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Buckeyes Bonded During Offseason July 31, 2012 Source: BuckeyeSports.com - It's never a surprise when a team talks up squad unity before season practice even starts, but this Buckeye team has a few examples it can point to in order to prove it this time around. Ohio State's players pointed to cookouts, card games and lifting sessions to say team chemistry will be at a high going into this fall's camp.
For example, every year, players tell the media before a season they feel closer to their teammates and have better chemistry than ever before, and itís become such a common thought that even Ohio State football players realize theyíre saying it.
"I feel like I say that every year," fullback Zach Boren said in Chicago at the Big Tenís annual Media Days. "But this year, itís definitely true. Weíre a brotherhood this year. Weíve just come together. I canít really explain why, I canít put my finger on it or anything. Weíre one close, tight-knit family."
Itís easy to be skeptical Ė after all, just 12 months ago, Buckeye players were saying the exact same things.
But Boren and his teammates offered a few examples that show their boasts this time around just might be true. The teamís elders have hosted a number of social events, from barbecues at Borenís house to a weekly poker game, in order to foster team unity.
So far, that seems to be exactly what has happened. Boren, defensive lineman Johnny Simon and linebacker Etienne Sabino began to play off each other when asked by media about one such get together, a poker night in which Simon emerged victorious.
"Iím surprised John didnít talk about our poker nights," Boren said.
"I usually win," Simon quickly offered...
Itís also fair to say the fun didnít just happen around a poker table or a flaming grill, however. The teamwork extended into the weight room, where the seniors did their best to encourage players to get in extra work on top of that prescribed by director of football performance Mickey Marotti.
"We were really trying to make it a great offseason for us," Simon said. "We were getting together, calling each other on the phone and setting workout times, or saying, ĎLetís go do this for an hour,í just to improve ourselves and get ready for the season."
That teamwork continues into workouts. Simon said that some of the teamís summer runs didnít take place until the middle of the day during what has been one of the hottest summers on record in Columbus, and that was on purpose.
"Itís only going to make us better," Simon said. "I think after the workouts and end everyoneís just trying to fight for some water or whatever and youíre just exhausted, everyone gets that sense of pride that you just went through a tough workout together and you made it through because of that guy next to you. Thatís what football is."...
"A lot if it has to do with Coach Meyer, what he preaches," Boren said. "Heís a family-oriented guy. Iím not saying the coaches in the past werenít Ė because they were Ė but he wants you to follow through on things. I think we took that to heart. Weíre just getting to know our teammates. They are our brothers and I think itís really benefiting us."...
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have a chance to field one of the top defensive lines in the country. John Simon is a beast, while Johnathan Hankins has as much potential to dominate his position as any Big Ten player. Nathan Williams could be a big contributor coming back from knee surgery. This group is already really deep, and with standout freshmen like Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Se'Von Pittman coming in, it could be scary good.
2. Michigan State: The Spartans will rival Ohio State for the league's top defensive front...
3. Purdue: Don't be surprised by this high ranking. Kawann Short might be the top defensive lineman in the league, and is poised for a monster senior season...
4. Penn State: Devon Still is gone, but the Nittany Lions should continue to be strong up front...
5. Illinois: Star power lifts the Illini to this high ranking, as defensive end Michael Buchanan and tackle Akeem Spence should be among the very best at their positions in the league...
6. Nebraska: Too low for the Huskers? Perhaps. They do bring back several veterans, like Cam Meredith, Chase Rome and Baker Steinkuhler, while expecting more from Eric Martin...
7. Michigan: It's probably wrong to doubt a line overseen by Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison. Yet this unit lost three starters from a year ago...
8. Wisconsin: Can David Gilbert stay healthy and emerge as a fearsome pass-rusher? That's the key to the Badgers' defensive line...
Thatís the vibe Meyer has picked up from the leadership council of his 2012 Buckeyes. They are the veterans from a team that became the bullís-eye of an NCAA investigation a year ago, earning sanctions that include a postseason ban for 2012 and living with distractions that helped them slide to 6-7 in 2011, the teamís first losing record since 1988.
"I saw a quote somewhere that said the last time Ohio State lost seven games was the 1800s (1897, to be precise)," Meyer said. "And I actually heard a player say that. So Iím hoping itís a very angry team."
Thatís right. He said heís hoping his team has an anger issue when it assembles for the start of preseason camp on Friday...
"Thatís a coachís dream, to coach an angry group of guys that are on a mission.
"A complacent, entitled group? Thatís a nightmare. But an angry football team? Iím hoping ó I know these three guys (seniors John Simon, Etienne Sabino and Zach Boren) have got a little chip on their shoulder."...
"I think itís legit just because weíve had one of the best offseasons (in terms of training and strengthening academic standing) in school history," Boren said. "With the new coaches, and the way they want us to do things, weíve been doing it.
"Last year, we kind of took the offseason a little easy because everything came down (including the forced resignation of coach Jim Tressel), and that was kind of hard. We leaned upon each other but didnít really do anything about it." There was a carryover effect from that summer slip...
"Weíve had guys in there at 5 in the morning, and weíve had guys in there at 10:30 at night," Boren said. "Weíve never had that before. We are out there on the field every day doing drills; weíve never done that before. Guys are just wanting to get better."...
