.<br /> <br /> Under terms of the agreement, he continues to report directly to the university president. Smith’s base salary, effective July 1, 2013, is $940,484 per year, and he is eligible for standard, university-wide merit-based salary increases each year. His compensation is paid entirely through athletics department revenues, using no tuition or tax dollars.<br /> <br /> In addition to overseeing the university’s athletics programs, Smith now has joint oversight responsibility with the Office of Business and Finance for the Business Advancement Division of Ohio State. Business Advancement includes the Jerome Schottenstein Center, the Blackwell Inn, Drake Union, the Fawcett Center and the Office of Trademark and Licensing Services.<br /> <br /> Smith also has responsibility for the Nationwide Arena Management agreement to increase existing revenue streams and pursue new revenue opportunities through creative collaboration and innovation. In addition, he will partner with the Office of Business and Finance for responsibility of the university’s affinity agreements.<br /> <br /> “Gene Smith is one of this country’s most accomplished collegiate athletics directors, with an exemplary record of national leadership and service,” Alutto said in a statement. “Thanks to his dedication to student success, graduation success rates of Ohio State’s student-athletes have risen by 11 percentage points, to 89 percent.<br /> <br /> “His vision and commitment to excellence have made Ohio State’s Department of Athletics one of the strongest in the nation. Expanding his leadership reach to work more closely with other university functions can only strengthen us all.”<br /> <br /> Smith was named the university’s eighth athletic director on March 5, 2005, coming to the school from Arizona State. He also served as AD at Eastern Michigan, and Iowa State.<br /> <br /> At Ohio State, Smith oversees the largest athletic program in the country, with 36 varsity sports and more than 900 student-athletes.<br /> <br /> He has previous affiliations with the NCAA Management Council, the NCAA committee on Infractions, the Rose Bowl Management Committee, and the NCAA Football Rules Committee. Smith was named to the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Committee in 2006 and became the chair in 2010.<br /> <br /> Smith is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame where he was recruited to play football for the Fighting Irish. He is highly visible on football Saturdays at Ohio Stadium and makes sure to greet fans, recruits and donors before, during and after games.<br /> <br /> In Smith’s nine years that followed a successful and building run by <strong>Andy Geiger</strong>, Smith has presided over 10 team national championships, 60 individual national championships and eight National Players of the Year. Since 2005, Ohio State also has produced 662 All-Americans, 22 Olympians, 53 Big Ten Conference team championships, 149 Big Ten individual champions and 70 conference athletes of the year.<br /> <br /> “I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the athletics program at a university with a national reputation for excellence that encompasses a broad-range of areas,” said Smith. “Working with the coaches, athletics staff, faculty and staff across the university enables us to provide positive experiences for the young people we serve, while finding ways to help them become global citizens impacting the world.<br /> <br /> “Ohio State is an amazing institution and I am proud to be a Buckeye.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-29/OSU_Doubles_Down_On_Smith.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-29/OSU_Doubles_Down_On_Smith.aspx 416ff132-16cd-4a22-baa1-a927a4d12728 Wed, 29 Jan 2014 16:08:41 GMT KBD Offers Glimpse Into Future While the Ohio State men’s basketball team spent much of January scuttling and dipping in the national rankings, one main culprit has reared its ugly head: outside shooting.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes lost four straight Big Ten games and dropped from league contention as shot after shot bounded away, leaving fans to wonder if OSU simply wasn’t capable enough of hitting important jump shots against topflight competition.<br /> <br /> <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong>, last year’s leading scorer in the Big Ten, was more of a volume shooter but he averaged nearly 20 points per game in 2012-13 and played with confidence he would hit the next attempt. After he departed and freshman <strong>Kameron Williams</strong> was slowed by illness and redshirted, more of an onus was placed on the likes <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> and <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong><br /> <br /> Those two finally shook out of the doldrums in Ohio State’s last contest, a 62-55 win over Illinois, but the Buckeyes (16-4, 3-4) still miss Thomas and still could use a talent like Williams.<br /> <br /> Sixth man <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> always has been more of an athletic finisher than dangerous outside shooter, and <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> and <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> are lead guards who would prefer not to fire over defenses.<br /> <br /> <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong> is perhaps the team’s best deep shooter but his game is not polished enough to justify extended minutes. Similarly, <strong>Marc Loving</strong> has shown promise but is only a freshman.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes have the rest of this season to figure out how to cover up their deficiency but help certainly is on the way. Guard <strong>D’Angelo Russell</strong> is an elite talent who will help with perimeter shooting and Williams presumably will be in the mix as well.<br /> <br /> And at forward, 6-7 <strong>Keita Bates-Diop</strong> continues to show that he has impressive range and touch for a young player his size. Last weekend, the Ohio State signee and his Normal (Ill.) University High School squad were one of the many nationally ranked teams on display at Flyin’ To The Hoop, a four-day prep basketball extravaganza staged in Kettering, Ohio.<br /> <br /> With the Buckeyes mired in a three-game skid that was about to reach four on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Bates-Diop put on a shooting exhibition inside Trent Arena and led all scorers with 31 points.<br /> <br /> Matched up with all-world sophomore <strong>VJ King</strong> of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Bates-Diop nailed four three-pointers in the opening period – all of them swishes and all from virtually the same spot on the floor.<br /> <br /> He added two more triples, four other baskets and a game-high 10 rebounds, although University was clipped 89-78 by SVSM, one of the most talented teams in Ohio.<br /> <br /> Even after defeat, Bates-Diop was roundly applauded by fans and hounded by autograph-seeking youngsters in the stands.<br /> <br /> “It was great to come back and see all the love that the kids and the adults gave me,” he told reporters afterward. “It was great because most of those people are going to see me play and I wanted to give them a taste of what they’re going to be seeing.<br /> <br /> “I usually shoot pretty well but I have been that hot for a while. Being back here with the adrenaline, I was ready. And then in warm-ups I was feeling it.”<br /> <br /> If Bates-Diop can continue to connect on shots, he figures to make an immediate impact at Ohio State. When he signed a letter-of-intent in November along with Russell, 6-4 forward <strong>Jae’Sean Tate</strong> of Pickerington (Ohio) Central and 6-10 power forward <strong>Dave Bell</strong> of Garfield Heights (Ohio) HS, Bates-Diop was considered one of the top forward prospects in the Midwest and he’s only improved that reputation.<br /> <br /> “Hopefully things will work out so that I can get on the floor and show people I can shoot,” he said.<br /> <br /> Bates-Diop, though, isn’t just a fire-at-will player. In fact, he is adept at posting up and playing in the high post. He’s also a willing passer and defender.<br /> <br /> When asked what he role he envisions for himself at Ohio State, he said, “something like what LaQuinton Ross is doing now, but I have to get in there and prove myself.”<br /> <br /> OSU coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong>, who long has extolled the virtues of a “stretch four” at the collegiate level, no doubt would like to see Bates-Diop and Loving on the floor together hurting defenses from the perimeter and making an impact on the other end as well.<br /> <br /> Bates-Diop likes the idea, too.<br /> <br /> “Marc is long, I’m long,” he said. “It’ll help us on defense and shooting over people, too.”<br /> <br /> Bates-Diop is able to move around and create for his AAU team but there isn’t a lot of pressure on him to rack up 20-plus points every time out given his commitment and the balance in place. At University, though, he’s the star of the show.<br /> <br /> “I carry more of an offensive load during the school year,” he said. “On AAU, I have a lot more talent around me because we have like seven or eight Division I players. So we share the ball a lot. But here I have to carry more of an offensive load.”<br /> <br /> Bates-Diop said he began looking at Ohio State after he saw fellow Illinois natives Smith and Thompson prospering under Matta. When he visited campus and got to hang around the coaches and players, he came even more impressed because of the family atmosphere in place.<br /> <br /> The Bloomington, Ill., product chose Ohio State over a plethora of other Big Ten schools along with Stanford, Marquette, Kansas State and DePaul.<br /> <br /> Perhaps the only roadblock to immediate court time with the Buckeyes is strength. Bates-Diop is listed 190 pounds and knows he needs to add some bulk to hold up in one of the most physical leagues in college.<br /> <br /> “I’m a little thin right now,” he admitted. “If I go to the Big Ten now I’ll get beat up. I definitely have to put on a lot of weight and muscle.”<br /> <br /> Still, Bates-Diop believes he can help the Buckeyes soon and also has a lot of confidence in fellow signees Russell, Tate and Bell.<br /> <br /> “We definitely have a special group,” he said. “We want to come in a do special things quick. We don’t want to come in and be slow. We want to come in and work and put in the time to be great.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Other Jan. 18 Flyin’ To The Hoop Games</strong><br /> <br /> * Bell had 11 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes against <strong>Emmanuel Mudiay</strong> and company in the following game. Bell’s Garfield Heights squad lost 72-53 to Dallas Prime Prep Academy, which also features forward <strong>Terrance Ferguson</strong>, like King one of the top sophomores in the country.<br /> <br /> Mudiay led Prime Prep with 20 points and seven rebounds while Ferguson added 16 points, three boards, two assists and two steals. One of the elite seniors in the country, the 6-5 Mudiay is committed to SMU.<br /> <br /> * Local team Dayton Thurgood Marshall stunned Wichita (Kan.) Sunrise Christian Academy in the nightcap Sunday, 58-48. Point guard <strong>Lourawls Nairn Jr.</strong>, a Michigan State commitment, had 12 points for Sunrise but committed four turnovers and four fouls and was just 4 of 13 from the floor.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-26/KBD_Offers_Glimpse_Into_Future.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-26/KBD_Offers_Glimpse_Into_Future.aspx 353fadf9-6be2-4176-941e-da9093c73e0e Sun, 26 Jan 2014 21:12:43 GMT Pulling Out Of The Abyss The past couple weeks have been nightmarish for <strong>Thad Matta</strong> and his cold-shooting Ohio State basketball team – and in the first half of Thursday night’s game with Illinois the shivers continued.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes still were stuck in neutral offensively, hit just 7 of 24 (29.2 percent) first-half shots and trailed 25-24 at the break before 16,774 groaning onlookers at the Schottenstein Center.<br /> <br /> However, the funk finally ended in a second-half fury that featured timely stops, suddenly effective shooting, and, in a most welcome sight, composure-filled plays down the stretch.<br /> <br /> The result was a must-have 62-55 win over the Illini, who, like OSU, entered the contest on a four-game Big Ten losing streak.<br /> <br /> “We tried to do our best to put the losing streak behind us,” point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> said. “This game wasn’t about that. We wanted to come out and find a way to be better than Illinois. We were a tougher basketball team down the stretch than we have been. That’s what matters.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, who slipped to No. 17 in The Associated Press poll at the beginning of the week and were stunned at Nebraska on Monday, moved to 16-4 overall, 3-4 in Big Ten play. They also improved to 13-1 at home as several players had productive evenings.<br /> <br /> “It was a lot of togetherness tonight,” said forward <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong>, who led the way with 18 points. “You see our guys jumping up and down, you see our bench jumping up and down. We were able to get our crowd into it and it felt good to be playing back at home, having that support from the crowd.”<br /> <br /> Added Matta, “That crowd was as energetic as can be and really helped us.”<br /> <br /> The juice in the building and the urgency of trying to avoid the program’s first five-game losing streak since the forgettable 1997-98 season that capped OSU’s residence in St. John Arena, also seemed flow through <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> The recently maligned senior entered play with just four made three-pointers in six Big Ten games but matched that total against the Illini (13-7, 2-5).<br /> <br /> Just 4 of 25 from deep in the previous league games, Smith was 4 of 5 behind the arc and totaled 16 points, five rebounds and three steals.<br /> <br /> If anyone in scarlet and gray needed to break out of a funk, it was Smith.<br /> <br /> “It feels good,” he said afterward. “I got a chance to see guys smile, and I can tell you prior to this game there were no smiles, there was no laughter. Guys were kind of in their shell, and I feel everybody is out now.”<br /> <br /> With Ross and Smith doing damage on the wing, Craft appeared to settle down and ease back into his role as a facilitator on offense – along with being a pest as usual on the other end. Craft came through with 11 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and also led the defensive effort to completely shut down UI leading scorer <strong>Ravonte Rice</strong>.<br /> <br /> When going over matchups during pregame, Matta told his senior point guard, “I need my Aaron Craft tonight.”<br /> <br /> Check.<br /> <br /> The 6-4 Rice, meanwhile, entered town averaging 17.4 points per game but left the floor 0 of 8 shooting with no points and three turnovers. Point guard <strong>Tracy Abrams</strong> had nine points but was just 2 of 8 and committed four turnovers.<br /> <br /> Illinois head coach <strong>John Groce</strong>, a former Ohio State assistant under Matta, said if he was told prior to the game his backcourt would be a combined 2 for 16 with seven turnovers, “I wouldn’t like my chances – but we were right there.”<br /> <br /> That was due in large part to wing <strong>Joseph Bertrand</strong> logging 19 points, power forward <strong>Jon Ekey</strong> canning three triples and adding 11 points, and center <strong>Nnanna Egwu</strong> contributing 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.<br /> <br /> In the end, though, the Illini lost grip of the ball when it mattered – and that was attributable to fierce OSU defense that led to important baskets. Craft and <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> often were the prime disruptors.<br /> <br /> “I kept talking about it for two days – take care of the ball, take care of the ball,” Groce said. “Easier said than done – I’m not picking on our guys – especially when those two guards are running around out there.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes trailed 34-33 when a very timely 7-0 spurt gave them the lead for good. It was fueled by defense.<br /> <br /> In fact, Craft started it with a steal in the middle of the floor and fastbreak lay-in. Sensing trouble, Groce burned a timeout with 14:13 to play. However, moments later Craft came up with a loose ball and connected with a streaking Smith, who fluidly scored on a soaring left-handed layup.<br /> <br /> After another defensive stop, OSU stretched the lead to 40-34 when Craft handed off to <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> and watched the springy junior rise up on the arc and bury a three.<br /> <br /> Groce called another timeout but the Illini could not respond as the OSU defense forced an over-and-back call. The Schott was rocking at the under-12 timeout (11:40) and the Buckeyes finally went into the stretch run with some confidence.<br /> <br /> “I loved our energy on defense,” Matta said. “I thought we played extremely hard. I thought we got back to rotating and seeing things the way we needed to see them.”<br /> <br /> Also helping the Buckeyes return some of their mojo was junior center <strong>Amir Williams</strong>, who offset Egwu in the paint with seven points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Even his four fouls point to his aggression on the court, which often has flit away during his career.<br /> <br /> “Amir had the look tonight,” Matta said. “He was active, he was energetic, he was tracking the ball, blocking shots. I thought he did a really, really good job.”<br /> <br /> With so many positives flowing, a reporter asked Matta if the ship had been righted – a question that made the 10-year OSU coach laugh immediately.<br /> <br /> “Yeah,” he said with a sarcastic snicker. “All is fine.”<br /> <br /> Clearly, there is still work to be done and a daunting schedule ahead. The Buckeyes get the weekend off and next host last-place Penn State on Jan. 29 (7 p.m. Eastern, Big Ten Network), which appears to be a golden opportunity for them to even their Big Ten record. However, that will be followed by games at Wisconsin and Iowa.<br /> <br /> Later on, OSU will tangle with rivals Michigan and Indiana, and the regular-season finale with Michigan State looms. The Buckeyes also still have to go to Illinois, and that trip won’t be easy if they play anything like they did for the first 20 minutes of this contest.<br /> <br /> “Offensively, in the first have I’m just like, ‘My gosh, here we go again,’ and then when Amir missed the dunk, I’m like, ‘Maybe this isn’t supposed to be,’ but to the kids’ credit they had a different look in their eye down the stretch,” Matta said.<br /> <br /> After taking the 40-34 lead, the Buckeyes still had some work remaining. Scott misfired on a pullup, Ekey nailed a three and freshman <strong>Marc Loving</strong> was whistled for an offensive foul.<br /> <br /> With 10:00 remaining, Matta returned starters Ross, Smith and Williams to the floor and gave Craft a brief rest.<br /> <br /> Ross drew a foul with 9:32 left and split a pair of free throws. A Bertrand three sliced the lead to just one, 41-40, but Craft hit one of his biggest shots of the season when he dropped home a three off a perfect skip pass from Scott.<br /> <br /> After Illinois tied the score at 46, it was Smith’s turn to come up big as he hit a triple.<br /> <br /> Ross missed on two chances to double the lead by missing a pair of three-point attempts. However, after a Smith three also rimmed out, Smith stole the outlet pass and found Scott for a left-handed lay-in and a 51-46 lead.<br /> <br /> Abrams scored off an inbounds pass in UI’s next trip but Williams made 1 of 2 free throws for a 52-48 lead.<br /> <br /> Abrams scored while knocking into Williams, drew a foul call, but missed the free throw. That led to the biggest consecutive baskets of the night.<br /> <br /> Ross, who earlier connected on a turnaround, got loose on the baseline, hopped into the paint and scored while fouled. His free throw upped OSU’s edge to 55-50.<br /> <br /> “They did a lot of switches, so sometimes I had a 1- or 2-guard on me and I was able to take advantage,” Ross explained.<br /> <br /> After Scott drew a charging call on Rice, Craft was able to find Smith with the shot clock dwindling down and the lefty buried a three right in front of the OSU bench for a 58-50 lead and jubilant scene.<br /> <br /> OSU led 58-53 when Craft grabbed a defensive rebound with 29.4 seconds left and made both ends of a 1-and-1 for a 60-53 advantage.<br /> <br /> Ohio State improved to 42-40 all-time in Columbus when hosting Illinois. The Buckeyes ran their streak of home wins over unranked opponents to 80.<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-24/Pulling_Out_Of_The_Abyss.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-24/Pulling_Out_Of_The_Abyss.aspx 38f1662f-416d-493b-962e-770d21ba198f Fri, 24 Jan 2014 13:14:00 GMT It Just Keeps Getting Worse The troubled Ohio State basketball team has matched the nadir of the <strong>Thad Matta</strong> era after a fourth straight setback – a 68-62 decision at Nebraska on Monday night.<br /> <br /> If the Buckeyes’ fortunes don’t change Thursday night (7 p.m. Eastern, ESPN) vs. Illinois at the Schottenstein Center, the program will experience the worst skid since a 17-game losing streak in 1997-98 – <strong>Jim O’Brien</strong>’s first season as coach and the last at St. John Arena.<br /> <br /> No one expect that kind of implosion. Then again, it’s now hard to believe the Buckeyes were ranked No. 3 in the nation just over a week ago and hard to imagine when answers will arrive.<br /> <br /> At Nebraska, OSU dug a 34-20 hole in the first half and, after fighting back to take the lead, again faltered down the stretch. Misfires, turnovers and even clanged free throws proved costly.<br /> <br /> No. 17 Ohio State fell to 15-4 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten after a fourth straight loss. The only other time a Matta-coached OSU team lost four in a row was Feb. 17-March 1, 2008 – a dip that kept the Buckeyes out of the NCAA Tournament.<br /> <br /> That team, however, won its final two regular-season games against ranked teams, Purdue and Michigan State, and went on to win the NIT. It also finished 10-8 in the conference.<br /> <br /> Matta’s first OSU team suffered four straight defeats in January 2005, one of them being a wild double-overtime loss at LSU. The Buckeyes were in danger of losing a fourth straight conference game at the end of the regular-season but upset No. 1 Illinois 65-64 and finished with 20 wins and an 8-8 league mark.<br /> <br /> In fact, Ohio State has never had a losing Big Ten record under Matta.<br /> <br /> That streak suddenly appears to be in question after the current Buckeyes bolted to a 15-0 start. They couldn’t pull themselves up off the mat against a Cornhuskers squad (9-8, 1-4) that had lost five in a row and was throttled by 31 points in Columbus earlier this month.<br /> <br /> Matta opted to pull center <strong>Amir Williams</strong> from the floor in the second half and the tactic worked for much of the stanza as the Buckeyes opened it with a 15-2 burst to take a 38-36 lead. However, once again OSU couldn’t find a winning formula.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes finished 21 of 53 from the floor (39.6 percent) including 6 of 21 from three-point range (28.6 percent). Top options <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> and <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> had 11 and 10 points, respectively, but each was just 4 of 12 from the field.<br /> <br /> Senior point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> did what he could with team highs in points (12), rebounds (seven) and assists (three) but also had four turnovers, two in the crucial final five minutes. After committing zero turnovers in OSU’s two Big Ten wins, Craft has totaled 19 in the four-game losing streak.<br /> <br /> <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> fouled out with just four points and was 0 of 3 from long range. Ross was 0 of 2 and passed up several potential shots from the perimeter.<br /> <br /> The more the Buckeyes struggled and appeared unconfident, the hungrier the homestanding Cornhuskers appeared to be to get their first conference victory at Pinnacle Bank Arena and first over OSU on the hardwood since joining the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> <strong>Terran Petteway</strong> and <strong>Shavon Shields</strong> tied for game-high honors with 18 points apiece and also helped Nebraska win the battle on the boards, 33-27. The ’Huskers set the tone in the first half with multiple forays to the basket and a 26-6 advantage for points in the paint by halftime.<br /> <br /> Even though the Buckeyes rallied from 34-20 and 34-25 at the break, they never spooked Nebraska, which came up with several clutch plays on each end of the floor.<br /> <br /> Asked after the game what has changed for his team the last two weeks, Matta said, “How much time do we have? I think this, you have to respect this league and know that it’s hard. We had a shot at the rim four games ago (at Michigan State) at the horn to win. We had a nine-point lead in the next game (against Iowa) in the second half and get beat.<br /> <br /> “You come back and take the lead tonight. We need consistency. When something doesn’t go well, the thing I don’t see is the ability to come back and have mental toughness to make the next play. We are clinging on the mistakes. You have to play forward.”<br /> <br /> Posting a W for the first time since beating The Citadel on Dec. 21, Nebraska connected on 20 of 26 free-throw attempts.<br /> <br /> Guard <strong>Deverell Biggs</strong> led a 21-point bench effort with 11 points and hit 4 of 5 shots.<br /> <br /> Nebraska was fueled early by OSU mistakes, scoring 14 of its 34 first-half points off of Buckeye turnovers. With the crowd involved and the Buckeyes looking like wounded animals, NU kept coming with offensive heat.<br /> <br /> “They did a good job of putting their heads down and driving the basketball,” Matta said. “They finished well. They made a couple stepbacks and some floaters. It was that kind of night. We got the ball to the rim and they didn’t go in for us.”<br /> <br /> Even with a 5-for-13 start to the shooting night, Smith and <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> had splashed threes, and Scott and freshman <strong>Marc Loving</strong> connected on 17-foot jumpers. The Buckeyes took a 19-18 lead when <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong>, OSU’s leading scorer in the blowout of Nebraska in Columbus, drained a wide-open three.<br /> <br /> However, OSU proceeded to go 6-½ minutes without a field goal and was outscored 16-2 in that stretch. The drought included seven straight misses from the floor and four turnovers.<br /> <br /> Nebraska took a 21-19 lead on a three by Shields thanks to a goaltending call and Della Valle split a pair of free throws moments later.<br /> <br /> Nebraska scored the game’s next 13 points to open up a 34-20 and cause Matta to call a timeout with 2:17 in the half. Della Valle had a pair of miscues and missed an open three in the messy sequence while Craft was out of control as well.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes showed some resiliency by scoring the final five points of the half, tying the score at 36 minutes into the second half and even taking a brief two-point lead.<br /> <br /> But it was the Cornhuskers’ night. Petteway nailed a straight-on three to provide a 41-38 NU lead and a floater that made it 51-47. The lead was just 51-49 when freshman <strong>Tai Webster</strong> made a pair of pressure free throws with 1:59 to play.<br /> <br /> After Craft was whistled for charging into Shields and Scott inexplicable jumped onto a trapped Petteway in the backcourt, Petteway calmly added two more free throws that upped the advantage to 55-49.<br /> <br /> Craft did the same for OSU the next time down, but Petteway answered again, this time by making a contested banker while driving down the right side of the lane.<br /> <br /> When Thompson missed a three and Loving couldn’t tip it in, the Buckeyes’ fate was sealed. NU opened the lead to 10 (64-54) and threes by Loving and Smith in the final minute were too late.<br /> <br /> Nebraska was just 2 of 13 from deep but still finished at 50 percent (23 of 46) from the field. Matta was left to try to match it by going small in the second half and keeping the 6-11 Williams and 6-9 <strong>Trey McDonald</strong> on the bench.<br /> <br /> “I wanted some offense,” he said. “To be honest with you, we got clipped on some ball screens in the first half that can’t happen. That put a lot of pressure on our bigs. We have to do a better job of pushing up into the ball and defend the ball screen situation better to open up the game.”<br /> <br /> In the four-game losing streak, Ohio State has hit just 40.4 percent of its shots from the floor (88 of 218) and 30.3 percent of its threes (23 of 76). OSU also averaged 16 turnovers a game.<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-21/It_Just_Keeps_Getting_Worse.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-21/It_Just_Keeps_Getting_Worse.aspx c344f8b5-aaa1-4587-82a7-97267b3d74c5 Tue, 21 Jan 2014 18:44:14 GMT Buckeyes Drop Third Straight Good things are supposed to come in threes but right now the Ohio State basketball team doesn’t like the number so much.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes lost for the third straight time on Thursday night by falling apart again down the stretch and dropping a 63-53 decision at Minnesota. The last time a <strong>Thad Matta</strong> team suffered three straight setbacks was February 2009.<br /> <br /> Several Buckeyes struggled on the raised floor of venerable Williams Arena, including the player wearing jersey No. 3, <strong>Shannon Scott</strong>, who misfired on all three of his shot attempts, scored just one point and committed four turnovers.<br /> <br /> In fact, he and point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> combined for eight points, five assists and nine turnovers in the contest as No. 11 Ohio State (15-3, 2-3) totaled 11 assists to 13 miscues. Craft had 14 assists and no turnovers in OSU’s 2-0 league start, earning him Big Ten Player of the Week honors. In the subsequent three games he has compiled 15 turnovers.<br /> <br /> However, overall OSU improved in taking care of the ball after logging a combined 38 turnovers in the previous two games – an overtime loss at Michigan State and a rare home defeat vs. Iowa. The bigger problem was shooting, sometimes from point-blank range.<br /> <br /> <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> was a respectable 8 of 17 and led all scorers with 22 points and <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> was effective off the bench with a dozen points and a 4-for-7 showing from the floor. The remaining six Buckeyes who saw the court, however, managed a total of six field goals as OSU finished just 18 of 51 (35.3 percent) on shot attempts.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the Golden Gophers (14-4, 3-2) were 24 of 47 from the floor (51.1 percent) to become the first OSU opponent this season to crack the 50-percent mark. They also outhustled and outwitted their guests and managed to overcome a sloppy start while pulling away.<br /> <br /> Center <strong>Elliott Eliason</strong> led Minnesota with 12 points and 13 rebounds and completely outmanned OSU counterpart <strong>Amir Williams</strong>, who recorded just three points and five rebounds in 22 forgettable minutes.<br /> <br /> As a team, the Gophers gained a 38-20 advantage on points in the paint and outrebounded OSU 39-24.<br /> <br /> Eliason had help inside from backup <strong>Maurice Walker</strong>, who converted consecutive spin moves to draw fouls both times. He had five points and two rebounds in just six minutes of time. Power forward <strong>Oto Osenieks</strong> added eight points and did the dirty work around the basket.<br /> <br /> UM guard <strong>DeAndre Mathieu</strong> performed well in the backcourt with 13 points, five assists and three steals. Brothers <strong>Andre Hollins</strong> and <strong>Austin Hollins</strong> also helped put away the Buckeyes with key hoops in the final three minutes.<br /> <br /> Minnesota beat Ohio State for the first time in seven meetings, a feat last accomplished in Minneapolis in 2010. The upset of the ranked Buckeyes will go down as the first signature win for the Gophers under first-year head coach <strong>Richard Pitino</strong>.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes have had plenty eye-opening wins in the 10-year Matta era but appear to be sliding backwards. After dropping eight spots in The Associated Press poll from No. 3 to No. 11, they couldn’t find anything close to a winning formula in Minnesota’s famed “Barn.” They fell to 25-4 following losses over the last five seasons.<br /> <br /> The three-game skid of 2009 came at Wisconsin, at Northwestern and against Illinois. That team finished fifth in the Big Ten and took a first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament.<br /> <br /> And the Buckeyes have to try to turn it around away from home again. They are at Nebraska on Monday night (7 p.m. Eastern, Big Ten Network).<br /> <br /> The Gophers don’t have an easy road, either. After playing at Michigan State and hosting OSU, they head to Iowa over the weekend and then host No. 3 Wisconsin next Wednesday.<br /> <br /> Ohio State trailed 37-35 at halftime again Iowa, built a second-half lead and crumpled in the game’s final minutes. At Minnesota, OSU fought back to tie the game at 29 at halftime and had several second-half leads before faltering again.<br /> <br /> Ross actually hit consecutive threes that provided a 38-36 edge, but no one else came to the fore. OSU’s guards disappeared, Williams was never involved and reserve forward <strong>Marc Loving</strong> was shut out in his second Big Ten road contest.<br /> <br /> <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> led OSU with six rebounds but was just 3 of 9 from the field and missed a dunk in the first half. Williams missed a layup against moderate resistance and Ross missed a putback of a Loving miss right in front of the rim. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-17/Buckeyes_Drop_Third_Straight.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-17/Buckeyes_Drop_Third_Straight.aspx cfd6c31c-ff48-4dc8-9705-593df526bc11 Fri, 17 Jan 2014 15:37:38 GMT Meyer Reloads Defensive Staff Those who blame Ohio State’s defensive woes entirely on <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> probably will be disappointed to hear it’s likely the former Buckeye and longtime assistant again will be a point man on the that side of the ball.<br /> <br /> But there is new blood in line to join <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>’s coaching staff in the form of <strong>Larry Johnson</strong> and <strong>Chris Ash</strong>, who happen to be two of the most well-respected defensive coaches in the Midwest if not the country.<br /> <br /> Each earned strong reputations at rival Big Ten schools – Johnson for 18 years at Penn State and Ash in a smaller sample size at Wisconsin – and bring instant credibility.<br /> <br /> Meyer and OSU officials have not yet confirmed the moves but multiple reports, most notably SI.com, claim the moves are all but done.<br /> <br /> Johnson, who decided not to stay on at PSU after two separate meetings with new Nittany Lions coach <strong>James Franklin</strong>, is set to replace <strong>Mike Vrabel</strong> as OSU’s defensive line coach.<br /> <br /> Vrabel served two years in that role and one as linebackers coach in 2011 when Fickell was in charge of the program but the former NFL standout is headed back to the professional ranks. Last week, Vrabel confirmed he had accepted the linebackers coach position with the Houston Texans under <strong>Bill O’Brien</strong>, who, ironically, left Penn State to return to the NFL.<br /> <br /> Johnson joined the staff of the late <strong>Joe Paterno</strong> at Penn State in 1996 and served as defensive line coach for the last 15 years. His son, Larry Jr., was standout running back for the Lions and went on to a productive career in the NFL. Another son, Tony, was a wide receiver at Penn State.<br /> <br /> Among the defenive linemen Johnson groomed at Penn State are former All-Americans <strong>Jared Odrick</strong>, <strong>Tamba Hali</strong> and <strong>Courtney Brown</strong>, the latter the No. 1 pick of the Cleveland Browns atop the 2000 NFL draft.<br /> <br /> Along with being hailed as an outstanding position coach and mentor of talent, Johnson also is widely considered a premier recruiter with deep East Coast connections. He was a high school head coach in the Washington, D.C., area for many years and was instrumental in the recruitment of current Buckeyes <strong>Noah Spence</strong> and <strong>Tommy Schutt</strong>.<br /> <br /> Those two defensive linemen originally committed to Penn State before flipping to Ohio State while the PSU program was rocked by the <strong>Jerry Sandusky</strong> scandal.<br /> <br /> Johnson also is credited with landing 2014 prospect <strong>Thomas Holley</strong>, a nationally elite prep defensive lineman from New York City.<br /> <br /> Johnson admitted it was tough to leave behind his tenure at Penn State and will always carry great memories of his time there.<br /> <br /> “I want to say that I am very appreciative of all that went into my time at Penn State, all the players I’ve coached and all of the associations that I have,'' Johnson told PennLive on Monday evening.<br /> <br /> “But I’ve thought a lot about this, I’ve prayed about it, and this is what I want to do. I wish Coach Franklin and Penn State the best but it’s time for me. It’s a very difficult time but I want to thank the fans, the players, and Penn State. I mean that.”<br /> <br /> Ash appears to be an ideal replacement for <strong>Everett Withers</strong>, who served for two years as safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator at OSU. Meyer had hired Withers away from North Carolina, where, like Fickell, he served as an interim head coach. Withers is now the head coach at James Madison University.<br /> <br /> Ash was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin and followed <strong>Bret Bielema</strong> to take the same role at Arkansas. He also is considered a topflight coach of defensive backs.<br /> <br /> SI.com reported that Ash has accepted an offer to serve as co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach with the Buckeyes. If that is correct it can be presumed that Fickell will remain defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at OSU.<br /> <br /> The future role of <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong>, who served the past two years as OSU’s cornerback coach, is still unclear. A high-energy former Cincinnati high school coach and University of Cincinnati assistant, Coombs could stay put, be named special teams coach, or land a different position within the program.<br /> <br /> Ash was part of a defensive staff that led the Badgers to three consecutive Rose Bowls. <br /> <br /> In 2010, Ash oversaw marked improvement in the Badger pass defense as Wisconsin allowed just 193.9 passing yards per game. Three of his starters received All-Big Ten honors after the season and Ash was promoted to defensive coordinator in time for the 2011 season.<br /> <br /> That fall, the Badgers were stout again, ranking 13th in the country in scoring defense (19.0 points per game), 15th in total defense, and forth in passing defense. In 2012, UW was 23rd nationally in pass defense.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes are in a much different state at the moment. They finished 110th in passing yards allowed (268.0 ypg) this past season, allowed a combined 682 yards in the air in losses to Michigan State and Clemson, and need a virtual restart in the defensive backfield with corner <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> and safeties <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> and <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> set to depart.<br /> <br /> Ash cut his teeth as a major college assistant at Iowa State and also coached DBs at San Diego State.<br /> <br /> In 2009, his final season at Iowa State, the Cyclones ranked ninth in the NCAA with 32 takeaways.<br /> &nbsp; http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-14/Meyer_Reloads_Defensive_Staff.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-14/Meyer_Reloads_Defensive_Staff.aspx 9f1fdcdc-9fa1-41d6-bc5b-2d421f1ae9f8 Wed, 15 Jan 2014 05:51:54 GMT Hawkeyes Ruin OSU Homecoming Before heading to the Schottenstein Center on Sunday afternoon, Iowa’s previous road game was Jan. 5 at No. 4 Wisconsin.<br /> <br /> A double-digit lead was slipping away when head coach <strong>Fran McCaffrey</strong> went into a tirade, was ejected, and the homestanding Badgers eventually pulled out a 75-71 victory.<br /> <br /> McCaffey was suspended for Iowa’s next contest and on his best behavior against Ohio State. It turns out he had little reason to be agitated.<br /> <br /> The No. 20 Hawkeyes recorded perhaps their best victory of the McCaffrey era with an 84-74 win at No. 3 OSU, shredding one of the country’s top defenses and perplexing the Buckeyes with their length while playing mostly zone defense.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes (15-2, 2-2 in the Big Ten) shot decently (44.6 percent) but committed 17 turnovers and suffered breakdowns on key possessions. They led with five minutes to play but found themselves down 13 points before enduring the 10-point loss, just the sixth at The Schott since 2009.<br /> <br /> “We didn’t have offensively the connection that we needed,” OSU head coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong> lamented. “I don’t know what that was.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, who were coming off an overtime loss at Michigan State on Tuesday, committed 38 turnovers in the two losses.<br /> <br /> “It’s on us,” said point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong>, who had a game-high six miscues. “We knew they were going to press, we knew they were going to do what they did and we just weren’t ready to take care of the ball. It comes to the point where you’ve got to make good decisions and do what you need to do to protect the ball, and we’re not doing that. It’s the first thing we have to be corrected.”<br /> <br /> Forward <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> led OSU with 22 points but had just two in the game’s final 14 minutes and was credited with five turnovers. He said the Buckeyes were prepared to face zone and figured Big Ten teams would employ it.<br /> <br /> “We just have to make shots,” he said. “Sometimes we forget what we do in practice and we have to bring that to the game.”<br /> <br /> The defense was just as culpable, though. The Buckeyes entered the game with a stellar 182-14 record in games under Matta in which they scored 70 or more points. That trend was thwarted as the Hawkeyes (14-3, 3-1) produced the most points in Columbus since a 102-91 loss in 1989.<br /> <br /> Iowa was a healthy 29 of 61 from the field (47.5 percent) and hurt OSU with a trio of lengthy wings – <strong>Roy Devyn Marble</strong> (22 points), <strong>Aaron White</strong> (19) and reserve <strong>Jarrod Uthoff</strong> (10) – making aggressive forays to the basket and connecting on pullups, flips and even hook shots.<br /> <br /> Power forward <strong>Melsahn Basabe</strong> added 11 points and helped Iowa batter the Buckeyes on the boards, 40-31, with a game-high 10 caroms.<br /> <br /> McCaffrey said his team’s output had a lot to do with the respect he and his players had for the Buckeyes after watching them storm back to beat Notre Dame on a neutral court and rally from 17 down to nearly win in East Lansing.<br /> <br /> “They’re one of the most resilient teams I’ve seen on film in a long time,” said the fourth-year Iowa coach.<br /> <br /> McCaffrey kept his cool and so did his players down the stretch. In fact, the roles reversed when the Buckeyes opened up a nine-point lead at 53-44 after a three by reserve guard <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong>. It was the Hawkeyes who charged back and made the hustle plays.<br /> <br /> An 11-2 run by the visitors tied the score at 55 and made the crowd of 18,809 squirm in their seats. Marble started it with a pair of free throws followed by triples by <strong>Mike Gesell</strong>, White and Uthoff.<br /> <br /> “We didn’t finish” Matta said of the fateful sequence. “We had some chances around the rim and they had the stretch where they hit the three straight threes and we were slow reacting.”<br /> <br /> However, OSU freshman <strong>Marc Loving</strong> responded with a baseline drive and dunk while fouled, and his free throw put the Buckeyes back in front, 58-55.<br /> <br /> After Gesell forced an errant shot over Craft and <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> ripped the rebound, <strong>Amir Williams</strong> scored while fouled down low. OSU led 60-55 but a collapse followed.<br /> <br /> <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> missed a three that could have maintained positive momentum and instead Basabe scored on the other end. Seldom-used Iowa guard <strong>Josh Oglesby</strong> tied the game at 60 with a three and again at 62 with a layup.<br /> <br /> Basabe was whistled for his fourth foul and Williams made both free throws for a 64-62 OSU lead but OSU lost the lead on a nifty baseline drive and left-handed finish by Uthoff with 4:55 remaining and the Buckeyes followed with several empty possessions including five turnovers in their last 11 times with the ball.<br /> <br /> One of them was particularly costly. After a Williams dunk cut the Iowa lead to 70-68, Basabe tipped in a Marble pullup miss and the Buckeyes were in dire need of a hoop, trailing 72-68. Instead, <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> threw a wild bounce pass through the legs of Craft in front of the OSU bench.<br /> <br /> White then daggered his homestate school – the 6-9 forward is a native of Strongsville, Ohio – by spinning and scoring over Smith after a scramble after a tipped ball and with the shot clock ticking to 6.<br /> <br /> OSU still trailed by six when Scott clanged a three and Basabe grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He made both attempts and moments later OSU’s last chance flitted away, fittingly, with a turnover by Craft.<br /> <br /> “I think the biggest thing is getting our guys to understand that you can’t let one mistake compound into another mistake,” Matta said. “We’ve got to do a better job with a veteran team.”<br /> <br /> The Hawkeyes were impressive throughout the first half, especially offensively, as they built a 37-35 lead and took it to the locker room.<br /> <br /> Marble, who entered with a team-best scoring average of 16.0 points per game, had a dozen at intermission. He hit 6 of 9 shots almost all of them in the paint.<br /> <br /> In fact, the Hawkeyes tallied 30 of their 37 points in the half in the paint and were just 1 of 7 from behind the three-point arc.<br /> <br /> Still, the 17-of-36 showing from the field equated to 47.2 percent against an Ohio State team that hadn’t allowed an opponent to shoot better than 46.0 percent from the field all season and entered allowing 37.5 overall. Also, the 37 points were the most OSU has allowed in the first half in 2013-14.<br /> <br /> The shots seemed to rain in for Iowa. Gesell, listed 6-1 but possibly not quite 6-feet, made a pair of pretty left-handed finishes at the basket. White softly tossed in a pair hook shots – one with each hand – and burned OSU with layups on two inbounds plays from near the basket.<br /> <br /> Craft opened the second half by burying a corner three but it was clear the Buckeyes were in for a dogfight.<br /> <br /> After Ross’ 22, Williams had 11 points and Smith added 10. OSU was 6 for 14 from deep at one point but just 1 of 7 down the stretch vs. Iowa’s zone.<br /> <br /> “It’s not going to get easier,” Craft said, remembering OSU has upcoming games at Minnesota on Thursday (9 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2) and at Nebraska on Jan. 20. “I think we go through stretches where we want things to be easy. We don’t want them to make a run when we’re up nine, we just want them to die, and they’re not going to do that.<br /> <br /> “Obviously they’re a great team and they’ve played against great competition all year, and that’s not what they do. It’s a 40-minute game and we can’t have lapses like we did.”<br /> <br /> Matta reminded OSU lost at Michigan in overtime and came home and lost to Indiana last year and still won a Big Ten title.<br /> <br /> “We’re so far from the end of the finish line,” he said. “To panic or anything like that, I’ve never done that, I won’t do that.<br /> <br /> “This team has shown that it can play some great basketball – we played some great basketball today – but it’s that togetherness on both ends of the floor. We did some things today that were very uncharacteristic.”<br /> <br /> “There’s a lot of basketball to be played and the worst thing we can do is feel sorry for ourselves,” Craft said. “We can’t keep this going. We have to find a way to pick ourselves up because no one’s going to do it for us.”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-12/Hawkeyes_Ruin_OSU_Homecoming.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-12/Hawkeyes_Ruin_OSU_Homecoming.aspx 60eef4da-8871-4e03-81ac-88ab2a4cebc1 Sun, 12 Jan 2014 23:10:26 GMT First Loss Still Earns OSU Lots Grit, hustle and determination.<br /> <br /> Even in defeat, the Buckeyes of 2013-14 are now defined by those three qualities – and that makes them mighty dangerous going forward.<br /> <br /> In fact, it was the favored and homestanding Spartans of Michigan State who were apologetic after their 72-68 overtime win over No. 3 Ohio State on Tuesday night at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich., after MSU blew a 17-point lead with seven minutes remaining in regulation.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Ohio State was the team that raised eyebrows and drew praise for clawing out of a deep chasm with a 20-3 run down the closing stretch of the second half.<br /> <br /> Even though the Buckeyes (15-1, 2-1) fell from the ranks of the unbeaten, they only raised their postseason stock and again showed they are a hard fire to stamp out.<br /> <br /> Clearly, Michigan State (14-1, 3-0) also showed some mettle, came up with clutch plays and is in good position atop the Big Ten standings. However, head coach <strong>Tom Izzo</strong> appeared nearly physically sick after the hardfought win, especially knowing OSU senior point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> nearly grinched the victory.<br /> <br /> “I’m tired of giving him credit,” Izzo said of Craft afterward. “But he’s a warrior. He wants it.”<br /> <br /> That certainly can’t be questioned given Craft’s reputation for fierce oncourt play and what he did to bring the Buckeyes back up off the mat.<br /> <br /> Izzo feared such a charge was coming and ripped into his team during a timeout after an 11-2 OSU run cut the Michigan State lead to 57-49 with less than three minutes to play. The future Hall of Fame coach even shook wing <strong>Denzel Valentine</strong> in the huddle and went nose to nose with forward <strong>Branden Dawson</strong>, who didn’t pull down a rebound in the second half, to make his point.<br /> <br /> “I talked to (Valentine) about all the fancy stuff and one of these days, he’ll figure it out,” Izzo said. “Good player. I love him to death. But he’s going to learn tough lessons and it would’ve been a tough lesson if we would’ve lost the game because we didn’t do some of the things we’re supposed to do.”<br /> <br /> For example, the Spartans are known for their brawn on the boards but were outrebounded by Ohio State, 42-28.<br /> <br /> But it was the utter domination by the Buckeyes in the final minutes of the second half that really left mouths agape.<br /> <br /> After the fiery timeout address by Izzo, the Buckeyes just kept putting their foot on the gas and immediately cut the lead to 57-51 when Craft tossed a perfect alley-oop to reserve <strong>Sam Thompson</strong>, who ended up leading OSU in scoring with 18 points.<br /> <br /> Thompson’s throw-down quieted the crowd and the Spartans used up all 35 seconds on the shot clock on the next possession, which ended with Valentine throwing up an off-balance three-point attempt.<br /> <br /> Craft needled his way through the defense and scored on a nifty reverse while drawing a foul from Valentine, his fifth. Craft added the free throw and suddenly with 2:02 left in regulation the Buckeyes trailed just 57-54.<br /> <br /> Another solid defensive possession by the Buckeyes went unrewarded as <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> flew out of bounds to save a deflected pass but officials ruled that he had full possession and reset the shot clock with 1:34 remaining. Still, the Spartans were unable to score and bodies found the floor on the other end on the ensuing possession. After a missed three by Craft, MSU’s <strong>Gary Harris</strong> dived after a loose ball and then Craft, who corralled it just in time to call a timeout.<br /> <br /> On the inbounds play that followed Craft again worked his magic by firing the ball off the derriere of MSU’s <strong>Adreian Payne</strong>, his old AAU teammate, and jumping into the court to catch the carom and tally on a layup to cut the score to 57-56.<br /> <br /> Payne responded by drawing a foul in the lane on <strong>Amir Williams</strong> on the other end and making one of two free throws with 42.3 seconds left in regulation. The Buckeyes trailed 58-56 and came up with another answer.<br /> <br /> This time Craft drove hard into the lane, spun and flipped up a short banker. His attempt came strongly over the rim but the 6-11 Williams, a Detroit native, was there to catch and flush the miss, tying the score.<br /> <br /> That led to what nearly would have been the ultimate capper on an epic comeback.<br /> <br /> With the Spartans trying to work for a final shot, Scott deflected a pass and took off with a steal with 4 seconds showing. He went hard to the rim and his shot attempt was slightly deflected by <strong>Keith Appling</strong> then swatted away by Payne just outside the cylinder.<br /> <br /> The springy Thompson was in position to throw down a game-winning follow just before the buzzer if Payne had not zipped back to challenge the play.<br /> <br /> In overtime, OSU coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong> continued to sit his two leading scorers, junior forward <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> and senior guard <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> in favor of Thompson and freshman forward <strong>Marc Loving</strong>.<br /> <br /> It paid dividends in the first minute of the extra session as Thompson was fouled shooting a three and hit two of three free throws.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, after trailing virtually the entire game, had a 60-58 lead.<br /> <br /> After Payne again split a pair of free throws, the Spartans connected on huge bombs from the outside.<br /> <br /> <strong>Kenny Kaminski</strong> hit the first one by splashing his third triple of the night to give MSU a 62-60 lead. After Loving drew a foul and hit one of two free throws, Payne canned a three for a 65-61 advantage for the home team.<br /> <br /> Loving tried to counter but missed from long range. He grabbed a steal off the outlet pass but crashed into Payne for a charge.<br /> <br /> Harris hit a free throw moments later but Craft split two defenders for a layup and OSU railed just 66-63 with 1:39 left in OT. And, sure enough, the Buckeyes caught up again when Thompson nailed a three with 1:07 on the clock, knotting the score at 66.<br /> <br /> Appling responded with a top-of-the-key three by pulling up over Scott with six seconds left on the shot clock.<br /> <br /> Loving countered with a pair of free throws with 16.3 seconds left to trim the score to 69-68, but Appling made a pair of free throws, Loving missed a forced three and Appling added one more charity toss for the final point of the game.<br /> <br /> Izzo showed only moderate relief walking off the court.<br /> <br /> “I should be happier than I am,” he said, “but I’m a big-picture guy and you shouldn’t have those kinds of letdowns.”<br /> <br /> The Spartans took a 28-21 lead to the locker room at halftime and several Buckeyes seemed to be missing in action to that point. Ross had three points on one made wide-open shot, Williams opened the scoring off a dunk from drop-down pass by Craft and didn’t score the rest of the stanza, and Craft and Scott were scoreless.<br /> <br /> MSU stretched the advantage to double digits moments into the second half when Harris connected on a three, and after OSU trimmed the lead to 35-30 on a three-point play by Williams, the Spartans put together a muscle-flexing 20-8 run.<br /> <br /> Payne, who didn’t start because of a foot injury, was key to it by throwing down a pair of follow dunks and frustrating Ross on the other end of the floor. The 6-10 Dayton product managed to play 32 minutes and record 18 points.<br /> <br /> Appling led the Spartans with 20 points, six rebounds and seven assists and played 43 of the game’s 45 minutes despite dealing with painful cramps in his calves.<br /> <br /> Harris added 13 points as the MSU backcourt was without veteran <strong>Travis Trice</strong> because of an illness.<br /> <br /> Matta lauded his team for coming back from a 55-38 deficit but lamented OSU’s season-high 21 turnovers.<br /> <br /> “Give Michigan State credit,” Matta said. “They did a great job defending us. I’m proud we came back, but we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be in this caliber of a game. You can’t come on the road and have 21 turnovers.<br /> <br /> “And shockingly, we had shots to win the game.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-08/First_Loss_Still_Earns_OSU_Lots.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-08/First_Loss_Still_Earns_OSU_Lots.aspx 7aa51254-9b18-4007-afaf-f46518c93651 Wed, 08 Jan 2014 18:22:07 GMT Reality Has Orange Tint The three distraught faces in the postgame interview room painted a pretty vivid picture.<br /> <br /> <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> was looking out at deadline-challenged reporters in the bowels of Sun Life Stadium with his cheek pressed against his open hand.<br /> <br /> <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong>’s gaze was drifting off to the side as if he wished he could be anywhere else in the world.<br /> <br /> And <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>, Ohio State’s suddenly mortal coach, was crestfallen. Twenty-four straight wins under the headset for the Buckeyes followed by two agonizing losses – the 34-24 setback against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship that denied the Buckeyes a chance to play for a national championship and now this.<br /> <br /> Clemson 40, Ohio State 35 – the program’s first loss in 281 games in which the Buckeyes managed to score at least 35 points.<br /> <br /> Let me repeated that: OSU is now 279-1-1 all-time when it scores 35 or more points. Five touchdowns, three extra points and a safety was not good enough in the Orange Bowl.<br /> <br /> And a loss, which dropped Ohio State to 12-2 this season, isn’t going to sit well with anyone associated with the Scarlet and Gray.<br /> <br /> The hurt tends to linger when there is no next game, at least not anytime soon.<br /> <br /> Hyde is one of the Buckeyes’ well-weathered seniors, and the only time the running back managed to smile while at the interview table was when he realized how much his sendoff season mirrored his final one at Naples (Fla.) High School – the yards, the touchdowns, the bitter disappointment at the end all about the same.<br /> <br /> But soon Hyde will be working out for NFL scouts, talking with an agent about his professional prospects and waiting for his name to be called at the draft in April.<br /> <br /> Shazier likely will join him. Also a Florida product, OSU’s top linebacker and leading tackler didn’t plan to exit with a bowl loss in his home state, but he, too, will rebound quickly. If he opts to leave – and all signs point that way despite his insistence that he’s leaning on staying – Shazier also will become a quick NFL commodity.<br /> <br /> Meyer, on the other hand, is sure to be back and fully intent on returning OSU to prominence. But the anguish of a second straight loss coming in a game in which the Buckeyes owned a fourth-quarter lead will fester. <br /> <br /> In fact, you could see the disgust coarsing through Meyer’s very being as he talked about his team’s shortcomings, particularly a defense that needs to shore up in several areas and find an identity.<br /> <br /> Does <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> get to keep his fingerprints on the defense? That seems questionable now, perhaps even doubtful.<br /> <br /> Will the philosophy change? Possibly, but first Meyer and his staff need to make sure they are bringing in the requisite topflight athletes and grooming them the right way.<br /> <br /> We know <strong>Everett Withers</strong>, the listed co-coordinator of the defense as well as safeties coach, is on his way out. Withers immediately will slide into a head coaching role at James Madison after wowing the hierarchy there in the interview process.<br /> <br /> There are rumors that <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong>, OSU’s super-charged cornerbacks coach, could be used in another capacity. Coombs probably would thrive as a special teams coach and unofficial recruiting coordinator.<br /> <br /> But do you demote Fickell in that case? Do you bring in a defensive coordinator who can double as a secondary coach? Would Fickell maybe see the writing on the wall and chase a head coaching job himself?<br /> <br /> There are lots of questions out there.<br /> <br /> What tends to get lost in all the offseason speculation is a fair assessment of the talent at hand. The Buckeyes were dealing with lots of personnel issues in Miami.<br /> <br /> Almost as soon as it was discovered that top cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> was not recovering well from bone bruise suffered vs. the Spartans, Meyer was announcing as the team got off the plane in Florida that defensive end <strong>Noah Spence</strong> didn’t make the trip.<br /> <br /> Spence later was suspended for the Orange Bowl and the first two games next season – vs. Navy in Baltimore, Md., and the home-opener with Virginian Tech, by the way – for taking a Big Ten-banned dietary supplement.<br /> <br /> Michigan State lost the services of middle linebacker <strong>Max Bullough</strong> under similar circumstances but overcame the setback of team’s most dependable defender and knocked off Stanford in the Rose Bowl.<br /> <br /> Converted linebacker <strong>Jamal Marcus</strong> and <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong> played admirably in Spence’s place against Clemson – and freshman <strong>Joey Bosa</strong> was a warrior on the other side, even after hurting his leg – but the loss of Roby proved costly as <strong>Armani Reeves</strong> once again struggled at corner.<br /> <br /> Also, shifting redshirt freshman <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong> to safety to allow true freshman <strong>Vonn Bell</strong> to play nickel added to the growing pains, although Bell improved as the game went along, logged seven tackles and made an impressive interception.<br /> <br /> In the end, though, All-American wide receiver <strong>Sammy Watkins</strong> tortured the OSU secondary with Orange Bowl high-water marks of 16 catches for 227 yards. He caught two <strong>Tajh Boyd</strong> aerials for touchdowns and allowed his receiver mates to work against single coverage.<br /> <br /> Speaking of Boyd, he not only completed 31 of 40 passes for 378 yards and five TDs, he also rushed for 127 yards, an Orange Bowl record for a quarterback.<br /> <br /> There is no shame in losing to a hungry Tigers team with Boyd and Watkins on top of their game, but there still is reason for frustration.<br /> <br /> Boyd opened the scoring by darting right up the gut of the OSU defense for a 48-yard score, his career long. It was a painful reminder that middle linebacker <strong>Curtis Grant</strong>, slowed by injury and often not on the field when OSU was in nickel, was a ghost this season. Against Clemson, the junior made one assisted tackle.<br /> <br /> How porous was OSU? Clemson racked up 576 yards of offense, scored 40 points and converted 7 of 13 third-down plays despite a whopping 15 penalties, the majority of which came on the offensive end.<br /> <br /> Once again, the Buckeyes looked powerless to stop a polished passing game and made very few eye-opening tackles.<br /> <br /> However, the Buckeyes did show a little pluck on that side of the ball. Bosa recorded a sack while dragging around a leg. Linebacker <strong>Josh Perry</strong> played one of his best games as a Buckeye while logging a team-high 10 tackles. Marcus had a bust-out performance and added six stops. Bell’s timely interception slowed Clemson’s early momentum and <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> picked Boyd with 1:18 to play to provide one last chance.<br /> <br /> But as was the case against MSU, the offense faltered down the stretch. In fact, <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>, who admitted afterward his shoulder was aching with pain, threw a pick on the very next play and OSU had to walk away in defeat.<br /> <br /> Many analysts have compared the two-game slide at the end of the season to a similar crash in 1995. That Ohio State team was rolling toward a potential national championship until a 31-23 loss at Michigan. Failing to even slow down <strong>Tim Biakabutuka</strong> and an undefeated season crumbling at the hands of a team from That State Up North was so demoralizing that the Buckeyes also lost to <strong>Peyton Manning</strong> and Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl.<br /> <br /> This year it was that other northern team that ruined the Big Ten party and Clemson that rained on the bowl parade in Florida.<br /> <br /> In reality, though, the 2013 OSU season reminds me more of 1997. Even though the Buckeyes already had a loss before heading to Michigan they came up a few plays short against a very high quality league opponent and were a little overwhelmed by a current ACC team, Florida State, in the Sugar Bowl.<br /> <br /> That was a very talented Buckeye team with individual star power and lots of promising youngsters. But it simply wasn’t good enough to be a true national championship contender.<br /> <br /> Ditto for this year’s squad. And before you fly off the handle and tell me the Buckeyes were this close to playing in the BCS title game, ask yourself this: Did you really want to see this defense try to contain <strong>Jameis Winston</strong> with the entire country watching intently?<br /> <br /> Didn’t think so. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-04/Reality_Has_Orange_Tint.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-04/Reality_Has_Orange_Tint.aspx 8f5f64f2-61e1-40b1-8b04-1f975b53838b Sat, 04 Jan 2014 22:26:29 GMT QB Duel Portends Orange Shootout With the Orange Bowl drawing ever closer, the anticipation for a top-12 matchup of Ohio State and Clemson has centered on the quarterbacks.<br /> <br /> OSU junior <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> is billed as a running quarterback who can throw a little and Clemson senior <strong>Tajh Boyd</strong> as a thrower who can run when necessary.<br /> <br /> There is truth in the statement.<br /> <br /> However, Boyd is actually an outstanding athlete who simply hasn’t needed to take off much this season. His protection has been solid, his accuracy eye-popping, and it’s never a bad idea to wait another tick and look downfield for All-American receiver <strong>Sammy Watkins</strong>.<br /> <br /> Boyd has completed 67.6 percent of his throws and amassed 3,473 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air while being picked nine times. He’s the trigger man for a Tigers team that enters Miami, Fla., with a 10-2 record and an average of 40.2 points per game.<br /> <br /> Miller, meanwhile, is more powerfully built and explosive when escaping trouble or darting from the pocket. He went over 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season, found the end zone himself 10 times, and averages 6.8 yards per carry.<br /> <br /> He’s led OSU to a 12-1 record this season – 24-1 in two years under head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> and offensive coordinator <strong>Tom Herman</strong> – and is the main reason why the unit has evolved this season.<br /> <br /> While backup <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> also was outstanding in his place early in the season, Miller has shaken off injury and become the catalyst for an offense that is averaging 46.3 ppg, which ranks fourth among FBS teams.<br /> <br /> However, labeling Miller purely as an athlete who happens to play quarterback is no longer accurate and doesn’t do justice to the improvement he has made as a thrower. Clemson coach <strong>Dabo Swinney</strong> pointed out as much earlier this week and his players are starting to get the message.<br /> <br /> In fact, Clemson safety <strong>Robert Smith</strong> said the defense is concerned with everything Miller can do.<br /> <br /> “Anytime you play a dual threat quarterback, there’s always that element of running with pulling up and throwing the ball,” Smith said. “I think a lot of people underestimate Braxton Miller’s passing ability. I actually think that Braxton Miller, the more I watch film, is a great passer.<br /> <br /> “A lot of people don’t see it as much because he can run really well. I think another element that makes you respect him even more is because he is a great passer. He has a great arm and strong arm.”<br /> <br /> Miller is yet to have a 300-yard passing day as a Buckeye but he certainly has become more formidable as a passer this season. He’s completing 63.2 percent of his throws for 1,860 yards, 22 TDs and just five interceptions.<br /> <br /> However, it’s time to crank it back up. Miller was just 6 for 15 throwing for 133 yards in the 42-41 win over Michigan on Nov. 30 and only 8 for 21 for 101 yards in the 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 7.<br /> <br /> Part of the problem has been a nagging ankle injury that has slowed receiver <strong>Philly Brown</strong>, who leads OSU with 55 catches for 655 yards and 10 scores. Brown claims he’s almost completely recovered and will be able to make sharp cuts against the Tigers’ secondary.<br /> <br /> <strong>Devin Smith</strong> has been more dynamic, averaging 15.6 yards per catch to Brown’s 11.9. Veterans Evan Spencer and Chris Fields provide even more targets for the Buckeyes, who have hinted they will let fly with their passing game in the Orange Bowl.<br /> <br /> “They play with an edge and they have speed,” Robert Smith said. “We face a lot of receivers with speed, but they probably have about three or four with real good speed and I think that’s something you always have to be aware of.”<br /> <br /> Herman will try to make use of that outside speed and counterbalance it with an equally heavy dose of running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong>, who has 1,408 rushing yards in 10 games this season.<br /> <br /> “They have a great tandem,” Clemson linebacker <strong>Stephone Anthony</strong> said. “They have the speed and the power. We need to play assignment football. You need to be focused and aware of what is going on.”<br /> <br /> And Miller taking off with the football no doubt will be part of the attack.<br /> <br /> “He’s probably the fastest quarterback I’ve ever seen,” Tigers defensive tackle <strong>Grady Jarrett</strong> said. “The way he breaks away from guys, you need to get him before he gets going. He’s a really good athlete. He makes a lot of good passes. When you’re playing college football, these are the types of athletes you want to play against.”<br /> <br /> The Tigers, of course, have a pretty good reference point having already faced Heisman Trophy winner <strong>Jameis Winston</strong> of Florida State as well Georgia’s <strong>Aaron Murray</strong> and South Carolina’s <strong>Connor Shaw</strong>, two of the top dropback passers in the college game.<br /> <br /> “Against top quarterbacks, you can’t make mistakes; you have to capitalize on opportunities that you get,” Jarrett said. “When you’re going against the best players in the nation, there’s not a lot of room for error.<br /> <br /> “I feel like going up against the quarterbacks we have already faced, it has prepared us. But I feel like we are going up against whole different animal in Braxton Miller because he just brings so much to the table. We have a great challenge but I feel like we’ll be ready.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Boyd Also A Headache</strong><br /> <br /> Boyd is slightly more accomplished and weathered than Miller, and his matchup with Ohio State brings to mind his time as a topflight recruit and him nearly becoming a Buckeye.<br /> <br /> “My recruiting process was pretty wild kind of deal,” recalled Boyd, who strongly considered saying yes to fomer OSU coach <strong>Jim Tressel</strong> before opting for Clemson. “If I would have committed at the Army All-American game during my recruiting process, I would have been a Buckeye right now.<br /> <br /> “But getting the chance to go down there and meet <strong>Roderick McDowell</strong> and meet <strong>Malliciah Goodman</strong>, those guys like that, really kind of helped change the course of it. Definitely feel like this is the best spot for me. I couldn’t have picked a better school.<br /> <br /> “It is kind of surreal to end your final game as a Clemson Tiger against Ohio State. It’s going to be fun.”<br /> <br /> Boyd is looking to feast on an Ohio State defense that has allowed more than 1,000 yards passing the last three games including a 300-plus, career day for MSU’s <strong>Connor Cook</strong>.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes plan to make a few changes at the back end with <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong> stepping in for <strong>Corey “Pitt” Brown</strong> at one of the safety spots and freshman <strong>Vonn Bell</strong> taking over at nickel for Powell.<br /> <br /> Also, middle linebacker <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> is expected to be available despite a lower-back injury.<br /> <br /> However, it appears top cover corner <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> is out because of a bone bruise in his knee joint and defensive end <strong>Noah Spence</strong>, the team leader in sacks, has been suspended because of an undisclosed Big Ten rule – although the Columbus Dispatch reported Spence took an unapproved dietary supplement.<br /> <br /> Those losses could spell trouble for a pass defense that already was limping into Miami.<br /> <br /> Even when challenged, Boyd has shown he can make all the throws and light up the scoreboard.<br /> <br /> Said OSU linebacker <strong>Josh Perry</strong>, “He can throw the ball well and he can run well. That’s hard to defend. When you have a quarterback that can run, that adds an extra guy. He’s going to put the ball in the right spot, so, you’ve got to be really, really, good at what you do. You have to be able to recognize plays and be in the right spots.”<br /> <br /> Even with weeks to prepare for Boyd and the Clemson offense, defensive coordinator <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> admits the Buckeyes will have their hands full.<br /> <br /> “I guess you have a lot more time to evaluate him and to watch him and to try to think of the things that you can do to give yourself a better chance,” Fickell said, “but the reality is you got to do what you do, and you’ve got to continue to get better at those kinds of things. We know he’’ got all the ability to make … I mean, we recruited him too. We know exactly who he is and what he is and watched him.”<br /> <br /> Even more daunting is trying to figure out ways to keep Boyd from finding Watkins, who racked up 85 catches for 1,237 receiving yards and 10 TDs in the regular season.<br /> <br /> NFL Hall of Famer and former Buckeye <strong>Cris Carter</strong>, who has been around the team this week to offer his support, believes Watkins will be the top wideout in the draft and is nearly unstoppable.<br /> <br /> When asked if he’s seen a better college receiver, OSU senior safety <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> said, “I don’t think so. I think he’s one of the fastest guys in college football. Great athlete. Play-making ability is out of the roof. We’ll have our hands full containing him, but I think our coaching staff will do a good job putting us in position to make plays.”<br /> <br /> And there are going to be other receiving threats in orange – rangy receivers who can turn a game on a dime.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know that we’ve seen a crew like that throughout the entire season,” Fickell said. “Probably offensively, we see a bunch of that similar stuff to what they do maybe from our offense is probably the closest thing that we see.”<br /> <br /> It all points to a shootout with each team struggling to get defensive stops. But for the Buckeyes overcoming the loss of key personnel just enough will be the key.<br /> <br /> “That’s tough, but that’s why you’ve got these other guys,” Fickell said. “It’s a part of the game that you don’t always account for, but it’s a reality.<br /> <br /> “In the NFL, you can go and get <strong>Jon Kitna</strong> at 41 years old off of waivers and get him out of teaching junior high or high school math and pull him onto your team. For us, we can’t. We’ve got to develop that freshman kid like Vonn Bell that’s got to go in there and play. We’ve got to put more weight on a guy like C.J. Barnett and <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> and <strong>Jamal Marcus</strong> and say, if the guy can’t go, we’ve got to step up.<br /> <br /> “It’s a part of the game. We’ve got to deal with it. We can’t dwell on it. We can’t whine and complain about it. Next man up.”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-03/QB_Duel_Portends_Orange_Shootout.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/14-01-03/QB_Duel_Portends_Orange_Shootout.aspx fa2d0078-227c-4a61-949b-bbef277e5bdb Fri, 03 Jan 2014 08:19:20 GMT Back In The BCS Spotlight Fifteen years ago, Ohio State fans were lamenting being left at the doorstep of the national championship game in the first year of the BCS – which was called the Bowl Coalition and then the Bowl Alliance in the six years prior to its inception.<br /> <br /> <strong>John Cooper</strong>’s Buckeyes were the preseason No. 1 team in 1998 and threatened to go wire-to-wire atop the polls until a fateful November Saturday resulted in the loss of a 24-9 lead over Michigan State and a painful 28-24 defeat.<br /> <br /> The national illustration painting that picture was an Associated Press photo that showed the late <strong>Orlas King</strong>, then known as the Neutron Man, sobbing with his arms around his equally crestfallen sons.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes won at Iowa the following week and rolled Michigan two weeks later but still needed all kinds of help to make it to the top two of the standings. Almost everything fell in place – almost. The exception was Tennessee getting a gift from the football gods when Arkansas quarterback <strong>Clint Stoerner</strong> infamously fumbled in the final minutes trying to run out the clock with a 24-22 lead at UT.<br /> <br /> The “Stoernover” allowed the Vols to reach the SEC title game and then the national championship in Tempe, Ariz., where they defeated a QB-less Florida State team for the ’98 title.<br /> <br /> However, the Buckeyes defeated Texas A&amp;M in the Cotton Bowl and finished No. 2 in the national polls. They also began what has been a pretty enviable run in the BCS, which is now in its 16th year.<br /> <br /> In fact, Ohio State’s date with Clemson in the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl will mark the program’s 10th BCS bowl appearance, the most of any school since the formula came to fruition in 1998. OSU holds a 6-3 record in those contests, although two of the losses came in BCS title contests.<br /> <br /> Oklahoma is the only program on the heels of Ohio State as the Sooners will face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to make their ninth BCS bowl appearance. However, Oklahoma owns just a 3-5 record in such games and at one point lost five straight during the Bob Stoops era.<br /> <br /> The following is a quick look back at Ohio State’s nine previous BCS bowl appearances (gameday rankings in parentheses):<br /> <br /> <strong>* 1999 Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1, 1999 at New Orleans): Ohio State (3) 24, Texas A&amp;M 14 –</strong> Putting the loss to Sparty aside, the Buckeyes didn’t play lights-out but still outclassed the Aggies, leading to speculation that they actually might have been the best in the country.<br /> <br /> Quarterback <strong>Joe Germaine</strong> capped a record-breaking senior season by completing 21 of 38 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, tailback <strong>Joe Montgomery</strong> rushed for 96 yards and a score.<br /> <br /> Special teams also got involved as <strong>Derek Ross</strong> blocked a punt that <strong>Kevin Griffin</strong> recovered and returned for a touchdown. OSU finished the campaign 11-1.<br /> <br /> <strong>* 2003 Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 3, 2003, at Tempe, Ariz.): Ohio State (2) 31, Miami (Fla.) (1) 24, double overtime –</strong> Despite a charm-filled 13-0 regular season and possessing a loaded roster including freshman running back <strong>Maurice Clarett</strong>, Ohio State entered the game a double-digit underdog.<br /> <br /> The Hurricanes had NFL talent all over the place – do the names <strong>Andre Johnson</strong>, <strong>Kellen Winslow Jr.</strong>, <strong>Willis McGahee</strong>, <strong>Sean Taylor</strong>, <strong>Jonathan Vilma</strong> and <strong>Vince Wilfork</strong> ring a bell? – and were the defending national champs. They also were riding a 34-game winning streak.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes didn’t overwhelm Miami statistically but made the winning plays, including several clutch runs from QB <strong>Craig Krenzel</strong>, who was named Fiesta Bowl MVP.<br /> <br /> Krenzel threw for 122 yards and rushed for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Clarett also had two TDs on the ground including the game winner. Defensive backs <strong>Michael Doss</strong> and <strong>Dustin Fox</strong> had key interceptions.<br /> <br /> OSU’s 14-0 season, which came in coach <strong>Jim Tressel</strong>’s second year at the helm, was the first in Division I-A history.