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. Was the spring injury a setback for Vonn Bell?
+ EnlargeZach Bolinger/Icon SMIVonn Bell, who is a likely starter in the Ohio State secondary in 2014, missed spring practice with a knee injury.Bell finally had the big stage and an opportunity that was even bigger to show why he was such a coveted recruit. The Ohio State safety certainly made the most of it with an eye-popping, one-handed interception in the Discover Orange Bowl that only raised the expectations moving into his sophomore season. There was another chance to impress waiting for him in spring practice, with a new coach in the secondary ready to watch him and a fresh, aggressive scheme that seems perfectly suited to capitalize on his athleticism. But this time the result wasn’t the same, as a fluke injury on the opening day of workouts ended his camp shortly after it started.
Bell is expected to be a full participant in the offseason program after undergoing minor knee surgery, but there’s no question he would have benefited from the live reps he missed during March and April. After spending so much of his first year of the program in a reserve role, Bell would have had no shortage of snaps to work on his technique, absorb the system and make sure that co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash headed into the summer as sold on Bell’s ability as the rest of the staff was during a heated recruiting battle for his services.
Ash, of course, has seen the film from the Orange Bowl and is obviously aware of the physical tools Bell can bring to the lineup alongside Tyvis Powell in the reworked secondary. And while Ash didn’t express any concerns about the absence during practice, with fellow rising sophomore Cam Burrows helping fill the void during spring, it seems safe to assume that everybody would have benefited from having Bell healthy during the spring and pointing toward the fall.
“From a physical standpoint, yeah, it’s too bad that he’s not out there,” Ash said. “But does it hurt us? No, it’s next man in. Cam Burrows has stepped in, taking advantage of the opportunity, and done a great job. Vonn will be healthy soon and we’re going to have a great competition for those safety positions.
“Would Vonn benefit from the opportunities? Absolutely…
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 line up opposite Doran Grant?
+ EnlargeJason Mowry/Icon SMIDoran Grant is set as a starter at one cornerback spot, but the other starting CB spot is still open.Bradley Roby, a first-round NFL draft pick is gone, yet there hardly seemed to be any hand-wringing about filling that hole at cornerback. But with Grant sliding seamlessly into Bradley Roby’s spot in the secondary after a season that occasionally featured him outperforming his higher-profile teammate, that still leaves a vacancy for new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash to fill as he installs his system to slow down the pass. The Buckeyes didn’t show much concern about plugging that spot during spring practice, either, though they left camp without a resolution as to which candidate is best suited for a starting job and an integral role in repairing what was a leaky pass defense a year ago.
One candidate is rising junior Armani Reeves, who has proven himself as a serviceable option at a minimum and showed flashes of being more than that with 26 tackles, eight passes defended, an interception and a forced fumble last season. And right there beside him is a redshirt freshman whose name was seemingly always on the lips of Urban Meyer in March and April, as Gareon Conley is pushing hard for first-team reps.
Since Meyer arrived, the Buckeyes have had perhaps more success than any team in the nation in targeting and recruiting cornerbacks, with Conley leading an influx of talent that also includes another touted redshirt freshman in Eli Apple and incoming recruits Marshon Lattimore and Damon Webb to supply even more depth in the back end. With Grant as the only cornerback on the roster with his spot solidified on the depth chart, there will be no shortage of competition when August rolls around, and the business of shoring up that pass defense becomes even more serious ahead of the opener against Navy on Aug. 30.
Leaving spring, Reeves and Conley seemed to be waging a two-man battle for a starting job, though both of them figure to be heavily involved in the nickel and dime packages regardless of how that fight to start shakes out in training camp.
Who else is ready to head to Natal? Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis addresses the logistics of scheduling in the new era of college football, and he also is mindful of limiting the number of games at night.
Meanwhile at Michigan, Dave Brandon said there have been no talks with Notre Dame about putting them on the schedule after the series comes to a close this fall.
James Franklin’s recruiting pitch at Penn State isn’t limited to potential athletes, and he’s not leaving any stone unturned to drum up support for his program.
The new turf is down and the numbers and lettering were being installed on Thursday, but there’s still work to be done at the Horseshoe before Ohio State opens it up in September.
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood publicly addressed the Philip Nelson situation, calling it “tragic” and sending out prayers for the victim.
Now on his third position with Purdue, Dolapo Macarthy has found a comfortable spot at tight end and appears to figure significantly in Darrell Hazell’s plans this fall.
Kirk Ferentz will keep on selling the NFL to Iowa recruits, and with only Ohio State having more players drafted in the Big Ten this decade, that’s a good idea.
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill announced a partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation, starting the fundraising with a $100,000 donation of his own.
Ohio voters oppose allowing college athletes to form a union and also aren’t in favor of paying them.
