Football

Ohio State Football: 3 Things Standing in the Way of a Big Ten Championship

Down three points late in the fourth quarter of the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game, Ohio State was in Michigan State territory, needing just two yards on fourth down to keep its title hopes alive. The ball was snapped, Braxton Miller swept to the right side, and the perimeter blockers opened a clear path for a potential burst to the end zone. But Jeff Heuerman’s man broke free on the interior, surged into the backfield and stopped Miller short of the conversion. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes were largely outplayed by a more determined team that night, but one play could have swung the momentum—and a conference title—their way. Will something that small prevent Ohio State from winning a Big Ten title in 2014? It’s possible. Despite the months of training, preparation and game-planning, one play could make or break a season. That’s usually the way it goes for the true contenders. Elite teams—such as the 2002 Ohio State squad that won a national title—overcome their bigger obstacles or deficiencies and come through with a big play in crunch time. What big issues are standing in the way of Ohio State’s Big Ten title chances this year? Braxton Miller’s Durability Ohio State’s superstar quarterback has had an injury-plagued career in Columbus. In 2011, the Buckeyes had a 21-point lead midway through the third quarter against Nebraska when Miller rolled his ankle. He was unable to finish the game, and the…

Jim Tressel among 3 finalists to lead Akron

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is among three finalists in the University of Akron’s search for a new president.Tressel has been an administrator there for two years. He took the job after being forced out at Ohio State following a scandal in which his players sold memorabilia for cash and tattoos.A campus email Tuesday from Akron trustees says the finalists include provosts from two other schools – Scott Scarborough of the University of Toledo and Ronald Nykiel (neye-KEEL’) of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.Trustees say each finalist will spend one day next week interviewing with advisory groups. The school’s current president, Luis Proenza (proh-EN’-zah), is leaving his position in June.Tressel also applied to be president at Youngstown State University, where he previously coached.SchoolsAmerican FootballUniversity of Akron

OSU offseason questions: Wide receiver

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Almost as soon as it arrived, spring camp at Ohio State wrapped up. Time isn’t likely to fly by quite as quickly in the offseason with the summer months sure to drag by until the 2014 campaign finally opens in August. The Buckeyes have plenty of work to do to get ready for their debut against Navy on Aug. 30, and to help pass the time, we’re looking at some of the most pressing positional questions they’ll have to answer to make another run at a championship. Who will be catching the passes this fall?

There is no shortage of speed on the perimeter. After emphasizing the addition of skill players on the recruiting trail over the last couple years to boost the passing attack, Urban Meyer appears to have enough depth to work with as well heading into his third season with the program.

+ EnlargeAndrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsDevin Smith looks poised to build on a junior season in which he had 44 receptions, including eight for touchdowns.But how exactly the Ohio State coach will tap into that athleticism and who he’ll be trotting out in the starting lineup remains a bit of a mystery even after spring practice, and not even his top returning wideout was assured of a first-team job when camp closed. Devin Smith will almost certainly wind up leading the way for the Buckeyes as they again try to balance their potent rushing game with more production through the air, and the senior is poised for both a heavier workload and more diverse responsibilities as the coaching staff moved him around to different positions throughout March and April. He is a proven commodity as a deep threat and has become a regular in the end zone, but Ohio State is still trying to tap into his potential and develop him into a more consistent, complete receiver. Getting involved in the short to intermediate passing game is a logical next step for Smith, and shifting him around the formation seems to be the start of that process in preparing him to make a big impact in the fall.

Smith figures to be joined by Dontre Wilson in the starting rotation after yet another head-turning set of workouts, and the sophomore’s move to the wide receivers’ meeting room on a full-time basis should allow him to get a better grasp on the playbook than he had a year ago when he was largely surviving solely on his natural ability. Wilson still will be involved at times as a rushing threat in the hybrid role made famous by Percy Harvin at Florida, but he’s shaping up to be a matchup nightmare in the slot for opposing defenses — a threat to take screens the distance with his track-star speed or burn linebackers tasked with covering him deep down the field.

So while Meyer didn’t name any official starters, those two players are locks to be significant contributors, leaving competition between a handful of candidates to grab a third spot. The Buckeyes have a traditional, physical target in Michael Thomas coming off another big spring, an unselfish, experienced veteran in Evan Spencer who is a willing blocker on the perimeter, and there are also speedy options such as Johnnie Dixon or Corey Smith who could help stretch the field.