Meyer likes to hear such feedback. But he knows the anger still must be channeled into an on-field rage and intensity, not a mad-at-the-world demeanor.
"Thatís the essence of coaching, thatís what we do," Meyer said. "The way I like to do it is to make practices so hard that their anger better be channeled into becoming a better player.
"If practices arenít hard, thereís still that anger. What are they going to do with it? Fight downtown? Someone is going to say, ĎYou guys stink,í and Ö we make it so hard that we channel it to whatís important now, which is practice."
Gardner Commits To Ohio State July 28, 2012 Source: Bucknuts - Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence Central coach Jayson West reported to 247Sports that his senior offensive lineman Timothy Gardner committed to Ohio State on Saturday, a day after he attended Friday Night Lights.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Gardner chose the Buckeyes over offers from Indiana, Louisville and Purdue.
Gardner met with Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and offensive line coach Ed Warinner and gave them the good news.
"It's a great experience," Gardner said. "One of the greatest things to happen to me in my life with the tradition and with Coach Urban Meyer and what he brings.
"It's something special."
Gardner knew he wanted to commit to Ohio State when he camped in the spring, but the Buckeyes coaching staff told him to return to Columbus.
"They asked for me to lose a little weight and I did that and I came back to the camp and performed well.
"It was a great camp. They had some of the greats there like Orlando Pace and LeCharles Bentley."
Gardner is the 16th commit for Ohio State in the class-of-2013 and the second offensive lineman joining Evan Lisle.
"For a lineman he's very, very dynamic," West said. "He can do a lot of things athletically. He'll be an interior guy in college. He's really worked hard on his body and he's down to a weight where he is really moving well. We're really proud of him as a person, student and athlete. He's improved leaps and bounds over the years and it's really showed.
"He's a kid that had a lot of local offers but went out and showed what we already knew, which he is a special lineman."
It's easy to see why, since he's a massive, 317-pounder who's quick on his feet. He had 11 TFLs last season, and that number could go up.
And while the dress code helped make the workout memorable, the leg presses and squats are still what stand out in the mind of linebacker Etienne Sabino.
A romantic holiday included two grueling hours in the weight room with all the windows blacked out for John Simon. The Ohio State defensive end still hasn't forgotten the gift he received in the form of the Valentine's Day Massacre.
Zach Boren doesn't even try to pick out just one of the sessions as the most unique.
The last one Mickey Marotti led on Wednesday before Boren and a pair of senior teammates left for Big Ten Media Days is fresh enough in his mind, and even that alone provides an example of the offseason intensity that had all three Buckeyes raving about their new strength program.
"They were all tough workouts, they were all hard," Boren said Friday morning. "Even Wednesday night before we came here we had a night run, kind of like our conditioning test, and that was hard.
"I'm actually going to say that we've had the best offseason in the history of college football. I honestly think we had that, because guys are pushing themselves that hard. I've never seen it before. I have never even come close to seeing that."
Boren has also clearly seen the results, shedding 25 pounds in an effort to become quicker and more agile, perhaps giving the Buckeyes another offensive weapon beyond just blocking at fullback.
Sabino set a goal to lose 10 pounds while building his strength, a goal he was able to check off before training camp opens next week.
Even the tireless Simon acknowledged there were sessions like the Valentine's Day Massacre that required some reliance on teammates to make it to the end.
But as challenging as all that hard work might have been, Marotti has won over the Buckeyes by turning the workouts into competitive environments the players actually considered fun.
Nicknamed events with varied routines. Loud music and dancing. Coaching screaming, dancing and throwing water bottles around the weight room.
Apparently that formula suited Ohio State just fine.
"There was always a surprise at some point, you know, whether it be inside the weight room or outside for a run, he'd trick us into thinking we were running 10 sprints when we might really be running 15," Sabino said. "It was always a surprise, and it kept you on your toes. It was really exciting.
"There might be mornings where it's 5 o'clock and you walk in there, you might be lagging or a little tired, but you walk in and the music is blasting, everybody is screaming, coaches are bumping into you, everybody is riling you up and before you know it you're hyped for the workout. I get excited just talking about it."
The results are what figure to excite Urban Meyer, and next week he'll officially get to see them up close when training camp opens after a team ceremony on Thursday when Marotti will symbolically hand over the team to the coach.
Meyer doesn't necessarily need to see the proof to believe the Buckeyes have physically improved over the summer, given his implicit trust in his strength guru. He's now worked with Marotti at four different stops, and when putting together his first staff at Ohio State to start establishing a foundation for the future, hiring him a second time was a top priority.
"I usually put [strength coach] No. 1," Meyer said of assembling a staff. "Then the offensive line coach, your [defensive] coordinator, kind of in that order. But strength coach is No. 1.
"We do things, I don't know if it's unique or different, but I put a lot on him. He's not a strength coach. He's a motivator, a disciplinarian, a guy that I will lean on about the pulse of our team -- especially him because I trust him and know him."
The Buckeyes have gotten to know him quickly as well. Even for the seniors, his offseason workouts are going to be hard to forget.
