Make up your mind, Mother Nature. Connor Cook now has the freedom to audible at the line of scrimmage for Michigan State, another sign of confidence in the quarterback heading into his second season as the starter.
If the problem for Michigan last season was a lack of chemistry, Brady Hoke has a feeling that won’t be a problem this fall he leaves spring.
Penn State showed off a Wildcat package in its spring game, but James Franklin won’t reveal how much he’ll use it — or whether it’s got a unique nickname.
Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz isn’t usually one for hyperbole, so he means it when he calls Brandon Scherff the best player at his position in the country.
The Ohio State defense is leaving spring practice with a much better feeling than it did when it left the field after the Discover Orange Bowl.
After a long, difficult road, Rutgers offensive lineman Bryan Leoni is pushing for a starting role and a happy ending for his journey.
The Purdue offense has undergone a transformation this spring, and the roster has also added some talent to run the system.
The union seeking to represent Northwestern football players offered its response to the school’s appeal, calling the university’s case a “castle built on sand.”
No matter how big the league gets, the Big Ten is keeping its name.
The rebrand of Illinois athletics appears to be a hit, writes Loren Tate.
Covers Ohio State and the Big Ten.Joined ESPN in 2012.Attended the University of Wyoming. Tags:Purdue Boilermakers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan State Spartans, Northwestern Wildcats, Illinois Fighting Illini, Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Iowa Hawkeyes, Big Ten, Morgan Burke, Brady Hoke, Connor Cook, Brian Ferentz, James Franklin, Bryan Leoni
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After putting the finishing touches on spring camp, a few visitors caught Urban Meyer’s eye and he made sure to deliver them a message. It was partly a reflection of the confidence the Ohio State coach has in the freshmen set to enroll in June, but it was also somewhat of a warning that there is a lot of work to do on the offensive line after a shaky performance for a rebuilding unit in the spring game.
But either way, the brief, matter-of-fact statements highlighted just how critical restocking the offensive line is to Meyer after leaning so heavily on it during a pair of record-setting seasons to start his career with the program.
+ EnlargeJamie Sabau/Getty ImagesTaylor Decker has moved from right tackle and locked down the spot at left tackle.“I saw Jamarco Jones down there, Demetrius Knox is coming in, Brady Taylor,” Meyer said. “Those are three bodies that are going to be coming in and I went up to them, looked them in the eye and told them, ‘You’re not redshirting; you’re playing.’ “That’s hard for an offensive lineman, but that’s an area where we’ve got to get back to where we were — maybe not where we were, but close.”
Replacing four senior starters with three true freshmen isn’t exactly the kind of formula that would get the Buckeyes back to the level they were at a season ago up front. And while Meyer wasn’t actually suggesting those talented signees are capable of coming in and winning first-team roles right away, based on some issues blocking backup defenders in a spring game that featured five sacks, finding a spot on the two-deep certainly isn’t out of the question.
Ohio State has enough options on hand to fill out the lineup in the fall, but 15 workouts didn’t provide as much clarity as about that unit as Meyer would have liked. He’s officially named Taylor Decker a starter at left tackle and Pat Elflein has won a job at guard, but leaving three vacancies and name-dropping players who have never practiced with the program is a far cry from leaving camp a year ago with a group that was essentially carved in stone and loaded with experience.
“Coach Meyer likes to have the depth chart set leaving spring, but if it’s not there, it’s not there,” Decker said. “That battle will just continue through camp. There’s good and bad to it, but I’d say there’s more good to it.
“It’s good because there’s that competition there, so there’s going to be a sense of urgency. You’re not going to have guys taking days off, taking plays off in practice because you still have to earn that spot.”
The downside is potentially not having a chance to develop the chemistry and familiarity that was such a critical component of the offensive line’s success last season, though tackle Darryl Baldwin and guard Antonio Underwood both seem like safe bets to keep working with the first-team offense after spending all spring there. The race to start at center remains tight, though Jacoby Boren brings a bit of experience to the mix as he jockeys with Billy Price for that crucial gig in the middle of the spread offense.
But regardless of who wins those jobs, it figures to be imperative for Meyer and the Buckeyes to identify the right fits for those final three spots to get the ball rolling to try to reach the high standard set by the linemen in the last couple seasons. Once those spots are nailed down, Meyer can give his attention to a group of newcomers looking to avoid redshirts and a depth chart that currently has a lot of openings.
