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Ohio State Buckeyes 2017 Spring Football Preview

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The Ohio State Buckeyes continued to make history last season. After all, they were the first team to not win their division and make the College Football Playoff. 

It didn’t end well, as the Buckeyes were dropped hard by the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff semi-final. You know, something about a 31-0 loss.

However, that was last year and the 2017 Buckeyes are certainly going to look a lot different thanks to graduation and players once again leaving early. There are also changes on the coaching staff in the hopes of re-sparking a sputtering offense and to give more control to one person on defense.

Can the Buckeyes get back to winning Big Ten titles and play for another national championship? Spring ball is going to go a long way in telling us the answers.

Spring Football Start Date: March 7
Spring Football Game: April 15

Key Players Lost: Noah Brown, WR; Corey Smith, WR; Pat Elflien, C; Curtis Samuel, H-Back; Raekwon McMillan, LB; Marcus Lattimore, CB; Gareon Conley, CB; Malik Hooker, S;

Key Players Returning: J.T. Barrett, QB; Mike Weber, RB; KJ Hill, WR; Jamarco Jones, LT; Billy Price, RG; Sam Hubbard, DE; Tyquan Lewis, DE; Chris Worley, LB; Damon Webb, S

Offensive To-Do List:

— Get Comfortable With Kevin Wilson: Yes, that Kevin Wilson…formerly of the Indiana Hoosiers. He returned to the sideline quickly as the offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes and opposing Big Ten defenses have to be shaking at the thought of Wilson getting to work with top talent once again.

It is no coincidence that Oklahoma was at its best with Wilson at the helm of its offense, but just how quickly can Wilson and a veteran offense get on the same page? That is especially true at the quarterback position, where J.T. Barrett seems to have hit a ceiling.

Can new blood at the top of the offensive coaching staff help change that? Will Wilson’s scary ability to get the most out of the passing and rushing games show through? Spring ball needs to showcase changes if we’re to be confident that OSU can become the scary-good offense it once was.

— Find Big-Play Receivers: Explosive plays are the name of the game in Kevin Wilson’s offense. Ohio State certainly lacked them in the passing game last season, having just seven receptions of 20-plus yards. That wasn’t good and neither was the news of Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown — the only two big play threats in the passing game — were off to the NFL early.

Is K.J. Hill, who eventually started as redshirt freshman, ready to be a big play receiver? What we do know is it is put up or shut up time for juniors Paris Campbell and Terry McLaurin. Hill will be moving to H-back in this offense, so look for another player to have to step up in the receiving game.

Perhaps the best battle to watch at receiver this spring will be the one between Binjimen Victor and Alex Mack at X-receiver. Both have flashed early in their careers, but need to step up after being big-time recruits coming out of high school.

— Get Barrett Back on Track: One of the more interesting coaching moves for the Buckeyes this offseason was the hire of Ryan Day out of the NFL to become co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Most assumed that would be Wilson’s role given his previous work at the position.

Instead it was an outside hire for the QB position, and it is a critical time at QB1 for senior J.T. Barrett. Much was expected of him last season as he had firm control on the starting job, but he failed to power this offense the way many believed he was going to do before the season. He completed just 61.5 percent of his passes for 2,555 yards and 24 touchdowns to seven interceptions.

No doubt the numbers weren’t terrible, but they were all down from his career high numbers of his freshman season at OSU. Can a coaching change at the position help reinvigorate Barrett and take his game to the next level?

Saying it is make-or-break for Barrett this spring may be a bit much, but there are a ton of talented quarterbacks behind him. If one or two of them push Barrett hard in spring ball, it could be time to really watch for a battle heading in to fall camp.

Defensive To-Do List:

— Find Chemistry: One thing that there is no substitute for in sports is chemistry. Having it can be as key to winning championships as having the best talent is. With Ohio State having to replace three-quarters of its secondary and its unquestioned leader, middle linebacker Raekwon McMillian, chemistry certainly is a question mark for this team.

Who steps up to take the vocal and experienced leadership role that McMillan had? Could that be the four returning starters up front or a name like fellow linebacker Chris Worley?