Covers Ohio State and the Big Ten.Joined ESPN in 2012.Attended the University of Wyoming. Tags:Purdue Boilermakers, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan State Spartans, Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Iowa Hawkeyes, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Mark Hollis, Kirk Ferentz, Darrell Hazell, Jerry Kill, Dave Brandon, Philip Nelson, James Franklin, Kyle Flood, Dolapo Macarthy
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. Can the Buckeyes’ defensive line live up to the hype?
There’s not really any uncertainty or much reason to doubt the deepest unit on the roster and perhaps the most talented group of starting defensive linemen in the nation, though perhaps that might be the only thing that could potentially become an issue for the Buckeyes.
+ EnlargeZach Bolinger/Icon SMINoah Spence is suspended for the first two games of the season, but with the depth Ohio State has on the defensive line, the Buckeyes should be fine.It seems unlikely that a group, led by one of the program’s most respected leaders in defensive tackle Michael Bennett, would fall victim to its own hype. Finding the motivation to tap into the potential that has Urban Meyer and the coaching staff drooling over the possibilities would seem to be the only possible hurdle keeping the Buckeyes from making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. After all, there was so much size, speed and skill on hand this spring that Meyer shipped over an 11-game starter last season — Joel Hale — to the offensive line, and he’s a senior with just one season of eligibility remaining. The emphasis on rebuilding the defense on the recruiting trail from the front to back is clearly paying dividends, and the next wave is ready to take over and make an impact.
Joey Bosa and Noah Spence showed what they were capable of last season by combining for 15.5 sacks at defensive end, and the former in particular might have only been scratching the surface of his ability after jumping into the starting lineup as a true freshman when Adolphus Washington struggled with some early injuries. It was Washington who was supposed to form the other half of a terrifying tandem with his classmate Spence, but a new, permanent home on the interior next to Bennett might make the junior even more dangerous, as he hasn’t lost any burst while still adding strength to his 6-foot-4, 288-pound frame.
And while that collection of starters might make it tempting for new defensive line coach Larry Johnson to just leave them on the field for the entire game and never look back, the Buckeyes are planning to rotate liberally to keep everybody fresh — and it’s the depth that affords them that option. Players such as Tommy Schutt and Chris Carter are capable of coming in to stuff the run on the interior, and pass rushers such as Steve Miller, Rashad Frazier, Jamal Marcus and Tyquan Lewis each could factor into Ohio State’s plans to spell Bosa and Spence.
In fact, somebody will have to fill in for Spence for the first two weeks of the season because of the suspension that started in the Discover Orange Bowl and will keep him out of games against Navy and Virginia Tech.
But even answering the question of who will take his place temporarily won’t likely be one that causes the Buckeyes to lose any sleep.
Howdy, May. There goes one more month out of the way before football season starts for real. Michigan has an established weapon in Devin Funchess and a future star in Freddy Canteen, but questions still remain about the targets for the passing game.
The relationship began with a somewhat unusual request, and after 10 years together, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio reflects on his time with Pat Narduzzi.
David Jones writes that hiring James Franklin was a risk, and the developments this week suggest there’s at least a chance more things could pop up with the Penn State coach.
Nick Saban went out of his way to praise the Big Ten and made sure he was quoted doing so during a stop in Ohio.
Get to know one of Ohio State’s most valuable weapons on the recruiting trail — a graphic designer.
Part of the apparent down cycle for the Big Ten can be traced to the ups and downs of the 2010 recruiting classes across the league. Sam McKewon takes a detailed look at the hits and misses.
A former Rutgers wide receiver is trying to make an impact elsewhere in the league, and Miles Shuler appears to be on track to give Northwestern a boost on offense.
Wisconsin would have preferred to keep its director of football operations, but now it will have to move quickly to fill a very important job to Gary Andersen.
The 2013 signing class is already starting to fill out the depth chart at Iowa.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is scheduled for a public forum at Akron in his bid for the school’s presidency.
Covers Ohio State and the Big Ten.Joined ESPN in 2012.Attended the University of Wyoming. Tags:Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan State Spartans, Northwestern Wildcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Big Ten, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Pat Narduzzi, Nick Saban, Jim Tressel, Mark Dantonio, Gary Andersen, Devin Funchess, James Franklin, Freddy Canteen, Miles Shuler
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.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The kitchen is still stocked with enough ingredients to make another delicious offensive meal, but the main dish probably won’t be beef again. With four senior starters gone from the line and bullish running back Carlos Hyde headed to the NFL, Ohio State is going to have to make some changes to its high-scoring recipe after rewriting the record books thanks in large part to all the meat it had in the middle of the field.
