Ohio State had six players chosen in the 2014 NFL Draft, including a pair of first-rounders after only having a total of one first-rounder in the previous four drafts combined.
The draft marks the end of the line for the 2009 recruiting class, which became the second Ohio State recruiting class since 1999 to produce zero first-round picks, joining the ’08 class. Both of those were rated top five classes by Scout.com. The ’09 class, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation, can brag of more overall draft picks (six — Reid Fragel, Carlos Hyde, Corey Linsley, Jack Mewhort, Jonathan Newsome and John Simon) than the ’08 class (Mike Adams, DeVier Posey, Terrelle Pryor), which was ranked No. 4.
Newsome, a four-star recruit from Cleveland Glenville, transferred to Ball State and as near as I can tell is only the second player to sign with Ohio State since 1987, transfer out and still get drafted. Brandon Underwood is the other. Underwood signed in 2004 and finished his career as a Cincinnati Bearcat. That is out of 75 players.
The 2010 and ’11 classes are already assured of avoiding the fate of the two groups that immediately preceded them as they were represented respectively this year by Bradley Roby and Ryan Shazier.
The second weekend in May was no ordinary one as the NFL draft brought nearly nonstop news beginning Thursday night.
The biggest news in Ohio was, of course, the Browns’ decision to draft Johnny Manziel in the first round on Thursday night. Manziel is a lightning rod who has excited the fanbase, but he probably won’t be handed the starting job by new head coach Mike Pettine. The Texas tornado will arrive in town to find a potential hometown hero in Cleveland’s own Brian Hoyer, who energized the fanbase himself for a few briefs weeks last season before blowing out his knee. What does the former Cleveland St. Ignatius Wildcat have to say? “Bring it on.”Continue reading →
This week’s column looks to Lynyrd Skynyrd for inspiration as we examine why the Buckeye defense has looked more like its old self the past couple of weeks. Hint: It’s really not that complicated. With Ohio State off this week, we also take a look at the most interesting Big Ten matchup on tap while also keeping an eye on the Buckeyes’ next opponent.
What we learned this week: It’s amazing what better players can do for a defense.
That Ohio State is playing better when the other team has the ball is no coincidence when you look at the players in the lineup.
There is no doubt they were missing Nathan Williams, who was not there for Indiana, and they needed players like Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington to step up.
Perhaps the unit would have rounded into form sooner with the improving play of Etienne Sabino against Michigan State and (a very good) Nebraska offense, but his injury set them back yet again before that debacle in Indiana on Oct. 13.
Zach Boren’s move to linebacker from fullback was necessitated by the broken bone in Sabino’s leg, and the Boren of the 52-22 win over Illinois is a better player than the one of the 52-49 win over the Hooisers three weeks earlier.
Don’t forget CJ Barnett was out of the lineup for a few games and needed a little time to get re-acclimated with the rest of his teammates in the speed of the game, too. That was key as it allowed Orhian Johnson to return to Star, where he has been the most productive player at the position this season.
I hate to sound like an excuse machine for the coaching staff, but sometimes people go a little overboard in looking to blame people when something goes wrong. Often there really are reasonable explanations for why things don’t turn out exactly how they’re expected to.
On top of all that, you’ve got a new staff learning what each member knows, what the players can do within that knowledge and how to put it all together.
I like the potential of the quarters coverage that they went into the season wanting to play, but I can see where it could be a dicey situation, with a variety of people learning it all at once. I like the different options it gives you, and I think it’s just about the best coverage out there – when played correctly – but then I’m a little old school in defensive philosophy. I grew up in an old-fashioned 5-2 set that involved hitting, reading and shedding blocks at every position up front rather than all of mostly anchoring one spot. I get the ups and downs involved. I see that it puts a lot of responsibility on each individual player, and that it leaves the door open for one guy’s mistake to make more of a negative impact on a play, but done right it’s pretty dang hard to beat because when you have so many guys playing two gaps, you’ve got multiple outs all over the field. It can work out to be the equivalent of having extra defenders out there, a reverse of what the offense is trying to do with the zone read and option stuff that hs become so prevalent in the past decade.
