Tag Archives: football

What Ohio high school has produced the most NFL players?

If you’ve recently run out of ways to brag about old alma mater, Pro Football Reference has just the tool for you: a database of high schools for the 22,000+ NFL players in the site’s database.

It’s not perfect as there are some duplicate schools and typos that need to be cleaned up, but it’s still awesome if you’re a nerd who wants to know where the best players come from (And if there was any doubt, I’ve proved I fall into that category with previous pieces on the recruiting of Urban Meyer, Jim Tressel and John Cooper at Ohio State for Buckeye Sports Bulletin).

And speaking of bragging rights, the Ohio schools at the top have one of if not the premier rivalry in the state: Canton McKinley and Massillon Washington

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Ohio State football assistant joins student races

Ohio State held it’s annual Student Appreciation Day in conjunction with an open spring football practice today, and assistant coach Kerry Coombs jumped in on the action as students raced for the right to take on the speediest Buckeye football player at next weekend’s spring game.

He’s the one in gray in the middle, and it looks like his participation got some of his guys fired up.

Contemplating competition for Andy Dalton

In his “10 players to watch at the 2014 NFL Combine” for the National Football Post, Dave Miller compares former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron to Andy Dalton, saying that he has a chance to have a beginning of a career similar to the Bengals quarterback. That’s an interesting way to put it I would say because Dalton’s early career has been very admirable. The big question now is where he and the Bengals go from here.

Better quarterbacks have had great careers that didn’t start off as well as Andy Dalton, although there are other good quarterbacks especially recently who have had as good or better starts than him from a numbers perspective.

Dalton is an interesting case because he doesn’t have the physical tools that create high early expectations for somebody like a Matthew Stafford or a Cam Newton, but now he’s won enough, in part because of him and in part because the situation created by the Bengals suddenly learning now to draft over the past five years or so, that the expectations are very high just the same.

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Ohio State Football: When 24-0 becomes 24-1

So nearly a week has passed since Ohio State lost 34-24 to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The end of football season always comes about suddenly – like ejecting from a plane, it brings a floating feeling before landing somewhere that never feels quite as familiar as it should upon returning to ground level. Even though it was predestined to happen this week if not sooner, it still brings a shock to the system. 

I like to give life a few days to get back to normal, but then again sometimes I wonder if football season is the norm and the rest is just passing time.
What we learned last week: How hollow 24-0 can be, at least when it becomes 24-1.

Forgive me if this seems overly negative, but it is a hard conclusion to avoid when stepping back to assess the situation. 20131213-093830.jpg

The Buckeyes won all their games for two regular seasons, but they have no national championships or even Big Ten championships to show for it.

Yes, they can claim two of the three Leaders Division titles of all time (I think there’s even a trophy for that), but has anyone ever considered those anything more than consolation prizes?

The past two seasons weren’t all for naught, of course.

When Urban Meyer officially took over in January 2012, Ohio State had lost four consecutive games, after all, and the Buckeyes’ reputation was in a state of disrepair.

Many felt it wouldn’t take a miracle to fix the program, but there was certainly work to do.

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Nate Jackson discusses life after concussions as an ex-NFL player | The MMQB with Peter King

“Because it feels good to be a missile, even when it leads to my destruction. We all know how the big story ends. If I don’t die on the field, I promise you I’ll die off of it.”

That is the conclusion of the latest in a series from MMQB examining the concussion crisis facing football – Nate Jackson discusses life after concussions as an ex-NFL player | The MMQB with Peter King.

This is the third piece out of the series I have read, and they have all been interesting. Continue reading

Ohio State Football Coaches Clinic: Mike Vrabel talks leverage

Previously I posted remarks from Urban Meyer as well as assistants Kerry Coombs and Tom Herman.