<br /> <br /> <strong>* 2004 Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 2, 2004, at Tempe, Ariz.): Ohio State (7) 35, Kansas State (8) 28 –</strong> A year after OSU’s glorious win in the desert, the Buckeyes returned and rekindled some of the magic in a fairly wild bowl win over <strong>Bill Snyder</strong>’s Wildcats.<br /> <br /> OSU actually led 35-14 but had to hang on after a furious K-State rally. Krenzel finished his career 24-3 as a starter and made full use of his top weapons as he threw for 189 yards and four touchdowns – two each to wideouts <strong>Michael Jenkins</strong> and <strong>Santonio Holmes</strong>.<br /> <br /> While finishing an 11-2 season, the Buckeyes got busy on punt block again as <strong>Harlan Jacobs</strong> smothered a K-State kick attempt and <strong>John Hollins</strong> recovered it for a touchdown.<br /> <br /> <strong>* 2006 Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 2, 2006, at Tempe, Ariz.): Ohio State (4) 34, Notre Dame (6) 20 –</strong> This was a fun one. Returning to Tempe for the third time in four years, the Buckeyes produced a multitude of big plays and overwhelmed the Irish with 617 yards total offense.<br /> <br /> Quarterback <strong>Troy Smith</strong> hinted at his Heisman year to come with 342 yards passing including picture perfect aerials that led to an 80-yard TD by Holmes and a 56-yarder to <strong>Ted Ginn Jr.</strong> The defense made plays, too, especially All-American linebacker <strong>A.J. Hawk</strong>. He led the way with 12 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and added two sacks and a forced fumble in his final game in scarlet and gray.<br /> <br /> Notre Dame famously won both games against OSU in the mid-1930s and the Buckeyes paid off the debt with convincing wins over <strong>Lou Holtz</strong>’s squads in 1995 and ’96. This served as the rubber game and allowed Ohio State to take a 3-2 all-time lead in the series matching the two college football superpowers.<br /> <br /> <strong>* 2007 BCS National Championship Game (Jan. 8, 2007, at Glendale, Ariz.): Florida (2) 41, Ohio State (1) 14 –</strong> Here’s where it started to go bad for the Buckeyes, especially in the Tressel era. After a 4-0 start in BCS bowls and a 3-0 mark under Tressel, the return to the Grand Canyon State felt like a fall into a deep chasm.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, perhaps too comfortable with the surroundings and the supposed karma attached to trying to win another national championship in the Phoenix area, never found their footing in this one.<br /> <br /> The start couldn’t have been better as Ginn raced 98 yards with the opening kickoff, propelling OSU to an immediate 7-0 lead and sending the Buckeye fans at University of Phoenix Stadium into a frenzy. However, in the excitement, fellow wide receiver <strong>Roy Hall</strong> jumped on Ginn and collapsed the speedster’s leg, effectively knocking him out of the contest.<br /> <br /> Smith was a dreadful 4 of 14 passing without one of his top targets and behind an offensive line that simply couldn’t block the Gators’ speed rushers.<br /> <br /> Florida held Ohio State to just 82 yards total offense – the lowest output in any of the 67 BCS bowls played to date. Smith managed just 35 yards passing, threw an interception and was sacked five times.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, future Heisman winner <strong>Tim Tebow</strong>, just a freshman at the time, rushed for a touchdown and threw one for Florida, coached by <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>.<br /> <br /> <strong>* 2008 BCS National Championship Game (Jan. 7, 2008, at New Orleans): LSU (2) 38, Ohio State (1) 24 –</strong> Again, a thrilling start to the game wasn’t enough for the Buckeyes, who were dumped in the title game for the second straight year.<br /> <br /> OSU, in fact, opened a two-score lead at 10-0 after running back <strong>Beanie Wells</strong>’ electrifying 65-yard touchdown run. Wells ran away from LSU’s vaunted defensive backfield, for a moment putting to bed the myth about SEC speed.<br /> <br /> However, the Buckeyes soon after became their own worst enemy with a plethora of mistakes, which included seven penalties and three turnovers. The Tigers defense also began to tee off on QB <strong>Todd Boeckman</strong> and sacked him five times.<br /> <br /> Boeckman did manage to throw TD tosses to the <strong>Brian</strong>s – <strong>Hartline</strong> and <strong>Robiske</strong> – but fell to 11-2. Former Michigan assistant Les Miles stood holding the crystal football as LSU fans celebrated raucously in the Superdome.<br /> <br /> <strong>* 2009 Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 5, 2009, at Glendale, Ariz.): Texas (3) 24, Ohio State (10) 21 –</strong> The Buckeyes appeared to have the winning formula with a trick play working for a score and <strong>Boom Herron</strong> churning out yards against a sturdy UT defense.<br /> <br /> A late touchdown had the Buckeyes in front, but veteran Texas rifleman <strong>Colt McCoy</strong> found the sliver he needed. The cool QB was able to find <strong>Quan Cosby</strong>, who beat safety <strong>Anderson Russell</strong> for the game-winning 26-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left. McCoy ended up 41 of 58 passing for 414 yards and two touchdowns.<br /> <br /> Boeckman lost his starting job to freshman sensation <strong>Terrelle Pryor</strong> but the two were able to team up for a memorable touchdown in the game. Pryor split out to receiver and caught a perfectly thrown Boeckman lob in the end zone for a 5-yard TD.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, though, had to settle for a 10-3 season and their second straight loss in Glendale.<br /> <br /> <strong>* 2010 Rose Bowl (Jan. 1, 2010, at Pasadena, Calif.): Ohio State (8) 26, Oregon (7) 17 –</strong> Playing in their first Rose Bowl since the epic last-second win over Arizona State on Jan. 1, 1997, the Buckeyes were up to the moment this time as well.<br /> <br /> In fact, they put together a blueprint as to how to slow down Oregon’s high-octane offense by controlling the clock, running the football and smacking the Ducks when on defense.<br /> <br /> Pryor continued to reach up to his endless potential with a career-turning performance – 266 yards passing, TD tosses to <strong>Brandon Saine</strong> and <strong>DeVier Posey</strong>, and another 72 yards rushing. He was named Rose Bowl MVP, joining the likes of <strong>Rex Kern</strong>, <strong>Archie Griffin</strong> and Germaine, the chin-bandaged hero in the triumph over ASU.<br /> <br /> The defense was just as spectacular in taking down one of the nation’s top offenses and holding the Ducks to just 260 yards. LB <strong>Ross Homan</strong>, as he often proved to be, was Johnny on the spot again with a key interception.<br /> <br /> OSU’s three-game BCS losing streak was over, and the Buckeyes also snapped the Big Ten’s six-game Rose Bowl losing skid. OSU won the Rose Bowl for the seventh time in program history.<br /> <strong><br /> * 2011 Sugar Bowl (Jan. 4, 2011, at New Orleans): Ohio State (6) 31, Arkansas (8) 26 –</strong> It’s hard to know how to feel about this game, even now. It turned out to be a goodbye present for Tressel and Pryor as the program was rocked with scandal in the offseason, causing OSU’s highly successful coach to resign under pressure.<br /> <br /> Of course, Tressel brought on some of the unrest himself by addressing the allegations of six players, including four offensive starters, receiving money and tattoos for OSU equipment and forgetting to mention that he knew about the whole thing through a series of emails with a local attorney/former OSU player.<br /> <br /> He also was criticized for bringing and playing the players in question but it appears now that wasn’t even his call to make. Bowl organizers and even Big Ten commissioner <strong>Jim Delany</strong> got involved and made the case for the Buckeyes to be at full strength for a matchup with an SEC power.<br /> <br /> Seeing that the NCAA violations cited in December paired with an investigation were sure to leave him ineligible, Pryor also bolted the program and declared early for entry into the NFL.<br /> <br /> Even so, the Sugar Bowl game itself was palpitating.<br /> <br /> Herron and Pryor, each among those pinpointed by the NCAA, gained tough yardage on the ground and the passing game re-emerged as Pryor threw for 221 yards and connected with Posey and <strong>Dane Sanzenbacher</strong> for touchdowns. Herron also ran for a score.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes were in danger of another last-second defeat like in the bowl game with Texas after the Razorbacks blocked a punt deep in OSU territory. But defensive end <strong>Solomon Thomas</strong>, the least known of OSU’s “Tat Pack,” ended the threat when he dropped into coverage and intercepted a pass from Arkansas’ <strong>Ryan Mallett</strong> with 58 seconds left.<br /> <br /> OSU celebrated under the confetti, finishing 12-1. However, the violations uncovered from a lengthy NCAA investigation led to several sanctions including OSU having to vacate the entire 2010 season.<br /> <br /> Ironically, athletic director <strong>Gene Smith</strong> was seen embracing Thomas after the game. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-31/Back_In_The_BCS_Spotlight.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-31/Back_In_The_BCS_Spotlight.aspx 72b9152c-f41f-4c7b-ac54-19264ab3d7eb Tue, 31 Dec 2013 17:07:04 GMT Buckeyes Clamp Lousiana-Monroe <br /> <br /> Thad Matta knows the challenges will deepen quickly now that his undefeated Ohio State basketball team is done with its nonconference warmup.<br /> <br /> But perhaps the rest of the Big Ten should be more worried, especially after some of the defensive displays the Buckeyes have put together in their 13-0 start.<br /> <br /> That included Friday night’s 71-31 destruction of Louisiana-Monroe, which didn’t have a clue as to how to string together quality possessions in the first half and had even less luck in the second.<br /> <br /> The headlines show that Lenzelle Smith Jr. led the way with 17 points, LaQuinton Ross added 15, and reserve Amedeo Della Valle tallied 14 in the 40-point win, but it was the defense – stifling defense – that really came to the fore.<br /> <br /> The Christmas-week crowd of 18,534 saw the No. 3 Buckeyes, fresh off their come-from-behind win over Notre Dame in New York City, score the game’s first 12 points as ULM piled up missed shots and turnovers.<br /> <br /> The Warhawks (3-5) lost for the fourth straight time and had no answers. They shot just 23.3 percent in the first half and averaged just a point a minute in the stanza, trailing 41-20 at the break. They ended the game with just 10 field goals in 54 attempts for a startling 18.5 percent.<br /> <br /> The team’s leading scorer was forward Jayon James, who had eight points. ULM was just 3 of 18 (16.7 percent) from behind the arc as the Buckeyes bothered shot after shot.<br /> <br /> Ohio State went into the game fifth in the nation in scoring defense (55.9 points per game) and 13th in field-goal percentage defense (37.9).<br /> <br /> The Warhawks didn’t score until Tylor Ongwae hit a baseline drive at the 15:34 mark.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Ross – who added 10 rebounds to his 15 points for his second straight double-double – got rolling early, scoring eight of OSU’s first 12 points.<br /> <br /> ULM coach Keith Richard benched his starters to start the second half and never reinserted them. The result was just three made baskets by the visitors after halftime.<br /> <br /> “The only way to make things happen is by playing hard,” Richard said of his tactic in a statement. “I’m about tired of it. It’s been going on at certain times during different games. Those guys just aren’t going to play. We’re not in a good place right now obviously after the last two ballgames, mentally or physically.”<br /> <br /> OSU took advantage of Richard’s disgust by scoring the first 15 points of the second half. The scoring drought didn’t end until Chinedu Amajoyi hit two free throws at the 10:40 mark.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, who face Purdue in their Big Ten opener on Dec. 31, won their first 13 games in a season for the fifth time in school history, joining teams of 1960-61, ’61-62, ’90-91 and 2010-11.<br /> <br /> After not facing a ranked opponent up until now, the Buckeyes will be tested by the likes of No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 5 Michigan State, No. 22 Iowa and the rest of the conference's bullies.<br /> <br /> “We tell our guys, “You’ve got 18 battles coming up (and) the war is decided in March,’ ” Matta said. “Just from the standpoint of the challenges that lie ahead, that’s what guys sign up for when they come to play at Ohio State. There’s going to be some tremendous battles every night we take the floor.”<br /> <br /> And the Buckeyes sound ready for the step up.<br /> <br /> “The better competition, the more exciting the games are for us,” Ross said. “Sometimes during the nonconference as you play some of these teams that are not as good as you are, you actually play down to (their level). That’s not good for teams. That’s not what you’re supposed to do.<br /> <br /> “Definitely when we come out in Big Ten play, it’s going to be teams that are just as good as us and we’re going to have to play better.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-28/Buckeyes_Clamp_Lousiana-Monroe.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-28/Buckeyes_Clamp_Lousiana-Monroe.aspx c9b74aec-eb29-424b-b584-ab0495a28c12 Sat, 28 Dec 2013 20:22:10 GMT Buckeyes Leave ND Stunned Thievery. Pure thievery.<br /> <br /> That, in a nutshell, is what third-ranked Ohio State accomplished to claim victory No. 12 of the season – and the Buckeyes did it in one of the most famed venues in basketball.<br /> <br /> Trailing Notre Dame by eight points with less than a minute to play, OSU mounted a furious rally to post a stunning 64-61 win over the Fighting Irish on Saturday night in the BlackRock Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden.<br /> <br /> Senior guards <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> and <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong>, the latter virtually absent the previous 39 minutes of action, were the primary culprits. They made clutch plays on both ends of the floor to erase a 58-50 deficit and keep the Buckeyes undefeated (12-0).<br /> <br /> When asked to summarize the Buckeyes’ ferocious comeback, the head Craft told reporters, “I don’t really know what happened. It was a big blur.<br /> <br /> “We never stopped. We never gave up. Guys were running around getting tips and guys made big free throws.”<br /> <br /> Smith was at the top of that list. After being held scoreless until the eight-point hole, the 6-4 off-guard scored seven of his nine points in the final 33 seconds -- including going 5 for 5 at the free-throw line.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes held every noteworthy statistically advantage in the first half, led 33-26 at the break, and seemed to be in a comfort zone offensively while making half (13 of 26) of their shot attempts.<br /> <br /> However, the Irish got rolling in the second half and continued to make well-defended jumpers, several of them with the shot clock winding down to precious seconds. That included a three by <strong>Jerian Grant</strong> at the shot-clock buzzer that provided a 58-50 lead with 1:54 to play.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the Buckeyes went 9:10 without a field goal and allowed Notre Dame (8-4) to garner what appeared to be a huge win and eye-opening upset.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes missed out on a couple opportunities to chip the lead after the trey by Grant but eventually worked a play to <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong>, who made a free-throw line jumper with 50 seconds remaining.<br /> <br /> It was the defense’s turn after that as OSU cranked up its fullcourt press, grabbed a pair of steals, and tallied on a Smith layup and <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> free throws in the next 10 seconds to trim the lead to 58-56.<br /> <br /> OSU head coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong> then called for his team to foul freshman <strong>Demetrius Jackson</strong> in hopes the talented newbie wouldn’t be able to make pressure free throws. Jackson did, however, and Notre Dame led 60-56 with 39.6 seconds to go.<br /> <br /> That’s when everything turned again.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes got the ball in the corner to Smith, the team’s best percentage shooter from deep, and the veteran head-faked a defender out of the way and drew a foul while launching a three. He made all three free throws to bring Ohio State within 60-59 with 32 seconds left.<br /> <br /> Moments later, <strong>Steve Vasturia</strong>, who was in the game because point guard <strong>Eric Atkins</strong> had fouled out, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 31 seconds left. It was his first free throw attempt of the season.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes took the lead, 61-60, when Craft was able to pass through a double team – and manage not to charge into a defender – and find Smith for a twisting layup with 16 seconds to go.<br /> <br /> On the other end, Grant tried to make a play of his own but committed a turnover when Craft reached in and ripped the ball loose, causing it to g out of bounds off the ND guard.<br /> <br /> “I’m a senior and I have to find a way to not turn the ball over when we didn’t have our point guard in there,” Grant lamented afterward.<br /> <br /> Again, it was Smith at the line and again he came through, calmly canning both attempts for a 63-60 lead with 9.8 seconds left.<br /> <br /> Craft fouled Grant before he could fire a three and Grant made only 1 of 2 at the charity stripe.<br /> <br /> Craft could have iced the improbable win with two free throws with 3.3 seconds and the Buckeyes up 63-61, but he missed the second attempt, leading to one more palpitating moment.<br /> <br /> Jackson was able to launch a three near his bench and had a pretty good look at it, but the potential game-tying shot bounded long at the buzzer.<br /> <br /> “I’m still trying to figure out what happened,” Matta said. “My mind was fixated on if we wanted to foul with the time situation or do we play it out defensively and all of a sudden it was closer and closer and closer and we get the lead. It happened quick. It was a great win.”<br /> <br /> Notre Dame coach <strong>Mike Brey</strong>, meanwhile, was left to wonder about his team’s ball-handling vs. OSU’s press.<br /> <br /> “They really turned the heat up on us and flustered us,” Brey said. “We had a hard time doing anything right. We didn’t have Atkins but the other guys should have handled it better.”<br /> <br /> Ross had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Ohio State while <strong>Amir Williams</strong> had 13 points. Scott and Craft each added 10 and Smith nearly put all five starters in double figures with nine points.<br /> <br /> OSU’s normally productive bench came up with just six points – all by swingman <strong>Sam Thompson</strong>.<br /> <br /> Grant led ND with 18 points for Notre Dame. Center <strong>Garrick Sherman</strong>, an Ohio native and Michigan State transfer, had 14 points while guard <strong>Pat Connaughton</strong> added 13, two on a vicious dunk down the lane midway through the second half.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes shot just 34.5 percent (10 of 29) in the second half and couldn’t buy a three-pointers after halftime, missing all nine attempts.<br /> <br /> However, they cut into leads of 52-44 and 58-50 the old-fashioned way – steady offense leading to two-point field goals and free throws as well as highly active defense.<br /> <br /> Scott had six of OSU’s 12 assists and was one of six Buckeyes to play at least 21 minutes. Freshman <strong>Marc Loving</strong> received just four minutes of playing time and put up just one shot while <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong>, who spelled Smith for a key stretch of the second half, didn’t score in seven minutes.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes won their only neutral-site game of the regular season. They are 10-0 at home and won at Marquette on Nov. 16. Next up is a home date with Louisiana-Monroe on Friday followed by the Big Ten opener at Purdue on New Year’s Eve.<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-22/Buckeyes_Leave_ND_Stunned.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-22/Buckeyes_Leave_ND_Stunned.aspx 3fc51367-3a97-4b11-9039-2d59f0189655 Sun, 22 Dec 2013 20:50:34 GMT Withers Accepts JMU Post <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> used to tease through the media that co-defensive coordinator <strong>Everett Withers</strong> was the only coach on his staff not originally from Ohio and claimed Withers’ “wished he was.”<br /> <br /> Well, on Friday night, it was announced Withers is headed back to the South – he’s the new head coach at James Madison University.<br /> <br /> Athletic director <strong>Jeff Bourse</strong> made if official, proclaiming in a statement that he had just hired Withers to head up the FCS program, which is based in Harrisonburg, Va.<br /> <br /> “Everett is a proven winner and has shown his ability to lead,” Bourse said. “The entire committee was incredibly impressed when we met with him.”<br /> <br /> Withers already is back in Columbus and will remain a member of the OSU defensive brain trust through the Orange Bowl matchup with Clemson on Jan. 3.<br /> <br /> The 50-year-old Withers is familiar with what used to be the Division II level of college football as he was a standout defensive back at Appalachian State in the 1980s. When he served as interim head coach at North Carolina in 2011 – the same year co-coordinator <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> had to take over at Ohio State – Withers posted a 7-6 record including UNC’s season-opening 42-10 win was against James Madison.<br /> <br /> A native of Charlotte, N.C., Withers has a vast coaching background. He started out as a coordinator at Austin Peay from 1988-89 and went on to assistant coaching stints at Tulane (1991), Southern Miss (1992-93), Louisville (1995-97), Texas (1998-2000), Minnesota (2007) and North Carolina (2008-10).<br /> <br /> In between, Withers also coached in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints (1994) and Tennessee Titans (2001-2006).<br /> <br /> When Meyer hired him two years ago to coach the Ohio State safeties and be a prominent member of the defensive staff, Withers had a well-earned reputation as an architect of aggressive, takeaway-oriented defenses.<br /> <br /> From 2002 to 2004, the Titans amassed 57 interceptions, the best three-year total in franchise history. In his first year at UNC, his defense totaled 20 interceptions, one shy of the school record. The next year the Tar Heels ranked sixth in total defense in the nation, totaled 19 interceptions and set an ACC record with 508 interception return yards. Withers’ defense matched that interception total the following year, bringing the three-year total to 58.<br /> <br /> Ohio State’s secondary struggled at times the past two years – although much of the fan ire seemed to be directed at Fickell – but Withers still leaves as part of OSU’s school-record 24-game winning streak.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes (12-1) head into the Orange Bowl in seventh place in the BCS standings but coming off a 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.<br /> <br /> “I’m happy for Coach Withers, and his family,” Meyer said. “Everett is extremely well-respected in the coaching profession and I’ve enjoyed having him on our staff. He is a great family man, cares about his players and is an excellent recruiter. I expect that he will be a fine head coach.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-21/Withers_Accepts_JMU_Post.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-21/Withers_Accepts_JMU_Post.aspx 4a869046-e40f-454e-9c1a-5ae4cd0f0e2f Sat, 21 Dec 2013 18:18:33 GMT Buckeyes Improve To 11-0 Wednesday night in a home game with Delaware, No. 3 Ohio State expected the run to come, the fans at the Schottenstein Center pleaded for it, and the Blue Hens feared it.<br /> <br /> And then it happened.<br /> <br /> Struggling to open up a lead of around 10 points for much of the second half, the Buckeyes put together a 15-0 burst and finally penned the Hens in an eventual 76-64 victory.<br /> <br /> OSU improved to 11-0 in the process – every win by double digits. <strong>Thad Matta</strong>’s crew continued to get offensive production from forward <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong>, who led the way with 19 points, and a balanced effort.<br /> <br /> <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> continued his steady play with 14 points, fellow senior <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> had 12, center <strong>Amir Williams</strong> contributed 11 points and 12 rebounds, and reserve guard <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong> was active on both ends of the floor and came up with 10 points.<br /> <br /> Even though the final box score was impressive – OSU also held a 46-30 advantage on the boards and gathers eight steals and seven blocks – the Buckeyes couldn’t get chugging for much of the game and made just 24 of 59 shots (40.7 percent).<br /> <br /> “Sometimes you have games where it’s not clicking the way you want it to,” Matta said. “The difference between good teams and great teams is great teams can figure it out. We did momentarily at the end of the first half, but we couldn’t sustain it.”<br /> <br /> OSU entered the game having made at least 52 percent of its field-goal attempts in its least five games. That flow was absent this time. However, the run was timely. Riding a 12-0 surge, the Buckeyes took a 37-26 lead to the locker room at halftime. They stretched the lead to 14, 40-26, when Ross hit a three moments into the new period.<br /> <br /> Still, Delaware (5-6) was hard to shake and even cut the lead under 10 points several times thereafter.<br /> <br /> “Our guys stood toe-to-toe for the most part with who I’m going to call the best team in the country,” Delaware coach <strong>Monte Ross</strong> said. “I’m just going to say that and I’m going to keep saying that because we played them. I hope they win every game the rest of the way.”<br /> <br /> The Hens still trailed just 50-40 when Ross scored in a the paint after an offensive rebound and, moments later, Della Valle hit a trey from the left corner.<br /> <br /> After a defensive stop, Della Valle added another three from the right wing to up the score to 60-44 with 10:28 remaining.<br /> <br /> Delaware cut it to 63-54 on <strong>Davon Usher</strong>’s layup with right around six minutes remaining but OSU responded with five straight points including another post-up basket by Ross to provide a 68-54 lead.<br /> <br /> Delaware still wasn’t slain with less than two minutes remaining, trailing 68-60, but Smith came through with a jumper and two free throws.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes got 20 points from their bench – half of them from Della Valle while <strong>Marc Loving</strong>, <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> and <strong>Trey McDonald</strong> all had positive moments.<br /> <br /> “Those guys played great and came in with great energy when some of our starters didn’t,” Craft said. “Sometimes that’s what it takes.”<br /> <br /> While not as deep, the Blue Hens were a worthy adversary and showed they could hold their own in the backcourt. Playing in their second of three games in six days, all in the BlackRock Gotham Classic, the Hens were led by <strong>Devon Saddler</strong>’s 17 points. <strong>Jarvis Threatt</strong> added 14.<br /> <br /> Both teams next head to New York City and will play in the final round of the Classic at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. The Blue Hens will meet Bryant in the first game followed by Ohio State-Notre Dame (7:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2).<br /> <br /> The Blue Hens fell to 0-8 against Big Ten teams, 0-17 vs. top-10 teams and 0-29 against ranked opponents. The only time they played a higher-ranked team was No. 2 Duke last season.<br /> <br /> “I told our guys coming in, we couldn't blink,” Coach Ross said. “It was a terrific environment for college basketball that Ohio State, overstating the obvious, is used to playing in. But our guys didn’t shrink from the moment or the atmosphere.”<br /> <br /> Still, Matta’s preconference success, especially at home, continued. Plus, the Buckeyes are 11-0 for the third time in his 10 years as OSU coach.<br /> <br /> The 2005-06 team won its first 11 games, lost its 12th, and went on to win an outright Big Ten championship. Two years ago, the Buckeyes started 24-0, won the regular-season and Big Ten tournament crowns, and headed to the NCAA Tournament as the nation’s No. 1 team.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-19/Buckeyes_Improve_To_11-0.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-19/Buckeyes_Improve_To_11-0.aspx a41ee1dc-fcd6-4a85-917f-49b6c947c18c Thu, 19 Dec 2013 15:56:25 GMT McMillan Provides Jolt At LB Still smarting from the Buckeyes’ loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, some Ohio State fans would like to see head coach Urban Meyer show defensive coordinator Luke Fickell the door.<br /> <br /> But Fickell isn’t likely to go anywhere if he keeps helping to lure in topflight talent and has much more to work with next season – and the future at linebacker, the position Fickell coaches, is very bright.<br /> <br /> The OSU coaching staff already has very solid verbals from three in-state mega-talents who project at linebacker in Dante Booker of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Kyle Berger of Cleveland St. Ignatius and Sam Hubbard of Cincinnati Moeller. Booker recently was named Ohio’s “Mr. Football” by The Associated Press.<br /> <br /> On Monday, that group was upstaged when Raekwon McMillan, the top-rated inside linebacker in the country, publicly announced that he intends to become a Buckeye.<br /> <br /> A five-star talent at Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County, McMillan chose Ohio State at a ceremony at his high school, picking the Buckeyes over Alabama and Orange Bowl foe Clemson as well as Auburn and Georgia.<br /> <br /> “There was just something special about Ohio State, just on all of the visits and all of the talks with Coach Meyer,” McMillan said before family, friends and reporters. “I built a special bond with Ohio State.<br /> <br /> “The people, the tradition, the excellence, it speaks for itself, man. Every time I visited the campus it was great. The atmosphere is the best I’ve ever seen in my life.”<br /> <br /> The 6-2, 242-pound McMillan becomes commitment No. 18 for Ohio State’s 2014 class, which was ranked seventh nationally according to Rivals.com entering the week. That number likely will trend upward.<br /> <br /> Rivals deems McMillan to be the 19th-best prospect in the nation regardless of position and the top prospect in the recruiting-rich state of Georgia.<br /> <br /> Many analysts had predicted McMillan would choose Ohio State but the suspense built as he became more hushed about his leanings. It probably didn’t hurt that Meyer made the last in-home visit with the youngster on Sunday night.<br /> <br /> McMillan will participate in the Under Armour All-American game in early January before starting classes at Ohio State on Jan. 6. It’s conceivable that he could used that early enrollment and a full spring session to prove he’s worthy of being on the field right away.<br /> <br /> Ohio State is expected to lose All-American linebacker Ryan Shazier to the NFL draft, although the junior recently said he is split down the middle on his impending decision. Even if Shazier leaves early as expected, OSU still would return a pair of starters in MLB Curtis Grant and SLB Josh Perry as well as several promising young ’backers including Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson, well-rated signees of a year ago.<br /> <br /> Some who have followed McMillan’s career believe he is good enough to supplant the injury-prone Grant in the middle of the OSU defense or at least beat out backup Camren Williams, who struggled in limited duty. As the program rebuilds the defense, presumably with Fickell still in place, getting forceful athletes such as McMillan should help turn the tide.<br /> <br /> (To watch highlights of McMillan’s prep career and also see his Monday press conference, click <a href="http://www.610wtvn.com/pages/wtvnsportsblog.html?article=11913290">HERE</a>.)<br /> <br /> Meyer is hoping to keep the good news rolling when West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer wide receiver Johnny Dixon announces his school of choice on Tuesday. Dixon, who led Dwyer to a state championship on Friday night, is expected to decide between Ohio State, Alabama and Miami (Fla.).<br /> <br /> But for now, the current class consists of 18 prep players – linebackers McMillan, Berger, Booker, Hubbard and the following: &nbsp;<br /> <br /> WR Noah Brown of Sparta (N.J.) Pope John XXIII, RB/WR Parris Campbell of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, QB Stephen Collier of Leesburg (Ga.) Lee, DE Jalyn Holmes of Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor, S Malik Hooker of New Castle (Pa.) HS, OL Jamarco Jones of Chicago DeLaSalle, OL Marcelys Jones of Cleveland Glenville, OL Demetrius Knox of Fort Worth (Texas) All Saints Episcopal, WR Terry McLaurin of Indianapolis Cathedral, PK Sean Nuernberger of Oldham County (Ky.) HS, WR Curtis Samuel of Brooklyn (N.Y.) Erasmus Hall, DL Dylan Thompson of Lombard (Ill.) Montini Catholic, OT Kyle Trout of Lancaster (Ohio) HS, and CB Damon Webb of Detroit Cass Tech.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-17/McMillan_Provides_Jolt_At_LB.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-17/McMillan_Provides_Jolt_At_LB.aspx f5ebb501-cb6a-4718-a7f1-a6e7fe212d1a Tue, 17 Dec 2013 16:42:01 GMT OSU Continues Nonleague Romp <strong>Thad Matta</strong> knows his Ohio State men’s basketball team has a long way to go, which is why he doesn’t have much reaction to the Buckeyes’ top-five ranking other than to raise his eyebrows.<br /> <br /> OSU entered the week No. 3 in The Associated Press poll and No. 2 in the USA Today coaches poll and presumably will stay on those lofty perches after improving to 10-0 with a 79-62 win over North Dakota State on Saturday night.<br /> <br /> The Bison (7-4) opened the season with losses in two of their first three games but have been the surprise of the BlackRock Gotham Classic. After slipping past Bryant on Dec. 7 they posted an upset victory at Notre Dame, 73-69, on Wednesday night.<br /> <br /> ND State has a true post presence in 6-8, 250-pound senior <strong>Marshall Bjorkland</strong>, who entered shooting an astonishing 71.1 percent from the field this season and just torched the Fighting Irish for 26 points. Of course, few college basketball followers know that – or are aware the Buckeyes were favored by just 12 points despite their elite status.<br /> <br /> Matta probably would have taken a victory by fewer than a dozen points, especially if it included some continued growth by his sometimes hard-to-figure outfit. But he got a 17-point win in which Bjorkland was held to just 12 points and four rebounds.<br /> <br /> Point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> continues to be erratic with his outside shooting, the bench production often wavers, <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> is still trying to shake off a horrid slump with which he opened the season assists have been hard to come by even though the Buckeyes play unselfishly and no longer have to feed and clear the floor for <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong>.<br /> <br /> However, just like few did more than shrug when the Buckeyes prevailed over the weekend, OSU’s 86-48 win over Bryant on Wednesday was a step in the right direction despite earning much reaction and drawing a tepid crowd of 12,723.<br /> <br /> This is when the building blocks are put in place – and the Buckeyes show they have more than their share when they approach their capabilities on both ends of the court.<br /> <br /> Against Bryant, for example, Ross followed up a 23-point outburst against Central Connecticut State with just nine, but looked settled and more comfortable. He was 4 of 10 from the field, contributed to OSU’s block and steal party with two in each category, and was jovial on the bench when the endliners were on the floor. A few nights later he matched senior guard <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> with a team-high 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, center <strong>Amir Williams</strong> continued his breakthrough season with 12 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots against Bryant. Even though the 6-11 junior made more news for a slip of the tongue in a postgame interview with ex-Buckeyes and BTN broadcaster Jim Jackson, it’s clear Williams is becoming a force – and may actually be ready for his matchup with Bjorkland.<br /> <br /> Also, Smith burned Bryant with a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds. The 6-4 lefty now leads OSU in scoring with 12.9 points per game and has solid shooting percentages across the board – 52.9 from the floor, 47.5 from three-point range and 74.2 at the free-throw line.<br /> <br /> “I think he’s playing at a very, very high level of being a complete basketball player,” Matta said afterward.<br /> <br /> “His defense always goes unnoticed. He has ability to shoot, he’s rebounding. His assist-to-turnover ratio is positive, which it wasn’t last year. He’s had a really, really good demeanor about him in terms of being a senior and it’s my last crack at it.”<br /> <br /> When asked if the media sometimes overlooks all that Smith brings to the table, Matta added, “I’d ask you guys not to give him credit. Something I’ve picked up on last year – he has to have a chip on his shoulder.”<br /> <br /> With freshman <strong>Kam Williams</strong> slated to redshirt, the bench was thinned a bit but still has hinted at being an asset when Big Ten play begins. Forward <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> is a candidate for top sixth man and freshman <strong>Marc Loving</strong> adds both length and outside shooting to the floor. Each had a dozen points off the bench in the win over North Dakota State.<br /> <br /> <strong>Trey McDonald</strong> is now a serviceable replacement along the front line and <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong> provides Matta with a fourth guard to mix in with Craft, Smith and <strong>Shannon Scott</strong>. Against Bryant, Della Valle earned 22 minutes and produced seven points and five rebounds.<br /> <br /> But without a doubt this team will be based on defense. After all, the Buckeyes currently rank 128th in the country in scoring (75.9 ppg) and 163rd in assists (13.1 per game) but can defend with the best of them.<br /> <br /> “They play national championship-caliber defense,” said Bryant coach <strong>Tim O’Shea</strong>, who previously coached for eight years at nearby Ohio University. “They’ve got the length, they’ve got the shot blocking, they’ve got the quickness. They’ve got that great point guard who’s not only a great offensive player, he’s a phenomenal defender.”<br /> <br /> O’Shea, of course, was referring to Craft, considered by many to be the biggest pest in college basketball.<br /> <br /> “There’s no other way around it, he’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the country,” Bryant guard <strong>Dyami Starks</strong> said.<br /> <br /> Starks had 16 points vs. OSU but was just 5 of 15 from the field and committed six turnovers compared to no assists.<br /> <br /> “I felt like the only time when I had him at a good advantage was in the open court when I could get a full head of steam against him, or a ball reversal where I could make a quick move,” he said of his battles with Craft. “But in halfcourt when they’re set with their length and quickness, it’s tough.”<br /> <br /> Bryant managed to connect on only 16 of 58 shot attempts (27.6 percent) and racked up 19 miscues. The Buckeyes took full advantage with a 22-1 showing in points off turnovers.<br /> <br /> “We were able to convert, not as much as we’d like to, but we’re getting 10, 15 steals and we’re getting enough points up on the board off of turnovers from other teams,” Smith said.<br /> <br /> How well Ohio State will fare in Big Ten play, of course, remains to be seen, but it certainly appears the Buckeyes are well on their way to an undefeated nonconference showing if they simply continue to harass foes and make improvements on offense.<br /> <br /> “We’re a good team in our league and we’ll contend for our championship; they’re going to contend for the national championship,” O’Shea insisted. Athletically, they’re an extraordinary bunch.<br /> <br /> “This is the best of the best. There are few teams in the country who will contend for the national championship legitimately and clearly Ohio State is one of them. I don’t know who the others are but you can count them on hand, basically.<br /> <br /> “Our kid, (<strong>Alex</strong>) <strong>Francis</strong>, when we we’re in the Northeast Conference, he’s a beast. He’s just a terror around the basket scoring inside. But tonight, no shot against all that athleticism.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-14/OSU_Continues_Nonleague_Romp.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-14/OSU_Continues_Nonleague_Romp.aspx fae49d48-c967-4aa0-a583-9d05bc8b86e2 Sat, 14 Dec 2013 19:14:10 GMT Rapp Around: Up To The Challenge An interconference “Challenge” doesn’t often feature two teams that will soon be league combatants, but that was precisely the case on Wednesday night when No. 5 Ohio State hosted Maryland.<br /> <br /> The day before, OSU head coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong> was asked if he planned to properly welcome the Terrapins to the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> “That’s easier said than done,” the coach said. “I’ve seen them on tape.<br /> <br /> “They’re a very talented basketball team in terms of they have a lot of guys that can do different things. They’ll move guys around, they shoot the ball well, they execute at a very, very high level offensively. They use a lot of actions that put their players in great position to be successful. And they rebound the ball well. Then you look at their numbers and see they have a great defensive team as well.”<br /> <br /> Maryland entered the fray as recent champions of the Paradise Jam, owning a healthy rebounding advantage and shooting 40.0 percent from three-point range.<br /> <br /> The Terps’ arrival also brought the annual debate as to what really differentiates the two leagues as they clash in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.<br /> <br /> In the end, Ohio State made a pretty strong case for itself and its allegedly more plodding conference by waxing Maryland 76-60 before a crowd of 16,206 at the Schottenstein Center.<br /> <br /> Four players scored in double figures for the Buckeyes (7-0), led by <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong>’ 20, while Maryland (5-3) got a team-best 19 points from <strong>Dez Wells</strong>.<br /> <br /> OSU, which improved to 6-6 all-time in the Challenge, is built on defense. And despite shooting woes early in the season, especially for Ross, they have shown they can clamp down with the best of them.<br /> <br /> On Wednesday, the Buckeyes were their usual pesky selves, holding Maryland to 39.1 percent from the floor even with the Terps grabbing 19 offensive boards and managing to put up 16 more shots than their hosts.<br /> <br /> Maryland usually lets it fly on offense with lanky forwards <strong>Jake Layman</strong> and <strong>Evan Smotrycz</strong> often causing matchup problems with their ability to catch and shoot from long range, Certainly, that has been a factor in previous Challenge contests, most notably at Duke last year when the Buckeyes couldn’t cool down <strong>Ryan Kelly</strong>.<br /> <br /> But on this night Maryland failed to get clean looks even off of penetration. The kickout passes that usually lead to fluid shooting netted just 2 of 18 made three-pointers for Maryland.<br /> <br /> But that’s going to occur a lot this season for those who visit The Schott. Defensive intensity is an Ohio State staple no matter the opponent or the conference from which it hails.<br /> <br /> However, a lot of other myths were dispelled.<br /> <br /> Matta admitted that much of what he heard about the Big Ten was proved true when he began coaching at Ohio State 10 years ago. Referees tended to let a lot of bumps and clutches go. Some teams were content to try to win games scoring 60 points – or fewer. Crowds approved hard-nose play.<br /> <br /> Matta said many power forwards 10 years ago were “big brusiers” who tended to rip down rebounds and punish people on screens. OSU had a hand in changing that by implementing “stretch fours” such as <strong>Matt Sylvester</strong>, <strong>Ivan Harris</strong>, <strong>Othello Hunter</strong> and <strong>Matt Terwilliger</strong>. None of them were lights-out shooters but all of them were encouraged to shoot from deep enough to broaden out defenses.<br /> <br /> Now many Big Ten teams have similar players and philosophies.<br /> <br /> And as far as the idea that ACC big men don’t mix it up, Matta is not buying it, not when he recalls that <strong>Tyler Hansbrough</strong> drew more fouls and free-throw attempts than anyone in the history of the NCAA.<br /> <br /> Of the so-called different styles of play, Matta said, “I think it’s more of a perception, to be honest with you.”<br /> <br /> Still, ask Joe Fan to compare the two conferences and he’ll probably tell you the ACC is more finesse-oriented and likes to play free-flowing basketball while Big Ten teams are more likely to dump the ball inside and knock into people.<br /> <br /> Maryland did struggle with Ohio State’s will but it was actually the Terrapins that tended to play more with their hands and smack the arms of shooters. The Terps committed 23 fouls compared to 15 by Ohio State, which befuddled its guest with the ability to help and recover.<br /> <br /> Also, if there were bonus points for beauty and grace on the court, they would have gone to the Buckeyes simply because of the high-flying act of <strong>Sam “Slam” Thompson</strong>. The 6-7 junior soared above the rim repeatedly and threw down four alley-oop dunks, each one more spectacular and crowd-pleasing as the one before it.<br /> <br /> Maryland coach <strong>Mark Turgeon</strong> bemoaned his team’s lack of awareness on the lobs to Thompson but eventually admitted, “It’s a tough play to stop.”<br /> <br /> That’s an understatement when watching Thompson out-jump opponents by at least a foot and throw authoritative dunks on the (long) way down.<br /> <br /> If the Big Ten is to be considered just as aesthetic as the ACC, it will be because of freakish athletes like Thompson playing in it, not because of games being called differently.<br /> <br /> When asked what the effect of the new hand-check rule might be, OSU guard Shannon Scott shrugged.<br /> <br /> “I don’t see the Big Ten becoming more like the ACC,” he said. “The whole hand-check rule, I think it just puts more of a disadvantage on the players who can’t play defense. We have to move our feet more often and you can’t have a hand check now. People aren’t getting bailed out as much as they were when they come up and play defense.”<br /> <br /> Added Craft, “We have guys that love to defend and can defend very well. We’re putting guys out there that can guard all night long and we feel comfortable about putting up our guys and matching up with other teams. We’re not&nbsp; afraid to get out and pressure because we know we have great team defense and we’re in the right position.”<br /> <br /> A product of Georgia, Scott still sees some slight differences in the leagues but his overall opinion has changed.<br /> <br /> “Growing up down south, I never thought the Big Ten could beat the ACC but I really don’t see that as a challenge for us anymore,” he said. “Just knowing that you’re part of a conference that wins a lot of great games here (is a source of pride), and I hope we get to the national championship the way Michigan did last year.”<br /> <br /> In the end, Ohio State proved it was clearly the better team and that it’s brand of basketball, whatever it is, can be effective against ACC teams. The Buckeyes bombed Duke in the Challenge two years ago and pretty much railroaded Maryland, building a lead as large as 25 points (70-45).<br /> <br /> And we all know several ACC teams such as Duke and North Carolina, which knocked off No. 1 Michigan State later Wednesday night, are considered power teams in a power conference.<br /> <br /> It’s time for the Big Ten to have the same reputation.<br /> <br /> “The ACC is always going to be the ACC, and the Big Ten over the past few years has done a great job with great coaches, great recruiting classes and great players,” Craft said. “To be able to see two great teams go at it, it doesn’t matter what league they’re from. It’s just great to watch great basketball. But obviously we try to give the nod to the Big Ten whenever we can.”<br /> <br /> The reality is Maryland and Ohio State aren’t all that different and are not confined by their conferences.<br /> <br /> Thompson said the Terrapins rebound like Michigan State and threaten defenses much like Michigan does with four skilled players on the court who can be triple threats within the offense. It’s a safe bet the Terps will knock off several quality teams this season, and they’ll do it with multitalented players.<br /> <br /> They took down Northern Iowa in a high-scoring game in the U.S. Virgin Islands then beat Providence 56-52 in the championship the very next day.<br /> <br /> Ohio State, of course, is capable of pulling the same kind of feat, even in the NCAA Tournament.<br /> <br /> <div style="text-align: left;"> “They’re very similar to who we are in their style and how they play and the things they do,” OSU assistant coach <strong>Dave Dickerson</strong> said of Maryland, where he played and later coached under <strong>Gary Williams</strong>.<br /> </div> <br /> The ACC/Big Ten Challenge ended up being a split. The ACC won 4 of 6 games Tuesday night and the Big Ten did the same on Wednesday. No one “style” won out. Mostly it was a showcase of good teams losing to or slipping past other good teams.<br /> <br /> On Tuesday, Matta admitted he wasn’t too caught up in the bragging rights or even the final tally.<br /> <br /> “We don’t have time, and I don’t think any of the other teams in the Big Ten or the ACC, has time to sit down and say, ‘Geez, I wonder who’s going to win this game or this game’ or ‘this team has to beat this team,’ so I think when it’s all said and done it’s probably more for the fans,” he said.<br /> <br /> “But it’s a high-level basketball game and form my perspective we have to take care of our part and play our best basketball.”<br /> <br /> Mission accomplished. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-05/Rapp_Around_Up_To_The_Challenge.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-05/Rapp_Around_Up_To_The_Challenge.aspx 818997e1-c36b-47bf-a18f-79abfc378e53 Thu, 05 Dec 2013 14:04:06 GMT Fickell Continues To Face Scrutiny <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> has been on the Ohio State coaching staff since the national championship season of 2002, and after several ups and a few downs since then he has chance to help the Buckeyes claim another crystal football this January.<br /> <br /> However, it has not been a dreamy year for the 40-year-old OSU defensive coordinator.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0) are undefeated for the second straight year and headed to the Big Teb Championship Game with Michigan State on Dec. 7 (8:17 p.m. Eastern, FOX), but Fickell’s defense – or recent lack thereof – has been a point of contention for followers of the program.<br /> <br /> Fickell, of course, knows this. After all, he’s a central Ohio native, played at OSU in the 1990s when criticism of <strong>John Cooper</strong> was rampant, and also served as the head coach of the program in 2011 after <strong>Jim Tressel</strong> unceremoniously resigned amid NCAA allegations.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes went just 6-7 that season with Fickell at the helm, but new head coach Urban Meyer made sure to keep the former nose guard on staff and return him to defensive coordinator duties. OSU has won a program-record 24 straight games with Fickell in that role for Meyer but the defense has been puzzling in some of those victories.<br /> <br /> The ultimate example came Saturday as the Buckeyes barely survived a scare from archrival Michigan, hanging on for an exhausting 42-41 win.<br /> <br /> OSU gave up 603 yards of total offense and 31 first downs before escaping yet again.<br /> <br /> While meeting with the Columbus media on Monday, Fickell put on his best face even while admitting his own disappointment and shortcomings. He also reminded his critics that he’s still in the winner’s circle.<br /> <br /> “What do you mean what went wrong?” he said to the very first question he fielded. “Did we win? Did we win? Did we win? Because I’ve been up there quite a few times in my 18-year career here and have not come away with a win."<br /> <br /> He then continued, “We know there are things we have to correct. Momentum and things happen and we didn’t play great on the defensive side of the ball. But every single week we have objectives, and the last objective last week was to win.”<br /> <br /> The 40-year-old Fickell remains well-respected by his players and as dedicated as ever to the task of playing winning football. He also, however, admitted his stubbornness, like when he continued to dial up aggressive approaches even after Wolverines offensive coordinator <strong>Al Borges</strong> – who entered the game even more embattled – found success with screens, misdirections and even throwbacks.<br /> <br /> Fickell refused to alter the game plan just because Michigan was able to hit some big plays, but as a result the game never really settled down. For example, on UM’s third offensive play from scrimmage, <strong>Devin Gardner</strong> found <strong>Jeremy Gallon</strong> on a short pass on first down and Gallon was able to race 84 yards to the OSU 2.<br /> <br /> Fickell said he regretted blitzing on the play, which led to a rushing touchdown by Gardner and a quick 7-0 lead for the Wolverines (7-5, 3-5).<br /> <br /> Fickell said if he didn’t attack on that play, “that game is a different game. But we can’t change who we are. We can’t just step back and ask our kids to change their demeanor and not be aggressive and not get after the quarterback.”<br /> <br /> OSU registered just three sacks in the game and Gardner was a stellar 32 of 45 for 451 yards and four TDs passing.<br /> <br /> For long stretches of the contest, it seemed Gardner could do no wrong. But after UM scored with 32 seconds left to cut the OSU lead to 42-41, Michigan coach <strong>Brady Hoke</strong> called timeout and opted to go for the win with a two-point conversion attempt.<br /> <br /> That’s when nickel back <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong> saved the Buckeyes – and allowed Fickell to save face – by intercepting Gardner’s short pass attempt in the end zone.<br /> <br /> “We made a play when we had to make a play,” Fickell said.<br /> <br /> Fickell said that moment and the game itself continued a trend for his relatively young defense.<br /> <br /> “The things that we rep we do a lot better job of,” he said. “We’re still a little bit in the youth of what we have. Things that are new and different sometimes will strike us and catch us by surprise. I think that’s what has happened.”<br /> <br /> Statistically, the Buckeyes aren’t as bad defensively as many critics would suggest.<br /> <br /> OSU ranks 30th in the country in total defense, allowing 355.8 yards per game. An even 100.0 yards of that total has come on the ground, ranking the Buckeyes fifth nationally. Not a single opponent has put together a 100-yard rushing day against Ohio State this season.<br /> <br /> The concern stems almost entirely from OSU’s pass defense, which is 98th nationally.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes went into the season without a returning starter up front and with a lack of depth at linebacker, a problem that still hasn’t been solved. The secondary was supposed to be a strength base on experience but corner <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> was suspended for a game and struggled upon his return, <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> opened the campaign with an ankle injury, and fellow safety <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> was lost midseason with a broken ankle.<br /> <br /> Also, <strong>Curtis Grant</strong>, who finally looked ready to man the middle linebacker spot, has not held up. The talented junior has been slowed by a sore ankle and tender lower back. He did not play vs. UM.<br /> <br /> Backup <strong>Camren Williams</strong> lasted only 15 snaps in his stead at MLB and struggled to make any plays.<br /> <br /> Still, that has not offset the scrutiny.<br /> <br /> When Fickell was asked if he was growing weary of all the criticism sent his way, he said, “No. You have a standard that’s been set around here, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s a tough way to live your life to never be satisfied, but that’s kind of the way that I was brought up. When <strong>Jim Heacock</strong> and I were here together it was very similar. You’re never satisfied with what you’ve got.”<br /> <br /> Fickell still enjoys being immersed in the program and finding solutions, even if they are simpler than many assume.<br /> <br /> “What it comes down to is ultimately you’ve got to outplay the other team’s defense,” he said. “If they allow two points then you’ve got to allow none. We’ve got to get better at what we do and focus on what we’re going to do.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Sparty Up Next</strong><br /> <br /> Outperforming the opposing defense is going to be a monumental task this week. Michigan State leads the nation in rushing defense (64.8 yards allowed per game), passing efficiency defense (91.79) and, not surprisingly, total defense (237.7 yapg).<br /> <br /> On the other side, MSU has made steady improvement on offense with <strong>Connor Cook</strong> under center and <strong>Jeremy Langford</strong> spearheading the running game. Cook has thrown for 2,119 yards with 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions while Langford has amassed 1,210 rushing yards and 16 TDs.<br /> <br /> The Spartans often run out of the I-formation and also show pro sets with two running backs.<br /> <br /> When asked if the Buckeyes might have more success against a more conventional attack, Fickell said, “What’s conventional nowadays? Each and every week it’s something different. But I guess you could say it’s conventional compared to the last 10 years here. They do some two-back stuff. But those things pose problems as well.”<br /> <br /> Fickell said Cook has proven to be a good fit for coach <strong>Mark Dantonio</strong>’s offense.<br /> <br /> “He’s a young guy but he commands the offense,” he said. “I don’t know that he makes a ton of checks, but he’s one of those guys that plays within the system and that allows them to be successful. They don’t put him in situations they don’t think he can handle.”<br /> <br /> Fickell admitted there is familiarity with MSU’s approach but that won’t make it any easier to stop it.<br /> <br /> “They know what their strengths are and they do it well,” Fickell said.<br /> <br /> “They’re going to have wrinkles. It’s similar in some ways but it’s not the same. I know Coach (<strong>Jim</strong>) <strong>Bollman</strong>’s up there and they still do some of the similar things but I guess you say it’s what they’ve done last year, too. Michigan State has been this probably for the last six or seven years.”<br /> <br /> Dantonio has been known to mix in some trick plays, especially in big games, and Fickell said he will have to have the defense prepared. However, he added he doesn’t want his players so wary of such tactics that they start to lose their edge.<br /> <br /> “You get back on your heels and become a bit more passive,” he said. “You can’t sit there and wait and say, ‘OK, when is the trick play coming?’ You’ve just got to have your guys attuned to it and we’ve got to be able to react and respond when it happens.”<br /> <br /> The coaches will be interested to see how the Buckeyes respond and hold up in a physical battle one week after facing off against Michigan – a program first since The Game was moved to the end of the regular-season schedule back in 1935.<br /> <br /> When asked what it feels like to have a quick turnaround after facing Michigan, Fickell said, “I don’t know. This is the first time for me ever being in a championship game, so it’s unique. But with it being the next week, your routine really didn’t change one bit.”<br /> <br /> As for the players, he added, “I don’t think these guys know the difference.<br /> <br /> “When I played I probably wish we would have because there were quite a few very negative feelings after that game, and I went into that game undefeated three of my four years and didn’t come away with success. And if it were a 42-41 win I would have been really happy to have one of those back.”<br /> <br /> MSU defensive coordinator <strong>Pat Narduzzi</strong> announced this week the Spartans will do live tackling in practice in preparation for the Big Ten championship.<br /> <br /> Fickell vowed the Buckeyes also will work on their tackling form.<br /> <br /> “I promise you we’ll be after them and try to hit and tackle,” he said. “We didn’t tackle well, but every week of the season we’ve had our own self-contained, almost-live tackling drill.<br /> <br /> “We don’t usually bring scout team guys all the way to the ground. But I promise you there will be individual live tackling drills to be done.”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-02/Fickell_Continues_To_Face_Scrutiny.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-02/Fickell_Continues_To_Face_Scrutiny.aspx c0b670a6-20a5-4172-9e2d-d1038cccd381 Tue, 03 Dec 2013 05:11:44 GMT Rapp Around: Instant Classic? How do you sum up a one-point win for Ohio State at Michigan in a contest with 83 points?<br /> <br /> How do you assess the college football landscape after Auburn dropped its rival, No. 1 Alabama, on a one-in-a-million play.<br /> <br /> How do you now predict how an obviously spent group of Buckeyes players and coaches will fare next week in a slugfest with Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game?<br /> <br /> With everything that just occurred on the final day of November, it’s nearly impossible to summarize and analyze, especially if your mind is still a little tingly from watching the 3½ hours of drama at the Big House.<br /> <br /> Still, I’m going to take a stab at it. Let’s just visit some pertinent topics one at a time, shall we?<br /> <br /> <strong>Instant Classic –</strong> After his Buckeyes thwarted a two-point conversion attempt with 32 seconds to play and hung on for a very trying 42-41 victory, <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> labeled the game – I’m sorry, The Game – as an “instant classic.”<br /> <br /> On the surface, it would be hard to argue. The point total was the second-highest in an OSU-Michigan game and the drama was abundant, especially when remembering all that was at stake for the No. 3 Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0 in the Big Ten).<br /> <br /> A date with the Spartans next week already was secured as OSU had sewn up its end of the Big Ten title game bargain as champions of the Leaders Division, but a loss would have ruined an undefeated season, a shot to extend the program’s best-ever winning streak to 24 games and daydreams of playing for the BCS crown.<br /> <br /> Michigan (7-5, 3-5) limped into the contest unranked and had lost its previous home game against Nebraska, the first setback at Michigan Stadium in the three-year reign of head coach <strong>Brady Hoke</strong>. In fact, the Wolverines came within an eyelash – or a dropped interception at Northwestern as it were – of losing their final five games, a run of ineptitude that began with a 29-6 embarrassment at Michigan State on Nov. 2.<br /> <br /> But they also came within a two-point conversion of knocking off their archrival and one of the nation’s elite teams. The Wolverines also looked like an offensive juggernaut for much of the day.<br /> <br /> UM racked up 31 first downs and 603 yards of total offense. Quarterback <strong>Devin Gardner</strong> was extremely effective with a rushing touchdown and accounting for 451 passing yards and four more TDs through the air. He was 32 of 45 passing and was at his best on money downs, often picking up third-and-longs.<br /> <br /> Wide receiver <strong>Jeremy Gallon</strong>, who set the Big Ten receiving record against Indiana with 369 yards, had another monster day with nine catches for 175 yards and a score. Running back <strong>De’Veon Smith</strong> ripped off the first run of more than 20 yards against the Buckeyes this season with a 38-yarder while freshman <strong>Derrick Green</strong> also helped augment the running of senior <strong>Fitzgerald Toussaint</strong>.<br /> <br /> OSU countered with a huge rushing day by <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and 526 yards in just 61 plays, an average of 8.6 per pop.<br /> <br /> With the Wolverines at the top of their game, the Buckeyes had to draw on every ounce of effort to leave town with a win, and it showed. Some players looked like they could barely walk let alone jump around in glee when it finally ended.<br /> <br /> “It was an incredible game and just playing in the Ohio State-Michigan game is incredible,” OSU left guard <strong>Andrew Norwell</strong> said. “It’s all about toughness and the toughest team wins. It was just a great team win today.”<br /> <br /> Meyer said he couldn’t crack a smile until it was over.<br /> <br /> “Whatever is inside of you it feels like it just shoots out of you,” he said. “I just have great respect for this rivalry and it’s just instantaneous. I thought about back in ’86 and ’87, when Coach (<strong>Earle</strong>) <strong>Bruce</strong> was here and coached his final game. I had flashbacks of the great games that I’ve witnessed.”<br /> <br /> “I knew it was going to be tough,” Hyde said. “These games are always tough. It’s the biggest rivalry in college football. Of course, it’s going to be tough.”<br /> <br /> However, I have to admit not getting quite as sentimental. The afternoon was littered with mistakes and even a loss of composure by the Buckeyes. Early in the second quarter after UM took a 21-14 lead, several Michigan players converged on kick returner <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> and eventually ripped off his helmet in what turned out to be an on-field melee.<br /> <br /> Wilson, OSU starting guard <strong>Marcus Hall</strong> and Michigan linebacker <strong>Royce Jenkins-Stone</strong> all were ejected and the Buckeyes had a hard time getting the game settled down after that.<br /> <br /> “I’m disappointed with that,” Meyer said of the scrap. “I don’t know where that came from. We had a little chat about that and it’s unacceptable.”<br /> <br /> Hyde also was disappointed at the way The Game devolved.<br /> <br /> “There was a lot of talking but that ain’t our game,” he said. “That’s not us. Coach got on us about that. We shouldn’t be doing that. We haven’t been doing that all year. We had to refocus and go back to doing what we do best.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes eventually got control of themselves but continued to show shaky execution on each side of the ball. Quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> had several poor throws and finished just 6 of 15 through the air, although he did manage to hit <strong>Devin Smith</strong> from 53 yards out and tight end <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong> from 22 yards away for a pair of TD tosses.<br /> <br /> Meyer admitted he lost confidence in the passing game and asked offensive coordinator <strong>Tom Herman</strong> to tone it down when it was clear the Buckeyes were in a dogfight.<br /> <br /> Also, OSU struggled to get defensive stops or even be in solid position to make tackles for much of the day. Angles were poor and the tackling form was shoddy at times.<br /> <br /> That left Meyer and Herman charged with coming up with a batch of positive plays on offense.<br /> <br /> “It reached a point we had to match score for score,” Meyer said. “On the final drive when we were down on the 1-yard line, I thought about grabbing a knee right there to eat some clock but just against that defense and their personnel, you had to go score. Me and Tom Herman, we had that chat, and I almost did it. But he’s right, if you jerk around and you don’t score, that’s a problem. So I thought we could reach out there and stop them.”<br /> <br /> But the Buckeyes didn’t. After going up 42-35 on a 1-yard plunge by Hyde with 2:20 to go, OSU still couldn’t finish the deal.<br /> <br /> Michigan managed an 11-play, 84-yard drive in just 1:48 and scored with 32 ticks left when Gardner found tight end <strong>Devin Funchess</strong>, who was targeted all afternoon.<br /> <br /> A high-scoring game is one thing – the 2006 classic between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan ended up 42-39 – but this one didn’t have the same feel.<br /> <br /> Meyer said the score would’ve been more like 10-9 if it occurred during the Ten Year War between <strong>Bo Schembechler</strong> and <strong>Woody Hayes</strong>, but added, “I think Coach Schembechler and Coach Hayes, and that was the generation (in which) I grew up, would’ve looked out and seen two teams playing as hard as they possibly can, which this rivalry is all about.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Where’s The D? –</strong> Still, the concern in Meyer’s voice was evident when discussing Ohio State’s defensive effort.<br /> <br /> “We were blown out on defense,” he said. “We’re playing guy too many plays. I wanted to call a timeout and give them a breath so they could strain to make a play.”<br /> <br /> Middle linebacker <strong>Curtis Grant</strong>, who has been dealing with a sore ankle and tender lower back, couldn’t hold up and left the game. <strong>Camren Williams</strong> struggled in his place. Also, the secondary played well off of receivers and still allowed too many yards after the catch.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Gardner was sacked just three times and made several plays outside the pocket.<br /> <br /> “We didn’t get the pressure we normally have and Gardner is an excellent thrower,” Meyer said. “He had struggled the last few games but he looked like he did against Indiana. So we’ve got to fix some things and get ready to go.”<br /> <br /> Embattled UM offensive coordinator <strong>Al Borges</strong> came up with a stellar game plan as the Wolverines were able to gash OSU on several screens, misdirection plays and throwbacks.<br /> <br /> “Obviously we didn’t do a very good job defending it,” Meyer said.<br /> <br /> Added nickel back <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong>, “In the first half they came out with a bunch of tricks and gadget plays and we were all going out there trying to do too much. Everybody was trying to do other people’s jobs.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Christian Bryant</strong>, who didn’t dress because of an injured ankle, linebacker <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong>, and defensive line coach <strong>Mike Vrabel</strong> all addressed the D at halftime trying to summon better effort from the group. But the Buckeyes ran out of gas on that side of the ball trying to defend 82 plays.<br /> <br /> “Last week we played 92 plays, this week we played far too many plays,” Meyer said. “We’ve got to get a little rotation going because I think that’s hurting us a little bit.”<br /> <br /> Defensive coordinator <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> is now absorbing scads of criticism, and while it’s difficult to completely defend the results the approach is somewhat understandable.<br /> <br /> Gardner has been a turnover machine much of the season and UM’s offensive line had been sieve-like. Fickell decided to have pass defenders peeled back assuming pressure would be applied and takeaways opportunities would arise.<br /> <br /> It didn’t happen as Michigan played over its head and the Buckeyes couldn’t get a handle defensively.<br /> <br /> <strong>Going For 2 –</strong> The fateful two-point conversion attempt, of course, will be debated for years but among those not knocking Hoke for the decision is his counterpart.<br /> <br /> “I would’ve done the same thing,” Meyer said. “You go win the game right there. No question. Both offenses were in unstoppable mode.”<br /> <br /> As I drove out of town with my radio colleagues I could hear the disgust on the local airwaves from UM fans, although some did laud Hoke for having the nerve to try it.<br /> <br /> I’d be in that camp. In a rivalry where wins earn you contract extensions and losses immediately put you on the hot seat, Hoke deserves a lot of credit for taking the risk. Plus, the Buckeyes would have been very tough to slow down in overtime.<br /> <br /> “We would have scored,” Hyde said. “I have no doubt that we would have scored. We were having success all day on offense. I know we would have made something happen.”<br /> <br /> Going for the win probably was the right call. The problem was the play was flawed. Gardner tried a quick-strike pass just across the goal line and Powell snuffed it out by reading pass and picking it off.<br /> <br /> Powell was all smiles afterward, still tickled that cornerbacks coach <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong> gave him just the right advice in the huddle during a timeout.<br /> <br /> “Coach Coombs was like, ‘Tyvis, they’re going to motion it to triple stack and No. 3 is going to run the angle route,’ ” Powell said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, we watched that on film, so that makes a lot of sense.’ Me and <strong>Josh</strong> (<strong>Perry</strong>) made a swap call. Josh ended up going on the blitz, he got the pressure on (Gardner), he threw the ball, I ran like I listened to Coach Coombs and – boom – there it was.<br /> <br /> “I was thinking to myself, ‘Coach Coombs is a genius.’ It was shocking that he really threw it. But I guess that’s their bread-and-butter play on two-point conversions and all week that’s what we practiced against in practice.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Hyde Rides Behind O-Line –</strong> No matter how sketchy matters get for the Buckeyes they always seem to be able to rely on their offensive line and the running of Hyde and Miller behind it.<br /> <br /> Miller was impressive 153 yards and three TDs on the ground, but Hyde was the plowhorse, especially in the second half. He took 27 handoffs and totaled 226 yards, the most ever for an OSU back against Michigan.<br /> <br /> Before he took OSU to the winner’s circle, though, Hyde committed a rare fumble with the Buckeyes ahead just 35-28 early in the fourth period. Michigan responded with a 13-play drive and game-tying touchdown.<br /> <br /> “I was real disappointed with the fumble,” Meyer said. “He’d pull it through a tackle, pull it through a tackle, and I felt like he was getting loose with the ball. But we blocked, and I thought Tom Herman and <strong>Ed Warinner</strong> did a really good job, because we made a lot of adjustments.”<br /> <br /> Hyde did, too, making sure he didn’t loose grip of the pigskin again while churning for extra yardage.<br /> <br /> “My mindset once I got back out there was ‘Coach is going to put the ball in your hands, you’ve got to make up for that fumble,’ so that’s exactly what I did,” he said.<br /> <br /> As for the record, Hyde deflected any praise.<br /> <br /> “I have to give credit to my offensive line because they did a great job today, great job, and they helped me make history,” he said. “Those guys are going into history with me.”<br /> <br /> With 1,290 yards on the season, Hyde is now in position to claim the Big Ten rushing title – not bad for a guy who missed the first three weeks of the season.<br /> <br /> “I know at Boston College my friend, <strong>Steve Addazio</strong> has a great back as well, but it we had a draft I’ve got mine,” Meyer said.<br /> <br /> Meyer has said the same about his offensive line. After losing Hall, redshirt freshman <strong>Pat Elflein</strong> held up in the pressure cooker and allowed the Buckeyes to keep winning the war up front.<br /> <br /> “It feels awesome,” Elflein said. “<strong>Corey</strong> (<strong>Linsley</strong>) kind of took me in from day one when I was a freshman coming in here and he’s kind of always on my back, giving me tips and trying to direct me on things. It feels pretty good knowing that he’s happy with how I played.<br /> <br /> “When my number was called I was just locked in and 100 percent focused. After the game I kind of looked up and tried to soak in what just happened. It was a good feeling.”<br /> <br /> Norwell agreed.<br /> <br /> “We knew we had to score and we take pride in that, the O-line,” said the senior. “When it comes down to that we know we have to put our team on our backs. We love that.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Enough In The Tank For Sparty? –</strong> Next up for the line, Hyde and Miller is Michigan State’s nationally elite defense.<br /> <br /> “The only (MSU) game I saw was against Nebraska,” Hyde said. “I saw their running back had some success, and I was watching him. I watch the running backs.”<br /> <br /> While Hyde doesn’t seem too concerned, Michigan State’s physical and stingy defense will pose a major impediment to a possible appearance in the national championship game.<br /> <br /> The Spartans (11-1, 8-0) closed out the regular season with a 14-3 shutdown of Minnesota and improved their average of points allowed per game to 11.8, which ranks fourth in the nation.<br /> <br /> Ohio State and Michigan State will face off at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday (8:17 p.m. Eastern, FOX) in a game that will decide a lot.<br /> <br /> It’s the first time the Big Ten has had a pair of 8-0 teams since OSU and Iowa pulled the feat in 2002. The only other time the conference had two teams make it through the season with unscathed conference marks was 1943.<br /> <br /> The Spartans and Buckeyes will meet for the first time since the 2012 Big Ten opener, when OSU edged Michigan State, 17-16, in East Lansing. The winning score was a 63-yard Miller pass to Smith in what was Meyer’s first Big Ten contest.<br /> <br /> Ohio State is now in uncharted waters. Since The Game was moved to the end of the regular season in 1935 the Buckeyes have never had to play in the following week. This time they do, and against a headbanger of a team.<br /> <br /> That is going to be a tough order given how drained the Buckeyes appeared moments after edging their archrivals.<br /> <br /> “I’m exhausted right now,” Norwell said. “I love it, though – going out there and competing every play. The competition is great and that’s what I live for.”<br /> <br /> Meyer will appeal to the competitive nature of his players and also believes they are equipped to handle the situation.<br /> <br /> “They get it,” said the coach. “That’s a very smart team in there.”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-01/Rapp_Around_Instant_Classic.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-12-01/Rapp_Around_Instant_Classic.aspx 6d40271a-4954-4afe-8861-4f8245d2a24b Mon, 02 Dec 2013 05:57:07 GMT The Game Still Won In Trenches The renewal of one of the greatest rivalries in the history of sports always brings with it plenty of clichéd analysis and pregame theories as to what will make the difference.<br /> <br /> But perhaps the most time-tested and simplistic way to predict success for either Ohio State or Michigan when the two combatants meet yet again Saturday (noon Eastern, ABC) is to suggest that the trenches are the key.<br /> <br /> It is there why why each team has to believe it will be a banner day at Michigan Stadium.<br /> <br /> The No. 3 Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0) are a two-touchdown favorite on the strength of a 23-game win streak – a program record – and an offense that has been close to unstoppable. OSU already has set school season-high marks with 73 touchdowns and 536 points, and the Buckeyes currently rank third nationally in scoring offense (48.7 points per game) and seventh in total offense (530.9 yards per game).<br /> <br /> That, of course, is a credit to the coaching, execution and talent level on that side of the ball but it also speaks loudly about the dominance of OSU’s offensive line. The Buckeyes are blessed with four seniors in the starting five – left tackle <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong>, left guard <strong>Andrew Norwell</strong>, center <strong>Corey Linsley</strong> and right guard <strong>Marcus Hall</strong> – and also have a rising star in sophomore right tackle <strong>Taylor Decker</strong>.<br /> <br /> With Decker a worthy replacement for last year’s RT, <strong>Reid Fragel</strong>, Ohio State hasn’t lost a game in two years with the line performing so well.<br /> <br /> Considering Michigan (7-4, 3-4) has struggled with consistency and has had to reshuffle its offensive line, and well aware that a date with brutish Michigan State in the Dec. 7 Big Ten Championship Game lingers, it’s arguable that the Buckeyes actually are staring at a trap game – unheard of when discussing Ohio State-Michigan.<br /> <br /> However, Linsley refuted that idea.<br /> <br /> “Surprisingly it’s not difficult at all,” he said. “We have a mindset on our team to just focus on this week as we’ve done every week. Our motto this week is ‘All lasers pointed at one dot.’ That dot represents the focus we have on beating these guys. It truly is that. It’s kind of easy with finals (exams) built in. I don’t have to worry about anything else, any other distraction, I just have to do what I have to do, do my job, and everything will work out.”<br /> <br /> Plus, Linsley said he learned a valuable lesson last year in preparing for the Maize and Blue – a wakeup call that came early in OSU’s hardfought 26-21 win in Columbus.<br /> <br /> “Last year I didn’t really see a whole lot on film that I was overly excited about,” he admitted, “and I kind of got into the game thinking with the mindset that I had to play hard but this wasn’t going to be overly difficult. But they came off the ball the first couple of plays and I was like ‘This is what everybody was talking about. This is what they mean when they say this week is different.’<br /> <br /> “They played to the highest level that I had ever seen them play on film. It was a grind, it was a battle, and I’m sure it’s going to be the exact same way this year. I would expect nothing less.”