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.”

Who are the best Buckeye football players from out of state?

So, which state (other than Ohio) has produced the most Ohio State football players over the past 30 years? You probably won’t be surprised to find out it’s Florida with 52.

But who is the best of that bunch? After all, more than half have become starters, and one quarter have been drafted into the NFL.

Ryan Shazier talks to reporters in Columbus
Ryan Shazier talks to reporters in Columbus

We narrowed it down to six candidates and gave BuckeyeSports.com readers a chance to vote for their favorite. We did the same for Buckeye football recruits from Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan, too, and you can find the stories below.  Continue reading

A look at the first College Football Playoff trophy

The crystal football of the Bowl Championship Series is gone, replaced with a trophy of hardened steel surround by gold brackets.

It is three feet tall, and like the last trophy is composed of two distinct pieces so the 26.5-inch 35-pound “virtual football” trophy can still be lifted off the base, as winners famously were able to do with the crystal football trophy.

The trophy that will go to the winner of the College Football Playoff that begins this season.
The trophy that will go to the winner of the College Football Playoff that begins this season.

The Ohio State response to the return of LeBron James

The biggest sports story in Ohio this year — and perhaps in much longer — is the return of LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers after four years in Miami.

Ohio State has long maintained a relationship with the Akron native, even setting up a locker for him in the men’s basketball locker room and wearing LeBron-branded stuff.  Continue reading

Ohio sports holiday weekend rewind: LeBron, baseball, etc.

So, anything interesting happening in the world of Ohio sports today?

Yeah, I know it was a long holiday weekend and now there are some major rumblings that a huge homecoming could give folks even more to celebrate than America’s birthday, so how about we get all caught up on what happened while you were out watching fireworks and grilling, shall we?

The Heart of It All:

How could this be anything but the ever-moving free agency of one LeBron James, the best basketball player to come out of Ohio in the past 50 years and and probably ever?

Sam Amico at FoxSportsOhio.com did his best to round up the rumors and reports that emerged over the weekend while adding his own reporting, while Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and Fox Sports 1 and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, experts on the NBA and LeBron, respectively, brought even more to the table this morning, painting a rosy picture for the Cavaliers’ outlook in bringing James back to the club he began his career playing for then backhanded on his way out the door four years ago.  Continue reading

Ohio State football recruiting continues to spread nationwide, but Ohio not being left behind

Ohio State picked up a pair of verbal commitments Wednesday morning, first four-star linebacker Justin Hilliard of Cincinnati St. Xavier then four-star defensive end Jashon Cornell of St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham. 

While Hilliard’s hop on board highlights one issue of interest in regards to recent recruiting (Ohio State in Cincinnati), Cornell’s commitment has its own significance.  The 6-3.5, 270-pounder is in line to be the first player from Minnesota to pick Ohio State since Willie Mobley in 2008 and only the third since 1988 (but probably much longer). When eventual All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis signed with Ohio State in 2005, he was believed to be the first scholarship Buckeye football player from the Land of 1,000 Lakes since the great Sid Gillman in the early 1930s. Relationships Lead Cornell to Buckeyes - recruiting - Scout

But we’re getting at a larger trend here.

Continue reading

Meyer mines Cincinnati for top linebacker prospect for Ohio State

Justin Hilliard of Cincinnati St. Xavier is the 11th verbal commitment for Ohio State’s 2015 recruiting class and the second linebacker, joining Nick Connor of Dublin Scioto.

Buckeyes Land Hilliard - ohiostate - Scout

He is the seventh recruit from southwestern Ohio in Urban Meyer’s three-plus years as head coach of the Buckeyes and the third from Cincinnati, joining Adolphus Washington (Taft) and Sam Hubbard (Moeller). That makes a pair of Greater Catholic League pickups for Meyer in as many years with Hubbard having been the top-rated player in the state last year.  Continue reading

Comparing Careers: Ohio State football 3- and 4-star recruits

After taking a look at the success rate of Ohio State’s five-star recruits, we turned our attention to the lower rated but perhaps overall more important guys who account for well over 80 percent of the roster.

The study of the Buckeyes who signed as four-star recruits and those rated three-stars (or lower) brought out a couple more surprises than the five-star study, which served as more of an affirmation of the practice than anything else.

Continue reading