Here is what Mike Vrabel had to say about how they teach leverage and preventing big plays:

OSU defines explosive plays as runs of 15 yards or more and passes of 20 yards or more. Vrabel showed an internal study that found they have averaged allowing 15 explosive runs per season in the past 12 years, then noted the 2011 team that finished 6-7 gave up 25. In contrast, the 2009 team that won the Rose Bowl only allowed nine. (NOTE: They count bubble screens and the like as runs.)

They stress five things in teaching players how to play defense: effort, leverage, tackle, retrace and pursuit.

Effort is covered by the of-repeated mantra from Meyer about going hard for 4-6 seconds every play. The don’t coach effort – they demand it. Meyer runs a high-energy program. They want to get guys out of their comfort zone and don’t mind keeping guys on edge.

For part of this section, he put Ohio State’s goal line stand at Wisconsin last season on the big screen to emphasize that really only effort was going to make that happen. The offense is going to scheme up something to cover gaps and get a yard, so someone has to whip somebody’s ass and make a play. The Montee Ball fumble was made possible by guys up front winning their battles so someone could meet him at the pile and knock the ball away.

Leverage is the most important concept. They only need one leverage guy, though. One person turns the play back in and everyone else should be running to the ball.

Every day they do a leverage drill with four parts – string out, “hat and hands”, “rip and run” and angle tackle. Stringing out the play and angle tackling are self-explanatory. “Hat and hands” is what they call delivering a two-handed blow to the blocker and controlling him to establish position. “Rip and run” is what happens when they brush by a blocker either in pursuit or to get to an outside point to turn a play back in if no one has leverage. (So engage the blocker to maintain leverage abut rip and run to get it back if lost.)

Defensive backs, linebackers and linemen all practice all of these drills, and coaches should see them expressed in games or that means they aren’t being done correctly.

Of course then tackling was a big emphasis. He put up a chart showing a 12-year study that revealed they have averaged 9.7 missed tackles per game in that span. The number in 2002 was 8.2. In 2011, it was 12.5.

They break tackles down into three categories: in the box, angle and open field. Obviously, angle are the easiest and open field are the hardest. That is why the offense – especially now – wants to create open field opportunities.

OSU coaches expect leverage and effort. They coach up tackling by emphasizing keeping the ball on the outside shoulder, breaking down 3-4 yards from impact (too soon gives the ball carrier too much time to change direction), coming to balance in a football position and getting a guy on the ground.

In the open field, they don’t care about blowing a guy up. That’s not the time to do it. Just get him down. They also tell guys, “Don’t go off the diving board,” meaning keep proper football position – reverse arch the back, feet shoulder width apart, head and chest up, shoulders pinched.

Retrace is for dealing with things like screens. It’s how they teach players to recover after getting pressure. For defensive linemen, they work on planting the feet, pointing playside and driving down the line of scrimmage while keeping low hips.

Pursuit is simple – run with great effort to the ball, having confidence everyone is doing their job. That means someone has established leverage and everyone else just has to clean up.


Before Another Season, A Moment To Reflect

If the sun has turned to sweltering in Ohio, you know football season must be around the corner.

If humidity nears triple digits, transcending sweaty all the way into sticky and uncomfortable, the preseason camps must be under way. And all is again right with the world.

After those boring acclimatization days and interminable hours of walk-throughs and conditioning sprints, the pads go back on and the time to hit is renewed.

Nowhere else can you find that sanctioned violence, the encouraged ferocity with just enough protection to let inhibitions fall away. A wonderfully unconscious moment sandwiched by fear and joy then rushing thrills of adrenaline. Perhaps a little pain. Even when you get the best of it, a reverberation comes back your way. A worthwhile and welcome sacrifice…

Even now, the smell of dewy grass alerts my nostrils to tell my brain it’s time for football practice. Then I get a little wistful.

Most of the time, I don’t miss the soreness and the bruises.

I’m always thankful I still get to at least talk football every day of the fall, and I don’t have to shirk duties at work to do so. This is exactly what I wanted to do when I reasoned that I may as well combine sports and writing to try to make a living.