Additionally, OSU needs to find a chemistry that works in the defensive backfield in a big way. While position battles and the depth chart may not be settled, find a group of four or five players that can play well with each other coming out of spring would be huge for the Buckeyes’ defense.

— Stay Healthy: If there is a strength to the Buckeyes on paper heading in to this spring it is the defense. Part of that is the fact that they are completely loaded on the defensive line and have arguably the top four defensive ends in the conference on the same roster.

Keeping that kind of talent and depth healthy and away from any major injuries is going to be very helpful to the cause come the fall. Let’s see if OSU’s defense can avoid the injury bug during spring ball.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

Buckeyes Football

Talking10 Podcast Episode 100: Something, something Urban Meyer

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Ohio State made its decision on Urban Meyer. Andy and Phil are here to break it all down for you and give you the truth in a hazy situation. What better way to celebrate episode 100 of the podcast than to spend 50 minutes breaking down a mess of a situation in Columbus, right?

We’ll talk our reactions to the press conference, break down the actual findings of OSU’s investigative report and we’ll even talk how the media-at-large and the OSU media handled the fallout from Wednesday night’s press conference.

Don’t forget you can listen to the podcast each week via Radio Public and other podcasting apps. 

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @talkingB1G

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Buckeyes Football

Urban Meyer and OSU AD put on suspension following investigation

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The media stakeout of the Ohio State Board of Trustee’s meeting can now end. It only took 12 hours or so, but answers finally came. 

According to multiple reports, including from the AP, OSU head coach Urban Meyer is suspended for the first three games of the season. In addition, athletic director Gene Smith will serve the same suspension from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 — both will not receive pay during that time frame as well. 

Both came under fire as this story unfolded. It began just prior to the Big Ten media days in late July, the story that Zach Smith had been arrested for criminal trespassing in April of this year broke and Meyer fired Smith on Monday morning of the start of Big Ten media days.

Brett McMurphy then detailed in an exclusive report that Smith had previously been “arrested” back in 2015 for a second allegation of domestic abuse against his then-wife Courtney Smith. 

Meyer was questioned about that arrest and allegation from 2015 at media days and struck out against reporters repeated questioning. He would deny knowing of the arrest report back in 2015. 

However, further reporting by McMurphy put that denial in to further question and Ohio State decided to get to the bottom of it. 

Once Meyer was put on paid administrative leave, he would put a statement out admitting to knowing about the 2015 incident and alerting athletic administrators of the domestic abuse allegations. 

Meyer has stayed silent since that statement and awaited the outcome of the 14-day inquiry in to whom knew what and when and what action was taken. 

That investigation ended this past Sunday, with the committee verbally advising the Board of Trustees on Monday morning of its findings. Two days later, the Board of Trustees would come to meet publicly and then behind closed doors to discuss what would happen to Meyer and others involved in this situation. 

Meyer’s suspension is for the first three games, and on the field that is a big hit with three FBS games coming at the start of the season. OSU kicks off the year against Oregon State, plays a Big Ten contest against Rutgers and a massive game against TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

We will have more on this situation and the reaction to what Meyer and Smith had to say on the talking10 Podcast tomorrow. 

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Buckeyes Football

Report: OSU to suspend Urban Meyer

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The Ohio State University board of trustees have been verbally read in on the findings of a 14-day investigation in to the conduct of football head coach Urban Meyer. 

So, what will happen next? 

According to the Columbus Dispatch, it appears a suspension or even lighter punishment is coming for Meyer:

“Two sources connected to the investigation said the likely recommendation to university President Michael V. Drake is a suspension for Meyer. Drake and the board could also opt for a ‘time served’ punishment since Meyer has been removed from football activities for more than two weeks.”

Meyer has already been on suspension (or paid administrative leave) for the better part the month of August.

The meeting on Monday was able to take place because it was an “informational meeting” and no public business was conducted. However, there is a meeting scheduled for 9a.m. on Wednesday to discuss just what punishment would be recommended. 

Ultimately it will be the university president that makes the final decision, but the board of trustees will meet to send their recommendation to President Michael V. Drake, who is likely to adhere to the recommendation of the board. 