<br /> <br /> It also needs to be noted that the Wolverines, despite all of the headaches they have suffered this season, have been consistently stingy against the run. UM is allowing 116.4 yards rushing per game, which ranks a very respectable 14th in the country.<br /> <br /> Ohio State still holds the statistical advantage comparatively. In fact, the Buckeyes have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, give up 95.3 yards per game on the ground and rank sixth nationally in that department.<br /> <br /> However, considering the intensity of the rivalry and that the Wolverines will be playing in front of their home fans, it’s safe to say the Buckeyes will still have a lot on their hands when trying to protect <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> or block for <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and company.<br /> <br /> “I’d say strap up and be ready because it’s a really cool environment, a ton of people,” Mewhort said. “It’s your classic stadium. When you think of college football and a big game, the Horseshoe, Penn State and up there are those classic stadiums you think of when you think of a big-time college football.”<br /> <br /> But again, the Buckeyes have the experience to offset some of that raw emotion and chaos. When Linsley was asked what makes the offensive line special, he didn’t hesitate with an answer.<br /> <br /> “I think it’s the communication that nobody hears,” he said. “I remember in the game on Saturday (vs. Indiana) Norwell had told me at one point that my ID was in the opposite play, the counter play, and I had to kind of change it.<br /> <br /> “That’s an example of how we’re all intertwined up front and how we can sit there and nobody’s freaking out. Everybody is calm, relaxed, they know I’ll get the call. So there’s a level of comfort with each other that is definitely special.”<br /> <br /> That will be important as Michigan is sure to throw everything at the OSU offensive line to try to blow up blocking schemes and cause confusion.<br /> <br /> “They play hard, as always,” Linsley said of the Michigan defense, which allows 25.1 ppg. “It’s a typical film that you watch. They’re playing hard. I don’t know about the stats or anything, I don’t honestly care about that, but they have a good core of guys up front, they’ve got a good front seven. I know a couple of their guys are highly rated and quick-twitch guys, so we’re going to need to play our best this week.<br /> <br /> The line matchup looks a little more one-sided when the Buckeyes are on defense. The Silver Bullets have been getting more pressure on quarterbacks in recent weeks and their 36 sacks rank third in the nation. That fact added to OSU’s typically excellent showing against the run is bad news for the Wolverines, who have been sieve-like up front.<br /> <br /> Michigan has allowed a whopping 107 negative plays this season, nearly 11 per contest. That’s an absurd figure for a program that usually boasts one of the most powerful offensive lines in the country and for a team that has <strong>Taylor Lewan</strong>, a preseason Outland Trophy favorite, anchoring the line from left tackle.<br /> <br /> When asked to assess why UM’s O-line has had so much difficulty, Mewhort said, “We don’t have time to focus on other team’s struggles or successes. We have to handle our business in our O-line room. They have some great players up there. If they are struggling, I don’t know what’s going on.<br /> <br /> “That’s not a huge deal to us because we have to improve and we have things we have to fix. When you start worrying about other people’s problems, that’s when things go wrong.”<br /> <br /> OSU defensive tackle <strong>Michael Bennett</strong> echoes those sentiments.<br /> <br /> “Watching film, they have a good group of O-linemen,” said Bennett, a junior. “I don’t know what motivates them day by day. I know they will be motivated against us. I know we have to come ready to play, too.”<br /> <br /> Michigan is going to have to deal with a defensive line that appears to be peaking as well as linebacker <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong>, the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the week after racking up a career-high 20 tackles including five for loss in the 42-14 win over the Hoosiers.<br /> <br /> Bennett is aware the Wolverines have employed five different starting combinations with their offensive front.<br /> <br /> “I don’t think it is too challenging since they are switching up their O-line,” he said. “You look at each position and each guy who have gone in. If anything, we know more about their team because they have switched it up. It doesn’t change their game plan when they put a new O-lineman in.<br /> <br /> “Our coaches will break it down for us. They have always been a pro-style team. They are throwing some quick passes. I don’t how that will affect our game plan. But I know our coaches will have us ready for it.”<br /> <br /> Part of that preparation will include concern for the legs of quarterback <strong>Devin Gardner</strong>, who doesn’t need superior blocking to create plays.<br /> <br /> “You just have to get to him,” Bennett said. “He seems like he gets flustered, but he has a lot of talent. When you let him sit in the pocket, he can make some plays. He can scramble and he can run, too. You just have to bring pressure to him and let him know you’re there.”<br /> <br /> In some matchups with Michigan, Ohio State has punctuated winning performances with huge hits on the quarterbacks. Some of them have come from defensive linemen such as <strong>Vernon Gholston</strong> and <strong>Cameron Heyward</strong>. Last year, the iconic came from linebacker <strong>Zach Boren</strong> when he smacked down and stood over Gardner.<br /> <br /> “That was a huge play,” Bennett said. “Zach came in and hit the crap out of him. That photo is really cool. Everybody just wants to have that feeling when you play that team up north of getting a big hit on their quarterback and just feeling you dominated them.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-27/The_Game_Still_Won_In_Trenches.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-27/The_Game_Still_Won_In_Trenches.aspx da094fcc-a3d3-4cfa-ad61-2d67c4bf9627 Wed, 27 Nov 2013 22:09:16 GMT Family Atmosphere Fuels OSU “It was very emotional, just playing the last game with the O-line, all the seniors I came here with. It was very emotional, man.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> doesn’t express himself thusly very often – after all, Ohio State’s quarterback is a cool cucumber – but even he got caught up in Senior Day as the No. 4 Buckeyes honored their outgoing players then laid waste to visiting Indiana, 42-14.<br /> <br /> In a program as loaded with winning tradition and individual traditions as one can imagine, Ohio State takes its Senior Day festivities seriously. And that was especially so on Saturday even though the Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0) were heavily favored against the second-division Hoosiers (4-7, 2-5).<br /> <br /> The 19 players who were announced to the crowd just prior to the game have been through more than most – Tattoogate, NCAA sanctions, and the ouster of head coach <strong>Jim Tressel</strong> early in their careers; a year under interim coach <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> that ended with seven losses, the most at OSU in more than a century; a 12-0 2012 season that ended abruptly with no postseason; and the current undefeated run that set the stage for an all-time mark for consecutive wins in the program (23).<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes rode the emotion of the moment – and exposed a hapless IU defense that ranks among the nation’s worst in several categories – in building a 42-0 lead.<br /> <br /> It was as it was supposed to be yet it was a special day that won’t soon be forgotten, if ever.<br /> <br /> While Miller was the best offensive player on the field (a game-high 144 rushing yards, 160 passing yards, and a hand in four touchdowns), fellow junior <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> was the clear standout on the other side.<br /> <br /> But even after the fierce outside linebacker racked up 20 tackles including five for loss and grudgingly admitted he may have played his best game in scarlet and gray, Shazier said his thoughts were with the upperclassmen.<br /> <br /> “I left everything on the field today because I was playing for the seniors,” he said. “I was doing my job. I was trying to make sure they got off with a perfect game, a memorable game.”<br /> <br /> If Miller and Shazier were thinking they, too, were playing in their home sendoff – after all, they could follow suit and join <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> in leaving a year of eligibility on the table to chase NFL dreams – they didn’t show it at all.<br /> <br /> Head coach Urban Meyer confirmed earlier in the week that Roby, a redshirt junior, would be leaving after this season and even allowed the standout cornerback to join the festivities since he is a senior in academic standing.<br /> <br /> “He’s cleared,” Meyer said after practice Wednesday. “We talked, and he’s going to go, going to move on. But that’s all you ask. You don’t ask for five years nowadays.<br /> <br /> “It’s no secret. I think it’s great for him and good for Ohio State.”<br /> <br /> After the game, Meyer didn’t address the Roby decision and likely didn’t want to do so. Instead, he took time to address the magnitude of seniors leaving on a warm note and the importance of having a family atmosphere in the program.<br /> <br /> He said he was struck by it as an Ohio State graduate assistant under <strong>Earle Bruce</strong> in 1986.<br /> <br /> “I would see <strong>Jim Lachey</strong> and <strong>Archie Griffin</strong> and all these great players come back and be part of this program, and I would notice that the ones that were part of something special were always back,” Meyer said. “They kept coming back. They kept wanting to be around.<br /> <br /> “And as you grow a little older and become more experienced, the greatest thing that happened today is every one of those players in that locker room is going to come back now and be part of this, because there’s going to be a special place for them around that facility and what they’ve done, longest winning streak in Ohio State history.<br /> <br /> “That’s a big part of what kind of drives me is to see the players come back and say, ‘Look what we did.’ Because I saw it. That’s the first time I really experienced that was in Columbus, Ohio, in 1986, saw the former players coming back, the ’68 national champions and these other Big Ten championship teams. They come back and celebrate with their families.<br /> <br /> “I think it’s one of the greatest things that can happen to a college football player.”<br /> <br /> Backup quarterback and fan favorite <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong>, who heard his name chanted in the stadium yet again, already has assured he’ll stick around. Guiton plans to pursue a graduate degree at Ohio State and stay involved in the program.<br /> <br /> Many others, of course, will take their shot at professional football. Still, there is plenty of work to do. The Buckeyes close out the regular season in Ann Arbor against archrival Michigan (7-4, 3-4) on Nov. 30 and next will tussle with No. 11 Michigan State (10-1, 7-0) in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.<br /> <br /> The Spartans clinched an outright Legends Division title with a 30-6 victory at Northwestern earlier in the afternoon. The Buckeyes then nailed down the Leaders Division berth.<br /> <br /> There wasn’t much suspense as to how the game with Indiana would play out, especially when the Buckeyes seized a quick 14-0 lead midway through the first period.<br /> <br /> Still, there was the matter of honoring the seniors, who made their way from the south edge of the field to a waiting Meyer, coaches and teammates then pivoted out to the hash marks to find their families for an onfield embrace.<br /> <br /> The class included a couple players who had to cut short their careers prior to this season because of chronic injuries – defensive backs <strong>Adam Griffin</strong> and <strong>Jamie Wood</strong>. Griffin was greeted by his mother, Bonita, and his famous father, Archie.<br /> <br /> “I just told him congratulations,” Archie Griffin told SportsRappUp.com on his way back to his Ohio Stadium seat.<br /> <br /> The two-time Heisman Trophy winner added Adam, who prepped at nearby Columbus DeSales, is very close to attaining his undergraduate degree.<br /> <br /> A couple other seniors honored are key specialists – placekicker <strong>Drew Basil</strong> and long snapper <strong>George Makridis</strong> – while walk-on lineman <strong>Ivon Blackman</strong>, a transfer from Robert Morris, didn’t play much but became an OSU Scholar Athlete.<br /> <br /> The names became more and more familiar to approving Buckeye fans – veteran DBs <strong>Corey “Pitt” Brown</strong>, Roby, <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> and <strong>Christian Bryant</strong>; wide receiver <strong>Chris Fields</strong>, leading rusher <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and <strong>Jordan Hall</strong>, who held down the backfield fort while Hyde was suspended early in the season; Guiton; respected captain and leading receiver <strong>Philly Brown</strong>; and OSU’s four senior starters along the offensive line: <strong>Andrew Norwell</strong>, <strong>Marcus Hall</strong>, <strong>Corey Linsley</strong>, and <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong>.<br /> <br /> Guiton was all smiles when he approached his parents and other loved ones who came from Houston for the momentous occasion.<br /> <br /> “That’s all I was thinking,” he said. “They don’t get to see me play all the time, so for them to make it up to my Senior Day and be able to see me play, man, that was a great feeling. They had my son in their hands. I was happy to see all of that and I just wanted to give them a good show.”<br /> <br /> In a scene reminiscent of last year when <strong>John Simon</strong> painfully limped out to his folks prior to the Michigan game, his knee too swollen to play, Bryant, who recently underwent ankle surgery, slowly proceeded to Meyer and then his teary-eyed family.<br /> <br /> That added to an already emotional scene as Mewhort, OSU’s rock-steady left tackle who Meyer labeled the most indispensable member of the offense, was announced last, just after Bryant. <br /> <br /> “I don’t think I deserved it,” Mewhort said humbly. “I think all those guys who ran out before me have done a lot of great things in their careers here. It’s an honor. I didn’t read too much into it but I really appreciate Coach Meyer putting me last. I know it was really cool for my parents.<br /> <br /> “But I think the guy in front of me deserves a lot of recognition, too – Christian Bryant – because he’s done so much for this program. For him not to be able to run out there with us on Senior Day and be in a boot, that was just the worst seeing that. I think people need to focus more on that guy than me being the last guy.”<br /> <br /> After Mewhort passed the Bryants, he saw his mom, Gail, and father, Don, waiting for him. Lip quivering, Don was too emotional to speak. Offensive line coach <strong>Ed Warinner</strong> then came over and gave the Mewhorts a knowing hug, also without words.<br /> <br /> “My Mom and Dad were both a wreck,” Jack said. “It was kind of weird because you’ve got a game to play and I’ve got my crying parents right there. It was a little awkward but we got through it.<br /> <br /> “My dad is a big guy and he doesn’t get emotional often, so when I see him like that it kind of gets to me a little bit. I expected my mom to be in tears. I know they’re proud of me and I’m just trying to make them proud.<br /> <br /> “Hopefully they were tears of happiness. Hopefully there wasn’t any underlying thing that they’re mad at me about.”<br /> <br /> Even with so much emotion flowing, the Buckeyes didn’t let any of it deter from their mission. They stuck to the seasonlong script by scoring efficiently on their first drive and building a first-quarter lead.<br /> <br /> Even though the Hoosiers eventually found the end zone and managed to amass more than 400 yards of total offense, Ohio State was in control throughout.<br /> <br /> After handshakes at midfield, the Buckeyes headed over to the south stands to stand shoulder to shoulder and sing the school alma mater, “Carmen, Ohio.”<br /> <br /> “Last one; last time,” Barnett repeated to the seniors around him.<br /> <br /> In the interview room, he the less-experienced Buckeyes understood the theme of the day.<br /> <br /> “I’ll remember all the seniors,” freshman <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> said. “This was a great group of seniors. I wasn’t around them a lot but just in the short time I’ve been with them (I could see) they’re really good dudes, and I hope the best for all of them in their future.”<br /> <br /> Added junior defensive lineman <strong>Michael Bennett</strong>, “We win for each other. The BCS will work itself out. You can’t really control it so we just go out there and try to win for each other, and for Buckeye Nation.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-24/Family_Atmosphere_Fuels_OSU.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-24/Family_Atmosphere_Fuels_OSU.aspx 88d7b642-a40d-4e64-a586-d7e820cbf2f6 Mon, 25 Nov 2013 05:58:33 GMT Rapp Around: No Flow For O No. 8 Ohio State returned home after blowing up Marquette’s national-best home win streak, continued its winning ways with a 63-52 victory over American on Wednesday night and is now 4-0 on the season.<br /> <br /> That’s the flowery version of the current state of OSU basketball.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes made just 20 of 56 shots (35.7 percent) on the night including 7 of 27 (25.9 percent) in the first half and also were a dismal 3 of 16 (18.8 percent) from three-point range.<br /> <br /> It was a dreadful shooting performance that prevented OSU from truly electrifying the Schottenstein Center or pulling away from the pesky Eagles (1-2).<br /> <br /> That’s the simple version of what was unsightly.<br /> <br /> Now let’s delve a little deeper.<br /> <br /> What exactly is going on with the Buckeyes? Why is offensive flow a foreign concept for them right now? And why in the world can’t they shoot the basketball with any measure of consistency?<br /> <br /> Well, here are some theories and observations as well as some extra analysis to consider:<br /> <br /> <strong>Clank You Very Much –</strong> The Buckeyes are helping their foes gain early confidence and setting themselves up for struggle with poor shooting early in games.<br /> <br /> <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> and <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> are content to set up others in the opening minutes, <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> has high energy but has not gotten untracked offensively early in games, <strong>Amir Williams</strong> doesn’t exactly demand the ball in the post at the outset and <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> is being tightly checked and looks flustered.<br /> <br /> Add it all up and you get very rough shooting starts. Poor shooting tends to beget poor shooting.<br /> <br /> “I’ve always said shooting is contagious,” head coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong> said afterward.<br /> <br /> And when this team struggles, Matta encourages it to stay aggressive by pushing the ball when possible and driving into the lane to force the hand of the officials.<br /> <br /> It worked to some degree in the first half when the Buckeyes couldn’t muster anything resembling a run yet still led 28-23 at the break thanks to a 12-for-14 showing at the free-throw line compliments of nine first-half fouls by the Eagles.<br /> <br /> Like many other accomplished coaches, Matta is concerned about the way games will be called this year and knows players who can draw contact are going to the free-throw line. Unless a defender is already established, completely set and outside the restricted area, he’s getting sacked with a blocking call.<br /> <br /> Which leads to another point …<br /> <br /> <strong>It’s All About The D –</strong> Matta has preached defense since the day he arrived to Columbus, and his predication on that has paid off immensely.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes typically are among the best teams in the country in playing high-quality, position, hand-in-your-face defense and doing it without all of the bumping and clutching that leads to foul trouble.<br /> <br /> Against American, for example, they committed just 10 fouls and the Eagles ended up with just seven free throws. American did a very good job to make the extra pass, hit shots at the end of the shot clock and execute on set plays and out of timeouts. The visitors’ 21-of-46 showing (45.7 percent) was admirable.<br /> <br /> But the Eagles were never going to win in The Schott turning the ball over 27 times, taking just six free throws and making only four triples.<br /> <br /> Matta was displeased about a lot of facets of the game and definitely read his team the riot act in a couple timeout huddles. But he knows there is no need to panic or to overhaul the plan as long as the Buckeyes are controlling foes defensively.<br /> <br /> Defense is the calling card – and it’s what makes Ohio State elite.<br /> <br /> Defense comes more easily for OSU’s starting guards – Craft, Scott and Smith – and the trio puts a lot of effort into it. It’s the same for sixth man <strong>Sam Thompson</strong>, who is OSU’s fourth-best guard.<br /> <br /> Craft is simply the best on-ball defender in college basketball and Scott is an absolute pest as well. Smith has long arms that he has to wind up to shoot his jumper but are ideal for bothering opposing players on the wing. Thompson is a freakish athlete who is still learning how to become a complete basketball player.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Williams is lengthy and gets off his feet easily, which has always made him a threat to block shots. He is working at his offensive game as evidenced by his career-high 16 points vs. American. In fact, he had a couple tip-ins but also scored off of moves in the post including one gorgeous play where he was able to isolate himself in the lane and turn right into an in-rhythm left-handed hook shot.<br /> <br /> Still, Williams is mostly on the floor over the slightly more offensively skilled <strong>Trey McDonald</strong> because of his length and ability to wipe away defensive mistakes.<br /> <br /> Which leads to another point …<br /> <br /> <strong>Q Is For Question Mark? –</strong> Remember when <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong> labeled himself as the X-factor of the team? Well, Ross has assumed that role.<br /> <br /> Many expected Ross to ramp up his production and take on much of the offensive burden after Thomas and his Big Ten-leading 19.8 points per game made an early departure from the program in the spring.<br /> <br /> At 6-8 and having displayed the ability to both shoot from deep and drive through the lane and finish in big-time fashion during the postseason, Ross was the most likely candidate to become a 15-point scorer this season.<br /> <br /> That may have been a high expectation given that he averaged 8.3 ppg last season but also that he’s not finding points very easy to come by so far as a junior.<br /> <br /> Even after putting up 14 points in the opener with Morgan State, coach <strong>Todd Bozeman</strong> said he was surprised Ross wasn’t featured more in the OSU offense. Ross was 5 for 14 from the field in that game and 3 for 10 with 10 points in the follow-up with Ohio University.<br /> <br /> Saturday at Marquette, he put up a donut as in no points. Ross never had anything close to a stroke at the Bradley Center – he was 0 of 6 from the field, 0 of 3 from three-point range.<br /> <br /> When Ross splashed a three in the first half of the American game, fans let out a chant of “Q!” However, he ended the stanza just 1 of 5 from the field and missed his only two attempts in the second half. He finished with just four points, but also noteworthy was that he played only 19 minutes.<br /> <br /> If Ross, who has had a couple nagging injuries so far this season, continues to come up empty with his shooting, Matta is going to be even more inclined to get freshman <strong>Marc Loving</strong> on the floor, especially in preconference games. Loving is 6-7 but has long arms and is a more natural rebounder than Ross.<br /> <br /> If OSU can set up Ross and get him cooking, one wonders at what that could do for the offense. Craft and Scott can create plays but are much better shooters when they are left alone on the arc. Smith also does much better when he can play off of a shifting defense.<br /> <br /> Matta, as usual, has put an emphasis on ball unselfishness but Ross and someone else – Smith? <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong>? – also need to be perimeter threats to make it all click. And the passes need to be better.<br /> <br /> Which leads to another point …<br /> <br /> <strong>Hit Me In The Chest –</strong> The Buckeyes look like they are just zipping the ball around without a lot of purpose to their passes. Against American, they had 10 assists compared to 14 turnovers. In their previous home game against Ohio U. they had nine assists and nine turnovers.<br /> <br /> Matta wants at least a 2-to-1 ration on assists-to-turnovers, especially with essentially two point guards on the floor for much of the game. Those numbers, of course, will go up as the shooting improves but it isn’t as simple as waiting for jumpers to start falling through the net.<br /> <br /> Many of OSU’s halfcourt passes were simply off the mark. Craft threw one over the American bench in the first half. Smith almost did the same but was fortunate Ross caught his cross-court bullet on a cut. Several passes out to open players on the wing were at head level or higher and not where players could catch and go right into a shot with comfort.<br /> <br /> Matta said the ball movement still isn’t sharp and he will address it in practice.<br /> <br /> “If you notice, great shooting teams are great passing teams, too,” he said.<br /> <br /> No, there isn’t a <strong>Jon Diebler</strong> on this team. And the Buckeyes may struggle to shoot consistently well all season. But there are areas in which the Buckeyes can significantly improve and salvage their offense.<br /> <br /> If they do, the top-10 ranking will be justified. If they don’t, expect a lot more games like the one with American on Wednesday. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-21/Rapp_Around_No_Flow_For_O.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-21/Rapp_Around_No_Flow_For_O.aspx 88f63acf-623b-4004-9ce1-a814dfa56313 Thu, 21 Nov 2013 16:09:03 GMT Roby Ready For Stetch Run At the outset of the week and with Ohio State’s senior sendoff approaching, head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> was asked about the inevitability of a few juniors following the seniors out the door.<br /> <br /> It was a fair a question, especially considering quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>, linebacker <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> and cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> are at least going to be very tempted to listen to NFL agents and scouts – if they aren’t already.<br /> <br /> “That’s real,” Meyer admitted. “At some point, it’s after the season, between the bowl game and end of the season.&nbsp;I’ve sat in a lot of those meetings.&nbsp;We’ll probably have a couple this year. But not yet.”<br /> <br /> Meyer, of course, is more attuned to the current quest of the Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0), who have slipped to No. 4 in The Associated Press rankings despite dumping Illinois Saturday, 60-35, and tying the school mark with their 22nd straight victory.<br /> <br /> One of the continual concerns going forward has been the play of the secondary, although it has improved in recent weeks.<br /> <br /> A redshirt junior who was touted as a preseason All-American, Roby was suspended for the opener and didn’t start in Week 2 because of an off-field incident over the summer. Senior safety <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> also missed the Buffalo game on Aug. 31 because of an ankle injury and had to ease his way back to full strength.<br /> <br /> Then Barnett’s role changed when his senior cohort, longtime starting safety <strong>Christian Bryant</strong>, was hurt in the final moments of the Big Ten opener with Wisconsin and was lost for the rest of the season. Barnett shifted from free to strong safety and senior <strong>Corey “Pitt” Brown</strong> was added into the mix, and struggled at first.<br /> <br /> Redshirt freshman <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong> has played admirably at nickel but is getting worn out since so many teams have employed multiple receivers. Plus, Powell is a mainstay on special teams. He played more than 100 snaps at Illinois.<br /> <br /> Ironically, the steady Eddie of the group has been <strong>Doran Grant</strong>, who was a new face as a starting corner at the beginning of the season, replacing the departed <strong>Travis Howard</strong>.<br /> <br /> Still, there is hope that the group can jell for the stretch run and much of that optimism centers on the improved play of Roby, who admitted being foggy at times earlier this season.<br /> <br /> “I just really had to focus and just get back to how I approached the game last year,” said Roby, who drew praise from Meyer after the 63-14 destruction of Penn State. “The first half of this season I was just really worried about too many other things than what my job was and I forgot doing my job is what got me here in the first place.<br /> <br /> “So I just got back and got back to the basics and the small things, because the small things will get you far.”<br /> <br /> When asked what was sidetracking him, Roby offered, “Just trying to make too many plays, trying to live up to something. At corner you’ve got to wait for the plays to come to you. You can’t go to the plays, because when you try to do that too much that’s when you get beat on double moves, that’s when you get beat with a deep pass when you’re in Cover 3, things like that.<br /> <br /> “You’ve got to just wait until it comes to you. You’ve got to do what you’re supposed to do on every play and eventually it will come to you. And if you’re a good player, you’ll make the plays.”<br /> <br /> Roby did just that at Illinois and helped set an early tone when he picked off a <strong>Nathan Scheelhaase</strong> pass a raced 63 yards for a touchdown, juking Scheelhaase near the numbers to punctuate the play.<br /> <br /> It actually was Roby’s second score of the year as earlier he blocked a Northwestern punt and smothered it in the end zone. Last season, Roby scored three times as he found the end zone on a blocked kick, interception and fumble recovery/return.<br /> <br /> Despite missing the first game and struggling in parts of others, Roby still ranks fourth on the team in tackles with 45 and leads the Buckeyes with three interceptions and nine passes broken up.<br /> <br /> So what has been the problem?<br /> <br /> Well, Roby has been guilty of trying too hard to make a game-turning play at times. Also, Ohio State has had to try to slow down some of the better passing attacks in the country, most notably that of California, a team OSU defeated 52-34 in mid-September.<br /> <br /> Against Wisconsin, the OSU coaches had the safeties crept up so much to sell out against perhaps the nation’s best running attack that Roby and Grant were virtually left alone to cover wideouts. Roby was victimized by one of the most savvy receivers in the country that day as <strong>Jared Abbrederis</strong> amassed 10 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown.<br /> <br /> Meyer and defensive coordinator <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> shouldered much of the blame for that outcome but the players and coaches went to work to try to fix the problems in the defensive backfield. The answers didn’t come immediately with Bryant out of the equation.<br /> <br /> “I think as we started off without him, it was kind of tough,” Roby said. “I think you saw that in the Northwestern game. We struggled a little bit as a secondary, just different people in different positions and we were not used to it. <br /> <br /> “It comes with time and effort in practice to get it down pat and I think C.J. has done a great job of filling into Christian’s role and also being a leader and helping Corey out, and Corey is just fitting his position and making plays. I think it’s had to come with time.”<br /> <br /> Patience also has been a virtue for Roby as he assesses his own situation.<br /> <br /> As a redshirt sophomore and third-year player last season, he had the option of throwing his name into the NFL draft ring. He came close to doing so, but decided to take one more shot at winning a prestigious bowl game and possibly a national title, opportunities the Buckeyes weren’t afforded last year because of a postseason ban and NCAA sanctions.<br /> <br /> Roby had an admirable spring but put himself in a bad situation when he was arrested in a Bloomington, Ind., bar and charged with assault on a bouncer. The charge eventually was dropped, but Meyer still admonished Roby’s behavior publicly and docked the star cornerback a game.<br /> <br /> When Roby failed to play at an elite level earlier in the year, Meyer theorized his best cover man was dealing with “buyer’s remorse.” Roby basically admitted that was the case.<br /> <br /> But now he is facing perhaps his final home game as the Buckeyes get set to host Indiana (4-6, 2-4) on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC/ESPN2). As fate would have it, Roby will be trying to shut down another sizzling passing attack and face the team that hails from the very college town where his trouble began.<br /> <br /> It will be a chance for Roby to remind everyone of his talents and to prove that his head is indeed on straight.<br /> <br /> His lesson in humility learned, Roby just wants to finish strongly.<br /> <br /> “You can’t overlook an opponent, because at the end of the day we have more to lose than they do,” he said. “You can’t overlook anybody. You see that every week, some team comes out of nowhere and beats a team that they shouldn’t beat. They’re all scholarship players and if you don’t play to your potential you can get beat any day.”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-20/Roby_Ready_For_Stetch_Run.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-20/Roby_Ready_For_Stetch_Run.aspx df632c51-b6ed-41e1-b907-d63c7d390ec9 Wed, 20 Nov 2013 19:14:57 GMT Illibuck Secured, But At A Cost So this is the reality with which we are now faced:<br /> <br /> In a 25-point win over Illinois on Saturday, third-ranked Ohio State scored 60 points, rolled up nearly 600 yards of offense and amassed well over 400 yard rushing, had a running back put up the third-best individual effort in program history, set a new team record for average yards per carry (10.5), broke the school seasonal scoring record, and tied the mark for most consecutive wins in program history and … basically no one is happy.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> was grumbly when he walked off the Memorial Field turf at halftime and his Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0) held a 35-14 lead, and his mood wasn’t any better afterward.<br /> <br /> <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong>, who torched the hapless Illini (3-7, 0-6) for a career-high 246 yards and a couple 50-plus-yard breakaway scoring runs in the fourth quarter, said afterward, “We’ll enjoy this win,” but the insincerity in his voice was evident.<br /> <br /> No one involved in the 60-35 victory, not even Hyde – who scored five times and tied the highest rushing total <strong>Archie Griffin</strong> ever put up in his illustrious career with 246 yards – was about to do a dance in the locker room or skip to the bus.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes were sloppy and disjointed for stretches of the game and held only a 12-point lead at 47-35 midway through the fourth quarter before Hyde got out the hammer. That it took OSU’s top back and quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> to still be running the ball at that late juncture is enough indication of the difficulty.<br /> <br /> A 33-point favorite, the Buckeyes were facing an Illinois team that hadn’t won its last 19 Big Ten games and was allowing 300 yards per game in league play this season. The Illini are one of the worst teams in the country in first downs allowed and third-down conversion percentage allowed yet OSU punter <strong>Cameron Johnston</strong> was called upon six times, tying a season high.<br /> <br /> At halftime, OSU led by three touchdowns but one of the scores was compliments of a pick-6 by cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> and Miller was just 10 of 20 passing for 90 yards at the break. Illinois had as many first downs as OSU – 12 – at intermission and actually held a 16:25 to 13:35 advantage in time of possession.<br /> <br /> The passing game regressed after the break as Miller was just 3 of 9. Tight ends were not targeted and <strong>Philly Brown</strong> was the only Buckeye with more than two receptions – he had seven for 49 yards but just 1 for 5 in the second half.<br /> <br /> Miller supported Hyde with a stellar rushing day of his own – 184 yards – but offensive coordinator <strong>Tom Herman</strong> wasn’t able to tap into backup tailback <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong>, a freshman who should have gained valuable experience, or running back <strong>Rod Smith</strong>.<br /> <br /> Freshman <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> was visibly irked on the sideline after he took one handoff for 7 yards and was summoned off the field for the next play. He didn’t see the backfield after that.<br /> <br /> It was almost too easy for the offense early on as Miller kept the ball on a read-option play and zipped 70 yards through a spread-out UI defense for a touchdown on the game’s third play.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes also got an 18-yard swing pass from Miller to Hyde for a score and built the lead up to 28-0, the fourth TD coming on an 11-yard pass from Miller to Brown, but that’s when the game got sketchy from an OSU point of view.<br /> <br /> Ohio State entered the day knowing middle linebacker <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> would be held out because of an ankle injury. Also, strongside ’backer <strong>Josh Perry</strong>, who recovered from minor surgery on his hand early in the week, slipped on icy pavement back in Columbus and was too banged up to make the trip. And not that it mattered much, Hyde was held out of the first series for missing a class.<br /> <br /> As the game unfolded, OSU’s line situation was troubled. Senior left tackle and team leader <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> hyperextended his knee in practice on Thursday and missed much of the Illinois game, though he did see the field in a time of need. Meanwhile, freshman defensive lineman <strong>Joey Bosa</strong> suffered a neck stinger after proving to be a menace early in the game and did not return.<br /> <br /> The injuries and apparent let-up by the Buckeyes led to some strange plays, including a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown by Illinois’ <strong>V’Angelo Bentley</strong>, a product of Cleveland Glenville. Johnston, who came into the game having just two of his kicks returned for any yardage, boomed a 63-yard punt over everyone and the Buckeyes did not stay in the their lanes in trying to run down Bentley.<br /> <br /> “Our special teams are a little bit of a mess right now,” Meyer said. “Some of the guys playing right now, quite frankly, haven’t played at all. As a result, we just have to coach better. I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow.”<br /> <br /> The second half produced a bizarre sequence that led to Illinois head coach <strong>Tim Beckman</strong> shouting down offensive coordinator <strong>Bill Cubit</strong> and other coaches having to separate the two. Beckman’s rage was brought on when Cubit called for a dropback pass play on third-and-long with backup quarterback <strong>Reilly O’Toole</strong> on the field and the Illini facing third-and-long.<br /> <br /> O’Toole was smacked and fumbled, causing a safety and allowing OSU to turn a 35-21 lead into 44-21 in a matter of minutes.<br /> <br /> The turning point was set up when <strong>Tommy Schutt</strong> spun down Illinois quarterback <strong>Nathan Scheelhaase</strong> near the goal line and caused the QB’s helmet to fly off. By rule, Scheelhaase had to leave the field. Illinois was called for a false start to make it third-and-14 yet Cubit still stayed with the same formation and same play, which called for his inexperience QB to set up in the end zone looking for a receiver.<br /> <br /> Still, Scheelhaase returned and rallied the home team with his legs, arms, poise and patience.<br /> <br /> A four-year starter, Scheelhaase threw for 288 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and ran for an additional 46 yards and a score.<br /> <br /> “I’m a big fan of No. 2,” Meyer said. “I told him after the game that I think he’s a great player. I thought he was hard to defend today. We were playing a quarterback that created plays.”<br /> <br /> It took the two late TD jaunts of 51 and 55 yards from Hyde to give OSU some much-needed breathing room, but not necessarily peace of mind.<br /> <br /> “In my head, I was just thinking, ‘Man, we could’ve done this the whole game,’ ” Hyde said. “That last run, I had energy and I feel like we could have that momentum the whole game. I try to provide juice for the offense. Being a leader, I want to get everyone going.”<br /> <br /> Hyde’s 246 yards rushing tied Griffin for third-most in a game for a Buckeye. <strong>Eddie George</strong> has the all-time mark with 313 yards on the ground vs. Illinois in 1995, which helped George win the Heisman Trophy that fall.<br /> <br /> <strong>Keith Byars</strong> had 274 yards and five TDs in 1984 against, you guessed it, Illinois.<br /> <br /> OSU needed the ground attack on a day when Miller struggled with the windy conditions and couldn’t match the numbers from Scheelhaase.<br /> <br /> Miller came in completing 72.5 percent of his passes on the season but was just 13 of 29 (44.8 percent for 150 yards at Illinois. At least that was better than his 1-for-4 passing day at Illinois two years ago during a 17-7 win.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes didn’t come home to a parade and they certainly don’t want one yet. However, they can set a new program mark with win No. 23 in a row – all of them under Meyer – by just taking care of an Indiana team that lost 51-3 at Wisconsin on Saturday.<br /> <br /> The Hoosiers (4-6, 2-4) will enter Ohio Stadium on Nov. 23 when the Buckeyes will send off their senior class. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-17/Illibuck_Secured_But_At_A_Cost.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-17/Illibuck_Secured_But_At_A_Cost.aspx 3d028ebf-e77f-45d6-913f-78e188488915 Sun, 17 Nov 2013 21:07:04 GMT Matta Likes 2014 Recruiting Haul When <strong>Thad Matta</strong> signed just one prep player to a letter-of-intent (guard <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong>) a couple years ago and followed up with two more (forward <strong>Marc Loving</strong> and guard <strong>Kameron Williams</strong>) last year, some followers of Ohio State basketball wondered if the coach was losing his recruiting touch.<br /> <br /> But Matta, now embarked on his 10th season at the school, knew he had the makings of an outstanding 2014 class and had immediate strong feelings for all four members.<br /> <br /> After that quartet signed and Ohio State had gathered all the necessary paperwork, Matta was able to talk about his latest haul – and extol the virtues of each player.<br /> <br /> In order of how highly coveted they were nationally, the new class consists of 6-5 guard <strong>D’Angelo Russell</strong> of Montverde (Fla.) Academy, 6-7 combo forward <strong>Keita Bates-Diop</strong> of Normal (Ill.) Community, 6-4 forward <strong>Jae’Sean Tate</strong> of Pickerington (Ohio) Central, and 6-9 power forward/center <strong>David Bell</strong> of Garfield Heights (Ohio) HS.<br /> <br /> Virtually every service rated the class in the top five nationally, most at second or third overall.<br /> <br /> Russell is native of Louisville, Ky., and most analysts assumed he’d pick his hometown and defending national champion Cardinals if not Indiana. Instead, he decided to become a Buckeye, which is very good news for OSU fans considering his all-around ability.<br /> <br /> Bates-Diop, like Russell, is a top-50 prospect who is coming off an outstanding summer and easily could have ended up at a nearby school like Illinois or Michigan. He has an advanced game and can face the basket despite having the length of a post player.<br /> <br /> The son of former Buckeye forward <strong>Jermaine Tate</strong>, Jae’Sean is a board-eater and fierce competitor who helped Central win the 2012 state title. Many rated him as the top player in Ohio last season.<br /> <br /> Bell is considered a relatively raw prospect but has a 7-5 wingspan and is developing as an effective inside player with offensive tough and defensive presence.<br /> <br /> Add it up and Ohio State has a lot of weapons in tow – even after senior guards <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> and <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> depart.<br /> <br /> “I’m just very, very excited about this class.” Matta told reporters Thursday evening.<br /> <br /> The following are Matta’s comments about each Ohio State signee:<br /> <br /> <strong>On Russell –</strong> “You’re getting another great guard at Ohio State. In terms of what position is he, is he a point guard, is he a two guard, I don’t know exactly, I think we can run him at both. But he’s got ability to make big time-plays with the basketball in his hands, be it three-point shots, driving, getting fouled. He makes guys around him better.<br /> <br /> “He’s a guy who’s won a national championship as a high school player. Montverde is one of the top high school programs in the country. He’s been coached.”<br /> <br /> <strong>On Diop –</strong> “You’re getting a long, 6-7½, 6-8 athlete that can really, really shoot the basketball. I think from the standpoint of playing multiple positions, he scores, he passes, he rebounds, he can defend, he can handle the basketball.”<br /> <br /> <strong>On Tate –</strong> “Everybody’s asked me, ‘What position is Jae’Sean?’ And I always answer, ‘I don’t know, but I know he’s going to be on the floor.’<br /> <br /> “He’s a warrior. The things that we’ve talked about with him in terms of since the day he’s committed to us is we wanted him to get better. He shoots the ball from deep a lot better, he’s got a great first step. He can guard, I think, all five positions on the floor, He’s won a state championship.<br /> <br /> “Jermaine was a great player as well. You’re getting a great player and you’re getting a guy who is a Buckeye.”<br /> <br /> <strong>On Bell –</strong> “I think David Bell from Cleveland, first saw him he hasn’t been playing basketball like a lot of kids for a long time, (but) he’s 6-9, he’s long, he’s athletic. He’s one of those kids that wants to be at Ohio State. I think we’ll bring his skill along. But he runs the floor, he blocks shots, he rebounds out of his area.”<br /> <br /> Ohio State had designs on adding a fifth player to the signing class in 6-10 <strong>Payton Dastrap</strong> of Mesa (Ariz.) Mountain View, but days after verbally committing to Matta the young post player changed his mind and signed with BYU.<br /> <br /> Matta, therefore, was not able to comment on Dastrap, who will go on a two-year Mormon mission right out of high school and join the Cougars’ program in 2016.<br /> <br /> Still, Matta knew he had the makings of yet another elite class and especially likes the foursome’s versatility and how it will fit into the equation.<br /> <br /> “I felt like we were in great position, and probably the biggest thing for me always is those guys are committed and you go to watch them in the summer and you leave the gym happy – and I was when I left the gym in terms of as a coach,” Matta said. “You guys probably sit and watch, ‘Oh, he did a 360, he’s going to be a great player.’ I probably see some things that are a little bit different in terms of knowing what we need when they get here and couldn’t be happier with that.”<br /> <br /> Russell, for example, has the size, shooting ability and oncourt savvy to be a standout for the Buckeyes, Matta said.<br /> <br /> “The first time I ever saw him play, he had six threes in the first half,” said the coach. “The second half he didn’t take one and probably had 10 assists. He’s got something about him. He takes and makes big shots. He wants the ball in his hands at crucial points in the game. He is very, very complete.<br /> <br /> “And one thing about him is he’s very athletic. Defensively, he reads things well and really uses his size and his length.”<br /> <br /> He added similar praise for Bates-Diop.<br /> <br /> “He’s high on his jump shot,” Matta said. “He’s very, very athletic. I love that about him.”<br /> <br /> Off to 2-0 start this season and ranked 10th in The Associated Press poll, Ohio State currently has 10 scholarship players on its roster. That number will swell to 12 next season, when the Buckeyes will be able to showcase more length, depth and athleticism.<br /> <br /> “We wanted to get Aaron and Lenzelle replaced and we feel unequivocally we did that with guys that can do a lot of different things,” Matta said.<br /> <br /> “It’s always a numbers game in terms of what we’re trying to do. I think that the biggest thing with this particular class, we got what we wanted in terms of the positioning and guys that can play those multiple positions for us.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-14/Matta_Likes_2014_Recruiting_Haul.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-14/Matta_Likes_2014_Recruiting_Haul.aspx f4587856-0689-41d8-b305-8235be7614d3 Fri, 15 Nov 2013 05:18:13 GMT Backcourt Battle Deluxe Ohio State’s hosting of Ohio University on Tuesday night wasn’t just another nonconference game and can’t be summed up as simply little brother trying to beat big brother. There were too many storylines for that tidy description.<br /> <br /> And the fact that the No. 10 Buckeyes were able to endure a foul-fest and hang on against the motivated Bobcats to post a 79-69 victory almost seems like a sidelight because of all the subplots.<br /> <br /> For starters, OSU head coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong>, who played collegiately at Southern Illinois and Butler, has a mid-major background and has deep respect for the work that is done at that level. One of his first coaching gigs was as an assistant at Miami (Ohio) under <strong>Herb Sendek</strong>.<br /> <br /> In fact, Matta once shared an office in Oxford for about a month with <strong>Jim Christian</strong>, the current Ohio U. head coach. Christian came on board after <strong>Sean Miller</strong> left Miami.<br /> <br /> Matta’s most trusted assistant for years, <strong>John Groce</strong>, left Ohio State a few years ago to become the head coach at Ohio – with Matta’s blessing, of course. Ironically, the man Matta tabbed to replace Groce was <strong>Jeff Boals</strong>, a former Bobcat player who came from Akron, another Mid-American Conference school.<br /> <br /> Matta knows the dangers of playing MAC schools but still has welcomed the idea. His Ohio State teams have faced the likes of Miami, Kent State, Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan over the years. Two years ago, the Buckeyes actually held a scrimmage with the Bobcats.<br /> <br /> Ohio State went on to the Final Four that following March while OU was a darling of the NCAA Tournament by reaching the Sweet 16 under Groce and nearly knocking off North Carolina.<br /> <br /> The Bobcats lost standout guards <strong>D.J. Cooper</strong> and <strong>Walter Offutt</strong> after last season but still entered the Schottenstein Center Tuesday night with a veteran, battle-tested group.<br /> <br /> “They’ve got a very senior-, junior-dominant (roster), a lot of redshirts in the program, guys who have been here for a long time and won a lot of basketball games,” Matta said on the eve of the game.<br /> <br /> Ohio downed Northern Iowa by 11 points in its season opener, giving the OSU coaches even more reason for concern. However, Boals said he didn’t notice any extra tension.<br /> <br /> “Every game is a big game against Ohio State, and a lot of times the team you scout isn’t the team you play, especially the year we went 34-3 (in 2010-11),” he said. “We got everyone’s A-plus game.<br /> <br /> “Playing on the other side, coaching on the other side, it’s a huge game. When I came here I was an Ohio kid and like everyone who didn’t come here I wasn’t good enough to play at Ohio State. I think our guys understand that.<br /> <br /> “I don’t think it’s a no-win situation. Our guys are pretty determined. And when you have two seniors and five juniors like we have, you should never overlook anyone, especially an in-state opponent.”<br /> <br /> Three Ohio U. starters hail from central Ohio and were prep standouts – junior point guard <strong>Stevie Taylor</strong> (Gahanna Lincoln), senior shooting guard <strong>Nick Kellogg</strong> (Columbus DeSales) and redshirt senior forward <strong>Jon Smith</strong> (Grove City). Ohio State recruited Taylor and Kellogg, at least until securing <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> and <strong>Shannon Scott</strong>.<br /> <br /> And so the stage was set for a fairly riveting early-season encounter. Ohio State’s strength, its tenacious backcourt, would be tested by talented Ohio U. guards intent to play well at home and against the state school that rejected their services.<br /> <br /> And as an added bonus it turns out the backcourt battle about to be waged was one that had already happened several times before behind closed doors as Taylor and Kellogg spent some of their summer playing in open gyms at The Schott.<br /> <br /> “Obviously the better games you can play are in open gyms with us, so they came back a couple times this summer and we got to play a little bit,” said Craft, who also faced Taylor and Kellogg on the AAU circuit while in high school.<br /> <br /> When asked if they were good guys, Craft added, “Absolutely. Obviously Nick’s dad is a big Ohio State guy and we’ve talked to him a lot. He comes from a great family and so does Stevie. They’re great kids and competitive and they want to win just as much as we do.”<br /> <br /> Craft, of course, was referring to former OSU All-American and current CBS broadcaster <strong>Clark Kellogg</strong>, who also happens to be on The Ohio State University board of trustees.<br /> <br /> Clark and his wife, Rosy, sat in their season-ticket bought seats at The Schott only dressed in hunter green and rooting for the away team.<br /> <br /> They didn’t have much to cheer about early on as the Bobcats looked flustered in the opening minutes and spotted Ohio State at 9-0 lead. The diminutive Taylor finally got the lid off the basket by connecting on a deep jumper and moments later Nick Kellogg hit a three.<br /> <br /> Still, the Buckeyes built the lead to 17 and led 40-28 at the half with what appears to be the 2013-14 formula – strong perimeter defense, a group effort on the boards and balanced scoring.<br /> <br /> Taylor had problems handling Craft in the early going and was pulled from the game. Kellogg tried so hard to go after a loose ball at one point that Craft was able to zip by him and fire an outlet pass to Scott for an easy lay-in.<br /> <br /> But as the game progressed it was apparent the Bobcats would not given in and that Taylor and Kellogg were prepared to carry the load offensively. Faced with a 24-7 deficit, OU showed some pluck as Taylor splashed a three over Craft in front of OSU bench and, moments later, Kellogg stole an errant inbounds pass and made a nifty breakaway finish.<br /> <br /> Early in the second half, Kellogg was at it again when his second crazy left-handed hanger in the lane of the night cut the OSU lead to 44-32.<br /> <br /> A Kellogg trey right out of the under-8 timeout off an inbounds pass kept the Bobcats breathing at 59-47. With 6:43 left and OSU in the midst of a deep scoring drought, Taylor nailed a top-of-the-key three to cut the score to 61-50 and ignite a 13-4 run.<br /> <br /> Kellogg contributed a drive and nifty reverse lay-up in the spree while Taylor added a three-point play that required him to score while being knocked by the much larger <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> while speeding to the hoop on a breakaway.<br /> <br /> Suddenly, OSU fans who were eyeing an early exit were stuck in their seats watching the Buckeyes cling to a 65-60 lead with four minutes to go. Where the answers were going to come from remained a mystery.<br /> <br /> “You’ve got to make plays, make shots,” OSU senior <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> said after the game. “Unfortunately we weren’t hitting wide-open shots and the game just got ugly.”<br /> <br /> Smith, though, came through with a dagger just when the Buckeyes needed it. His three – and only made basket in five attempts – provided enough breathing room, a 74-64 lead with 1:55 to play.<br /> <br /> Kellogg, of course, answered with a three of his own as he ended up tying Taylor for game-high honors with 21 points.<br /> <br /> Still, the Buckeyes prevailed on a night when they shot just 40.9 percent from the field and accumulated just nine assists.<br /> <br /> Their best friend was the free-throw line.<br /> <br /> Benefiting from officials zinging the Bobcats with 34 personal fouls – four OU players ended up fouling out – the Buckeyes were awarded 51 foul shots and made 38 (74.5 percent).<br /> <br /> Ohio State was called for 21 fouls but did a better job of adjusting to the tight officiating.<br /> <br /> “I think it was good for us,” Craft, who scored 14 of his team-high 18 points at the charity stripe, said afterward. “As good of a basketball team as we think we are there are still some times and some situations where we need to get better. There were distractions going on and we really needed to focus.”<br /> <br /> Christian didn’t complain about the foul calls and instead immediately pointed to the positives of his team showing fight against a top-10 team.<br /> <br /> “This is why we played this game,” said the coach. “It’s the same reason why we played Northern Iowa and it’s the same reason why we have Valparaiso next. We wanted three really, really good teams and see, ‘OK, what do we have to correct, what do we have to get better at?’ We learned some things about ourselves, no question about it.”<br /> <br /> One thing he learned was that Kellogg and Taylor, who set a new career high in scoring, were up to the challenge of facing one of the fiercest backcourts in the country.<br /> <br /> Craft learned it as well.<br /> <br /> “Those guys are great players,” he said. “We saw that this summer when they came in and played with us. They made some shots early then they started playing with a lot of confidence. And they put them in position to be successful.”<br /> <br /> Added a hoarse Matta, “They did a great job with Taylor and Kellogg of just kind of isoing and driving us, and they made some really, really tough shots.”<br /> <br /> Taylor said it was a night to remember.<br /> <br /> “I had a great time playing at home,” he said. “I know all those players. I play with them in the summer. I look at it as another game to play against some good friends and being able to compete. Craft is a really good player and I thought we both played a good game today. His team won but at the end of the day it was a good experience coming home and playing in front of the home fans.”<br /> <br /> Added Kellogg, “Growing up in Columbus and Pops being who he is, I guess this, in a sense, is home. But at the end of the day I prefer Athens.”<br /> <br /> Nick’s father understood the sentiment.<br /> <br /> When asked right after the game if it was an unusual night for him, Clark told SportsRappUp, “Very much so but excited for Nick and for the OU Bobcats and the Columbus kids. Having a chance to play in this kind of environment is really useful for going forward.<br /> <br /> “I’m really proud of Nick – I’ve always been proud of him because he handles himself the right way and was really happy to see him play relaxed and confident and aggressive, and that’s all you ask for – go after it and let the chips fall where they will.”<br /> <br /> Clark, of course, is very familiar with the Buckeyes but when asked if he offered his son any tactical advice, he said, “No, not at all. They do tons of film study as well. We always talk prior to the game about the scouting report but that was it.”<br /> <br /> He then added, “Really it’s about trying to get better and playing in this kind of environment. It’s different when you play a road game against a top-15 team in their building. So it’s all good from where I sit.”<br /> <br /> Clark donned a “Green Fever” T-shirt and clearly was supporting the Bobcats.<br /> <br /> Asked if he sensed his dad might have trouble doing so, Nick said flatly, “There was no trouble. I’m his son. He’s going to root for me.”<br /> <br /> “It was all more for Nick,” Clark said. “Obviously I’m scarlet and gray through and through but this is a night I was going ‘Green Fever’ and wouldn’t have minded seeing the Bobcats win.<br /> <br /> “I know how good Ohio State is and what this place means to me, but for one night it wouldn’t have been too bad seeing the Bobcats come out on top. It didn’t happen, but it was fun being a part of it.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-13/Backcourt_Battle_Deluxe.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-13/Backcourt_Battle_Deluxe.aspx 8bd328ae-4909-4c86-b1cb-fc6cef6aeb74 Wed, 13 Nov 2013 18:49:27 GMT Needing Help, But Confident While Ohio State football fans fret about the postseason outlook and continue to be tantalized with their team climbing to the No. 3 hole of the BCS standings, the Buckeyes have that confident glow.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> admitted during his weekly press luncheon Monday that he has been voting his team No. 2 in the USA Today coaches poll and that he is now even more convinced the Buckeyes are deserving of the status.<br /> <br /> Also, wide receiver <strong>Evan Spencer</strong>, not known for braggadocio, even managed to speculate that the Buckeyes would “wipe the field” with either of the two teams perched above OSU in the rankings and BCS formula – Alabama or Florida State.<br /> <br /> Now that’s self-assurance.<br /> <br /> Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 in the Big Ten) is rested after an open week and ready for the stretch run.<br /> <br /> Meyer said linebacker <strong>Josh Perry</strong> had surgery on a dislocated finger, but practiced Monday and is now full-go. Middle LB <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> was held out of practice because of soreness in his ankle and lower back but is expected to be back at practice later in the week and will play at Illinois. And right tackle <strong>Taylor Decker</strong> is recovering well from a sprained MCL in his left knee, an injury he suffered in the second half of the 56-0 whitewashing of Purdue on Nov. 2.<br /> <br /> “He’s good,” Meyer said of Decker. “He practiced today. He should be able to go full contact.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes will chase history and try to tie the school mark for consecutive wins (22) when they take on Illinois (3-6, 0-5) in Champaign on Saturday (noon Eastern, ESPN). That shouldn’t be a problem considering the Illini, losers of 19 straight Big Ten contests, are allowing right around 240 yards a game both on the ground and in the air per game, hence the 33-point line from oddsmakers.<br /> <br /> Following that, the Buckeyes will play at home for the first time in four weeks on Nov. 23 vs. Indiana (4-5, 2-3), another team with major defensive deficiencies. That, of course, will lead to the regular-season finale on Nov. 30 at Michigan (6-3, 2-3), a team that could be in a downward spiral and one that figures to have its hands full at Northwestern this weekend.<br /> <br /> The best case scenario is to continue to lay waste to those three opponents – although doing so in the Big House is never a given – and for the nation to care about the Big Ten title game, which likely will pit OSU against the winner of the Legends Division showdown between Nebraska and Michigan State on Saturday.<br /> <br /> Ohio State leads the conference in a plethora of categories including scoring (48.2 points per game), total offense (530.9 yards per game), rushing offense (301.1 ypg), pass efficiency (171.2), first downs (27.1 per game), third-down conversions (54.2 percent), turnover margin (+9) and even kickoff returns (25.0). They also have a top-10 defense nationally in terms of yards allowed despite all the early concerns about that side of the ball.<br /> <br /> But the Buckeyes dominating Big Ten foes may not be enough to convince pundits they are national championship material, which is why Meyer also admitted Monday he has made his team aware that it has to go full-throttle from here on out.<br /> <br /> Meyer passed out a few one-game-at-a-time and control-what-we-can-control clichés earlier in the campaign, but now is outright politicking for his team.<br /> <br /> “It’s awful, but I work for our players,” Meyer said last week. “I’ve been there before a couple times where some things had to happen right. For us to waste energy on that, it’s not fair to the players we coach.<br /> <br /> “But at the end of the day, I’m working for the families of our coaching staff and the families of our players. That’s who we work for.”<br /> <br /> The coaches and the players said they spent much of the weekend doing what fans did, which is watch the key games and try to assess the college football landscape. After doing so they are even more assured that they belong in the discussion and have a case to be slotted in the top two of the BCS standings.<br /> <br /> Stanford helped that cause by upsetting Oregon on Thursday, although the No. 4 Cardinal (8-1) is now breathing down Ohio State’s neck, as is No. 5 Baylor (8-0), which waxed Oklahoma the same night.<br /> <br /> “We have to do everything in our power to not let anybody from behind jump us, and we’re absolutely interested in it because it’s no longer a case of us just playing our best,” center <strong>Corey Linsley</strong> said. “We also have to have somebody else not play their best. And if we beat Penn State 13-10 (instead of 63-14), we’re not in this conversation. Baylor jumps us or Stanford jumps us, or whatever.<br /> <br /> “We’re not facing the No. 5 team in the nation (at Illinois) or from then on out. Call it unsportsmanlike, call it running up the score, we’re trying to accomplish something that nobody else in our conference is trying to accomplish at this point.”<br /> <br /> The only Big Ten team that could help the OSU resume at this point appears to be Michigan State (8-1), which leads the nation in defense according to several statistical categories. The Spartans are No. 14 in The Associated Press poll and No. 16 in the BCS standings.<br /> <br /> Nebraska likely would jump back into the top 25 with a win over MSU in Lincoln this weekend.<br /> <br /> Most of the scoreboard watching, though, will involve following teams with very small numbers next to their school name.<br /> <br /> No. 1 Alabama (9-0) just swamped LSU but has a road tester at Mississippi State on Saturday while No. 2 Florida State (9-0) hosts Syracuse. Those two teams finish the regular-season on the road – ’Bama at Auburn and Florida State at Florida.<br /> <br /> Stanford still has to play USC, Cal and Notre Dame. Baylor still has four Big 12 foes on the agenda – Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas.<br /> <br /> “There are some very good teams in the country ... and I believe we are a good team,” Meyer said Monday. “We’re a better functioning team (than last year’s 12-0 squad) and we are getting a little better on defense.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes might not win any more favor by beating Illinois but they still have to make sure they are ready to roll in a game that will kick off right around 11 a.m. local time and likely feature windy and cold conditions.<br /> <br /> Meyer continually called the Buckeyes an “invested” team on Monday and was pleased with the effort he saw from practice that morning while school was closed for Veterans Day.<br /> <br /> He said he is confident his team will take the Illinois test seriously and if there is a letdown, “it will be a bomb going off.<br /> <br /> (For a complete look at the latest BCS standings, click <a href="http://www.footballfoundation.org/Portals/7/nff/file_file/2013 Week 4_Short Form.pdf">HERE</a>.) http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-12/Needing_Help_But_Confident.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-12/Needing_Help_But_Confident.aspx 3e0648ce-28ef-49ff-90ae-dcf7c33670d5 Tue, 12 Nov 2013 15:49:06 GMT Rapp Around: For Openers The Ohio State men’s basketball team dumping Morgan State in its season opener Saturday afternoon, of course, was not a surprise.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes entered the campaign ranked No. 11 in the country, crushed Walsh 93-63 in an exhibition game six days prior, and have been nearly unbeatable in nonconference action at home under <strong>Thad Matta</strong>, who is entering his 10th season at the helm of the program.<br /> <br /> Plus, Ohio State figures to control a lot of games against inferior opponents with a deep and versatile backcourt that features lots of a ball handling and tenacious defense.<br /> <br /> However, some suspicions were confirmed and some pleasant surprises emerged during OSU’s 89-50 victory over the Bears.<br /> <br /> They follow:<br /> <br /> <strong>Wait, Shannon Scott can shoot now?</strong> The son of former North Carolina and NBA standout <strong>Charlie Scott</strong>, Shannon was a noteworthy get for Matta when he committed to the program out of Georgia a few years. He quickly won the favor of fans for his hustle, blazing speed and ability to create plays on the move.<br /> <br /> Scott, in fact, was a game-changer at times last year, perhaps most notworthy against Kansas. He’s mixed well with <strong>Aaron Craft</strong>, providing another lead guard option and someone who can threaten defenses off the dribble and with his passing.<br /> <br /> The downside has been Scott’s shooting, particularly his attempts from long range. He was a dismal 1 of 18 from three-point range as a freshman and even though he improved to a respectable 33.3 percent (11 of 33) last season, teams weren’t too concerned with leaving him alone at the arc.<br /> <br /> Until now, perhaps.<br /> <br /> In his first career start, Scott was sensational with 16 points, four rebounds and seven assists, but what really earned him praise was a 4-for7 showing from long range.<br /> <br /> Scott had never made more than two treys in a college and had only made more than one once until Saturday. In fact, at the 17:57 mark of the first half – 2:03 into the game and season – Scott was 3 for 3 on three-point attempts as OSU (1-0) built a quick 11-2 lead over the Bears (0-1).<br /> <br /> Now that’s an opening statement.<br /> <br /> If Scott can continue to shoot with any success from long range, Ohio State’s offense will open up a significant amount, especially with Craft also enduring his share of outside struggles from time to time.<br /> <br /> <strong>There’s help on the bench.</strong> It’s difficult to know right away what Matta’s rotation will look like, but there’s a good chance it could be pretty deep.<br /> <br /> <strong>Trey McDonald</strong> is the only other big man who can spell <strong>Amir Williams</strong> in the pivot and the junior finally looks ready to be a regular contributor. That’s important considering Williams historically has found foul trouble and also tends to lose his focus on the court.<br /> <br /> The 6-9 McDonald was very solid in his season debut with six points, five rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes. He’ll have to take better care of the ball – he recorded four turnovers, although a couple were not entirely his fault – and make a majority of his free throws to maintain lengthy time on the court, but, again, he’s the only real option if Williams needs to sit.<br /> <br /> The forward spots are in even better shape with veteran <strong>Sam Thompson</strong>, a starter all of last season, now coming off the bench, as well as freshman <strong>Marc Loving</strong>. Both are in the 6-7 range but have different skill sets.<br /> <br /> Thompson, of course, is a leaper and quality defender who can play anywhere on the wing. And like Scott, he’s a much-improved outside shooter. He was 2 of 3 from deep to go along with a pair of spectacular alley-oop dunks in a 14-point outing that also included three rebounds and a pair of blocks.<br /> <br /> Loving needs to gain strength but is still an effective combo forward with length and fluidity. A product of Toledo, Loving earned 16 minutes in his collegiate debut and came through with 10 points and five rebounds.<br /> <br /> With Thompson and Loving being so productive, the Buckeyes had five players in double figures for the first game just as they did in the tuneup with Walsh. <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> had a team-high 18 points and added nine rebounds while <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong> had a double-double with 14 and 11.<br /> <br /> <strong>It’s now clear the Buckeyes have to rebound by committee – and have taken that approach to heart.</strong> Williams added seven rebounds and Craft pulled down six, meaning Ohio State’s starting five accounted for 37 rebounds – more than Morgan State’s team total. With all the caroms counted, OSU owned a 55-34 advantage on the glass.<br /> <br /> Naturally, it will be more challenge for the Buckeyes to do as well in this category against the likes of Marquette, Maryland and Notre Dame and when Big Ten play sets in. Still, it’s an encouraging beginning to the effort.<br /> <br /> Loving and Ross make up for their lack of bulk with long arms and good timing going after the ball. Each had four offensive rebounds vs. Morgan State.<br /> <br /> <strong>Speaking of Ross, he’s going to have to show lots of tenacity this season.</strong> The 6-8 junior had a strange game as he was just 1 of 7 from the floor in the first half including one particularly frustrating sequence under the basket where he couldn’t convert or draw a foul call on three straight shot attempts.<br /> <br /> Ross had just four points at halftime but to his credit he never looked overly discouraged. Plus, he ripped nine rebounds in the half.<br /> <br /> In the second stanza, Ross finally found a groove and was a much-better 4 of 7 from the floor with all of his attempts inside the arc.<br /> <br /> That stick-to-it mentality will be important for the Buckeyes going forward when they need key buckets from Ross. Morgan State coach <strong>Todd Bozeman</strong> said he expected Ross to be featured in the offense the way <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong> was last year and was surprised to see a more balanced approach.<br /> <br /> That Ross can log a double-double playing within the flow of the offense and in a game when he struggled from the floor is a very good omen for the Buckeyes.<br /> <br /> <strong>Any offensive consistency is huge because this Ohio State team can really defend.</strong> We suspected as much going into the season, but it’s still impressive to watch.<br /> <br /> Two Morgan State players were 1 of 8 from the field, another was 1 for 7. Leading scorer <strong>Justin Black</strong>, one of the MEAC’s most dangerous players, had 13 points but never got untracked. He was 6 of 19 from the floor and committed six turnovers.<br /> <br /> The Bears managed just six fastbreak points and were a mess in the half court. They were 9 of 31 (29.0 percent) from the floor in the first half and 11 of 34 (32.4 percent) in the second.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes actually garnered just three steals but blocked five shots and altered many others. With the hand-check rule now in effect it will be vital for them to hold teams down without being overly aggressive.<br /> <br /> First test passed.<br /> <br /> <strong>This should be fun.</strong> Yes, it was a season opener, but the attendance of 16,777 for a matinee against a no-name team was encouraging. So was the energy in the building.<br /> <br /> Could it be that Ohio State basketball has finally reached a point where those in attendance will now act like they are genuinely excited to be at The Schott on a consistent basis?<br /> <br /> With more students now down behind the benches and more true fans on hand, it appears the vast majority of those in attendance are out to have a good time – even on a Saturday when they could be Christmas shopping instead.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-10/Rapp_Around_For_Openers.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-10/Rapp_Around_For_Openers.aspx 1e9a352d-a759-46ef-9497-c77e8d9539df Sun, 10 Nov 2013 19:32:46 GMT A Willing, Likely Top Option Ohio State basketball is back, and, as has been the usual case under head coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong>, the Buckeyes enter the season with an impressive amount of promise.<br /> <br /> Even with the loss of Big Ten leading scorer <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong>, Ohio State is ranked No. 11 in the country heading into Saturday’s season opener vs. Morgan State (noon Eastern, BTN.com).<br /> <br /> “We’ve got real high expectations,” guard <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> said Friday, adding that a Big Ten title and even a national championship are in the Buckeyes’ sights.<br /> <br /> While voters are throwing the contention tag at the Buckeyes out of respect for the program – Matta, who is entering his 10th season as OSU coach, has won at least 20 games every season at the helm – some pundits still discount their chances to become a real cutting-down-the-nets threat.<br /> <br /> The reason is simple: Ohio State has no proven stars.<br /> <br /> <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> is one of the nation’s top on-ball defenders and floor leaders but has only been about a 10-point scorer as a collegiate starter. He can create plays and finish drives but is much more attuned <br /> <br /> <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> has been in the Big Ten and postseason wars and has had moments of comfort in the spotlight – like when he burned Syracuse’s zone in a Final Four-clinching win in Boston in 2012 – but has been inconsistent with his production. <strong>Sam Thompson</strong>’s progression has been similar on the wing.<br /> <br /> Scott came to the fore in last year’s preconference battle with Kansas and can alter games with his speed and defense, but doesn’t have a reliable jumper. <strong>Amir Williams</strong> can alter shots and be a presence with his size but is still unpolished in the post.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes don’t appear to have a take-over player, and they’re OK with that. In fact, Scott and Thompson said Friday they prefer it.<br /> <br /> Because of that, Craft has been looking to set up everyone he can.<br /> <br /> “What I’ve seen Aaron doing more of this year throughout the practices that we’ve had, he’s more connected with guys throughout the possession, throughout the game,” Matta said. “He and <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong>, right now, have a unique bond on the floor, which is great.”<br /> <br /> That’s especially key because if a Buckeye does emerge and show he can score 15 or more points a game, it’s most likely Ross, a fluid 6-8 junior forward with lots of natural offensive ability.<br /> <br /> Ross averaged 8.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 16.9 minutes per game in 2012-13 as a key reserve for an Ohio State team that won 29 games last year and came up a win short of a repeat trip to the Final Four. Those numbers theoretically could double this season as he plays the four spot that Thomas occupied last season.<br /> <br /> Plus, Ross enters the campaign with major momentum from the end of last season as he was a standout in OSU’s run to the Big Ten Tournament title and the Elite Eight of the NCAA tourney. His forays to the basket and three-point bombs in pressure-packed wins against the likes of Wisconsin, Iowa State and Arizona were eye-popping.<br /> <br /> In fact, in the narrow Sweet Sixteen victory over Iowa State, Craft used the threat of Ross on the wing to fire in the game-winning shot. Against Arizona, it was Ross’ turn as he nailed a clutch, game-winning three in overtime.<br /> <br /> When asked who is most likely to take a must-have shot this season, Matta said, “Aaron and Q are the two who made the last two shots from Iowa State to Arizona, so they would be at the forefront. But so much factors in there of hot hand and do we need a two, do we need a three. But those two are pretty good at it.”<br /> <br /> Matta didn’t want to commit to proclaiming anyone as his top option. It’s not his style anyway, even when he had All-Americans such as <strong>Greg Oden</strong>, <strong>Jared Sullinger</strong> and <strong>Evan Turner</strong>. He’ll let Ross develop into a prominent role while continuing to preach trust and sharing of the basketball.<br /> <br /> But eventually, when March rolls around again or before, the Buckeyes will need a reliable scorer, and Ross figures to be the man on that stature.<br /> <br /> He has carried the confidence gained late last season forward and figures to be much more involved.<br /> <br /> “I think the biggest transition was what I did this offseason, which is work on my conditioning,” he said. “Not being used to playing those minutes, it’s going to be a lot, especially playing a whole season of big minutes and then playing in the Big Ten, which we all know is a physical conference. My conditioning is one thing that can give me an edge.<br /> <br /> “I really don’t listen to (preseason hype), but I definitely think I can fill that void everybody says we might from last year with Deshaun.”<br /> <br /> In fact, Ross isn’t afraid to compare his skill set to that of Thomas, a 6-7 lefty who is now playing professionally.<br /> <br /> “I think my outside game is a little bit better than Deshaun’s,” he said. “I can put the ball on the floor a little bit better than Deshaun and get to the basket and create my own shot. DT also created his own shot but just in a different way, more like a post up.”<br /> <br /> With his length, sweet stroke and creativity getting to the lane, Ross has a high ceiling, one that that has intrigued NBA scouts already. Draft projections now show him as a potential first-round pick.