Football

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

Spring Game Shows Ohio State Clearly Addressed It’s Biggest Issue

Following the spring game in Columbus, one thing was quite clear: Ohio State made sure to address its issues with respect to coverage in the back end. The Buckeyes defenders, under co-defensive coordinators Chris Ash and Luke Fickell, have responded to their issues from a season ago and pushed to match patterns, relate to receivers and make plays on the football. Spring games are often difficult to use to make evaluations for a given team. Formats differ, rules vary tremendously and who is active—and to what extent—is always a crap shoot, something Martin Rickman at Sports Illustrated points out in his Buckeyes spring game recap. However, a true shift in mentality is something that is noticeable, regardless of personnel or watered-down play-calling. For Ohio State, little was discovered with respect to the quarterback position. Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett failed to show separation as they battle for the backup job. Expected starting running back Ezekiel Elliott was extremely limited. The defensive side of the ball played four-man fronts almost exclusively. Yet it was clear something was different in the back seven of the Buckeyes’ defense. Prior to the Big Ten championship game, the Buckeyes’ issues with route relations was discussed. The same was mentioned before Urban Meyer’s team took on the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl. Entering spring, the need to work on pass coverage was again noted here. And the Buckeyes went out and addressed that very…

Cardale Jones Stood out in Spring but J.T. Barrett Is QB of the Future for OSU

The Ohio State spring game is in the books, and with star QB Braxton Miller sitting out, Buckeyes fans got a glimpse of the future in Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. Which QB proved himself in the spring game? Urban Meyer loves athletes on offense that can score from anywhere on the field, and Ohio State has three such players on its roster. Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, and Curtis Samuel all have the potential to play the Percy Harvin role for the Buckeyes. How will Meyer use each on offense? Check out Ben Axelrod from BuckeyeSports.com give some inside info on Ohio State’s spring game. Highlights courtesy XOS Digital Read more Ohio State Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cardale Jones Stood out in Spring but J.T. Barrett Is QB of the Future for OSU

The Ohio State spring game is in the books, and with star QB Braxton Miller sitting out, Buckeyes fans got a glimpse of the future in Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. Which QB proved himself in the spring game? Urban Meyer loves athletes on offense that can score from anywhere on the field, and Ohio State has three such players on its roster. Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, and Curtis Samuel all have the potential to play the Percy Harvin role for the Buckeyes. How will Meyer use each on offense? Check out Ben Axelrod from BuckeyeSports.com give some inside info on Ohio State’s spring game. Highlights courtesy XOS Digital Read more Ohio State Football news on BleacherReport.com

Spring Game Shows Ohio State Clearly Addressed It’s Biggest Issue

Following the spring game in Columbus, one thing was quite clear: Ohio State made sure to address its issues with respect to coverage in the back end. The Buckeyes defenders, under co-defensive coordinators Chris Ash and Luke Fickell, have responded to their issues from a season ago and pushed to match patterns, relate to receivers and make plays on the football. Spring games are often difficult to use to make evaluations for a given team. Formats differ, rules vary tremendously and who is active—and to what extent—is always a crap shoot, something Martin Rickman at Sports Illustrated points out in his Buckeyes spring game recap. However, a true shift in mentality is something that is noticeable, regardless of personnel or watered-down play-calling. For Ohio State, little was discovered with respect to the quarterback position. Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett failed to show separation as they battle for the backup job. Expected starting running back Ezekiel Elliott was extremely limited. The defensive side of the ball played four-man fronts almost exclusively. Yet it was clear something was different in the back seven of the Buckeyes’ defense. Prior to the Big Ten championship game, the Buckeyes’ issues with route relations was discussed. The same was mentioned before Urban Meyer’s team took on the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl. Entering spring, the need to work on pass coverage was again noted here. And the Buckeyes went out and addressed that very…

Spring Game Wrap-Up

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