To their credit, the coaching staff never seem to panic. They’ve all been through transitions like this before, and surely they had seen some of the similar struggles. They knew it wouldn’t happen overnight no matter how badly everyone wanted it to.
Urban Meyer’s greatest strength as a coach is undoubtedly his passion, but sometimes I think that gets him in a little trouble. And I’m not just talking about his famous bout with burnout, I’m talking about even just with the things he says.
As a member of the media I certainly appreciate his bluntness and honesty with us in terms of a lot of different things he says, but I think sometimes he gets a little ahead of himself. Sometimes we hear him talking about what he wants to see in an ideal situation, but I am pretty confident he’s realistic enough to know he’s going to have to settle for less than perfect on a regular basis, particularly in Year One, whether he likes it or not. That usually comes out through the course of a 30-minute press conference, but sometimes it gets lost in our little soundbite world that we now live because the first thing is often what gets highlighted even if the next sentence hollows it out a little bit and brings it back to the center.
Slowing down that Illinois offense is no great feat in and of itself, but holding any team under 200 total yards is to be commended. It’s more than we probably would have expected to see from this Ohio State unit even against a bad offense prior to this week, so in a world where average is somewhat understandably surprising to see, we should know when the defense turns in a dominant performance.
Meanwhile, the offense putting 50 points on the board without Braxton Miller going absolutely crazy is noteworthy as well. It speaks to the development of a lot of guys around him. The offensive line obviously did a lot of work to make holes for Carlos Hyde, and the junior running back did his best to take advantage.
Meyer sounded a little bit sour after the game, but when you can nitpick a specific part of the passing game after quarterback throws for 220 yards and a touchdown, you must be living okay. Don’t overlook the fact he was complaining about only the drop-back passing game, not the play-action part that was just fine, and quite productive as a matter of fact.
Bottom line: Players are developing and/or getting healthier on both sides of the ball, and that usually makes coaching a lot easier to do.
What we can expect to learn this week: How good is Wisconsin’s defense in space?
The Badgers have stopped a two-year slide in effectiveness of their stop unit this season, but I’m not sure how tested they truly are yet.
Nebraska spent half its win over the Badgers in late September running into itself and shooting itself in the foot and still gained 340 yards and scored 30 points in the conference opener.
Since then, Wisconsin’s defense has played somewhere between well and okay, but the competition still hasn’t been much to be scared of, particularly as far as passing goes.
Purdue has good threats on the outside, but hapless Danny Hope played around with his quarterbacks that afternoon and probably hurt the chances of his team getting into any type of rhythm. As against Ohio State, the Boilermakers picked up almost all of their yards on a handful of big plays. Wisconsin picked off two Minnesota passes, but that was against a true freshman in his first start. Andrew Maxwell, the league’s No. 10-most efficient passer at the moment, threw for 216 yards and two touchdowns without an interception as Michigan State beat the Badgers in overtime two weeks ago. The Badgers slowed down Le’Veon Bell, but most good defenses do because of the poor quality of the MSU offensive line.
And why does this matter? Because Indiana has the best passing game in the Big Ten and plays host to Wisconsin this weekend in what could turn out to be a de facto Big Ten Leaders division title game.
Not only are there high stakes, the noon game is of added interest because the Buckeyes are idle and Wisconsin is their next obstacle to a perfect start under Urban Meyer.
If Indiana can stretch the Badgers out from sideline to sideline, and execute consistently, there should be plenty of opportunities to make things happens. Running back Stephen Houston is a weapon as well on the inside for head coach Kevin Wilson’s Hoosiers.
The Buckeyes have to like their chances against that Wisconsin defense if it has problems dealing with improving Indiana. Although what they want to accomplish with their formations is different, the Buckeyes will be able to provide some of the same problems in space in two weeks in Camp Randall Stadium when they look to improve to 11-0.
