Previous Ohio State surprise starters have performed pretty well

So, Ohio State is going to play the 2014 season with a new starting quarterback despite starting an underclassman the previous season. This might seem unusual, but it has happened for the Buckeyes what seems like a rather remarkable five times in the past 50 years. The reasons have varied but don’t include the previous season’s starter going pro (at least not for positive reasons). Miller meets media

Braxton Miller is the first one to be replaced because of injury. He ended up being the starter in 2011 after Terrelle Pryor left school in June amid questions about additional NCAA violations (he was already facing a five-game suspension for violations previously admitted). Like Miller, Pryor became a surprise true freshman starter in 2008 after senior Todd Boeckman struggled early in the season.

You might have already known about those circumstances, but what about the three that came before?  Continue reading

Overheard at Ohio State football Aug. 18

Cleaning out the reporter’s notebook from another day on the Ohio State football beat… 

The always interesting Tom Herman, Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, told us quarterback Braxton Miller did not throw in the morning practice but ran the offense as they concentrated on the running game.

He agreed with a questioner who asked if the reps have been good for backup quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones and added that the mental reps have been good for Miller too even though they would prefer not to be doing things this way. Live reps have been great for the young guys.

Ohio Stadium from the Buckeye Grove south of the stadium

Barrett has moved ahead of Jones for the No. 2 quarterback job because the offense moves better when he is running it. He probably would have better stats, too, if you broke it all down, but that’s really the bottom line. Continue reading

Buckeye defense hoping for 1996 redux

On the second day of Ohio State’s 2014 preseason football camp, Luke Fickell said this was the first offseason since he returned to his alma mater as a coach in 2002 that there was reason to feel bad about how the defense had finished the season.

That got me thinking about another season that ended with national title hopes going up in smoke in large part because of a defensive letdown — 1995.  Fickell practice headshot

Now the Ohio State defensive coordinator, Fickell was a junior in this third year as the starting nose guard for the Buckeyes that season, and Ohio State rose to No. 2 in the national polls in November, the highest ranking for the program in over a decade.

Most of that success was on the back of a national top 10 offense that featured the best running back (Eddie George), wide receiver (Terry Glenn) and offensive lineman (Orlando Pace) in the country as well as first-team All-Big Ten players at quarterback (Bobby Hoying) and tight end (Rickey Dudley).

The Ohio State defense boasted All-Big Ten players at defensive end (Mike Vrabel and Matt Finkes) and cornerback (Shawn Springs) and finished 12th in the nation in points allowed (16.7 per game), but it wasn’t on the same level as the scoring unit. That much was proven on the final day of the regular season as the Buckeyes traveled to Ann Arbor and saw their perfect season ruined by 12th-ranked Michigan, which got a record 313 yards rushing from Tim Biakabutuka en route to a 31-23 upset. Continue reading

On the O’Bannon decision and NCAA autonomy

The NCAA does itself no favors by continuing to keep up the PR front that it is all about preserving amateurism because that word has lost whatever power it ever had, but maybe U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken did the organization a favor by weeding out such arguments up  front.  Continue reading

Ohio State football: Preseason Day 2 highlights

Ohio State did not allow media to watch any part of day two of preseason football practice, but the school published a YouTube video of highlights.

Because this is the Internet and pixels cost little compared to ink and paper, here are about 30 seconds worth of takeaways from two minutes of clips:

  • Braxton Miller can still throw, and Devin Smith can still make one-handed catches.
  • Cardale Jones can throw interceptions. Related: fellow Cleveland Glenville alum Marshon Lattimore can catch interceptions. Lattimore is a youngster to keep an eye on defensively.
  • Also making an appearance: Super talented redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall, a receiver who had his first season wiped out by injury and could be a big-time player for an offense that figures to be somewhat retooled.
  • Cornerback Gareon Conley, another redshirt freshman the Buckeyes probably could have used something from last season, makes a diving interception on an out pass by Miller.
  • And in what can only be read as a nod toward Jim Tressel, the video concludes with a punt.

So there you go for now. We’ll be allowed in Wednesday afternoon for day three, so be sure to check back for details here, on Twitter and at BuckeyeSports.com.

Ohio State football 2014: Preseason thoughts

The dawn of another Ohio State football season is upon us, and 2014 figures to be an unpredictable year with so much change on both sides of the ball.

Most indications are the DNA is going to be different with the offense and the defense, one change being personnel-driven and the other caused by extreme struggles of a year ago. Both ways, Ohio State is going to have to count on a new cast of characters to carry out what is in all likelihood a plan that is at least somewhat different than it was last year, for better or for worse.