That was in junior high. In 8th grade we had to pick a profession to study for a project, and I pragmatically landed on sportswriter because I like to write and I like sports. I can’t remember how long that was after I had realized Division I colleges don’t take 5-11, 210-pound offensive linemen, even if they love the game and can play a stand-up end in the old Oklahoma 50 defense, too. Later, I decided rather than pursue a D-III opportunity my time would be better spent getting started on the writing thing full time. (Again with the pragmatic approach.…)

I usually thought a little more than I should have on the field, too. I remember my brain sometimes slowing down my feet. I wasn’t a big hitter, at least not without a good setup, but I could usually get the job done. It’s easier to be crafty in Division VI because anyone who’s just too big to handle was generally too slow to do anything about a trap block. Angles were my best friend. So Woody’s offense still worked then if you executed it, and my old coach used it long enough to win nearly 250 games.

It was a pretty thing to watch those traps break open in the middle of the line, too. Or to see the defense finally wear down and the “Fullhouse 34” break for a long one. I still remember the adrenaline rush in the fourth quarter, even when almost all of us played both ways.

Then the locker room was so sublime afterward. A few yells of joy and exultations to beat the next opponent, then sighs of relief another ‘W’ was in hand as the bruises started to surface and soreness set in.

That was truly living. Now I’m just trying to have a life.

I’d love to go back but not to trade in today. That wasn’t a better time, just a different kind of good. There is no denying 2012 has been a tough year for me personally. I’ve endured some setbacks, but still I have a lot to be thankful for.

I always felt the football field was a place a young person, so far from really having accomplished anything, could really feel like he’d built a life. There was something unspoken and intangible built by our teams, and I suspect that is the case most places. That was our answer to the big presentation that gets an adult that big promotion at work. There were few better ways to really accomplish something at 16, with life still being laid out before us.

What training grounds those were, east of the school and north of Route 42.

How the sunset bathed the field in light you might find on a movie set, and what a surreal saffron picture it painted for a couple of hours on five Friday nights each fall.

The playoffs always began after the end of daylight savings time, so the sun had long ago gone down. Maybe that had some purpose, some way of reminding us we’d reached a new challenge, to be happy with the earlier goals we’d achieved and set our sights on something new, something we’d never attain but that we were happy to fight for anyway. Our winnings felt more permanent that way. The season was no less meaningful, the losses no less painful, but we knew there were just different sets of goals and we could be happy with them all.

I was not happy when the lights went out for the last time. That was tough. The tears flowed long and naturally in the old locker room at the big concrete stadium in Troy after a playoff loss to Marion Local, the eventual state champion.

I got home from my last game and found my college acceptance letter had come that day. What a fitting irony. The type of perfect transition for which I’m often searching now when I try to piece together quotes and facts for the next story I’m writing.

I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into then, but I can take solace in seeing how well things came together after the fact, like a 32 fullback trap where the tackle sealed off the ‘backer and the other guard shoved aside the nose guard and the defensive tackle who thought he’d lucked into something big saw just a second too late me coming from his left, and that fullback cut back just off my butt to gallop toward the goal line.

I often still wish I’d been more decisive then so I could have made more plays (defensively, especially) but I’m glad I was there anyway.

Now those dilemmas play out in their own real world way, but I’m happy to be in the game in my own way.

Another season awaits. Hope you’ll follow along. Should be a hell of a journey.

Isn’t it always?

Starting Over At Ohio State

Today is the first day of the rest of the Ohio State football program’s life.

I certainly would not mind having been a fly on the wall at Urban Meyer’s first meeting with the Buckeyes and his coaching staff. Seeing how he changes the culture and the attitude of the football team should be fascinating.

A decade is a long time to do anything. There were a lot of positives that came from the Jim Tressel era, but there is much excitement involved in seeing what else is out there. That’s especially true when the new guy is as good or better than the one he is replacing, but let’s not pretend like there’s at least a bit of “the grass is always greener” phenomenon involved as well.