What we learned last week: Players trump momentum, and it doesn’t hurt to be lucky sometimes, either.
We already should have known these things, of course, but sports has a way of providing us with reminders on a regular basis.
Braxton Miller struggled early in the game last Saturday night at Penn State. There is no denying it. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket, and he had a hard time finding running room as the Nittany Lions smartly sold out to stop the powerful Ohio State rushing attack.
The Buckeyes’ quarterback also flirted with disaster on more than one occasion as a pair of throws were nearly intercepted and returned for touchdowns by Penn State defensive backs.
Miller also cost his team six points when he missed a wide open Philly Brown on a vertical route in the first quarter, but as they often have this season, eventually Miller’s “dids” overcame his “wouldas” and his “couldas,” and the Buckeyes never looked back.
It’s funny how that happens to the freakiest of athletes more than anyone else, isn’t it?
With a few tweaks from Urban Meyer and Tom Herman, Miller suddenly found some room to run, and he did not waste it.
He also got some help from Carlos Hyde, a running back who has already proven he is a difference maker with his size and speed, and Rod Smith, one who is reputed to be able to do the same thing and gave more glimpses he really is in Happy Valley.
Add it all up and a good half of defense went up in smoke for the Nittany Lions, who looked as helpless against Miller in the third quarter as they did dominant in the first and for most of the second.
When he gets locked in, he is just about impossible to stop. Nobody has as much magic in his feet as Miller, and he’s dangerous as a passer despite his inconsistency.
It really is a marvel to watch him grow up on this stage, to see how much he can accomplish on instincts and a sense of what he’s being taught by a new set of coaches. Dare to imagine how he’ll look by the start of next season after he has had more time to digest it all? I’m sure you probably already have, but feel free to do it again.
Of course, it wasn’t only Miller whose ability could change a game. Saturday night was another affirmation that Ohio State has better players than the rest of the Big Ten at this point in time.
Even with injuries biting a few positions, the Buckeyes have a lot of guys that can play. Not enough to be considered national title contenders yet, but enough to continue to carry the conference as we wait to see what the ceiling of Brady Hoke’s Michigan program is going to be.
What we can expect to learn this week: I hate to go back to this well, but the question is how the Buckeyes handle prosperity because at the end of the day, they still only have so much to play for.
Last week, I wrote that the biggest factor was going to be Ohio State’s mood. It has been that way all year as the Buckeyes have lost focus at times and made mistakes that cost them in the points column.
Some of the letdowns were understandable even though they are never acceptable. Human nature tells us getting fired up to face Indiana isn’t automatic. The same could be said for all of the nonconference games, truth be told, because none were brand names. Even Cal’s best recent success came when the current players weren’t very old.
But then going to Penn State was another matter. Not that the Buckeyes view Penn State much differently than any other conference foe, but the Nittany Lions seemed to be developing a bit of swagger while winning five in a row. They looked sharp on film dispatching Iowa a week earlier (though the Hawkeyes had a hand in that, to be sure), and the game was at a place that has caused opponents fits in the past. Beaver Stadium was also one that the Buckeyes could look at and be confident they could win because they had done it on their past two visits, but actually being there can be energizing if handled correctly, something the few veterans on this squad have seen first hand.
And so history repeated itself, and talent won out. Ohio State’s very good offensive line outplayed Penn State’s very good front seven. Matt McGloin made some plays, but not enough for his team when the game was still in doubt. Miller made them, too, and he got help from his buddies in the backfield. They also managed to provide enough of a run threat to create opportunities in the passing game, and they hit one of those when they needed it late. Jake Stoneburner’s 72-yard touchdown catch was another example of superior skill, too, as he simply won a one-on-one battle with a safety.
So where does it leave Ohio State now? The Buckeyes seem primed for another letdown with an emotional win in the rearview, a weak opponent front and center and a week off around the corner prior to two matchups that should get everyone’s blood pumping again. While I’ve said clunkers are inevitable, I still think this team has tended to turn in too many uneven efforts.