Zach Boren Big Ten Media Day Source: Columbus Dispatch
John simon Big Ten Media Day Source: Columbus Dispatch
Big Ten Media Day July 26. 2012: Urban Myer
Stoneburner, Mewhort not back -- yet July 26, 2012 Source: ESPN - CHICAGO -- Official reinstatement hasnít yet been granted for tight end Jake Stoneburner and left tackle Jack Mewhort.
But at this point, it appears to be merely a matter of days for the Ohio State veterans.
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer suspended both indefinitely in June for their offseason arrests before stripping them of their scholarships, making them work out separately from the team and also placing stipulations they had to meet before receiving full clearance to rejoin the program. Both Stoneburner and Mewhort are apparently on track to return, though Meyer wonít be marking it down as a done deal until next week.
"If they continue, if they fulfill their community service and a variety of things Iím not going to list (they will be cleared). There are a variety of things theyíve done and they have to continue to do that. If it continues as is, they will report next Friday."
When practice opens, though, the Buckeyes arenít likely to be joined by Storm Klein after the senior linebackerís dismissal earlier this month following charges of domestic violence and assault.
Meyer seemed to leave the door open for the 10-game starter last season by indicating that his status could be reevaluated if there is a change in his legal situation, and he stressed that was still the case as the Buckeyes prepare to enter training camp. But Klein is not listed on the current roster and doesnít appear to have a clear path to get back on the field like Stoneburner and Mewhort.
"Storm has a good reputation, good grades, good student, good guy," Meyer said. "He made a severe violation, and from Day One, my first meeting was very clear about what we expect.
"Itís non-negotiable, and he knew it, he understood it."
The expectations were clearly defined for Mewhort and Stoneburner as well.
And while they have met them all so far, they still have another week to go before there is an official change in their status.
After Meyer stepped down from the podium with the entire media and he caught up with a smaller contingent in a breakout area. Check out what Meyer had to say. July 26, 2012 Source: BuckeyeGrove.com
Big Ten Media day comments by Urban Meyer and players Zach Boren, Etienne Sabino and John Simon. July 26, 2012 Source: Bucknuts.com
1. John Simon, DE, Ohio State: Others on this list may have more physical gifts, but few get as much out of their talent as Simon. A nonstop motor and off-the-charts work ethic are his best qualities. He had 16 tackles for loss and can play just about anywhere on the line. He seems poised for huge things this fall.
4. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State: Speaking of high ceilings, there are many who think Hankins is a first-round pick in next year's draft. It's easy to see why, since he's a massive, 317-pounder who's quick on his feet. He had 11 TFLs last season, and that number could go up...
Elliott Opening eyes across the country July 20, 2012 Source: BuckeyeGrove.com - At Nike's headquarters in Oregon last week, "The Opening" took place. The event, an invitational only camp, was held to showcase many of the nation's premiere 2013 and 2014 college football prospects. Gathered for SPARQ testing and 7-on-7 battles that were designed to create special matchups, the event hoped to illuminate which players really are the best of the best.
The Buckeyes were one well represented in Eugene with six 2013 commitments, and each player showed why they belonged at the prestigious event. Marcus Baugh, Cameron Burrows, Jalin Marshall, Jayme Thompson and Eli Woodard each had moments that gave justification to their selections, but it was the performance of tailback Ezekiel Elliott that garnered the most "buzz" among the Buckeye verbals.
Elliott's performance was highlighted by his 4.42 electronically time 40-yard dash and his ability to line up and contribute at wide receiver, in the slot or in the offensive backfield for his "Superbad" 7-on-7 team on their way to the team championship.
A legitimate 6-foot-tall and 200-pounds, Elliott's size and speed combination makes him one of the most sought after running backs in the country, which may come as a surprise to many who had not heard much of him when he committed to Ohio State in April. Now Rivals.com's 13th ranked tailback, Elliott is capturing the attention of many as he prepares for his senior season at John Burroughs in St. Louis (Mo.) Of course, one person who is not surprised with the newfound attention is Elliott himself; he fully expects to be successful against anyone he lines up against.
"The Opening went very well for me. "I ran the forty well, and I got a chance to being to show my ability as a receiver, and I think that surprised some people," Elliot said. "Some people think that since I'm at a small school that I don't play great competition. Showing up and doing well against the best competition might've changed some minds. There are a lot of great athletes, and I have to keep working harder to get better. But, if people don't think I can play at that level, my suggestion is to not always listen to the recruiting websites. They aren't always right (laughs)."
That competition led to some interesting moments and some gamesmanship, but according to Elliott, it was all a matter of friendly competition. Of course, there's always one guy that seems to particularly enjoy getting in a few words, especially towards the players representing the scarlet and gray.
"Shane's always talking," Elliott joked about Michigan commitment and the mouthpiece of their highly-ranked 2013 class, Shane Morris. "But, honestly, it's all in good fun and all the guys are really friendly. We (the Buckeye commitments) did a little recruiting, but we mostly just hung out with one another. It was the first time we got to meet Marcus (Baugh). We all talk all the time on Twitter and we have a group conversation on our phones, but it was the first time in person. It's just good to spend time hanging out."
It's safe to assume that if the Buckeye commitments are actively recruiting other players to join them that other players are doing the same thing, but Elliott says that's not necessarily the case.
"They don't really try and recruit us (to other schools)," he said. "They know we're all 100-percent Buckeyes. No one's going anywhere or taking official visits anywhere else."