<br /> <br /> “I’ve got friends and family that send me some of that stuff, but I don’t pay attention to it right now because for all we know I could have a bad year and all that could be gone away,” said Ross, a native of Mississippi. “So I’m going to try to have a good year. But it’s definitely good to know I’m in some of these people’s heads right now.”<br /> <br /> Ross said he gave some thought to going pro after last season when his stock had risen because of his late-season showing.<br /> <br /> “I definitely teased with it a little bit after the season because I looked at that draft last year and thought, ‘OK, I can definitely see myself going in that draft,’ but then I sat down with my circle of people and I thought it was best that I come back this year,” he admitted. “Hopefully what I do is improve that number even more.”<br /> <br /> Ross, who looks up to <strong>Kobe Bryant</strong> but has tried to pattern his game after <strong>Kevin Durant</strong> and <strong>Carmelo Anthony</strong>, believes he has much more to show. Still, he’s thankful for his breakout season.<br /> <br /> “I definitely think at the end of the season I proved myself when I was given the opportunity,” he said. “I went out there and produced when I was getting those minutes out there and did what I had to do. People remember what I did in high school and in my first two years of college they really didn’t get to see it until last year at the end of the year.”<br /> <br /> Ross is a deadly shooter with his feet set but also can drive on foes who fire out aggressively at him. When on the move, Ross also can beat defenders with large strides and spins to the basket.<br /> <br /> “That is a big part of my game and that comes from hours in the gym, especially this offseason,” he said. “Even when I was young and first started playing basketball I was just working on ball handling and shooting knowing I was going to be a tall guy.”<br /> <br /> Still, Ross knows he will have to play within himself and the OSU system this season. And it also won’t hurt that the Buckeyes have willing passers who are adept at finding the open man.<br /> <br /> “Everybody’s job is a lot easier when you’ve got a guy like Craft who can create, and also a guy like Shannon Scott, who can create off the dribble,” he said. “It’ going to be a lot of fun when we have everything clicking.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-09/A_Willing_Likely_Top_Option.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-09/A_Willing_Likely_Top_Option.aspx 4421cb59-4664-4012-9f10-9db35af11c92 Sat, 09 Nov 2013 15:12:52 GMT Determined Hyde Hitting Stride The clocks have been turned back to Standard time, leaves are blowing in the autumn chill, and the college football season is hitting its November stretch run.<br /> <br /> There are no tricks now. To win a conference championship, teams will have to close with a flourish. Winning a national championship will require elite performances – and good fortune.<br /> <br /> All that talk in the spring and summer about conditioning, execution and football aptitude is coming to fruition.<br /> <br /> So how does Ohio State (9-0), seemingly locked in the No. 4 hole of the national polls and BCS standings, separate itself?<br /> <br /> Well, at the top of the heap once again is Alabama, which is blessed with the nation’s stingiest defense (the Tide allows just 9.8 points per game), a powerful running game led by <strong>T.J. Yeldon</strong>, and a pressure-tested, championship quarterback in <strong>A.J. McCarron</strong>.<br /> <br /> No. 2 Florida State (8-0) has come to the fore after laying waste to ACC foes Clemson and Miami (Fla.) behind an ultra-aggressive defense and the dynamic QB talents of freshman sensation <strong>Jameis Winston</strong>.<br /> <br /> No. 3 Oregon (8-0) has put up absurd offensive numbers with its fast-paced spread approach – more than 5,000 yards of total offense in eight games – and has the leading Heisman Trophy contender in QB <strong>Marcus Mariota</strong>. Also, tailback <strong>Byron Marshall</strong> is heading a potent rushing attack and has 12 touchdowns on the ground.<br /> <br /> And then there’s the dark horse, Baylor (7-0) – No. 6 in the BCS standings and No. 5 in both The Associated Press and USA Today coaches poll. The Bears lead the nation in points per game (63.9) and passing yards (417.3) while somehow managing to allow just 15.9 ppg.<br /> <br /> Those five teams and Ohio State are the only unbeatens left with a chance to claim the national championship – sorry, Fresno State (8-0) and Northern Illinois (9-0).<br /> <br /> Even with so many challengers sporting beefy resumes to this point, the Buckeyes may have an ace in the hole in the form of running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong>.<br /> <br /> Granted, Hyde’s rushing total of 701 yards doesn’t even place him among the top 40 rushers in FBS this season and trails Yeldon’s 729, Marshall’s 879 and others on top teams. Many likely won’t even place Hyde on their All-Big Ten first-team ballot as Nebraska’s <strong>Ameer Abdullah</strong> and Wisconsin’s <strong>Melvin Gordon</strong> already have amassed more than 1,000 yards and are among the nation’s top-10 rushers.<br /> <br /> But it is now undeniable that Hyde is on a roll and impacting an already potent offense.<br /> <br /> “In my opinion he’s the best running back in the country and nobody wants to tackle that guy in space,” OSU senior wideout and co-captain <strong>Philly Brown</strong> said recently. “He’s a big, 240-pound running back that’s probably the fourth- or fifth-fastest person on the team. Nobody wants to tackle something like that.”<br /> <br /> After serving a three-game suspension to open the season, Hyde ended up with just five carries in preconference action, playing very sparingly in the 76-0 destruction of Florida A&amp;M on Sept. 21. However, in Big Ten play the powerful senior has reached new heights every week.<br /> <br /> In the 31-24 win over Wisconsin, Hyde proved he could carry the load with the game on the line and finished with 85 hard-earned yards on 17 carries. The following week, he racked up a career-high 168 yards and three TDs in the 40-30 win at Northwestern.<br /> <br /> After an open week, he helped OSU pull away from Iowa, 34-24 with 149 yards and a pair of scores against one of the best defensive fronts in the conference.<br /> <br /> Hyde had very similar results against Penn State – 147 yards and two TDs – but did so with eight fewer carries and averaged 9.2 per rush. His effort included a 39-yard romp to the end zone where he outraced the entire Nittany Lion defense.<br /> <br /> And in Saturday’s 56-0 shutout win at Purdue, Hyde’s efficiency was on display again as he managed to put 111 yards on the board in just eight carries. That jumped his average per carry this season from an already healthy 6.7 to an eye-popping 7.3.<br /> <br /> “It starts with the offensive line,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “All respect to Carlos, but I could have run through a few of those holes. But Carlos has run hard.<br /> <br /> “And we’re seeing cleaner coverages now for <strong>Braxton</strong> (<strong>Miller</strong>) to throw into, because if you can’t run the ball then you see all these complicated coverages for a quarterback.”<br /> <br /> With Hyde in synch with the offensive line and taking pressure off of Miller, the Buckeyes rank eighth in the nation in rushing (301.1 yards per game) and fifth in scoring (48.2 points per game).<br /> <br /> However, the outlook is even more encouraging. As November continues and yards become tougher to attain because of injuries, known tendencies and more at stake, the Buckeyes know they can lean on Hyde, who is fresh-legged and on top of his game.<br /> <br /> When asked why he value’s Hyde’s ability so much, Brown said, “Just the way he runs the ball. He’s a real physical runner. At the same time he brings the speed aspect to the game. He’s an every-down back. You can feed him. He can throw us over his shoulder and carry us to a victory.”<br /> <br /> Even <strong>Jordan Hall</strong>, who has lost carries since Hyde’s return, believes in No. 34.<br /> <br /> “It’s great to see him do what he’s doing,” Hall said. “We’re all close and we all want to see each other do well.”<br /> <br /> Hyde knows all about finishing strong. His production and the team’s faith in him greatly increased last season, setting up what appeared to be an All-Big Ten campaign as a senior. He was nearly kicked off the team in the summer, though, when he became a person of interest in a police investigation that opened after a local woman claimed Hyde struck her in a bar.<br /> <br /> Hyde ended up not facing charges, but Meyer still suspended his best running back for a trio of games.<br /> <br /> After he merged as the hero at Northwestern – he added four catches out of the backfield to his career rushing performance – Hyde wept during postgame interviews, overcome with emotion when he realized he had made it back to being a key component of the team.<br /> <br /> Hyde was not shy about admitting he had a goal of becoming the first running back to gain 1,000 yards in a season under Meyer – a mark that dogged him all offseason after he finished with 970 yards (and no bowl game) last year.<br /> <br /> When he missed the first three games and Hall ably took his place, pundits dismissed the idea that Hyde could reach quadruple figures this season. However, it appears the Buckeyes will play five more games and Hyde could average just 60 yards a contest the rest of the way, barring an injury, and attain the number.<br /> <br /> Considering Indiana and Illinois are still on the schedule, he could get to a grand pretty quickly.<br /> <br /> More important, though, is OSU’s quest to log a second straight undefeated season. Hyde intends to churn out as much yardage as he can to aid that cause just as he finished his senior year of high school in Naples, Fla., with 1,653 yards rushing.<br /> <br /> “In my senior year I just came out on another level,” Hyde said last week. “I kind of feel it's all happening again.”<br /> <br /> Plus, Hyde’s effort has been infectious. His now-famous bounce-back/surge-ahead 19-yard TD run vs. Iowa ended with Brown coming out of nowhere to put a wipeout block on a defender at the goal line.<br /> <br /> Hyde’s ability to hit the right hole on time also has allowed the offensive line to find a groove with him.<br /> <br /> “Having Carlos Hyde back there really makes a difference,” offensive guard <strong>Andrew Norwell</strong> said. “We’re just mauling people.”<br /> <br /> But maybe most noteworthy – and scary to the opposition – is the hunger with which Hyde is playing right now. He’s not only trying to win and show NFL scouts what he can do, he’s also trying to make up for lost time and erase any doubts about him.<br /> <br /> “Mentally, it was an unbelievable advantage for him,” running backs coach <strong>Stan Drayton</strong> said. “Having to play a service role to this football team on the scout team made him hungry, made him extremely hungry. It also made him not take for granted the opportunities that he has in front of him.”<br /> <br /> Meyer also sees an extremely focused back.<br /> <br /> “Every Thursday is called player-development day and we go through every player on the team,” the&nbsp; head coach said. “Our strength coach and academic people and our training staff rate them for me. (Carlos) has been very high on each one’s list, which usually means a fairly mature guy. I like where he’s at.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-06/Determined_Hyde_Hitting_Stride.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-06/Determined_Hyde_Hitting_Stride.aspx fa8b3d47-223b-4c38-a6f7-999eecea407d Wed, 06 Nov 2013 22:56:36 GMT Choppy Buckeyes Still Slice Walsh <strong>Thad Matta</strong> said before the start of his 10th season as head coach of the Ohio State men’s basketball team that he wasn’t sure who was going to be the Buckeyes’ definitive leading scorer.<br /> <br /> With <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong> and his Big Ten-leading 19.8 points per game, departed No. 11 OSU will enter the campaign without a proven 12-plus-points-a-game scorer.<br /> <br /> However, in the team’ Sunday evening exhibition matchup with Walsh University, the Buckeyes threw a bunch of candidates onto the table.<br /> <br /> Senior guard <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong> and forward <strong>LaQuinton Ross</strong>, the most likely Buckeye to emerge in Thomas’ absence, led the way with 15 points in the 93-63 win over Walsh, but they received lots of help. Point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> added 14 and wings <strong>Amedeo Della Valle</strong> and <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> led the bench attack with 13 and 12 points, respectively.<br /> <br /> Just behind were <strong>Shannon Scott</strong>, who earned the start in the backcourt next to Craft, with nine points, and center <strong>Amir Williams</strong>, who shook off a sleepy start to each half and managed to log eight points and game highs with 10 rebounds and five blocks.<br /> <br /> Guard <strong>Jesse Hardin</strong> led Walsh with 18 points and <strong>Davonte Beard</strong> added 13 but the Cavaliers never really threatened to stay in the ball game as the teams met in exhibition action for the sixth straight year and eighth time overall.<br /> <br /> Ohio State downed the Cavaliers 83-71 in last year’s preseason matchup.<br /> <br /> Matta was happy to see his team shoot 50 percent from the field (30 of 60) and show restraint from the three-point arc (4 of 9) as well as commit just 14 fouls compared to Walsh’s 31 – which led to the Buckeyes posting a 29-of-42 showing at the free-throw line. Still, he considered the first uniformed outing to be choppy at best.<br /> <br /> “Offensively our transition was pretty good but we didn’t finish real well,” he said. “We missed maybe three or four layups there and we didn’t have the flow we were looking for offensively.”<br /> <br /> Matta said the Buckeyes didn’t burn Walsh’s switching on defense enough and he also lamented the turnovers – 18 on the night. Guards Craft, Scott, Smith and Della Valle committed three miscues apiece as did Williams.<br /> <br /> Walsh managed to shoot 40 percent from the floor in each half and several baskets came off of dribble drives to the paint.<br /> <br /> “Our ability to guard the basketball down the stretch was horrendous,” Matta said, “and that prompted that last timeout and us saying, ‘Can we guard?’ We’ve got to keep guys in front of us and challenge tough twos.”<br /> <br /> When asked if he liked the production from his starting lineup of Craft, Scott, Smith, Ross and Williams, Matta again was blunt.<br /> <br /> “I did the first half, not the second half,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of pieces and I think one of the big keys is it maybe being predicated on matchups.”<br /> <br /> It also will be assessed by effort. Williams looked foggy at the outset and quickly was pulled from the floor and replaced by <strong>Trey McDonald</strong>. However, while seated he remembered assistant coach <strong>Dave Dickerson</strong> telling him, “Don’t let your first or second shot determine how you play the rest of the game.”<br /> <br /> Williams returned and became a presence inside.<br /> <br /> Meanhwhile, Thompson started all 37 games last season but came off the bench in the exhibition with Walsh – further proof that Matta is likely to be flexible with his rotations this season.<br /> <br /> “We change starting lineups just about every week in practice,” Williams said.<br /> <br /> Matta said the decision to start Scott instead of Thompson was based on matchups and as a reward for Scott’s “phenomenal” showings in practice.<br /> <br /> Still, the coaches plan to employ as many parts as they can.<br /> <br /> Matta was intent to get his entire roster involved early on as all nine available scholarship players saw at least nine minutes of court time in the first half.<br /> <br /> The offensive production was spread around as well: Smith had nine points in the first half, which produced a 49-26 lead, Ross and Della Valle had eight apiece while Craft, Thompson and Williams chipped in six each.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes hit 14 of 27 (51.9 percent) first-half shot attempts and also were a robust 19 of 24 (79.2 percent) on the free-throw line, but their eight assists were offset by nine turnovers.<br /> <br /> In the second half, the sloppiness continued. The Buckeyes looked content to trade baskets and didn’t seem to find any oomph until Williams blocked a hook shot by 7-1 Walsh center <strong>Hrvoje Vucic</strong> and Thompson threw down a crowd-pleasing one-handed jam off a lob feed from Craft moments later.<br /> <br /> OSU won the second half just 44-37. However, the comfortable lead allowed freshman <strong>Marc Loving</strong> to gobble up 22 minutes in his debut before Ohio State fans.<br /> <br /> A 6-7 forward, Loving was just 1 of 6 from the floor – his only basket came on a lay-in after a nifty fastbreak feed from Della Valle – but the box score still illustrated his activity: five points, nine rebounds and two blocks.<br /> <br /> “I just wanted to contribute any way I could,” Loving said. “Today it was rebounding and playing defense, because we worked on that all day in practice.<br /> <br /> “I’m pretty comfortable. Going into the game there were some butterflies. This is a pretty big stage coming from Toledo high school basketball. But they wore off pretty quick and I’m ready to get the season going.”<br /> <br /> Added Matta, “He didn’t shoot the ball real well, and I think that will come. Maybe it was freshman jitters or whatever, but I was very pleased with how he pursued the ball off the glass today.”<br /> <br /> Lacking depth along the front line and in need of some shooting prowess with Thomas departed, the Buckeyes could use an impact freshman season from Loving, who was named Ohio’s “Mr. Basketball” after his senior season at Toledo St. John’s.<br /> <br /> “I see there’s a window of opportunity,” Loving said. “Whatever I can scrape up and get any type of minutes, it’s putting energy out there on the floor.”<br /> <br /> Ohio State’s other freshman, 6-2 guard <strong>Kam Williams</strong>, did not play vs. Walsh. He’s weeks behind because of a bout of mononucleosis and is not yet cleared to play – although Matta said that good news could come any day.<br /> <br /> Williams is a product of Baltimore, Md., and will deepen the OSU backcourt and provide even more tenacity when he returns to form.<br /> <br /> With Williams slowed, the 6-5 Della Valle is coming off an eye-opening offseason and appears to have a chance to beef up his role after averaging just 7.2 minutes and 2.5 points per game last season as OSU’s lone freshman.<br /> <br /> Della Valle hit 3 of 4 attempts from deep and all four of his free throws while playing in the flow of the offense.<br /> <br /> “I think we’re very focused on running the right play and taking the right shot,” he said. “You don’t want to take a forced three.”<br /> <br /> Even though the Buckeyes looked far from polished, the overmatched Cavaliers couldn’t keep up.<br /> <br /> Located in North Canton, Ohio, Walsh is an NCAA Division II team that was 18-8 last season. The Cavaliers have a typical balanced roster with Vucic inside and perimeter talents such as Hardin and Beard, a prep star from Akron. They open their season Saturday vs. Houghton College.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes will begin their 2013-14 campaign by hosting Morgan State on Saturday (noon Eastern, BTN.com).<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-04/Choppy_Buckeyes_Still_Slice_Walsh.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-04/Choppy_Buckeyes_Still_Slice_Walsh.aspx 60fda5eb-10b3-41f9-bd22-6dbb2acce800 Mon, 04 Nov 2013 15:56:53 GMT Blackout Gets Whitewashed If there were doubts that No. 4 Ohio State could follow up its domination of Penn State last week or that Purdue really is the doormat of the Big Ten or that the Buckeyes would be properly motivated to put away their hosts on Saturday, those notions were dispelled rather quickly.<br /> <br /> The inept Boilermakers had no upset formula this time as they fell into a 28-0 hole in the first quarter and were forced to slog through a 56-0 defeat at the hands of an undefeated Ohio State team that is beginning to chug.<br /> <br /> The Boilers (1-7, 0-4 in the Big Ten), winners of four of the last six meetings with OSU in West Lafayette, played with train tracks striping their black helmets but they were the ones starting down a steaming locomotive.<br /> <br /> Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) racked up 30 first downs and 640 yards of total offense in the demolition, which could have been more like 98-0 if the Buckeyes had gone full force.<br /> <br /> OSU quarterback <strong>Braxton Milller</strong> had another sensational outing, completing 19 of 23 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns. All of that damage came in the first half as he ceded the signal-calling duties to <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> and then third-stringer <strong>Cardale Jones</strong>.<br /> <br /> Miller did throw an interception that thwarted one drive – his first turnover since a somewhat shaky outing at Northwestern four weeks ago. Since then he has completed 59 of 74 passes, which equates to 79.7 percent, and has tossed nine TDs compared to the lone pick.<br /> <br /> A matinee crowd of 51,423 showed up at Ross-Ade Stadium, but a sizeable portion was clad in scarlet and enjoyed watching the Buckeyes post the most points vs. Purdue in the setting.<br /> <br /> Considering the Buckeyes had lost in their past two visits – 26-23 in overtime in 2011 and 26-18 in mistake-riddled performance in 2009 – and four of their last six, the whitewashing was eye-opening, even for a top-five team that arrived favored by 31 points.<br /> <br /> “You take a look at two years ago here, you lost,” second-year head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> said. “Last year, you could’ve lost against the same team. This year, we played at a much higher level. I know the history. We actually had a great discussion about it.”<br /> <br /> Meyer praised team co-captain <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> for addressing the recent history in the series, which includes a narrow 29-22 overtime win over the Boilermakers last season. Meyer also pointed out that strength assistant <strong>Mickey Marotti</strong> also got involved the morning of the game by offering a pointed speech of his own.<br /> <br /> “I was extremely concerned,” Meyer said. “We came in for the pregame and our strength coach rattled the cage a little bit. It was not necessarily a sleepy look, but I just didn’t like what I saw in the pregame. So we brought him in here to make sure they woke up.”<br /> <br /> Before the Boilers and their fans could prepare for the carnage, Ohio State had a takeaway and a touchdown. On the second play from scrimmage, OSU cornerback <strong>Doran Grant</strong> stepped in front of a pass by freshman quarterback <strong>Danny Etling</strong>, snared it, and raced 33 yards for the score.<br /> <br /> Moments later, Purdue punter <strong>Cody Webster</strong>, who entered among the national leaders with a 43.9-yard average, shanked a 15-yard boot, giving the Buckeyes possession at the Purdue 49. It took OSU just two plays to take advantage of the ideal field position.<br /> <br /> Miller hit <strong>Philly Brown</strong> for a 9-yard gain on first down and fooled the PU defense with another aerial seconds later when he connected with a wide-open <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong>, who darted up the left sidelines and scored his first touchdown as a Buckeye. The 40-yard play and <strong>Drew Basil</strong> extra point upped the lead to 14-0 just 3:32 into the game.<br /> <br /> OSU would double the lead before the end of the period.<br /> <br /> Overcoming a <strong>Ricardo Allen</strong> interception of a Miller pass, the Buckeyes again moved swiftly the next time they got their hands on the pigskin. In fact, they moved 62 yards in six plays to their third score.<br /> <br /> Miller again dialed up Heuerman, OSU’s tight end, for a 34-yard pass play. He then hit running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> for a 7-yard gain before finding backup tight end <strong>Nick Vannett</strong> for an 8-yard touchdown.<br /> <br /> Purdue head coach <strong>Darrell Hazell</strong>, a well-respected assistant at Ohio State under <strong>Jim Tressel</strong>, couldn’t find a tourniquet for his young team as the Boilers fumbled moments later and the loose pig was recovered by OSU defensive end <strong>Noah Spence</strong> at the PU 21.<br /> <br /> Again, OSU went to the air and found immediate results, this time Miller finding wideout <strong>Evan Spencer</strong> for a 19-yard hook-up. On first-and-goal, Miller rolled left and avoided a loss by flipping a shovel pass to Brown in the end zone for the 2-yard score.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes led 28-0 with 2:10 left in the first quarter an effectively ended any possible suspense, especially considering Purdue hadn’t scored more than 10 points in a Big Ten game this season.<br /> <br /> While the Boilermakers and Hazell have a long, dark path to traverse just to return to respectability, the Buckeyes are on a major roll. Their 21-game win streak that spans Meyer’s two years at the helm of the program is the nation’s longest active winning streak.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes amassed more than 600 yards of offense for the fourth time this season and again involved lots of contributors.<br /> <br /> Hyde had his fourth straight 100-yard rushing day, garnering 111 on just eight carries. The senior tailback improved his seasonal average from 6.7 to 7.3 yards per carry.<br /> <br /> Heuerman had a career-best 116 yards receiving on five catches. His output marked the first time an Ohio State tight end reached 100 yards receiving since <strong>Rickey Dudley</strong> recorded 106 receiving yards against Tennessee in the 1996 Citrus Bowl.<br /> <br /> Backup running back <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> and wideout <strong>Chris Fields</strong> joined Heuerman, Vannett and Brown in catching TDs. Guiton also ran for two touchdowns and threw for another.<br /> <br /> Asked if he has the best two quarterbacks in the Big Ten, Meyer smiled and said, “I got the two I like. I have a lot of respect for the other quarterbacks in the league, but I got the two that I like.”<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the Ohio State defense also continued to get well. The Buckeyes not only posted their second shutout of the season, they also held Purdue to a paltry 116 total yards and 10 first downs.<br /> <br /> Linebacker <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> was instrumental again with seven tackles, three for loss and a pair of sacks. Spence, <strong>Steve Miller</strong> and <strong>Michael Bennett</strong> each had one sack while <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong> and <strong>Chase Farris</strong> were each credited with half a sack.<br /> <br /> Etling finished 13 of 29 passing for 89 yards with an interception and a fumble.<br /> <br /> “Anytime you go out and play a good football team, you can’t go out and spot them the way we did,” Hazell said. “You can’t throw interceptions for touchdowns. In the third series, we put it on the ground. You just can’t do that against good opponents.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-03/Blackout_Gets_Whitewashed.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-11-03/Blackout_Gets_Whitewashed.aspx 1c8f1e56-2007-4211-ab56-8dda97c5ae16 Sun, 03 Nov 2013 06:12:03 GMT Buckeyes Finally Make Their Case Oregon pulled away from UCLA to win big Saturday night. Alabama manhandled another SEC also-ran. Florida State continued to roll.<br /> <br /> And for once Ohio State fans weren’t too worried about it.<br /> <br /> Yes, the Buckeyes entered the weekend in the No. 4 spot in both The Associated Press poll and the BCS rankings, and, yes, they stayed right there after disposing of Penn State and moving to 8-0 on the season, 4-0 in the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> But the score was just as decisive as the trouncing on the Ohio Stadium turf as the Buckeyes posted a 63-14 destruction of the visiting Nittany Lions – the kind of prime-time romp against a credible foe on national television OSU fans have been craving for weeks.<br /> <br /> Penn State (4-3, 1-2) was coming off a very encouraging 43-40, four-overtime win over Michigan and also entered Columbus with extra rest as OSU’s third straight Big Ten opponent enjoying the fruits of an open week.<br /> <br /> <strong>Christian Hackenberg</strong>, PSU’s freshman sensation at quarterback, was leading the conference in passing yards per game, which was reason enough to grab the attention of Ohio State head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> and staff.<br /> <br /> Also, after a long drought as a Big Ten visitor, the Lions actually came to town with two wins in their last three contests at the Horseshoe, escaping with tight victories in 2008 and 2011.<br /> <br /> Those facts added to OSU’s not-so-smooth moments in tight league wins over Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa pointed to a belief that the Buckeyes were on upset alert.<br /> <br /> Instead, they shot out to a devastating 28-0 lead, frustrated and harassed Hackenberg, and even added some moments of splendor on special teams for their most complete performance of the season.<br /> <br /> “I like where we are right now,” Meyer proclaimed.<br /> <br /> Meyer is aware the Buckeyes not only have the nation’s longest winning streak at 20 in a row but also will be favored in subsequent games at Purdue (Nov. 2), at Illinois (Nov. 16) and vs. Indiana (Nov. 23) before an all-important road trip to Michigan (Nov. 30).<br /> <br /> He’s also, no doubt, aware of the Big Ten’s waning reputation, OSU’s current lock on the No. 4 hole and the hand-ringing all around him as people assess the national championship picture.<br /> <br /> But for now, in the last week of October, Meyer looked content with the current state of OSU football. After all, there was a lot of satisfaction packed into the win.<br /> <br /> Consider the following:<br /> <br /> <strong>The Buckeyes amassed 686 yards of total offense.</strong> They had a 42-7 halftime lead and already had 414 yards at that point. The 408 yards rushing marked the first time the Buckeyes eclipsed the 400-yard mark since totaling 456 in a win at Northwestern on Nov. 4, 1989.<br /> <br /> <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> did his damage in the first half this time with 130 of his 147 yards rushing before the break.<br /> <br /> His 2-yard burst into the end zone opened the scoring and capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive to open the game. His 39-yard explosion answered PSU’s only first half score and provided the Buckeyes with a 35-7 lead.<br /> <br /> The OSU quarterbacks added another 201 yards on the ground and got a couple rushing touchdowns from <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong>.<br /> <br /> <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>, though, set the table with brilliant first-half play. He finished 18 of 24 for 252 yards passing and three scores and added 68 yards and two TDs on the ground. It was the first time in his OSU career that Miller was able to find the end zone multiple times via the air and ground.<br /> <br /> <strong>Penn State’s 49-point loss to Ohio State is its second-largest loss in school history.</strong> PSU’s only worse loss was 106-0 vs. Lehigh in 1889.<br /> <br /> Perhaps just as noteworthy, the final score was a complete flip of the beatdown the Buckeyes received in Happy Valley in 1994. A prominent member of that team, All-American lineman <strong>Orlando Pace</strong>, was honored on the field at the end of the first quarter for his recent appointment to the College Football Hall of Fame. Former OSU coach <strong>John Cooper</strong>, who endured the ’94 loss – the worst of his Hall of Fame career – watched from the press box.<br /> <br /> <strong>The Buckeyes completely dominated in the trenches.</strong> That was encouraging considering members of the OSU defensive line and position coach <strong>Mike Vrabel</strong> admitted the Buckeyes were pushed around the previous week against Iowa.<br /> <br /> This time, they got to Hackenberg repeatedly and registered four sacks. With the line in good form, the oft-maligned Ohio State defense recorded six tackles-for-loss, four pass breakups, a QB hurry, and three takeaways.<br /> <br /> On offense, the Buckeyes averaged a whopping 8.9 yards per play and were in control from start to finish. That, of course, is in large due to more stellar play up front.<br /> <br /> “I’m seeing an offensive line that is one of the best in the country, and I’m not afraid to say that,” Meyer said. “I’d take my offensive line anywhere.”<br /> <br /> <strong>The Pennsylvania Buckeyes made their presence felt against their home-state school.</strong> Chief among them was sophomore defensive end <strong>Noah Spence</strong> of Harrisburg, Pa., who seemed unblockable at times. Spence had four tackles, three for loss including a pair of sacks, and also forced a fumble.<br /> <br /> “Noah Spence sticks out as a guy that was all over the place,” Meyer said.<br /> <br /> OSU’s other Pennsylvania natives – running back <strong>Jordan Hall</strong>, defensive back <strong>Corey Brown</strong> and wide receiver <strong>Philly Brown</strong> – also had big days.<br /> <br /> Hall had eight carries for 81 yards in relief of Hyde and ripped off a 41-yeard run. Philly Brown also aided the offensive onslaught with four catches for 67 yards including a 25-yard dagger TD reception in the final minute of the first half.<br /> <br /> Corey “Pitt” Brown started at safety in place of the injured <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> and recorded his first career interception, victimizing Hackenberg in the end zone. Brown also logged five tackles.<br /> <br /> <strong>Maybe most important, the Buckeyes did not commit a turnover for the second week in a row.</strong> Based on the above information and recent events, it’s hard to believe the winning will cease if OSU continues to take care of the ball.<br /> <br /> Since having fumbling issues at Northwestern, Miller is playing the best football of his career and has not committed a turnover.<br /> <br /> Speaking of winning, <strong>Ohio State is now eyeing the longest win streak in school history.</strong> With No. 20 in a row, the current Buckeyes have the second-longest win string, trailing only the 1967-69 run of 22 straight.<br /> <br /> OSU won its last three games of 1967 to, as legend has it, save the jobs of head coach <strong>Woody Hayes</strong> and staff, went 10-0 in the national championship season of 1968, and won the first nine games the following year before losing at Michigan in the 1969 season finale. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-28/Buckeyes_Finally_Make_Their_Case.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-28/Buckeyes_Finally_Make_Their_Case.aspx 471f8936-099f-4a64-ac74-7c360a8014bd Mon, 28 Oct 2013 14:10:42 GMT Rapp Around: ET Comes Home Before we delve into the world of our old friend <strong>Evan Turner</strong>, let’s get this out in the open: The Philadelphia 76ers are going to be lousy this season.<br /> <br /> Turner knows it, basketball pundits know it, and the organization knows it – hence the phrase, “Together We Build” at the top of the team’s official website. If you’re a contending team in the Eastern Conference, your catchphrase is “Look Out, LeBron” or something of that ilk, not “Together We Build.”<br /> <br /> But that’s the reality. It’s going to be a long road back to the playoffs for the Sixers. <br /> <br /> Veteran NBA coach and basketball super-analyst <strong>Doug Collins</strong>, who arrived with a sharp plan in place, is out and has been replaced with new coach <strong>Brett Brown</strong>. If you don’t know who Brown is, don’t feel bad. He’s a 52-year-old former San Antonio Spurs assistant and his name doesn’t ring a bell even with many of the most hardcore NBA fans.<br /> <br /> Collins helped return Philly to the NBA playoffs and tried to reshape the team with Turner a focal point and former Lakers center <strong>Andrew Bynum</strong> in the pivot. However, Bynum never played last season due to injuries, the Sixers went 34-48 and Collins resigned under pressure.<br /> <br /> They already had dealt away All-Star forward <strong>Andre Iguodala</strong> (essentially for Bynum) and then peddled rising guard <strong>Jrue Holiday</strong> in a deal to be able to draft Nerlens Noel out of Kentucky. Problem is, like Bynum last year, Noel is likely to sit out the entire season until he can get his left knee fully healed.<br /> <br /> So when the 76ers squared off against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center, the NBA preseason contest was billed as a homecoming for Turner but didn’t quite work out that way. The crowd of 11,276 clearly was pro-Cavs and they howled with delight when Cleveland pulled away for a 104-93 win.<br /> <br /> Yes, the reaction to Turner being back on the very court where he came into All-American prominence was very positive but not overly when compared to the cheers for Cleveland point guard <strong>Kyrie Irving</strong>. Plus, Turner, once dubbed “The Villain” by former OSU teammate <strong>Mark Titus</strong>, was clad in road blue and sat with his team on the west bench where Ohio State visitors occupy themselves.<br /> <br /> And what became apparent through the course of a sloppy exhibition game was that his team is dreadful.<br /> <br /> It didn’t help that he had a forgettable game of his own, hitting just 4 of 13 shots, turning the ball over five times and posting a plus/minus of -18 in his 30 minutes and change on familiar hardwood.<br /> <br /> Turner certainly still managed some productivity – 14 points, six rebounds and a 6-for-6 showing at the free-throw line – but his body language displayed he was almost embarrassed by the lack of help around him and the effort.<br /> <br /> Of course, Turner did his best to shake it off afterward. It was only a preseason game, after all. Still, his endearing honesty returned during a three-minute postgame session with reporters, many of whom, like this one, have fond memories of him as an Ohio State fresh face then college superstar.<br /> <br /> “It’s beautiful,” Turner said of being back at The Schott. “I’m always glad to come back. It’s really beautiful. I’m just happy to be back in front of great fans, great people.”<br /> <br /> A reporter then asked Turner if he holds the place dear.<br /> <br /> “Absolutely,” he said. “Great memories. I met some great people here, some of my best friends. I had some great times. I own a house in Ohio, so that tells you how I feel about it.<br /> <br /> Turner also tried to shed some of his apparent frustration with the state of the Sixers.<br /> <br /> “Even though we didn’t win there was a lot of energy and the guys played tough,” he said, digging for a positive. “Preseason is a time to get it together. Everything is gearing toward the regular season.”<br /> <br /> If Turner’s subpar performance had anything to do with some homecoming jitters, he didn’t express it.<br /> <br /> “It’s no pressure,” said the 6-7 swingman. “Shots went in, shots went out. That’s it. I’m not worried about that.<br /> <br /> “I’m being confident that I can get to the basket and get my shot off whenever I want. It’s all good. I made some shots earlier and I’ve been shooting pretty well all preseason. I’ll take this one bad game. It’s nothing worth talking about.”<br /> <br /> What bothers Turner more, of course, is losing – and the likelihood that it will continue. <br /> <br /> As a freshman, the Chicago native helped Ohio State win the 2008 NIT postseason title. As a sophomore, he led the Buckeyes in points, rebounds, assists and steals – and led them back to the NCAA Tournament.<br /> <br /> In his junior season of 2009-10, Turner was a marvel. He averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists as Ohio State stormed to the regular-season and Big Ten Tournament championships. The latter was in jeopardy in a quarterfinal matchup with rival Michigan until he fired in a game-winning 37-footer at the buzzer. Legendary stuff.<br /> <br /> Despite suffering a midseason fracture in his lower back and missing a month of the season, Turner earned virtually every noteworthy award that recognizes the national player of the year.<br /> <br /> Turner was the second player selected in the 2010 NBA draft behind Kentucky point guard <strong>John Wall</strong> and instantly he was an important building block for the 76ers.<br /> <br /> Online promotion of Philadelphia’s season opener against Miami next week shows a picture of him next to one of <strong>LeBron James</strong>, a clear indication that Turner also is considered a franchise player. Looking at a depleted and second-rate roster, Turner easily is Philly’s best player and will have to shoulder quite a burden.<br /> <br /> When asked how much he’ll be counted on this season, Turner – who put up career-high averages of 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game last season – said, “I think a decent amount, and as a leader. Being on a young team I’m one of the older guys. I’m old. You guys know I’m old.”<br /> <br /> To hear Turner talk about the months ahead and to see him enjoy being around familiar faces and warm environs, it was if you could tell he’d rather be a kid again and not a guy in an $800 suit trying to carry a franchise.<br /> <br /> In fact, he more or less said as much.<br /> <br /> “I’m jealous of everything Ohio State has got: the student union, the library – even though I didn’t go in there the whole time – the rec center,” he said. “Man, I wish I could come back and be a regular student. If I was 19 right now I’d come back and go to school.”<br /> <br /> Someone then asked Turner about the fact that James has a locker stall at The Schott with his name adorned.<br /> <br /> “I told me dad about that,” he said. “I broke my back for this stuff. His own locker?”<br /> <br /> When the laughter died down, Turner added, “But it’s all good. LeBron’s done a great job doing things for us and he’s helped us a lot.”<br /> <br /> The truth is Turner still feels at home in Columbus, a place where he can be Evan more easily than an NBA standout. His father, <strong>James Turner</strong>, has been a downtown business owner for years. His mother, <strong>Iris James</strong>, often stays in Evan’s suburban Columbus home.<br /> <br /> Before the preseason game with Cleveland, Evan had 35 friends over for an early dinner that Iris prepared.<br /> <br /> “She likes doing that type of stuff,” he said. “If not, I was going to Genji’s. It’s rough. It was hard to decide on that one. Genji’s is down the street. But I said, ‘You know what, Mom, I’ll take a home-cooked meal.’ ”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-22/Rapp_Around_ET_Comes_Home.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-22/Rapp_Around_ET_Comes_Home.aspx 8e34c1a0-e20c-4efa-8a84-041346598f65 Tue, 22 Oct 2013 18:29:00 GMT Ode To An Offensive Line <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> is like the teacher you had growing up who actually admitted to having a few “pet” students.<br /> <br /> If he sees someone is giving full effort, positively affecting the team and managing to come up with desired results on the field, Meyer is apt to pronounce the three-word soliloquy of “Love that guy.”<br /> <br /> Saturday evening after his No. 4 Buckeyes survived Big Ten trench warfare against visiting Iowa and improved to 7-0 over all (3-0 in the league) with a 34-24 victory, Meyer tried to wrap his metaphorical arms around five players, saying the offensive linemen were his “favorite players on the team right now.”<br /> <br /> It now appears time to share the good feelings.<br /> <br /> Running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> stole the headlines and received the vast majority of the kudos afterward as they were instrumental in the success.<br /> <br /> Hyde rambled for 149 yards and two touchdowns against one of the stingiest run defenses in the country while Miller put together an all-around gem with a 22-of-27 passing day for 222 yards and two TDs and added another 102 well-earned yards on the ground.<br /> <br /> Other skill players also were involved, namely hybrid back <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong>, tight end <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong>, and wideouts <strong>Philly Brown</strong>, <strong>Devin Smith</strong> and <strong>Evan Spencer</strong>.<br /> <br /> But it was all due to what could only be conceived as a standout performance by Ohio State’s veteran offensive line.<br /> <br /> Left to right – <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong>, <strong>Andrew Norwell</strong>, <strong>Corey Linsley</strong>, <strong>Marcus Hall</strong> and <strong>Taylor Decker</strong> – all did their jobs and held up to a daunting Iowa front seven. As a result, the Buckeyes racked up 30 first downs and 495 yards of total offense using the quintet up front.<br /> <br /> Even the stern <strong>Ed Warinner</strong>, OSU’s second-year line coach and co-coordinator of the offense, couldn’t hide his smile afterward.<br /> <br /> “Last week they all graded out pretty good, but I only put the top of the crop in the champions club,” he said. “Probably four of the five were what we wanted last week, and we’ll see how this one plays out.<br /> <br /> “Hopefully it’ll look good (on film), because from the field it looked pretty good.”<br /> <br /> Sure enough, Meyer announced on Monday, that the four seniors all graded out to a champion level vs. Iowa and Decker was recognized with honorable mention. Norwell, OSU’s brutish left guard, was singled out as the offensive player of the game.<br /> <br /> Warinner has had almost nothing but good things to say about all five starters and Monday labeled Hall as the most improved member of the group.<br /> <br /> Hall said he’s more concerned with team results, especially on days when the Buckeyes do what they did against the Hawkeyes, which is knock their way to 273 rushing yards against an elite defense.<br /> <br /> “We try to pride ourselves on being able to run the ball,” said Hall, the starting right guard. “Not taking anything away from the pass but when we go to the run game we don’t want anybody to stop us.”<br /> <br /> Added Mewhort, “I’m not even sure who’s running the ball sometimes out there. I just know that if we do our jobs and get those guys on the edges, we seal the edge of the line, we’ll have big plays with our great athletes out there. That’s what we love about it.”<br /> <br /> Not only did the linemen do their job and even excel for much of the afternoon, the mistakes were at a minimum. In fact, none of the five were flagged for a penalty in a physical contest with Iowa.<br /> <br /> With the group performing at such a high level, Warinner and coordinator <strong>Tom Herman</strong> were able to mix up the play calling with some assurance.<br /> <br /> In the second half, however, the Buckeyes didn’t need to be too exotic. They put away the Hawkeyes by keeping the pigskin in the hands of Miller and Hyde.<br /> <br /> “We have a lot of confidence in our offensive line,” Warinner said. “They’re big and strong, they train hard, they practice well, so they wear people down. So in the second half we can create good running seams and we have good running backs. We’re very confident they’ll come through and play well when we need them to.”<br /> <br /> Hyde made the highlight reel, probably for the remainder of the year, with a 19-yard bounce-back-and-forge-ahead run that provided the winning points.<br /> <br /> “That’s great, that’s amazing,” a pumped-up Hall said of the play. “To me, Carlos Hyde is the best running back in college football. It doesn’t surprise me at all. He just looks at us and tells us when we go, he goes.”<br /> <br /> It’s clear Hyde is on a mission for the remainder of his senior season – he currently leads the team with 443 yards rushing – and that he is in concert with a line that includes four classmates.<br /> <br /> “It’s tremendous,” Warinner said of the synergy, “because Carlos is a good back, a really good back, and if you can get blockers on the defenders and get some movement and create some seams, he’s going to get positive yardage, and he’s hard to tackle.”<br /> <br /> In fact, Hyde has not had a negative rushing play in 72 attempts this season.<br /> <br /> “It says we probably didn’t have any missed assignments, we didn’t cut anybody loose. And he’s a guy who always finishes going forward in his runs.”<br /> <br /> In 71 rushes this season, <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> has been tackled behind the line seven times. However, both he and Hyde are averaging a very healthy 6.2 yards per carry.<br /> <br /> The other running backs also have done very well in limited attempts. Freshman <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> has averaged 9.1 yards in 22 carries, Wilson is at 8.8 per tote in 18 carries and even <strong>Rod Smith</strong> (6.4 ypc) and <strong>Warren Ball</strong> (5.4), not known for their breakaway speed, have found plenty of holes.<br /> <br /> On Saturday, the rotation was much tighter as Hyde and Miller combined to handle 42 of the 51 OSU rushing attempts. Still, the line was on its game.<br /> <br /> “I think the extra week allowed the O-line to refresh, re-energize,” Warinner said. “We did get to spend an extra couple practices on Iowa, which is good, because they’re a very good defense. They have a good defensive scheme and good defensive players, so they presented some challenges.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes were up to the task and then some, going 5 for 5 in the red zone and not having to punt all day with all five linemen fully engaged.<br /> <br /> “We talk about them all being connected, almost like a chain,” Warinner said. “It’s a strong unit that’s got a lot of camaraderie, they’ve played a lot of games together, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them do their thing out there.”<br /> <br /> On Monday, Warinner went so far as to call his starters “a bunch of characters.”<br /> <br /> Decker is perhaps the biggest goofball, but he had to earn his stripes both on the field and in the position room. After some growing pains in the opener with Buffalo, he’s meshed in well.<br /> <br /> “The first game was just playing in the ’Shoe the first time, and then after that he’s settled down and been very solid since,” Warinner said.<br /> <br /> The 6-8 Decker is just a sophomore, but he’s beginning to find form in the same spot where Reid Fragel flourished last season.<br /> <br /> “I’m like a little brother to them,” he said of his senior linemates. “I do feel I’ve improved and gotten a little closer to them, but it’s kind of a little-brother relationship. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”<br /> <br /> Decker gets along best with the one lineman he is shoulder-to-shoulder with – Hall.<br /> <br /> “Marcus is really funny,” Decker said. “He really cracks me up. But he’s always got a positive outlook on everything. He’s a great player and he’s just fun to be around.”<br /> <br /> The line got plenty serious on Saturday, however, and paved the way for a pair of Hyde rushing TDs against a team that had the only defense in the country that hadn’t yet allowed a score on the ground.<br /> <br /> “They heard that (challenge) every day from me,” Warinner said. “That’s a challenge we needed to win this game; we needed to be able to get some rushing touchdowns.”<br /> <br /> Added Hall, “There’s always things we can clean up. Right now I’m definitely thinking of some plays I can clean up personally. But for the most part, it was a positive day.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-21/Ode_To_An_Offensive_Line.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-21/Ode_To_An_Offensive_Line.aspx 02f5fe03-9219-49be-8191-4b6f3f76f590 Tue, 22 Oct 2013 04:18:55 GMT Irony, OSU Prevail Over Iowa Life is full of irony, it seems, and so is college football from time to time.<br /> <br /> That certainly felt like the theme throughout Ohio State’s homecoming clash with Iowa – a Big Ten battle that provided lots of interesting and twisting sublplots.<br /> <br /> First, it needs to be stressed that in the end the No. 4 Buckeyes did what they were supposed to do, which was to at least eventually pull away from an Iowa team that wasn’t supposed to be ready for a stage in the national spotlight.<br /> <br /> OSU kept alive the top winning streak in the country – 19 straight spanning the entire Urban Meyer era – with a 34-24 victory and remained unbeaten (7-0, 3-0 in the Big Ten) on the season. The Hawkeyes (4-3, 1-2) put together an encouraging effort but in the end were overwhelmed by the athletic creativity and determination of <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> and <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong>.<br /> <br /> Again, the final result and difference-makers are not surprising.<br /> <br /> However, the irony dripped early and often. Consider the following:<br /> <br /> * Each squad came into the game among the best in the country at getting teams off the field on third down, so naturally Ohio State was a whopping 10 of 14 on converting third downs and Iowa, even more surprisingly, was 10 of 13 including 7 of 9 in the first half.<br /> <br /> In fact, in building a 17-10 halftime lead, the Hawkeyes put together drives of 10, 12 and 16 plays.<br /> <br /> * Iowa entered Columbus with a top-10 defense and one of the nation’s best against the run. The Hawkeyes, in fact, had not allowed a rushing touchdown in the first half of the season – the only team in the country to make that claim.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, though, countered with an offensive line clinic and rambled for 273 yards on the ground on 51 carries (5.4 per attempt). Miller had 102 yards on the ground and running back Hyde led the way with 149 yards and not one but two TDs.<br /> <br /> Hyde broke the seal in the third quarter by barely getting the nose of the ball over the goal line to tie the score at 17. In the fourth quarter, his ridiculous 19-yard scoring run, in which he nearly fell backwards and ended up diving into the end zone, provided the go-ahead TD. It may go down as the play of the year for the Buckeyes.<br /> <br /> After a crazy scramble by Miller on third-and-8 put the Buckeyes in the red zone, Hyde took a handoff and bounced off right tackle. He powered inside the 10 but was hit hard by free safety <strong>Tanner Miller</strong> and staggered back some 4 yards before regaining his balance and shooting himself into the end zone with the aid of a final block by <strong>Philly Brown</strong>.<br /> <br /> “I’ve never had a run like that but that play was working all day,” Hyde said. “The safety came up and hit me. I came out of it and I was still up. I was like, ‘Let me try to catch my balance.’ Once I did I turned around. I was like, ‘Man, I haven’t even scored yet.’ When I saw the block, I just went in for the touchdown.”<br /> <br /> * Cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> was the brunt of criticism in Buckeyeland this season for appearing disengaged and sidestepping contact with an apparent first-round selection in the NFL draft awaiting him.<br /> <br /> Well, against Iowa, Roby was involved and not shying away from the fray. The redshirt junior, a first-team All-American a year ago, was ejected for targeting on a first down play involving a completion to Iowa’s <strong>C.J. Fiedorwicz</strong>.<br /> <br /> Iowa quarterback <strong>Jake Rudock</strong> connected with Fiedorwicz just across the Ohio State 30 in the first quarter when Roby launched himself head first at the 6-7 tight end. A video review apparently showed Roby made a helmet-to-helmet hit and upheld the ejection. OSU also was assessed a personal-foul penalty.<br /> <br /> (To see the play which led to Roby’s ouster, click <a href="http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/9849083/ohio-state-buckeyes-star-bradley-roby-ejected-targeting">HERE</a>.)<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes already were struggling in the secondary, especially after safety <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> was lost for the season with broken ankle in the final minute of the win over Wisconsin on Sept. 28.<br /> <br /> Sure enough, Roby’s replacement, <strong>Armani Reeves</strong>, was burned on an 85-yard TD pass to tight end <strong>Jake Duzey</strong>.<br /> <br /> * The Buckeyes have been dominant in the first quarter of games and also have made big plays just before halftime in several of them. On Saturday, it was Iowa establishing itself early and carrying a 17-10 lead into the locker room<br /> <br /> And the Hawkeyes did much of the damage – ironically – not with battering ram <strong>Mark Weisman</strong> but with Rudock making plays in the passing game.<br /> <br /> Rudock hit on 19 of 34 passes for 245 yards and three scores on the afternoon and his strong play in the early on sent a message to Ohio State and the crowd of 105,264 that the Hawkeyes, losers of six straight Big Ten games at the end of last season, were not going to be pushovers.<br /> <br /> However, it didn’t hold up to a furious OSU rally.<br /> <br /> “You don’t get a prize for playing a good first half,” longtime Iowa coach <strong>Kirk Ferentz</strong> said. “You have to play a full 60 minutes.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes outgained the Hawkeyes 306-153 in the last two quarters.<br /> <br /> <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> looked worn and lamented several plays. He also said he was disappointed in his defense in the first half.<br /> <br /> However, he was still happy to pocket his 19th win as OSU coach and his 20th straight under the headset – irony be damned.<br /> <br /> “I’ve learned a lesson in my life,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy this win. I feel outstanding. I’m going to go hug my players and hug my family and go to work tomorrow.<br /> <br /> “But, tonight? I'm not worried about any (problems on) defense. I’m going to enjoy this win.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-20/Irony_OSU_Prevail_Over_Iowa.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-20/Irony_OSU_Prevail_Over_Iowa.aspx a0c1b6b3-f132-4624-af6f-dce484371693 Sun, 20 Oct 2013 21:10:07 GMT Rounding An Exclamation Point On paper, all is well with the Ohio State offense as the fourth-ranked Buckeyes head into the second half of the regular season.<br /> <br /> In its 6-0 start, Ohio State has racked up 492.8 yards per game, good for 10th in the country, and the team’s scoring average of 46.8 points is sixth-best.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes ran the ball well with <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> taking the majority of the handoffs and perhaps have found even a higher gear with <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> the primary ball carrier.<br /> <br /> <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>’s Heisman campaign was temporarily derailed by a knee injury but the passing game still flourished for several games with <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> at the controls. Miller hasn’t put up the astronomical rushing numbers of last year since his return but is completing a career-high 65 percent of his passes.<br /> <br /> The ball is getting spread around to receivers <strong>Philly Brown</strong>, <strong>Evan Spencer</strong> and <strong>Devin Smith</strong>, tight end <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong> has been involved and backup running backs such as <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> and <strong>Rod Smith</strong> also have mixed into the equation.<br /> <br /> And, it needs to be pointed out, that freshman <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> also has had an impact. The DeSoto, Texas, product arrived heralded as a potential gamebreaker and it didn’t take long for him to open eyes and earn praise in practice.<br /> <br /> No. 1 clearly was to be part of attack and he has been, logging 15 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown, and adding 11 catches for another 105 yards in his first six games in scarlet and gray. He’s also had a couple fairly lengthy kick returns.<br /> <br /> However, Wilson’s imprint has stagnated a bit as defenses have figured out when he’s on the field the play is either designed for him to be a primary ball carrier or a decoy.<br /> <br /> “He’s got to become a football player; right now he’s a novelty,” head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> said in typically blunt fashion. “Go out there and run the swing pass, throw it to him. He’s got tot go out there and block. He can’t just (touch the ball) every time he’s in the game.<br /> <br /> “That’s why he didn’t play much (against Northwestern). So we’re working really hard over the bye week to make him a football player, not just a hood ornament that shows up out there.”<br /> <br /> Brown likely wasn’t called a “hood ornament” when he was a freshman under <strong>Jim Tressel</strong> and the offensive brain trust was trying to figure out a role for him. But he can relate with the notion of needing to become a more complete football player instead of a skill position gimmick.<br /> <br /> Most important to that cause is blocking.<br /> <br /> “Especially with the offense that we have, you’ve got to be able to do everything,” Brown said. “It’s a real uptempo offense that likes to get running backs out in space and wideouts have got to be able to block downfield. That’s how those little 7- and 8-yard plays become big plays. So it’s mandatory that we have to block downfield.”<br /> <br /> Offensive coordinator <strong>Tom Herman</strong> said he senses that opposing defenses are onto Wilson as soon as he checks into games and that they are very aware of OSU’s intention to get him the football. Therefore, he agrees with his boss that Wilson needs to round out his game and also understand how to function on plays where he isn’t a top option.<br /> <br /> “He needs to be able to play on downs where he’s not getting the football,” Herman said of the freshman phenom. “That will hopefully draw less attention to him when we try to get him the football and make that job a little bit easier.”<br /> <br /> But make no mistake, the goal is not to take the ball away from Wilson. He didn’t have an offensive touch in the 40-30 win at Northwestern, but that had to do with a multitude of factors.<br /> <br /> “Up until the Northwestern game we had kind of progressed him at the level that we had expected and then he, by how own admission, didn’t have a great week of practice,” Herman said. “And that coupled with the fact of the defensive coverage structure that Northwestern was predominantly in the whole night, which was a Cover 3, bailing the corners out, really protecting the alleys, and not giving a whole lot of options into the perimeter run game, it just didn’t work itself out the way that we hoped.<br /> <br /> “And obviously Carlos got hot.”<br /> <br /> Hyde will continue to be a huge key to the offense as the Buckeyes continue to protect the nation’s longest win streak (18 straight) and opposing teams alter their defense to control OSU’s lethal passing attack.<br /> <br /> But there will more opportunities to sneak the speedy Wilson out into open spaces with the football – giving foes even more with which to be concerned.<br /> <br /> “I think we’ll make a concerted effort to increase his role,” Herman said of Wilson. “I think the biggest thing is he’s got to be able to go in the game and play different positions and it not being a red flag that either this guy is getting the ball or getting faked the ball.<br /> <br /> “He’s just got to go out and be a regular guy, whether it be a slot receiver or in the backfield. He’s got to be able to be trustworthy enough to be able to put on the field.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-19/Rounding_An_Exclamation_Point.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-19/Rounding_An_Exclamation_Point.aspx da7c24a7-f0d1-4bda-b203-d02348649702 Sat, 19 Oct 2013 17:32:21 GMT Meyer: OSU 'Right There' With Elite A week off from the college football spotlight may have helped fourth-ranked and undefeated Ohio State (6-0, 2-0 in the Big Ten) catch its breath and gird up for the second half of the season – but it didn’t net much at Monday interviews.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> made a joke early in his weekly media session about considering cutting off the interview then spent much of the next few minutes with that “Are we done?” look in his eye.<br /> <br /> After giving his players the prior two weekends off it was clear OSU’s boss was ready to get back to work.<br /> <br /> Plus, there wasn’t a whole lot to report anyway.<br /> <br /> As was previously anticipated, defensive end <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong> (groin) benefited from the extra time off and should be full-go for OSU’s homecoming game with Iowa on Saturday (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC).<br /> <br /> Similarly, defensive tackle <strong>Tommy Schutt</strong> (foot), a fellow sophomore, is slated to play with the fracture he suffered in preseason camp now fully healed.<br /> <br /> Also, the status of running back <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> (knee) is still a little spotty, although he is expected to play against the Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-1). In fact, Meyer confirmed Tuesday that Hall is on line to play on third down and special teams as well as spell starter <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> when necessary.<br /> <br /> As for the situation at safety with <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> out for the season, Meyer and co-defensive coordinator <strong>Everett Withers</strong> didn’t offer specifics other than to say that freshman <strong>Vonn Bell</strong> is getting more of a look and nickel back <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong> is being considered – but no one has supplanted <strong>Corey “Pitt” Brown</strong> as Bryant’s replacement.<br /> <br /> Since he didn’t meet with the media last Monday, Meyer finally was able to list the players who graded out as champions following the 40-30 win at Northwestern on Oct. 5. The coach announced Hyde was the player of the week while <strong>Marcus Hall</strong>, <strong>Andrew Norwell</strong>, <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong>, <strong>Devin Smith</strong>, <strong>Philly Brown</strong> and <strong>Evan Spencer</strong> also stood out on offense, <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> was lauded for his effort on special teams, and only <strong>Joey Bosa</strong> and <strong>Michael Bennett</strong> were so mentioned from the defense.<br /> <br /> Meyer also addressed the fact that he’s never had a running back that gained 1,000 yards rushing in a season, calling that stat “nuts.”<br /> <br /> “If someone wants to question whether we run the ball effectively, I think we fairly, over – what was it, 12 years? – we run the ball really well. Just in recruiting and all that other nonsense, we can’t anticipate guys missing games for whatever reason. I would like to think we are always in the top, certainly, in the conference on average per carry. So thanks for bringing that up today.”<br /> <br /> Meyer did perk up when reminded of his stellar record with extra time to prepare – 34-2 overall and 21-2 after one-week breaks. He attributed that success to having outstanding assistant coaches and a flexible schedule.<br /> <br /> He did, however, admit, the coaches have been racking their brains to figure out how to effectively run the ball against Iowa’s front seven, considered to be among the best in the Big Ten if not the country. The Hawkeyes, like Ohio State, also have been outstanding on third down, keeping foes to a conversion percentage of 26.7, good for sixth in the nation.<br /> <br /> And on defense, Meyer has concerns not only with OSU’s soft coverage against the pass but also in trying to slow down Iowa running back <strong>Mark Weisman</strong>, who has amassed 624 yards on the ground already this season.<br /> <br /> On a more serious note, the coach also disclosed that linebacker <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> is dealing with the death of his father, which just occurred over the weekend. Grant, of course, was allowed to go back to Virginia to be with his family but is expected to play on Saturday. He ranks second on the team in tackles with 35.<br /> <br /> As for the rare time off, Meyer and some of his players said they managed to sneak a peek at what was going on elsewhere in the world of college football.<br /> <br /> “I try not to (compare), but the human element gets involved when you start watching some of these teams,” Meyer said. “I watched Penn State’s game, that was really the one. I went to see my daughter play volleyball, but I had out my iPad and started watching it pretty close. That’s really the only one I watched start to finish, but I saw some highlights and you start wondering where you stack up.<br /> <br /> “But then I try to click right back, don’t worry about it and just take care of business.”<br /> <br /> Meyer is aware BCS projections now show Ohio State is likely to be deemed the No. 5 team, but he is not getting caught up in the hand-wringing over such assessments.<br /> <br /> “Water-cooler talk,” he said. “The big topic of conversation is, ‘Where are you? How’s it going? What does the future look like?’<br /> <br /> “Wait a minute, we’re just trying to have a really good practice. Some people laugh when I say that, but that’s the mindset. I like this team, I really do. They’re good people, guys that play hard. Where are we? I don’t know. We’re 6-0 and doing the best we can to get first downs and stop people.<br /> <br /> “I think we’re right there. I think we’re a good team, I do.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-15/Meyer_OSU_Right_There_With_Elite.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-15/Meyer_OSU_Right_There_With_Elite.aspx 6a4ffe90-a3b8-4238-9e1d-c408652271c5 Tue, 15 Oct 2013 20:24:13 GMT Meyer Not Being Jerky About Bye After an unusual game at Northwestern – the Buckeyes faced their first deficit of the season, led by just four with minutes to go and won by 10 – Ohio State has another unusual obstacle ahead: an open week.<br /> <br /> Still the No. 4 team in the country after getting through the first half of the regular season unscathed, Ohio State (6-0, 2-0 in the Big Ten) has been afforded a chance to catch a breath and head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> intends to take advantage.<br /> <br /> After OSU posted a 40-30 win in Evanston, Meyer gave his players Sunday and Monday off. Tuesday and Wednesday the team worked solely on fundamentals and stayed away from head-filling lengthy film sessions and game planning.<br /> <br /> On Thursday, Meyer sent his assistants off to do some recruiting work like in-school evaluations but kept the co-coordinators on each side of the ball at the WHAC for a two-hour practice focusing on Iowa, OSU’s homecoming opponent on Oct. 19 (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC)<br /> <br /> Meyer also required his players to do some extra conditioning today and is allowing them to leave campus for the weekend if they so choose.<br /> <br /> “Some people see a bye week and they go act like a jerk over a weekend, and that’s not what bye weeks are for,” Meyer said Wednesday. “Football is a tough, violent, contact sport and your joints and your shoulders and everything needs a break. That’s what it’s for.<br /> <br /> “But to come back 8 pounds underweight or 8 pounds overweight and not at least watching football, that’d be a disgrace and I’d have a real problem with that. So there’s a weigh-in Monday morning, and they better be right on the dot.”<br /> <br /> That weigh-in, by the way, will occur at 6 a.m. Weekend over.<br /> <br /> Still, some followers of the program may surprised to hear or nervous that Meyer is giving the players another liberty and even encouraging them to go home to recharge their batteries.<br /> <br /> Just before the season started, a couple standout players, <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and <strong>Bradley Roby</strong>, found themselves in bad situations in bars and eventually served suspensions for making poor choices. Others including freshmen <strong>Marcus Baugh</strong> and <strong>Tim Gardner</strong>, who has been kicked off the team, ran into similar trouble over the summer.<br /> <br /> But wide receiver <strong>Philly Brown</strong> believes the lesson has been learned and that the players understand the circumstances. He plans to go back to his Philadelphia-area home and see his 13-year-old brother play his middle school football game.<br /> <br /> “He’s got an offer here already,” Brown joked.<br /> <br /> Brown, though, said players constantly need to understand the potential consequences.<br /> <br /> “It would be devastating if we had one of our key players do something stupid that’ll cause them to miss some time, especially right now when we have this streak going,” said the senior co-captain. “If everybody stays out of the wrong environments and just goes and spends time with their family and do what they’ve got to do, we’ll be straight.”<br /> <br /> Meyer showed no trepidation with his decision and said he believes in the commitment of his players.<br /> <br /> “I like this group,” he said. “They’re kind of professional in how they handle their business.”<br /> <br /> Plus, with an 18-game winning streak on the line, the Buckeyes could use the mental break – players and coaches.<br /> <br /> “It’s really big,” defensive coordinator <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> said. “As much pressure, as much stress as we put on ourselves, to have the ability to get out of here to be a dad, to be a husband, to get a couple deep breaths, it’s important. If you’re not fresh, it’s really hard to focus in and do your best job. And we go hard, just like our kids go hard.”<br /> <br /> It’s not as if the coaches will be getting much of a respite anyway. The coordinators now are knee-deep in Iowa preparations and all of the assistants are in the never-ending world of recruiting. Plus, offensive coordinator <strong>Tom Herman</strong> said the staff will use the week to do “a ton” of self scouting.<br /> <br /> At the beginning of the week, athletic director <strong>Gene Smith</strong> made a midseason evaluation of Meyer and the coaches also did self-evaluations that are now on record with the athletic department.<br /> <br /> Still, Meyer believes the break in the playing schedule comes at a good time.<br /> <br /> “I think we do (need it),” he said. “We’ve had some injuries. CB (<strong>Christian Bryant</strong>, out for the season with a broken ankle) – that still is not settled yet – that was stinger. And then <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> (knee) being out. Those are two juice players were yanked out of your lineup and locker room. That’s the worst part of this whole game and that takes a toll on people.”<br /> <br /> Meyer said Hall has a “joint issue in his knee” but added he doesn’t have a complete prognosis on the senior running back. Hall did not dress against the Wildcats but made the trip to Chicago.<br /> <br /> Hall did some skill work on Wednesday and Meyer said there is hope he will play vs. Iowa.<br /> <br /> Bryant, a senior co-captain and starting strong safety, was lost for the year when his ankle snapped in the final moments of the win over Wisconsin on Sept. 28. He has undergone successful surgery to repair the fracture.<br /> <br /> However, the Buckeyes are yet to repair their secondary without him. Fifth-year senior <strong>Corey "Pitt" Brown</strong> started in Bryant’s place Saturday and struggled against NU’s passing attack, which saw quarterbacks <strong>Kain Colter</strong> and <strong>Trevor Siemian</strong> combine to complete 25 of 30 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns.<br /> <br /> <strong>Quick Hitters</strong><br /> <br /> * Meyer said one of the clear team strengths through six games has been the play of OSU’s veteran offensive line.<br /> <br /> “I think we’re in the top 10 in the country in rushing, and that’s been without one of our running backs for three games, so they block people and they do a good job,” he said.<br /> <br /> “The first game wasn’t very good. It was very disappointing. But since then they’ve played pretty good and they’re who we are on offense.<br /> <br /> * While <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> hasn’t quite lived up to billing just yet and other well-rated newcomers such as <strong>Jalin Marshall</strong> and <strong>Mike Mitchell</strong> are yet to see the field, OSU has an undeniable freshman phenom in defensive lineman <strong>Joey Bosa</strong>.<br /> <br /> Bosa was active throughout the win at Northwestern and put the exclamation point on it by falling on a fumble in the end zone for a TD on the game’s final play. On Monday, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., product was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week.<br /> <br /> “He’s an impact player, and I’ve never really had a freshman D-lineman (be such a difference-maker),” Meyer said. “Usually a corner or receiver or even a running back can step in and play and all that. His future is kind of silly around here if he keeps going.”<br /> <br /> Bosa arrived from St. Thomas Aquinas High School with a strong football pedigree – his father played ball at Boston College and his uncle is former Buckeye DE <strong>Eric Kumerow</strong> – and an impressive physique. Meyer said Bosa already is one of the team’s strongest performers in the weight room and can bench 225 pounds 30 times.<br /> <br /> On the field, Bosa also looks like a veteran and has picked up assignments quickly.<br /> <br /> “A lot of things don’t rattle him,” Fickell said. “He’s a kid that has come a long way but it’s not like when he walks in these doors he wasn’t built and ready to go.”<br /> <br /> * Another promising freshman defender, safety <strong>Vonn Bell</strong>, is hoping the open week will allow him more time to prove he belongs on the field. Meyer said he’d like to see Bell earn more of a role.<br /> <br /> “I hope so,” said the coach. “He practices good, he’s got talent, and I’ve challenged our coaches to get him ready to go play. It’s not because of lack of effort or anything like that, but we’ve got to get him in there.”<br /> <br /> Meyer said the safety position opposite <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> is still up for grabs but added he believes Brown “did pretty good” against NU. He added that nickel back <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong> also is a candidate and labeled him “the most talented of all of them.”<br /> <br /> * Meyer is aware Roby’s critics are become more vociferous but believes the highly talented redshirt junior can turn his season around. Roby was supposed to be a steadying force and Thorpe Award candidate but he’s been caught out of position and even whiffed on some tackles in the secondary.<br /> <br /> Still, Roby is OSU’s most highly regarded NFL prospect.<br /> <br /> “There have been a lot of distractions in his world,” Meyer said. “I’ve coached a lot of guys in his situation before and it’s relentless the people out there who are in his ear. The best thing he can do is become a great practice player, and he’s improved his practice habits.”<br /> <br /> * When asked what improvement he’d most like to make to the OSU offense in the second half of the season, Herman did not hesitate.<br /> <br /> “We’ve got to get the ball to our receivers on the run maybe a little bit more, said Herman, who also serves as OSU’s quarterbacks coach and de facto passing game coordinator. “I don’t know if we have the guy that can catch a hitch and make a corner miss and take it 80 (yards), but we’ve got guys in the short and intermediate pass game that if we can get them the ball on the run a little bit I think we can get more yards there.”<br /> <br /> * The defensive line appears bolstered with <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong> very close to fully recovering from a lingering groin strain and interior lineman <strong>Tommy Schutt</strong> just about ready to go.<br /> <br /> Schutt has not played yet this season because of a broken foot suffered in preseason camp, but Meyer said this week the youngster is expected to see the field for about 15 to 20 plays against Iowa. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-11/Meyer_Not_Being_Jerky_About_Bye.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-11/Meyer_Not_Being_Jerky_About_Bye.aspx 8ef931d1-e2a3-46ac-ac9b-f44b064a8038 Fri, 11 Oct 2013 15:55:17 GMT A Most Memorable Presidents Cup <strong>MUIRFIELD VILLAGE, Ohio –</strong> Tigerland.<br /> <br /> That’s what they may want to call <strong>Jack Nicklaus</strong>’ immaculate Muirfield Village Golf Club outside of Dublin that has been home to The Memorial since 1976 as well as several other top-level golf showcases.<br /> <br /> Granted, the world-famous Columbus Zoo &amp; Aquarium is just down the road, so patrons could be confused by the nickname. But there’s little difficulty in seeing the setting will go down as one of the most meaningful in the historic career of <strong>Tiger Woods</strong>.<br /> <br /> Still chasing Nicklaus for the most majors in PGA history, which presumably would earn him the moniker of greatest golfer of all-time, Woods closed out a Presidents Cup win for the United States for the third straight time on Sunday.<br /> <br /> The five-time Memorial champ nearly pulled off some more Tiger magic by softly dropping a chip from behind the No. 17 green to within inches of the hole. He had to settle for a par and having to put away singles combatant <strong>Richard Sterne</strong> with another four on No. 18 before a Sunday gathering relieved to see the Americans prevail, 18½ to 15½ .<br /> <br /> The U.S. held a commanding 14-8 lead going into Sunday’s 12 singles matches matches pitting all 12 American against the 12 International Team members. But finding the 18th and deciding point proved elusive for much of the afternoon.<br /> <br /> <strong>Ernie Els</strong> won the opening match with <strong>Steve Stricker</strong> but Americans <strong>Hunter Mahan</strong> and <strong>Jason Dufner</strong> prevailed in the next two contests. Even after <strong>Jason Day</strong> routed <strong>Brandt Snedeker</strong>, Canadian <strong>Graham DeLaet</strong> took down 20-year-old <strong>Jordan Spieth</strong> and <strong>Adam Scott</strong> defeated <strong>Bill Haas</strong>, the Americans were sitting on the doorstep as <strong>Zach Johnson</strong> closed out <strong>Branden Grace</strong> 4-and-2 in the seventh match.<br /> <br /> But the same scoreboard that showed several U.S. leads throughout the day was beginning to change, and a nervousness sifted into the gallery and even the ever-calm <strong>Fred Couples</strong>, who again served as U.S. captain.<br /> <br /> “I must have asked 500 times, ‘How are we getting this fourth point? Where is this fourth point coming from?’ ” Couples said afterward. “Yeah, you’re nervous. Not for the players. The players know what they’re doing. But we needed 18 points. At no given time was I a nervous wreck, but it was nice when Tiger two-putted that last green.”<br /> <br /> Some onlookers were wondering if an American collapse similar to the one against the Europeans at the Ryder Cup last year in Chicago was in the offing, especially when DeLaet, who earlier in the day chipped in from in front of the 18th green to help earn a half-point, holed out from a bunker on No. 18 for birdie. That gave DeLaet a 1-up victory and a surprising weeklong record of 3-1-1.<br /> <br /> In the group ahead of Woods, <strong>Marc Leishman</strong> gave the Internationals yet another point when he jarred a 15-foot par putt from the back of the 18th green.<br /> <br /> Woods took advantage of an errant Sterne tee shot at the par-3 16th – the same hole where the world’s top player famously chipped in on Sunday to win the 2012 Memorial – and actually went on to win the match without making a birdie on the back nine.<br /> <br /> On 18, where he has shaken Nicklaus’ hand as Memorial champion more than anyone else, Woods rolled a 30-foot birdie attempt close to the hole and Sterne conceded the par, setting off the celebration for the U.S. team and most in attendance.<br /> <br /> Woods wasn’t able to hang around and whoop it up, though. He had to go directly to the clubhouse for treatment on his ailing back.<br /> <br /> “I was at a point where I wasn’t feeling my best coming down the stretch and I happened to get a 1-up lead, and I was just trying to hang onto that,” he said.<br /> <br /> “I knew if I messed up 18 we had to go down and keep playing, and I was thinking, ‘I really don’t want to play anymore. Can I just halve this last hole somehow?’ The opportunity to win the Cup for Freddie and all the guys on the team, it means a lot to me.”<br /> <br /> Some analysts and fans were disappointed International captain <strong>Nick Price</strong> chose to oppose Woods with Sterne, one of seven rookies on the team, and not Scott, the reigning Masters champion and the world’s No. 1-ranked player.<br /> <br /> “I did my pairings this morning to try to win the Cup, not to try to put 1 and 2 together, or 3 and 5, or whatever,” Price said.<br /> <br /> It turned out to be enough of a test for the Americans. <strong>Charl Schwartzel</strong> closed out <strong>Keegan Bradley</strong> on No. 17 moments later and <strong>Louis Oosthuizen</strong> halved with <strong>Webb Simpson</strong> in the second-to-last match (they would have played on if the Cup was not yet claimed).<br /> <br /> The final pairing matched Argentina’s <strong>Angel Cabrera</strong> against popular American <strong>Phil Mickelson</strong>, the only person to play in all 10 Presidents Cups.<br /> <br /> Mickelson, who was at ease walking up No. 18 and seeing the Americans already in celebration mode, took two shots to get out of a greenside bunker, and picked up Cabrera’s ball mark to concede the hole and the match. However, he realized through scoreboard watching that he had to stay close to Cabrera just in case.<br /> <br /> “I really didn’t think that was going to be an issue today,” he said. “We went out and we were kind of in a frame of mind that it was essentially over and let’s just go have fun, and they did make a strong run. But fortunately we did have enough points and some guys closed out their matches in the end.”<br /> <br /> After receiving the Cup from Nicklaus, Couples repeatedly mentioned the Americans’ profound respect for the International Team and that as a recent Ryder Cup player and assistant he knows full-well how disappointing a loss is after two years of build-up.<br /> <br /> “Thanks for a coming over and giving us a great fight,” he said.<br /> <br /> Price was even more thankful, even in defeat, and praised his team.<br /> <br /> “Today just showed the grit and determination and the resilience that they had,” he said. “We play 95 percent of our golf out of our home countries and to come together as a team like this against the might of America – this was an extremely strong team – I’m just so proud of them. I can’t say enough about them.<br /> <br /> “Graham DeLaet, <strong>Brendon de Jonge</strong>, <strong>Hideki Matsuyama</strong>, these guys are going to be around The Presidents Cup for a long time and they played so well this week. I just want to thank this team for making me look good because I haven’t looked this good for a long time.”<br /> <br /> Price also stumped to be named captain again and admitted he had ideas for some changes to implement for the event but didn’t want to elaborate and take away from the Americans’ victory.<br /> <br /> “I want to congratulate the U.S. team,” he said. “They played golf that was just incredible to watch. Not only did they hit the ball well, they made a lot of putts, they combined well.”<br /> <br /> Price even showed admiration for the work done behind the scenes, especially as The Presidents Cup endured multiple weather delays throughout the week.<br /> <br /> “I want to thank the grounds staff and the superintendent, because however hard we worked this week they worked 10 times harder,” he said. “The effort they put in to make this golf course playable was phenomenal.”<br /> <br /> Most of the International players seemed to handle the disappointment well but Scott, who is on a crusade to make the event more competitive, sat with his head down while the final groups finished out.<br /> <br /> Still, he also found the bright side.<br /> <br /> “It shows how much fight we’ve got in us and that we all wanted this badly,” the Australian superstar said of the International comeback. “Nine-and-a-half (points needed on the last day) is almost an unobtainable task but we kept it very interesting today.”<br /> <br /> The United State is now 8-1-1 in The Presidents Cup and has won five straight. The final tally was as close as it had been since 2005, when the U.S. entered the final day tied and won by three points.<br /> <br /> “It feels terrific to play with the guys that we play against every weekend and it feels great to come together and win this Cup now for the eight time out of 10,” Mickelson said. “These guys are a lot of fun to be around. We had a fun, fun week.<br /> <br /> “And this was a great place to host it. The people here in Columbus were terrific. I wish we would’ve had a little better weather for everybody but it still turned out nice.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Sunday singles results:</strong><br /> Ernie Els, INT, def. Steve Stricker, USA, 1 up<br /> Hunter Mahan, USA, def. Hideki Matsuyama, INT, 3&amp;2<br /> Jason Dufner, USA, def. Brendon de Jonge, INT, 4&amp;3<br /> Jason Day, INT, def. Brandt Snedeker, USA, 6&amp;4 <br /> Graham DeLaet, INT, def. Jordan Spieth, USA, 1 up<br /> Adam Scott, INT, def. Bill Haas, USA, 2&amp;1 <br /> Zach Johnson, USA, def. Branden Grace, INT, 4&amp;2<br /> Marc Leishman, INT, def. Matt Kuchar, USA, 1 up<br /> Tiger Woods, USA, def. Richard Sterne, INT, 1 up<br /> Charl Schwartzel, INT, def. Keegan Bradley, USA, 2&amp;1<br /> Webb Simpson, USA, vs. Louis Oosthuizen, INT, halved<br /> Angel Cabrera, INT, def. Phil Mickelson, USA, 1 up<br /> International 7½, United States, 4½ <br /> <strong>TOTAL: United States 18½, International 15½</strong> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-09/A_Most_Memorable_Presidents_Cup.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-09/A_Most_Memorable_Presidents_Cup.aspx 8433e78b-409e-4820-a92b-b735b4e4bdd6 Wed, 09 Oct 2013 17:40:36 GMT Rapp Around: Strange Reality What’s real is sometimes strange – and sometimes the outcome is real strange.<br /> <br /> The reality is the No. 4 Ohio State football team is a little better than No. 16 Northwestern yet it took all 60 minutes for the Buckeyes to get some distance on the scoreboard in a 40-30 win in Evanston, Ill., Saturday night.<br /> <br /> While most will look online or pick up a newspaper (they still have those, right?) and see a 10-point win for OSU, the assumption will be that the cream eventually rose and reality set in for NU and its fans, many of whom were terming this the most important regular-season game in program history.<br /> <br /> There’s some truth to that, of course,<br /> <br /> However, peering a little closer at what transpired, it’s safe to say the Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0 in the Big Ten) were rather fortunate in several ways and the program’s string of 18 straight wins under head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> is going to end soon if they keep playing with fire.<br /> <br /> First of all, my on-air (610 WTVN) prediction of a 37-33 OSU win looked pretty strong until the final snap as OSU was clinging to a 34-30 lead and NU (4-1, 0-1) tried a desperate multi-lateral on the final play. It ended in a fumble and an OSU exclamation point when lineman <strong>Joey Bosa</strong> landed on the loose pig in the end zone.<br /> <br /> What’s ironic – and also has to be pointed out – is that after playing a near flawless offensive game in terms of tempo, patience and execution the Wildcats fumbled the snap on a crucial fourth-and-1 with less than three minutes remaining. Quarterback <strong>Kain Colter</strong> alertly picked it up but found himself in a pile of humanity and officials marked the ball short of the first down.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Pat Fitzgerald</strong> challenged the spot and the replay showed Colter’s knee was off the ground when he gained control of the ball. They also showed he was able to hurtle himself forward a bit. But none of the camera angles showed a definitive spot where the ball should be placed, hence the lack of an overturn.<br /> <br /> NU was charged a timeout and had only 21 seconds when it got the ball back deep in its own end. It was the right decision by Fitzgerald. It also shows how close this game really was.<br /> <br /> The Wildcats were moving the ball steadily all night and had plenty of time to punch in a go-ahead score and leave the Buckeyes in the same predicament – trailing and not enough time to do anything about it.<br /> <br /> OSU deserves credit for the stop and for holding the home team to a mere 10 points in the second half after trailing 20-13 at halftime. Still, what if Colter really got the first down? He was 12 for 12 passing on the night and accounted for two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving) while fellow QB <strong>Trevor Siemian</strong> burned OSU for 245 yards and two TD passes.<br /> <br /> The Buckeye defenders talked about knowing they had to win the game “no matter what” and patted themselves on the back for thwarting the drive, but it wasn’t exactly assertive.<br /> <br /> The Wildcats amassed 437 yards of total offense to OSU’s 451 as well as 20 first downs. They lost what was essentially a one-possession game despite losing a fumble, throwing an interception that put the Buckeyes directly in the red zone and allowing a convoy of white-shirted visitors to smash and recover a punt in the end zone.<br /> <br /> They also did this despite having no answer for Ohio State running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong>, Meyer’s newly appointed “horse,” who racked up 168 yards and three TDs.<br /> <br /> That’s strange.<br /> <br /> This is the Ohio State-Northwestern series after all. Past meetings in which the Wildcats allowed a big rushing day and directly set up OSU scores with mistakes had final scores to the tune of 51-3.<br /> <br /> But this is a Northwestern program that is beginning to turn major corners under Fitzgerald and that the Buckeyes hadn’t faced in five years.<br /> <br /> This almost may be the second-best team in the Big Ten and one that very well could still represent the Legends Division in the Big Ten title game, meaning a Dec. 7 rematch with Ohio State is not remotely out of the question.<br /> <br /> That’s also strange.<br /> <br /> OSU has won 29 of its last 30 games against Northwestern, so, of course, I was highly questioned by some for daring to predict a close score. The Buckeyes feast on Wildcats and spit them out when they are bored, why would this be any different?<br /> <br /> Well, this is not your father’s Purple and White. NU won its first bowl game in five decades last year and beat a ranked SEC team, Mississippi State, to break the spell.<br /> <br /> This team is well-coached, has receivers and QBs who eat up zone coverage, a playmaker in the backfield and on kick returns in <strong>Venric Mark</strong>, and a defense that makes up for its lack of athleticism with fierceness and opportunism. It’s a legit top-20 outfit and may be the hardest team to beat in the conference that isn’t named Ohio State.<br /> <br /> And it’s clear the Buckeyes have some flaws of their own.<br /> <br /> Meyer had to blame himself for a poor decision when he called for a fake punt from around the OSU 30-yard line late in the first half, a play that failed fairly miserably as <strong>Cameron Johnston</strong> didn’t come close to picking up the 8 yards needed.<br /> <br /> “The head coach and the offense really put the defense in some bad positions,” Meyer said. “We went for a fake punt. I felt like we needed to swing the momentum at the end of the first half. I thought we were having trouble stopping them. That was an error by me.”<br /> <br /> Also, QB <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> was shaky throughout, especially in the first half when the Buckeyes inexplicably weren’t able to find the end zone. He fumbled twice, threw an interception, overshot an open <strong>Chris Fields</strong> in the end zone, made a few other questionable decisions and managed to complete just 15 passes to four different receivers for 203 yards.<br /> <br /> Miller, in fact, nearly got yanked. Meyer had <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> warming up at one point but managed to stay with the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and it paid off as he led OSU on an eight-play, 81-yard game-winning TD.<br /> <br /> “My heart bleeds, but I almost put Kenny in there,” Meyer admitted. “We were riding. I didn't think that was the appropriate thing to do at that point.”<br /> <br /> Conversely, Colter and Siemian connected on 25 throws for 343 yards and eight different targets.<br /> <br /> And that leads to another growing concern – the OSU secondary. The Buckeyes went into a zone look most of the night and were carved. When they shifted to man, star corner <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> continued to struggle.<br /> <br /> The OSU coaches already had reason to worry when senior safety <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> was lost for the season with a broken ankle last week against Wisconsin. However, his replacement, <strong>Corey Brown</strong>, is a fifth-year senior and the other safety, <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong>, is one of the most experienced players on the roster.<br /> <br /> For whatever reason, the Buckeyes couldn’t find many answers in the back of the defense. But maybe the Wildcats are just that good.<br /> <br /> A strange reality.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-06/Rapp_Around_Strange_Reality.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-06/Rapp_Around_Strange_Reality.aspx 74aa97ea-9edc-4e44-b0a8-cf946fd98fe1 Sun, 06 Oct 2013 22:39:17 GMT Cup Brims With Excitement <strong>MUIRFIELD VILLAGE, Ohio –</strong> As I type this, all 24 participants in the 2013 Presidents Cup are out on the course – 12 from the United States and 12 representing the International Team.<br /> <br /> It’s the start of what promises to be a fantastic four days here on the Course That Jack Built.<br /> <br /> The Presidents Cup doesn’t carry quite the prestige of the Ryder Cup, which matches top European players with the U.S. and has been as consistently dramatic and entertaining as any sporting event of the last couple decades. Also, the Presidents Cup has less history and few of the contests have been close.<br /> <br /> However, it could be argued that this international faceoff is even better.<br /> <br /> With 34 match points at stake from Thursday to Sunday, 10 of the 12 golfers from each team will be on display all four days and the other two on each team will tee it up three times. In other words, there’s nowhere to hide.<br /> <br /> Plus, as was pointed out Wednesday evening during a magnificent Opening Ceremony at Columbus Commons, the Presidents Cup has more worldwide reach with telecasts beaming out to 230 countries.<br /> <br /> This time, the Internationals include five players from South Africa including past PGA major winners <strong>Ernie Els</strong>, <strong>Charl Schwartzel</strong> and <strong>Louis Oosthuizen</strong>; three from Australia including <strong>Adam Scott</strong>, who just may be the best player in the world right now, and <strong>Jason Day</strong>, who lives in central Ohio; and one each from Argentina, Canada, Japan, and Zimbabwe.<br /> <br /> Now that’s what I call a global group.<br /> <br /> Is it enough to stay with an American team teeming with talent? Probably not, but that’s why they go ahead and play these things.<br /> <br /> So, you may be asking, “Why should I care about The Presidents Cup? I mean, it’s just golf, right?”<br /> <br /> Well, let me tackle that one for you. I’ve come up with five solid reasons why this should be very much worth your sports-viewing time and emotional investment.<br /> <br /> Here goes:<br /> <br /> <strong>1. Unique Format –</strong> No, this is not just golf. It’s a version of the game of golf only with match play, two-man matches, gobs of strategy and mind games, and a wonderful team aspect that just isn’t seen for anything else except the Ryder Cup.<br /> <br /> It’s great to watch on television because the action never stops and the importance of every shot is felt. It’s even better to watch in person because of the emotion that flows from the galleries to the players back to the galleries (more on that in a moment).<br /> <br /> On Wednesday, U.S. captain <strong>Fred Couples</strong> and International captain <strong>Nick Price</strong> sat face to face and came up with the pairings for today’s four-ball matches, which pits two players from one team against two from another and uses a best-ball format.<br /> <br /> It’s the closest thing we have to a draft in major professional golf, and it’s awesome. Couples, for example, had the right to choose first but deferred and Price threw out the combo of Day and <strong>Graham DeLaet</strong>. Couple countered with <strong>Hunter Mahan</strong> and <strong>Brandt Snedeker</strong>. And so it went.<br /> <br /> On Sunday, Couples could say the words “<strong>Tiger Woods</strong>” and Price could opt to counter with Scott as if to say “I’ll see your PGA Player of the Year and I’ll raise with The Masters champion.”<br /> <br /> The captains have to put a lot of thought into which players pair well with which players and even have to consider things like make of golf ball in the process. On Friday and part of Saturday, combatants will enter into foursomes, which carries an alternating-shot format. That gets even trickier.<br /> <br /> The Americans tried to pair Woods and <strong>Phil Mickelson</strong> at the Ryder Cup one time in foursomes and it was a miserable failure, each leaving the other in uncomfortable areas from which to play.<br /> <br /> On Sunday, presumably with the Cup still attainable by either team, 12 one-on-one encounters will be on display at once using match play. There are lots of elements to that type of gold that simply don’t apply to stroke play. For example, a player can tell his opponent to “pick it up” and concede a shot, a tactic that seems gentlemanly until a player makes his foe but that knobby-knee 3-footer a few holes later when the pressure is mounting.<br /> <br /> <strong>2. International Flavor –</strong> Not only do the concession stands feature food from countries around the world, there actually are many people from, well, around the world.<br /> <br /> <strong>Hideki Matsuyama</strong> is the only Asian player in the field but that hasn’t deterred Asian fans and photographers from attending. Australian flags are on display. South Africans have a little chant they like to do. And, of course, you can’t go 5 feet without seeing a patron flashing red, white and blue or hearing a “U-S-A” or two.<br /> <br /> Host <strong>Jack Nicklaus</strong> still wants decorum. It’s still golf and manners are required as fans interact with players and shots are being executed. But sometimes you’d swear you are at a college football game, especially when the home side drains an important putt.<br /> <br /> Players pump their fists and play off the crowd. Caddies jump up and down. Captains seek out to hug those who come through in the clutch. Tiger and <strong>Matt Kuchar</strong> had a goofy handshake fadeaway thing working on Thursday after winning a hole. High-fives and fist bumps are everywhere.<br /> <br /> It’s great fun, and it’s definitely not stodgy, old-fashioned golf.<br /> <br /> <strong>3. Familiar Faces –</strong> The field is loaded, especially on the American side. Woods is a five-time winner of The Memorial Tournament, which is played right here at Muirfield Village. If this is Jack’s house, it’s Tiger’s guest house.<br /> <br /> Kuchar won this year’s Memorial, thereby nearly ensuring in June that he would return in October. <strong>Steve Stricker</strong>, another veteran of these types of events and the 2011 Memorial winner, also is on the American side.<br /> <br /> <strong>Jason Dufner</strong>, the PGA winner, is a native of North Olmsted, Ohio, and Day, as previously mentioned, lives in the area and is a Muirfield Village member.<br /> <br /> Many in the field have done very well here – even Couples is a former Memorial champ – or at Augusta National, the course after which Nicklaus patterned Muirfield.<br /> <br /> <strong>4. Unending Drama –</strong> When a two-man team or individual on Sunday wins a hole, the 1-up designation arises or 1-up becomes 2-up, etc., which means the team that’s behind needs at least that many holes to catch up. You’d think that would limit momentum shifts and comebacks but you’d be wrong.<br /> <br /> The course is immaculate but difficult and the players are so good they usually capitalize quickly on a mistake by their opponent, hence, the scoreboard constantly changes.<br /> <br /> And when a player knows he needs to win a hole to quell momentum or get the lead back, he tends to take more risks and fire more shots at the pin. That usually leads to lots of spectacular action and crowd-pleasing play.<br /> <br /> Fans tend to become even more boisterous on Sunday, when even more is on the line and players are looking for any mental edge they can find. Some thrive off it and some crack. Either way it makes for great and dramatic competition.<br /> <br /> Seriously, I’ve seen more drama and raw emotion in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup than I can ever remember in a Super Bowl.<br /> <br /> <strong>5. U.S. Domination –</strong> Let’s face it, if you’ve read this far you are either a golf fan or you are intrigued at the idea of actually flipping the channel from college football or the MLB playoffs to the Presidents Cup. And if you’re going to bother to do that, it’s a pretty safe bet you want to see the Americans kick some tail.<br /> <br /> Odds are you won’t be disappointed. The United States is 7-1-1 in the previous nine Presidents Cups, the only defeat a hard-to-explain 20-½ to 11-½ setback in 1998.<br /> <br /> If you’re still stinging for the U.S.’s stunning Sunday falter in the Ryder Cup in Chicago last year, well wrap yourself in the flag for this one.<br /> <br /> Price’s roster is littered with Presidents Cup rookies while the Americans are stacked both in terms of talent and experience. Mickelson, for example, has played in every single Presidents Cup. Couples has served as captain numerous times.<br /> <br /> And Woods, who was 0-3-1 at Medinah last year and has a disappointing overall Ryder Cup record of 13-17-3, owns a 20-14-1 mark in The Presidents Cup. On Tuesday, he was as loosey-goosey as you’ll ever see him heading into a week of competition.<br /> <br /> Nicklaus tried to build up the event earlier this week by saying, “The International team is a lot better than you think it is. The American players have played very, very well this year. They have stepped up and done a good job. But I think that goes in cycles. Four years from now, the Americans might be begging for mercy.”<br /> <br /> Doubtful, although match play and foursomes and four-ball are different animals. Plus, the underdogs know where they stand.<br /> <br /> “We know how important this one is,” said Price, who played on the team five times and was key to the ’98 Presidents Cup win. “I wouldn't say it’s a must-win; that’s a hard thing to put on anyone. But this one needs to be competitive. I think more than anything else, this Presidents Cup needs to be very competitive, because the last four, you can argue, have not been.”<br /> <br /> Mickelson, though, had a different view going into the week.<br /> <br /> “It’s not that important,” he said. “Actually, the tournament is about promoting the game of golf on an international level. Who loses and by how much isn’t as important as having the guys get together in a competitive, friendly environment, put on a good show or display of golf and have some fun doing it.”<br /> <br /> That, of course, is code for, “I can’t wait to go out and mop the floor with these guys.” After the first day of action, the U.S. seemed to play with the Internationals and holds a 3-½ to 2-½ lead.<br /> <br /> OK, consider yourself convinced. Make sure to mix in some Golf Channel and NBC this weekend. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-03/Cup_Brims_With_Excitement.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-03/Cup_Brims_With_Excitement.aspx 592131d2-1423-4b7f-b427-2b2f8859d3a6 Thu, 03 Oct 2013 22:36:40 GMT Bad Break For Buckeyes Moments after No. 4 Ohio State held on for a 31-24 win over Wisconsin on Saturday, head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> was informed that multiyear starter <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> had suffered a broken ankle on the second-to-last play of the game.<br /> <br /> That caused Meyer to pound the podium in disappointment during his postgame address to reporters (for more detail on the game and Meyer’s reaction, click here).<br /> <br /> Also, the bad news traveled quickly to others in the program, and their reactions were similar when talking about the loss of Bryant, a senior safety and one of the most reliable parts of the defense.<br /> <br /> During postgame interviews, these were just a few of the comments about Bryant:<br /> <br /> <strong>Senior safety C.J. Barnett –</strong> “That’s huge. That’s my partner. We’re going to have to pick it up for him and find a replacement. His leadership is going to be missed and other leaders are going to have to carry on for us.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Junior wide receiver Devin Smith –</strong> “We were saddened by it, me in particular because that’s my cousin and I’m very close to him. It’s hard seeing a guy who works so hard go down like that.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Senior offensive tackle Jack Mewhort –</strong> “It’s hard to even talk about it. He brings energy, the juice, and he’s just such a good guy. It’s heart wrenching. I guess that’s the only word to say. He’s a good friend, a great football player and a great leader. It’s hard losing a guy like that.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell –</strong> “You can’t replace him. I’m not going to sit here and say somebody is going to be able to go in there and be the same heart and soul and (same) leader as Christian Bryant.”<br /> <br /> Clearly, the Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0 in the Big Ten) already were hurting without Bryant, a Cleveland Glenville product who has been a fixture in the defensive backfield the last several years.<br /> <br /> Bryant has played in 36 games as a Buckeyes and started 27. He was a top-three tackler on the 2011 and ’12 teams and was second on this year’s squad heading into the Wisconsin game with 21 stops.<br /> <br /> With less than a minute to play, however, Bryant was trying to offer help to linebacker Joshua Perry, who was making a tackle on running back James White, when his ankle gave way.<br /> <br /> Meyer said trying to overcome that loss, both emotionally and in terms of defensive personnel, was the first topic of discussion during a 7 a.m. staff meeting on Monday.<br /> <br /> “This is not an easy one,” Meyer said as the Buckeyes were preparing to travel to No. 16 Northwestern this weekend. “Last year, I would have put my hands all over that, because I didn’t really know (safeties coach) <strong>Everett Withers</strong> very well. But he’s an excellent football coach, and when we met this morning I wanted opinions (from the entire staff), and I’m going to give mine.<br /> <br /> “And we are going to meet again at 2 o’clock (in the afternoon) and I want to hear what they are going to do.”<br /> <br /> Meyer is set to talk briefly with reporters on Wednesday evening after practice and is likely to shed more light on the situation. He and cornerbacks coach <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong> confirmed early in the week that <strong>Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown</strong> would get the first crack at Bryant’s strong safety spot but that nickel back <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong> and his backup, <strong>Vonn Bell</strong>, also would be considered. Brown is a fifth-year senior, Powell a redshirt freshman and Bell a true freshman.<br /> <br /> Bryant won’t be easily replaced by any of them. He was on the preseason watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski and Thorpe awards and is one of OSU’s most tenured and physical defenders. Against Northwestern, a hesitant safety can make the entire defense look bad.<br /> <br /> “This is a very complicated offense,” Meyer said. “It’s one that’s going to require (good communication), and one of the disappointing things we had last Saturday was not just a couple guys got beat, but we had some errors in checks and communication.<br /> <br /> “We can't have that, and with that position open now, that’s a big part of it.”<br /> <br /> Brown is the most familiar with the OSU system and started at safety for the season opener with Buffalo as Barnett stayed out of the fray with an injured ankle. Brown has 21 tackles on the season, just one fewer than Bryant’s total of 22, and also has a tackle-for-loss and a PBU.<br /> <br /> “I think as we sit here this afternoon that Pitt Brown will go in there and play,” Coombs said Monday. “I don’t know exactly the configuration of how all those guys are going to fit going into the week, and some of that will be developed and discussed during practice.<br /> <br /> “I think the exciting thing about Pitt Brown is he’s an extremely versatile player. You can plug him in at a lot of roles, whether it be nickel last year, dime this year. He’s always consistent as a safety in practice. We use him all over in special teams. Pitt’s versatility is a big key to his and our success. I’m looking forward to him getting out there and playing.”<br /> <br /> Still, the Buckeyes are not taking the transition lightly.<br /> <br /> “The sign of a good team is always that someone must step up in his place,” Meyer said. “The issue is going to be not just as a player but who he is. That’s one of the greatest things you get to do as a coach is watch and witness a young guy turn into a man. And he has. I can’t say enough good things about Christian Bryant and what he means.”<br /> <br /> “First of all, anytime you lose a player, it’s a loss,” Coombs added. “Anybody who doesn’t acknowledge that would be foolish. Christian is a guy who has no hesitancy in standing in front of the team and addressing them. There are only a handful of guys who are able to do that with credibility in any locker room. He’s one of them.”<br /> <br /> Defensive linemen <strong>Michael Bennett</strong> confirmed Bryant will be missed on game day.<br /> <br /> “I wish you guys could hear some of the speeches he gives us in the locker room,” Bennett said. “He’s a huge leader on the field, and he’s a huge leader off the field. It’s a hard loss, but it’s Ohio State. We’ve got guys that will step up and fill that role.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-02/Bad_Break_For_Buckeyes.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-10-02/Bad_Break_For_Buckeyes.aspx c9ada0b8-771c-4480-a75a-bbd6c366c7d5 Wed, 02 Oct 2013 20:30:02 GMT Miller Passes Legendary Green When asked if he put a hex on <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> a few weeks ago, former Ohio State standout <strong>Cornelius Green</strong> laughed.<br /> <br /> It was an expected reaction from the jovial Green, who enjoys the accomplishments of young people maybe even more than the heroics he achieved as OSU quarterback from 1972-75.<br /> <br /> <strong>Archie Griffin</strong>’s best friend still lives in his hometown of Washington, D.C., as a mentor for youth in the area and still roots on the Buckeyes every chance he gets. And even though Miller was on the brink of breaking his school mark for rushing yards for a QB heading into the second game of the season, Green was disappointed to find out the youngster was injured early in that game against San Diego State.<br /> <br /> Miller sat out the majority of the SDSU game with a sprained MCL in his left knee and also was shut down for subsequent contests with Cal and Florida A&amp;M, watching from the sideline with a headset while teammate <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> put together eye-popping performances.<br /> <br /> Miller, though, finally returned to action Saturday for the Big Ten opener with Wisconsin and didn’t disappoint in the nationally televised, primetime event.<br /> <br /> He made headlines for completing 17 of 25 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns in No. 4 Ohio State’s 31-24 win over No. 23 Wisconsin. But what got Miller in the record books – at the expense of Green – was his 83 yards rushing.<br /> <br /> Miller actually needed just 13 yards on the ground to surpass the 38-year-old mark of 2,080 by Green – who was “Greene” at the time but has since formally dropped the “e” on the end of his last name.<br /> <br /> Miller hit the total late in the first half as he put an OSU scoring drive in motion with a 14-yard scamper on a designed keeper. The junior also had runs of 10 and 8 yards on the eight-play, 71-yard drive and capped it off with a perfectly thrown 40-yard strike to <strong>Philly Brown</strong> in the end zone.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin had changed momentum and trimmed OSU’s lead to 17-14 but Miller changed all that by taking the Buckeyes to a score with 1 second left in the half using his arm and legs to perfection. He also moved past Green.<br /> <br /> “I think it’s great Braxton has the record,” Green told SportsRappUp.com via phone during the game. “He deserves it; he’s a great kid. Forty years is a long time to have it.<br /> <br /> “You look at all the great QBs that have ever been here and only one ever ran for more than 2,000 yards in a career until Braxton this year. So I feel good about it.”<br /> <br /> Soon after Miller reached that level, though, he was sidelined by an injury and some even called for Guiton to maintain the starting QB spot. That made Green chuckle knowing it was only a minor bump in the road before Miller broke the record.<br /> <br /> “It was funny for a while,” he said. “Honestly, I was hoping he’d play last week (against A&amp;M) so I could see him break the record in person and congratulate him. I guess it was cool I got to have it one more week.”<br /> <br /> Green was in town and at Ohio Stadium for the game to take part in a reunion for the 1973 team.<br /> <br /> Prior to the game he was able to say hello to the QBs, but just briefly.<br /> <br /> “I talked to Braxton for like 2 seconds,” he said. “I haven’t met him off the field, but I would like to come back sometime and do that.<br /> <br /> “I also talked to Kenny and <strong>Cardale</strong> (<strong>Jones</strong>) for just a few seconds. I made sure to say hi to Cardale because we’re Facebook friends.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Quietly Dominant</strong><br /> <br /> The soft-spoken Miller didn’t even address the record when speaking with the media after the UW game and he’s not comfortable talking about himself for more than a few minutes anyway.<br /> <br /> Still, he not only stands atop the school rushing list for QBs, his numbers are significant when put in a Big Ten context.<br /> <br /> Miller’s 2,151 yards rushing are now the sixth-most by a quarterback in league history. Next in his sights is Michigan’s <strong>Rick Leach</strong>, who had 2,176 yards on the ground. The top four are <strong>Denard Robinson</strong> of Michigan (4,495), <strong>Antwaan Randle-El</strong> of Indiana (3,895), <strong>Taylor Martinez</strong> of Nebraksa (2,858) and <strong>Juice Williams</strong> of Illinois (2,557).<br /> <br /> Prior to the season, head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach <strong>Tom Herman</strong> said they wanted Miller to hang onto the ball fewer times per game and preferred to have him develop as a pocket passer.<br /> <br /> Last season as a sophomore, Miller led the team in rushing with 1,271 yards and ended up breaking the school record for total offense in a single season with 3,310 yards.<br /> <br /> Meyer said prior to the season that a good target number for Miller this season is “50 to 60 yards rushing every game, maybe a little bit more.”<br /> <br /> He added, “Last year at this time he was the only guy that I could feel comfortable with the ball in his hand.”<br /> <br /> Herman set a goal of raising Miller’s completion percentage by 10 points and challenged his QB to look downfield more before taking off.<br /> <br /> Herman said Miller made impressive strides in those regards in the offseason.<br /> <br /> “The trust level that he has in the guys around him certainly has grown and allowed him to take a little bit off his shoulders,” he said.<br /> <br /> Still, Miller’s ability to get out in the clear on the run and make defenders look silly is still a huge part of his game.<br /> <br /> “He’s obviously a pretty scary guy,” San Diego State quarterbacks coach <strong>Brian Sipe</strong> said prior to the second game of the season. “He’s big and physical. When things don’t go right, he has the tools to extend the play and make something out of nothing. Our defense is going to have to be careful.”<br /> <br /> Miller didn’t get the chance to addle the Aztecs because of his knee injury but he did throw for 178 yards and run for another 77 in the 40-20 season-opening win over Buffalo,<br /> <br /> After he came up big against the Badgers, UW head coach <strong>Gary Andersen</strong> talked about Miller making “special plays at special times.”<br /> <br /> <strong>The Torch Is Passed</strong><br /> <br /> Green benefited from playing the same backfield with Griffin, hybrid back <strong>Brian Baschnagel</strong> and fullback <strong>Pete Johnson</strong>, who scored the most touchdowns in school history. However, the speedy QB soon became a devastating performer in his own right and a reliable ball handler and passer when needed.<br /> <br /> He said running <strong>Woody Hayes</strong>’ offense was more complex than people think.<br /> <br /> “We were the first (Ohio State) team to have signals from the sideline,” he said. “You really had to know your assignment and know the linemen’s assignments and blocking schemes. You had to learn the defenses, too, and be able to call audibles. And then you still had to be able to make split decisions and have the ability to run.<br /> <br /> “I loved it. I really enjoyed playing for those teams and being with those guys. And I enjoy both sides of the game, passing and running, depending on what we need to do. Of course, with Coach Hayes we were very run-happy.”<br /> <br /> Because of that, Green often got to show off his jets and elusiveness as well.<br /> <br /> “My favorite is when we were in Minnesota playing <strong>Tony Dungy</strong> and <strong>Rick Upchurch</strong> and those guys (1974),” he said.<br /> <br /> Green referred to the season opener of his junior year when the Golden Gophers rallied from a 28-3 deficit to cut the OSU lead to 28-19 to the delight of the 45,511 on hand celebrating the 50-year anniversary of Memorial Stadium.<br /> <br /> On a third-and-5 from the OSU 43 and all momentum on the other sideline, Green took off around end and completely fooled the defense with a backbreaking 57-yard scoring run.<br /> <br /> OSU averted an upset, posted a 34-19 win and jumped up from No. 4 to No. 2 in The Associated Press poll thanks in large part to Green’s fateful run.<br /> <br /> “That’s one I still think about,” he said. “And anytime you score in the Horseshoe is special, too.”<br /> <br /> Green became such an ideal fit that eventually he was recognized as the MVP of the Big Ten when he won the coveted Silver Football award as a senior in 1975.<br /> <br /> Miller pulled off that feat last year and now has slid past Green’s all-time rushing mark.<br /> <br /> “He deserves it,” Green repeated. “It’s a new era and he’s the face of the team now. He really attacks and tries to be a difference-maker out there with the play calls of the offense and he represents the university really well.”<br /> <br /> When asked to assess Miller’s play against Wisconsin, Green said, “He looks great. For him to have been off the last two weeks and play like this, it’s amazing.”<br /> <br /> Green remains a household name with Buckeye fans, especially middle-aged and older. And he had one of the great nicknames in program history – “Flam 7.”<br /> <br /> When asked if it’s time for Miller to have his own moniker, he said, “Probably, but I can’t think of one.”<br /> <br /> When it was suggested that Miller could be called “Flash 5,” Green let out his familiar laugh.<br /> <br /> “Yeah, I could go for that,” he said. “That would be cool.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-30/Miller_Passes_Legendary_Green.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-30/Miller_Passes_Legendary_Green.aspx 412e20f4-2b32-4c43-a36a-9aa272aa4432 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 21:15:20 GMT Win Over Wisky Comes With Price Bittersweet.<br /> <br /> That’s what senior safety <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> called Ohio State’s 31-24 win over No. 23 Wisconsin before a packed-in crowd on Saturday night.<br /> <br /> Why?<br /> <br /> Well, it wasn’t because the Buckeye defense was so geared up to slow down one of the nation’s top rushing offenses that it allowed quarterback <strong>Joel Stave</strong> to throw for 295 yards or that wideout <strong>Jared Abbrederis</strong> torched the secondary for 10 catches and 207 yards.<br /> <br /> It wasn’t even that the No. 4 Buckeyes (5-0), who came in winning its previous four games by an average of 37 points per contest, won be a mere score and had to sweat out a final attempt at paydirt by the pesky Badgers (3-2).<br /> <br /> After all, oddsmakers had the game pegged as a 7-point spread.<br /> <br /> It was that after passing their first real test of the season and taking control of the Leaders Division, the Buckeyes found out that they lost a leader in co-captain <strong>Christian Bryant</strong>, like Barnett a senior safety and multiyear starter.<br /> <br /> “Doggone it!” head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> said while pounding the podium after announcing to a room of bleary-eyed reporters that Bryant suffered a broken ankle late in the game.<br /> <br /> “I feel for the kid,” defensive coordinator <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> said when asked for his reaction. “We can all sit here and say, ‘What about the defense?’ but you see a kid go in there and you see him shed tears because you know how hard he’s worked and you know how much he’s put into this and how much he’s grown. It’s tough.”<br /> <br /> So even with their undefeated start and top-five status, the Buckeyes clearly are learning about growing pains after just one Big Ten game. And the next one won’t be a picnic, either, as OSU will head back out on the road and face No. 17 Northwestern (4-0), which was afforded a week off and extra time to prepare for next Saturday (8 p.m. Eastern, ABC).<br /> <br /> As for the victory over Wisconsin, the Buckeyes still have plenty at which to point and be proud.<br /> <br /> For starters, <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> came back after missing nearly three full games with a knee injury and showed why there is no quarterback controversy. He fired a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter, lofted a perfect 40-yard scoring strike to <strong>Philly Brown</strong> with a second left in the first half and accounted for OSU’s only second-half score with a 1-yard strike to Brown in the third period.<br /> <br /> On the day, Miller completed 17 of 25 passes for 198 yards and four TDs. He was sacked just twice. Also, the junior put his legs to good use with 83 yards rushing, which enabled him to jump ahead of <strong>Cornelius Green</strong> (1972-75) and become OSU’s all-time leading rusher as a QB.<br /> <br /> “I think it’s great Braxton has the record,” Green told SportsRappUp.com via phone during the game. “He deserves it; he’s a great kid. Forty years is a long time to have it.”<br /> <br /> Miller (2,151 yards) and Green (2,081) are the only Ohio State QBs to amass more than 2,000 yards rushing in their careers.<br /> <br /> Miller said he wasn’t surprised that <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong>, who played so well in his place at Cal and last week in a record-setting performance vs. Florida A&amp;M, was the first to greet him and offer congratulations on the sideline after successful scoring drives.<br /> <br /> “He’s been my big brother since I got here,” Miller said of Guiton. “We’ve had a connection.”<br /> <br /> Guiton did not enter the game. Miller got to go down gingerly on his still slightly sore left knee for the final snap after the Buckeyes had caused Stave to throw an incompletion on fourth down with 20 seconds to play.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes tallied the only score of the third period to open up a 31-14 lead but had trouble delivering a knockout blow. James White’s 17-yard TD romp early in the fourth period cut the OSU lead to 31-21 and the Badgers added a 42-yard <strong>Kyle French</strong> field goal with 2:05 left to bring the margin to seven at 31-24.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin appeared to be in great shape to carry the momentum into the locker room at halftime after Stave hit tight end <strong>Sam Arneson</strong> for an 11-yard TD with 1:30 left before intermission, but OSU answered with vintage plays from Miller.<br /> <br /> He took the Buckeyes 71 yards in eight plays beginning with a 14-yard run on a designed keeper that broke Green’s record and finishing with a hesitation move and perfect aerial to Brown to the middle of the end zone.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin came in averaging right around 350 yards rushing per contest but was held to 50 at halftime and finished with 104 net yards rushing on 27 attempts for an average of 3.9 per tote. Melvin Gordon, the nation’s leading rusher coming in, had 74 yards on 15 carries.<br /> <br /> <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> led the Buckeyes on the ground with 17 attempts for 85 well-earned yards.<br /> <br /> Helping to keep the Badgers in the game was senior linebacker <strong>Chris Borland</strong>. The Kettering, Ohio, product led all defenders with 16 tackles.<br /> <br /> <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> led OSU defensively with nine stops and fellow linebacker <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> added seven.<br /> <br /> <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> struggled in one-on-one coverage against Abbrederis but finished with eight tackles, one for loss, three pass breakups and an interception – the only turnover of the game. http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-29/Win_Over_Wisky_Comes_With_Price.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-29/Win_Over_Wisky_Comes_With_Price.aspx 6eb4325a-f9de-423e-a00f-a6491b0e138b Sun, 29 Sep 2013 06:05:43 GMT In The Middle Of It All Followers of Ohio State football have figured out by now that football coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>, when assessing his team, is, well, blunt.<br /> <br /> So when Meyer was asked in the run-up to OSU’s Big Ten opener with Wisconsin on Saturday (8 p.m. Eastern, ABC) if it’s time for middle linebacker <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> to make his presence felt, Meyer didn’t bother to downplay the idea.<br /> <br /> “This is, without question, a defining moment in his career,” Meyer said flatly<br /> <br /> “He’s facing one of the best running teams in the country, as good of backs as he’ll face all year, and he’s the starting middle linebacker at Ohio State, so it doesn’t get much bigger than this.”<br /> <br /> The coach then made sure to add an expression of belief in Grant, a 6-3, 241-pound junior from Richmond, Va.<br /> <br /> “He’s earned it, he’s worked for it, and we have confidence in him,” Meyer said.<br /> <br /> The reason why the spotlight is now directly on Grant is because of both the quality and mentality of OSU’s next foe. The No. 23 Badgers (3-1) rank third in the nation in rushing at 349.8 yards per contest and have perhaps the best running back tandem in the country in senior <strong>James White</strong> and sophomore <strong>Melvin Gordon</strong>, the latter the Big Ten leader at 156.0 yards rushing per game.<br /> <br /> Grant was asked to compare and contrast the two backs.<br /> <br /> “Obviously they’re fast,” he said. “One is bigger than the other. One is faster. One is more of a power back and one is more a speedster, so you’ve got to control your gaps and make tackles. It’s kind of like having <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> and <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong>. One is more power and one is more shifty.”<br /> <br /> Even with <strong>Gary Andersen</strong> now under the UW headset instead of <strong>Bret Bielema</strong>, there’s no question the Badgers want to see if they can gash Ohio State’s young front seven the way they blew through the likes of Massachusetts, Tennessee Tech, Arizona State and Purdue in last week’s league opener.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, of course, have personnel talented enough to slow down that attack but are relatively unproven – and that’s where Grant comes into focus. OSU has relied on <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> to make a lot of the stops behind the line in the early going with extra defensive backs on the field in nickel and dime packages.<br /> <br /> Ohio State had to load up that way against Cal, for example, and rarely has been in its base 4-3 defense with Grant in the middle. He has played well in his shortened time on the field and ranks fourth on the team with 18 tackles, but wants to do more.<br /> <br /> He’ll get his chance against UW in what promises to be a rock-’em, sock-’em conference clash.<br /> <br /> “I like to hit people,” Grant said. “When you’re out in that spread a lot of times you don’t get to run into a lot of people and you’re more in space, so these are the games I like.”<br /> <br /> And Grant also doesn’t shy away from the fact that he needs to come through against the Badgers.<br /> <br /> “Me and Ryan have been talking a lot and we said we have to take our games to a different level,” he said. “Anybody that gets in that game has to maximize their talent and just go out and play because we’re in the Big Ten now and nothing is guaranteed, nothing is promised.<br /> <br /> “Coming into the Big Ten, your whole mindset changes, and you want to do anything extra you can to get in there and prepare.”<br /> <br /> Grant was highly decorated as a college prospect and was considered a headline recruit when he signed with Ohio State. However, his career didn’t lift off right away. He admitted feeling somewhat overwhelmed as a freshman and a bit uncomfortable with all the terminology and demands of the position last season.<br /> <br /> More dedicated and sensing a need to claim the MLB spot, Grant put together a terrific offseason that included leading all tacklers in the spring game. In the opener against Buffalo, he logged seven stops and further asserted himself.<br /> <br /> Still, Meyer has labeled linebacker as perhaps the position group on the team that most concerns him.<br /> <br /> “Every week is a challenge, and that’s always great for us because we never want to stop working, especially when the head man calls you out,” Grant said. “It keeps us determined to keep fighting for what we want.”<br /> <br /> Now Wisconsin will be staring at the Buckeyes from the other side of the line.<br /> <br /> “The first thing you think of with Wisconsin is powerhouse team,” Grant said. “Big linemen and they’re going to run the ball, probably at least 40-50 times a game. You’ve got to prepare for that.”<br /> <br /> The Badgers also are getting solid play from quarterback <strong>Joel Stave</strong>, who is completing better than 60 percent of his passes.<br /> <br /> “If he gets time back there, he’ll make a play,” Grant said. “As a defense we’re going to have to get pressure on him and stop the run.”<br /> <br /> And Grant will be a big part of that effort, hence the spotlight.<br /> <br /> “I love playing under the lights,” he said of the night setting. “It reminds me of high school. It’s something that means a lot to me.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-28/In_The_Middle_Of_It_All.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-28/In_The_Middle_Of_It_All.aspx 8250bf5a-e524-412d-84b0-6dda292181ed Sat, 28 Sep 2013 22:09:07 GMT OSU-Wisky Pregame Notes Ohio State-Wisconsin a shootout?<br /> <br /> No one seems to characterize it that way considering the Badgers are known for hammering the ball and the Buckeyes can be bruising as well.<br /> <br /> But Ohio State (4-0) is No. 4 in the country and UW (3-1) is No. 23 largely because of the offensive production and points each has compiled to this point.<br /> <br /> <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> or <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong>, whomever is under center for Urban Meyer the scoring has come early and often. OSU is fourth in the nation in points per game at 52.5 and 15th in total offense averaging 529.0 yards per game.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin, meanwhile, has ridden two horses in the running back stable – sophomore <strong>Melvin Gordon</strong> and senior <strong>James White</strong> – to put up 41.0 ppg (24th nationally) and 547.8 yards per game (12th).<br /> <br /> The last time these two teams met in the Horseshoe, OSU survived a wild 33-29 game and didn’t secure the win until Miller successfully heaved a 40-yard strike on the run to <strong>Devin Smith</strong> in 2011. Each player was a freshman.<br /> <br /> Poll voters, of course, like points, and there has been a bevy of them of late. Four ranked teams including OSU scored 70 or more points last week for the first time ever. Offenses are more spread out and some have reached record levels of success.<br /> <br /> But are they more dominant than ever?<br /> <br /> “Oh, I don’t know if that’s true,” OSU head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> said recently. “There was a time in 2004 or 2005 that I felt that way. Certainly as an offensive coach that we were a little bit ahead. I don’t feel that way at all now.”<br /> <br /> Still, Meyer is fine winning with an unstoppable offense, and at times it appears the Buckeyes have been just that. Wisconsin ranks third in the nation in rushing and is pretty tough to slow down as well.<br /> <br /> <strong>An Early Homecoming –</strong> While Meyer is not jealous of the way Wisconsin attacks offensively, he is an admirer of UW middle linebacker <strong>Chris Borland</strong>, a product of Kettering, Ohio. In fact, Meyer said earlier in the week that Borland should be a Buckeye and laments that he left the state to play college ball.<br /> <br /> Borland, who is actually closer to 5-10 than his listed height of 5-11, was a star linebacker and running back at Archbishop Alter High School, but wasn’t considered a major college prospect. The only FBS school to offer was Wisconsin – and former UW coach <strong>Bret Bielema</strong> still carries around the thank-you letter Borland sent him for the opportunity.<br /> <br /> “I was just frustrated,” Borland said. “I thought I’d been performing well at all these little camps and I go to and got the same spiel from all the coaches: ‘Wait for your first three games and send us your film.’ That type of thing. I thought I was outperforming the guys that had already earned scholarships and ‘Coach B’ was the only one who ever took a chance on me, so I’m thankful for that.”<br /> <br /> First-year UW coach <strong>Gary Andersen</strong>, who took over when Bilelema left for Arkansas, also is sold on his leading tackler. He consistently refers to Borland as the best linebacker in the country.<br /> <br /> Borland missed last year’s game against Ohio State because of a hamstring injury and the Buckeyes posted a 21-14 win in overime in Madison.<br /> <br /> He’d like to get his first win over OSU in his last chance – and in his home state.<br /> <br /> “Some guys will try to downplay it, but I’m from nearby and have friends and family that go there or are fans of (Ohio State),” Borland said. “I’m excited for it. It’s simply a chance for me to play in front of a bunch of people I know. That’s always fun.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Good Buddies –</strong> Andersen, who once was a defensive line coach at Utah under Meyer, maintains that he and the OSU coach are good friends. Meyer also professed a lot of respect and admiration for Andersen.<br /> <br /> It’s much less frosty than the Meyer-Bielema relationship, which didn’t really exist.<br /> <br /> “My take is that it doesn’t have anything to do with it,” Andersen of the rivalry affecting the coaches. “Obviously, Urban’s a good friend. I consider him a good friend. Who knows, maybe he doesn’t consider me a good friend.<br /> <br /> “We’ll talk. We won’t talk this week, I can guarantee you that much. It’s about the kids, and it always will be. I’m sure he would say the exact same thing.”<br /> <br /> Andersen was kidding about them not being good friends. They have remained close since Andersen helped Utah to a perfect 12-0 record in 2004. He moved up to defensive coordinator soon after Meyer left for Florida and then Andersen became the head coach at Utah State.<br /> <br /> When asked about Andersen at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, Meyer referred to him as one of the best hires he ever made.<br /> <br /> When asked earlier this week if he missed Bielema, Urban smiled broadly and said, “I’m good with Gary. I think I’m good.”<br /> <br /> Andersen said he feels a connection with Meyer.<br /> <br /> “I think we both have an extreme passion, which is probably one of our nemeses that we both have is we’re maybe a little too passionate at times,” he said. “We both learned that through the years. We both care about kids. I would also say this, that as we move through the years of coaching, that I like to think I’m a family man, and I do my best to take care of my kids. I know that Urban is no different there. He prides himself on his family and making sure that they’re well taken care of and giving them the best opportunities to succeed.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Quick Hitters</strong><br /> <br /> * Ohio State is 36-20 in night games, defined as any that start at 5 p.m. local time or later.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes are 8-3 at home, 19-10 on the road and 9-7 on neutral sites, with three wins from 2010 vacated due to NCAA violations. Ohio State once lost seven of eight night games under <strong>Jim Tressel</strong> but has won its last four such contests.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin is 35-26 in night games, including 12-5 at Camp Randall Stadium, 18-20 on the road and 5-1 at neutral sites.<br /> <br /> * Many of the players say they prefer to play at night, Curtis Grant among the more excited.<br /> <br /> “Words can’t even explain what it’s like playing in the ‘Shoe at night,” OSU’s middle linebacker said. “The fans are crazy. That’s the main thing – the fans are crazy. And they give us a lot of energy, as we call it the juice. That feeds through everybody, and at the end of the day, it helps us play.”<br /> <br /> * Miller is expected to start at quarterback for the Buckeyes. He has been out since early in Week 2 with a sprained MCL in his left knee.<br /> <br /> Miller could play with a brace on the knee but looked mobile in practice this week according to observers and should be able to run the ball as well as throw. He has 2,068 career rushing yards and needs just 13 more to break the QB rushing record set by <strong>Cornelius Greene</strong> (2,080), the famed OSU signal caller of the mid-1970s.<br /> <br /> * The Buckeyes currently are on a 16-game winning streak, the longest in the nation. Meyer is 46-4 in games he has coached in August/September.<br /> <br /> * Ohio State has been pretty successful on money downs. The Buckeyes are converting 48.1 percent of their third-down attempts and are 83.3 percent on fourth down. Defensively, the Buckeyes are allowing opponents to convert just 22.8 percent of their third-down plays, good for fifth in the nation.<br /> <br /> * University officials have decided to move their Hall of Fame weekend from the second game of the year to the Big Ten opener, putting even more pageantry and importance on the clash with Wisconsin.<br /> <br /> The 2013 inductees to Ohio State’s Athletics Hall of Fame will be introduced during Saturday’s game. They follow: <strong>Matt Beaumont</strong> (baseball), <strong>Hugo Boisvert</strong> (men’s hockey), <strong>Dan Cheney</strong> (men’s lacrosse), <strong>John Cooper</strong> (football coach), <strong>Jim Daniell</strong> (football), <strong>Ninett Kossowsky</strong> (rowing), <strong>Melissa Miller</strong> (women’s soccer), <strong>Saskia Müeller</strong> (field hockey), <strong>Laura Murray</strong> (pistol), <strong>Scoonie Penn</strong> (men’s basketball), <strong>David Pichler</strong> (men’s diving), <strong>Monica Rincon</strong> (women’s tennis), <strong>Tommy Rowlands</strong> (wrestling) and <strong>Jim Sweeney</strong> (pistol coach).<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-27/OSU-Wisky_Pregame_Notes.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-27/OSU-Wisky_Pregame_Notes.aspx 42cb8f80-0f7b-429e-b7bc-6c315b7212ff Fri, 27 Sep 2013 13:26:50 GMT Badgers Heighten Awareness It’s time to raise the bar for the Ohio State football team.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes remained No. 4 in The Associated Press poll and No. 3 in the USA Today coaches poll after a 76-0 destruction of Florida A&amp;M but the performance still left critics wondering if Ohio State is now fully prepared for the Big Ten season ahead.<br /> <br /> OSU (4-0) scored a minimum of 40 points in preconference blowouts of Buffalo, San Diego State, Cal and overwhelmed Rattlers and did much of the damage with returning Big Ten player of the year <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> out nursing a sore knee.<br /> <br /> Most impressive was the 102-14 advantage the Buckeyes enjoyed in the first quarter of those games.<br /> <br /> “I thought our guys came out of the chute well,” head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> said at his Monday press conference. “That’s four games in a row where they have come out and played hard. That’s a sign of guys who like to play. My concern with a game like (Florida A&amp;M) is to not show up and respect the game the right way.<br /> <br /> “Our guys practiced hard and they came out and played well.”<br /> <br /> The ante has been upped this week, however, as the Buckeyes host No. 23 Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0), which is coming off a wipeout of Purdue. The Badgers lost in excruciating fashion at Arizona State a couple weeks ago but appear to be a contender once again for the Big Ten crown – something they’ve claimed the last three years.<br /> <br /> And even though coach <strong>Bret Bielema</strong> is gone and former Utah State coach and onetime Meyer assistant <strong>Gary Andersen</strong> now has controls of the program, not much is different at Wisconsin.<br /> <br /> The Badgers still pound the football on the ground with talented backs, still have wideout <strong>Jared Abbrederis</strong> at which to throw, still have a powerful offensive line, and still have a very sound defense with linebacker <strong>Chris Borland</strong> the point man.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin has represented the Big Ten in the last three Rose Bowls but lost a 21-14 decision in overtime at home to OSU last year, causing many to proclaim that Meyer is the new sheriff in town.<br /> <br /> The second-year OSU head coach doesn’t see it that way, though.<br /> <br /> “This is a big one,” Meyer said. “The Big Ten season starts. This is our goal and our focus. We have a lot of respect for Wisconsin. We will have our hands full. They have an excellent coach.<br /> <br /> “They are the king of the Big Ten right now. It’s a chance to go and compete with a team that has played in the Rose Bowl the last (three) years.”<br /> <br /> Sophomore running back <strong>Melvin Gordon</strong> was named today as the Big Ten co-offensive player of the week – OSU quarterback <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> shared the award after tossing a school-record six touchdown passes vs. FAMU – and leads the conference in rushing with 156.0 yards per game.<br /> <br /> Gordon’s quick feet and burst are an ideal complement to <strong>James White</strong>’s power, reliability and experience. White is averaging 110.5 yards per contest.<br /> <br /> As a team, UW is racking up 349.8 yards rushing per game, which ranks third nationally. Meanwhile, quarterback <strong>Joel Stave</strong> picks his spots to throw it and gets rid of the ball quickly, making it tough for defenders to thwart the controlled passing attack.<br /> <br /> Ohio State has four new starters along its defensive line and one of them, end Adolphus Washington, is trying to come back from a groin injury. <strong>Michael Bennett</strong> also was out last week with a bum shoulder but is expected to be full-go on Saturday (8 p.m. Eastern, ABC).<br /> <br /> “They have not received a challenge yet like this one,” Meyer said of his defensive line. “Cal was a tremendous challenge, but we were playing dime defense. It was all about pass rush. This may be the toughest challenge for our defensive front seven for the rest of the year.<br /> <br /> “They have two great backs. I don’t know where they keep getting these guys. They are averaging 150 (yards) each. Their run game is real. You can get embarrassed real fast if you’re not gap sound and handle your business.”<br /> <br /> Meyer added that the Badgers’ offense will present a stiff challenge to OSU’s linebackers, a group he has labeled as the most concerning. The coaches are still trying to develop depth at that spot and don’t have much read on strongside LB <strong>Josh Perry</strong> since he has been off the field the majority of the time so far with the Buckeyes in nickel defense.<br /> <br /> Ohio State will need productive evenings from weakside ’backer <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong>, who leads the team with 28 tackles, and middle man <strong>Curtis Grant</strong>, who is fourth on the squad with 18 stops.<br /> <br /> “Me and Ryan have been talking a lot and we said we have to take our games to another level,” Grant said.<br /> <br /> Of course, when the Buckeyes have the ball all eyes will be on the QB position. Guiton has been outstanding in place of Miller, but Meyer believes Miller will be ready to go and get the starting nod.<br /> <br /> He said Miller had a standout practice on Sunday and is close to 90 percent health-wise. Guiton, though, will be at the ready, and still could play in key moments.<br /> <br /> “I know Braxton, if he has a good week of practice, will start,” Meyer said. “We’ll see how practice goes this week.”<br /> <br /> “I hoped all week we could get him in there (against FAMU), even if it was just for a few series. It just wasn’t stable and would have not been right. It wasn’t just Braxton. It was myself, the strength coach and the quarterbacks coach who all got together.<br /> <br /> “A lot of things happen at the quarterback position. My idea was to get him in the game. But it was a mutual decision. It probably wasn’t in his best interest to play him.”<br /> <br /> Miller suffered a sprained MCL early in the second game vs. SDSU and has not played since.<br /> <br /> After throwing just once against Buffalo – and completing a 21-yard TD – Guiton has looked like an All-American. His season totals already are gaudy – 65 of 95 (68.4 percent) for 664 yards, 13 TDs and just two interceptions.<br /> <br /> “I am very comfortable with both quarterbacks,” Meyer said. “Braxton, like any player, will probably have some rust. That’s what I was hoping to get out of the way last week. Kenny Guiton, to me, is the guy who has shown me he can go in. I didn’t know that. Even last year against Purdue, he went in and we won the game. But I just hadn’t seen him practice enough.<br /> <br /> “I don’t believe in gamers. A practicer is what we call them. It’s about improvement. Tom Herman is a heck of a quarterback coach. It’s easy to identify that when you see the improvement he’s made.”<br /> <br /> Whoever gets under or behind center is likely to have to lead the Buckeyes in a highly competitive situation, a rarity to this point. Thanks to the quick starts, Ohio State has had a comfortable lead through the vast majority of game minutes this season.<br /> <br /> When asked if was concerned as to how his team would handle a tighter, tenser situation, Meyer said, “That’s the way we practice. I like to think our guys get prepared for those situations with the way we practice. Tuesdays, I’ve been told, are as every bit as hard or harder than game days. That’s how we do our business around here.<br /> <br /> “That is a concern, though, when you get to the fourth quarter. The Cal game, we treated that game with the offense we were facing, we were in the four-minute mode and we slowed it down. Our kids had to play the entire game that day.”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-23/Badgers_Heighten_Awareness.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-23/Badgers_Heighten_Awareness.aspx f57df8c1-50bc-4f15-9d32-d57e87784af9 Mon, 23 Sep 2013 19:29:00 GMT Lambs To The $laughter I have a confession to make: I didn’t learn a single name of a single Florida A&amp;M football player – not before, during or after Ohio State’s “game” with the awful Rattlers.<br /> <br /> I did peruse some team statistics and found out A&amp;M was 1-2 before coming to the Horseshoe and was averaging 18.0 points per game, 3.0 yards per rush, more than 10 penalties a game and less than 6 yards per pass attempt.<br /> <br /> There was no need for further investigation. Florida A&amp;M wasn’t even a decent FCS team, some of which are capable of competing for a half or more with middling FBS teams.<br /> <br /> This was not that. This was a massacre – all in the name of the almighty dollar.<br /> <br /> I’d bellow, “Who scheduled this?!” but we all know that the answer is <strong>Gene Smith</strong> and we already know why.<br /> <br /> When Vanderbilt pulled out of its 2013 season-opening date with OSU in October of last year, university officials were left scrambling to fill a void on the schedule. Of course, it had to be a home game with no promise of a return date because Ohio State has to make gobs and gobs of money on football.<br /> <br /> And when superpowers like Grambling and Southern (sarcasm intended) couldn’t fill the bill, Smith finally got a “yes” from Florida A&amp;M when he dangled a $900,000 check.<br /> <br /> A&amp;M’s athletic budget is $6 million in the red and the school had little choice but to agree to the payday – and the slaughter.<br /> <br /> By now you’re aware that Ohio State won Saturday’s “game” with A&amp;M by the score of 76-0. More embarrassing than the score was the fact that the Buckeyes garnered 34 first downs and the Rattlers countered with two. That’s right, two.<br /> <br /> Or how about the total yards figures – 603 to 80. I’ll let you guess which team had which. Here’s a hint: Ohio State nearly had as many points as the Rattlers had yards.<br /> <br /> I never learned the names of the A&amp;M players seeing this coming a mile away and as the game unfolded I didn’t want to know any of their names so I wouldn’t broadcast them to the state of Ohio via 610 WTVM (AM radio).<br /> <br /> Those kids didn’t sign up for this “game” and from what I could tell still played with effort. They should not be ridiculed, only applauded for their indentured servitude.<br /> <br /> It was good to see the customary handshakes and well wishes afterward as I want to see good sportsmanship. And I understand the No. 4 Buckeyes’ excitement with the blowout win, getting through the preconference a perfect 4-0, and the fact that several second- and third-stringers got to make some plays and contribute. All good there.<br /> <br /> Heck, a walk-on who is on the team through an academic scholarship, <strong>Kato Mitchell</strong>, even made a catch. If you read my column regularly you know I enjoy corny storylines like that.<br /> <br /> Still, as I walked over to the south end of the stadium with the team for the band’s playing of “Carmen, Ohio” I didn’t share the giddiness of the players.<br /> <br /> This “game” didn’t need to happen and didn’t serve much purpose as far as I’m concerned.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes did not score the most points in the history of the stadium – the 1950 team led by all-around superstar <strong>Vic Janowicz</strong> did that by rolling up 83 in a pummeling of Iowa. I was in the stadium as a fan when OSU waxed Utah 64-6 early in the <strong>Earle Bruce</strong> era and I was a reporter in the press box when the 1996 team opened the season unveiling a dominant defense and youngbloods such as <strong>David Boston</strong> and <strong>Michael Wiley</strong> during a 70-7 shelling of Rice and a 72-0 pasting of Pittsburgh the next time out.<br /> <br /> Those were all Division I opponents, however. <strong>John Cooper</strong> actually caught grief in 1995 when he called off the dogs against Iowa and a 56-0 halftime lead turned into a 56-35 final score. So ol’ Coop was motivated to show he had a killer instinct.<br /> <br /> Rice coach <strong>Ken Hatfield</strong> didn’t like it one bit and verbally blasted Cooper after the ’96 opener but it was hard to feel sorry for him considering the Owls were coming from a major conference background.<br /> <br /> Florida A&amp;M has some small-school tradition but is mostly known for its band, which didn’t even make the trip because of a controversial hazing incident.<br /> <br /> Why did Smith feel so compelled to chase the Rattlers? I am of the belief that when in doubt when it comes to preseason scheduling – football or basketball or even other sports, for that matter – go find an in-state opponent. At least the money stays in Ohio and fans of those programs get to see their school take on mighty State U.<br /> <br /> My old radio cohort and longtime Ohio State assistant <strong>Bill Conley</strong> probably would have obliged. He’s building up the program at Ohio Dominican just down the road and his outfit wouldn’t have done any worse than Florida A&amp;M. How could you?<br /> <br /> ODU actually plays in a pretty good conference and is about to become a Division I program. Many of its players are local products and former in-state prep standouts who weren’t quite big enough or fast enough to play in the MAC or Big Ten.<br /> <br /> Of course, Smith very likely didn’t need to be that desperate. With some maneuvering, I’m sure he could have landed a school like Miami (Ohio) or Ohio U.<br /> <br /> Kent State gave Penn State a battle into the second half on Saturday before succumbing 34-0. That may have helped prepare the Nittany Lions for the coming Big Ten. I’m not sure what the mess in the ’Shoe did for the Buckeyes.<br /> <br /> Sure, I’m happy for <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> setting another school record with six touchdown passes in the “game.” But the fact that he did that before halftime tells you this was a glorified practice against tackling dummies.<br /> <br /> Usually, I’m not a fan of Big Ten commissioner <strong>Jim Delany</strong> butting in and telling member schools how to do their business. However, I applaud Delany’s insistence that the Big Ten stop scheduling FCS opponents for football – even though his reasons also are purely money-driven.<br /> <br /> Delany knows that strength of schedule is going to be even more of a factor going forward as we near a college football playoff. The Big Ten welcomes in Maryland and Rutgers next year and will go to a nine-game conference ledger in 2016, which means league members will be even more tempted to schedule lightweights in the preconference if there is no directive to do otherwise.<br /> <br /> And, by the way, I’m not condemning Ohio State’s actions without realizing other schools are guilty of the same thing. While the Buckeyes were pounding A&amp;M into Rattler stew, No. 7 Louisville pasted Florida International 72-0 and later No. 16 Miami (Fla.) destroyed Savannah State 77-7.<br /> <br /> The Cardinals and Hurricanes probably were skipping around afterward, too, but I’m left wondering one thing: What was the point?<br /> <br /> While in Chicago for Big Ten Media Days I was encouraged to hear several coaches including <strong>Brady Hoke</strong> and <strong>Pat Fitzgerald</strong> talk about how college football has lost its way. Schools are now giving into the pressures and dictation of money and television and losing the fact that the student-athletes are the basis for the entire operation.<br /> <br /> As Hoke put it, “This is supposed to be about kids.”<br /> <br /> Amen.<br /> <br /> So I ask, what did the Ohio State-Florida A&amp;M “game” teach the Rattlers? That a school’s floundering budget is more important than their well-being?<br /> <br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-22/Lambs_To_The_laughter.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-22/Lambs_To_The_laughter.aspx fc8a19d3-6887-4e12-b35f-bf754e4d3960 Sun, 22 Sep 2013 15:38:12 GMT Thunder And Lightning, Activate <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> almost always smiles, so when his face brightens up it’s a subtle change.<br /> <br /> Sure enough, though, his grin widened a tick earlier this week when a reporter asked him what the return of fellow running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> could do for the Ohio State offense.<br /> <br /> “I think it could do a lot,” he said excitedly. “Carlos can run the ball, so it’s hard for a defense to prepare for two different types of backs and a quarterback that can run plus receivers on the edge.”<br /> <br /> There are some in Hall’s position who might not have answered so joyously. After all, with Hyde held out of the first three games of the season due to a suspension, Hall, a fifth-year senior, has been playing the best football of his career.<br /> <br /> Listed 5-8 and 197 pounds, Hall missed almost all of last season due to injury after head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> had proclaimed him as a starter, either at tailback or OSU’s hybrid position. The bulkier (6-0, 242) Hyde came through with a big junior season, racking up 970 yards on the ground and nearly becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher as a running back under Meyer.<br /> <br /> Hyde, however, found offseason trouble when he became a person of interest when a local woman alleged he had struck her in a downtown bar. The case eventually was dropped, but Meyer stood firm by handing down a three-game suspension and adding other undisclosed punishments for Hyde.<br /> <br /> In his absence – and even with backup quarterback <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> having to take over for an injured <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> – Hall has been a force at the forefront of the running game. In three contests against Buffalo, San Diego State and California, he has totaled 402 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while averaging a very healthy 6.3 yards per carry.<br /> <br /> Hall earned the start behind Miller for the opener and had a career-high single-game total of rushing yards by halftime against Buffalo. He finished with 159 yards in that game and clipped that figure at Cal with 168 yards – and three scores.<br /> <br /> Still, Hall knows others such as junior <strong>Rod Smith</strong>, sophomore <strong>Warren Ball</strong> and freshmen <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> and <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> also deserve some touches, and that Hyde is capable of taking matters to another level.<br /> <br /> When he saw Hyde in the team meeting room prior to practice on Wednesday, Hall looked his friend in the eye and said, “Let’s go.”<br /> <br /> “I’m an unselfish player and I’m just trying to win at the end of the day,” Hall said.<br /> <br /> Hyde was not listed in the two-deep for Saturday’s game with Florida A&amp;M (noon Eastern, Big Ten Network), but Meyer pledged to put him on the field.<br /> <br /> “He’s not on top of the list,” the head coach said. “That’s not fair to the other guys, but he’ll play. He’ done everything and above that I’ve asked him to do and Coach (<strong>Stan</strong>) <strong>Drayton</strong> has asked him to do. And it wasn’t easy – a lot of internal things that we haven’t made (public) because it’s really no one’s business what goes on behind the scenes.”<br /> <br /> Hyde not only was handed extra-curricular work, he also toiled on the scout team for three weeks.<br /> <br /> “He looked great,” Hall said. “He always looks good. When he was on the scout team going against the defense he was still giving them a good look.”<br /> <br /> When asked how the carries might be distributed going forward, Hall said, “I really don’t know. We’re just rotating like we usually do in practice all the time. I guess we’ll find out on Saturday.”<br /> <br /> Hall not only riddled the Cal defense with long runs and scoring plays last weekend, he also took a career-high 30 handoffs.<br /> <br /> “I really didn’t feel that sore,” he said. “I thought I had like 18 to 20. Then when I saw the stat sheet and it said 30, I was like, ‘That’s crazy.’ ”<br /> <br /> Meyer intimated that Hall will remain in a starting role and that he’s happy with the production he’s getting from the western Pennsylvania native.