+ EnlargeJamie Sabau/Getty ImagesOhio State’s offensive line will be revamped in 2014, with tackle Taylor Decker as the only returning starter.And while that doesn’t mean Urban Meyer or coordinator Tom Herman will be abandoning the power rushing attack that has been the calling card of their version of the spread attack in favor of a more finesse approach, some of its finest ingredients are now on the perimeter, potentially giving the Buckeyes a new look when they’re done experimenting this spring. “As bad as we want an offensive line like last year, it’s going to take a while to develop that,” Meyer said. “I think at some point because we recruited well and with our line coach Ed Warinner, that will happen. But no, it’s going to be different.
“We’re going to have to lean on some perimeter ways of getting first downs and all that. Last year it was rushing for 300-plus yards per game. It’s because that offensive line was so good. We have other weapons, but it will be a little different taste to it than last year.”
Braxton Miller will still provide the most flavor heading into his senior year at quarterback, but there will be plenty of fresh faces around him as the Buckeyes transition from the veterans who helped pile up points over the last couple seasons to the younger talent Meyer has recruited since taking over the program.
The loss of the core group of linemen is certainly a blow, though Ohio State has prepared for it by working the replacements into games and getting them extra practice work last fall. Filling the void left by the workhorse Hyde might seem like a tall order as well, but the Buckeyes have as many as five candidates they have confidence in to carry the load on the ground in his absence. There’s also the matter of replacing leading receiver Philly Brown, a versatile athlete who supplemented his 63 receptions with a handful of rushing attempts in a hybrid role.
But if there aren’t experienced seniors ready to step up on the line, the Buckeyes at least have returning starter Taylor Decker around to bridge last season to the future at left tackle. Hyde’s production and consistency made him one of the nation’s best tailbacks and a potential first-round draft pick, but Ezekiel Elliott shined in his limited opportunities and senior Rod Smith has never had his physical tools questioned. Dontre Wilson is more than capable of taking over Brown’s role now that he has had a chance to grasp the responsibilities of the H-back position and improved his hands enough to be considered a full-time receiver.
Meyer has suggested that using Wilson and athletes like Jalin Marshall and Curtis Samuel on bubble screens or jet sweeps to get to the edge might be the best way to adapt while the offensive line develops, and he’s certainly been recruiting enough speed to perhaps more truly spread the field than the Buckeyes have done in his first two seasons. And as successful as they’ve been anyway, that different taste might not go down easily for opposing defenses. “We’ll never leave our core values,” Herman said. “Spread the field horizontally and vertically, be in the shotgun, add the quarterback as part of our run game and have that dimension and to be a downhill, A-gap, tight-zone, vertical, power-run team with vertical play-action pass off it…
Warning: Brackets are once again prone to be being busted. Ohio State is auditioning students to see if anybody on campus can beat a speedster like Dontre Wilson in a race.
Michigan reshuffled its defensive coaching staff to get its line more hands-on attention, but that doesn’t mean Brady Hoke will be staying away completely.
Taiwan Jones has the first crack at filling the vacant role at middle linebacker for Michigan State this spring, and the senior is embracing the move.
James Franklin is dialing up the intensity of workouts for Penn State, including reps in the Oklahoma Drill for just about everybody on the roster.
Rutgers is flip-flopping roles for two returning linebackers, trying to squeeze more production from the unit after a disastrous defensive season a year ago.
Wisconsin is looking to expand its recruiting footprint in the areas opened up by Big Ten expansion, and new recruiting coordinator Chris Beatty will lead the charge.
Randy Edsall is concerned about the kind of impact recruiting is having on kids these days, and he has a detailed plan to help take some pressure off and fix what he views as a broken system.
Replacing three senior linebackers is at the top of the priority list for Kirk Ferentz as spring practice gets rolling at Iowa.
A pair of notable injuries have opened up opportunities at wide receiver for Purdue, and Dan Monteroso is trying to make the most of his chance in the slot.
Ground will be broken this year on a sparkling new indoor practice facility at Minnesota, which is expected to come with a price tag of $70 million.