Elliott's whirlwind summer is almost over, but he's got one more football event to attend. It won't be the much-anticipated "Friday Night Lights" at Ohio State, however. Instead he's heading to Florida.
"I won't be at Friday Night Lights, because we've got the ESPN 'Gridiron Kings' camp in Orlando," he said. "I am going and so is Jalin, Jayme, Cam and Eli. Marcus might be, but he's not sure. After that I am done for the summer with football stuff."
The life of a national level recruit is not what it used to be. The recruiting calendar is moving up every year, and more and more corporate sponsored camps pop up every year that require players to travel across the country to showcase their talents in the hopes of earning scholarships. That doesn't even take into consideration the traditional things that a soon to be high school senior has to do. Basic teenager stuff like hanging out with friends, making unofficial school visits, or working to pay car insurance can easily take up the summer for most his age. For Elliott, he's glad this summer is winding down so he and his teammates can focus on some unfinished business at John Burroughs.
"From Florida I go to Houston for the AAU national track meet, and then straight to two-a-days preparing for the season," Elliott continued. "We've made it to the state final the last two seasons and lost both times. The goal is to get back and to win it this time. I'm going to keep working at my game, keep improving on my route running, whatever it takes to be a better player. A lot of teams stack the box against us, so I end up playing all over the place. In the backfield, at wide receiver, in the slot; Coach (Gus) Frerotte has me moving all the offense, so that helps me stay versatile."
For Buckeye fans, this summer has given them an idea of what to expect out the talented tailback, who was a bit of an unknown entity at the start of the summer. With a year before he enrolls at Ohio State, Elliott has a message for Buckeye fans who are looking to know a bit more about him.
"I'm ready to come and be a part of Buckeye Nation," he declared. "Oh, and another thing, we might not wait real long to start winning national championships. We're going to get started in 2013 (laughs)."
Sounds like an ideal match, and today it became one. The wide receiver committed this morning to become the 15th member of the Buckeyes' 2013 recruiting class.
"I feel Ohio State is the best fit for me," Jacobs said. "With the tradition and the family feeling and the way they run their program, I feel I can grow there as a player and also as a person."
Jacobs said he had 17 offers. Maryland and West Virginia were the other finalists.
He said he has been a die-hard Buckeyes fan since he was 10.
"At first, I just liked their colors, adn then I started liking how they had that rivalry with Michigan," Jacobs said.
He attended Ohio State's camp last month. He said that wide receivers coach Zach Smith has recruited him since he was a freshman while Smith was at Marshall University.
Jacobs is rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com and only a two-star player by Scout.com, mostly because of concerns about his size. Jacobs is 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds.
"I'm not the biggest guy, but I play with a lot of heart," he said.
Jacobs said he had 35 catches for 972 yards and scored 13 touchdowns as a junior last year.
Recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic said he was impressed when he watched Jacobs at the Ohio State camp.
"I thought he caught the ball very well," Kurelic said. "Obviously, he's very athletic. He's the kind of guy who can stretch defenses. I was impressed with his ability to get separation.
"Urban Meyer is looking for speed. With Traivon Jacobs, he has definitely added speed."
Jacobs said Ohio State coaches told him they envision using him the way Meyer used Chris Rainey and Percy Harvin at Florida. Kurelic compared him to Cleveland Browns draft pick Travis Benjamin from the University of Miami.
Elite 11 Profile: Ohio State commit J.T. Barrett (Wichita Falls, Texas) is one of the better athletes -- possessing speed and accuracy -- among the Elite 11 competitors.
Ohio State will win the Leaders Division. Sure, the Buckeyes are not eligible to play in the Big Ten Championship game in Indy, but doesnít stop the team from finishing atop the division in the standings and throwing a wrench in the hole thing. Miller will shine in Meyerís offense, the defensive line will be dominant, and thereís still plenty of talent from a myriad of top ten recruiting classes on both sides of the ball to shine once everyone is on the same page. The schedule is daunting, but It could be argued that OSU has the most talent on the roster of any team in the Big Ten. And now that it has a coach that knows how to get the Lamborghini out in the open road and push the gas, things will click. Itíll all set up some even bigger things for 2013. But thatís for another day and another column.
Ohio State will lose 3 games...at maximum. Urban Meyer is good at these things, starting out in new jobs. When he took over at Bowling Green, he instituted one of the best turnarounds in NCAA history at the time for a new coach, taking a two win outfit to eight. At Utah, he won 10, becoming the most successful first time coach in school history. At Florida, he won nine, bereft of a QB fit for his style. At OSU, he has arguably his most physically talented QB short of Cam Newton to start with, a schedule that has only four road games, and a team with a chip on their shoulder due to no post season play possible. I call 10-2...with a loss to Michigan. After all, I think theyíd rather be 2-10 and win The Game.
QB Braxton Miller will earn first team All-Big Ten honors this season. Miller showed flashes of brilliance in his freshman season, sparking the Buckeyes to an upset of Wisconsin last season.
With Urban Meyer coaching him, his game will improve by leaps and bounds. Aside from the 2010 season, Meyer has always gotten solid play from the QB position, and this year will be no different. Meyerís spread offense will take advantage of Millerís skills as both a runner and passer, which will give him better overall numbers than any other QB in the conference...