<br /> <br /> “Somebody told me Jordan Hall is one of the top 10 rushers in America and leading the nation in touchdowns scored,” Meyer said. “I love Jordan Hall. I’ve been under the other dilemma – who to hand it to? – and that isn’t pleasant.”<br /> <br /> Meyer, of course, also has to figure out a plan at quarterback. Miller seemed to be coming along well in his recovery from a sprained MCL in his left knee and Meyer labeled him as “probable” early in the week.<br /> <br /> However, SportsRappUp.com has learned Miller didn’t practice on Thursday and now may be questionable to play vs. the Rattlers.<br /> <br /> Gution is coming off a performance in which he amassed 368 yards of offense and led the unit to more than 600 total yards vs. the Golden Bears.<br /> <br /> <strong>FAMU Fatigue?</strong><br /> <br /> While the Ohio State offense is on a roll and adding key players to the mix, Florida A&amp;M will enter Ohio Stadium a mess on that side of the ball. The Rattlers (1-2) are averaging just 18.0 points and 228.3 yards per game – and that was against FCS competition.<br /> <br /> A&amp;M has been lousy on third down (11 of 38, 29.0 percent) and nothing close to dynamic in the passing game (just 5.8 yards per attempt) along with piling up 32 penalties for 246 yards in the dismal three-game start.<br /> <br /> Considering all that, oddsmakers have installed the Rattlers as more than a 50-point underdog. OSU fans are wondering why they should pay $79 to see the carnage in person but also are concerned the Buckeyes may not be properly motivated.<br /> <br /> “We didn’t put them on the schedule so we just have to play this game like any other game, and play to our level and not play down to theirs,” Hall said.<br /> <br /> Another Hall, senior guard <strong>Marcus Hall</strong> (no relation), said he sees no problem getting up for the game.<br /> <br /> “Honestly, it’s not,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to play in front of all our great fans in Ohio Stadium. And this being my senior year, I look at every game as being a once-in-a-lifetime deal.”<br /> <br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-20/Thunder_And_Lightning_Activate.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-20/Thunder_And_Lightning_Activate.aspx febe02dd-e0b5-4d3b-a41f-93503385a392 Fri, 20 Sep 2013 21:16:28 GMT Meyer Says Miller Nearly Ready As you might imagine, the media just couldn’t get off its fascination with the Ohio State quarterback situation – both the emergence of backup <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> and the relative health of starter <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> – when head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> and a few players were availed to them Wednesday after practice.<br /> <br /> To the No. 4 Buckeyes (3-0), however, it’s old hat.<br /> <br /> “It’s kind of just an everyday thing for us, because we’ve known for a long time that Kenny Guiton is very capable,” left tackle and co-captain <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> said. “It’s a luxury. Sometimes I think we take it for granted but we really have two starting quarterbacks.”<br /> <br /> However, only one can be on the field at a time – at least until the coaches find a way to play them both – and it appears Miller will handle the majority of the QB work on Saturday against Florida A&amp;M (noon Eastern, Big Ten Network).<br /> <br /> As for his readiness, Miller continues to try to recover from a sprained MCL he suffered in his left knee early in the game with San Diego State on Sept. 7. He missed last week’s game against California but it was Guiton to the rescue again.<br /> <br /> Guiton amassed 368 total yards in a the 52-34 victory at Cal, causing some to wonder if Miller would even play against the undermanned Rattlers (1-2) of the FCS world.<br /> <br /> Meyer contends that Miller will.<br /> <br /> “No. 5 (Miller) practiced today,” the coach said Wednesday. “He is still not full speed, but he did practice today. I think he will be ready in a somewhat limited role. That’s what I am counting on right now. Tomorrow is obviously another big day.”<br /> <br /> Meyer then was asked if he was concerned with Miller becoming rusty with the all-important Big Ten opener with Wisconsin next Saturday (Sept. 28) at Ohio Stadium.<br /> <br /> “It is concerning,” he said. “I know he is experienced, but he is certainly not a finished product yet. It’s important to get as many reps as he can get. The good thing is there is confidence in No. 13 (Guiton).<br /> <br /> “Our number one objective is to win this game. Number two is to make sure everything is ready to go as we enter Big Ten play.”<br /> <br /> Mewhort also believes Miller, the reigning Big Ten player of the year, is on track to return.<br /> <br /> “I am not with those guys, the quarterbacks, during all of their individual work and everything, but he has gotten some reps with the team,” Mewhort said. “That’s good to see. I think he is coming along nicely with his knee. I don’t know what his status is and I can’t comment on that. But he’s been getting his work done, especially his mental reps. We trust that he’s been handling his business.<br /> <br /> “One of his greatest assets are his legs and there is no reason to really push it early in the week. If he can play on Saturday, he will. I know he wants to be out there with us.”<br /> <br /> Either way, the Buckeyes are confident in who will be taking snaps on Saturday.<br /> <br /> “Both quarterbacks suit the offensive system, which is actually convenient,” right guard <strong>Marcus Hall</strong> said. “We don’t have to switch up the way we play.”<br /> <br /> Guiton completed 21 of 32 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns against the Golden Bears along with adding 92 yards on the ground. His four TD tosses tie the career-high mark Miller set last year, also vs. Cal.<br /> <br /> <strong>More Meyer</strong><br /> <br /> * Meyer also intimated that <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> will remain the starter at running back this week but that <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong>, who has served his three-game suspension, will play and be part of the attack.<br /> <br /> “(Hyde) is not on top of the list,” Meyer said. “That’s not fair to the other guys. But he will play on Saturday. He’s done everything and above that I asked him to do and Coach (<strong>Stan</strong>) <strong>Drayton</strong> asked him to do and it wasn’t easy. There were a lot of internal things that we haven’t made (public) because it’s really nobody’s business what goes on behind the scenes. He’s done above and beyond what we asked him to do.”<br /> <br /> When asked what the Buckeyes have missed with Hyde out, Meyer said, “Power, I think power. I think breaking tackles and a very good running back.”<br /> <br /> * Meyer was asked for a scouting report on Florida A&amp;M.<br /> <br /> “I think they are a good team,” he said. “They will throw it down the field. They have a very good quarterback and athletic wide receivers. Defensively, they are 100-percent blitz. On every snap they’re blitzing.<br /> <br /> “We have to show up and play hard or we’ll look silly. When you face teams that blitz all the time, that’s the last thing people want to see in our stadium is people in our backfield. You look silly if you don’t prepare for it.”<br /> <br /> * Meyer said despite public sentiment that this will not be a competitive game – oddsmakers show OSU is favored by more than 50 points – the Buckeyes will be properly motivated.<br /> <br /> “We were ready to (fight complacency),” Meyer said. “But we were bowed up and ready to go to work on Tuesday. Our coaches, I told them to be really pissed Tuesday. They take on our personality. But we had two good days.”<br /> <br /> * Meyer said defensive end <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong> (groin) will sit for the second consecutive week but should be “probable” for the Wisconsin game. Freshman <strong>Joey Bosa</strong> played in Washington’s place last week and earned rave reviews for his performance against the Bears.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-19/Meyer_Says_Miller_Nearly_Ready.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-19/Meyer_Says_Miller_Nearly_Ready.aspx 5dd6b6d9-2318-4605-adbf-db5d75036918 Thu, 19 Sep 2013 14:29:34 GMT The Braxton & Carlos Show? After watching his backup quarterback, <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong>, shred the Cal Bears this past Saturday night in Berkeley, Ohio State head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> was so impressed he said it would be hard to take Guiton out of the lineup.<br /> <br /> However, those looking for a QB controversy didn’t get it Monday. Meyer said the aim is still to get normal starter <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> healthy and get him on the field.<br /> <br /> Miller has a knee sprain that is hindering his mobility and ability to cut on a dime, which is a signature move of his. If the knee can continue to improve, however, Meyer wants to get a lot of use out of his junior signal caller against Florida A&amp;M on Saturday (noon Eastern, Big Ten Network).<br /> <br /> “Braxton … we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Meyer said. “If he’s ready, he’ll play this week.”<br /> <br /> Meyer said Miller’s injury is not severe and listed him as probably for this week. He added that Guiton, a fifth-year senior and co-captain, also could get some quality minutes vs. the Rattlers – if there is such a thing for a team that will enter town as a 50-plus-point underdog.<br /> <br /> “Kenny Guiton’s earned some time,” Meyer said. “He’s done a nice job. If he’s one of the best 11 (players), then the obligation is to get him on the field.”<br /> <br /> Meyer didn’t even discount the idea of playing Guiton with Miller for a play or two at some point – an idea that once was presented humorously but now seems at least remotely possible.<br /> <br /> Guiton was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation national offensive player of the week and the Big Ten offensive player of the week after completing 21 of 32 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns in a 52-34 win over the Golden Bears. He also rushed for 92 yards and set an all-time school mark with a 90-yard TD pass to <strong>Devin Smith</strong>.<br /> <br /> Meyer said after the game that he was surprised with how well Guiton threw the ball. However, he’s long extolled the virtues of Guiton as a distributor, leader and quality person off the field.<br /> <br /> “If you’re going to buy stock in anybody, buy stock in Kenny Guiton,” Meyer said. “Because what he’s going to do after football some day … it’s going to be really neat.”<br /> <br /> The No. 4 Buckeyes (3-0) hold the nation’s longest winning streak at 15, which, of course, dates to the beginning of Meyer’s tenure. This season, however, has had a few interesting twists and turns on the offensive side of the ball.<br /> <br /> Wideout <strong>Evan Spencer</strong> had an outstanding offseason, which seemed to push Smith and leading receiver <strong>Philly Brown</strong>. Freshman running back <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> was so dazzling early in camp that Meyer promised he’d be on the field.<br /> <br /> <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong>’s three-game suspension, as well as <strong>Rod Smith</strong> being suspended for the opener, finally enabled a healthy <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> to take over the top chores at running back. And Miller’s injury, suffered in the opening minutes of Week 2 against San Diego State, has allowed Guiton, once a last-second addition to OSU’s recruiting class, to show his wares with the first team.<br /> <br /> Hall is coming off a strong performance in his own right – a career-high 30 carries for 168 yards and three TDs – and figures to keep getting the ball pressed into his stomach. Hyde, though, is coming off a 970-yard rushing season and is now eligible to join the backfield.<br /> <br /> “As of right now, he’s back,” Meyer said of Hyde. “He’s done a really good job, has had a very good attitude, taken care of business, and we are anxious to get him back.”<br /> <br /> However, Meyer admitted he was not sure how Hyde would fit into the offensive game plan.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about that. It’s a good issue to have. Jordan Hall has certainly earned the right to touch the ball – in a big way.”<br /> <br /> Even in a game in which the Buckeyes rolled up 608 yards of total offense and Guiton moved the ball around to various spots on the field, there’s still only one ball. <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> did not appear in the OSU backfield, Spencer had just one catch for 2 yards, and tight ends <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong> and <strong>Nick Vannett</strong>, despite a banner day blocking on the perimeter, combined for just one catch for 8 yards.<br /> <br /> “They were very efficient in their blocking,” position coach <strong>Tim Hinton</strong> said. “They were very fundamental. They did a great job of attacking (California’s) defense.<br /> <br /> “The catches weren’t there, but I don’t know if Jeff Heuerman could have been happier. He was unbelievably happy after the game because he blocked the perimeter like a champion.”<br /> <br /> The outlook for the Ohio State defense isn’t quite as rosy. The Buckeyes allowed 503 yards and, according to Meyer, missed 16 tackles.<br /> <br /> “I feel like we did better as a defense, but we have to try to get those missed tackles to a single digit number,” linebacker <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> said. “We ended up having 16 but a lot of those missed tackles were just guys taking shots and knowing they have other guys coming back, other bullets having their back.”<br /> <br /> The unit was missing starting end <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong> with a sore groin but freshman <strong>Joey Bosa</strong> played well enough in his place for the coaches to name him defensive player of the game. Shazier had 11 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, all in the first half, helping the Buckeyes post an early 21-0 lead.<br /> <br /> The secondary got crossed up on assignments at times but held up decently well, “holding” freshman Cal quarterback <strong>Jared Goff</strong> to 371 yards passing, which, believe it or not, is a season-low total.<br /> <br /> Defensive line coach <strong>Mike Vrabel</strong>, a longtime NFL performer, said the Buckeyes better get used to seeing high-octane, wide-open offenses.<br /> <br /> “Everybody is going to force you to tackle in space,” Vrabel said. “That’s what happens in the National Football League. It happens in college. Teams are going to force you to tackle in space.<br /> <br /> “We talk about trying to keep teams under, having less than 10 missed tackles in a game. The yards after those missed tackles is kind of what kills you.”<br /> <br /> Cal had 28 first downs to Ohio State’s 27.<br /> <br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-17/The_Braxton_Carlos_Show.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-17/The_Braxton_Carlos_Show.aspx 0e5075c1-71d2-4c38-ab19-1f2af6d70ab2 Tue, 17 Sep 2013 14:16:04 GMT Rapp Around: What Now? In my column offering reasons for slight concern for Ohio State fans as the Buckeyes were about to face Cal in the first road game of the season, I warned that <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> has never before played on this kind of stage.<br /> <br /> OK, we can go ahead and check that one off now.<br /> <br /> It was a mystery going into Saturday night as to whom would get the nod at quarterback for the No. 4 Buckeyes – that is until regular starter <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> came out in street clothes – and minutes into the game with Pac-12 combatant California it was even more clear that Guiton was more than up to the assignment.<br /> <br /> A fifth-year senior who has toiled under three head coaches and multiple offensive coordinators, Guiton quickly is becoming THE story of the 2013 Ohio State football season. And after he tossed three touchdowns six minutes into the game and racked up 276 yards and four scores in a 52-34 victory, Guiton compelled me to say something else judgmental about him.<br /> <br /> After the Buckeyes (3-0) had blown open a 52-27 lead over Cal (1-2) through three quarters with Guiton at the controls, I dared to suggest the OSU coaches might have to now consider keeping him there. As I did so on 610 WTVN’s “In-Game Show,” I remember saying, “I can’t believe this is coming out of my mouth on live radio.”<br /> <br /> After all, I pride myself on being a voice of reason and processed information. And just days earlier I was noting that this is still Miller’s offense and that the junior was OSU’s franchise player.<br /> <br /> I love the Guiton story and I’m a fan of the kid, but let’s not get crazy, I said all week after he took over against San Diego State and looked so comfortable he could have played with a neck pillow.<br /> <br /> The follow-up, though, was stunning.<br /> <br /> Guiton managing the offense and guiding it through to victory against a bad defense would have been one thing, even expected. But the faith <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> and offensive coordinator/position coach <strong>Tom Herman</strong> showed in Guiton and Guiton’s near flawless execution and leadership of the unit was borderline amazing.<br /> <br /> With Ohio State pinned on its own 10-yard line on its first possession, Guiton went up top and hit a streaking <strong>Devin Smith</strong> in stride for a catch-and-run of 90 yards – the longest pass play in 119 years of Buckeye football.<br /> <br /> Moments later, after <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> had asserted himself, Guiton dialed up Smith again, this time for a 47-yard scoring pass that split defenders in the back of the end zone.<br /> <br /> After the Buckeyes got the ball back and a drive stalled at 1, the coaches allowed Guiton to roll out on fourth down and watched as the seldom-used senior threw a perfect strike to <strong>Chris Fields</strong> for a third TD. That play was reminiscent of the pair’s must-have touchdown in the comeback win over Purdue last year – only to the other side of the end zone.<br /> <br /> In the second half, Guiton was as calm and controlled as ever and threw another TD, this time a perfectly lobbed fade from 6 yards out to <strong>Philly Brown</strong>. It was as if you could hear Herman and Meyer on the headset.<br /> <br /> <strong>Meyer:</strong> “What do we do here?”<br /> <br /> <strong>Herman:</strong> “Let’s see if Kenny can throw the fade. He should have one-on-one on the outside.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Meyer:</strong> “Fine. Call it.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Herman:</strong> “What did you think of that, Coach?”<br /> <br /> <strong>Meyer:</strong> “I think I like this offense with the Old Righthander out there, that’s what I think.”<br /> <br /> Knowing the offensive line could blow open holes whenever it needed to and that <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> (30 carries, 168 yards, three TDs) was on top of his game, Herman went with an aggressive game plan that called for Guiton to make all the throws and lots of decisions.<br /> <br /> The QB deserves soaring marks in all areas after his first career start except a couple shaky moments of ball handling on read-option plays.<br /> <br /> He also deserves consideration to keep playing. How do you just put this guy back in cobwebs after this? That would seem like a cruel punishment for Miller, who just a couple weeks ago was considered a Heisman Trophy front-runner. After all, Miller the game plan was vanilla for Miller in the Week 1 win over Buffalo, and the starter got hurt early against SDSU and watched with a headset on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.<br /> <br /> However, Guiton has something cooking and also has been instrumental in OSU’s 15-game winning streak, which leads the nation.<br /> <br /> So I made my comments without realizing they were going to travel from my brain to my lips. The hosts of the “In-Game Show” then let analysts <strong>Earle Bruce</strong> and <strong>Stan Jackson</strong> know what I said since Jackson in particular had taken them to task for suggesting Guiton maybe deserved to be the quarterback going forward.<br /> <br /> Just when I thought maybe I was getting caught up in the delirium, Meyer basically confirmed what I had said, that Guiton was playing too well to just assume he would go back on the shelf and that he probably deserved to at least play a series or two when Miller’s sprained MCL in his knee is totally recovered.<br /> <br /> Guiton looked like the Big Ten offensive player of the year, an award Miller won last season, while completing 21 of 32 passes and adding 92 yards rushing to lead the Buckeyes.<br /> <br /> “He’s a very good distributor,” Meyer said. “He gets the ball to the right people at the right time. What I was more impressed with with him were the downfield throws. Those were right on the dot, a few of them, and Devin Smith made some excellent catches.”<br /> <br /> With both teams running no-huddle offenses for much of the game, the defenses were scrambling as the teams combined for 86 points, 11 touchdowns and 1,111 total yards on 177 plays. It was a fun, backyard-like game and Guiton thrived in it.<br /> <br /> So did Cal freshman QB <strong>Jared Goff</strong>, who came into the game leading the nation in passing yards with 935 in two games. Goff completed more than 30 passes for the third straight week as he was 31 for 53 for 371 yards with three touchdowns.<br /> <br /> Even with the OSU defense shutting down the running game and back <strong>Brendan Bigelow</strong>, who burned the Buckeyes for 160 yards and two touchdowns on four carries last year, Ohio State found itself in a shootout.<br /> <br /> That doesn’t figure to happen every week, but might be enough to make Meyer rethink his QB situation. To go undefeated again this year the Buckeyes are going to need leadership, accuracy, the threat of the scramble and outstanding decision making from his quarterback. Miller is capable of doing all those things at a high level and was the man pegged for the job, but Guiton is doing it now.<br /> <br /> Guiton had thrown just 26 career passes before stepping in during the first quarter last week against San Diego State when Miller was injured. Since then the co-captain – that’s right, a backup QB was voted co-captain – has been in total command of the offense.<br /> <br /> Cal kept coming, kept hurrying, kept flinging the ball and kept trying every trick play in the book, even sustain one drive <br /> <br /> On fourth-and-8 late in the half, Cal coach <strong>Sonny Dykes</strong> fooled everyone when he sent the punting unit out and had Goff, who wears the same No. 16 as punter <strong>Cole Leininger</strong>, fire a pass out of the formation. Goff threw a perfect 11-yard dart to <strong>Stefan McClure</strong> that actually traveled 25 yards and set up a 43-yard field goal on the last play of the half.<br /> <br /> Despite the offensive show, the Buckeyes led just 31-20 at the break and their had to be at least a smidgen of concern that Guiton would try to hard to counter the Golden Bears and make a costly mistake.<br /> <br /> He never really did – although he did commit a fumble – and only looked more poised and more confident as the second half unfolded.<br /> <br /> It doesn’t matter who plays quarterback next Saturday against Florida A&amp;M (noon Eastern, Big Ten Network). The Buckeyes, who remain No. 4 in the Associated Press poll, will be heavily favored and no doubt will overwhelm FAMU at home.<br /> <br /> But on the horizon after that are night games with ranked Big Ten teams Wisconsin and Northwestern and important home tilts with Iowa and Penn State. The Buckeyes can’t afford to slip up in that stretch.<br /> <br /> There’s still every logical reason to believe Miller will get his job back by then and perform at a high rate. But will Guiton fall to the wayside.<br /> <br /> So far he’s completed 41 of 61 passes for 449 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception. Guiton also has been sacked just once and actually showed good patience in the frenetic game with Cal by throwing the ball away on early downs was nothing had developed.<br /> <br /> It’s been just enough to make Meyer at least ponder what to do – and make normally even-minded analysts start a “Guiton For Heisman” campaign.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-15/Rapp_Around_What_Now.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-15/Rapp_Around_What_Now.aspx 006ca65d-8011-402c-8642-8c39a28610d6 Sun, 15 Sep 2013 19:32:30 GMT OSU-Cal: 5 Reasons For Concern I find it interesting that the only concern Ohio State fans seem to have with Saturday’s matchup with Cal (7 p.m. Eastern, FOX) is whether or not starting quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> will play.<br /> <br /> And even that doesn’t incite anything beyond a ripple of fear after backup QB and team co-captain <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> added to his likeability and reputation with an impressive showing in the 42-7 win over San Diego State.<br /> <br /> Another West Coast team, another light touch defensively, another ho-hum win – seems to be the general consensus.<br /> <br /> Granted, Ohio State (2-0) is the nation’s No. 4 outfit according to the Associated Press poll and is heavily favored to keep the Golden Bears (1-1) in the also-ran category.<br /> <br /> Cal’s quarterback, <strong>Jared Goff</strong>, is leading the nation in passing yards with 930 but that is partly attributable to the Bears’ frenetic attack – they are averaging more than 100 plays per game – under new coach <strong>Sonny Dykes</strong>. Plus, the Bears had to keep throwing last week just to clip Portland State – Portland State, people! – to the tune of 37-30 last week.<br /> <br /> Ohio State clearly is the superior team and wins every player-by-player comparison, not to mention Urban Meyer’s resume when matched against that of Dykes, who arrived with a mark of 23-16 in three somewhat gimmicky years at Louisiana Tech.<br /> <br /> However, there are still a few reasons to be a tad apprehensive. Let me explain.<br /> <br /> <strong>First Roadie –</strong> Ohio State hasn’t exactly been stellar in the initial road game of the season. In fact, the Buckeyes are just 9-6 in such tests over the last 15 years. That spans four head coaches – <strong>John Cooper</strong>, <strong>Jim Tressel</strong>, <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> and Meyer.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes had a tough one to navigate in 2008 by facing mighty USC and that didn’t go very well at all (try 35-3). There were other miseries like the <strong>Joe Bauserman</strong> failed experiment at Miami (Fla.) a couple years ago.<br /> <br /> Clearly, this team is more together than those but it will still deal with a few disadvantages of being the visitor. There was a matter of a cross-country flight as well as the Buckeyes having to wait around all day in a hotel.<br /> <br /> After adjusting to a time change and playing as the hated intruder, the Buckeyes will leave straight from Memorial Stadium and get home around 5 a.m. Columbus time – and that’s if all goes well with the flight.<br /> <br /> <strong>Not Sisters Of The Poor –</strong> The Bears are coming off a 3-9 season that cost <strong>Jeff Tedford</strong> his job and have been underwhelming in the early going this season, but their players are still used to these kinds of games, and that makes them somewhat dangerous.<br /> <br /> This is a Pac-12 outfit – and not the dregs of the league either. It’s also a program that has turned out a lot of NFL players in the last decade or so. Think Illinois, not Indiana or Purdue.<br /> <br /> The Pac-12 played a full round-robin schedule when it was the Pac-10 and still plays a nine-game league schedule. Cal plays the likes of Oregon, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Arizona and Washington every year. In fact, the Bears play all those teams this year.<br /> <br /> So, yes, the Bears are overmatched on paper, but they are not going to be quaking in their boots.<br /> <br /> And there is tradition within the program. In fact, OSU and Cal have met in a pair of Rose Bowls, splitting those games.<br /> <br /> <strong>Unknown Factor –</strong> Again, Cal has looked pretty mediocre and flawed to this point, but there is still concern with facing such a dangerous, fast-paced team.<br /> <br /> Dykes and staff are new to the major college scene and capable of mischief. Ohio State co-defensive coordinator <strong>Everett Withers</strong> said he’s been scoring Louisiana Tech tape this week looking for tendencies.<br /> <br /> The Bears may be utilizing a freshman quarterback but they’ve let his arm fly and are capable of chucking one to test the OSU secondary in any down-and-distance situation.<br /> <br /> The other unknown is how well a young and not very deep Ohio State defense will hold up to the frantic pace of the game. It’s doubtful <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong> (groin) will play, which takes away one of the Buckeyes’ top pass rushers and puts more onus on reserves <strong>Steve Miller</strong> and <strong>Jamal Marcus</strong>, who don’t have much big-game experience on which to draw.<br /> <br /> <strong>Tackling Air? –</strong> That leads to another concern, and that is tackling in open spaces.<br /> <br /> Yes, the Buckeyes addressed this problem early last year and appeared to rectify it and, yes, this is a Cal team with a lot of different personnel at the skill spots. However, the results from last year can’t be overlooked.<br /> <br /> In a squeak-by 35-28 home win over the Golden Bears on Sept. 15 of last year, the Buckeyes allowed their visitors to rack up 22 first downs, a plethora of big plays and 512 yards of total offense. <strong>Keean Allen</strong> caught nine balls for 80 yards and running back <strong>Brendan Bigelow</strong> had 160 yards rushing on, get this, four carries.<br /> <br /> Cal also possessed the ball for 35:10 and ran 79 offensive plays in that game.<br /> <br /> That can’t happen again – and that means Ohio State’s back seven has to tighten it up.<br /> <br /> <strong>Brax Attacks? –</strong> As for the quarterback situation, it’s not an absolute given to me that whoever plays under center for the Buckeyes will dominate the day. Miller at 75 or 80 percent should still be enough to get the W but would mean dynamic plays would have to be left on the table.<br /> <br /> And there’s a reason why Guiton is a backup, even though he deserves the moniker of supersub. He has a knack for moving the ball and making those around him believe he can do the job, and for the most part he’s a perfectly capable dual-theat QB.<br /> <br /> However, Guiton trying to thread passes into tight areas isn’t necessarily a path to victory. Last week, he’s fortunate one of his aerials wasn’t picked and returned a good distance. He can deliver the ball with touch and accuracy but arm strength is not his forte.<br /> <br /> And let’s face it, Guiton has not been on this kind of stage before – on the road, at night against a BCS conference team. If he’s out there the coaches will want to establish the run to take pressure off of him, and that could take a quarter or two.<br /> <br /> <strong>The Flip Side</strong><br /> <br /> Now, before you think I’m predicting gloom and doom here, let me be clear: Ohio State should have every opportunity to win this football game and likely will garner control at some point.<br /> <br /> It just might take a little longer than you think.<br /> <br /> The thought of the Bears playing fast and furious before a rabid home crowd is a bit scary, but don’t forget that all of that pinball wizardry assumes one very key element – execution. Goff is going to have to find the right targets at the right time. <br /> <br /> And while the defensive linemen no doubt dread running around to line up and playing scattered, the secondary welcomes the challenge. The Buckeyes are very comfortable going with their dime package and believe they can tackle and make plays from it.<br /> <br /> When a reporter asked <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> about the possibility of facing 100 plays, he smiled and said, “I hope so.”<br /> <br /> Goff threw four picks against a decent Northwestern secondary in Week 1. The Ohio State DBs would love to have a shot to match or surpass that number.<br /> <br /> On offense, the Buckeyes will need to be smart and composed and not try to match Cal in the hurry-up department. Big plays will come eventually – I can see <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> in the clear in the very near future – but OSU also can control tempo with the running game and its possession receivers, especially <strong>Philly Brown</strong>.<br /> <br /> This should be a successful road trip – just don’t count on it being a laugher.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-14/OSU-Cal_5_Reasons_For_Concern.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-14/OSU-Cal_5_Reasons_For_Concern.aspx c451ea11-7fbd-4e8a-b453-4f8f02e30530 Sat, 14 Sep 2013 15:06:17 GMT Braxton Appears Questionable Ohio State’s primetime date with Cal is beckoning.<br /> <br /> The two teams will play under the lights Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley (7 p.m. Eastern, FOX) in what will be the first road test for the No. 4 Buckeyes (2-0) and a major upset chance for the struggling Golden Bears (1-1).<br /> <br /> Several questions remain unanswered until game time but the biggest one is whether or not OSU star quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> will be ready to go.<br /> <br /> Miller, who entered his junior season as a prime candidate for the 2013 Heisman Trophy, barely played in last week’s 42-7 win over San Diego State after suffering a sprained MCL in his left knee in the early going. Backup <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> further endeared himself to Buckeyes fans as well as his coaches and teammates by leading the offense to success in Miller’s absence.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> confirmed the injury after the game but remained hopeful then and again on Monday that his starting QB would be available for Week 3. During a Tuesday teleconference the coach indicated Miller was working to play with a knee brace and said he was “fairly optimistic” No. 5 would be back on the field.<br /> <br /> During his post-practice address on Wednesday, however, Meyer indicated that Miller’s playing status could best be labeled as questionable.<br /> <br /> “Braxton got a little bit of work on the field and then went back in and did a bunch of rehab,” Meyer said. “So, we’ll know more tomorrow. He’s going on the trip and tomorrow is going to be the day when we’re going to find out how much he’ll play.<br /> <br /> “It’s an MCL and it’s a little unstable and he’s getting used to that brace and playing with a brace.”<br /> <br /> Meyer admitted he’s concerned the Buckeyes are several days into their preparations and still uncertain about Miller’s status.<br /> <br /> “But the good news is (Miller and Guiton) are similar players, so you don’t have to change much,” the coach said. “It’s not like there’s a whole different game plan. Now, ‘Plan C’ is a concern. Kenny is ‘Plan B’ but ‘Plan C’ is a concern because of what we would ask those guys to do. Right now it’s <strong>Cardale Jones</strong> (over <strong>J.T. Barrett</strong>).”<br /> <br /> When asked if it appears possible Guiton could get the start even if Miller is able to play a bit hampered, Meyer said, “Yeah, that’s a possibility. Haven’t decided yet.”<br /> <br /> Guiton has taken a lot of reps with the first team in practice and those involved believe he would be well equipped to lead Ohio State at Cal if necessary.<br /> <br /> “He’s a distributor,” Meyer said. “He’s a manager. He looks pretty good.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Quick Hitters</strong><br /> <br /> * Meanwhile, another starter could be out on the opposite side of the ball.<br /> <br /> Defensive end <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong>, who, like Miller, played only a handful of plays vs. SDSU before departing, isn’t ready to go just yet.<br /> <br /> Meyer said Wednesday that Washington, who is nursing a nagging groin injury, is iffy at this point.<br /> <br /> “He didn’t practice today,” Meyer said. “We’re going to try and get something out of him tomorrow. As of now, we’re taking him on the trip, but we’ll know tomorrow.”<br /> <br /> * Meyer also shed some light on the playing status of sophomores <strong>Bri’onte Dunn</strong> and <strong>Michael Thomas</strong>. Both of those skill players figured in the plans as of the spring but are yet to take the field two games into the season.<br /> <br /> “Bri’onte is battling every day,” Meyer said of the running back from Canton, Ohio. “I love him. He’s a great kid. He’s got to learn the offense a little better and he’s just got to go. I don’t want to … I’m very cautious about wasting years. If we wasted a year with him last year … you know, he only got a few carries and didn’t play very much. So, I’m very cautious about wasting years.<br /> <br /> “Mike Thomas falls in that category as well, because they both have redshirt years available. We don’t want to redshirt, but we also don’t want to waste a year. They are two guys who I think are very talented players.”<br /> <br /> * Similarly, highly touted freshman <strong>Jalin Marshall</strong> has yet to see time at wide receiver, like Thomas. Marshall had a concussion issue heading into the opener.<br /> <br /> Freshman linebacker <strong>Mike Mitchell</strong> was listed in the two-deep at the beginning of the season but hasn’t cracked the lineup yet.<br /> <br /> “Well, they’re still practicing to play,” Meyer said. “They’ve got to get on kicking game first. So, anything can happen; it’s a long journey. But as of now, they haven’t played a snap.<br /> <br /> * Meyer said the team’s cautious approach with center <strong>Corey Linsley</strong> could pay off this week as the senior is expected to play full-go vs. Cal. If Linsley’s surgically repaired foot needs a rest, the coaches again will turn to sophomore <strong>Jacoby Boren</strong>.<br /> <br /> * Running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> will be held out of action and not make the trip as he serves the third and final game of his suspension stemming from an off-field issue in the summer. Hyde has been working on the scout team this week.<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-12/Braxton_Appears_Questionable.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-12/Braxton_Appears_Questionable.aspx ccecee4b-3aac-41fa-b18c-f518b88988f9 Thu, 12 Sep 2013 06:37:19 GMT Secondary Intact Just In Time Let’s start with the obvious: The Ohio State coaches and players are feeling much better about the pass defense now that <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> is back in the fold.<br /> <br /> The redshirt junior not only is one of the best cover corners in the country and already on the Thorpe Award watch list, he’s also monumentally important to the Buckeyes” pursuit of a Big Ten title and shot at a national championship.<br /> <br /> “It’s great to have him back out there, that’s for sure,” defensive end <strong>Michael Bennett</strong> said following OSU’s 42-7 win over San Diego State on Saturday.<br /> <br /> And staying on the no-duh theme, the Buckeyes also were pleased to see senior co-captain <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> back at free safety.<br /> <br /> Barnett was held out of the season opener, a 40-20 win over Buffalo on Aug. 31, because of an ankle injury, but looked to be in midseason form against the Aztecs.<br /> <br /> “I thought he played fairly well today,” safeties coach <strong>Everett Withers</strong> told SportsRappUp.com after the game. “I thought he did some really nice things.”<br /> <br /> Barnett ended up leading the Buckeyes in tackles with seven – and he may be even more involved this Saturday at Cal (7 p.m. Eastern, FOX) against the pass-happy Golden Bears.<br /> <br /> Cal quarterback <strong>Jared Goff</strong> leads the nation in passing after two weeks with 930 yards and has completed 62.3 percent of his passes to go along with four scoring tosses. He drops back in a hurry and fires strikes with regularity.<br /> <br /> The Bears are built to loge 90-plus plays a game and go every bit as fast as the show the Philadelphia Eagles just displayed in the first half of their “Monday Night Football” opener.<br /> <br /> Which leads us back to the Ohio State defense and, in particular, the secondary.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> praised his young defensive front Monday and especially likes their relentless effort. That will get tested severely, though, on the West Coast.<br /> <br /> “That’s really tiring when you can’t bring in subs, so you’ve got to go with the 11 players on the field for however many plays just flying, and especially those quick passes wear you out,” Bennett said.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes don’t yet know if sophomore end Adolphus Washington will be back and fully recovered from a groin injury that sidelined him for much of the SDSU game. Second-teamers <strong>Steve Miller</strong>, <strong>Jamal Marcus</strong>, <strong>Joey Bosa</strong>, <strong>Michael Hill</strong> and <strong>Chris Carter</strong> all could see action if the coaches find a way to shuttle them into the lineup.<br /> <br /> <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> and <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> will anchor matters at linebacker, although even one of them could be out quite a bit as Withers hinted OSU will use a dime package. Ideally, nickel <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong> will get help from <strong>Corey Brown</strong>, although it’s possible freshman <strong>Vonn Bell </strong>also could be in the mix.<br /> <br /> The real onus, though, will fall on the four most prominent defensive backs – corners Roby and <strong>Doran Grant</strong> and safeties Barnett and <strong>Christian Bryant</strong>. That veteran group came into the season with major confidence and high goals.<br /> <br /> “We feel that we can be the best secondary in the country and that’s something that is very possible for us,” Bryant said during preseason camp. “We’re very deep and this is probably the fastest we’ve been on defense since I’ve been here.”<br /> <br /> Added Barnett, “We want to be the best but that’s for you all to decide. We already think we’re the best. We still have to play and do it. The big thing is we’ve got to capitalize on all our opportunities. Last year we had too many missed plays that we left on the field.”<br /> <br /> Opportunity certainly will knock on Saturday with all the pigskins being slung around at Memorial Stadium. And when in doubt, the Buckeyes will be aggressive.<br /> <br /> Meyer lamented not being able to use a full-throttle approach on defense in the opener with Roby and Barnett out and Shazier dealing with cramps. For the majority of the game, Bryant was the only returning starter on defense vs. Buffalo.<br /> <br /> That’s why Roby’s presence is so important.<br /> <br /> <strong>No. 1 In Your Program …</strong><br /> <br /> A 5-11, 192-pounder, Roby is fierce and willing to jump routes and take chances with an eye on making plays.<br /> <br /> Meyer suspended Roby for the opener due to an offseason incident in which he originally was charged with battery but the state of Indiana eventually reduced and then dropped the charge. <strong>Armani Reeves</strong> started in place of Roby and struggled against the Bulls.<br /> <br /> Just to send another message, the coaches also did not start Roby vs. SDSU. However, he entered on the third play of the game and never looked back. His sticky coverage and aggression helped set an immediate tone and the Aztecs couldn’t find any rhythm in the passing game until it was too late.<br /> <br /> Meyer said the plan was for more press coverage in the coming weeks, which coincided with the games with San Diego State and Cal, two teams who are employing a high-percentage of pass plays.<br /> <br /> Prior to Roby’s return, the coaches made it clear they still believed in him as a difference-maker.<br /> <br /> “I’ve always had a great relationship with the kid,” cornerbacks coach <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong> said. “He’s been awesome from the minute that I’ve walked onto this campus. He studies the game and he does those kinds of things.<br /> <br /> “He screwed up, he’s wrong, and he knows it. And he’s been paid a tremendous price. But he works like a professional every day and he takes care of his business because he wants to be as good as anybody in the country.”<br /> <br /> Meyer also displayed affection despite his disappointment with Roby’s decision to use disruptive behavior in a Bloomington bar during the summer.<br /> <br /> “I have a lot of respect for (Roby),” Meyer said. “He made a decision to come back – I don’t know if he even announced why – it’s because he came in with a group of players and he wanted to finish, which I think is very admirable.”<br /> <br /> Meyer also understands that Roby had reason to be distracted by agents and other outsiders leading into the season.<br /> <br /> “He catches a lot of people in his ear, people that, you know, you could have done this, you could have done this, and then after you’ve been told that for so long,” Meyer said. “So I believe that he went through a little bit of a funk of buyer’s remorse or whatever.<br /> <br /> “And I’ve seen ever since the incident that occurred, which was everything, once the videotape came out there, was no assault, there was no battery, there was no, whatever. But I think he learned a really strong lesson and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, and I’m anxious to get him back on the field.”<br /> <br /> Roby came back determined, and his four tackles and one [ass breakup against SDSU don’t tell the whole story – or speak to his full worth.<br /> <br /> As for the incident and suspension, Roby is using it as a teaching moment – and fuel.<br /> <br /> “If you forget what happened to you in the past you’re bound to repeat it, so I just wanted to keep everything in my mind and I use that on the field, that anger and aggression from the whole process,” he said.<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-10/Secondary_Intact_Just_In_Time.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-10/Secondary_Intact_Just_In_Time.aspx dd8c701b-a2d1-4eef-bd25-0ebd1c0a320e Tue, 10 Sep 2013 21:52:20 GMT Kenny G Strikes Right Chord Look at it this way, <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> could have had a worse day; he could have been <strong>Adam Dingwell</strong>.<br /> <br /> Miller was hurt very early on in Ohio State’s 42-7 domination of San Diego State and it’s possible the junior quarterbacks’s Heisman Trophy hopes got derailed in the process.<br /> <br /> Plus, his backup, <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong>, played so well in relief many wondered if Miller is actually as valuable to the No. 3 Buckeyes (2-0) as he was billed to be in the preseason.<br /> <br /> However, Miller is still the franchise player in Columbus and assuming his slightly sprained left knee will recover in time he’ll retake the reins of the offense when OSU travels to Cal next Saturday (7 p.m. Eastern, FOX).<br /> <br /> Mr. Dingwell, on the other hand, might want to take up a hobby.<br /> <br /> One week after completing just 27 of 63 passes and throwing four picks in a loss to FCS foe Eastern Illinois, Dingwell was forgotten in a flash in the Horseshoe. He was a woeful 0 of 5 with another interception and ceded his QB duties to fellow junior <strong>Quinn Kaehler</strong>, who was a much more respectable 22 of 36 for 216 yards and a touchdown – although 84 of those yards came in garbage time in the fourth quarter.<br /> <br /> The signal caller who inspired the crowd of 104,984 and his teammates was Guiton, the well-liked senior co-captain.<br /> <br /> In his first meaningful appearance since he saved the day against Purdue in the middle of last season, Guiton was very similar statistically to Kaehler with a 19-of-28 passing day for 152 yards. Looking closer, though, he tossed a pair of scoring strikes to <strong>Philly Brown</strong> – similar connections of 27 and 24 yards – and led the Buckeyes on the ground with 83 yards on nine carries.<br /> <br /> That included a beautiful change-of-direction, 44-yard scamper that provided a 28-0 lead and put OSU in complete control in the second quarter.<br /> <br /> Afterward, Guiton was his same smiley self and his teammates were thrilled for him.<br /> <br /> “I always root for KG,” Brown said. “He’s one of my best friends up here. He’s my next-door neighbor on campus. Whenever KG gets in a game I always root for him. And we trust him.”<br /> <br /> Added center <strong>Corey Linsley</strong>, “With Kenny coming in it’s no big deal. We have the trust and we love Ken so much. When Kenny comes in it’s like, ‘All right, let’s do this. Hope you get better, Braxton, but we can do this.’ ”<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> assured that Miller is not seriously injured and then immediately showered praise on Guiton, once again calling him “the old righhander.”<br /> <br /> “He’s too slow and not a strong enough arm but all he does is lead, manage and distribute and has an incredible knowledge of the game.”<br /> <br /> Miller had connected on both pass attempts and converted a fourth-and-short with a 5-yard run when he was crumpled and injured. His helmet flew off, causing many to fear he may have suffered a concussion. It turned out his leg was hurt and he was fitted for a brace in case he needed to return.<br /> <br /> By the time Miller came back out to the sideline, Guiton had matters under control.<br /> <br /> “We call the same type of game, and Kenny executes it,” co-offensive coordinator <strong>Ed Warinner</strong> said. “Honestly, there are things he might not do as well as Braxton – that’s why he’s the backup quarterback – but nonetheless he does things well and we do try to play to his strengths.”<br /> <br /> By halftime, Guiton was 10 of 13 through the air, had gashed the Aztecs (0-2) with four running plays and the Buckeyes had ownership of a 35-0 lead.<br /> <br /> <strong>Rod Smith</strong>, who was making his season debut after being suspended from the opener with Buffalo, plunged in from a yard out for OSU’s fifth touchdown with 3:15 left in the half.<br /> <br /> SDSU then put together its first real drive of the game by going 62 yards in 10 plays but the Aztecs couldn’t complete and third-and-goal pass to the end zone from the 2 on the final play of the stanza.<br /> <br /> The second half was about as nondescript as it gets with each team scoring a touchdown and the Buckeyes shuttled second- and third-teamers into the fray.<br /> <br /> <strong>Quick Hitters</strong><br /> <br /> * Everybody who was asked in the postgame interview room gave the same answer to Miller’s status: He should be good to go.<br /> <br /> “I think there’s a chance he’ll be ready next week,” Meyer said, offering the most conservative prediction.<br /> <br /> Guiton said Miller told him he’s fine and will be ready for the Golden Bears.<br /> <br /> * The only other known injury as a result of the game belonged to sophomore <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong>. A starting defensive end, Washington pulled a groin muscle early on and watched from the sideline for the vast majority of the game. He did not record a tackle.<br /> <br /> Meyer said Washington’s status is day-to-day.<br /> <br /> * <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> again received the most rushing attempts among the running backs with 13 against SDSU. The senior followed up his 159-yard career outburst last week with 75 yards including a 25-yard score in which he made several moves near the sideline.<br /> <br /> After that the carries were spread out thusly: six for freshman <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong>, five for frosh <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong>, three for Smith, and two for redshirt freshman <strong>Warren Ball</strong>.<br /> <br /> Hall said the RBs don’t get caught up in their statistics like some other position players.<br /> <br /> “We don’t really talk about it like that,” he said. “When each one of us is in we try to make things happen, but it’s not really a competition. We just want to see each other do well.”<br /> <br /> * For the second straight week, sophomore <strong>Bri’onte Dunn</strong> was not part of the rotation.<br /> <br /> Hall said he was aware Dunn was bummed not to play last week.<br /> <br /> “We could tell something was wrong with him after the game, so we just got around him,” he said.<br /> <br /> Running backs coach <strong>Stan Drayton</strong> also was sensitive to Dunn being left out.<br /> <br /> “It was just the flow of the game, I did not get him in there,” Drayton said a couple days after the win over Buffalo. “Those are the tough decisions that I have to make as a positional coach at times, and it doesn’t feel good.<br /> <br /> “But we have a thing around here, that all of our players are held to the standard of, if you find your way on special teams, then you can find your way on the offense or on the defensive side of the ball, and Bri’onte needs to continue to compete with his teammates to find a little bit more of a role on special teams so that he gets an opportunity to play on offense.”<br /> <br /> * Senior safety <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong>, who missed the opener with an ankle sprain, ended up leading the defense in tackles with seven against San Diego State.<br /> <br /> Barnett was the only Buckeye in the game to record five solos.<br /> <br /> Linebackers <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> and <strong>Joshua Perry</strong> were right behind with six total tackles.<br /> <br /> * <strong>Armani Reeves</strong> started at corner for the second straight week but gave way to preseason All-American <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> on the third play of the game. Roby also was suspended for the opener.<br /> <br /> Meyer said the staff decided to award Reeves the start but play Roby quickly. Reeves ended up with five tackles and an interception. Roby had four tackles, a pass breakup and helped stifle the Aztecs in the early going.<br /> <br /> * For the second straight week, OSU’s special teams were more than solid. Punter <strong>Cameron Johnston</strong> averaged 42.2 yards on four boots and the kick cover teams were stingy once again.<br /> <br /> Meyer stripped himself of the role of special teams coordinator prior to the season and handed it to assistant <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong>, who has been up to the task.<br /> <br /> “He’s a little more organized than the previous coordinator we had here,” Meyer said to reporters, drawing laughs.<br /> <br /> “With Kerry, the No.1 thing is energy, passion and motivation. He’s a tremendous motivator, very good in front of the team. He earned that right and I think he’s doing a very good job of it.”<br /> <br /> * Ohio State won for the 14th straight time including the 12-0 mark of last year. That is the longest winning streak in the nation.<br /> <br /> * The Buckeyes improved to 4-0 all-time against SDSU and 8-1 against teams currently in the Mountain West Conference.<br /> <br /> * Ohio State has outscored foes 44-0 in the first quarter. That makes up more than half of the team’s 82 points.<br /> <br /> * San Diego State received the ball first for the 17th straight game, the longest such streak in the country.<br /> <br /> * With their TD in the third quarter, the Aztecs avoided a shutout for the 79th straight game. They haven’t been blanked since Nov. 18, 2006 against TCU.<br /> <br /> <strong>Up Next</strong><br /> <br /> California, Ohio State’s next opponent, evened its record at 1-1 with a 37-30 home win over Portland State. The bears lost their opener at home to Northwestern, 44-30.<br /> <br /> Barnett said he sees a challenge brewing.<br /> <br /> “They have an uptempo offense, so we’re going to have our hands full with them,” he said. “And last year was a pretty close game.”<br /> <br /> Brown said he’s looking forward to taking the act away from home.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know how everyone else gets but I like going on the road and I like having everybody against us,” said the receiver. “Going on the road is fun and I’m going to make sure everybody is up for it.”<br /> <br /> Not only will they be preparing for their first road game of the season, the Buckeyes will have to deal with a cross-country flight, a three-hour time change and a night game.<br /> <br /> “That’s more of an operations thing as far as our staff and everything,” left tackle <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> said. “That’s nothing for a player to worry about. They’ll have everything set up for us. We just need to follow instructions and we’ll be ready.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-07/Kenny_G_Strikes_Right_Chord.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-07/Kenny_G_Strikes_Right_Chord.aspx a2b880cf-d08c-47bb-8748-960c00086899 Sun, 08 Sep 2013 01:59:17 GMT Hall Of A Season Debut Just a few days before the start of the 2013 season, Ohio State head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> could have lamented his situation at running back after feeling compelled to suspend <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and <strong>Rod Smith</strong> for off-field transgressions.<br /> <br /> No one would have felt sorry for him, of course, considering the Buckeyes were still a five-touchdown favorite to swamp Buffalo and the backfield still was loaded with young talents such as <strong>Bri’onte Dunn</strong>, <strong>Warren Ball</strong>, <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> and <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong>.<br /> <br /> But Meyer decided to scrap plans to put fifth-year senior <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> in the coveted hybrid spot and announced him as the team’s starting tailback, a role he had filled just six times previously.<br /> <br /> “I love Jordan,” the head coach said a week ago. “He’s a hard worker, and I hope he does play with something to prove.”<br /> <br /> He did.<br /> <br /> Just 5-9 and 191 pounds, Hall long has been considered a weapon for the Buckeyes but has been slowed by injuries and a crowded house at the position. Against Buffalo, he took a career-high 21 handoffs and proved he could be productive by also setting personal bests with 159 rushing yards, two TDs, and a long run of 49 yards.<br /> <br /> When meeting with the media on Monday, Hall was wearing his trademark smile but was not in a boasting mood.<br /> <br /> “I’ve got a lot to get better at,” said Hall, who missed almost all of last season with a foot injury. “There were a couple good runs that I had but there’s still a lot of work that I have to do.”<br /> <br /> Hall not only romped 49 yards for a score, he also added a 37-yarder in the second quarter that provided OSU with a 30-13 lead.<br /> <br /> In both cases, Buffalo defenders walked into blocks and left the second level basically wide open, creating a foot race between Hall and the secondary.<br /> <br /> “It’s a feeling you can’t explain because the crowd gets loud and you’ve just got to get to the end zone,” Hall said. “I was just running. I was trying to get to the red part of the field.”<br /> <br /> With Hall on top of his game, the coaches called only a couple designed runs for quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> and farmed out just a handful of carries for Wilson, Ball and Elliott.<br /> <br /> “I’m always a firm believer if a running back gets the hot foot and gets in the rhythm during the course of the game, then it does that back an injustice for me to take him out at that time when he’s got a rhythm going,” running backs coach <strong>Stan Drayton</strong> said.<br /> <br /> “So we had a little bit of those two scenarios going on this past weekend. Jordan got into a nice real rhythm. The game slowed down for him.&nbsp; He ripped off a couple of explosive runs and I felt real comfortable with him during the course of the game.”<br /> <br /> Hall, meanwhile, kind of shrugged off his day.<br /> <br /> “It feels natural for me to be back out there, but it was fun,” he said.<br /> <br /> The Jeannette, Pa., product has been around long enough to be a realist. He knows what it’s like to be one of the other backs when someone gets a “hot foot” and he knows success at the position can be fleeting.<br /> <br /> Smith is due back Saturday and could see time against San Diego State (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC). Hyde is due back a couple weeks after that.<br /> <br /> It’s likely Hall could end up sharing time at running back and/or shift over to the hybrid spot, which was the original plan.<br /> <br /> However it works out, Hall just wants to be on the field.<br /> <br /> “I’m just going to go to whatever position they put me at and try to make plays,” he said.<br /> <br /> “The addition of Rod Smith coming back, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Jordan Hall’s role gets lesser,” Drayton said. “No, it just may be distributed a little bit differently throughout the scheme. We’ll see as we get a better feel for San Diego State and what they present to us, and we will define those roles real soon here.”<br /> <br /> No matter what, Hall has opened eyes with his season-opening performance and made a very firm case that he deserves to be on the field.<br /> <br /> “He’s made an unbelievable change as a person,” Drayton said. “He’s grown tremendously. All the adversities that he had to face with the injuries and some of the things that he quite honestly put on himself with the consequences that he had to face, he’s really grown and embraced all those things and now it’s transferring into his football play.<br /> <br /> “He’s a mature individual on the football field, very smart.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-06/Hall_Of_A_Season_Debut.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-06/Hall_Of_A_Season_Debut.aspx d0387504-6446-4642-a14f-25a365bf73f1 Fri, 06 Sep 2013 22:33:26 GMT Rapp Around: Making Andy Proud When it comes to athletics, my alma mater may not be at the top of the heap when it comes to media relations, promotion of certain programs, student-athlete accessibility or fan appreciation – $4 for a small bottle of water? Really? – but never let it be said that Ohio State doesn’t set the bar on facilities.<br /> <br /> Ohio Stadium remains a national treasure and despite my concerns the renovation of it at the beginning of this millennia was just about perfect. Bill Davis Stadium is outstanding. The Jesse Owens statue outside the soccer/track stadium bearing his name was a nice touch. The tennis center is brand new. The Woody Hayes Athletic Center is heavenly.<br /> <br /> And while sentimentality compels me to grumble about plans to raze St. John Arena and start over with a new building, I now deep in my heart that SJA is antiquated and nowhere near up to code.<br /> <br /> And that takes us to the Schottenstein Center. A lot of fans have taken potshots at it, saying it’s too removed from campus, too antiseptic, too NBA wannabe. The truth is it’s a fantastic multipurpose building able to handle a high-level concert, the circus, Disney on Ice, collegiate hockey, commencement ceremonies, high school state tournaments, and, of course, major college basketball games.<br /> <br /> No, The Schott doesn’t meet St. John Arena in character or creating fan frenzy but I have to applaud the efforts of university planners for what they’ve done in terms of sightlines, gameday entertainment and bringing the students a little closer to the court.<br /> <br /> And what goes on behind the scenes in that building is what really sets it apart.<br /> <br /> In a move that would make former athletic director <strong>Andy Geiger</strong> proud, tOSU has outdone itself with the outbuild of a new auxiliary gymnasium near the northwest rotunda, fabulous new locker rooms, film rooms and player lounges, improved offices and adorned hallways, loaded training rooms, and a state-of-the-art weight room.<br /> <br /> Andyland indeed.<br /> <br /> The new setup has been in the works for years and makes it easy to see how a prospective player and his or her family could be wowed – which, of course, is the whole point.<br /> <br /> Reporters who were allowed to tour the new parts of The Schott earlier this week were awed. Men’s basketball coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong> still is, apparently.<br /> <br /> “It’s amazing watching it all come to fruition knowing all the planning that went into it,” Matta said. “It’s funny because you think you just slap four brick walls up and put a court down. You’ve got to give Ohio State, <strong>Gene</strong> (<strong>Smith</strong>) and his staff and the people that raised the money and the people who designed it tremendous credit because it’s just a magnificent place.”<br /> <br /> The men’s basketball locker room is perhaps most intriguing. It includes a ping-pong table – where <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> reportedly is king – a theater for the players to watch game film and a dressing room that features names and numbers of each player on the roster, plus one.<br /> <br /> In the middle of the lockers is one that has a sign over it with the name “<strong>LeBron James</strong>” and a jersey number of 6. James’ hometown of Akron, Ohio also is mentioned.<br /> <br /> “I think that he’s going to have to earn his stripes,” Matta joked about his alleged new player.<br /> <br /> James, of course, has been an NBA superstar for 10 years but remains connected to his homestate school. Ohio State was the first school to wear James’ athletic wear, doing so back in the Final Four season of 2006-07. That allowed Buckeye fans and even Matta to fantasize about James in scarlet and gray.<br /> <br /> “If I could have coached him I probably would have been a lot better coach early on,” Matta said.<br /> <br /> It was back in that same year that the university announced it would shift from a quarter system academically to semesters, causing <strong>Dave Egelhoff</strong>, the team’s director of basketball operations, to approach Matta and say, “We’ve got to get another gym or we’re going to have problems.”<br /> <br /> Sharing the arena with women’s basketball and the ice hockey team was proving to be challenging at times.<br /> <br /> “What we have here obviously is top of the line, but it’s something that has been needed,” Matta said.<br /> <br /> “Last year the women’s team has three girls that needed classes to graduate, so we were practicing the first semester at like 5 to 8 (p.m.), which means our guys weren’t getting out of here until 9, 9:30 at night. The second semester we were in in the mornings. This gives us more ability to be able to do what we need to do for our players.”<br /> <br /> Now the men not only have their own practice court they can use whenever they want, they also have a playing surface that is virtually identical to the one on the main court of Value City Arena.<br /> <br /> The weight room, meanwhile, grew from about 1,500 square feet to 3,800 square feet and includes brand new machinery, weights, medicine balls and even a couple goals next to a concrete wall so players can do rebounding strength drills.<br /> <br /> Strength and conditioning coach <strong>Dave Richardson</strong> wasn’t handed a blank check – “I had some parameters,” he said – but he was allowed to order shiny new Olympic weights and urethane weights for squats and presses.<br /> <br /> Not every single feature is complete. The designers are still working on finishing graphics and hallways need a few touches. However, the key areas are plush. <br /> <br /> Among the noteworthy donors is former Buckeye guard <strong>Michael Redd</strong>, who provided a $500,000 donation for the locker room, the largest gift ever by a former student-athlete.<br /> <br /> And Redd is one of just many ex-players who takes pride in the program and spends some of his off time around current Buckeyes at The Schott. During the tour, for example, <strong>Mike Conley Jr.</strong> was working diligently ob his game in the one of the side gyms.<br /> <br /> “All the guys who are back this summer are all mad at us because they didn’t have this when they were here,” Matta said, “and I simply just say, ‘Thank you. You helped build it.’ ”<br /> <br /> And what a building it is.<br /> <br /> Smith said the original price tag was $13 million but with more planning and fund-raising the project soared to $19 million.<br /> <br /> “If they find out somebody has something better it seems like they just tear ours down and build another one,” Matta said. “That’s kind of the power of Ohio State.<br /> <br /> “I consider myself the luckiest person in the world to be here. Tenth year now and I’m still blown away at times by what this place stands for, and the commitment that they’ve made to us in terms of following through on what they said is something that is very important to me and it’s very important to our players. I don’t know of anybody who has this type of setup.”<br /> <br /> To be clear, though, Matta doesn’t want to win the recruiting wars on the arena alone.<br /> <br /> “I’ve always said this: I don’t want a young man to come here because we have a nice practice facility. I want him to come for the university, I want him to come for hopefully who we are as people.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-05/Rapp_Around_Making_Andy_Proud.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-05/Rapp_Around_Making_Andy_Proud.aspx a8722a52-b552-41d7-91d6-b5ec6df9a5f2 Thu, 05 Sep 2013 23:30:17 GMT Still Mostly Smiles For Meyer Those who are still waiting for <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> to go <strong>Woody Hayes</strong> on some television equipment or a yard marker or a clipboard after the Buckeyes’ mistake-filled contest with Buffalo Saturday are going to remain disappointed.<br /> <br /> Ohio State’s latest football coach clearly is intense and not overly thrilled with a promising 23-0 lead that turned into a 40-20 ho-hummer to open the season.<br /> <br /> However, considering the circumstances and that the coaches now have the attention of the No. 2 Buckeyes, Meyer is, dare it be stated, pleased. He even cracked a few jokes and several smiles during his Labor Day media address.<br /> <br /> “I think complacency is certainly not a problem this week,” he said.<br /> <br /> Good point.<br /> <br /> Ohio State dominated the Bulls in just about every important statistical category, allowing just 2.1 yards per carry and racking up 460 total yards to Buffalo’s 258. Running back <strong>Jordan Hall </strong>proved there was no need to panic with <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and <strong>Rod Smith</strong> both out of action because of suspensions as he amassed a career-high 159 yards rushing and the special teams, for the most part were solid and borderline spectacular.<br /> <br /> Also, big plays were part of the story as four of OSU’s five touchdowns came from at least 21 yards away.<br /> <br /> On the down side, the Buckeyes committed nine penalties, threw an interception for a touchdown, botched a fourth-down conversion attempt, and mysteriously, cramped up on several occasions.<br /> <br /> Most noteworthy, though, was that Ohio State, favored by 35 points at home, let its visitors from the MAC live much too long.<br /> <br /> Still, even two days later Meyer took a positive tone.<br /> <br /> “Very pleased with our win; very pleased with our fast start,” he said. “That was something that was real important that we made a big emphasis in our program. Not very pleased when we had the lull in the second quarter when we had those four bad drives.”<br /> <br /> Defensively, OSU gave up a pair of TD passes, but Meyer chose to be realistic when assessing that side of the ball. With star corner <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> serving a one-game suspension, senior safety <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> sitting out with a balky ankle after a game-time decision and then linebacker <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> missing extensive time because of cramps, at one point safety <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> was the only returning starter on that side of the ball.<br /> <br /> “I didn’t even think about that during the game,” Bryant said.<br /> <br /> Bryant held up well, though. The coaches named him the defensive player of the game after he graded out to 94 percent on his assignments.<br /> <br /> Plus, Meyer is excited at the thought of having Roby and Barnett back with Bryant, cornerback <strong>Doran Grant</strong> and redshirt freshman <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong>, who started at nickel in his first game in the ’Shoe.<br /> <br /> “I’m anxious to see a lot of improvement,” Meyer said. “Looks very positive for C.J. Barnett to be back. Bradley Roby will be back. We are going to get more play out of (center) <strong>Corey Linsley</strong> on offense, and so that’s a positive, we are starting to get our roster back intact. As of now, Rod Smith will be back if he has a good week of practice and does it all right. So that helps us; where I really notice that is special teams.”<br /> <br /> Meyer wouldn’t commit to naming Roby as the starter at boundary corner for Saturday’s battle with San Diego State (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC) – a two-deep for the game will be released Tuesday – but that appear to be a foregone conclusion. Roby is a preseason All-American and his replacement, <strong>Armani Reeves</strong> struggled mightily at times.<br /> <br /> Meyer did slip and say, “Roby coming back frees up Armani, who is a tremendous special teams player. That helps with our depth.”<br /> <br /> Meyer and cornerbacks coach <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong> praised Reeves for his effort and as a competitor but even the ever-upbeat Coombs had to rate Reeves’ performance against Buffalo as only “average.”