Meyer takes over after not only a disappointing season but one of the worst overall years in program history. A lot of pain piled up in Columbus as a result of players repeatedly taking extra benefits, Tressel covering up some of it and those above him bungling their reaction to the whole thing.

The Buckeyes suffered their first losing season in more than two decades. Their seventh and final defeat came in the Gator Bowl at the hands of Meyer’s former team, Florida, and that provided one more interesting subplot.

Tyler Moeller, the only player on either side left over from the 41-14 massacre Meyer and the Gators administered in the BCS National Championship game five years ago, called this Florida team classless after seeing them take some swings at him as well as hearing an abundance of what he called racial slurs from them during the game. While the outgoing senior was understandably upset, I doubt he’ll give it much more thought because he has bigger and better things to do now that he has used up his eligibility and graduated.

The fact that Meyer recruited many of the Gators being labeled classless cannot be ignored, though. It makes one wonder a little bit more about the circumstances that led him to leave Florida last year.

It’s entirely possible having unwittingly brought in those types of kids helped drive Meyer away. Any coach will tell you that you only get to know so much about a player in recruiting. There is always a lot of mystery until you actually coach them. I’ve talked to many a Buckeye from Florida who took pride in associating swagger and trash talk with their state. They see it as an essential part of competition. That was something plain to see in the recent past when Florida, Miami and Florida State were regularly featured in national showcase games taunting and cheap-shotting their way through their rivalry games.

Winning is winning, and they don’t ask you how but rather how many when the season is over. Lots of people like to see teams go at it that way, but it turns just as many or more off. I like a little bit of mustard on the hot dog, but not too much, and there’s a fine line between bragging and disrespecting.

Now is fleeing a program when faced with too many uncontrollable kids the admirable thing to do? I’d say not, but sometimes we all make decisions we’d like back. There are usually a variety of factors in any such decision, too. Perhaps of Meyer’s health were better or his kids further grown up he would have felt better able to deal with such a problem. Maybe the whole culture of the SEC dragged him down as well, further harpooning thoughts he could turn things around. And maybe it had nothing to do with his decision at all. Only he knows.

I’m only speculating at this point, but it’s an interesting aspect to all this change Ohio State football is about to go through.

There has been a feeling – since about the time Meyer’s 2006 Gators spanked the top-ranked Buckeyes – that Ohio State’s players needed more swagger. I sometimes questioned if they played with enough of an edge, especially when things got close.

As silly as it sounds, did Tressel’s well-known conservatism lead him to bring in too many good kids?

I associated these questions most with the group that made up the core from 2006-08 because they lost all those big out-of-conference games and they were missing some more outgoing personalities like AJ Hawk, Nick Mangold, Santonio Holmes, Donte Whitner, Anthony Schlegel and Bobby Carpenter. Of course given what we’ve seen from some of those guys since they left Ohio State, there is no doubt good and bad to being a big personality.

Many of the guys who followed them were plenty talented but more reserved. There was a real sense – both from them and those around them – that the class of 2008 was going to be different. They had a few more out-of-state kids, a lot of highly rated players and no lack of confidence. At the signing day press conference, J.B. Shugarts talked about winning multiple national championships. Terrelle Pryor told Tressel he would help him get over his national championship hump. Instead, he committed NCAA violations that disgraced the program and put Tressel in position to harpoon his own career.

Now many of those players are gone, and the ones who are left begin to find out today what life will be like under someone new.

Mike Brewster said in late July there was some complacency in the program and some change would do it good. That’s kind of a jarring thought considering the success of the Tressel era, but Brewster is a thoughtful guy whose opinion should carry some weight. I tend to think he’s probably right, and the season that just ended provided plenty of proof.

Whatever the case, change is inevitable and it is at hand. Should be fun seeing what it brings.