Top 25 Reasons to Love the Ohio State Buckeyes July 13, 2012 Source: Yahoo Sports - For those college football fans who do not understand, no other team compares with the Ohio State Buckeyes. I have always lived in Ohio -- and I know. Here are 25 reasons why:...15. Columbus is Not Ann Arbor. There are actually things to do in Columbus after the game. The only thing to do after a game in Ann Arbor is leave...
2012 Ohio State Preview Ė Game On July 9, 2012 Source: CollegeFootballNews.com - What to watch for on offense: The maturation of Braxton Miller. Getting more out of a looks-like-Tarzan-plays-like-Jane receiving corps would be nice, and finding more rushing options with top tailback option Jordan Hall hurting is a must, but the only thing that matters in this redshirt year for the program is how Miller looks and plays in the Meyer spread attack. Meyer gushed at times this offseason about how sharp Miller is, and the passing game improved enough to look solid at the spring game, but his running skills will be what eventually makes the offense shine. He gets a year to get the timing and the decision-making down.
What to watch for on defense: Consistency. The belief is that with experience comes consistency and with consistency comes production. At least thatís the hope for a D that gets nine starters back from a not-that-bad 2011 group. The linebacking corps was mediocre, the secondary gave up too many completions, and the line didnít get into the backfield enough, but outside of getting steamrolled in the loss to Nebraska the defense held up relatively well in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Now the Buckeyes should take things to a whole other level with nine starters returning and with a ton of depth to use in a rotation. The secondary is loaded with good backups who can step in when needed, and Meyer went heavy on excellent recruits for the defensive line with a year to get their feet wet.
The team will be far better if Ö the offense doesnít turn the ball over. There was a slim margin for error for the 2011 Buckeyes with a few special teams slips proving costly and with turnovers turning into a big deal. The offense didnít throw too much and only gave up five picks, but four of them came in losses with the lone win coming against Indiana. OSU went 5-0 when it didnít give up a pick before losing to Purdue, Penn State and Florida without giving up an interception, but in those last three games the O lost two fumbles against both the Nittany Lions and the Gators. There werenít any turnovers against the Boilermakers, but there was a blocked extra point leading to the overtime loss.
The schedule: The Urban era really starts in 2013 when the team can play for the Big Ten title and more, but this year needs to set the tone and it starts with the leagueís toughest interdivision schedule going to Michigan State and getting Nebraska and Michigan. The Leaders slate isnít a positive, either, with road trips to both Penn State and Wisconsin, but at least thereís a week off to prepare to the date in Camp Randall...
The season will be a success if Ö Ohio State wins ten games. It might be too much to ask for a Leaders title with a trip to Wisconsin and with interdivisional games against Nebraska and Michigan and at Michigan State. However, it shouldnít take too much tweaking to be in for a big year. With the exception of the loss to Miami, all the defeats last season couldíve easily have gone the other way with six losses by a touchdown or less. Meyer and a more experienced team should account for wins in a few of those Ė thereís no way this yearís team loses the Purdue and Penn State games that last yearís team dropped Ė and thereís no reason to shot for anything less than ten wins. On talent, no one in the conference is better.
Key game: Nov. 24 vs. Michigan. The Wisconsin game has become far more important now when it comes to winning the division and, down the road, the Big Ten, but the game is on for the new era of Urban Meyer vs. Brady Hoke. Ohio State might have ramped things up a bit by getting Meyer and with the revamped recruiting effort, but Michigan has taken a bigger leap forward under Hoke and might end up needing this game to get to the Big Ten championship. The Buckeyes gave the Wolverines all they could handle last season in an entertaining 40-34 loss, but this year the classic rivalry is the equivalent of a bowl game. For any and all of Jim Tresselís flaws, he dominated Michigan and the last thing the Meyer era needs at the end of its first season is a loss to the arch-rival...
Ohio State Buckeyes Preview 2012 - Offense: What You Need To Know: Give it a little bit of time. Any improvement after finishing 107th in the nation will be a positive. The pieces are there and the coaching staff is tweaking to get the spread attack in place, but itís going to take some adjusting. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman knows how to get big things out of a mobile quarterback, and Braxton Miller appears to be the perfect fit to grow into the offense. Not only is he quick, heís improving as a passer after not being allowed to do too much as a true freshman. The running backs are fine, but top option Jordan Hall will be out for a chunk of the season with a foot injury. The line has to be far more productive and consistent after struggling way too much in pass protection and with plenty of shuffling after losing three starters. The receiving corps has to be far more explosive when itís time to start making big plays, but speed and size arenít a problem. Overall, it will take a little while, but almost all the key parts are going to be around for at least next season...
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Braxton Miller
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior RB Carlos Hyde
Unsung star on the rise: Junior C Corey Linsley
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Jake Stoneburner
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Miller, 2) Stoneburner, 3) OT Jack Mewhort
Strength of the offense: Braxton Miller, Speed
Weakness of the offense: Pass Protection, Proven Big Play Playmakers...
Quarterbacks: Watch Out For Ö Millerís progression. Itíll be important to not get hung up on the mistakes and the misfires early on. All that matters is how he starts to look in the offense as the season goes on. The rushing numbers will be there, and if he can be a more dangerous passer the sky will be the limit.