Winning out would be a great source of pride, but it probably wouldn’t result in much more than that.
And this week’s opponent is a terribly disappointing squad from Illinois, another that has given the Buckeyes plenty of fits in the past few years but that looks awful so far this season.
Before the season, this looked like a trap game, but I’m not sure the Fighting Illini are good enough to spring it, so how will the Buckeyes react? Will they smell blood and finally put a team away early, or will they mess around and wait for someone else to do the job until things really start to get dicey?
Eventually, this team needs to iron out some of its mental issues. Motivation is a constant struggle with the age group, but by next year they will need to bring a more consistent effort to the park every week because style points will matter, maybe more than going undefeated in and of itself. And the schedule might not be so kind, depending on how things develop in Ann Arbor and Madison.
The need for Miller to share the burden of moving the ball is real, too, as is avoiding big plays in the secondary.
But for now this particular ride continues, and the chance to go 10-0 is less than a week away.
(Observations from watching the Buckeyes and RedHawks a second time.)
One of the side benefits of getting into sportswriting was avoiding math for the most part. That might not be true anymore now that Urban Meyer and Tom Herman are in town.
They stressed several times during the offseason that a major aspect of their offense is getting the right numbers to work against, and they certainly proved it in the season-opening win against Miami University.
As Meyer referenced in his postgame remarks, Miami came out with a plan to stop the Ohio State running game from its basic three-wide receiver, shotgun set. While a couple of missed reads by quarterback Braxton Miller on the zone read/inverted veer helped the RedHawks’ rate of success, they certainly had a good idea of what they wanted to do early. I wondered before the game how teams would treat Jake Stoneburner in their assessment of Ohio State personnel groupings, and the answer would seem to be as a tight end because Miami was keeping seven in the box when he was in the slot and Zach Boren was the H-back/tight end along with Carlos Hyde at running back.
That did not make it impossible for Ohio State to move the ball, but it put more of a premium on executing because everything was fitted up pretty well from a defensive perspective.
The Buckeyes’ response was to lighten up on the personnel and shift those numbers from side to side. They replaced Boren with a wide receiver and moved Stoneburner back toward the line of scrimmage, but they used a trips set to put the RedHawks in a bind. This was evident on the first touchdown drive as it opened things up for Hyde on the inside power run (a great block by Andrew Norwell helped, too) on first down that really got things rolling. It opened up the roll out for Miller, who hit Philly Brown on a play-action pass to finally get the Buckeyes into Miami territory.
Herman played the numbers game again on the first touchdown, going back to his bigger personnel to get Miami thinking run. That gave Devin Smith a one-on-one opportunity on the outside, and he took advantage with his spectacular one-handed catch.
Getting first downs gave Ohio State a chance to turn up the tempo, and they were often able to keep the RedHawks on their toes after that.
They were also able to play around with personnel sometimes by splitting the running back out but leaving Boren in as a wing or H-back then running the quarterback off tackle or around end. It was really heady stuff, but that shouldn’t come as much surprise.
Miller definitely had his ups and downs. He misread some zone reads and did not see some open receivers. He still got a little jittery in the pocket at times and floated passes, but he obviously has all the ability he needs to make this offense hum. He made three big split decisions on his 65-yard touchdown run, first to pull it on the option, then to keep it on the edge and of course his stutter step to keep the pursuing defender from getting the angle on him. When he can play on instincts, he is tough to stop because he seems to have a great sense for the game as long as he isn’t overthinking it.
Hyde made some nice runs, showing more wiggle than last year and very good acceleration with power through the hole. Arm tackles aren’t going to do it with him.
The interior line looked good as both guards were able to move and pick people off on the power plays, although Norwell seemed to be the culprit on the failed run at the goal line on the final play of the second quarter. That was a version of the infamous “Dave” play as the front side blocked down and he came around end but tripped, leaving a defender a lean shot at Hyde, who then exacerbated the problem by leaving his feet for some reason. He might have made the guy miss or fallen off him into the end zone if he had kept his feet. Before you get too down on the play, though, the exact same thing worked on an earlier drive down there with Norwell making the key block and Hyde cutting off it nicely.