“Offensive line is the one,” Meyer said. “We’ve got to really go from here.”
That process doesn’t start until June for a few guys. But even in April, Meyer made sure to include them in the plan.
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer seemed to be guarding a secret, and it couldn’t be deciphered by reading between the lines. The Ohio State coach joked about being a little bored by his spring game, expressed some frustration about the lack of offensive execution and stressed that there was plenty of work to do at a few key positions heading into the offseason.
+ EnlargeAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe spring game didn’t say much about Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes. And he seems fine with that.But the truth about how good his third team at Ohio State might be was tucked away on the sidelines, leaving little to truly evaluate between them as the Gray beat the Scarlet 17-7 on Saturday at the Horseshoe. And based on the number of players he held out of the spring-closing scrimmage, it might be a safe bet that Meyer is actually feeling pretty good about what he has returning in the fall. “There were guys out there who will either never play or they’re not ready to play now,” Meyer said. “Like, Ohio State sports information director Jerry Emig hands me stats, I’m not sure what to do with these. I don’t care.
“… We all know what we saw out there. It’s not the Ohio State Buckeyes.”
Exhibition games rarely provide much of a reliable gauge for how good a team might truly be, and in the case of the Buckeyes, that might have been by design.
Braxton Miller was already on the shelf as he finishes up his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. Having the two-time defending Big Ten player of the year and a three-year starter at quarterback out of the equation obviously changes the complexion of the Ohio State offense. Cardale Jones was productive enough throughout camp to win the backup job, but his 14-of-31 passing performance Saturday was yet another reminder of the importance of having a healthy Miller to lead the attack.
Meyer indicated there was some uncertainty about his receiving corps after the spring game, but he had enough faith in Devin Smith and Dontre Wilson that he didn’t feel the need to press either of them into action over the weekend — aside from a cameo appearance by the latter in a race against students at halftime.
And after watching what could be one of the most talented defensive lines in the country terrorize a rebuilding offensive line throughout camp over the last month, Meyer certainly didn’t need to see any more from Noah Spence, Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett or Adolphus Washington to boost his confidence heading into the summer, adding to the list of starters who effectively were allowed to take the day off.
Cornerback Doran Grant was largely an observer as well, though he did make an appearance to win the halftime derby and became the “fastest student” on campus. Projected first-team guard Pat Elflein was a scratch, and presumptive starting running back Ezekiel Elliott only touched the football three times. Tight end Jeff Heuerman was on crutches after foot surgery, but he’ll be back in time for the conditioning program next month. …
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Virginia Tech’s Trevor Thompson, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, says he’s transferring to play at Ohio State.Thompson will have three years of eligibility remaining, most likely sitting out a year to begin playing in the 2015-16 season.On his Twitter account, Thompson posted, ”Well it’s official I’m a Ohio State Buckeye.”Thompson is the second big man to transfer to Ohio State recently. Anthony Lee, a 6-9 forward, said late last month that he would graduate from Temple to transfer to Ohio State to play his final year next season.Thompson, the son of former major-league baseball player Ryan Thompson, played in 29 games last season for the Hokies, starting in 10 while averaging 5.0 points and 4.7 rebounds.An Indianapolis native, he had also considered Indiana and Purdue.Trevor ThompsonRyan Thompson
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April, 12, 2014 Apr 12 6:05 PM ET COLUMBUS, Ohio — The entire roster wasn’t on display, leaving some uncertainty about what Ohio State will look like at full strength. But heading into the offseason, there were still some lessons to be learned by the Gray’s 17-7 victory over the Scarlet on Saturday at Ohio Stadium. The secondary has improved
The offense was shorthanded, starting with the absence of a certain two-time defending Big Ten player of the year at quarterback and including short or nonexistent workloads for key receivers. But the defensive backs showed the kind of improvement Urban Meyer demanded since last season’s unit finished No. 110 in the country against the pass. In holding Cardale Jones to a 14-for-31 performance through the air without a touchdown, even with top returning cornerback Doran Grant on the sideline, the Buckeyes defensive backs will head into the summer feeling good about their progress. Armani Reeves and Gareon Conley are both solid options at cornerback, with the former making a statement early in the game with a nice breakup on a deep ball down the sideline. And once Grant and injured safety Vonn Bell are back in the mix to play Ohio State’s more aggressive man coverage this fall, the statistics should look drastically better.