Strength: Athleticism. Guiton isnít Miller, but he can move. Miller is a better, more creative runner than Alex Smith or Tim Tebow, and in this attack he could be a 1,000-yard rushing threat. The OSU quarterback will give opposing defenses plenty of fits.
Weakness: Passing and depth. Ohio State finished last in the Big Ten and 115th in the nation in passing. It wasnít necessarily because Miller couldnít throw; itís that the coaching staff didnít really turn him loose. Guiton has to get more meaningful time to be ready, while freshman Cardale Jones is the emergency option and has miles to go before he can handle the workload.
Outlook: Miller will be a front-runner for the Heisman Ė next year. Tebow was the perfect fit at the perfect time for the Meyer spread offense, but Miller isnít far off with more speed and quickness to add a more dynamic element to the attack. Miller will put up monster rushing numbers this season, but the real key will be to see how his passing consistency progresses. The depth is very, very thin, so as much as Miller is going to run, he has to be careful...
Running Backs: Watch Out For Ö Hyde. The offense needs a running back or three to take the pressure off of QB Braxton Miller, and Hyde has the experience and toughness to carry the load over the first half of the season. At least thatís the hope.
Strength: Talent. On almost any other team, even with Hall out, a rotation of backs like the Buckeyes have would be cause for celebration. Even with the loss of half-season starter and second-leading rusher Dan Herron, the potential is through the roof with so many big, strong, fast backs to choose from.
Weakness: Urban Meyer. His running backs struggle to get production. At Florida, it always seemed like there was a storyline hovering about how the O needed a steady back to take the heat off the quarterbacks. It will take a village of running backs to produce, but Miller will be the most dynamic runner until Hall gets back.
Outlook: It might take three players to properly replace what Miller provided. Heís expected to be back for the stretch run, but until that time the backs have to be more than just along for the ride and they have to prove they can handle the pressure of working in the spread attack.
Receivers: Watch Out For Ö Thomas. Meyer and the coaches complained that the receiving corps lacks devastating playmaker, and Thomas showed that he might be ready to grow into one. The Buckeyes donít lack for speed, but Thomas might quickly grow into the type of target who changes games around.
Strength: Speed. Brown, Fields and Smith are just a few of the very fast, good-sized targets who can potentially come up with big plays. The tools are all there among the targets, but the production has to start coming on more Ö
Weakness: Home runs. The Buckeyes averaged 13.2 yards per catch and came up with 18 scores, but there wasnít enough steady production and the passing game was non-existent for stretches. It was partly due to the offense, but the receivers didnít exactly step up and shine game-in-and-game-out.
Outlook: The receiving corps looks the part, but will it matter? Braxton Miller needs to start throwing a bit more and the veteran corps has to start doing more with the ball when the chances come. Like the rest of the team, the receiving corps should be in for a huge 2013 with so much talent returning, but it would be nice if all the speed and athleticism could lead to bigger numbers.
Offensive Line: Watch Out For Ö the right tackle job. Fragel bulked up in a big way to be ready to handle the workload, but Decker also looks the part and could turn out to be a better fit. If nothing else, thereís depth.
Strength: Versatilty. Assuming all turns out fine, Mewhort can play anywhere and almost all the top linemen can shuffle around and move where needed. The coaching staff should be able to put the best five players on the line at any time.
Weakness: Pass blocking. Yes, it was because Braxton Miller danced a lot and ran to try to make things happen, but still, the line couldnít seem to keep him upright allowing a whopping 46 sacks. The offense only threw the ball 245 times.
Outlook: Quickness and athleticism are the keys to the Meyer line. While heíll like to blast always from time to time, for the most part he needs his blockers to get on the move. After struggling way too much last season with its consistency, this year the line has to find the right combination and come together in a hurry. This is a relatively young group with almost all the projected starters coming back next season, but for now it would be nice if the pass protection was stronger...
2012 Ohio State Preview Ė Defense: What You Need To Know: Co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Everett Withers are about to take a good defense and make it special. Itís not like the young D was bad last season Ė it finished 19th in the nation and allowed just 21 points per game Ė but it was inconsistent and didnít seem to be able to put the clamps down in close games. That shouldnít be a problem this season with nine returning starters led by a deep and loaded secondary that should be among the best in the country, and a defensive front with two future NFL stars in tackle Johnathan Hankins and end John Simon. The underwhelming linebacking corps might not be up to normal Ohio State snuff, but itís experienced and has young talents in Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant to get excited about...
Star of the defense: Junior DT Johnathan Hankins
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore MLB Curtis Grant
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Bradley Roby
Best pro prospect: Hankins
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hankins, 2) DE John Simon, 3) S C.J. Barnett
Strength of the defense: Experience, Secondary
Weakness of the defense: Linebacker, Consistency...
Defensive Line: Strength: Experience. Assuming Williams is back at some point, all of a sudden the line is loaded with great depth and several options to go along with four returning starters. This is a big, big group that will know what itís doing.
Weakness: Production Ö for Ohio State. The line should be far better and far stronger this season, but it was average at getting into the backfield last season and was stunningly average at times against the run. The talent and experience might be there, and now the consistency has to follow.