Covers Ohio State and the Big Ten.Joined ESPN in 2012.Attended the University of Wyoming. Tags:Purdue Boilermakers, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan State Spartans, Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Big Ten, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Maryland Terrapins, Brady Hoke, Kirk Ferentz, Randy Edsall, Chris Beatty, James Franklin, Taiwan Jones, Dan Monteroso, Dontre Wilson
What’s the wildest dream for your team this NCAA tournament? What’s its darkest nightmare? We plot out best-case scenarios and worst-case scenarios for every team in the Big Dance. More best/worst-case scenarios from Pat Forde: Midwest | East SOUTH REGION FloridaRecord: 32-2 (18-0 SEC) Last 10 games: 10-0Best wins: Kansas, Memphis, Kent. x3)Key losses: Wisc., UConnLeading scorer: Casey Prather (14.2) No. 1 FLORIDA Best Case: Wichita State may be undefeated, but Florida is undefeated*. The 32-2 Gators have not lost with their full roster available, and have not lost at all since December, and will not lose again until sometime in the 2014-15 season. Throwback Florida becomes the first team with four senior starters to win the national title since Indiana in 1976 – yes, really. Casey Prather slashes, Patric Young bangs, Scottie Wilbekin directs and the capable supporting cast capably supports. After breezing through two games in Orlando, Billy Donovan has to beat old assistant Shaka Smart in the round of 16. Then, after three straight losses in the Elite Eight, Gators break through by beating Syracuse to reach the Final Four. After slaying Michigan State in the semifinals, Donovan must defeat his former coach and boss, Rick Pitino, to win the title. With Tim Tebow Tebowing in the stands during a tense game, Gators win on a Wilbekin step-back 3. Donovan earns his third ring before the age of 50, says he is very-very proud to coach a very-very committed group to victory over a man he is very-very close to. Athletic director Jeremy Foley decides to put his best coach in charge of the floundering football program, too. New Director of Defensive Intensity Will Muschamp does not object. Worst Case: Did the burden of a three-month winning streak start to weigh on the Gators at the end of the SEC title game, as they scored seven points in the final 11 minutes, went 7-17 at the line and nearly blew a 15-point lead? Turns out it did. Against a Pittsburgh team that matches up well and played in a far tougher league, Florida starts slowly and is unable to launch its customary second-half surge. Locked in a tie game in the final seconds, Wilbekin – who comes into the tourney 1-6 at the foul line over his last three games – clangs a front-end free throw. Pitt races to the other end and scores the winning basket. After 21 straight SEC wins, Florida is two-and-through in the NCAAs. The 2006-07 Gator Boys continue to recede into the distance. Long Island boy Donovan, very-very frustrated by the incurable fan apathy, heeds Phil Jackson’s call to come home and coach the Knicks. …
What’s the wildest dream for your team this NCAA tournament? What’s its darkest nightmare? We plot out best-case scenarios and worst-case scenarios for every team in the Big Dance: MIDWEST REGION Wichita StateRecord: 34-0 (18-0 MVC) Last 10 games: 10-0Best wins: Tulsa, BYU, St. Louis, Tenn.Key losses: NoneLeading scorer: Cleanthony Early (15.8) No. 1 WICHITA STATEBest Case: Undefeated and undeterred by the gauntlet of bluebloods before them, the Shockers show a doubting America how legit they are. Relishing the matchup with Kentucky in the round of 32, Wichita State teaches the callow Wildcats what an undefeated team looks like. Given a rematch with defending national champion Louisville in the Sweet 16, the Shockers play angry all night and close the deal this time. Facing Duke in the regional final, Gregg Marshall outfoxes the winningest coach in Division I history. Returning to the Final Four with the intent of finishing it right, Wichita State slaps the suffocating defense on Arizona to reach the title game. There the Shockers hold off Florida to finish a historic 40-0. Ceiling of JerryWorld splits open, and the entire team ascends to Basketball Heaven on the spot. John Wooden is there to greet them, with Don Haskins at his side. Indiana’s unbeaten 1976 champions applaud as they rise. Even Kansas fans are forced to acknowledge the greatest feat in college basketball history. Worst Case: The burden of unbeaten finally hits, and playing angry gives way to playing scared. Saddled with a nightmare round of 32 matchup against towering Kentucky, the Shockers’ underwhelming post play is finally exposed. Facing big men unlike any in the Missouri Valley, Wichita State is punished in the paint. Point guard Fred Van Vleet is frustrated by the Wildcats’ big guards. Marshall coaches angry – too angry – and gets ejected. The undefeated dream ends early, against a team that played all season with one-half the focus as the Shockers, but ultimately had twice the talent. Kansas fans, in the house in St. Louis and forming an unholy alliance with Kentucky, celebrate the demise of their non-rival and vow to continue not scheduling their feisty in-state little brother. Doubting America nods and says, “Yep, told ya.” Marshall realizes that it will never be this good again at Wichita and finally takes another job. [Get a chance at $1 billion: Register to play the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge now!] Cal PolyRecord: 13-19 (6-10 Big West) Last 10 games: 5-5Best wins: UCSB, UCI, CSNKey losses: Arizona, Oregon, UCI x2Leading scorer: Chris Eversley (13.6) No. 16 CAL POLYBest Case: Wandering into this Big Dance thing for the first time in school history, the 13-19 Mustangs play with nothing to lose and actually win their fourth in a row – the first time that’s happened all season. After wearing down Texas Southern with their depth and moving on to play Wichita State, TV announcers enjoy getting to say “San Luis Obispo” for a few more days. Seventh seed in the Big West tourney maintains its newfound (and mysterious) confidence long enough to give the Shockers a game for 28 minutes, which is enough to endear the Mustangs to fans of Kansas, Kansas State and Kentucky in St. Louis…