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Buckeyes Football

Ohio State wins Cotton Bowl Classic: The good, bad and what it means for 2018

Buckeyes defense dominates USC en route to Cotton Bowl Classic victory.

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Some may say that Ohio State had a real gripe about not being selected to the College Football Playoff this season. Whether the Buckeyes believed they were snubbed or not, they certainly took out any frustration on USC in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

Ohio State used a dominating night on defense and just enough offense to beat the Trojans 24-7. Four turnovers were forced by the Buckeyes defense, resulting in a pick six and a huge shift in momentum late in the game too.

The win sends quarterback J.T. Barrett out on a high note, but it wasn’t his best effort on the field. He had just 114 yards passing and no touchdowns, while also putting up a Buckeyes-best 66 yards on the ground as well.

Luckily those 66 yards were enough to find the end zone twice in the first half for OSU.

Barrett got the Buckeyes on the board on their first possession and then put the Buckeyes up 24-0 on a 28-yard run late in the second quarter. However, it appeared momentum was shifting late in the half as Ronald Jones II put the ball over the goal line with just 1:29 to play in the first half.

That was it for the scoring though and it was a massive defensive message to the critics of the Buckeyes.

It all added up to the Big Ten coming away from a loaded day of action with a 5-0 record. Not only did the Buckeyes win, but so did Northwestern to help the Big Ten continue its banner bowl game start.

The Good

J.T. Barrett Continued to be Legendary

Few players in the history of Ohio State football have had the career that quarterback J.T. Barrett has had. Yet, it feels strange to say his career has been legendary. Maybe its the fact that he missed out on a Big Ten and national championship in 2015? Maybe it’s the fact that it somehow took until his senior season to win a Big Ten title as the quarterback?

Whatever it was, Barrett’s career just seemed incomplete. But, on Friday night Barrett added to his collegiate legend, setting the Big Ten’s total yards record that was previously held by some guy named Drew Brees.

There’s little doubt that Barrett is going to be remembered in Columbus for some time. Most importantly, Barrett was able to complete a post-season with a Big Ten championship and a win in a New Year’s Six game.

Not a bad way to go out in your college career.

Defense Got Turnover Happy

Ohio State showed it had a really good defense down the stretch run of the regular season, but it seemed to finally all come together in the Cotton Bowl. The Buckeyes forced USC quarterback and talked-about No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, Sam Darnold, to look rather average at best.

Part of Darnold’s issue came in the form of turnovers. Well, Darnold and USC in general, as the Trojans gave up the ball via turnover a whopping four times.

The last of which came as Darnold got hit from behind and let the ball fall right in to the waiting arms of an OSU defensive lineman.

It all added up to a USC offense that came in averaging 35 points per game being completely shutdown.

Let’s just say it was a great time for OSU to give its best defensive performance of the season too.

The Bad

Ohio State’s Offensive Performance

While a 24-7 scoreline would seem flattering, Ohio State’s offense really did minimal work on Friday night.

The Buckeyes amassed just 277 yards on 55 plays in the game, including just 114 yards in the passing game. Barrett getting a win in his final game was nice, but his passing game wasn’t. Barrett finished the game 11 of 17 passing for just 114 yards and no touchdowns.

Even more telling? The dynamic duo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber was held to just 57 yards combined.

Given the domination of the defense all of this seems to be a bit nit-picky, but it should also be worrisome because this offense was up and down all 2017.

What it Means for 2018

It’s hard to say that this one game was make or break for any Ohio State players and their NFL draft status, but that is really the key from this game. Did Sam Hubbard’s great night make his decision easier? How many other guys will take off after this game?

Ultimately that is what is going to matter most heading in to the 2018 offseason.

However, what we can take away from the Cotton Bowl is the fact that the Buckeyes need some real work on the offensive side of the ball. Some of it is just simply growing up for young players, but we also saw what we saw most of this year in the pass game for OSU — there aren’t a lot of receiving options.

That group has got to regroup in a major way or the Buckeyes won’t be going anywhere but backwards on offense in 2018.

Dwayne Haskins is a better pure passer than J.T. Barrett, but it may not matter if no one can get open. Sure, you can give credit to the Trojans secondary, but the Buckeyes receivers did nothing to help themselves either.

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