<br /> <br /> The reviews also were understandably mixed for freshman running back <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong>, who nearly scored on a quick pass play and busted a 51-yard kickoff return but also fumbled and didn’t have a touch out of the backfield longer than 6 yards.<br /> <br /> “Dontre was good, other than I think he laid on the ground, that was terrible, and he won’t play much if that happens again,” Meyer said flatly. “I did think he showed some of the explosiveness that he has.”<br /> <br /> Meyer also reiterated that he wants fellow frosh <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> to get more touches – he had just one carry for 2 yards against the Bulls – going forward. Sophomore <strong>Bri’onte Dunn</strong> didn’t play in the game but that was against the design and because Hall “had a hot foot,” running backs coach <strong>Stan Drayton</strong> said.<br /> <br /> Other freshmen who played at the expense of others included defensive linemen <strong>Joey Bosa</strong> and <strong>Michael Hill</strong> while <strong>Trey Johnson</strong> played much of the game in place of Shazier and defensive backs <strong>Cam Burrows</strong> and <strong>Vonn Bell</strong> made an impact on special teams.<br /> <br /> Still, of course, Meyer wants more – out of everybody.<br /> <br /> “We have some talented guys,” said the second-year OSU coach. “Our coaching staff has been together and we should have been better. We came out of the gate the way I kind of envisioned, and we finished the game kind of like I imagined we would, too.<br /> <br /> “We had two long drives, one 10‑play drive and one 14‑play drive, and not one time did we call quarterback run in any of the times other than the one quarterback draw, and then one coming out of sweep. So that’s two for the entire course of the game. So I have high expectations for our offense, very high, and I think we grade it very average for this game without taking any disrespect on our opponent, because they did a good job.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Quick Hitters</strong><br /> <br /> * Meyer did spend a few sentences on the Aztecs (0-1), who lost 40-19 to Eastern Illinois on Saturday – a disastrous start for a team looking to win the Mountain West and coming off a nine-win season and bowl appearance.<br /> <br /> “They have arguably the best tailback (<strong>Adam Muema</strong>) we’ll face all year.” Meyer said. “He was injured, I believe, in the first quarter. This Eastern Illinois team played outstanding and scored some big plays against man coverage.<br /> <br /> “Other than that, I see a defense, it’s an odd‑stacked 3‑3‑5 defense that they blitz, high percentage of pressures, their movement, they are a chaos defense that play really hard with some good players and (an) offense, I think, that they kind of stepped out of their comfort zone a little bit. They threw, I want to say, 63 times or something like that.”<br /> <br /> * Both SDSU and Pac-12 Cal, which hosts Ohio State on Sept. 14, have uptempo, potentially high-octane offenses. Meyer was asked f that concerns him.<br /> <br /> “I think we are more suited now that we get our two players back in the secondary,” he said. “And I think our defensive line, that was the first time most of those kids have ever played. <strong>Curtis Grant</strong>, first time he played a whole (lot). C.J. Barnett and Roby being back is certainly going to help us.”<br /> <br /> * The color commentator for the San Diego State will be none other than <strong>Chris Spielman</strong>, a college Hall of Famer who starred at linebacker for the Buckeyes in the 1980s. Spielman and Meyer worked the booth together for ESPN a couple years ago and remain in touch.<br /> <br /> “I talked to Chris last year,” Meyer said. “I talked to him and we talked about tackling. He’s one of those guys that has a very firm belief in tackling and he came in and we talked about it. I’m sure we’ll talk this week, and I absolutely have interest in what he has to say. He knows football.”<br /> <br /> * One of OSU’s penalties on Saturday seemed a bit excessive. That’s because Curtis Grant had his helmet popped off and still landed on quarterback <strong>Joe Licata</strong> for what appeared to be a sack – and he was promptly flagged 15 yards for participating in a play without his headgear. <br /> <br /> “It’s silly,” Meyer said. “Actually, we were watching video the other day and a kid … you have to stop, and he was right there and I mean, he fell on the pile and he got a 15‑yard penalty on a sack, but that’s the rule.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-02/Still_Mostly_Smiles_For_Meyer.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-09-02/Still_Mostly_Smiles_For_Meyer.aspx 296f092b-88e1-4bb5-a651-07167e1e244c Mon, 02 Sep 2013 19:39:25 GMT Waiting To Exhale Even before offseason trouble brewed for <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>, the coach was trying to address a major challenge: leadership.<br /> <br /> Meyer basically obsessed about it for months, challenging players to live up to the example of departees such as <strong>John Simon</strong> and <strong>Zach Boren</strong>, and digging into his bag of tricks to reinforce it whenever he could.<br /> <br /> The second-year Ohio State boss even brought up the 1987 season when he served under Earle Bruce as a graduate assistant and saw the Buckeyes plummet from their No. 2 preseason ranking to 6-4-1 and unranked due to the loss of <strong>Cris Carter</strong> and other off-field problems.<br /> <br /> “That was not a very positive year,” Meyer said of ’87, which led to the ouster of Bruce.<br /> <br /> It’s hard to believe with all the talent OSU boasts and the fact that virtually every analyst in the country labeled the Buckeyes as a superpower and the team to beat in the Big Ten that anything like the ’87 misfortune could befall the 2013 team.<br /> <br /> That is especially so when glancing at the OSU schedule, which is not exactly filled with landmines based on preseason rankings and public sentiment.<br /> <br /> Still, games are not won on paper and even a supposedly hapless foe like Buffalo wasn’t going to lie down merely at the sight of scarlet and gray.<br /> <br /> Sure enough, the Bulls showed some snarl and the Buckeyes were forced to swallow a dose of humility after Saturday’s 40-20 win over Buffalo.<br /> <br /> Second-ranked Ohio State (1-0) was a five-touchdown favorite and appeared well on its way to a cover with two early scores, a pair of two-point conversions and then a third TD in the first period for a 23-0 lead.<br /> <br /> Amazingly, Buffalo (0-1) managed to outscore its host 20-17 the rest of the way and let major opportunity slip away on a couple other occasions.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes messed up coverages, committed nine penalties, and fumbled the ball away – once by freshman <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> and another time by quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> deep in OSU’s own end, although the latter play was called back because of a controversial penalty.<br /> <br /> Miller appeared to lose the ball just before going down and the Bulls recovered at the OSU 2-yard line, but officials flagged Buffalo linebacker <strong>Kahlil Mack</strong> for a questionable personal foul.<br /> <br /> “My comment is I’m upset about that more than anything,” Buffalo coach <strong>Jeff Quinn</strong> said. “The officials called something that they thought was hands to the face and they called it.”<br /> <br /> The scoreboard read 30-20 at the time and the Bulls were that close to cutting the lead to a single score when the call was made. Instead, despite a personal highlight reel by Mack, the Buckeyes put together a seven-minute, 14-play, 91-yard drive that culminated with backup quarterback <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong> hitting a wide open <strong>Chris Fields</strong> from 21 yards out.<br /> <br /> That provided the Buckeyes with a 37-20 lead late in the third period and allowed them to exhale.<br /> <br /> Guiton was in because Miller began to cramp on the drive. It was a fitting turnaround considering Guiton, one of eight co-captains named just prior to the season, was one of the most vocal supporters on the sideline.<br /> <br /> “Guys were starting to wonder what was going on and getting a little concerned,” said the senior QB. “I just kept telling them, ‘We’re OK, we’re OK, we just need to make some plays.’ Sometimes younger players need to hear that.<br /> <br /> Guiton said junior defensive lineman <strong>Michael Bennett</strong> was doing the same and getting through to the youngsters on that side of the ball.<br /> <br /> The Bulls appeared poise to tighten the score again with a drive that reached the OSU 2 but the Buckeyes stuffed an inside handoff and quarterback <strong>Joe Licata</strong> fumbled the snap on fourth down.<br /> <br /> “That’s totally on me,” he said.<br /> <br /> OSU fans were doing some wondering of their own prior to all that when Mack fought through a <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> block attempt on an inside screen, picked off a Miller pass intended for the speedy Wilson and outraced Miller and <strong>Philly Brown</strong> to the end zone on a head-turning 45-yard touchdown.<br /> <br /> That play cut the OSU lead to 23-13 midway through the second quarter and changed plans of a blowout and Heisman Trophy campaign for Miller.<br /> <br /> “It was all technique, playing my hands on the cut block, getting my hands up,” Miller said. “I got lucky.”<br /> <br /> Whether it was OSU misfortune, luck for the visiting Bulls or some other unexplainable force, Ohio State’s highly anticipated season opener was turning sour.<br /> <br /> Still, several players and coaches including defensive coordinator <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> were able to find some perspective – and some positives.<br /> <br /> “I walk out of this thing a little disappointed,” Fickell admitted. “You’d like to have a zero up there. But the reality is when I reflected my thoughts last night I was thinking, ‘I hope we have some adversity, because I want to see what kind of guys we’ve got.’<br /> <br /> “We kind of talked about it being Christmas morning and we’ve got a lot of new guys opening their presents. We knew what was inside. But I wanted to see what would happen when all of a sudden something didn’t go well, and I saw some stuff.<br /> <br /> “I saw some stuff out of <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> that he might not have had last year when tough situations hit. I’m really proud if him.<br /> <br /> “Any adversity is a good situation. If you fear it, that’s not how you get better.”<br /> <br /> Bryant was playing in a defensive backfield without fellow senior safety and co-captain <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong>, who was out with an ankle sprain, and cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong>, who served a one-game suspension.<br /> <br /> <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> had racked up a career-high rushing total midway through the second quarter and finished with 159 yards on 21 carries and a pair of long TD runs. That was a boon to an offensive backfield that was missing <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and <strong>Rod Smith</strong>, who also were serving suspensions.<br /> <br /> And while Miller made some mistakes and cooled off after a hot start, he still finished a respectable 15 of 22 passing for 178 yards and two scores and also ripped off a key 40-yard run late in the contest to dig the offense out of poor field position.<br /> <br /> Another positive was the Buckeyes holding Buffalo to just 2.1 yards per carry even with four new starters up front and leading tackler <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> out for chunks of the game with leg cramps.<br /> <br /> In short, even though they didn’t live up to their preseason hype or cover a bloated point spread, the Buckeyes may have taken an important step in simply dealing with a less-than-ideal day – and that has to be slightly encouraging to the coaching staff knowing the leadership holes going into the season.<br /> <br /> Meyer, who is embarking on his 12th season as a head coach, said he’s seen teams like the ’87 Buckeyes fall flat and tried everything in his power to avoid such a pitfall, even asking prominent businessmen and motivational speakers to address the issue with his team over the summer.<br /> <br /> “It’s not because of bad coaching, it’s not because of bad players,” Meyer said. “It’s distractions. We try to bring them closer, and as much conversation as we have about Xs and Os, we also spend a lot of time talking about that. We try not to let a practice go by and push them to use very day to get better. That’s the essence of this season.<br /> <br /> “We’re trying to create a culture and that culture is driven by leaders.”<br /> <br /> Meyer said he thought about that aspect throughout the day in the offseason.<br /> <br /> “That occupies at least 15 hours of my thought, the leadership of the team,” he said, “because I know that’s going to be the difference this year.”<br /> <br /> Meyer even wore a wristband with the equation E + R = O and explained it represents Events + Response = Outcome. He also required key players to attend a leadership class over the summer.<br /> <br /> “Every team will get punched right in the mouth; something is going to happen,” he said. “Sometimes in an October game you might get hit in the face and lose. You can’t stop playing. You have to (respond). The leaders are the ones that control that.”<br /> <br /> Days prior to the opener, Meyer looked over the ballots players turned in to elect captains and decided he wanted to reward eight different vote-getters. One of them was senior left tackle <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong>, which is noteworthy considering Meyer suspended Mewhort during the summer last year because of an off-field incident.<br /> <br /> All Mewhort has done since is respond to the coaches’ pleadings for more leadership.<br /> <br /> &nbsp;“With Jack the thing is he does everything the way you would want a guy to do it,” offensive line coach <strong>Ed Warinner</strong> said. “Working out extremely hard, having enthusiasm and energy at workouts, leading by example, being a pro, being on time, studying film extra, doing extra stuff outside of what’s required, communicating with the younger players and trying to help them mentally – just a lot of things like that. So you love that about him. Plus, he’s just a good person. He has a good heart and he’s from a good family, so he’s fun to be around.”<br /> <br /> “I take a lot of pride in being a leader,” Mewhort said. “This is my fourth year and I have a lot of experience under my belt. I want to lead the young guys how I was led as a freshman.”<br /> <br /> Similarly, Bryant has gone into the season remembering the sage advice of former teammates such as <strong>Jermale Hines</strong>, <strong>Chimdi Chekwa</strong>, and <strong>Devon Torrence</strong>, who were all seniors when he arrived.<br /> <br /> “They showed me the way, showed me the defenses and anything off the field,” said Bryant, who had five tackles vs. Buffalo. “You could call them whenever. So I’m trying to be a big brother figure to those guys right now.”<br /> <br /> Bryant said Brown and <strong>Joel Hale</strong> are among the other vets who are trying to get on board.<br /> <br /> “It’s a lot of guys who are stepping up right now because we’ve seen what happened last year with great leadership,” he said. “That came with an undefeated season and it’s something we’re trying to accomplish again.”<br /> <br /> Meyer, in fact, is convinced the Buckeyes wouldn’t have gone 12-0 without guys like Simon, Boren, <strong>Etienne Sabino</strong> and <strong>Garrett Goebel</strong>.<br /> <br /> “The leadership was incredible,” he said. “One of the most refreshing years I’ve been around or groups I’ve been around.<br /> <br /> This year’s team has high expectations, riding off the coattails of what those kids did last year, and it’s very simple that if we get tremendous leadership from our coaching staff, but most importantly our players, then we’ll have a success.<br /> <br /> “It’s a special place and I want our players to own it, not rent it.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-31/Waiting_To_Exhale.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-31/Waiting_To_Exhale.aspx 4e933bd4-0a6a-4560-8bb9-d08e021e3479 Sat, 31 Aug 2013 23:26:35 GMT 10 Urbanisms You May Not Know On the eve of the 2013 season opener for second-ranked Ohio State, it might be time to turn some of the focus on the guy under the headset – <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>.<br /> <br /> The 49-year-old Meyer – who grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio, and played his college ball at the University of Cincinnati – started his head coaching at Bowling Green in 2001. After two years there, he spent two more at Utah and six at Florida. He sat out the 2011 season due to health concerns and went 12-0 last year in Columbus.<br /> <br /> Meyer is 116-23 in that span of 11 seasons, including 68-18 in conference games.<br /> <br /> His combined second-year record at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida is 34-4. This, of course, is his second season at Ohio State.<br /> <br /> Most fans know at least some of those facts and are well aware that Meyer came into major prominence and basically became a coach worthy of a $4 million salary after winning a pair of national championships at Florida.<br /> <br /> But there is more to the Urbanator, much more.<br /> <br /> The following are 10 other Meyer coaching accomplishments that you may not know:<br /> <br /> * Meyer has not lost a game in August (3-0) and is a meaty 39-4 in September. Like his basketball counterpart, <strong>Thad Matta</strong>, Meyer’s late-season record is stellar, too – 9-2 in the months of December and January.<br /> <br /> * Just five mentors are ahead of Meyer on the wins list for active FBS coaches – <strong>Bob Stoops</strong> (129), <strong>Mack Brown</strong> (123), <strong>Brian Kelly</strong> (122), <strong>Mark Richt</strong> (118) and <strong>Frank Beamer</strong> (117). Meyer’s 116 wins tie him with <strong>Gary Patterson</strong> of TCU among winningest active coaches.<br /> <br /> * Since 2006, <strong>Chris Petersen</strong> of Boise State has compiled the most wins among FBS coaches with 84. Meyer, who sat out 2011, is tied for seventh on that list with 68.<br /> <br /> * Since 2007, Petersen (.899) and <strong>Nick Saban</strong> (.840) are the only FBS coaches who have a higher winning percentage than Meyer (.833).<br /> <br /> * Meyer (.835) actually ranks second to Petersen (.913) among FBS coaches in career winning percentage. By the way, that is noticeably ahead of Stoops (.801) and Saban (.743).<br /> <br /> * Meyer has won 13 games three times, becoming the first coach to accomplish the feat. He’s also won 12 games twice, including last year.<br /> <br /> * Meyer also is the only active coach, and one of just nine all-time, to have two winning streaks of at least 20 games. OSU is on a 12-game string right now.<br /> <br /> * With 104 wins in his first 10 years – which preceded him being named head coach at Ohio State – Meyer ranks third all-time.<br /> <br /> * He also reached 100 wins faster than all but one coach in the last 55 years – the great <strong>Bud Wilkinson</strong> of Oklahoma.<br /> <br /> * Meyer teams have single-game offensive highs of 72 points, 37 first downs, 394 rushing yards, 36 pass completions, 100 total plays, 705 yards of total offense, six rushing touchdowns, and five TD passes.<br /> <br /> Will any of those marks be surpassed on Saturday when the Buckeyes open the season against Buffalo (noon Eastern, ESPN2)?<br /> <br /> That’s not likely. However, one thing is clear: Meyer’s coaching marks seem to be going up and up.<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-30/10_Urbanisms_You_May_Not_Know.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-30/10_Urbanisms_You_May_Not_Know.aspx e5356701-663f-4da3-ba6a-e401472288a0 Fri, 30 Aug 2013 19:28:32 GMT Rapp Around: Eight Is Enough For Ohio State’s highly ranked football team, eight is enough, probably too much, but still the workable number headed into the highly anticipated 2013 season.<br /> <br /> Of course, if the Buckeyes, who enter the fray ranked No. 2 in both major polls, go on to win the national championship, the group may be referred to as the Great Eight.<br /> <br /> What am I talking about?<br /> <br /> Tuesday night, <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> finally announced his decision on his team captains, first telling the Buckeyes themselves and later divulging the information to the public via university release. In it, Meyer explained that eight different players were close enough in the voting to be worthy for now and that the program would recognize four official captains at the conclusion of the season.<br /> <br /> So let’s digest that for a second.<br /> <br /> Doing something he’s never done before and after declaring throughout the offseason that the success of this team ultimately will be decided by the leadership, Meyer rewarded a chunk of players and carrot-dangled at the same time.<br /> <br /> It’s an interesting maneuver – and further proof Meyer is taking the intangibles very seriously coming off a 12-0 season and going into his 12th year as a head coach.<br /> <br /> After he explained his thinking to his team, Meyer introduced eight players as newly designated – and first-time – leaders:<br /> <br /> * Fifth-year senior left tackle <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong>, a consumer and family financial services major from Toledo and St. John’s High School;<br /> <br /> * Fifth-year senior strong safety <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong>, a criminology major from Dayton and Northmont High School;<br /> <br /> * Senior free safety <strong>Christian Bryant</strong>, a sociology major from Cleveland and Glenville High School;<br /> <br /> * Fifth-year senior quarterback <strong>Kenny Guiton</strong>, a consumer and family financial services major from Houston, Texas, and Eisenhower High School;<br /> <br /> * Junior quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>, a communications major from Huber Heights and Wayne High School;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /> <br /> * Junior linebacker <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong>, a psychology major from Pompano Beach, Fla., and Plantation High School;<br /> <br /> * Fifth-year senior center <strong>Corey Linsley</strong>, an economics major from Youngstown and Boardman High School; and<br /> <br /> * Senior wide receiver <strong>Corey “Philly” Brown</strong>, a criminology major from Upper Darby, Pa., and Cardinal O’Hara High School.<br /> <br /> Five offensive players and three defenders.<br /> <br /> Two safeties, two quarterbacks, two juniors, two Coreys – it’s like the Urban’s Ark of college football.<br /> <br /> No matter how this shakes out, there are some interesting storylines here.<br /> <br /> Mewhort comes to mind immediately. The summer after Meyer was hired, Mewhort and former tight end <strong>Jake Stoneburner</strong> were arrested for obstructing official business and eventually suspended by Meyer.<br /> <br /> It was an embarrassing incident that involved a police report detailing how the two players were caught urinating in public near the Muirfield Village Golf Club, ran from police and were apprehended. Mewhort even slipped into a big pile of mud and was hauled away covered in gunk.<br /> <br /> While praising the off-field efforts of Mewhort at the spring preview luncheon in April, offensive line coach <strong>Ed Warinner</strong> cracked that the coaches are “asking Jack to stay away from the Memorial golf tournament this year.”<br /> <br /> That drew laughter and a even some groans, but is a clear statement on how comfortable the staff now feels with Mewhort after seeing him work through the difficulty and take on the onus of team leader.<br /> <br /> Mewhort has been very forthcoming in expressing his desire to become the kind of cherished leader that forerunners such as <strong>John Simon</strong> and <strong>Zach Boren</strong> were last year in guiding a somewhat troubled program to an undefeated season with a bevy of new coaches. And coaches such as Meyer and Warinner have praised Mewhort up and down for taking the responsibility to heart.<br /> <br /> If there could be only one captain for the 2013 Ohio State football team, it likely would be Jack Mewhort.<br /> <br /> Similarly, Linsley also has been praised for improving his physique and level of play, embracing the new instruction and terminology, and taking others under his wing. Last year, Meyer hailed him as a player who has come a long way in all aspects and an example of the all-in mentality the coach is trying to stoke.<br /> <br /> However, Mewhort and Linsley are parts of a very veteran offensive line that also includes senior guards <strong>Marcus Hall</strong> and <strong>Andrew Norwell</strong>. Shazier, meanwhile, is the only returning starter in the front seven and already has admitted to reporters that he feels a lot of pressure to keep that group enthused and on the same page.<br /> <br /> This summer, linebackers coach <strong>Luke Fickell</strong>, who doubles as the team’s co-defensive coordinator, said Shazier now understands that this season isn’t just about stats or positioning for the NFL; it’s about knowing the defense inside and out, being a consistent force and leading. That’s a lot on one person’s plate, especially for a guy who is coming off a sophomore season in which he led the Buckeyes in tackles with 115 and led the Big Ten in tackles-for-loss with 17.<br /> <br /> Similarly, Barnett and Bryant are entering their third seasons as starters and are coming off productive campaigns yet they are surrounded by greenhorns. In Saturday’s opener with Buffalo (noon Eastern, ESPN2), the safeties will line up with a corner who is taking over for the departed <strong>Travis Howard</strong> (<strong>Doran Grant</strong>), another who is logging his first career start with <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> suspended (<strong>Armani Reeves</strong>) and a nickel back who redshirted last year (<strong>Tyvis Powell</strong>).<br /> <br /> Going back to the offense, Brown long has been considered a playmaker and certainly stepped up his value last season with a team-leading 60 catches, three receiving touchdowns and a pair of punt returns for scores. However, Brown averaged just 11.1 yards per catch, a pretty pedestrian figure for a guy with blazing speed.<br /> <br /> He worked diligently in the offseason on exploding out of breaks and after the catch. His teammates have noticed the difference, and the fact that Brown is intent on helping guide others.<br /> <br /> Miller is coming off a monster season – a school-record 3,310 yards of total offense including a team-best 1,271 on the ground and 28 TDs (13 rushing, 15 passing), He, too, has responded to the coaches’ challenges to up the ante and has been exemplary this spring and preseason as a practice player, worker and even more vocal leader, which he admits is not his strong suit.<br /> <br /> And that leads to Guiton, perhaps the most likable of the bunch and clearly one of the most noteworthy. Digging through the annals, I found no example of an Ohio State quarterback heading into the season as a clear backup yet listed captain.<br /> <br /> The only thing remotely close is my WTVN radio colleague <strong>Stan Jackson</strong> being voted captain prior to the 1997 season and sharing the QB duties with <strong>Joe Germaine</strong>. The following year with Jackson gone, Germaine was named one of the three captains on the ’98 team many still deem to be the best in the country that year (the others were <strong>Jerry Rudzinski</strong> and <strong>Antoine Winfield</strong>, by the way).<br /> <br /> Ohio State hasn’t fielded a quarterback as a team captain since 2008, the year <strong>Todd Boeckman</strong> earned the designation and promptly lost his starting job to freshman <strong>Terrelle Pryor</strong>.<br /> <br /> At that time, Guiton becoming one of the next QB captains at Ohio State was about as likely as me being added to a Major League Baseball roster.<br /> <br /> He was a last-minute addition to the 2009 recruiting class, rotted on the bench and didn’t make a good first impression on Meyer. Since then, however, he’s developed into a fully capable QB and leader, and he put those attributes on display last fall in OSU’s desperate comeback win over Purdue with Miller being shipped off to the hospital.<br /> <br /> Guiton may not go in the record books as an official captain of this team – it’s hard to imagine how he would make the final cut to four if, indeed, there is such a filtering – but his appointment right now is a testament to his character and resolve.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-28/Rapp_Around_Eight_Is_Enough.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-28/Rapp_Around_Eight_Is_Enough.aspx 255ab729-b44f-4a08-91ca-95a2480618c7 Wed, 28 Aug 2013 16:37:10 GMT Meyer 'Can't Wait' For Saturday As of <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>’s Monday luncheon address, the second-ranked Ohio State football team still hadn’t named its captains or released a depth chart for the season opener with Buffalo (noon Eastern, ESPN2).<br /> <br /> However, that shouldn’t be misconstrued as a Buckeyes team that isn’t ready to go.<br /> <br /> “I just can’t wait to play football,” Meyer, OSU’s 49-year-old head coach, said as if he’d suit up himself.<br /> <br /> Meyer’s anxiousness is understandable given the recent climate of the offseason, which was shaped by player misdeeds and him addressing his policies regarding punishment for such actions. Just last week, in fact, Meyer consented to a sitdown interview with ESPN’s <strong>Chris Fowler</strong> and the segment, heavy on off-field incidents, aired as the network’s “Sunday Conversation” this weekend.<br /> <br /> But it’s also clear the OSU coaches like a lot of what they’ve seen from preseason camp and believe they have a team with which to be reckoned.<br /> <br /> Meyer admitted he has concerns with the depth at linebacker and is very interested to see how the secondary holds up with <strong>Doran Grant</strong> at one corner, <strong>Armani Reeves</strong> replacing the suspended <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> at the other, and redshirt freshman <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong> debuting at the nickel spot next to senior safeties <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> and <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong>.<br /> <br /> Still, he believes the defense is on solid footing, and defensive coordinator <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> concurred, saying he feels “very good” about how the front seven – consisting of linebacker <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> and six new starters – will perform.<br /> <br /> As for the offense, Meyer all but promised that <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> will have no problems taking over for suspended senior <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> at running back, that <strong>Bri’onte Dunn</strong> and <strong>Warren Ball</strong> have earned their keep behind Hall, and that freshmen <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> and <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> also will touch the ball vs. Buffalo.<br /> <br /> Offensive coordinator <strong>Tom Herman</strong> also likes the weaponry on the outside and added that veterans <strong>Philly Brown</strong>, <strong>Devin Smith</strong>, <strong>Chris Fields</strong> and <strong>Evan Spencer</strong> – one of the clear stars of camp – all have proved they are capable of seeing the field for 50-plus plays in games this season.<br /> <br /> The offensive line is loaded with four senior returnees and talented right tackle <strong>Taylor Decker</strong>, the tight end position is in very good hands with <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong> and <strong>Nick Vannett</strong>, and the kicking game looks solid if not spectacular – but just may be spectacular with booming new punter <strong>Cameron Johnston</strong> and return men such as the electric Wilson in the fold.<br /> <br /> Meyer even likes the second unit of the offensive line, noting that <strong>Chase Farris</strong>, <strong>Jacoby Boren</strong>, <strong>Pat Elflein</strong>, <strong>Kyle Dodson</strong> and <strong>Darryl Baldwin</strong> all have the trust of the coaching staff to step on to the field and play well.<br /> <br /> “Offensive line I feel very good about,” Meyer said. “We’re much deeper.”<br /> <br /> Even at linebacker, a trouble area last year and a group now missing <strong>Etienne Sabino</strong> and <strong>Zach Boren</strong>, Meyer believes the personnel can meet the objective.<br /> <br /> “The area that we’re still trying to solidify is linebacker just because there’s some young guys, and then also <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> hasn’t played a whole lot of Mike linebacker,” Meyer said. “He’s catching up quick … (but) that’s the one area we’re really behind.”<br /> <br /> The coaches admittedly went into last season with major concerns about the consistency and productivity of the wideouts, but on Monday Herman called that group “the most improved position on the team.”<br /> <br /> Freshman <strong>Jalin Marshall</strong>’s unveiling may have to wait a bit – he’s “got a lot of ground to make up” according to Meyer because of a concussion issue – but <strong>Michael Thomas</strong>, <strong>Corey Smith</strong>, <strong>James Clark</strong> and Wilson are all capable of mixing in and providing a spark.<br /> <br /> Even with all the weapons surrounding quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>, Herman said the Buckeyes will play uptempo but not try to set an land-speed records going for a hundred plays.<br /> <br /> “It sounds cliché but we’re going to do what it takes to win the football game,” he said.<br /> <br /> And the coaches do have some concern with the Bulls defense, which is run by former Illinois head coach <strong>Lou Tepper</strong>. Buffalo shows a 3-3 stack – three down linemen, three linebackers, and three safeties to go with two corners – and also tries to cause havoc with shifting up front.<br /> <br /> “They play their defensive tackles inside your tackles which screws up your blocking schemes,” Meyer said.<br /> <br /> Herman said the Buckeyes will be challenged to deal with that in the trenches but the linemen have had extra time to prepare since Buffalo represents opponent number one.<br /> <br /> Meyer said that in addition to Elliott, Wilson and Johnston, he expects freshmen defensive linemen <strong>Joey Bosa</strong> and <strong>Michael Hill</strong> to get on the field. The head coach has a limited roster at his disposal – fewer than 70 scholarship players are at his avail for the opener – but believes the Buckeyes are “relatively healthy” and have depth where they need it.<br /> <br /> Also, at Meyer’s choosing, the coaches and trainers made sure not to push the players’ too strenuously in practice.<br /> <br /> “We were very smart this year as far as the way we prepared,” Meyer said. “It depends on how we play coming up here, but I really like the way Coach (<strong>Mickey</strong>) <strong>Marotti</strong> and myself – we spent an inordinate amount of time with our trainers just making sure we were doing it the right way, and I feel very good about where we’re at.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-26/Meyer_Can_t_Wait_For_Saturday.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-26/Meyer_Can_t_Wait_For_Saturday.aspx a377f42a-64e0-4340-abdb-5c25c4c1b724 Mon, 26 Aug 2013 19:54:00 GMT Sullinger Always Looking Ahead Even though Buckeye fans are long acquainted with him and he finds himself suddenly thrust into a prime role with one of the most recognizable franchises in sports, <strong>Jared Sullinger</strong> is still just 21 years old and he’s still learning – a lot.<br /> <br /> In fact, Sullinger, a former Columbus Northland and Ohio State All-American, recently spoke at a local YMCA in his hometown about the importance of continuing education. His speech kicked off a three-hour event on Friday – the Provost Academy Ohio’s inaugural Family Festival.<br /> <br /> After leading the Buckeyes to the 2012 Final Four as a sophomore, the 6-9 Sullinger declared for early entry into the NBA draft and was selected in the first round (21st overall) by the Boston Celtics. He found early success and put up averages of 6.0 points and 5.9 rebounds for a veteran team before being shut down 45 games into the season to undergo back surgery.<br /> <br /> Sullinger says he’s now fully recovered but this offseason the Celtics have endured a complete transformation, going from aging Eastern Conference contender to green team starting over.<br /> <br /> Team president <strong>Danny Ainge</strong> is trying to position Boston for a future glory and Sullinger is now a more important piece than ever with veterans <strong>Kevin Garnett</strong>, <strong>Paul Pierce</strong> and <strong>Jason Terry</strong> all being bartered off to the Brooklyn Nets for three first-round draft picks.<br /> <br /> Ainge even traded coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for another first-round pick and shuttled away former Syracuse center <strong>Fab Melo</strong>, who was drafted one spot after Sullinger last summer.<br /> <br /> Sullinger now appears destined for a starting role if his back can hold up, and he’ll toil for new coach <strong>Brad Stevens</strong> (formerly of Butler University) and with several new faces.<br /> <br /> SportsRappUp.com caught up with Sullinger just prior to his address at the Eldon and Elsie Ward Family YMCA and engaged him in the following conversation:<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> When does camp and all that begin?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> Sept. 30th.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> So you have until the end of September to report?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> Not really. I’m going to report early. I’ve been there the whole time, so I’m basically there already.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> So you have an apartment in the Boston area already?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> Yep. I live out in Boston.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> And a dog, I see?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> I’ve got two dogs. I’ve got a Yorkie and a goldendoodle. The Yorkie is my girlfriend’s dog, though.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> So how did this whole arrangement start?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> Pretty much they were looking for somebody to support education and my family is big on education. I thought it was a good opportunity for me to just let people know there are alternatives to education and there are other ways to do education.<br /> <br /> My biggest thing is online, and it helps you out. There are so many distractions at school, period, and some people learn differently. So maybe that one-on-one attention will help that kid succeed in life. I’m all about helping kids succeed.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> You’re talking online classes at OSU now?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> No, not right now. But I was and I’m just trying to handle that. I’m probably going to jump back in next semester.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> You’re taking them in the summer?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> Not this summer. I couldn’t take them this summer.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> What is your major?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> Sports management.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> Did you get halfway through toward your degree or not quite halfway?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> I’m not quite halfway. I withdrew from school because I didn’t want Ohio State to lose a scholarship due to me traveling. I’d probably miss class and stuff so I decided not to finish out that quarter because I wanted to help Ohio State keep a scholarship. So that was me sacrificing something of myself for the good of the university. Now I’m just fighting back, trying to get back up there.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> When did you declare sports management as a major? Did you always know you were going to do that?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> I always knew I was going to do that. I was doing classes. I didn’t officially declare but I will officially be in sports management.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> I’m assuming you talked to <strong>Evan</strong> (<strong>Turner</strong>) and guys like that before you made your decision. Did anyone go in as deep as talking about how to handle things academically or did you always feel like you were going to figure that out?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> They always did the pros and cons, the pros and cons. What can you do, what can’t you do. It pretty much helped me out and taught me how everything is a touchy subject.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> Is there a timetable for when you want to finish.<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> I really don’t have a timetable, but it’s going to take some time. I know that much. It’s hard to do it throughout the season because there are times when you miss quizzes and stuff online because of games or you’re in a different city and the time zone is kind of different.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> So when you come back to a community like this and you’re at an event like this, what’s the message that you try to get across?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> Education is everything. I’m all for education. It doesn’t matter who it’s with. I’m a Columbus guy, Columbus Public Schools. I support them as well. But it’s education, period. Everybody learns differently and everybody’s means are different. So I’m just trying to get all forms of education out there.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> Your mom taught for a long time, right?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> She’s still teaching. She’s still teaching at South High School. She’s a math teacher. My mom’s been teaching for a long time. Dad retired.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> Have you talked to <strong>Trey</strong> (<strong>Burke</strong>) about this in particular?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> Not really.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> He’s got a lot to sort out.<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> Yeah, Trey is really in a transition period right now between moving to Utah, understanding what’s going on in Utah, who to hang with in Utah. So his head is kind of everywhere right now. He doesn’t know who’s coming into his training camp, he doesn’t know how to handle events. He needs to understand this is a business now.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> How about you. It wasn’t maybe the rookie year you were looking for with the injury and the surgery and everything, but I’m sure you feel like you’ve got a little bit better handle on everything.<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> When you have someone like Kevin, he really kind of sorts things out for you. He’s been in the league for 17, 18 years. He played against MJ (<strong>Michael Jordan</strong>), he played against <strong>Kobe</strong> (<strong>Bryant</strong>), and now he’s playing against <strong>LeBron</strong> (<strong>James</strong>). So he knows everything. He’s been there and done that, and so I’m just taking everything in at once. I’m just trying to learn from him. I still am. I still talk to him to this day.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> But is it weird that you’ve hardly played and you’re probably one of the key pieces going forward now. Do you feel like you already have to try to start leading or ... ?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> No, you’ve just got to play the game and understand who you can trust and who you can’t trust and understand that this is a business. At the end of the day guys are going to get paid and they’re going to do what they want.<br /> <br /> This is not like college. In college a coach would sit them down. Now money is involved, it’s a business. You’ve got to win. If you don’t win, you might get out of there. So you kind of have to understand that you have to stay in your lane.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> What did you think of this offseason with all the changes?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> I thought what we did was big, because when we traded Kevin, Paul and JT it kind of helped us out because we got nine draft picks at the end of the day. Those are big-time draft picks, especially going into this class coming up and the following year. Those are things we can wheel and deal away maybe for cash considerations or players, you never know.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> Have you met Coach Stevens yet?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> Yeah, Coach Stevens is around. Great guy. I love him. He’s a good guy.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> Did you know him during college at all?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> Yeah, I knew him. And he used to recruit at Northland High School. He used to recruit some of our players, so he was always up there.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q.</strong> What was your impression of him then?<br /> <br /> <strong>Sullinger:</strong> I always respected him for what he did and how he handled situations, and also his coaching style. And going to two Final Fours with the talent he’s got.<br /> <strong><br /> </strong> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-26/Sullinger_Always_Looking_Ahead.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-26/Sullinger_Always_Looking_Ahead.aspx 170ae062-3777-4361-8d3c-186a0ba188ca Mon, 26 Aug 2013 15:04:58 GMT Johnston Not 'Mucking Around' <strong>Cameron Johnston</strong> is a 21-year-old Ohio State freshman football player with brownish-orange hair and freckles. Despite his slight frame (6-0, 195), he wears a number 95 on his jersey, which screams “specialist.”<br /> <br /> Even with his Australian accent and the fact that he is a Buckeye, it’s difficult for Johnston to come across as cool when he’s around his teammates – so he often doesn’t even try.<br /> <br /> At Ohio State’s Media Day earlier this month, OSU’s new punter protected his million-dollar feet with … a pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars.<br /> <br /> “It’s something a little different,” he said with his Outback dialect and a laugh. “Some of the people here are mucking around about it.”<br /> <br /> Johnston, though, knows the “mucking around” will end when the Buckeyes bog down offensively and need their new golden leg to boot one deep across the field.<br /> <br /> Ironically, Johnston is only on campus because the program was so flush with scholarship players back in the winter that OSU commitment <strong>Johnny Townsend</strong> changed his mind and opted instead to play at Florida after signing day.<br /> <br /> Since then head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> has lost several players off his roster and the coaches are thrilled to have Johnston, a former Australian Rules Football player, in the fold.<br /> <br /> “He is a weapon,” said OSU assistant <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong>, who tutors the specialists as well as the cornerbacks. “He can rugby kick the ball down inside the 10, he can kick the ball legitimately as far as you want him to kick it, and he can hit it as high as you want him to kick it. He is special.”<br /> <br /> Seeing is believing when it comes to Johnston’s uncanny leg strength. (For a Youtube.com video of his exploits, click here.)<br /> <br /> Realizing there may be opportunity to play American football, Johnston joined forces with instructors <strong>Nathan Chapman</strong> and <strong>John Smith</strong> at ProKick Australia and devoted 18 months to honing his craft. He saw what the instruction and repetition did for <strong>Alex Dunnachie</strong> at Hawaii, <strong>Christian Eldred</strong> at Minnesota, and, more recently, <strong>Tom Hornsey</strong> at Memphis.<br /> <br /> Hornsey – who also hails from Geelong, Australia, and prepped at St. Joseph’s – averaged 43.4 yards per boot last season for the Tigers and is in position to be selected in the NFL draft in April. Johnston can kick the ball more than 60 yards almost at will and may be on the same path.<br /> <br /> He said he filmed “countless videos” at ProKick and found that kicking could be a daylong pursuit.<br /> <br /> “We’d train at 8 in the morning until 3 of 4 in the afternoon and do that every single day,” he said.<br /> <br /> When Johnston began to flourish in the program, Chapman contacted Ohio State knowing the coaches needed a punter.<br /> <br /> During the first preseason practice with the entire team, Johnston put on a show.<br /> <br /> “The first day came off quite well,” he said.<br /> <br /> Reports suggested Johnston came back down to earth the next day when OSU practiced live punting with a full rush, but Johnston said he will not be cowed when it comes to executing on game day.<br /> <br /> “Not at all,” he said confidently. “You work on it every day for a year and a half and you find you’re ready to go after it after the first month or two of doing it back home.”<br /> <br /> Johnston said part of his ProKick training involved simulations of different rushes and pressure packages on the punter.<br /> <br /> “You’d get tackled on the run, you’d get tackled every time you had the ball,” he said.<br /> <br /> Once he proved he could handle that aspect and got in touch with his close friend, Hornsey, Johnston was open to the cross-continent shift to Ohio State.<br /> <br /> He’s still a freshman technically but many of his university classes have been credited.<br /> <br /> “All of my transcripts transferred over really well here, so everything is fine,” said Johnston, an education major.<br /> <br /> “Provided he can continue to do that and manage the American football environment that he is about to placed in, he is going to be a great, great addition to our team,” Coombs said.<br /> <br /> “The background stuff that we did before we brought him here indicates that he can. Everything that he’s done since he’s been here indicates that he can. But he still hasn’t done it yet. We’ve got to see August 31st what shows up. But in practice and in every other area, he’s been fantastic.”<br /> <br /> OSU placekicker <strong>Drew Basil</strong> is at the ready in case Johnston can’t handle the punting chores, but he doesn’t think there’s any real chance of that happening. Basil also has raved about Johnston and called the Aussie’s skill “unbelievable” at Media Day.<br /> <br /> Coombs also is convinced Johnston will shine but does have one concern.<br /> <br /> “He hasn’t played in front of 107,000 people, and a bunch of people wearing shoulder pads running at him full speed wanting to kill him,” Coombs said.<br /> <br /> Once Johnston gets that first one out of the way – and survives – the emphasis will be on situational kicking and efficiency as much as just showing off his booming right leg.<br /> <br /> “We’re specific with what we want from our punter,” Coombs said. “We don’t want him to outkick the coverage. What we want is no return yards, so we’re tailoring his skill set to meet what we want out of punt. So the biggest area of growth for him has to be in kick placement. It’s got to be where we want every time we want it.”<br /> <br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-22/Johnston_Not_Mucking_Around.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-22/Johnston_Not_Mucking_Around.aspx 08495004-c08e-40ae-ac08-f8639f1030dd Thu, 22 Aug 2013 20:58:36 GMT Bringing The Roar Back To Leo <strong>Noah Spence</strong>’s father was an athlete – <strong>Greg Spence</strong> also played college football – and so was his uncle.<br /> <br /> In fact, <strong>Phil Spence</strong> was a 6-8 forward and standout basketball player at North Carolina State in the 1970s. He was the sixth man and a big contributor to the 1973-74 team that won the national championship.<br /> <br /> Therefore, it will be hard for Noah to claim bragging rights in his family.<br /> <br /> However, Noah has a physically gifted teammate, <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>, who could gain college icon status similar to <strong>David Thompson</strong>. He also could follow in his uncle’s footsteps and win a ring as his Ohio State football team enters the season ranked No. 2 in both major polls.<br /> <br /> And if the Buckeyes are to find glory at the end of the season it stands to reason that Spence will be a big reason for the success.<br /> <br /> He lines up at the all-important Leo position on the end of the defensive line, the same spot where <strong>John Simon</strong> prospered in recent years. Like Simon, Spence possesses a great work ethic, a high motor, and seems to understand the importance of leadership.<br /> <br /> Several teammates including <strong>Michael Bennett</strong>, now the most veteran member of the D-line, have doled out rave reviews for Spence this offseason and believe the sophomore is ready to make a major impact.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> can’t seem to talk about Spence – or fellow defensive end <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong>, for that matter – without proclaiming that he already has All-Big Ten talent. Of course, that’s not shocking considering Spence was a five-star prospect while at Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt and was an immediate priority recruit when Meyer became head coach in November 2011.<br /> <br /> “When you tell your coaches, ‘Go out and find players,’ he’s what you go find,” Meyer said. “Very, very talented guy who has incredible work ethic and self respect. I love Noah Spence.”<br /> <br /> Spence is about as complete a package for which one could hope. He’s a 6-3, 250-pound athletic specimen as well as an OSU Scholar-Athlete. As a prep junior and senior he logged a combined 204 tackles including 50 tackles-for-loss and 35.5 sacks. By the time he was done playing at McDevitt he was Gatorade Player of the Year in Pennsylvania, a Parade All-American and a top-five prospect nationally.<br /> <br /> Now the challenge is for Spence to get up to speed on everything the position demands and let his immense gifts loose on the field.<br /> <br /> When asked why he has been able to elevate his play in practice, Spence said, “Basically, knowing more about the defense and everything, all the schemes and everything like that, being able to play faster. I know more about the defense now.”<br /> <br /> He also admitted that he’s working harder on the intangible aspects of his game.<br /> <br /> “I’m trying to become more of a leader on our defensive line,” Spence said. “There are a lot of young players on our D-line, so I guess I’ve got to play that role.”<br /> <br /> Spence and Washington are slotted at each starting end position and the interior starters appear to be Bennett and <strong>Joel Hale</strong>. They will have a tough time living up to the consistency and production of the previous front – Simon, <strong>Nate Williams</strong>, <strong>Johnathan Hankins</strong> and <strong>Garrett Goebel</strong>.<br /> <br /> Spence, though, appears up to the challenge.<br /> <br /> He managed to get on the field last year as a true freshman for 237 plays on defense and hinted at his massive ability with 12 tackles and a sack in 11 games.<br /> <br /> Heading into this season he’s try to live up to standards put forth by Meyer and position coach <strong>Mike Vrabel</strong>, who constantly demand relentless effort for four to six seconds on every snap.<br /> <br /> “I’m just trying to go real hard on every play and not make as many mistakes as I did last year,” Spence said. “I’m giving it my all on every play.”<br /> <br /> To make sure he holds up to that kind of pace and the pounding he’ll face in the Big Ten, Spence has added about 25 pounds of muscle to his frame. Last season his weight remained in the 225-to-227 range.<br /> <br /> “This year, I’m staying around 250, 253,” he said.<br /> <br /> For comparison sake, Washington is about 40 pounds heavier at 6-3, 292. He, too, has looked unblockable at times in practice.<br /> <br /> The two are roommates, close friends and competitors.<br /> <br /> “Since Day 1 since we got here we were like best friends,” Spence said. “When we compete with each other we make each other better. Basically, in practice I’m not going to let him get a sack without me getting one. We push each other to be that much better.”<br /> <br /> If they can meet their potential and the other pieces fall in place, the Buckeyes could be in line for a run at another undefeated season – and, unlike last year, they could carry that into a postseason.<br /> <br /> Spence wants a ring like Uncle Phil waves around and Ohio State will enter its championship path at a pretty good spot as the nation’s No. 2 team.<br /> <br /> “Basically (it means) we’re pretty much got a target on our head,” Spence said. “We’ve got to work harder because everybody is going to be out to try to get us. It just means we’ve got to work that much harder.”<br /> <br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-20/Bringing_The_Roar_Back_To_Leo.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-20/Bringing_The_Roar_Back_To_Leo.aspx 63420106-0c28-4686-ac59-bade9068353a Wed, 21 Aug 2013 02:02:21 GMT Biancardi Rates Future Buckeyes Since the Ohio State basketball coaching staff has moved forward and started piecing together its 2015 recruiting class with a verbal commitment from <strong>A.J. Harris</strong> recently, now is a good time to look back on the previous work.<br /> <br /> Harris is a 5-9 point guard from Dayton Dunbar and one of the rising juniors in the Midwest. Two of his AAU teammates, wings <strong>V.J. King</strong> and <strong>Luke Kennard</strong>, also are priority recruits for head coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong> and his assistants.<br /> <br /> The staff will now march ahead knowing a lot of help already is arrived or promised, especially in the backcourt.<br /> <br /> While there is still room for perhaps another player in the 2014 class, Ohio State already has solid commitments from four prospects who are heading into their senior year – 6-4 forward <strong>Jae’Sean Tate</strong> of Pickerington (Ohio) Central, 6-5 wing <strong>D’Angelo Russell</strong> of Montverde (Fla.) Academy, 6-7 forward <strong>Keita Bates-Diop</strong> of Normal (Ill.) Community, and 6-10 power forward <strong>David Bell</strong> of Garfield Heights (Ohio) HS.<br /> <br /> Buckeye fans also are anxious to see the exploits of the two players who are now enrolled and will be OSU freshman during the upcoming season – 6-2 guard <strong>Kameron Williams</strong> of Baltimore and 6-7 forward <strong>Marc Loving</strong> of Toledo.<br /> <br /> <strong>Paul Biancardi</strong>, who serves as the National Recruiting Director for ESPN.com, is familiar with five of the six aforementioned players – he was just starting to get up to speed on Bell – when SportsRappUp.com caught up with him at the adidas Invitational in Indianapolis earlier this summer.<br /> <br /> A former Ohio State assistant under <strong>Jim O’Brien</strong>, Biancardi has lots of opinions on OSU’s most immediate help and the 2014 class, and they follow:<br /> <br /> <strong>D’Angelo Russell<br /> 6-5 wing<br /> Montverde (Fla.) Academy</strong><br /> <strong>Biancardi’s assessment –</strong> “I love him. He’s a scoring guard with a three-point shot who can shake defenders with the dribble, he creates space, and he finishes at the rim. What people don’t realize about him is he’s an outstanding passer and has great vision. Now, he’s not a point guard. He’s a scoring guard who can really pass the ball.<br /> <br /> “He gets buckets easy, has a lot of self confidence, he can score in transition. Any kind of space he can score, and even when it’s tight quarters in the half-court he’ll rap off a screen, use a tight curl, and knock down shots. He’s got a smooth stroke, he’s got size, great instincts, and is a tremendous passer.”<br /> <br /> <strong>How his skills will translate –</strong> “His scoring instincts are so natural, and I’m really impressed with his ability to pass the ball. I think the people at Ohio State are going to love the way he passes just as much as the way he scores.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Keita Bates-Diop<br /> 6-7 combo forward<br /> Normal (Ill.) Community<br /> Biancardi’s assessment –</strong> “He’s another natural scorer. So the Buckeyes have Russell at 6-3, Bates is 6-7 and he has a really good jump shot. He’s really good inside the arc with the ball. He can make threes, but when you put him at 15 or 17 feet at the elbows and in the short corner, he makes shots. He can play with his back to the basket.<br /> <br /> “His game kind of elevates at all three levels. He scores from behind the line, in the midrange and in the paint. So to have those three different areas to score the ball comfortably with size, he’ll be a mismatch in some ways.<br /> <br /> “He plays within himself, he stays in his lane, he’s a good passer. He’s extremely productive. When you look at him and D’Angelo Russell and you look at their boxscores every night, they’re very productive players in terms of scoring and passing and rebounding.”<br /> <br /> <strong>How his skills will translate –</strong> “Thad ought to be able to use him at the three, and then if they’re going to play small he can play some four. I just like his versatility and I love his ability to score the ball.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Jae’Sean Tate<br /> 6-4 forward<br /> Pickerington (Ohio) Central<br /> Biancardi’s assessment –</strong> “He just defines toughness. When you look up the definition of whatever toughness may mean, he’s it. He plays the game with a poker face. He’s never too high, he’s never too low, but his motor is always on high. His effort and his energy are constant.<br /> <br /> “He’s looking to do things without the ball to make a difference. He’ll rebound and go get it, he’ll step in and take a charge. He’ll defend his man. He’ll take on the challenge and guard anybody he has to, even if he’s bigger or quicker. And offensively he’s opportunistic.<br /> <br /> “He can score the ball close into the basket. He’s not broke. And he’s got a little bit of a jump shot from midrange and he can beat you off the dribble. Scoring is not his thing, but he can find ways within the flow of an offense to get some points.”<br /> <br /> <strong>How his skills will translate –</strong> “He’ll get his points off of transition and broken plays when the shot clock is winding down. If it’s a loose ball, he can go pick it up and get to the rim. If everybody is concentrating on somebody else, he’ll take advantage of opportunities. If you leave him alone, he’s going to make you pay one way or another – with the pass or a basket. He plays within himself, and that’s what makes him so good.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Kameron Williams<br /> 6-2 shooting guard<br /> Biancardi’s assessement –</strong> “Prolific scorer. He’s got a point guard’s body but a two-guard’s game. He’s very comfortable and confident in shooting threes. He’s under control, he plays with poise. When a defender runs out at him, he’ll take that jump shot or shot fake and go to his middle game. He goes to the rim when he can. He’s small, so he doesn’t go there too much, but he’s always probing and he’s always attacking the defense.<br /> <br /> “And what I like about him is he’s not hunting down shots. He’s not a volume guy. He’ll give the ball up when he doesn’t have something to score. I think that’s what makes him special. A lot of scorers take a lot of bad shots. I don’t see Kam Williams taking bad shots. I see him playing with poise and a lot of confidence.”<br /> <br /> <strong>How he fits in –</strong> “I think he’s an immediate contributor. Now, is he a point guard today? No. Can he be converted into a point guard? I don’t know. But I know one thing: That guy can get buckets. Some people sleep on him because he doesn’t look like much out on the floor, but he can get you a basket when you need it.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Marc Loving<br /> 6-7 combo forward<br /> Biancardi’s assessment –</strong> “You’ve got to love his size and athletic ability. He’s a finesse player. He’s becoming more productive with his scoring. He’s just got to be more assertive, more aggressive with his opportunities. Sometimes he can disappear within a possession. So once that starts to come on a constant basis, you could see him more impacting the program.”<br /> <br /> <strong>How he fits in –</strong> “It’ll probably come on a little bit later down the road for the Buckeyes, almost like LaQuinton Ross. What the Buckeyes have done with him has been tremendous. In his first year he was lost even though he had a ton of talent – no defense at all and he really didn’t know how to play the game. And the Buckeyes made him efficient and effective, and they deserve a lot of credit for his productivity.<br /> <br /> “Thad seems to get a lot of guys like that, I think, because he plays a lot of those guys at the four spot and they become mismatch problems for teams that play two bigs. Deshaun Thomas was playing the four and the three, and in Thad’s ball-screen offensive system he gets those guys a lot of touches.”<br /> <br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-19/Biancardi_Rates_Future_Buckeyes.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-19/Biancardi_Rates_Future_Buckeyes.aspx 740ec704-c76f-44b8-b8c0-6582b36a3c44 Mon, 19 Aug 2013 16:22:56 GMT More Suspensions, More Injuries The Ohio State football team has survived its hell week at Ackerman Road Field – sort of.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes finished up nine practices in a six-day window with a lively scrimmage on Saturday and players looked wiped out and relieved as they returned to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center around noon, which was move-in day on campus.<br /> <br /> On Media Day last Sunday, senior guard <strong>Marcus Hall</strong> knew he and his teammates were in for a survival test with head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> and strength and conditioning coach <strong>Mickey Marotti</strong> pushing the envelope.<br /> <br /> “Ackerman is just mentally awful,” Hall said. “You’ve got to come into the situation thinking about football and nothing else. It’s a different feel, not what you’re used to. Urban likes to put us outside of our comfort zone. It will be hell.”<br /> <br /> Sure enough, some players broke down, and according to Meyer redshirt freshman tight end <strong>Blake Thomas</strong> is no longer able to play football because of a chronic nerve condition in his neck.<br /> <br /> A product of Cleveland St. Ignatius, Thomas (6-4, 240) had been a part of Meyer’s inaugural recruiting class. He was hoping to land the third tight end spot during camp, especially with true freshman <strong>Marcus Baugh</strong> facing a suspension for the Aug. 31 season opener with Buffalo.<br /> <br /> But it was not to be.<br /> <br /> “Blake Thomas’ career is over,” Meyer said. “Blake had a neck injury and the recommendation was (to end his career). He is a great kid from a great program. He will always be a Buckeye.”<br /> <br /> Thomas is the third OSU player in a handful of days to be declared off the roster because of injury. Defensive backs <strong>Adam Griffin</strong> and <strong>Jamie Wood</strong> had to hang it up because of shoulder ailments.<br /> <br /> “Obviously, Archie and Bonita’s son, Adam, was really a contributor for us,” Meyer said. “He hurt his shoulder. I didn’t realize it. He was such a tough kid and he didn’t tell anybody.<br /> <br /> “And Jamie Wood, that poor guy, I love him, too. They are all great kids and they will all get their degrees from Ohio State. Those are three losses for us.”<br /> <br /> Some other noteworthy moments from Saturday follow:<br /> <br /> * Even though cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> had a charge against him reduced from battery to disorderly conduct following a disturbance at a Bloomington, Ind., bar, Meyer said Roby will be held out of the season opener.<br /> <br /> “I don’t think (the legal process) is done yet,” Meyer said. “The assault or battery part was the part there was a video on. I was told (originally) there wasn’t one. He’ll be suspended one game just because there was an issue. I will make a further determination … I don’t think it’s done.<br /> <br /> “He was there and he shouldn’t have been there. He will not play in the first game.”<br /> <br /> * Meyer also revealed that running back <strong>Rod Smith</strong> will miss the Buffalo game due to a team rules violation that occurred back in the winter. Senior <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> will be the starter, and Meyer speculated that the order behind Hall in terms of receiving handoffs will be <strong>Bri’onte Dunn</strong>, <strong>Warren Ball</strong>, and freshmen <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> and <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong>.<br /> <br /> “Rod Smith will be suspended for the first game because of an issue that happened way back in January or February,” the coach said. “He’s doing very good. He will be a valuable member of this team once he gets back. He is practicing at a very high level. It’s his last call. It’s the 11th hour for Rod Smith, so he needs to perform.<br /> <br /> “If it wasn’t for a mistake, he may be a starter. I want to move Jordan. We want him to play both spots – the H-back and tailback.”<br /> <br /> * According to linebacker <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong>, the offense was well ahead of the defense in the scrimmage. Meyer seemed to agree. He praised the play of Hall, said <strong>Taylor Decker</strong> has nailed down the right tackle spot and quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> continues to mature.<br /> <br /> Meyer also mentioned wide receiver <strong>Devin Smith</strong> and Marcus Hall as players who made their mark in the scrimmage.<br /> <br /> “Devin Smith stood out,” Meyer said. “He probably had his best day. There was so much that happened today. There were almost 50 plays (for each unit). That’s a lot at this time of the year, but there are so many young guys who need to go.<br /> <br /> “Marcus Hall is a guy who, with four returning (offensive line) starters, I thought he was behind the other three. He has really accelerated to being one of the top linemen. I’m proud of the way he has performed.”<br /> <br /> * It’s a good thing Hall and <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> have held up well up front as the other returning starters, center <strong>Corey Linsley</strong> and left guard <strong>Andrew Norwell</strong>, are still dealing with foot injuries. Freshman <strong>Billy Price</strong> was moved from defensive line to offensive line this week because of the lack of depth on that side of the ball.<br /> <br /> Similarly, with Thomas out, lineman <strong>J.T. Moore</strong> was given some reps at tight end.<br /> <br /> * If that weren’t enough reason for concern, freshman wide receiver <strong>Jalin Marshall</strong> has fallen behind.<br /> <br /> “He missed about five practices,” Meyer said. “He had a slight injury but he’s fine now. He practiced today but he is a little bit behind the others because he missed some time.”<br /> <br /> Also, linebacker <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> missed the scrimmage due to an undisclosed injury, though it was not deemed serious.<br /> <br /> * The Buckeyes are now at the midway point of camp and have weathered the most demanding part. Still, the setbacks and the occasionally shaky play at linebacker have the coaches questioning whether the team is ready to confirm its lofty preseason ranking of No. 2 in both major polls.<br /> <br /> “Two weeks (until the opener), we’re not ready to play a game yet,” Meyer said. “The good news is we don’t have to be.<br /> <br /> “Our goal is the military model – the power of the unit. We want nine units ready when called upon. We’re not there yet. There are four or five units that are really close and four that are not. We have two weeks to do it.”<br /> <br /> Meyer gave the team Sunday off before practice resumes Monday. Fall semester classes begin on Wednesday.<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-17/More_Suspensions_More_Injuries.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-17/More_Suspensions_More_Injuries.aspx d3fb9165-4cb1-491e-ab9a-5454a9c74828 Sat, 17 Aug 2013 21:36:00 GMT Secondary Loses Pair of Vets <strong>Adam Griffin</strong> wanted to be known for more than being the son of all-time Ohio State legend <strong>Archie Griffin</strong>, and his aim – at least in the present – was to do so by making a name for himself on the football field.<br /> <br /> Now he may have to look for other avenues.<br /> <br /> An Ohio State release today confirmed that the football career of the younger Griffin may have just come to a close after he underwent shoulder surgery Thursday morning. A fourth-year junior who prepped at Columbus DeSales, Griffin had become a valuable special teams performer and had worked his way into the two-deep at cornerback.<br /> <br /> He planned to wear jersey No. 11 this season after donning No. 9 previously. Diminutive but fierce <strong>Antoine Winfield</strong>, the 1998 Thorpe Award winner, is among the former Buckeyes to wear No. 11.<br /> <br /> Listed 5-8 and 183 pounds – his dad wasn’t known for intimidating size, either – Griffin played in all 12 games last season and logged 13 total tackles including eight solos. He also was credited with a pass defended and pass defended, the latter a stellar play on special teams to thwart fourth-down attempt by Penn State off of a fake punt.<br /> <br /> “They call him ‘Young Arch’ all the time, but he’s strong in who he is,” Archie Griffin told The Cleveland Plain Dealer after his son won the special teams player of the week award after the 2012 opener with Miami (Ohio). “He doesn't let that stuff bother him. Somebody else might let that bother them. Adam is a very confident young man, and he knows who he is, and he doesn't try to be like his dad or anything like that.”<br /> <br /> Adam’s older brother Andre also was a Buckeye football player.<br /> <br /> However, Adam’s career appears cut short.<br /> <br /> A Griffin family member confirmed the surgery and told SportsRappUp.com that “everything’s fine,” but preferred not to elaborate or speculate on Adam’s playing outlook.<br /> <br /> Ironically, Griffin was the recipient of the team’s Iron Buckeye Award this past winter. It goes to the student-athlete who best exemplifies unquestionable physical training dedication, determination, discipline, toughness and leadership.<br /> <br /> Griffin could try to return next season but could risk further injury to the shoulder.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> still has another year of dealing with a scholarship reduction due to NCAA sanctions that apply to misconduct prior to his arrival. The normal allotment of 85 has been reduced to 82 and the Buckeyes currently have just 78 healthy scholarship players on the roster.<br /> <br /> Another veteran defensive back and local product, fifth-year safety <strong>Jamie Wood</strong> of Pickerington, also is going to have to bow to a shoulder injury.<br /> <br /> Wood briefly walked away from the program because of a chronic injury to his AC joint, but tried to give it another go this offeseason. Listed 6-1 and 210 pounds, Wood played in 30 career games for OSU; Griffin appeared in 16.<br /> <br /> Wood already has his degree in strategic communications and intends to enroll in graduate school. Griffin is majoring in consumer and family financial services.<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-15/Secondary_Loses_Pair_of_Vets.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-15/Secondary_Loses_Pair_of_Vets.aspx 43cda885-c55f-4265-aaca-c5eb76cdbbe2 Thu, 15 Aug 2013 20:57:21 GMT Deflecting The Heisman Glare <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> has been anchored as Ohio State’s football coach long enough for anyone to imagine his cold, steely stare when he’s, well, displeased.<br /> <br /> But mention just two words – <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> – and the 49-year-old turns from hard case to fluttering, lovestruck teenager.<br /> <br /> In fact, Meyer uses the L word a lot these days when he’s asked about his starting quarterback.<br /> <br /> “I’ve been hurt before saying too many good things about a guy, but I love Braxton Miller,” the coach said during Big Ten Media Days in Chicago last month. “I love who he is. I love how he handles his business. I love the fact that he never walks by my office without coming in. I think he’s a man.”<br /> <br /> Meyer could see the natural attributes Miller possesses almost as soon as he took control of the program. He knew he had a special talent capable of running his spread offense and keeping foes on their toes.<br /> <br /> But Meyer also questioned whether Miller had the chops to be a true leader and superstar, mostly because he could hardly get more than a handful of words at a time out of the youngster’s mouth.<br /> <br /> So last fall, with the Buckeyes staring down a postseason ban and defenses geared up to smack OSU’s shifty sophomore QB, Miller began to win over his head coach and offensive coordinator <strong>Tom Herman</strong> by racking up positive play after positive play, win after win.<br /> <br /> When the dust settled on the 2012 regular season, the Buckeyes were a perfect 12-0 and Miller had amassed a school-record 3,310 yards of total offense – 2,039 passing and a team-high 1,271 rushing. He also accounted for 28 touchdowns.<br /> <br /> Soon after, Miller was awarded the coveted Silver Football as the Big Ten’s most valuable player.<br /> <br /> That alone is reason enough for Miller to be considered a Heisman Trophy candidate heading into his junior season. But there are intangibles to add to the shiny outlook.<br /> <br /> Still quiet and humble compared to most any standout player, Miller has worked to become a more reliable practice player and leader. He also is vastly improved in terms of velocity, accuracy and aptitude when it comes to the passing game.<br /> <br /> It would not be out of line to suggest Miller could log a season similar to the one QB <strong>Troy Smith</strong> assembled in 2006, when he became the sixth Buckeye to earn the Heisman – seven if you count <strong>Archie Griffin</strong>’s double-dip in 1974 and ’75.<br /> <br /> Now the question is simply this: Will Miller carry himself differently at all with the Heisman hype machine whirring around him?<br /> <br /> Those close to him are betting on the “no” option.<br /> <br /> “What he hasn’t lost is his humble approach to everything,” Meyer said. “You’re talking about one of the finest athletes in America, a Heisman candidate, he’s the Player of the Year in the Big Ten and he’s still the same humble guy. I’m not sure I’ve ever had one like that.”<br /> <br /> That’s an eyebrow-raising statement since Meyer while at Florida coached 2007 Heisman winner <strong>Tim Tebow</strong>, who often is held up as the ultimate selfless superstar of college athletics.<br /> <br /> What’s clear, though, is Miller is not as comfortable in a room full of reporters or even a tight huddle on game day.<br /> <br /> “I’m used to it, though. I’m getting better at it,” Miller said at OSU’s Media Day on Sunday.<br /> <br /> When asked if dealing with all the attention is even harder than leading an offense, Miller laughed and said, “No. Quarterback, that’s a different level right there. There’s a whole lot of things going on with that.”<br /> <br /> Plus, it’s not as if Miller is completely void of assertiveness.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know that he’s ever going to be a Tim Tebow or a <strong>Drew Brees</strong>, just yell at you nonstop and fire up the troops, but he certainly has come out of his shell,” Herman said.<br /> <br /> “I think the biggest reason why we didn’t see it last year was I think the kid is so self-conscious that he said, ‘How can I expect to impose my leadership on my teammates when my own house isn’t in order?’ ”<br /> <br /> <strong>Keeping It Real</strong><br /> <br /> All signs point to a monstrous season for Miller, a product of Huber Heights Wayne High School just outside of Dayton, which means the Heisman spotlight is about to find him.<br /> <br /> “My best advice to him is don’t worry about that,” Meyer said on the subject during a recent ESPN interview. “We don’t need any campaign with me speaking about it or you speaking about it. The Heisman goes to the best football player in America. It’s not to the guy with the loudest mouth and the guy who points to himself a lot. It’s the guy who plays the best football.<br /> <br /> “The great thing is he’s one of the most humble great athletes I’ve ever been around so it’s been zero issue. I don’t feel the need to surround him and isolate him because he kind of likes to isolate himself. He’s focused on becoming a great player.”<br /> <br /> While Texas A&amp;M quarterback <strong>Johnny Manziel</strong> has relished his celebrity after winning the Heisman last year, he also is under NCAA investigation for his alleged role in autograph-for-profit scandal. Miller, who signed scads of memorabilia at a Big Ten luncheon in Chicago, was not linked to any such wrongdoing.<br /> <br /> Still, the Manziel development and Tebow-mania have made him even more conscious of the pitfalls that exist for high-profile athletes.<br /> <br /> “I get approached by all types of fans to take pictures,” he said at Media Day. “I’m not going to turn any of them to take a picture. And if a little kid comes up and says, ‘Hey, can you sign this?’ I’m going to sign it. That’s the type of person I am. But if it comes (up) on the Internet …”<br /> <br /> As for his tendency to lie low, he said, “It’s not to put down the team or anything like that, or to seek out myself. I’m not a self-centered person like that. It’s just for the fans.”<br /> <br /> Meyer just hopes Miller can continue to play good football and keep the glare from blinding the junior. And he admitted that he’s changed his approach to Heisman talk after his experience with Tebow.<br /> <br /> “I remember I wanted to avoid it in 2007,” Meyer said. “I kept getting asked about it and I’m always worried about a distraction, so I was like, ‘I’m not talking about it, he’s not ready, it’s not time.’ And then I also realized I recruited the guy, I know the guy and I have an obligation to one of the greatest awards in sports. So in 2007 I came around and said I believe Tim Tebow is a Heisman candidate. I didn’t want to do that but I felt an obligation to my player.”<br /> <br /> Last season, though, Meyer declared Miller wasn’t ready for such a candidacy.<br /> <br /> “If I had to do it again, I would have probably kind of stayed away from that answer,” the coach said. “So if it’s time this year I will say Braxton Miller is a Heisman candidate. But at this time I can’t say that.”<br /> <br /> To <strong>Eddie George</strong>, who won the award as an Ohio State senior in 1995, all the preseason discussion on the subject is bluster anyway.<br /> <br /> “There’s no need to have that conversation,” George told SportsRappUp.com. “Last year was last year, and what he needs to do is go out there and take care of business. The things he can control are his attitude and his effort, and that’s what is going to win you’re the Heisman – not a campaign, not how you tweet, not how you deal with the pressure.<br /> <br /> “The pressure is all between the temples. It’s about handling your business week in and week out, and raising not only your level of play but also demanding out of your team. That’s what’s going to win him the Heisman, the week in and week out.<br /> <br /> “If you have a routine and you use that routine, what’s there to change? I think guys that feel like they’ve got to sit down and talk about it lose sight of what it’s all about. It’s really not about you, it’s about the team’s success.”<br /> <br /> George put together a record-setting year with 1,927 rushing yards and scored 24 touchdowns, but what salted away the Heisman were standout, winning performances in big games.<br /> <br /> “I’d be lying if I said winning the Heisman was not a goal of mine, but it was never the ultimate goal,” he said. “My priorities, number one, were to be a great teammate, to be a captain of the team and be a leader, and so forth. I let everything fall into place after that. I didn’t seek out any advice on ‘How do I handle this?’ or anything like that. Archie never came to me and said ‘The Heisman is likely for you so this is what you need to do.’ Just be yourself and things will go well.<br /> <br /> “I think oftentimes guys try to manufacture the image and think that’s how you win the award, and it doesn’t happen that way. It just organically happens if you’re honest with who you are, what you bring to the table, and if you continue to be a selfless player.”<br /> <br /> <strong>What’s In Store</strong><br /> <br /> Everyone around Miller, of course, would love to see him holding Johnny Heisman, but first he needs to believe he is that level and player and that he can truly flourish in Ohio State’s offensive system.<br /> <br /> When asked if Miller is better equipped to handle that type of development, Meyer said, “We all are. He trusts us. If you were to say last year, ‘Do you touch our coaching staff? ….’ He didn’t know us very well. He would’ve probably said yes but in his soul, no.”<br /> <br /> Miller won’t get to beginning displaying what his coaches and teammates are already seeing until the Aug. 31 opener with Buffalo at Ohio Stadium. But it’s safe to say the early returns in practice are highly encouraging.<br /> <br /> Longtime Mount Union coach <strong>Larry Kehres</strong> – one of the nation’s most successful mentors and a friend of Meyer – observed a recent practice and raved about the improvement Miller showed in the pocket and on mechanics.<br /> <br /> It only confirmed Meyer’s feelings.<br /> <br /> “I love Braxton Miller,” he said at Media Day. “He and Tom Herman have got something going very special right now. You can see it on the field.”<br /> <br /> Herman said he and Miller have grown closer and developed a rapport, but there is more to do.<br /> <br /> “He was and still is and will continue to be a tough nut to crack,” Herman said of his QB. “He’s very guarded, as is well-documented. He’s a very introverted person – and that’s not bad. But it lends itself to a much tougher job for a guy like me to say, ‘Hey, since high school I’m your fourth offensive coordinator in four years or third in three years or whatever it might be and, oh, by the way, you’ve got to trust me 100 percent.’<br /> <br /> “It takes time and trust is earned. It’s not just given. I’d like to think that myself and my family have started to bridge that gap of him trusting me and me trusting him more, too. There’s part of that in the process, too. So we’ve had a very productive offseason when it comes to mine and his relationship – getting to know each other better and bridging that trust gap.<br /> <br /> “It’s a work in progress. We’re continuing it every day.”<br /> <br /> Soon Miller will have to put all of that trust, knowledge and belief in himself to practical use. Step one, he admits, may be to not take on as many defenders as he did last year and to trust the routes of his receivers.<br /> <br /> “Guys get open quick, so I want to get that ball out quick,” he said with a laugh.<br /> <br /> “He’s got to be effective in the pocket,” George said. “He’s got to be accurate down the field making throws and better decisions – finding the blitzes, taking mastery of the offense to a new level, and becoming the leader of his team.<br /> <br /> “If he’s committed to his team and committed to being the best he can be, if he’s there after practice and in the facility setting the example, being competitive and being a coach on the field. That’s what you want to see in the position.”<br /> <br /> Like Smith, Miller will be surrounded by a plethora of weapons – H-back <strong>Jordan Hall</strong>, a deep stable of tailbacks, tight ends <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong> and <strong>Nick Vannett</strong>, and talented receivers such as <strong>Philly Brown</strong> and <strong>Devin Smith</strong>.<br /> <br /> Miller always has played with confidence in himself and those around him, but plans to be even better when it comes to leading and making the proper decisions.<br /> <br /> “He’s real calm,” Hall said. “He started showing emotion toward the end of the season during the games and he showed a lot of emotion during the offseason this year, but he’s going to be able to handle that pressure. He had a lot of pressure playing as a freshman and he did pretty good, and he’s getting better every year.<br /> <br /> “This is going to be his best year. I saw him put in all the work in the offseason and I saw the improvements in his arm this past week of camp. He’s playing.”<br /> <br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-13/Deflecting_The_Heisman_Glare.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-13/Deflecting_The_Heisman_Glare.aspx 0a5b1779-a94b-49e5-b5f5-b6d9c9e5c8a8 Tue, 13 Aug 2013 20:34:09 GMT Freshman Add 'Jolt' To Outlook <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> stood at the lectern in the packed Woody Hayes Athletic Center team meeting room Sunday and was given the honor of rapping the metaphorical gavel on Media Day.<br /> <br /> Looking out at a room full of faces of hopeful reporters awaiting a quote to sum up the outlook of the 2013 season, OSU’s second-year football coach didn’t seem interested in biting at first. His voice trailed off when discussing various minor topics and he seem less than enthused, for the most part, about the state of the Buckeyes through the first week-plus of preseason practice.<br /> <br /> But eventually Meyer had to show his cards and admit he’s tickled at what he’s seen. Most exciting, he said, is that the Buckeyes are a “much faster team than a year ago.” That would be compared to 2012, when he led Ohio State to a perfect 12-0 season.<br /> <br /> Meyer arrived to town with a stellar reputation as a topflight coach based in large part on the two national championships he captured in his six years at the University of Florida. The first of those two teams, Buckeyes fans may remember, developed into a frightening outfit during the 2006 regular season and waxed OSU in the BCS National Championship Game.<br /> <br /> He said the coaching staff injected speed and young playmakers into that ’06 team and the Gators eventually became dominant.<br /> <br /> “I see very similar qualities, certainly on offense,” Meyer said. “I feel a little bit of a jolt.”<br /> <br /> Ding-ding-ding. The reporters on hand suddenly felt it, too.<br /> <br /> Meyer isn’t about to suggest that several of the speedy freshmen will be instant stars. In fact, he’s trying not to talk up the incoming skill players. However, it’s evident when he, his assistants, or veteran members of the team talk about what’s in store, they can’t contain their giddiness about the freshmen.<br /> <br /> “Two guys who stand out are <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> and <strong>Jalin</strong> (<strong>Marshall</strong>),” senior safety <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> later told reporters. “Those guys are doing things. I know Coach Meyer pointed out Dontre for just going hard. He had played receiver for like six minutes and he was still going 100 percent. That’s what Coach Meyer wants to see.