Preseason practice at Ohio State. The Schottenstein Center is in the background.
Preseason practice at Ohio State. The Schottenstein Center is in the background.

Offensively, Ohio State has the best player in the Big Ten back to trigger an attack that is probably going to look more like Urban Meyer and Tom Herman intended it to when they arrived than it has for the past two seasons. They want to have playmakers all over the field, not strictly smashing people up the middle.

Continue reading

Ohio’s latest football export to the north? Michigan State’s defense

Most avid fans of Ohio State football know Michigan football has long made a living off talent from the Buckeye State. Mark Dantonio has taken up the practice at Michigan State over the past seven years, too, but that’s not all.

Turns out the Spartans’ defensive strategy is a direct import from Ohio as well.

Dantonio, of course, first became well known nationally when the defense he coordinated at Ohio State was an integral part of the Buckeyes’ 2002 national championship season. Dantonio, a Zanesville native who was brought to Columbus by Jim Tressel in 2001, moved the Buckeyes from the imposing, press defense installed by Fred Pagac Sr. in the late 1990s to a scheme built around more zone concepts, though pressuring the quarterback was a key for both men.
Continue reading

Buckeyes defense banking on more togetherness

One of the biggest topics of the Ohio State football offseason has been rebuilding a defense that regressed as the year went on into one of the worst in memory.

Ohio State defensive line drills
Ohio State defensive line drills

Chris Ash was brought in as a new co-coordinator of the defense and safeties coach, bringing with him an aggressive style of play in the secondary that has fans champing at the bit to see a return of the famed “Silver Bullets” defenses of the past.

The hiring of Ash also brought about a lot of talk about a unified voice among the coaching staff, something that can easily sound like coach-speak but that senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett gave more credence earlier this week when he met with reporters at Big Ten football media days in Chicago.

“We’re gonna be more aggressive, and I think that’s just Coach Ash,” Bennett said. “I think the biggest difference is we’re going to be more together. So instead of blaming people and instead of just trying to be the D-line and then the linebackers and then the safeties and then the corners, we’re the whole defense. We’re the Silver Bullets. I think that’s the biggest change that I’ve noticed. The coaches have been all about defensive unity. That’s the best thing that’s happened to our defense because you have to have everybody together.”

The Buckeyes’ nose tackle went on to say the defense, which I always thought was more plagued by allowing big plays than by the dinks and dunks bemoaned by many fans and sometimes even head coach Urban Meyer, grew apart as the 2013 season went on. That’s not surprising to learn, but it is surprising to hear such an open and honest assessment these days.

“The struggles last year through the end of the year started dividing us,” Bennett said. “Even I was subject to, ‘You know what, let whatever they’re going to do happen, as a D-line, let’s just go to work.’ That was the wrong approach to take. The D-line still ended up doing pretty well, but you have to be there for your brothers and I personally am trying to change that and make sure we include everybody. If something happens on the back end, I look at the D-line and say we need to be better so that doesn’t happen again.’”

Of course this is the time of year when everything looks rosy moving forward and it is easier to admit past mistakes (thanks in no small part to the yet-to-be-tested notion they have been fixed), but it is also worth pointing out this emphasis on togetherness strays from the “Do your 1/11th mantra” that has been preached consistently by Ohio State staffers and players on defense for the past decade or so.

There is certainly room for the two philosophies to coexist, but it will be interesting to see how this continues to develop through preseason camp and the start of the 2014 season.

Urban Meyer on Ohio State-Michigan State (and Michigan)

Monday in Chicago at the first of the Big Ten football media days, the head coach of Buckeyes was asked his thoughts on the Nov. 8 clash with Michigan State in East Lansing, a game getting more preseason hype at this point than the traditional regular-season ending clash with Michigan at Ohio Stadium.

“If we take care of business, it will be real big. But we’ve got some things in the way before we get there, so if we do our job it could be a real big game,” Meyer said. Big Ten logo

The natural followup was about the state of the “rivalry” between the Buckeyes and Spartans, the two teams that clashed in the Big Ten football title game last year and are considered the top two teams in the new Big Ten East Division this year.

“When I was at Ohio State back in the mid-80s they beat us at Ohio Stadium, so there’s a great rivalry already there. You’ve got to be clear, though, there’s one rival and that will never change. However, Wisconsin became a very big game and then obviously this one’s a huge game, and it’s a credit to both schools that they’re good programs, but there’s one rival.”