Outlook: Expect a huge difference. The line wasnít awful last season, but it wasnít the dominant force that Ohio Stateís front four usually is. With so much talent and so much experience, consider it a shocker if the coaching staff doesnít crank up this group into the best line in the Big Ten.
Linebackers: Watch Out For Ö Grant. Klein was serviceable in the middle, but the Buckeyes need their middle linebacker to be spectacular. Grant has all the talent in the world but didnít do anything with it as a freshman. If he can settle into the job and relax a bit, he could quickly grow into an All-Big Ten star.
Strength: Experience. With the emergence of Sabino and Shazier, now the Buckeyes have plenty of veterans to hope for more production. The line should be better, so the linebackers donít have to carry the front seven.
Weakness: Playing up to the talent. The Buckeyes are loaded with a whoís who of top linebacker recruits who havenít quite lived up to the billing. Itís not like the linebackers were awful, but they werenít the positive they needed to be. They have to be more spectacular than steady.
Outlook: Shazier has superstar potential and Grant has all the skills to grow into the role to give OSU a devastating pair for the next three years, but now the overall production has to come from the unit. There will be chances for a slew of freshmen to make an impact, but the team needs Grant and Sabino to come up big next to Shazier.
Defensive Backs: Watch Out For Ö Roby. Ohio State is always loaded with four-and-five star talents, but Roby wasnít expected to be a special defensive back when he signed on. Now heís looking like the potential star of the show.
Strength: Experience. All four starters are back and the second team could step in and start without too much of a drop off. Itís a loaded group thatís young enough to still be improving.
Weakness: Completion percentage. The Buckeyes didnít give up a 300-yard game and didnít get roasted, but it allowed opposing passers to hit 61% of their throws with 18 touchdowns...
BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The image is disturbing to fans of college football. ESPN 150 quarterback Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle Prep), a Michigan commit, is sitting next to ESPN 300 defensive back Jayme Thompson (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic), an Ohio State commit.
The two, Morris wearing his Michigan Swag shirt and Thompson decked out in the Scarlet and Gray, are laughing, joking, sipping smoothies, basically hanging out as friends.
The scenario is replayed at camps and 7-on-7 tournaments across the nation. Prospects committed to rival schools are befriending each other at an alarming rate. While the fans of their prospective programs still harbor plenty of bitterness toward each other, such venom has not spread to the next generation of college football players.
"I guess they became pretty good friends during the camps," said ESPN 150 cornerback Jourdan Lewis (Detroit/Cass Technical), another Michigan commit. "It's hard when you see a lot of the same people at the camps to not walk up to them and say 'What's up.'"
Lewis high-fived fellow ESPN 150 cornerback and Ohio State commit Eli Woodard (Voorhees, N.J./Eastern). The two were teammates on the Field Generals for the 7-on-7 competition at The Opening.
Right now, Eli and I are doing our thing in the secondary, and we want to win this event," Lewis said. "He's a cool guy. Sure he's a Buckeye, but he's still a cool guy."
Back in the days of Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes, a Michigan man would never refer to an Ohio State man as a cool guy. He wouldn't refer to him at all. These days, he wouldn't even call him an Ohio State man, as current Michigan coach Brady Hoke refers to his Big Ten rival school simply as "Ohio."
What would Hoke and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer think of this sort of camaraderie between their future players?
"I don't think Coach Hoke would like it very much," said Michigan defensive end commit Taco Charlton (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington Central). "I mean it's tough for me because I live in Ohio and I have to deal with it all the time.
"And in Pickerington, you have a lot of guys that went to OSU and guys like me and Jake [Butt] that chose Michigan. Everywhere I go, I generally see an Ohio State guy, and after a while, you just have to make nice and be friends. We're a little mixed up."
But are they friends forever or friends for now?
"Listen, I'm going to hate those guys for the next three to four years, believe that," Charlton said. "Right now, out here in Oregon, it's cool because we're competing and having a good time, but next year in November, there won't be a lot of friends on the field."
There is hope, and it comes from the words spoken by ESPN 300 running back Ezekiel Elliott (St. Louis/John Burroughs). Not living in Ohio or Michigan has given the 6-foot, 197-pound future Buckeye some perspective.
"They might be friends because they all live together," Elliott said. "I know Cam Burrows and Mike ... umm ... I don't know his last name [McCray], but I know they are teammates, so that's probably part of the reason they are cool.
"I don't know what the rest of this is about. Whatever it is, I know it better end by the time we get to Columbus because Coach Meyer isn't going to be about no friends on the other side. He wants victories and championships, and I'll gladly walk over Michigan to get both."
The more this unholy alliance is examined, the seeds of distrust creep in. Are Michigan prospects and Ohio State prospects merely using each other, only to show their true colors next fall?
One can only hope.
"Right now everyone is cool," Woodard said. "But we'll see who's really cool next year.
"Could I be suckering a few of those guys into a false sense of security? Maybe. Right now, we'll just shake hands, but next year, if they go for a handshake, I don't know what I'll do."...
ABOUT Ohio State: Ohio State officials hope they have the perfect answer to the wreckage of 2011: When coach Urban Meyer was hired on Nov. 28, the Buckeyes had just lost to Michigan for the first time in eight years and were on their way to their first losing season since 1988...