Braxton Miller is still the key + EnlargeAP Photo/Jay LaPreteCardale Jones is likely to enter the fall as the backup quarterback for Ohio State.Jones made progress in several areas throughout the spring, and he’s earned the right to head into training camp as the second-string quarterback. But Miller remains the most critical component in Ohio State’s spread attack, and his absence was a major factor in what was largely a disappointing afternoon for the offense. Miller will be back from his shoulder surgery shortly and is cleared to resume throwing and working out in time for the offseason conditioning program. It is still obvious that the Buckeyes need him on the field if they’re going to make a run at a championship this fall. …
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball ran for touchdowns to lead the Gray past the Scarlet 17-7 Saturday in Ohio State’s annual spring game before a crowd of 61,058 at sunny Ohio Stadium.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — State pushback against a movement to unionize college athletes has begun in Ohio, the football-loving heart of a heated anti-labor campaign in 2011 and home to one of America’s highest-grossing collegiate franchises, the Ohio State Buckeyes.A measure approved by the state House on Wednesday, two weeks after a federal agency said football players at Northwestern University could unionize, clarifies that college athletes aren’t public employees. The proposal appears to be the first of its kind to clear a state legislative chamber; it heads next to the state Senate.The opposite is happening in Connecticut, where lawmakers are looking at clearing the path for college athletes to unionize. Some observers, though, think other states are more likely to follow Ohio’s lead.”This is a pre-emptive move,” said John Russo, a union organization expert who formerly directed Youngstown State University’s Center for Working-Class Studies.The National Labor Relations Board official ruled March 26 that full-scholarship players at Northwestern University in Illinois are employees and therefore eligible to unionize. The university has appealed ahead of a vote by the athletes April 25.Northwestern athletes leading the effort say they simply want a seat at the table since they have so little say on injuries, insurance, finances, scheduling and other aspects of their sports.Federal labor law is in play at Northwestern because it’s private, but states control policy at public universities – including giants such as Ohio State, Florida State, Michigan and Alabama, whose athletic programs generate millions in annual revenue. Federal data show Ohio State’s athletic department generated $123 million in revenue last year, sixth-highest in the country.Michael McCann, director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire, said he would not be surprised to see other states, especially those with powerful athletic programs at public colleges, follow the lead of lawmakers in Ohio.But, he added, a declaration that college athletes aren’t public employees might create an uneven playing field if athletes at private universities can unionize and receive benefits while those at public colleges in the same state can’t.”In theory, it could give the private universities a recruiting advantage,” McCann said.Such a law also would go even a step beyond ”right-to-work” states that have laws that would prevent athletes from unionizing but still allow them to be considered public employees, Russo said.In Connecticut – home to the teams at the public University of Connecticut that won both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball titles this week – lawmakers are evaluating whether state law allows athletes to join a union.”If there are any artificial barriers, then we should remove them,” said Democratic state Rep. Patricia Dillon, noting athletes shouldn’t be forced to join unions. ”But there’s no question that the whole concept of student-athletes was unjust from the beginning.”The National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks statehouse legislation nationwide, said it doesn’t know of proposals on college unionization in any other states, perhaps because many legislatures are out of session.But Russo believes it’s coming.”All these individual states that have public-sector universities, they’re going to move fast to say those athletes aren’t public employees,” said Russo, now a visiting research fellow at Virginia Tech.The Ohio proposal’s chances in the Senate are unclear. That chamber spearheaded a 2011 law limiting the bargaining powers of police, firefighters, teachers and other public workers. Voters later overwhelming repealed it.The leader of a powerful labor union in Ohio criticized lawmakers for pushing for a change in defining athletes before hearing their concerns.”They should try to engage in a productive way by dealing with the real concerns of fairness and safety where the players and university leaders have expressed common themes for change,” said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga.Ohio has a deep love affair with football, from high school to the NFL, which took root in Canton, now home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The state has eight football bowl subdivision teams, all of which would be affected by the employee-athlete provision.Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said after the Northwestern ruling that he’s always been ”pro-student.””They (athletes) should get a stipend. … but to say that they can go out and get their own shoe contracts or those kinds of things, I start hearing that and I’m, like, ‘Well, what would that do for this great sport?”’ he said. ”And, really, what would that do for college athletics as a whole?”—Associated Press writers Kantele Franko and Rusty Miller in Columbus and John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report.Sports & RecreationEducationCOLUMBUS, OhioOhio StateNorthwestern UniversityYoungstown State UniversityJohn Russo