They added a wrinkle by using an unbalanced line, something Miami recognized the second time and called timeout to make sure it got lined up correctly. Also keep in mind they use a very similar blocking scheme regularly on their runs out of the shotgun.
Miami’s ends gave the OSU tackles some troubles in pass protection and the running game, so it will be interesting to see how both units go for the rest of the season.
As for the defense, the film did not have a lot of new lessons from the first watching.
A lot of Miami’s success moving the ball had to do with quarterback Zach Dysert knowing what he is doing within that offense and finding the soft spots that inevitably are going to occur with any scheme. The big plays were a result of miscommunications. Tough to find any times anyone from Ohio State lost a physical battle. This has obviously got to be shored up as it was a problem throughout last season, but it’s also a better predicament to be in than needing to make up for a lack of ability.
The numbers game applies to the defense in the sense that the choice was generally to drop eight, probably a nod to Dysert’s ability to read and react on the fly and an acknowledgment that bringing down most of the Miami guys after they made a catch was not a terribly tall task.
Tackling seemed to be for the most part better in game one that it was last season, although C.J. Barnett threw himself at a wide receiver on a post pattern and missed, leading to one of the RedHawks’ explosive plays.
New nickel back (“Star”) Corey Brown got toasted on a touchdown pass (tough to know if he was expecting help over the top), but he was impressive the rest of the time. I liked how he came up and filled against the run and screen passes.
Nathan Williams looked very good as he played a surprisingly large number of snaps. It was interesting that he played so much because they were more comfortable with him in space than youngster Noah Spence. I would have expected the first thing Williams would bring was going from point A to point B with speed and playing in space on his surgically repaired knee would have come later. Of particular note was a very nice open-field tackle on a third-and-short where he closed on a receiver in the flat and brought him down short of the line to gain.
Speaking of Spence, he really looked good for a debut. He can get to the edge with quickness but has the strength to dip his shoulder and not get knocked off his route. That is the No. 1 thing you want in an edge rusher. He even rocked left tackle Zach Lewis out of his base once, so there is more to his game than pure speed. Lewis, by the way, held up very well against Ohio State’s edge rushers.
Spence wasn’t the only young defensive lineman to look good. Adolphus Washington not only has a lot of agility for a guy his size, he has long arms to disengage blockers. I was also impressed with Tommy Schutt, who made contact and picked through the trash for a tackle on more than one occasion.
The 123rd season of Ohio State football started in the wee hours of Friday morning when the team’s veterans showed up at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for a 6 a.m. practice.
Local reporters got a chance to speak with a handful of players afterward. Here are some notes from those interviews (this is a regular feature on the blog. You can also find it at BuckeyeSports.com.).
Ohio State’s quarterback said he had no problem getting up for 5 a.m. practice today. It was just a matter of getting up and going.
The timing between him and the wide receivers is better now after they worked on it all summer.
Told the head coach has very high expectations for him, he said that’s cool.
He laughed when told teammate Bradley Roby compared his scrambling skills to Michael Vick. Miller said he just uses his feet when he has to.
Practice started at 5 a.m., but everyone was hyped. It was a little different than past years.
Their goals are still to win all their games, like always, despite the bowl ban.
He feels a lot different this year. His body is changing along with his attitude and leadership. It is all coming together.
He talked to the coaches about being more of a leader this year. Last year it was odd for him to take charge because he was a freshman. He feels a lot better this year about it. He told the guys today it was time to go.
He was on practice calling out the protections and making adjustments today.
He feels everything is on him as far as the offense goes, and he welcomes that. He takes personally any mistake the offense makes, even if it wasn’t by him (For example: A dropped pass).
He’s sure the fans also have high expectations for the team because that is always the case. He remembers it that way when he was in high school. There was always a feeling Ohio State would go undefeated that season.