<br /> <br /> “A lot of time freshmen come in they are confused and a little slow and hesitant, but Dontre is full steam ahead.”<br /> <br /> Also making good on early opportunities to show their gamebreaking wares in practice are running back <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> and wide receiver <strong>Corey Smith</strong>, who have wheels of their own.<br /> <br /> <strong>Christian Bryant</strong>, like Barnett a senior and longtime starter at safety, said the freshmen have a chance to strike major fear into opposing defenses.<br /> <br /> “I feel like it just opens up the offense more just because those guys can get the ball in space, move – just like <strong>Philly</strong> (<strong>Brown</strong>) and our other receivers,” he said. “I feel every receiver we have can run past a DB.”<br /> <br /> So how are Big Ten defenses likely to counter all the young speed, by chucking the youngsters?<br /> <br /> “They can try, but I don’t feel like it’s going to be successful,” Bryant said with a smile.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes racked up a Big Ten-best 37.2 points per game and quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> set a school record with 3,310 yards of total offense yet Meyer said a big element was missing.<br /> <br /> At Florida, his teams were able to carve defenses with dynamic hybrid backs such as <strong>Percy Harvin</strong>, but the OSU offense lost out on that effort when <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> was injured last summer and couldn’t regain his form.<br /> <br /> “That whole part of the offense didn’t exist, which was tough,” Meyer said.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes had to keep it more basic but did have success with spread looks and versions of formations such as the single wing. In fact, Miller’s team-high 1,271 rushing yards included many keepers off of direct snaps.<br /> <br /> Meyer said Ohio State’s best offensive play last season was the quarterback counter because Miller was shifty and able to make interior defenders miss him.<br /> <br /> That won’t go away, but Miller is much more adept at surveying defenses, making accurate throws and even hitting receivers on the move. Plus, after a medical redshirt, Hall is back and reportedly healthy. And Wilson is at the forefront of the aforementioned jolt provided by the newcomers.<br /> <br /> “You’ll see a different style of offense this year if we stay healthy,” Meyer promised.<br /> <br /> Brown lined up as a slotback much of last season and led the Buckeyes with 60 receptions in 2012. However, he rarely shook defenders and averaged just 11.1 yards per catch. He also had just 11 rushing attempts.<br /> <br /> “It’s a fancy position,” Brown said of the hybrid spot. “It’s for the more versatile player on the team, so it’s a good position to play, I enjoyed it last year, but we’ve got some dudes this year who are going to be able to do it.”<br /> <br /> Added Meyer, “Philly’s a good player. He’s a receiver, though. H is for more of a hybrid guy and right now Jordan Hall is our best candidate because you have to have the ability to catch the ball and expose some things with quickness, and a little bit of gamesmanship. That’s one of the thing about Jordan Hall, he’s a very smart player.”<br /> <br /> Still, there are plenty of hints to suggest that Wilson will get a healthy crack at it. The DeSoto, Texas, product put on a show for onlookers of Wednesday’s practice and displayed sticky hands to go along with his head-turning jets.<br /> <br /> “My first week in camp, it was kind of rough, but I did pretty good,” Wilson said. “I just worked really hard, ran fast, and showed everybody the ability that I have, the asset that I can bring to the team, and I guess everybody saw it.<br /> <br /> “Back in high school I played mostly running back, so they’re just teaching me a lot of things I need to know for the H, hybrid position.”<br /> <br /> Meyer tried to cool the talk of a Wilson takeover, saying, “I’m not sure his skill set is perfect for the H as far as a receiver, but it could be.”<br /> <br /> However, several players believe Wilson, Marshall and Elliott are going to be on display early and often this season.<br /> <br /> Also, Meyer admitted that Wilson is among the top kickoff-return candidates on the team along with Hall, cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> and <strong>James Clark</strong>, yet another high-octane freshman. Ohio State averaged a dreadful 19.9 yards on 26 kickoff returns last season, but that stat is about to change.<br /> <br /> Brown, who also can motor and had a pair of punt returns for scores last season, will return to that role.<br /> <br /> “I’d be really disappointed if our return game is not really good this year.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Urban Insights</strong><br /> <br /> Some of Meyer’s state of the union address on Media Day included a position-by-position update of the roster. He said junior <strong>Evan Spencer</strong> is having a standout camp and will join Brown and classmate <strong>Devin Smith</strong> as the “top three guys” to line up at wide receiver.<br /> <br /> When detailing the situation up front, Meyer confirmed that sophomore <strong>Taylor Decker</strong> is ready to join the four returning seniors in the trenches – left tackle <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong>, left guard <strong>Andrew Norwell</strong>, center <strong>Corey Linsley</strong> and right guard <strong>Marcus Hall</strong>.<br /> <br /> “Taylor Decker has solidified himself as the starting candidate right now,” the coach said. “We can put him down as the starting right tackle.”<br /> <br /> Both Norwell and Linsley are dealing with nagging foot injuries right now but are expected to be fine for the Aug. 31 season opener with Buffalo.<br /> <br /> Meyer also is pleased with the well of talent at quarterback, tight end and running back.<br /> <br /> “We have some depth, and that’s good, because it’s the best form of motivation,” he said.<br /> <br /> Looking at the defense, Meyer is encouraged with the development of the line even as it learns to cope with the loss of <strong>John Simon</strong>, <strong>Johnathan Hankins</strong> and <strong>Garrett Goebel</strong>.<br /> <br /> For that he praised the work of first-year D-line coach <strong>Mike Vrabel</strong>, a star end at OSU in the 1990s for coach <strong>John Cooper</strong> and longtime NFL standout.<br /> <br /> “He’s attacking coaching the same way he attacked playing,” Meyer said of Vrabel. “You don’t survive as long as he did in the National Football League unless you’ve got an outstanding work ethic and you’re very professional about your job.”<br /> <br /> Meyer said <strong>Joel Hale</strong> and <strong>Michael Bennett</strong> are expected to play the majority of the time at the interior line spots with sophomore <strong>Tommy Schutt</strong> also pushing for time. The other backups are <strong>Chris Carter</strong> and a trio of freshmen – <strong>Billy Price</strong>, <strong>Michael Hill</strong> and <strong>Joey Bosa</strong>.<br /> <br /> “I imagine he’ll play this year,” Meyer said of the powerful Bosa. “We’re planning on using him inside and well as outside.”<br /> <br /> Meyer maintains that sophomore ends <strong>Noah Spence</strong> and <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong> are ready to do damage and again called them potential All-Big Ten players. He said the backups include <strong>Steve Miller</strong>, <strong>Rashad Frazier</strong>, <strong>Jamal Marcus</strong>, and <strong>Tyquan Lewis</strong>.<br /> <br /> In the no surprises department, Meyer said weakside lienacker <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> is the mainstay, <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> has the middle spot to himself and <strong>Josh Perry</strong> will be on the field as the strongside ’backer when the Buckeyes aren’t in nickel.<br /> <br /> Speaking of that position, redshirt freshman <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong> is the likely fifth defensive back with Bryant and Barnett at safety and <strong>Doran Grant</strong> opposite Roby at corner.<br /> <br /> “I feel like Tyvis has it locked up right now,” Bryant said. “Tyvis has grown tremendously, not only physically but mentally. He’s a tall guy who can defeat blocks, can make plays on the ball, and he’s physical. Right now I feel like Tyvis has that spot locked up and I’m pretty confident with him on the field.”<br /> <br /> Still, the secondary has big-time athletes and potential difference makers a la Wilson and Marshall in the form of <strong>Vonn Bell</strong>, <strong>Eli Apple</strong>, <strong>Cam Burrows</strong>, and <strong>Gareon Conley</strong>, whom cornerbacks coach <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong> labeled the surprise of the preseason.<br /> <br /> <strong>Dump Offs</strong><br /> <br /> * Meyer didn’t have much reaction to a report earlier in the week claiming sophomore <strong>Najee Murray</strong> was dismissed from the team other than saying, “He’s suspended right now with a training camp issue.”<br /> <br /> * Freshman defensive lineman <strong>Donovan Munger</strong> has gained eligibility through the NCAA clearinghouse and should arrive to camp any day but will not play this fall because of a health concern. Meyer said Munger, a product of Shaker Heights, Ohio, is still dealing with a blood clot issue.<br /> <br /> * Safety <strong>Devan Bogard</strong> of Cleveland Glenville had been working out on his own during practice to rehab his knee but has been cleared by doctors and should be ready to go on Monday. Bogard is trying to recover from a torn ACL.<br /> <br /> * Meyer said a veteran game official is scheduled to visit early in the week to discuss the targeting rule in detail with the team. Meyer said a defensive player was penalized in practice for hitting a defenseless receiver, a violation that could result in an ejection this season.<br /> <br /> * With their team picture and Media Day responsibilities out of the way, the Buckeyes are heading into a six-day stretch with nine grueling practices up the road at the Ackerman Field.<br /> <br /> “You have to feel bad before you feel good and appreciate what you’ve got,” Meyer said.<br /> <br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-12/Freshman_Add_Jolt_To_Outlook.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-12/Freshman_Add_Jolt_To_Outlook.aspx 05f01855-43b5-41e5-96a9-636f9392ece1 Mon, 12 Aug 2013 06:35:52 GMT All Right On The Right Side? “It’s better to be lean and mean than bigger and slower.”<br /> <br /> Those were the words of Ohio State offensive line coach <strong>Ed Warinner</strong> earlier this week when he was asked to assess a trimmed-down <strong>Marcus Hall</strong>.<br /> <br /> Warinner, however, also was making a general statement, one that reflects his philosophy when it comes to line play in today’s college football.<br /> <br /> Soon after he arrived from Notre Dame more than a year ago to join <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>’s new staff at OSU, Warinner made it clear that he wants athletic lineman who can move around and help buy time for the quarterback.<br /> <br /> That may have made some traditionalists groan with assumption that Warinner doesn’t understand the importance of the run game or the role it plays at a place like Ohio State. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.<br /> <br /> Warinner is an Ohio native who played football (and baseball) at Mount Union and is very well-versed in Midwestern, tough-guy football. He had two previous jobs in the Big Ten with time served at Michigan State (1985-86) and Illinois (2005-06), the latter as the line coach and run game coordinator for the Illini.<br /> <br /> Two-year stints at Kansas and Notre Dame followed, and Warinner helped both of those programs to qualified offensive success. In fact, Warinner has been part of four different offenses that led the nation in rushing.<br /> <br /> So with the second-ranked Buckeyes boasting a veteran and powerful offensive line, you can be sure OSU will seek to balance out the passing exploits of <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> even while the coaches look for an answer at running back with returning starter Carlos Hyde serving a three-game suspension.<br /> <br /> And Warinner, who also serves as OSU’s co-offensive coordinator, doesn’t have many headaches right now.<br /> <br /> Certainly, the lack of proven backups up front is a concern, something even senior starter <strong>Andrew Norwell</strong> admits.<br /> <br /> “The depth right now is a little bit concerning, but <strong>Chase Farris</strong> and a couple other guys are picking it up and they’re coming along,” Norwell said. “We’ll keep building them during camp and see how they do.”<br /> <br /> Norwell actually limped off the practice field on Wednesday and his status is still uncertain. Also, starting center <strong>Corey Linsley</strong> is coming off foot surgery in the offseason and has not been able to practice full-go.<br /> <br /> Still, neither injury should be serious or keep them off track from being ready to go for the Aug. 31 opener with Buffalo.<br /> <br /> The line has an anchor in left tackle <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> (6-7, 308), who is in his best shape and is coming off a strong junior season. Mewhort is an All-Big Ten-caliber performer and early candidate for team captain. The bruising Norwell (6-6, 319) lines up next to him at guard and the two are usually in concert on both running and passing plays.<br /> <br /> Linsley (6-3, 297) has earned loads of praise from Meyer and Warinner as a leader and for his improved play, and clearly he will be a strength in the middle.<br /> <br /> That leaves the right side as the intriguing part for a pair of reasons – the physical transformation of Hall at guard and the expectation that youngster <strong>Taylor Decker</strong> will start to grasp his potential and man down the duties at right tackle.<br /> <br /> The two players have almost identical listings – Hall at 6-6, 315 and Decker at 6-7, 315 – but they are not clones by any means in terms of physique.<br /> <br /> <strong>Decker: Baby Of The Bunch</strong><br /> <br /> Decker, who used to be listed 6-8, is tall and agile. He fits the Warinner archetype and actually was committed to play at Notre Dame for the coach before changing his mind soon after Meyer hired Warinner to the Ohio State staff.<br /> <br /> Even though he’s just entering his sophomore year, Decker is all but written in pen as OSU’s starting right tackle – and the Buckeyes need him to dry the ink.<br /> <br /> “I feel like I’m definitely getting there and I’m able to play full-speed all the time now,” said Decker, who admitted he didn’t deserve to be named the starter coming out of the spring.<br /> <br /> “I have high expectations,” Warinner said of the soph. “I’ve seen an improved player with more confidence and a very talented player. He’s got physical skills now. He can bend, he can move, he’s developing his strength and his toughness. I think what we need to see from him is just consistency day in and day out.<br /> <br /> “I’m very confident that he’ll be what he needs to be. They have to earn their way to be my guy (though).”<br /> <br /> Decker is taking the majority of the practice reps up front with the starters and <strong>Darryl Baldwin</strong> (6-6, 307), also improved, is the backup. Farris (6-4, 300) and <strong>Kyle Dodson</strong> (6-6, 324) also are rotating in at guard and tackle and could see occasional playing time.<br /> <br /> Since Decker is expected to line up with four seniors, he catches some ribbing from his older linemates. Norwell said cracks on Decker’s long, flowing hair are the norm.<br /> <br /> “They just make jokes and things like that,” Decker said. “A lot of times, honestly, they’re really helpful and they’re kind of bringing me up the ranks and teaching me about being an Ohio State lineman. It’s just because I’m a younger guy. I’m like a little brother, basically.”<br /> <br /> Even though he’s gaining entry into the veteran’s club, Decker is quick to point out he needed seasoning – and still does.<br /> <br /> “You’ve pretty much got to be a professional and you have to handle everything yourself,” he said. “You’re playing against great players all the time. This team is littered with talent. Learning that physical toughness and especially that mental toughness, you’ve got to be able to adapt and overcome.<br /> <br /> Warinner views Decker’s path as a normal learning curve.<br /> <br /> “He wasn’t playing at a 6A football (school) in Ohio,” the coach said of Decker, who prepped at Vandalia (Ohio) Butler. “He hadn’t played against this level of competition. He was a true freshman. How many true freshmen start in major college football? I think he did exactly what we needed him to do because where he’s at right now as a second-year player, I’m pretty excited about where he’s at.”<br /> <br /> Added Norwell, “We need all five working together as a unit out there and we set the tone for the offense. With Taylor, he’s going to be great, so I have no problem with him.”<br /> <br /> Likewise, Decker has comfort in knowing who he’s lining up with and that Hall will be next to him.<br /> <br /> “It’s kind of comforting because I’ve got veterans out there,” he said. “Just playing next to Marcus, that’s going to make me better because he’s a great player.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Hall: Ready To Rise</strong><br /> <br /> Hall, meanwhile, has some proving to do of his own even though he was a mainstay at right guard last year and has 33 games and 18 starts under his belt.<br /> <br /> Speaking of his belt, it needs to be tightened a bit. Hall, who has worked diligently in the offseason under the tutelage of strength and conditioning coach <strong>Mickey Marotti</strong>, actually is several pounds below his listed weight of 315 as he now is a svelte 308 a week into preseason camp.<br /> <br /> “I definitely give myself a couple looks in the mirror now; I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t,” he said.<br /> <br /> “I take more trips to Coach Mick’s office after looking in the mirror just to thank him. He pushed me every day in the offseason and he transformed me. I give all the praise to Coach Mick and the rest of our strength staff.”<br /> <br /> Hall said he was at least 320 all of last season, probably more in the 325 range.<br /> <br /> He began to shed weight in the spring, lost 10 more pounds from summer conditioning, and wants to stay below 310.<br /> <br /> “I feel like I can move a lot more and I feel comfortable with this weight,” said Hall, a fifth-year player from Cleveland Glenville.<br /> <br /> “I feel like I can do everything better, times 10. I can run block better, pull faster, everything. I feel stronger. I’m more of a complete player.”<br /> <br /> That, of course, is the aim.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes plan to be dynamic offensively and can show even more if Decker holds up and Hall can move more effectively in space. Of course, Hall also could greatly improve his draft stock with a more well-rounded senior year.<br /> <br /> “We have team goals and my goals will come second to that,” he said. “But I’m definitely thinking about that. It’s a big year. It’s my last one and I’m trying to make it special.”<br /> <br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-09/All_Right_On_The_Right_Side.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-09/All_Right_On_The_Right_Side.aspx 8fa4f151-d99a-4ecf-800a-99c5a6b14978 Fri, 09 Aug 2013 16:44:24 GMT Brax Attacks, Dontre An Entree Practice No. 4 for the second-ranked Ohio State football team commenced Wednesday morning at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and, for the first time during preseason camp, the media was allowed to observe it.<br /> <br /> Therefore, we have lots of observations from the two-hour session. They follow:<br /> <br /> <strong>Impressive Guest List –</strong> Big Ten commissioner <strong>Jim Delany</strong> was on hand as part of his conference-wide tour of all 12 league football programs. Delany, dressed in khaki shorts and a golf shirt, stayed close to the sideline throughout and soaked up a lively practice. Afterward, he spoke to reporters on a number of topics.<br /> <br /> Big Ten Network also was on site to analyze Ohio State’s football outlook. Other special guests included former Ohio State coach and WTVN analyst <strong>Earle Bruce</strong>, former OSU defensive coordinator <strong>Jim Heacock</strong>, ex-Buckeye and IMG Sports Network analyst <strong>Jim Lachey</strong>, and OSU athletic director <strong>Gene Smith</strong>.<br /> <br /> <strong>Salty Talk –</strong> Despite the luminaries nearby, the Ohio State assistant coaches were expressive and often saucy when instructing players.<br /> <br /> After one rep, defensive line coach <strong>Mike Vrabel</strong> approached a member of the front seven and yelled, “Why the f*** are you pushing him?! Get through him!”<br /> <br /> Not to be outdone, defensive coordinator <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> singled out a defender on a drill where players were expected to maneuver their way through tall, padded dummies.<br /> <br /> “Flip your f***ing hips!” Fickell screamed at the player.<br /> <br /> Ironically, one of the few coaches who didn’t add an R rating to practice is <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong>, who still was as vociferous as ever. When the practice juices are flowing, Coombs is a, in a word, maniac.<br /> <br /> The top meltdown, though, came from fullbacks and tight ends coach <strong>Tim Hinton</strong> when freshman <strong>Marcus Baugh</strong> allowed the ball to be stripped from him at the goal line on one play.<br /> <br /> “It can never come out!” Hinton shrieked at the top of his lungs while sprinting at Baugh to be nose-to-nose with him. “It can never come out! Ever! Ever!”<br /> <br /> <strong>Nice Backups –</strong> Suspended running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and soon-to-be-suspended cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> practiced again but worked with the second-teamers on Wednesday. Even though they have elongated roads to get back on the field, they appear game-ready now.<br /> <br /> Hyde is trimmer and showed good acceleration when shooting through the hole. Roby is still a ballhawk and a force on the edge.<br /> <br /> Roby did drop a potential interception at the goal line, and, in fact, immediately did several pushups as a punishment for the lost opportunity. A little while later, though, he suckered quarterback <strong>Kenny Guyton</strong> on an out route and made a two-handed pick with his arms extended.<br /> <br /> <strong>New No. 1 –</strong> Roby, of course, is still one of the best players on the team but he’s not the only guy with a numeral 1 on his back who is worthy of attention. Freshman <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> was the star of the day with an assortment of impressive catches, bursts of speed and scoring plays.<br /> <br /> The Texas speedster put on a show and looked like a natural receiver lining up in the slot or popping into the flat to easily make receptions and yardage after the catch.<br /> <br /> One moment Wilson was racing to the right edge of the end zone for a score after hauling in a dart from Guyton; the next he was scoring in the same manner on the opposite side of the field, also after a connection with Guyton.<br /> <br /> Not long after that, Wilson caught a lob in the back of the end zone and appeared to drag his back foot.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> said Tuesday that Wilson was going to stick to running back duties. However, with <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> limited, Wilson appeared to take over Hall’s slotback work and found the spotlight in a hurry.<br /> <br /> “He’s a player,” Bruce said.<br /> <br /> <strong>Brax Attacks –</strong> <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> may have one of the top backups in the country behind him in Guyton but it’s not like he’s worried about his job. Smooth and confident on every snap now, Miller is on top of his game – and much improved at reading the defense and making the proper throw.<br /> <br /> Miller had a full quiver on Wednesday, hitting receivers in stride, dumping off when the underneath routes were given, and finding the small windows near the sideline and in the red zone.<br /> <br /> On one play, Miller perfectly executed a back-shoulder throw to <strong>Devin Smith</strong> in the end zone. Moments later, he rolled out and fired a strike to <strong>Chris Fields</strong> for another score.<br /> <br /> <strong>Quick Hitters</strong><br /> • The sky opened up briefly right around 10:16 a.m. and the rain scattered dozens of reporters.<br /> <br /> • Wideout <strong>Evan Spencer</strong> isn’t a burner but is a nice target with reliable hands who is becoming more polished on routes a la <strong>Dee Miller</strong> (for those who remember D-Mill). The son of former Buckeye running back <strong>Tim Spencer</strong>, Evan ran a great comeback route, stretched and snared a Braxton Miller pass that was slightly behind him on one particularly impressive play.<br /> <br /> • The defensive backs had some good moments in the seven-on-seven work, particularly <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong>. A redshirt freshman from Bedford, Ohio, Powell made a well-timed breakup of a pass in the flat on one play and pinched receivers in the middle of the field on several others. Starting safety <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> believes Powell already has locked up the all-important nickel spot in the defense.<br /> <br /> • Incoming wide receiver <strong>Corey Smith</strong> isn’t known for his toughness but in a circle drill with sophomore <strong>Najee Murray</strong> he destroyed the young DB, knocking him to the ground and running right over him. Smith is listed 6-1, 180 while Murray is 5-9, 186.<br /> <br /> • Safety <strong>Devan Bogard</strong> continued his long climb back from ACL surgery. Bogard was unable to practice but that didn’t keep him from doing grueling sidework including crawling through sand and working out his shoulders with heavy ropes.<br /> <br /> • The tight ends were targeted on several plays and held up their end of the bargain in the passing game, except for one drop over the middle by <strong>Nick Vannett</strong>. The coaches believe Vannett and <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong> can stretch defenses and hurt the interior nooks.<br /> <br /> • Freshman <strong>Vonn Bell</strong> repped often and held up well for the most part, although he got an earful on one play when he got lost in coverage and allowed Fields to catch a touchdown with no one around him.<br /> <br /> Bell was one of Meyer’s headline signees in February and apparently will be given every opportunity to prove he belongs on the field.<br /> <br /> “He’s a young guy with a lot of upside,” senior safety <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> said. “He’s got a lot of ability.”<br /> <br /> • Another youngster, redshirt freshman running back <strong>Warren Ball</strong>, also had a productive day. Ball showed he can catch the ball out of the backfield and is willing to take on tacklers, especially when smelling the end zone. On one play he blasted through Bell and freshman linebacker <strong>Mike Mitchell</strong> at the goal line after catching a swing pass.<br /> <br /> • Young defensive lineman <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong> seemed to get better as the practice churned onward and the temperature rose. He easily beat his man for a sack of <strong>Cardale Jones</strong> to thwart one play and proved tough to handle one on one.<br /> <br /> • Practice appeared to be virtually injury-free until late in the session when offensive lineman <strong>Ivon Blackman</strong> needed help while limping off the field. Blackman may have suffered a pulled muscle or a nasty cramp but his injury is not considered serious.<br /> <br /> Soon after practice was over, word spread that freshman defensive back <strong>Jayme Thompson</strong> had suffered a broken ankle. The Toledo Blade, which broke the story, reported that Thompson will undergo surgery and is expected to be out three months. A product of Toledo Central Catholic, Thompson helped the Fighting Irish capture the Division II state title last season and was vying for time on the field via special teams.<br /> <br /> • The first moment I stepped onto the practice field, I was tsked-tsked by kicker <strong>Drew Basil</strong>.<br /> <br /> “Sir, do you have a different color shirt with you?” he asked me.<br /> <br /> “No,” I said, looking down at the blue golf shirt I had hanging on me.<br /> <br /> “Well, I’m just warning you,” Basil said, “someone may ask you to go change it. We don’t do that color around here.”<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-07/Brax_Attacks_Dontre_An_Entree.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-07/Brax_Attacks_Dontre_An_Entree.aspx 3db1f6d6-9092-4a89-bbea-0566e73fe0ac Wed, 07 Aug 2013 19:44:00 GMT Meyer: 'Camp Is Terrible' <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> availed himself to Ohio State reporters on Tuesday for the first time since Big Ten Media Days in Chicago July 24-25 and for the first time since the start of preseason football camp on Sunday.<br /> <br /> With an anxious microphone- and recorder-armed throng huddled around him on the indoor practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center the head coach was calm and understated for the most part, even apologetic that he didn’t have more to share after the Buckeyes had just conducted practice No. 3 and their first in pads.<br /> <br /> He did, however, cut right to the chase regarding his Heisman Trophy-hopeful quarterback, declare a first-string punter, laud freshman sensation <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong>, and assess certain areas of the team in his six minutes with the media.<br /> <br /> “I’m pleased with <strong>Braxton</strong> (<strong>Miller</strong>),” Meyer said of his star junior QB. “He’s come a long way. I know it’s been just three days but he had a really good day today.<br /> <br /> “It’s his whole demeanor. It’s his relationship with the receivers, which was … I don’t want to say nonexistent, but I just didn’t see the … he didn’t really now what he was doing. It’s hard to lead when part of being a leader is setting the standard and leading by example, and he wasn’t leading by example because he really didn’t know what he was doing. So I just see a much better presence by him.”<br /> <br /> Offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator <strong>Ed Warinner</strong> confirmed as much when he also faced reporters.<br /> <br /> When asked what has stood out about Miller, Warinner said, “Non-technically, it’s his leadership, his understanding of the offense and his comfort. You can see he’s comfortable out there. Technically, he’s a better player, and he’s much more confident and he’s much more of a leader. He really has a better understanding of the big picture and what’s going on.”<br /> <br /> Warinner said Miller’s play has improved to the point where the entire offensive unit has leaped forward in terms of attitude and execution.<br /> <br /> “When the point guard looks good, the offensive looks pretty good,” he said with a smile.<br /> <br /> Miller is coming off an undefeated 2012 season in which he amassed team bests of 2,039 yards passing and 1,271 yards rushing for 3,310 yards of total offense, which equates to 275.8 yards per game.<br /> <br /> Preseason speculation is that the offense could be even better with a more polished Miller behind a veteran offensive line and with a vast majority of the top skill players also returning.<br /> <br /> The coaches also believe the offense could get a jolt from an infusion of incoming talent, especially from speedsters such as Wilson, <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong>, <strong>Jalin Marshall</strong> and <strong>Corey Smith</strong>.<br /> <br /> Unprovoked, Meyer singled out Wilson, a freshman from Texas who has been head-turning in scarlet and gray practice gear thus far.<br /> <br /> “He’s got jets,” the head coach said.<br /> <br /> Meyer wants playmakers on the field who augment the talents of Miller and can throw fear into a defense. Wilson could be just such a weapon, raw as he is.<br /> <br /> “The focus right now is I want to see who’s going to go really hard,” Meyer said. “Dontre Wilson, right now, I would say he’s going to play. He just goes really hard. That’s my first impression of him.<br /> <br /> “He’s got something that we didn’t have, and that’s just electric speed. And he doesn’t care – he just goes hard.”<br /> <br /> Of course, the offense will bog down at times, and there is concern as to who will be able to boot the ball away in those instances. The outlook for the punting job is much brighter, though, thanks to a strong first few days from former Australian Rules Football player <strong>Cameron Johnston</strong>.<br /> <br /> “He’s doing good,” Meyer said. “His first day was ridiculous. He was a one-shot wonder. The second day he was OK and the third day he was OK. But he’s got a lot of leg. A tremendous kid. He’s 21 years old, so he’s not that 17-year-old wide-eyed guy who looks at you like, ‘What planet am I on?’ He is our No. 1 guy.”<br /> <br /> Meyer was less committal about the situation surrounding star cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong>, who could face a multiple game suspension like running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> after being arrested and charged with battery in Bloomington, Ind., last month.<br /> <br /> Meyer said there is no decision yet on Roby, who is scheduled to appear back in an Indiana courtroom for a hearing on Aug. 26 – five days before the season kicks off Aug. 31 at Ohio Stadium in a contest with Buffalo.<br /> <br /> “I’m just waiting to get the word on what it is,” the coach said.<br /> <br /> Roby and Hyde both practiced with the team on Tuesday and apparently will be allowed to continue to do so. Hyde has been suspended for at least three games for his part in an incident in a downtown Columbus bar that led to allegations of assault by a woman and a full police investigation. No charges were filed.<br /> <br /> The senior won’t see game time until the Sept. 21 contest with Florida A&amp;M at the earliest, which means a loaded field of reserves including <strong>Rod Smith</strong>, <strong>Bri’onte Dunn</strong> and <strong>Warren Ball</strong> has a chance at extended playing time.<br /> <br /> “We’re right where we need to be at running back as far as depth,” Meyer said. “That’s the way I wish every position was.”<br /> <br /> In Chicago, Meyer expressed his concern for a lack of depth along the offensive line and Tuesday he confirmed starting center <strong>Corey Linsley</strong> has not been practicing full speed after undergoing surgery on his foot in the offseason.<br /> <br /> “It is a concern, but he’s a veteran, he’s a tough guy, he’s a leader, and everybody is telling me he’s going to be fine,” Meyer said. “We could push it, but there’s no reason to push it right now.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Jacoby Boren</strong> and <strong>Pat Elflein</strong> also have been repping at center while <strong>Darryl Baldwin</strong>, <strong>Kyle Dodson</strong>, <strong>Chase Farris</strong>, and <strong>Tommy Brown</strong> have mixed in at guard and tackle.<br /> <br /> The starting five appears all but set with <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> and <strong>Andrew Norwell</strong> back to man the left side, Linsley at center when healthy, <strong>Marcus Hall</strong> at right guard, and sophomore <strong>Taylor Decker</strong> in the lead to play right tackle.<br /> <br /> Decker, though, was candid today when discussing his role – and admitting the coaches had reason not to declare him the full-fledged winner at RT coming out of the spring.<br /> <br /> “I really want to knock down that spot and earn the coaches’ trust,” he said. “I don’t want to be the right tackle because I’m the only one there.”<br /> <br /> Decker said he’s happy with his first three practices this month but has more to show.<br /> <br /> “I’m still learning how to become a college athlete and learning how to become an offensive lineman,” said Decker, a product of Vandalia, Ohio. “I’m still transitioning; I’m still learning. They’re 300 pounds across from you instead of being 170 in high school.<br /> <br /> Meyer didn’t address much about the OSU defense but does like the guidance the unit is receiving from its senior safeties.<br /> <br /> “I like the leadership on the back end of our defense – that’s a <strong>Christian Bryant</strong>, that’s a <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong>,” he said. “I’m real pleased with that.”<br /> <br /> As for the shaping of the two-deep with roughly a couple dozen practices to go before the opener, the clock already is ticking. Meyer said candidates for playing time have up until the eighth practice, which is the first team scrimmage of the camp, to make an impression and soon after evaluations from the game-like nature of that practice the coaches will move forward with more apparent pecking orders.<br /> <br /> Also on the horizon is the team shifting to the Ackerman Road Field Aug. 9-17 in what promises to be a grueling week for the players.<br /> <br /> “I’m sure I’ll talk to you in about a week and there will be people sleeping on mattresses by now,” Meyer said. “It’s hard. Camp is terrible. But we’re not in camp yet. This is just practices. Just see what goes on next week at Ackerman field. It’s awful.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-06/Meyer_Camp_Is_Terrible.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-06/Meyer_Camp_Is_Terrible.aspx acf9acaa-5dc0-4196-9042-eb45e9e4ef24 Tue, 06 Aug 2013 21:28:25 GMT Rapp Around: Freshmen Descend As I walked up to the practice fields behind the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Sunday, the first thing I noticed was the reflection off of shiny gray helmets in glorious morning sunshine.<br /> <br /> The first thing I heard was defensive line coach <strong>Mike Vrabel</strong> telling one of the newbies that he needs to show up for the start of drills with his shoes tied.<br /> <br /> Yes, the very first practice of fall camp, which happened to be primarily for freshmen only, was so rudimentary it included a shoe-tying lesson.<br /> <br /> Hey, the 2013 football season had to have a starting point of some sort ... so there you have it.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes were picked earlier in the week as the nation’s No. 2 team behind Alabama when the preseason USA Today coaches poll was released at the onset of August.<br /> <br /> Still, they have several concerns including the situation at running back without normal starter <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> for several weeks and presumably at cornerback if standout <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> also is suspended for his part in a bar disturbance. They also have lots of work to do.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> and staff have been afforded 29 practice sessions to prepare for the Aug. 31 opener with Buffalo and step one was to get the freshmen lined up and used to the toil on the practice field.<br /> <br /> Approximately 35 players – and 75 non-players counting coaches, trainers, practice refs, filmers, ballboys, team doctors and the like – hit the prescription athletic turf behind the Woody at 8:45 a.m. and began in earnest before a gaggle of reporters who furiously snapped pictures and scribbled observations onto notepads.<br /> <br /> The veterans will get their crack later in the day at 3:05 p.m. but that session will not be open to the media.<br /> <br /> Meyer set the tone immediately by rounding up the youngsters and lecturing them on the importance of listening to coaches and giving effort.<br /> <br /> The most vocal assistants, as usual, were Vrabel, defensive backs coach <strong>Kerry Coombs</strong>, and running backs coach <strong>Stan Drayton</strong>, who hammered home the importance of getting on the field via special teams.<br /> <br /> The entire team will practice every day this week, including the first day in pads on Friday, then will be made available to followers via Media Day next Sunday, Aug. 11.<br /> <br /> Today, 21 players participated as Buckeyes for the first time, a group including highly touted skill players <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong>, <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong>, and <strong>Jalin Marshall</strong> as well as mega-recruit <strong>Vonn Bell</strong>, a safety from Georgia who prepped just across the state line in Tennessee. Also on hand was former Georgia Tech wide receiver <strong>Jeff Greene</strong>.<br /> <br /> Absent were tight end <strong>Marcus Baugh</strong>, defensive lineman <strong>Donovan Munger</strong> and punter <strong>Cameron Johnston</strong>. Baugh is serving a suspension that is expected to last through the first game of the season and Munger is expected to join the team when school starts. Johnston is on campus and will join the veteran players, and returning specialists, this afternoon.<br /> <br /> Our ability to evaluate was severely limited with a half-hour to gawk at players while they stretched and took part in very basic drills. However, I happened upon a rather funny exchange between offensive line coach <strong>Ed Warinner</strong> and walk-on <strong>Ben St. John</strong> in which the coach asked the player if he were a duck.<br /> <br /> “Um, no sir,” St. John answered correctly after a pause.<br /> <br /> Warinner was teaching his charges how to power walk, which sometimes is referred to as a duck walk.<br /> <br /> After St. John went first, Warinner turned to his other students and said, “Now did that sound powerful?”<br /> <br /> They all nodded in agreement.<br /> <br /> By the way, freshman <strong>Evan Lisle</strong> looked every bit the part of college lineman. Lisle who prepped at Centerville HS outside of Dayton, is listed 6-6, 290 and could contend for two-deep status at tackle.<br /> <br /> Also imposing from the get-go were defensive linemen <strong>Joey Bosa</strong> and <strong>Billy Price</strong>.<br /> <br /> As for the athletes, Wilson zipped across the field with ease and hinted at why <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> and others have raved about his raw ability. He and Marshall and <strong>James Clark</strong> were the first to take stabs at returning punts.<br /> <br /> Elliott looked very natural and fluid on the field and could have a chance to immediately catch the eye of Drayton as the Buckeyes look to bolster the tailback spot with Hyde out of action.<br /> <br /> Just a handful of non-freshmen practiced this morning, one of them being safety <strong>Devan Bogard</strong>, a sophomore from Cleveland. Bogard is still recovering from an ACL tear that sidelined him for much of last season.<br /> <br /> The following are the jersey numbers that have been issued for <strong>incoming scholarship freshmen</strong>:<br /> <br /> TE Marcus Baugh – 85<br /> S Vonn Bell – 6<br /> DL Joey Bosa – 97<br /> WR James Clark – 82<br /> CB Gareon Conley – 19<br /> RB Ezekiel Elliott – 15<br /> DL Michael Hill – 77<br /> LB Trey Johnson – 36<br /> P Cameron Johnston – 95<br /> ATH Darron Lee – 43<br /> OL Evan Lisle – 75<br /> WR Jalin Marshall – 17<br /> LB Mike Mitchell – 44<br /> DL Donovan Munger – 52<br /> DL Billy Price – 54<br /> WR Corey Smith – 84<br /> S Jayme Thompson – 29<br /> RB Dontre Wilson – 1<br /> S Chris Worley – 35<br /> <br /> <strong>Freshmen who were enrolled in the spring:</strong><br /> CB Eli Apple –13<br /> QB J.T. Barrett – 16<br /> CB Cam Burrows – 16<br /> DE Tyquan Lewis – 59<br /> DL Tracy Sprinkle – 93<br /> <br /> <strong>Transfer:</strong><br /> WR Jeff Greene – 8<br /> <br /> <strong>Preferred walk-ons:</strong><br /> WR Khaleed Franklin – 86<br /> OL Logan Gaskey – 61<br /> TE Charles Kinzig – 84<br /> QB Luke Morgan – 15<br /> WR Devlin McDaniel – 81<br /> WR Brandon Ojikutu – 88<br /> <br /> <strong>Dismissed from the team:</strong><br /> OL Tim Gardner<br /> <br /> <strong>Left team on his own:</strong><br /> FB William Houston<br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-04/Rapp_Around_Freshmen_Descend.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-08-04/Rapp_Around_Freshmen_Descend.aspx ae4b5004-2350-482b-84eb-c1c0fac77cc0 Sun, 04 Aug 2013 16:40:06 GMT Hyde Will Avoid Charges One week after being named a person of interest in a potential assault case, Ohio State running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> will not face charges related to an incident at a downtown Columbus nightclub, according to sources and multiple reports.<br /> <br /> The alleged victim in the case, a 19-year-old woman from nearby Westerville, reportedly left town soon after a Columbus police report confirmed she had accused Hyde, 22, of striking her after a confrontation at Sugar Bar 2 early on the morning of July 20.<br /> <br /> She finally assented to an interview with police over the weekend and decided not to press charges against Hyde, a senior from Naples, Fla., who rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns last season as the Buckeyes went 12-0.<br /> <br /> The woman released a statement through NBC4 in Columbus today, stating the following:<br /> <br /> “Keeping in mind what is for me and my family I have decided to refrain from filing charges at this time.<br /> <br /> “Some of the media has rushed to judgment regarding the incident to ensure they are the first to report the information, whether it be factual or false. This has been overwhelming, frustrating and disappointing. It is unimaginable to be exposed to these false reports, claims and rumors and for anticipated 4 months expected to bring this incident to a conclusion.<br /> <br /> “I would like to thank the Columbus Police department for their patience and professionalism they showed conducting their investigation. They have advised me I have up to two years to consider criminal charges.<br /> <br /> “I believe the video, if released, will speak for itself when shown in its entirety and not edited or censored.<br /> <br /> “Thank you.”<br /> <br /> Columbus police announced this morning that the investigation into the alleged assault officially has been closed.<br /> <br /> Still, questions remain, including why there were several conflicting reports related to the incident and what Ohio State head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>, who is dealing with other scrapes with the law by players in the last two weeks, will do.<br /> <br /> Hyde is on indefinite suspension and Ohio State must follow school guidelines for the student code of conduct and criminal investigations. The latest development certainly is good news for Hyde, who is eyeing a big sendoff season in the OSU backfield behind quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> and a veteran offensive line.<br /> <br /> Still, Meyer, who has a very strict policy against players making any inappropriate contact with women, could very well suspend Hyde for at least a game and/or possibly invoke other punishments.<br /> <br /> Meyer recently sent lineman <strong>Tim Gardner</strong> back to his Indianapolis home after the freshman was charged with obstructing official business and fellow newcomer <strong>Marcus Baugh</strong>, a tight end from Riverside, Calif., already has been suspended from the Aug. 31 season opener with Buffalo for a similar alcohol-related offense.<br /> <br /> Star cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong>, a preseason All-American and senior, was charged with battery after his part in a fracas in a Bloomington, Ind., bar the same weekend as the Hyde incident. Meyer has not ruled on the Roby situation but told reporters at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago last week that he likely will hand down a suspension.<br /> <br /> The headline-filled end of July has led to a lot of scrutiny of the players and Meyer, but it also has raised suspicions about the reliability of the media on such stories.<br /> <br /> Initial reports said Hyde punched the woman and even knocked her unconscious, which has since been refuted by a police department spokesman.<br /> <br /> The Columbus Dispatch, the largest local newspaper, reported that Hyde would be dismissed from the team, which now appears to be clearly false. Yahoo! then claimed according to sources that had seen the surveillance video of the confrontation at the nightclub that Hyde never touched the alleged victim.<br /> <br /> That prompted local reporter <strong>Mindy Drayer</strong> of NBC4 to go on the air via her home and detail what she had seen from the video – she said she was invited by the victim’s family to assess it – and in her account she claimed that Hyde did not punch the woman but did appear to strike her across the face with a hand slap.<br /> <br /> Daryer said the woman made a motion to hit Hyde but it was unclear as to whether or not she made contact with him. The reporter added that the woman had to be consoled by friends and held her face in reaction to the encounter.<br /> <br /> There were even reports claiming Hyde had met with police when he had not.<br /> <br /> Columbus police spokesman Sgt. <strong>Rich Weiner</strong> told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the department will eventually release the video to the media and people can draw their own conclusions. He said it will be evident there were falsehoods with some of the reports.<br /> <br /> “I don’t want to rip on the media,” Weiner told the PD. “The case, for whatever reason, the media made it high-profile. There were many sources being quoted as factual, and that was reported. I’m not going to comment on the video. The video will speak for itself.<br /> <br /> “This is a reminder that we have two people involved, we had the victim and we had the accused, and both of them have rights, and the investigation had to be able to run its course. And a lot of people jumped to conclusions and listened to rumors. And they’re going to find out that the rumors that were quoted were wrong. And we’ll leave it at that.”<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-07-30/Hyde_Will_Avoid_Charges.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-07-30/Hyde_Will_Avoid_Charges.aspx 372a2f31-d1a1-4b87-ac0c-112d56f0922e Tue, 30 Jul 2013 19:31:32 GMT Rapp Around: Windy City Blues <strong>CHICAGO – Urban Meyer</strong> is known for getting right to the point and in a matter of seconds into his 18-minute address at the lectern for Big Ten Media Days he summarized succinctly.<br /> <br /> “It’s been a great year; tough couple of days,” he said.<br /> <br /> No one could disagree on either point.<br /> <br /> Speaking in public for the first time since the university acknowledged that no less than four different players were facing suspensions and potential legal trouble, Meyer, who led the Buckeyes to a 12-0 record in 2012, made it very clear that he was feeling the sting of offseason transgressions. He even admitted that he’s, gulp, “human.”<br /> <br /> Meyer has had a bevy of critics during his 11 years as a college head coach, especially at his most recent stops at Florida and Ohio State – two of the most high-profile and competitive programs in the country.<br /> <br /> He’s been dragged into the <strong>Aaron Hernandez</strong> tragedy since he coached the tatted-up tight end in Gainesville and, according to New England coach <strong>Bill Belichick</strong>, completely vouched for Hernandez’s character as the Patriots moved in to select the troubled player in the 2010 NFL draft.<br /> <br /> That, of course, came up Wednesday. So did Meyer’s involvement – or lack thereof, as he claims – in Ohio State making the NCAA aware of minor recruiting violations committed by Florida recently.<br /> <br /> Meyer seems to leave a wake wherever he goes and harbors student-athletes who find trouble, his skeptics say, so the fact that star running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong>, All-American cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> and a pair of true freshmen all made the news for the wrong reasons in the last 10 days put the coach in another awkward position.<br /> <br /> Meyer would have loved to enter the ballroom of the Chicago Hilton loose and confident with a perfect OSU record and the team to beat in the Big Ten. Instead, many of the roughly 500 reporters on hand inched forward when he strolled to the dais concentrated on how he would address the recent woes.<br /> <br /> Hyde, whom The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday would be dismissed from the team, has been named a “person of interest” after a woman claimed the 235-pound running back struck her in a downtown nightlcub late Friday night. Columbus police interviewed Hyde Tuesday – the woman has left the country and won’t return for at least a week – and there are reports claiming surveillance video shows Hyde only walking away after the woman struck him.<br /> <br /> It’s a messy situation that appears to have a complete range of results – Hyde could be cleared of all wrongdoing and return to the team swiftly, the case could drag on for weeks and cause Hyde to miss plenty of camp and potentially some games, or he could be charged and kicked off the team.<br /> <br /> For now Hyde is suspended indefinitely.<br /> <br /> And Meyer didn’t toss it back at reporters that the latest twist in the Hyde situation could be encouraging or his quarterback, <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>, even went so far as to declare that Hyde should remain a Buckeye.<br /> <br /> “I didn’t receive the good news,” Meyer said. “I guess I’m not a big social media guy. We just have to evaluate the facts. And once I evaluate the facts, then we’ll make some decisions.”<br /> <br /> Hyde was just part of the avalanche. Meyer also had to deal with Roby being arrested in Bloomington, Ind., and charged with battery late Saturday after another disturbance at a bar. Plus, freshman lineman <strong>Timothy Gardner</strong> was sent home and lost at least for the 2013 season after being charged with obstruction of official business and another newcomer, tight end <strong>Marcus Baugh</strong>, was arrested for underage alcohol possession and use of fake identification and is suspended for the Aug. 31 season opener with Buffalo.<br /> <br /> In his opening statement, Meyer didn’t explain his discipline stance or delve into the problems, saying, “I’m going to focus on the positives, positives created by tremendous momentum from last year’s team to an excellent recruiting class, positive spring practice, and one of the best academic performances in recent history at Ohio State.”<br /> <br /> But after talking about his experienced offensive line, APR numbers and the like, the Hyde-Roby questions arose and Meyer soon was using words such as “knuckleheads,” “stupid” and “nonsense.”<br /> <br /> “In the last 12 months we’ve had three legal issues, and it all happened in three days, I think, three or four days,” he said.<br /> <br /> “And we had two freshmen that have been with us I think just over three weeks make two stupid decisions that were dealt with very firmly. One’s been sent home. One lost his scholarship. And one of them was a 17-year-old using a fake ID.<br /> <br /> “And it drives you insane that you have to deal with that nonsense. But that’s part of the issue. We had an upperclassman that I’m still receiving information about.”<br /> <br /> “My concern is just I don’t want to disrupt this team,” he continued. “And I talk to them all the time about it. We have an incredible amount of resources and time spent educating players how to do the right thing at the right time. And when a mistake happens or something happened, you have to react and get it done.<br /> <br /> “So I’m disappointed. I think furious might be the word that would best describe when I first got the phone call, because, like I said, for 12 months it’s been really, really good.<br /> <br /> “The guys work too hard. To have a couple of knuckleheads make some decisions that reflect the entire program .. I guess it’s part of the deal. It’s something that bothers me, bothers our staff, and we work very hard to avoid with our players.”<br /> <br /> Senior offensive lineman <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong>, one of the three Ohio State players here at Big Ten Media Days, attested to Meyer’s assertion.<br /> <br /> “The players will be held accountable for their choices; I can speak for that personally,” said Mewhort, who was suspended last summer after police found him urinating in public. “I made a bad choice in my past and I was held accountable for it. Came through it stronger and matured. You have to grow from experiences like this.”<br /> <br /> Mewhort said there is no gray area when it comes to poor behavior in the eyes of Meyer.<br /> <br /> “We’re all very aware of the consequences of breaking his core values,” said the tackle. “They’re listed everywhere in the facility and we’re constantly reminded of them. So when something happens it’s not necessarily him coming down on you, it’s you knowing you’ve done something wrong.”<br /> <br /> Added senior safety <strong>Christian Bryant</strong>, “I feel like as a college athlete you have to have roles and you have to know your boundaries. You always have to know there is a microscope looking at you at all times, whether you do something good or whether you do something bad. I just try to stay grounded. I lay low when I go out.”<br /> <br /> Miller agreed, and even said he’s kind of a homebody because the potential repercussions with going out.<br /> <br /> “I like to have fun but I don’t want to get into trouble or anything like that,” said the junior QB. “I’m silly, fun to hang out with, but I like chillin’.”<br /> <br /> Mewhort also has learned his lesson and said he felt awful for others when he ran into trouble.<br /> <br /> “My thoughts go right to the coaches and their families because things get blamed on them that aren’t necessarily their fault,” he said. “They feel for us, too. The coaches devote their lives to developing us as people – not only as football players, but people. So when something off the football field happens it really hurts them deeply.”<br /> <br /> Because of that, Meyer said he is still trying to resolve whatever potential problems he can, including not leaving incoming players without guidance.<br /> <br /> “When freshmen show up, coaches usually leave for vacation,” he said, “and that’s tough. And that’s something I’m going to reevaluate, whether I keep some coaches back and try to break that up a little bit. I really thought about that, because that was really disappointing.”<br /> <br /> Meyer knows some have blamed him for Hernandez now facing murder charges and have been quick to label him as a coach who will look away when his top players take risks.<br /> <br /> When asked if that hurts, the usually abrupt Meyer didn’t hesitate to find an answer.<br /> <br /> “I’m a human so it does,” he admitted. “I don’t read. I don’t really get involved with following stuff, because I think people need to get facts before they start just making accusations and those types of things. But in the end you’ve got to feel in your heart we’re doing the right thing; that we’re in the people business and we have to do what’s right by those people.”<br /> <br /> For those who assumed Meyer would be thorny and take an adversarial position with the media here, so far their claims have been disproved. The coach was gracious, even shook hands with several reporters in the hallway including this one, and told one credentialed member of the media who fired a probing question on team discipline that he appreciates the writer has a job to do.<br /> <br /> His critics, of course, will just say he’s now kissing up to save his standing as a top-of-the-line college football coach. But Meyer indirectly answered that claim with this nugget.<br /> <br /> “How do I view my own reputation? I don’t view my own reputation,” he said. “I guess a reputation is what others think of you. I worry more about our team, about our players. I’m 49 years old. I’ve been doing this for a long time.” http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-07-24/Rapp_Around_Windy_City_Blues.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-07-24/Rapp_Around_Windy_City_Blues.aspx 19443d02-6224-4e38-bb41-8c2b8cf56ba5 Wed, 24 Jul 2013 23:22:33 GMT Hyde, Roby In Legal Hot Water <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> – Ohio State’s top running back and a Doak Walker Award candidate – reportedly has been dismissed from the football team because of an alleged altercation that occurred late Friday night.<br /> <br /> And that’s only part of the very bad news head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> received this weekend and Buckeye fans are now absorbing. <strong>Bradley Roby</strong>, an All-American-caliber cornerback and OSU’s top defensive back, was arrested in Indiana and as of this writing was facing a charge of battery.<br /> <br /> Hyde and Roby are each seniors and two of the top players for the Buckeyes, who are coming off a 12-0 season and were considered national championship contenders this fall.<br /> <br /> The university has not commented on either off-field incident or made public any action taken by Meyer and the program. However, a spokesman said the media could be informed with an official statement as soon as early this evening.<br /> <br /> Roby was arrested Sunday in Bloomington, Ind., and has posted bond. He was scheduled to appear in an Indiana courtroom for an initial hearing this afternoon after being charged with “battery resulting in bodily injury,” a class A misdemeanor.<br /> <br /> Hyde’s situation appears much more serious. A Columbus police report states that he is a person of interest after a woman was struck around 1:50 a.m. Saturday at Sugar Bar 2, a downtown Columbus nightclub.<br /> <br /> A local television station is reporting that Hyde was not on the scene when police arrived and is schedule to meet with investigators tomorrow. The station also said Hyde is still a member of the team pending that conversation and a response from Meyer.<br /> <br /> That, however, is in conflict with The Columbus Dispatch, which reported today that Hyde had been dismissed from the team.<br /> <br /> Last July, Meyer kicked linebacker <strong>Storm Klein</strong> off the team after allegations of domestic abuse – Klein has a child but an estranged relationship with the birth mother. The charges were later dropped and Klein was reinstated to the team in time for his senior season.<br /> <br /> Hyde ended his junior campaign with a 146-yard outburst in a 26-21 win over Michigan and ended up with 970 yards on 185 carries and 16 touchdowns. He missed two of OSU’s 12 games because of a sprained MCL.<br /> <br /> No running back has ever amassed a 1,000-yard rushing season in Meyer’s 11 years as a head coach, a streak Hyde planned to break in 2013. Athlon listed him as a preseason All-Big Ten second-teamer and several other publications and services considered him to be the top returning running back in the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> A product of Naples, Fla., Hyde is listed 6-0, 242 and is among OSU’s fastest skill players.<br /> <br /> Meyer hailed him to be “as good as there is in the country” during spring drills and by all accounts Hyde was having an outstanding offseason.<br /> <br /> In his career, Hyde rushed 315 times for 1,677 yards and 22 touchdowns while also catching one TD pass.<br /> <br /> If Hyde has lost his senior season – and presumably countless dollars in the NFL draft next spring – the Buckeyes have a bevy of talented yet unproven backs to replace him.<br /> <br /> Senior <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> could pick up many of his carries but Hall isn’t known as a workhorse. He had two games with 17 rushing attempts last season but also was injured for much of the season. In previous years, Hall often shared the running back duties.<br /> <br /> Plus, Hall has been working at the “H” spot and is expected to do much of his damage from the slot and out wide as a receiver.<br /> <br /> Ohio State running backs coach <strong>Stan Drayton</strong> has some youngsters to develop but has plenty of clay to mold. Junior <strong>Rod Smith</strong> (6-3, 238) and sophomore <strong>Bri’onte Dunn</strong> (6-0, 222) have size and decent experience while redshirt freshman <strong>Warren Ball</strong> (6-1, 222) is coming off an encouraging spring.<br /> <br /> True freshmen <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> and <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong> also could get a look in fall camp if Hyde is out of the mix.<br /> <br /> While Hyde is a top-level player, the Buckeyes might be able to overcome his absence more easily than dealing with a loss of Roby, who led the nation last season in pass break-ups (17) and scored touchdowns via an interception return, blocked punt and fumble recovery.<br /> <br /> A Thorpe award candidate, Roby logged 63 tackles last season and could have bolted for the NFL yet decided to stay, citing a commitment to team leadership and trying to help the Buckeyes to the BCS National Championship Game.<br /> <br /> The Bloomington police put out a statement today saying that Roby was removed from a local bar after attempting to start a fight with a patron, attempted to re-enter the bar to locate friends, and struck a security guard in the chest while he was being restrained. He was wrestled to the ground and detained until police arrived on the scene at 2:40 a.m.<br /> <br /> Roby was expected to join teammates <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> and <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> in Chicago later this week for Big Ten Media Days but it’s very unlikely he’ll represent the team there. In fact, it has been reported that safety Christian Bryant would step in for Roby for the media appointment.<br /> <br /> As it is, Meyer, who has come under scrutiny for the arrest of former Florida player <strong>Aaron Hernandez</strong> on murder charges and other past transgressions by players, will have to face reporters from a lectern on Wednesday and in a roundtable format on Thursday.<br /> <br /> Meyer conducted a team meeting early Monday morning. Athletic director <strong>Gene Smith</strong> was present but Hyde and Roby were not.<br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-07-22/Hyde_Roby_In_Legal_Hot_Water.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-07-22/Hyde_Roby_In_Legal_Hot_Water.aspx fccfb678-7ebb-435c-8254-b5ceb1182622 Mon, 22 Jul 2013 20:49:59 GMT Working To Answer The Bell When Garfield Heights (Ohio) HS center <strong>David Bell</strong> committed to play basketball at Ohio State back in February, the reaction was mixed.<br /> <br /> Some scrambled to learn about Bell’s diamond-in-the-rough status, other’s questioned whether he would develop enough to become a force in the Big Ten, but most celebrated that Bell, 6-10 and impressively athletic, added himself to a 2014 OSU class that already was blessed with well-rated wings <strong>Jae’Sean Tate</strong> and <strong>Keita Bates-Diop</strong>.<br /> <br /> It certainly looked good on paper at the time as Bell was averaging 17.3 points per game, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks per contest as a junior and had just awed onlookers at the Flying To The Hoop tournament in Dayton.<br /> <br /> SportsRappUp.com recently caught up with Bell at the adidas Invitational in Indianapolis and the youngster recalled his excitement in becoming a Buckeye.<br /> <br /> “I went down to a game against Indiana and then they came to my practice,” he said of the OSU coaches. “Coach <strong>Thad</strong> (<strong>Matta</strong>) came up there and they offered me. That’s my dream school and I knew it would be a good fit for me later on, so I accepted right away.”<br /> <br /> Bell said he keeps in touch with Matta, assistant coach <strong>Jeff Boals</strong> and is trying to develop a rapport with the current OSU players.<br /> <br /> “They tell me to keep on working every day and my opportunity is going to come,” he said.<br /> <br /> Still, Bell knows he is not nearly a finished product and needs to continue to hone his game, which he is addressing this summer in workouts and on the AAU and camp circuit. While Bell shows a high upside with long arms and springy legs, he is still learning how to play with strength in the post – which isn’t easy when word spreads that you’re headed to a topflight college program.<br /> <br /> “The only difference has been the attention toward me since I committed to Ohio State,” he said. “That’s been about it. People come at you harder and stronger because they want to see what the O-State commit is about.<br /> <br /> “My coaches and Coach Thad warned me about that. He said, ‘When you come in, you better be ready for the competition’ and stuff like that.”<br /> <br /> Part of that experience will be taxing, of course, and much of it will be rewarding, like getting to play in high-level postseason games in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.<br /> <br /> “I get goosebumps every time I think about the tournaments and the hard play,” he said. “I’m just very excited to go there and just compete.”<br /> <br /> Bell has sat behind the Ohio State bench and found it to be an eye-opening experience. When the Buckeyes tangled with top-ranked Indiana, for example, he witnessed the carnage in the paint and the difficulty of trying to slow down an All-American like <strong>Cody Zeller</strong>.<br /> <br /> Still, he’s inspired at the thought of trying to do the same someday.<br /> <br /> “It gives me the mentality to keep on working to get stronger because the Big Ten Conference is very physical,” he said. “I need to get more physically dominating with my body and just keep on working to get better.”<br /> <br /> Bell was listed 6-9 and 215 pounds when he committed but now he’s a full 6-10, 225. He has a 7-5 wingspan and can torture opponents around the lane with his shot-blocking ability.<br /> <br /> Playing for the Ohio Basketball Club 17U team this summer, Bell doesn’t always see the ball in fast-paced AAU games. However, he continues to work on setting up down low and using his lower body for leverage. He also tends to make plays off of offensive rebounds and when protecting the lane on defense.<br /> <br /> “It’s fun,” he said with a wide grin after an OBC victory. “It’s good to see what you have to work on yourself and go against other players. It’s pretty fun.<br /> <br /> “On pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops I like to use my quickness. I’m a quick big and I like to use my athleticism running the floor and blocking shots.”<br /> <br /> When asked what he works on the most, Bell didn’t hesitate.<br /> <br /> “My strength,” he said. “I’ve been lifting the weights hard. I’ve been lifting every day and I just keep on competing and doing skill work.<br /> <br /> Bell said he practices midrange jumpers every day and also is trying to add a reliable hook shot to his repertoire. And there is more to come.<br /> <br /> “I always had good defensive traits like blocking shots and rebounding but I started to show my offensive game – my face-up, dribble drives and kicks,” he said.<br /> <br /> “In high school, it’s all on me. I’ve always got players around me so there’s not that much attention toward me (form his teammates). The players that guard me are very physical because they know I’m going to go to Ohio State. But I’m just ready for it.”<br /> <br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-07-22/Working_To_Answer_The_Bell.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-07-22/Working_To_Answer_The_Bell.aspx ef6d1f10-63b3-4188-81b1-8dd98117e8eb Mon, 22 Jul 2013 05:58:52 GMT 7 Feet, Moves Like A Deer <strong>INDIANAPOLIS – Stephen Zimmerman</strong> is still a young buck. His arms are skinny. His body is svelte and underdeveloped. He has the face and laid-back demeanor of a 15-year-old in a skater park. His stringy, brown hair dangles even lower with sweat when he competes.<br /> <br /> And in a showcase pool play basketball game at the adidas Invitational here today he scored just eight points, two of the hoops coming late in an 80-58 romp over Dorian’s Pride, an AAU outfit out of Saginaw, Mich.<br /> <br /> That information alone would lead one to believe that Zimmerman is unremarkable, but that is not the case.<br /> <br /> The nearly 7-foot product of Las Vegas actually is one of the top 2015 prep prospects in the nation and currently has a list of major college suitors longer than his towering torso.<br /> <br /> One of the schools doing the chasing is Ohio State. In fact, assistant coach <strong>Jeff Boals</strong> was prominent in an endline chair at the auxiliary gym of North Central High School. Earlier in the day, <strong>Thad Matta</strong> was in nearly the same seat.<br /> <br /> Most listings for Zimmerman, who preps at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, have him at 6-11 and 215 pounds. He shows impressive and developing fundamentals and bothers teams with his size, left-handed shot, smarts and ability to run the court like an off-guard.<br /> <br /> Still, at prestigious events such as the Invitational, Zimmerman is clearly still a work in progress. He plays “up” with the Dream Vision U17 team and spent much of the day knocking into sturdier bigs looking to punish his scrawny frame.<br /> <br /> “It helps me for the next level,” he said with a shrug. “Everyone on my teams says I don’t get any foul calls, which is going to help me in the long run.”<br /> <br /> Zimmerman is on a balanced team and doesn’t have to take over. Because of that and the fact that he sometimes tires against burly players, he can appear a bit removed from the action at times.<br /> <br /> “I have to be more aggressive,” he said, critiquing himself. “That’s my thing right now. People say, ‘Oh, it’ll just come,’ but I’m trying to get it now, so I’ve got to start being more aggressive.”<br /> <br /> Zimmerman knows where he needs to get to be an immediate impact center at the major college level. Still, that hasn’t stopped recruiting services from howling about his upside.<br /> <br /> Rivals.com rates him as the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2015, 247Sports.com has him at No. 3, ESPN.com checks his name at No. 7, and Scout.com, which doesn’t yet have overall rankings for ’15 players, claims Zimmerman currently is the top junior-to-be center in the country.<br /> <br /> Not coincidentally, somewhere in the neighborhood of three dozen schools covet Zimmerman and most of them have offered the youngster a scholarship, Ohio State among them.<br /> <br /> “It’s even,” he said. “Everyone is calling a lot. It’s crazy. I didn’t expect it. Going to Gorman with <strong>Shabazz</strong> (<strong>Muhammad</strong>) he told me it was going to be hard and ‘It’s going to hit you,’ but I didn’t expect to get calls at like 3 o’clock in the morning.<br /> <br /> “My parents are mostly doing the talking to coaches. I’m just happy they are helping me out on that. But I’m still making calls and stuff like that.”<br /> <br /> Zimmerman’s mother, Lori, is in town attending games and tries to deflect some of the attention – or, some say, put the spotlight on herself.<br /> <br /> Stephen said he is still enjoying basketball but admits he feels more pressure to live up to his newfound ranking and carry himself correctly on and off the court.<br /> <br /> “I’m real blessed and I’m also real blessed to know that I have people who can help me out with it,” said the lanky teenager. “It’s crazy. You do have to know the right people and make sure you make the right decisions.<br /> <br /> “Two years ago I never would have guessed it, but I’m happy. Being on YouTube and to come out here and have little kids know who I am and stuff like that, it’s amazing.”<br /> <br /> Zimmerman will decide what visits he makes and said he has not yet set any dates to look in on programs.<br /> <br /> “I just hear that I should go to the school that I’m most comfortable with and what feels right, so it’s whatever school feels good for me,” he said. “(The visits) will be a factor.”<br /> <br /> Among the myriad colleges Zimmerman is currently considering is his hometown school of UNLV, which just sent freshman forward <strong>Anthony Bennett</strong> to the top of the NBA draft.<br /> <br /> “It’s amazing that he was able to go No. 1,” Zimmerman said. “I played against him my freshmen year, so it’s really cool that I played against the No. 1 draft pick. Obviously they are doing something right.”<br /> <br /> The following are other comments Zimmerman made about particular schools of interest:<br /> <br /> <strong>Michigan –</strong> “They’re a great school. They said they’re going to offer me as soon as I go to their campus and see how everything is and stuff.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Kentucky –</strong> “A lot (of interest). That’s another school that I need to take an unofficial to.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Indiana –</strong> “Obviously a great school, especially for big men. I’m always looking for a school that likes to develop big men. They lost an amazing player (in Cody Zeller), so that’s a great place to look at.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Louisville –</strong> “They’re the same. That’s a big thing to be able to win like that.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Arizona –</strong> “They have amazing coaches and a lot people who went to Arizona are guys I’ve played with, so I like them a lot.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Ohio State –</strong> “They like me. I don’t know how much they talk to my mom but they talk to me, they call me, and they’re a great school. They win. There are a lot of major schools that win but really knowing what you’re doing and having a great coaching staff is a big thing, not just having the talent to win.”<br /> <br /> <br /> http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-07-11/7_Feet_Moves_Like_A_Deer.aspx Jeff Rapp http://sportsrappup.com/Sections/Stories/13-07-11/7_Feet_Moves_Like_A_Deer.aspx 18cf3964-bef6-4106-921c-5f19864e4161 Fri, 12 Jul 2013 01:48:21 GMT Ready To Hit The Road With <strong>Chris Jent</strong> back on an NBA coaching staff, <strong>Thad Matta</strong> pegged his replacement last week as the Ohio State head coach officially elevated <strong>Greg Paulus</strong> to full-time status and hired <strong>Jake Diebler</strong> to take over Paulus’ old role as video coordinator.<br /> <br /> That all became official on July 1 and was a done deal much sooner than that. As Matta admitted, Paulus already had a stranglehold on full assistantship if Jent or <strong>Jeff Boals</strong> or <strong>Dave Dickerson</strong> – all hot commodities during the 2012-13 season – landed elsewhere.<br /> <br /> So the Paulus hiring makes total sense and leaves little for scrutiny. However, the former Duke point guard and Syracuse quarterback has just one year as a full-time NCAA assistant on his resume, doing so at Navy before arriving to Columbus in the summer of 2011.<br /> <br /> So it’s safe to say Paulus still has a transition ahead of him as far as carrying actual recruiting responsibilities at a major program.<br /> <br /> Still, all signs point to Paulus being an instant hit in that regard, especially considering he already has intimate knowledge of the OSU staff and its needs.<br /> <br /> “From where we are today, you’re attempting to identify top talent and you’re trying to recruit them the right way, and that’s what I like about Greg: He knows what we do, how we do it,” Matta said. “And I think from the perspective of going out and seeing the kids but also knowing what we need is very important. He knows the intricacies of our program and that is probably the most important thing.”<br /> <br /> “It’s a great opportunity, exciting, something that you hope for,” Paulus told reporters last week while remaining calm and confident sounding. “To have this type of opportunity, you want to take advantage of it.”<br /> <br /> Paulus reportedly turned down overtures to join longtime Duke assistant <strong>Chris Collins</strong> at Northwestern and also looked into other potential opportunities before Jent left OSU to become a top aide for the Sacramento Kings.<br /> <br /> But when the rumors swirled during Ohio State’s postseason march to the Big Ten Tournament title and the Elite Eight, Paulus stayed focused.<br /> <br /> “I can tell you the only thing I was thinking about in March is what we were doing,” he said. “We had a great run, great year last year, and the only thing I was thinking about was our guys.”<br /> <br /> Paulus now can give those in scarlet and gray even more attention. He not only put together video packages for the coaches but also offered advice, became an extra ear for players and worked tirelessly the last two years.<br /> <br /> “He caught on real quick,” Matta said. “And he reads situations and people very well.<br /> <br /> “He was very inquisitive and very intuitive in terms of wanting to become something special in terms of coaching. That was very evident in the two years that he’s been there.”<br /> <br /> Matta added that Paulus often jotted down notes and became a believer in the OSU program. His attention to detail, salesmanship and ability to relate to youngsters should carry over well as he tries to lure elite talent to Columbus.<br /> <br /> “In terms of recruiting, he’s as personable and as smart as I’ve seen,” Matta said. “But the bottom line is nobody is ever going to work as hard as he is.”<br /> <br /> Paulus will be put to the test quickly. Division I coaches can watch prospects perform at various camps, clinics, AAU tournaments and other showcases beginning Thursday. The NCAA is allowing such visible observance through Sunday and again July 17-21 and 24-28.<br /> <br /> It’s a key time for coaches to identify and coddle prospective players and for a young coach like Paulus to take notice and be noticed at the same time.<br /> <br /> When asked about the importance of recruiting, Paulus said, “I’ve tried to learn as much as I can from wherever I’ve been. I think doing it before helps. I haven’t had the opportunity to do it here but I’m looking forward to going on the road.<br /> <br /> “I think being a part of Ohio State the last two years, with everything it has to offer on the court and off the court and academically, it stands for itself and speaks for itself. I’m glad to be a part of it.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Diebler Also On Board</strong><br /> <br /> Diebler, of course, is the older brother of former Buckeye sharpshooter <strong>Jon Diebler</strong> and an Ohio native. He was an Academic All-American and reliable player at Valparaiso, ranking 10th all-time at the school in steals with 130. He spent the last two years as a full-time assistant at his alma mater.<br /> <br /> “I feel very blessed to be here,” he said while seated net to Paulus. “I’ve been fortunate to see my brother come through and I know what this place means to him. In the back of my mind I always thought it would be great to be a part of that. I’m just honored to be here and excited.”<br /> <br /> Diebler stayed in touch with members of the OSU sta