ABOUT Offense... Defense... Special Teams... Newcomers... (click link to read more in depth about each)
Analysis: BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS
It's a safe bet that many coaches could take the Buckeyes from six to, say, nine wins this season. Last season was an anomaly, with the NCAA turmoil and being forced to turn to a raw rookie quarterback so soon.
Braxton Miller should take a step forward as a sophomore and should be better on defense.
The test of Meyer's ability will be to see if he can coax double-digit wins out of a group that has nothing to play for. No conference championship, no bowl game.
Their sole interesting non-conference game is a California team at home, coming off a 7-6 season.
Road games at Michigan State and Wisconsin will be the toughest tests, followed by home games against Nebraska and Michigan, which ended a seven-game losing streak in the rivalry last season.
Ten wins, and/or a Leaders Division title (although it would be meaningless), would prove the Buckeyes are back on track...
Ohio State needs offensive tackles in its 2013 recruiting class and the Buckeyes would love to land Dennis Finley from Detroit Cass Tech. What does Finley think of OSU? What about the other schools on his list? What college team did he grow up rooting for? We have the answers to those questions and more. And in the News, Dave Biddle and Dan Rubin talk about Jordan Hall's foot injury, the recruitment of Vonn Bell, Rodney Hood picking Duke over Ohio State, the latest with the Penn State scandal and much more.
Thatís one thing Urban Meyer learned during his six seasons in the Southeastern Conference.
It makes sense, then, why Meyer was thrilled get a phone call from 4-star defensive tackle Michael Hill when the top player in the state of South Carolina recently gave his verbal commitment to Ohio State.
There are plenty of arguments from all sides on why the SEC has dominated college football to the tune of five straight BCS national championships. The conference features a number of traditional powerhouse football programs, including the Florida team coached by Meyer from 2005-10...
"The thing that separated the SEC from everybody else in America was the defensive front, the speed, athleticism on the edges, athleticism inside," former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said during last yearís SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Ala. "I found that out when I came back as a head coach in the league."...
Buckeye fans have erased that game from their memories, but who else could forget the way Floridaís defense lineóparticularly ends Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harveyóabused Ohio State in the trenches.
"Top to bottom in our league ó you watch every week when you turn on an SEC film ó there's going to be some dominating players up front, not just in one or two teams, but from top to bottom in our league," said Florida coach Will Muschamp, who replaced Meyer in Gainesville after two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Auburn, and three as the coach-in-waiting at Texas. "That's the biggest difference in our league and other leagues."...
Now Meyer is hoping to recreate that same success at Ohio State, and it looks like he plans to start by bringing an SEC-caliber defense to the Big Ten. Thatís not a knock on the B1G; and certainly not on the defense thatís been played in Columbus over the last decade.
But Meyer, and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, are clearly placing an emphasis on the defensive front, which was highlighted in bold last Wednesday with the commitment from Hill.
Considered to be the top player in South Carolina, and one of the top defensive linemen in the country, Hill is the latest piece to a puzzle that could spell future success for Meyer and the Buckeyes...
When the Buckeyes won their national championship in 2002, it was on the strength of a defensive line anchored by future NFL Pro Bowler Will Smith, along with guys like Darrion Scott, Kenny Peterson and Tim Anderson.
The 2012 Buckeyes will feature two of the top defensive linemen in the conferenceóand maybe the countryóin John Simon and Johnathan Hankins. A healthy Nathan Williams would give them, arguably, the best group in college football...
While Brady Hoke is filling out his 2012 class with big-name offensive linemen, Meyer has now landed eight guys on the defensive front in the last two classes. That includes Hill, one of four guys committed to the Buckeyes this year.
Another is Billy Price, a 4-star defensive tackle out of Youngstown, but the pride of the group may very well be Joey Bosaóa blue chip defensive end prospect form Fort Lauderdale.
Bosaónephew of former Buckeye Eric Kumerowójoins last yearís haul of Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and SeíVon Pittman to give the Buckeyes as much depth at defensive end as they have had in years.
No one knows for sure which kids will pan out and which wonít, but the numbers are stacked heavily in Ohio Stateís favor...the Buckeyes will be a staunch group on the defensive front for the next 4-5 years.
What the Buckeyes could have up front defensively in 2013:
LEO (RUSH END)
Noah Spence (6-4, 245, So.)
Steve Miller (6-3, 255, Jr.)
SeíVon Pittman (6-3, 259, So.)
Michael Bennett (6-3, 277, Jr.)
Adam Bellamy (6-4, 292, Sr.)
Chase Farris (6-4, 286, rSo.) (BuckeyeFansOnly note: word is Farris has moved to OL)
Kenny Hayes (6-5, 285, rSo.)
Billy Price (6-4, 280, Fr.)
Johnathan Hankins (6-4, 317, Sr.)
Joel Hale (6-4, 295, Jr.)
Tommy Schutt (6-3, 301, So.)
Michael Hill (6-3, 315, Fr.)
Adolphus Washington (6-4, 230, So.)
Joey Bosa (6-5, 270, Fr.)
J.T. Moore (6-3, 250, Jr.)
Tracy Sprinkle (6-4, 245, Fr.)