Ohio State didn’t need to make a decision about any of them during the spring and it didn’t rush into one, leaving the competition open for the offseason conditioning program and training camp.

Minot State names Hughes head football coach

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Minot State has hired Tyler Hughes as its football coach to replace Todd Hoffner, who returned to his former job at Minnesota State, Mankato after being wrongly fired.Hughes, who is currently the coach at Southern Virginia, accepted the offer Saturday. He was hired at Southern Virginia in March after spending a year at Ohio State as an assistant coach under Urban Meyer.Minot State hired Hoffner in late January. He decided to return to Mankato after an arbitrator recently ruled he had been wrongly fired from the Minnesota school about a year ago after charges were dismissed in an unfounded child pornography case.Sports & RecreationAmerican FootballMinot StateTyler HughesMinnesota State

Ohio State Football Recruiting: Breaking Down the Top Target at Each Position

Urban Meyer and Ohio State signed a top-five recruiting class for the third consecutive year last February, but with just two commitments in the fold for 2015, that streak is in serious jeopardy. In recruiting, though, it’s not how you start, but how you finish. The Buckeyes have targeted a number of the country’s top prospects, and with Meyer at the helm, they’re looking to surge. Ohio State has big needs at quarterback and tight end, but Meyer’s wish list spans the entire depth chart. Here’s a look at the Buckeyes’ top recruiting target at each position. Begin Slideshow

Big Ten’s lunch links

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

Redshirt Freshman Safety Jayme Thompson to Transfer from Ohio State

Just days after playing in the Ohio State spring game, defensive back Jayme Thompson has been granted his release from Ohio State and will transfer to another university. Justin Rowland of Rivals.com reported the news Wednesday, noting that Thompson would be in attendance for Kentucky’s spring game next weekend: Thompson was a 4-star prospect in the class of 2013, ranking as the No. 219 overall player, No. 12 safety and No. 15 prospect from Ohio on the 247Sports composite. He took a redshirt after hurting his ankle last season and made three tackles in Saturday’s spring game, per David Briggs of The Toledo Blade. Jayme’s father, Deon, released the following statement, per Marc Givler of BuckeyeGrove.com, Ohio State’s affiliate on the Rivals network: We would like to thank The Ohio State University for the opportunities that they have given my son, Jayme, and our family. Jayme is leaving the program in good academic standing and we look forward to the next chapter of Jayme’s education and football playing career. According to Givler’s report, Thompson would have to sit out next season (per the NCAA’s transfer rules) unless he applies for a waiver to play immediately because of the timing of this announcement. If that waiver is approved, he would be eligible to play in 2014. Givler also reports that the family is in the process of discussing destinations. If he indeed ends up at Kentucky, though, it would be the latest in a line of…

Grading Ohio State’s Post-Spring Depth Chart

At Ohio State, most position battles are won or lost in the spring, when the coaches have the time to really evaluate the roster and identify their playmakers. With spring practice in the books, Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes are starting to take shape. While a number of starting spots remain open as the Buckeyes work to replace 10 starters, the top contenders have been identified. Safety Tyvis Powell emerged as a contributor, and he knows where he stands going into summer conditioning, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer: The way they treat it here, spring is the opportunity to go earn a position. When summer camp comes around, they pretty much got who they want in. There aren’t too many changes made, so what you see right now is kind of what it is going to be. Of course, there are exceptions. Last year, Joey Bosa and Dontre Wilson arrived in the fall and earned a spot in Ohio State’s two-deep rotation as true freshmen. But the depth chart’s foundation is set in the spring. Here’s a detailed look at each position group after spring practice. Begin Slideshow

Help still wanted on offensive line

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.

Ohio State Football: Expect Braxton Miller to Pass More, Stay Healthy in 2014

Last year, Braxton Miller had a fantastic season, even while missing some time due to injury. After a disappointing end to 2013, Miller has a lot to prove his senior year. Miller will have to protect himself by staying in the pocket more this season and not going on the run. Being an electric playmaker, this may seem contradictory to Miller’s instincts, but he must do it in order to stay healthy and lead the Ohio State Buckeyes. Check out the video above, where Adam Kramer and Michael Felder project how Braxton Miller will fare in his senior season. Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital Read more Ohio State Football news on BleacherReport.com

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