He worked on his passing accuracy this summer. That was a big focus. Last year he would get anxious and jittery and rush things when he saw an open man. This year he is working on keeping his momentum in check.
He doesn’t got back and look at film from the first half of the Nebraska game from last season, but he admitted that he really felt comfortable and like himself that night when he was carving up the Cornhuskers before getting hurt.
Asked what new offensive coordinator Tom Herman has brought to the team, he said first and foremost just knowledge. Herman has taught him about reading defensive fronts and making adjustments accordingly.
He loves the pressure from the coaching staff and feels like he needs to do everything right. The offense was tough to pick up initially, but everything is working out so far.
Carlos Hyde has slimmed down, “got some of that jelly fat off of him”. He has the talent to be off the charts.
Asked again about the Vick comparisons, he shrugged it off and said he was going to have to talk to Roby about saying things like that.
Someone asked what quarterback’s play has stuck out to him in the past year, and he said Cam Newton. His rookie year in the NFL was legit.
During the summer, he worked with the receivers in the morning and again after class. They go over the playbook together as well.
Devin Smith and Philly Brown did the most to catch his eye during the offseason. He said Smith was antsy sometimes and could get lazy, but he is over that now. Smith is determined to be the best.
Brown works hard and has a little extra juice. He could also play the hybrid role in the offense.
During summer workouts, the junior running back was clocked at 4.43 and 4.45 in the 40-yard dash.
He is looking forward to getting a shot at being the featured running back.
The offense executed well on the first day. It was much better than the first day of spring ball when everyone seemed kind of lost. Today, they were sharp.
Miller and fellow quarterback Kenny Guiton looked good. Miller talked about being more of a leader, but Hyde said the older guys in the huddle have also remained vocal. He singled out center Corey Linsley, a fourth-year junior.
The goal for the team is to go 12-0. The bowl band hasn’t changed their focus.
Last year was a roller-coaster for him as he never knew when he was going to play and when not. He thought the established himself with his performance against Nebraska then sat the bench the next week at Illinois. Older guys sat him down and told him to be patient and wait his turn. He later acknowledged it was only right for Boom Herron, a senior, to take his spot at the top of the depth chart once he returned from suspension because he had more experience and had earned it.
Hyde got his chance against Indiana and made the most of it, rushing for more than 100 yards in the game. He never thought about leaving the team even when he was down.
He feels like his time is now, and he can’t wait for the first game. He wants to prove to the coaches how physical he can be because he didn’t show as much as he could ahve in the spring because he was fighting an ankle sprain. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone because they are his teammates, but Hyde wants to get after it.
He thinks he can learn any position on the team if he gets a chance to learn it.
Someone asked if he has worked on catching the ball. He said yes and he likes to tell people he has the best hands on the team. Receiving can be a strength for him, he says.
This offense will put him out in the open and give him more chances solo against one defender, and he likes that because if he can make a guy miss, it is off to the races. Quick snaps put pressure on the defense as well.
The playbook was confusing at first, but he caught on pretty quick once he got into it. The offense is actually pretty easy for a running back.
He recalled lining up in the I formation only during red zone situations during spring ball.
Asked about the offense, he said he expects lots of points and big plays. It’s exciting to play for a coach who wants to score as many points as possible.
He expects all of the scholarship tailbacks to step up with Jordan Hall out with a foot injury. The backs spent the summer drilling together, working on jump cuts and pass blocking. Stan Drayton was surprised at how ready to go they were on day one.
The senior defensive tackle said working with new defensive line coach Mike Vrabel (who handled linebackers last season) has been good so far. Vrabel is intense and really knows what he is doing.
Nathan Williams, a senior recovering from major knee surgery last season, was at practice but did not participate as far as Goebel knew.
The goals are simple this year: To win as many games as possible for the seniors and send them out on a positive note.
Their mindsets remain the same as any other year despite the postseason ban from the NCAA.
He has gained 10 pounds but managed to cut some body fat percentage along the way and feels stronger.